Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye Bush - End of an Error

Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House

The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated. Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. The shredding of civil liberties. The rise of Iran. Global warming. Economic disaster. How did one two-term presidency go so wrong? A sweeping draft of history—distilled from scores of interviews—offers fresh insight into the roles of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other key players.

Read the article

GOP Tone Deaf on Race?


In the era of Obama, the GOP’s tone deafness on race could ultimately destroy the party.

Would-be RNC Chair Chip Saltsman's decision to send out a Christmas CD to GOP committee-members featuring a song calling our President-elect "Barack the Magic Negro" is the just latest sign of Republicans' tone deafness when it comes to race. It's a problem that has led directly to the pathetic lack of diversity on its political bench and underscores the party's long-term challenge of regaining relevance in the Age of Obama.

Read the rest

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Leaders Lie, Civilians Die

Leaders lie, civilians die, and lessons of history are ignored

We've got so used to the carnage of the Middle East that we don't care any more – providing we don't offend the Israelis. It's not clear how many of the Gaza dead are civilians, but the response of the Bush administration, not to mention the pusillanimous reaction of Gordon Brown, reaffirm for Arabs what they have known for decades: however they struggle against their antagonists, the West will take Israel's side. As usual, the bloodbath was the fault of the Arabs – who, as we all know, only understand force.

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Kate Obenshain: Republican Madame

It is getting harder and harder for sensible people to claim a relationship with the Republican Party. In the most recent spiral downward a doughy frat-boy, RNC Chairman wannabee, named Chip Saltsman sent the Republican faithfull a Christmas CD that included a song titled; Barack the Magic Negro. Really. This is what happens when your team gets down to playing third string mouth breathers, and exalts Rush Limbaugh as your spokesman.

It must really suck to be Kate Obenshain. Here she protests, "it is funny". No, you're funny Kate. You'll never rebuild a majority party with racism, bitterness, and humorless parody from Rush Limbaugh. The Republican Party is fast becoming the party of stunted, angry white guys. Your base is 29% and dwindling. Pull the plug and clean house. Do it for America.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Obama's Tax Cut for Middle

Obama adviser: Slowing economy won’t halt tax cuts

A top adviser to President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday that the country's slowing economy won't keep the new administration from fulfilling its plans for a middle-class tax cut.

"We feel it's important that middle-class people get some relief now," Obama adviser David Axelrod said.

Middle-class tax cuts will be part of the new administration's stimulus plan, Axelrod said. "This package will include a portion of that tax cut that will become part of the permanent tax cut that he'll have in his upcoming budget," Axelrod said.

Read the story

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yes Virginia, there will be cuts.

The Economy, What Happened?

Financial Meltdown 101

By Arun Gupta, Indypendent. Posted October 13, 2008.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression but were afraid to ask.

From 1982 to 2000, the U.S. stock market went on the longest bull run ever, as share prices rose to dizzying heights. In the late 1990s, a combination of factors, which included the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates, created a huge price bubble in Internet stocks. A speculative bubble occurs when price far outstrips the fundamental worth of the asset. Bubbles have occurred in everything from real estate, stocks and railroads to tulips, beanie babies and comic books. As with all bubbles, it took more and more money to make a return*. This led to the Internet bubble popping in March 2000.

During this time of market mania, the Fed guts the Glass-Steagall Act, which was enacted during the Great Depression to prevent the type of banking activity that led to the 1929 stock market crash. In 1996, the Fed allows regular banks to become heavily involved in investment banking, which opens the door to conflicts of interest in banks pushing sketchy financial products on customers who poorly understood the risks. In 1999, under intense pressure from financial firms, Congress overturns Glass-Steagall, allowing banks to engage in any sort of activity from underwriting insurance to investment banking to commercial banking (such as holding deposits).

*For instance, if you purchased 100 shares of Apple at $10 a share and it rose to $20, it cost $1,000 to make $1,000 profit (a 100 percent return), but if the shares were $100 each and rose to $110, it would cost $10,000 to make $1,000 profit (a 10 percent return -- and the loss potential would be much greater, too.

Many Americans joined the stock mania literally in the last days and lost considerable wealth, and some, such as Enron employees, lost their life savings. When the stock market bubble erupted, turbulence rippled through the larger economy, causing investment and corporate spending to sink and unemployment to rise. Then came the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, generating a shock wave of fear and a drop in consumer spending. Burned by the stock market, many people shifted to home purchases as a more secure way to build wealth.

By 2002, with the economy already limping along, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and the Fed slashed interest rates to historic lows of near 1 percent to avoid a severe economic downturn. Low interest rates make borrowed money cheap for everyone from homebuyers to banks. This ocean of credit was one factor that led to a major shift in the home-lending industry -- from originate to own to originate to distribute. Low interest rates also meant that homebuyers could take on larger mortgages, which supported rising prices.

In the originate-to-own model, the mortgage lender -- which can be a private mortgage company, bank, thrift or credit union -- holds the mortgage for its term, usually 30 years. Every month the bank* originating the mortgage receives a payment made of principal and interest from the homeowner. If the buyer defaults on the mortgage, that is, stops making monthly payments, then the bank can seize and sell a valuable asset: the house. Given strict borrowing standards and the long life of the loan, it's like the homebuyer is getting married to the bank.

