More Partisan Derangement Over Russiagate

By William Skink

I had this post ready to go, for the most part, a week ago, but wasn’t able to get it posted before leaving the States for a glorious week with the family in Mexico. Now that I have returned to the cold (and Cold War 2.0) I see nothing much has changed. Here is the post, with some additional info on the 13 indictments that offers a different perspective. Here we go.

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The two main partisan blogs in Montana—Montana Pos(t) and Moogirl—have lost their shit over Russiagate. They delude themselves that the FBI is beyond reproach and any evidence of corruption within the FBI (and DOJ) is nothing more than a campaign to discredit the investigation.

Here is one example from Moogirl, I mean, “Montanan”:

We are living in a world of circular logic. We have white supremacists, Nazis, and Russian bots creating online propaganda with hashtags to release a Congressional memo that is simple regurgitated BS from white supremacists, Nazis, and Russian bots. Then the sane people in this country from John McCain to Jeff Flake and folks of all political persuasions try to hopelessly explain the complexities of the legal system, while the right-wing media machine of far-right radio, suspect websites and a certain “news” channel that report on a meaningless memo elevating it to be meaningful somehow.

And here is some hyperventilating from sometimes Pos(t) contributor, COMBAT Vet Josh Manning:

Yes there are important people who are showing us the dangers ahead and that have transpired. Robert Mueller has access to the blueprints of why we are where we are and he almost alone has the power to lay those out. But he will not end this by himself. We have to protect him yet we cannot think that he is our savior. We cannot think that individual senators or representatives are any more powerful than Mueller.

In the end, this is about us. Each of you has to figure out what you will be willing to do to prevent America from becoming the cherry on Moscow’s political cupcake. It demands not only being informed and talking with friends and neighbors but also whether you are willing to join a national sit-in near the White House when Trump cronies fire Mueller (spoiler alert: it is coming), if you will not be silenced or intimidated by being called anti-patriotic when you oppose the “major event” of a war with North Korea meant to boost Trump’s approval at the cost of millions of lives, if you will join in local demonstrations against these authoritarian actions, or if you simply watch Maddow and yell at the television. I will be at events one and two. I will make them happen. I need you all to help. If we whither and die as our nation crumbles then that will be our fate. I did not serve in the military to watch my nation dissolve after I returned from far away wars.

Well Josh, I am informed, but not in the way you and your fellow partisans would hope. The post-9/11 authoritarian nature of this country is in its second decade of development and its evolution has been midwifed by both Republicans and Democrats. Only a partisan can deny this reality.

For those suffering from partisan memory loss, Obama presided over the extrajudicial killings of US citizens without due process, which sounds pretty authoritarian to me. Where was Manning’s outrage then? Maybe he was too busy shooting at Iraqis and Afghans in America’s imperialist wars of choice to notice a Democrat acting the authoritarian role of dear leader, unhindered by constitutional constraints, which of course makes his concern about Trump disingenuous.

The amnesia on display from these partisans regarding Mueller and the FBI is both convenient and very concerning. To counter that amnesia, Consortium News (now without Robert Parry, who passed away recently) has an article that reminds us what Mueller and his sidekick, Comey, were doing after 9/11:

Setting aside for the moment the merits of the Russiagate narrative, who really is this Robert Mueller that amnesiac liberals clamor to hold up as the champion of the people and defender of democracy? Co-author Coleen Rowley, who as an FBI whistleblower exposed numerous internal problems at the FBI in the early 2000s, didn’t have to be privy to his inner circle to recall just a few of his actions after 9/11 that so shocked the public conscience as to repeatedly generate moral disapproval even on the part of mainstream media. Rowley was only able to scratch the surface in listing some of the more widely reported wrongdoing that should still shock liberal consciences.

Although Mueller and his “joined at the hip” cohort James Comey are now hailed for their impeccable character by much of Washington, the truth is, as top law enforcement officials of the George W. Bush administration (Mueller as FBI Director and Comey as Deputy Attorney General), both presided over post-9/11 cover-ups and secret abuses of the Constitution, enabled Bush-Cheney fabrications used to launch wrongful wars, and exhibited stunning levels of incompetence.

Mueller and Comey are both cogs operating in the cesspool of DC. And who is Josh Manning? Is he someone who believes Americans have the right to know what the military he proudly served has been doing in theaters like Iraq? No, he does not. Not when he hallucinates big, scary Russia behind any unwanted development threatening the establishment he shills for.

An example of this can be found in a recent Zerohedge piece. Apparently the fact Chelsea Manning is running for office is just another evil Russian plot. Remember, Chelsea Manning is the whistleblower who exposed some pretty heinous acts committed by members of America’s armed forces.

The first tweet, from foreign policy and strategy consultant Molly McKew, starts of the conspiracy theory with this:

A little too convenient that Chelsea Manning will primary @SenatorCardin, one of most active Senators on foreign policy & leader in making policy/legislation to respond to Russian aggression, for MD Senate.
Guess that’s what Dem Tea Party is going to look like: Snowden party.

Then Josh Manning chimes in:

Senator Cardin authored and released a 200 page masterpiece on Russian influence in western elections. Suddenly he has a primary from Kremlin stooge Assange’s Wikileaks primary source Chelsea Manning. The Kremlin plays the extreme left to swing elections. Remember that.

And then Glen Greenwald adds this great jab to Josh Manning:

Oh my god: this is how deranged official Washington is. The President of the largest Dem Party think tank (funded in part by dictators) genuinely believes Chelsea Manning’s candidacy is a Kremlin plot. Conspiracy theorists thrive more in mainstream DC than on internet fringes

And to put the Greenwald cherry on top of this xenophobic conspiracy theory here is more from GG:

This conspiracy theory mocks itself.

The idea that Vladimir Putin sat in the Kremlin, steaming over Benjamin Cardin’s report on Russia, and thus developed a dastardly plot to rid himself of his daunting Maryland nemesis – “I know how to get rid of