*Shorthand for any mortgage originator.

In the originate-to-distribute model, the banks sell the mortgage to third parties, turning the loans into a commodity like widgets on a conveyor belt. By selling the loan, the bank frees up its capital so it can turn around and finance a new mortgage. Thus, the banks have an incentive to sell (or distribute) mortgages fast so they can recoup the funds to sell more mortgages. By selling the loan, the bank also distributes the risk of default to others.

The banks made money off mortgage fees, perhaps only a few thousand dollars per loan. Because they sold the loan, sometimes in just a few days, they had no concern that the homebuyer might default. Banks began using call centers and high-pressure tactics to mass-produce mortgages because the profit was in volume--how many loans could be approved how fast. This was complemented by fraud throughout the realestate industry, in which appraisers over-valued homes and mortgage brokers approved anyone with a pulse, not verifying assets, job status or income. And the mushrooming housing industry distorted the whole economy. Of all net job growth from 2002 to 2007, up to 40 percent was housing-sector related: mortgage brokers, appraisers, real-estate agents, call-center employees, loan officers, construction and home-improvement store workers, etc.

Read the story: page 2

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bush, an Un-Escapable Legacy?

Bush Pushes Midnight Regulations, Many To Last

George W. Bush is on pace to impose more last-minute changes to federal rules than any president in history. Many consider Bush's "midnight regulations" to be a parting gift to big industry and against the greater public interest. Discussions are already underway to see if the next Congress can undo what the Bush White House has done.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Winning with Viagra

How to Win Friends and Influence People the American Way!

CIA using Viagra to Change This:

Into This:

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.
The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills.

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Ending the year with Toxic Disaster

But at Least We Get to have Cheap Electricity!

So Much for Clean Coal...

J. Miles Carey/Knoxville News Sentinel, via Associated Press
Fifteen homes like this one in Harriman, Tenn., were flooded with fly ash sludge on Monday after a storage pond wall broke.

An environmental disaster of epic proportions has occurred in Tennessee. Monday night, 2.6 million cubic yards (the equivalent of 525.2 million gallons, 48 times more than the Exxon Valdez spill by volume) of coal ash sludge broke through a dike of a 40-acre holding pond at TVA's Kingston coal-fired power plant covering 400 acres up to six feet deep, damaging 12 homes and wrecking a train.

Read the story

What may be the nation’s largest spill of coal ash lay thick and largely untouched over hundreds of acres of land and waterways Wednesday after a dam broke this week, as officials and environmentalists argued over its potential toxicity.

Federal studies have long shown coal ash to contain significant quantities of heavy metals like arsenic, lead and selenium, which can cause cancer and neurological problems. But with no official word on the dangers of the sludge in Tennessee, displaced residents spent Christmas Eve worried about their health and their property, and wondering what to do.

Read the story

More on this disaster from Tennessee

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Birth of Christ

Matthew 1:18-25

[18] Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
[19] Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
[20] But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
[21] And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
[22] Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
[23] Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
[24] Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
[25] And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
Luke 2:1-7
[1] And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
[2] (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
[3] And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
[4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
[5] To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
[6] And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
[7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Book of Luke: Chapter 2:1-20
King James Version

[1] And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
[2] (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
[3] And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
[4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
[5] To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
[6] And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
[7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
[8] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
[9] And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
[10] And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
[11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
[12] And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
[13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
[14] Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
[15] And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
[16] And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
[17] And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
[18] And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
[19] But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
[20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Book of Matthew: Chapter 2:1-23
King James Version

[1] Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
[2] Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
[3] When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
[4] And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
[5] And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
[6] And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
[7] Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
[8] And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
[9] When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
[10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
[11] And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
[12] And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
[13] And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
[14] When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
[15] And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
[16] Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
[17] Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
[18] In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
[19] But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
[20] Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
[21] And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
[22] But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
[23] And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

John 3:16,17

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Targeting Obesity Alongside Hunger

Obama Administration May Look to Tie Food Assistance to Improved Nutrition

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 24

The worsening economic crunch is causing the tab for food assistance programs to balloon, and with the rising costs has come an intensifying debate over whether -- and how -- the U.S. government can tackle simultaneously the paradoxically linked problems of hunger and obesity.

The statistics spell out the dilemma. The number of Americans on food stamps topped 31.5 million in September, a record high. Obesity, too, is at epidemic levels: In 30 states, at least 25 percent of the population is dangerously overweight. Nationally, 31.9 percent of children are considered overweight or obese.

For decades, the government has treated hunger and obesity as unrelated phenomena. But at a news conference last week in Chicago, Tom Vilsack, President-elect Barack Obama's choice for agriculture secretary, said he would put "nutrition at the center of all food assistance programs," a signal that he will get involved next year when Congress moves to reauthorize nutrition programs that support school breakfasts and lunches as well as summer food for children.

"For a long time, we've looked at hunger and obesity separately," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the committee that will draft the legislation. "It's not a zero-sum game."

Read the article

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Breaking the Consumption Addiction

Forced to pinch pennies, Americans are finding clever ways to cut back. A break in the consumption cycle may be a good thing in the long run.

Americans are smelling their leftovers, asking "is this still good?" and digging in for the first time in 40 years. Some call it an economic crisis, others see potential for lasting change.

Now that the economic crisis has officially been dubbed a recession, and November employment stats have surpassed our most miserable expectations, let's take a moment to look on the bright side of this dismal situation. As history shows us, economic crises do have a way of producing positive outcomes, like great art, the New Deal and the charmingly depressive music and fashion of the 1990s grunge fad. But this current, entirely 21st century recession may promise to bring a different kind of change, ushering in a whole new era of postconsumerism.

Ever since the years just after World War II, when the United States was reinventing itself as the world's economic superpower, the American people have increasingly equated "citizenship" with "consumerism." The promotion of consumerism was part of a 1950s economic stimulus plan, in which the Eisenhower administration deliberately spun the nation into a vicious cycle of production and consumption with the end-goal of increasing employment and building a healthy economy.

Read the article

Merry Christmas, We've been here before....

Happy Christmas - War is Over, if you want it.
John Lennon

Commentary by John Lennon


Pipes of Peace
Paul McCartney

Monday, December 22, 2008

Where is the Money Going?!!!

How long before the Citizens of the United States, the people who will be paying for this mess for several generations, get enough of this nonsense?

Where'd the bailout money go? Shhhh, it's a secret

WASHINGTON (AP) - It's something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where's the money going?

But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

Read the story

The Real Cost of Bush

The Seven Deadly Deficits

What the Bush years really cost us, and how President Obama can get the economy back on track.

There are two hypotheses (besides simple incompetence) about why Republicans paid so little attention to the growing budget shortfall. The first is that they simply trusted in supply-side economics—believing that, somehow, the economy would grow so much better with lower taxes that deficits would be ephemeral. That notion has been shown for the fantasy that it is.

The second theory is that by letting the budget deficit balloon, Bush and his allies hoped to force a reduction in the size of government. Indeed, the fiscal situation has grown so scary that many responsible Democrats are now playing into the hands of these "starve the beast" Republicans and calling for drastic cuts in expenditures. But with Democrats worrying about appearing soft on security—and therefore treating the military budget as sacrosanct—it is hard to cut spending without slashing the investments most important to solving the crisis.

Read the story.

New Bailout Rewards Program

AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Read the story

KKK Couture - Aryan Outfitters

Looking for that perfect gift for your favorite Racist?

Give the gift that shows you Hate!

Seamstress of the Supremacists

Going Green, Disney Style

What do garbage and public relations have in common? Take a trip to future world and find out.

Twenty-five years ago, Americans visited Epcot to learn about the future. Today the future looks grim, at least in terms of the economy, the environment, and security (guards search all visitors' bags on entry, and a computer scans our fingerprints), but Disney's corporate sponsors still have an opportunity to share their optimism. Nestlé will feed billions by growing genetically modified food in arid regions, we learn in The Land; GM is manufacturing cars that burn ethanol (though the Hummer 3, on display outside Test Track, gets only 14 miles per gallon of conventional fuel); and Waste Management, of course, is generating renewable energy.

Read the story

Alternate Gifts once again

Very Important Video -- Please Watch

Changing the Present

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What of Afghanistan?

Corruption Destroys Afghanistan

Just when you've finally gotten your mind around the enormous $700 billion financial bailout - even if none of us are really sure where all that money's going - there comes an even greater, breathtaking price tag.

The amount is $904 billion - that's how much we've spent on American military operations, including Iraq and Afghanistan, since the 9/11 attacks; 50 percent more than what was spent in Vietnam, reports the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. Their study does not include the inestimable toll in human life.

Read more

Friday, December 19, 2008

Whitehouse Bailout for Automakers Announced

Bloomberg News is reporting the terms of a Whitehouse bailout for the automakers. Looks like $13.4 million immediately, with the promise of more in 90 days. There are stipulations on the deal and they look good:

—Firms must provide warrants for non-voting stock.

—Firms must accept limits on executive compensation and eliminate perks such as corporate jets.
—Debt owed to the government would be senior to other debts, to the extent permitted by law.
—Firms must allow the government to examine their books and records.
—Firms must report and the government has the power to block any large transactions (> $100 M).
—Firms must comply with applicable Federal fuel efficiency and emissions requirements.
—Firms must not issue new dividends while they owe government debt.

Targets: The terms and conditions established by Treasury will include additional targets that were the subject of Congressional negotiations but did not come to a vote, including:

—Reduce debts by 2/3 via a debt for equity exchange.
—Make one-half of VEBA payments in the form of stock.
—Eliminate the jobs bank.
—Work rules that are competitive with transplant auto manufacturers by 12/31/09.
—Wages that are competitive with those of transplant auto manufacturers by 12/31/09.

Politico has more information. Probably the best part is that Cerberus Capital won't be able to sell off Chrysler without Congress reviewing the terms. Chrysler has a bone-stupid product line, but a change in management would cure that.

Choir presents Messiah on Sunday

Blessed Sacrament
Catholic Church Choir



Sunday, December 21, 2008
7:00 p.m.

Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church
154 North Main St.
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
Free Will Offering

If you know of a Holiday Event you would like to share,
Please do!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2009 GA - Budget

Kaine Offers Major Shifts In Proposal To Cut Budget

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine launched a budget-balancing proposal Wednesday that would transform the commonwealth's old-guard fiscal policies into ones that reflect the political conversion from red state to blue.

Many of the prescriptions to address a $2.9 billion budget shortfall that he unveiled would have been inconceivable 10 years ago. He proposed doubling the tax on tobacco in a state that once based its economy on cigarettes. He wants to offer early release to some prisoners doing time for nonviolent offenses in a state that trails only Texas in executions. And he has suggested taking steps to end Virginia's long history of housing the severely mentally ill in institutions.

Read the story


Gov. Tim Kaine yesterday unveiled his proposals to cut nearly $3 billion out of the state budget, but Republicans say they won't support many of them, though they believe the state needs to prepare for a greater financial shortfall.

Kaine, who already made a round of budget cuts in October as the economy worsened, is proposing to cover the rest of the shortfall by raising the cigarette tax, cutting $400 million each out of education and health care, eliminating more than 2,000 state jobs, letting non-violent prisoners out of overcrowded jails earlier, and eliminating pay raises for state employees.

Republicans think the budget hole will worsen and that Kaine should have proposed deeper cuts now rather than waiting for the next revenue forecast in February.

"I wish the governor had gone ahead and taken that leadership," Majority Leader Morgan Griffith said.

Read the story

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Welfare Rolls See First Climb in Years

By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post

For the first time since welfare was redefined a dozen years ago, weaning millions of poor Americans from monthly government checks, the deteriorating economy is causing a surge in welfare rolls in a growing number of states.

The swelling caseloads pose the first hard test of the premise behind transforming the old system of welfare, once considered an open-ended right, into a finite program built to provide short-term cash assistance and steer people quickly into jobs.

Though still a fraction of the size they were at their height in the mid-1990s, welfare rolls recently have begun to climb again in at least a dozen states, according to interviews with state officials. In other states, applications are rising, foreshadowing more people on welfare soon. The trend has spread across the District, Maryland and Virginia.

More striking is who is coming onto welfare and why. Here in Florida, as elsewhere, the new face of welfare includes people who have tumbled from the middle class -- and higher -- after losing jobs, savings and self-reliance. And some are returning to welfare years after they thought they had found permanent work and independence.

Many people coming onto welfare "shouldn't be receiving assistance if there [were] jobs out there," said Kevin McGuire, the Maryland Department of Human Resources' executive director of family investment. "The problem is, what we are seeing here is something that looks more like 1936 than 1996."

Read the full article

Virginia Politics: A Good Case for Change

A Good Case for Change in the Legislature

The need for change in Virginia’s political leadership is growing more critical every day. That’s according to former state Sen. John Chichester of Northumberland County. By the way, he’s a Republican, but that is not important to him. What is important are political leaders who will put the state’s best interests ahead of partisan interests.

Chichester shared his thoughts on the need for change in Virginia with members of Virginia FREE at the business group’s annual meeting in Richmond last week. His views are worth repeating as the state prepares for another General Assembly session in January and another election in 2009.

Read the story

Virginia Politics 2009 -- Open Government

Va. subcommittee votes to be recorded

At the urging of Democrats and members of his own party, Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said he has directed the clerk of the House of Delegates to start recording votes taken in House subcommittees.

Valentine claims some credit for recorded subcommittee votes in Assembly

Subcommittee votes in Virginia’s House of Delegates apparently will be a matter of public record in 2009, after House Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, signaled his support of the concept.

Del. Shannon Valentine, D-Lynchburg, claimed some of the credit Monday. She has supported the recorded votes for the past two years in legislation she co-sponsored with Del. Kenneth Plum, D-Reston.

House GOP accedes to recorded subcommittee votes

House Democrats are claiming victory in a decision by the Republican majority in the lower chamber of the Virginia General Assembly to record subcommittee votes in the upcoming legislative session. Me, I’m wondering if this change in approach from the GOP might be a setup for some election-year gimmickry.

“When citizens learn that votes are not recorded in subcommittees of the House of Delegates, they are surprised and disappointed,” Del. Shannon Valentine, D-Lynchburg, said in response to the news regarding subcommittee votes.

House GOP Agrees to Recorded Votes

In 2006, the Republican-controlled House changed the rules to allow subcommittees to kill legislation on unrecorded votes. Before that, subommittees did not record votes but they could only make recommendations and not kill a bill outright. Democrats fought the rule in 2007 and 2008 but were unsuccessful.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Kaine-do spirit goes a long way in tight times

The Virginian-Pilot
© December 15, 2008

In times of crisis, and in states besides Illinois, it is incumbent upon our leaders to serve as role models, to set the agenda and be good stewards of public dollars.

Take it from Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. In October, he vowed to make drastic cuts to the state budget and reduce executive mansion spending by nearly a million dollars. Changes at the manse include:

Read the rest

Open Vote, another Voice joins in...

The people need to be able to keep score

In the upcoming General Assembly session, House subcommittee action should be recorded.

There's more than one way to fill back rooms with smoke, and the old-fashioned way -- cigar-chomping pols huddling to cut deals -- is so last century.

A couple of years ago, Virginia's House Republicans hit on a more healthful, politically correct way to operate behind a smokescreen by changing House rules to let subcommittees kill bills on unrecorded votes.

Say the Senate sends over a bill with popular appeal that makes some deep-pocketed lobbyist gag. Just deal it to the right subcommittee and see it die with barely a whimper.

Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine saw some initiatives that he supported disappear in such fashion at the last General Assembly. There was the bill to ban smoking in restaurants, for example. Also, a proposal for bipartisan redistricting -- merely a reform crucial to fairer government representation. Fair game in today's hyperpartisan House of Delegates.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gotta Love Clean Coal!

Save Water, Money, and Energy

Benefits of Water Efficiency

If one out of every 100 American homes retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, we could save about 100 million kWh of electricity per year—avoiding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is equivalent to removing nearly 15,000 automobiles from the road for one year!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Republicans follow Democrat Lead on Open Vote


Assembly GOP Has No Need to Fear Openness

In 2006, the Republican-dominated chamber, in a drive to make its committees more efficient, changed the rules to allow subcommittees to kill legislation on unrecorded votes. Prior to 2006, subcommittees didn’t record votes on recommendations to the full panels but they also couldn’t kill legislation outright.

The minority Democrats in the House cried foul and tried to change the rules in 2007 and 2008, failing both times. News organizations across the state also joined the discussion, with the editorial pages of several of the state’s large dailies calling for recorded subcommittee votes as being in the best interests of all Virginians.

Both years, the GOP caucus refused to move to recorded subcommittee votes on motions to kill a bill.

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From Last Year's General Assembly

“We call on Speaker Bill Howell and House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith to join leaders in their own caucus like Delegate Terry Kilgore in support of open government and giving the people of Virginia the right to know how we vote,” House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong said.

“It’s time for us to ensure accountability in state government by making sure every vote is public,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran. “Virginia is the birthplace of Democracy and Jefferson’s House deserves better than voting behind closed doors.”

“Hundreds of bills were dispensed without a recorded vote last session,” Delegate Ken Plum, who introduced the resolution last session to require recorded votes in subcommittee. “Every vote should be recorded and open to the people of Virginia. It shouldn’t matter whether it happens in a subcommittee or on the floor of the House of Delegates.”

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Now This Year...

Republican activists push for rule change on vote records

Republican activists are pushing party leaders to abolish a rule that allows members of the House of Delegates to defeat bills without leaving any record of how they voted.

Under House rules, when legislators take action on bills in subcommittees, no votes are recorded. The practice has been used by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers over the years to kill bills without a leaving a voting trail.

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Finks Announces McAuliffe Visit

On Saturday December 13th Terry McAuliffe will be in Harrisonburg .
Terry is past Democratic National Chairman and was Hillary Clinton's campaign manger during the 2008 primary campaign.
Terry is testing the waters about a run for Governor of Virginia in 2009.
If you would like to meet him he will be at Clementine Cafe on South Main at 3:00 pm this Saturday. Clementine Cafe is located across from the old Leggett store on the opposite side of the parking lot beside Dave's Taverna.

Alan Finks
Harrisonburg Democratic Committee

Obama Enjoys Good Ratings

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Approval Index shows that 43% of the nation’s voters now Strongly Approve of the way Barack Obama is handling the role of President-elect while just 16% Strongly Disapprove. That’s the fifth straight day that Obama has earned a +27 rating in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Approval Index. His highest rating to data has been a +28, reached last week.

Among those who view the economy as the most important issue, 55% give Obama their Strong Approval while 7% Strongly Disapprove (Approval Index rating: +48). As for those who consider nation security most important, 24% Strongly Approve and 28% Strongly Disapprove (Approval Index rating: -4).

Read the Story for more data

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Virginia Politics 2009 -- Governor's Race

Sen. Deeds discusses budget shortfalls

Democratic gubernatorial candidate against education cuts, VDOT audit
By Garren Shipley -- Daily Staff Writer

Speaking in an interview Friday, Deeds said major budget shortfalls are the time to take serious looks at the way Richmond does business.

"We have to think about some of the functions of government," he said. "Perhaps we shouldn't even be performing some functions."

But while some Republican legislators are talking quietly about cuts to education in the face of the $3 billion shortfall, Deeds says that's a bad idea.

"At the end of the day, you don't want to make cuts that are going to erode people's confidence in the future," he said. "The kind of cuts that I think that would do that are cuts to K-12 education."

"We've been going on the cheap on higher education for the past umpteen years," he said. "We have to be prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow. I don't think we can do that if we say, 'Oh no the sky is falling, we've got to cut education this year.'"

Legislators also have to make some major improvements to the state's road system, Deeds said. Better roads will bring better economic times.

He rejected Republican calls for a "performance audit" of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

GOP legislators say a top-to-bottom review of how the agency accomplishes its role could save the state some money and lead to better roads.

"That's just a cop out. VDOT is continually audited. VDOT right now has fewer employees than they had in 1958," Deeds said.

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Horserace 2009 by the numbers

Virginia voters don't go to the polls until November, but four candidates are already off and running in the race to replace Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

As of now, it's anybody's race, according to a poll released Monday by Rasmussen Reports. Hypothetical matchups between the only Republican candidate — Attorney General Bob McDonnell — and the three Democrats show many voters undecided.

McDonnell, R: 39 percent
State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D: 39 percent
Other: 4 percent
Not Sure: 18 percent

McDonnell, R: 37 percent
Del. Brian Moran, D: 41 percent
Other: 5 percent
Not Sure: 16 percent

McDonnell, R: 41 percent
Terry McAuliffe, D: 36 percent
Other: 5 percent
Not Sure: 17 percent

Read the Story

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hey Byrd Family - How Much You Want for That DNR Rag?

The folks over at Hburgnews are discussing the running embarrassment called the Daily News Record; our Byrd family run, rightwing-fool operated local newspaper. This is the newspaper of record for Rockingham County and the City of Harrisonburg, and it is unfit to represent the changing demographics of the area. And while the anonymous editors openly mocked Mr. Obama as an elitist hollywood loving terrorist appeasing Liberal Socialist, he still won the City. In fact he was elected by a 9 million vote margin nationwide, and 235,000 in Virginia - the biggest margin ever by a non-incumbent Presidential candidate.

The boys over at the DNR carefully monitor their circulation numbers, because it helps them command their advertising rates and stay alive. So here is modest proposal:

Kill your subscription. Just say no to rightwing propaganda.

You don't need it anyway. You can find news more quickly online, and search engines are more comprehensive. So just cut them off. And when the circulation numbers get bad enough, and the ad revenues sink away. We'll buy the DNR and run it like a real newspaper, in a city that deserves better.

Now This Here's Funny!

Many Thanks to Bob Green for sharing!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

"There is no such thing as security for any nation-or any individual-in
a world ruled by the principles of gangsterism."

Address over the radio following the declaration of a state of war with
the Japanese Empire, December 9, 1941

The sudden criminal attacks perpetrated by the Japanese in the Pacific
provide the climax of a decade of international immorality.

Powerful and resourceful gangsters have banded together to make war upon
the whole human race. Their challenge has now been flung at the United
States of America. The Japanese have treacherously violated the long-
standing peace between us. Many American soldiers and sailors have been
killed by enemy action. American ships have been sunk, American
airplanes have been destroyed.

The Congress and the people of the United States have accepted that

Together with other free peoples, we are now fighting to maintain our
right to live among our world neighbors in freedom and in common
decency, without fear of assault.

I have prepared the full record of our past relations with Japan, and it
will be submitted to the Congress. It begins with the visit of Commodore
Perry to Japan 88 years ago. It ends with the visit of two Japanese
emissaries to the Secretary of State last Sunday, an hour after Japanese
forces had loosed their bombs and machine guns against our flag, our
forces, and our citizens.

I can say with utmost confidence that no Americans today or a thousand
years hence, need feel anything but pride in our patience and our
efforts through all the years toward achieving a peace in the Pacific
which would be fair and honorable to every nation, large or small. And
no honest person, today or a thousand years hence, will be able to
suppress a sense of indignation and horror at the treachery committed by
the military dictators of Japan, under the very shadow of the flag of
peace borne by their special envoys in our midst.

The course that Japan has followed for the past 10 years in Asia has
paralleled the course of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe and Africa.
Today, it has become far more than a parallel. It is collaboration so
well calculated that all the continents of the world, and all the
oceans, are now considered by the Axis strategists as one gigantic

In 1931, Japan invaded Manchukuo-without warning.

In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia-without warning.

In 1938, Hitler occupied Austria-without warning.

In 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia-without warning.

Later in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland-without warning.

In 1940, Hitler invaded Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and
Luxembourg-without warning.

In 1940, Italy attacked France and later Greece-without warning. In
1941, the Axis Powers attacked Jugoslavia and Greece and they dominated
the Balkans-without warning.

In 1941, Hitler invaded Russia-without warning.

And now Japan has attacked Malaya and Thailand-and the United States-
without warning.

It is all of one pattern.

We are now in this war. We are all in it-all the way. Every single man,
woman, and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our
American history. We must share together the bad news and the good news,
the defeats and the victories-the changing fortunes of war.

So far, the news has all been bad. We have suffered a serious setback in
Hawaii. Our forces in the Philippines, which include the brave people of
that commonwealth, are taking punishment, but are defending themselves
vigorously. The reports from Guam and Wake and Midway Islands are still
confused, but we must be prepared for the announcement that all these
three outposts have been seized.

The casualty lists of these first few days will undoubtedly be large. I
deeply feel the anxiety of all families of the men in our armed forces
and the relatives of people in cities which have been bombed. I can only
give them my solemn promise that they will get news just as quickly as

This Government will put its trust in the stamina of the American
people, and will give the facts to the public as soon as two conditions
have been fulfilled: First, that the information has been definitely and
officially confirmed; and, second, that the release of the information
at the time it is received will not prove valuable to the enemy directly
or indirectly.

Most earnestly I urge my countrymen to reject all rumors. These ugly
little hints of complete disaster fly thick and fast in wartime. They
have to be examined and appraised.

As an example, I can tell you frankly that until further surveys are
made, I have not sufficient information to state the exact damage which
has been done to our naval vessels at Pearl Harbor. Admittedly the
damage is serious. But no one can say how serious, until we know how
much of this damage can be repaired and how quickly the necessary
repairs can be made.

I cite as another example a statement made on Sunday night that a
Japanese carrier had been located and sunk off the Canal Zone. And when
you hear statements that are attributed to what they call "an
authoritative source," you can be reasonably sure that under these war
circumstances the "authoritative source" was not any person in

Many rumors and reports which we now hear originate with enemy sources.
For instance, today the Japanese are claiming that as a result of their
one action against Hawaii they have gained naval supremacy in the
Pacific. This is an old trick of propaganda which has been used
innumerable times by the Nazis. The purposes of such fantastic claims
are, of course, to spread fear and confusion among us, and to goad us
into revealing military information which our enemies are desperately
anxious to obtain.

Our Government will not be caught in this obvious trap-and neither will
our people.

It must be remembered by each and every one of us that our free and
rapid communication must be greatly restricted in wartime. It is not
possible to receive full, speedy, accurate reports from distant areas of
combat. This is particularly true where naval operations are concerned.
For in these days of the marvels of radio it is often impossible for the
commanders of various units to report their activities by radio, for the
very simple reason that this information would become available to the
enemy, and would disclose their position and their plan of defense or

Of necessity there will be delays in officially confirming or denying
reports of operations but we will not hide facts from the country if we
know the facts and if the enemy will not be aided by their disclosure.

To all newspapers and radio stations-all those who reach the eyes and
ears of the American people-I say this: You have a most grave
responsibility to the Nation now and for the duration of this war.

If you feel that your Government is not disclosing enough of the truth,
you have very right to say so. But-in the absence of all the facts, as
revealed by official sources-you have no right to deal out unconfirmed
reports in such a way as to make people believe they are gospel truth.

Every citizen, in every walk of life, shares this same responsibility.
The lives of our soldiers and sailors-the whole future of this Nation-
depend upon the manner in which each and every one of us fulfills his
obligation to our country.

Now a word about the recent past-and the future. A year and a half has
elapsed since the fall of France, when the whole world first realized
the mechanized might which the Axis nations had been building for so
many years. America has used that year and a half to great advantage.
Knowing that the attack might reach us in all too short a time, we
immediately began greatly to increase our industrial strength and our
capacity to meet the demands of modern warfare.

Precious months were gained by sending vast quantities of our war
materials to the nations of the world still able to resist Axis
aggression. Our policy rested on the fundamental truth that the defense
of any country resisting Hitler or Japan was in the long run the defense
of our own country. That policy has been justified. It has given us
time, invaluable time, to build our American assembly lines of

Assembly lines are now in operation. Others are being rushed to
completion. A steady stream of tanks and planes, of guns and ships, of
shells and equipment-that is what these 18 months have given us.

But it is all only a beginning of what has to be done. We must be set to
face a long war against crafty and powerful bandits. The attack at Pearl
Harbor can be repeated at any one of many points in both oceans and
along both our coast lines and against all the rest of the hemisphere.

It will not only be a long war, it will be a hard war. That is the basis
on which we now lay all our plans. That is the yardstick by which we
measure what we shall need and demand-money, materials, doubled and
quadrupled production, ever increasing. The production must be not only
for our own Army and Navy and air forces. It must reinforce the other
armies and navies and air forces fighting the Nazis and the war lords of
Japan throughout the Americas and the world.

I have been working today on the subject of production. Your Government
has decided on two broad policies.

The first is to speed up all existing production by working on a 7-day-
week basis in every war industry, including the production of essential
raw materials.

The second policy, now being put into form, is to rush additions to the
capacity of production by building more new plants, by adding to old
plants, and by using the many smaller plants for war needs.

Over the hard road of the past months we have at times met obstacles and
difficulties, divisions and disputes, indifference and callousness. That
is now all past and, I am sure, forgotten.

The fact is that the country now has an organization in Washington built
around men and women who are recognized experts in their own fields. I
think the country knows that the people who are actually responsible in
each and every one of these many fields are pulling together with a
teamwork that has never before been excelled.

On the road ahead there lies hard work-grueling work-day and night,
every hour and every minute.

I was about to add that ahead there lies sacrifice for all of us.

But it is not correct to use that word. The United States does not
consider it a sacrifice to do all one can, to give one's best to our
Nation when the Nation is fighting for its existence and its future

It is not a sacrifice for any man, old or young, to be in the Army or
the Navy of the United States. Rather is it a privilege.

It is not a sacrifice for the industrialist or the wage earner, the
farmer or the shopkeeper, the trainman or the doctor, to pay more taxes,
to buy more bonds, to forego extra profits, to work longer or harder at
the task for which he is best fitted. Rather is it a privilege.

It is not a sacrifice to do without many things to which we are
accustomed if the national defense calls for doing without.

A review this morning leads me to the conclusion that at present we
shall not have to curtail the normal articles of food. There is enough
food for all of us and enough left over to send to those who are
fighting on the same side with us.

There will be a clear and definite shortage of metals of many kinds for
civilian use, for the very good reason that in our increased program we
shall need for war purposes more than half of that portion of the
principal metals which during the past year have gone into articles for
civilian use. We shall have to give up many things entirely.

I am sure that the people in every part of the Nation are prepared in
their individual living to win this war. I am sure they will cheerfully
help to pay a large part of its financial cost while it goes on I am
sure they will cheerfully give up those material things they are asked
to give up.

I am sure that they will retain all those great spiritual things without
which we cannot win through.

I repeat that the United States can accept no result save victory, final
and complete. Not only must the shame of Japanese treachery be wiped
out, but the sources of international brutality, wherever they exist,
must be absolutely and finally broken.

In my message to the Congress yesterday I said that take very certain
that this form of treachery shall never we "will endanger

us again." In order to achieve that certainty, we must begin the great
task that is before us by abandoning once and for all the illusion that
we can ever again isolate ourselves from the rest of humanity.

In these past few years-and, most violently, in the past few days-we
have learned a terrible lesson.

It is our obligation to our dead-it is our sacred obligation to their
children and our children-that we must never forget what we have

And what we all have learned is this:

There is no such thing as security for any nation-or any individual-in a
world ruled by the principles of gangsterism.

There is no such thing as impregnable defense against powerful
aggressors who sneak up in the dark and strike without warning.

We have learned that our ocean-girt hemisphere is not immune from severe
attack-that we cannot measure our safety in terms of miles on any map.

We may acknowledge that our enemies have performed a brilliant feat of
deception, perfectly timed and executed with great skill. It was a
thoroughly dishonorable deed, but we must face the fact that modern
warfare as conducted in the Nazi manner is a dirty business. We don't
like it-we didn't want to get in it-but we are in it and we're going to
fight it with everything we've got.

I do not think any American has any doubt of our ability to administer
proper punishment to the perpetrators of these crimes.

Your Government knows that for weeks Germany has been telling Japan that
if Japan did not attack the United States, Japan would not share in
dividing the spoils with Germany when peace came. She was promised by
Germany that if she came in she would receive the complete and perpetual
control of the whole of the Pacific area-and that means not only the Far
East, not only all of the islands in the Pacific but also a stranglehold
on the west coast of North, Central, and South America.

We also know that Germany and Japan are conducting their military and
naval operations in accordance with a joint plan. That plan considers
all peoples and nations which are not helping the Axis Powers as common
enemies of each and every one of the Axis Powers.

That is their simple and obvious grand strategy. That is why the
American people must realize that it can be matched only with similar
grand strategy. We must realize for example that Japanese successes
against the United States in the Pacific are helpful to German
operations in Libya; that any German success against the Caucasus is
inevitably an assistance to Japan in her operations against the Dutch
East Indies; that a German attack against Algiers or Morocco opens the
way to a German attack against South America.

On the other side of the picture, we must learn to know that guerrilla
warfare against the Germans in Serbia helps us; that a successful
Russian offensive against the Germans helps us; and that British
successes on land or sea in any part of the world strengthen our hands.

Remember always that Germany and Italy, regardless of any formal
declaration of war, consider themselves at war with the United States at
this moment just as much as they consider themselves at war with Britain
and Russia. And Germany puts all the other

republics of the Americas into the category of enemies. The people of
the hemisphere can be honored by that.

The true goal we seek is far above and beyond the ugly field of battle.
When we resort to force, as now we must, we are determined that this
force shall be directed toward ultimate good as well as against
immediate evil. We Americans are not destroyers; we are builders.

We are now in the midst of a war, not for conquest, not for vengeance,
but for a world in which this Nation, and all that this Nation
represents, will be safe for our children. We expect to eliminate the
danger from Japan, but it would serve us ill if we accomplished that and
found that the rest of the world was dominated by Hitler and Mussolini.

We are going to win the war, and we are going to win the peace that

And in the dark hours of this day-and through dark days that may be yet
to come-we will know that the vast majority of the members of the human
race are on our side. Many of them are fighting with us. All of them are
praying for us. For, in representing our cause, we represent theirs as
well-our hope and their hope for liberty under God.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Obama Plan

President-elect Barack Obama added sweep and meat to his economic agenda on Saturday, pledging the largest new investment in roads and bridges since President Dwight D. Eisenhower built the Interstate system in the late 1950s, and tying his key initiatives – education, energy, health care –back to jobs in a package that has the makings of a smaller and modern version of FDR's New Deal marriage of job creation with infrastructure upgrades.

The president-elect also said for the first time that he will “launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen.”

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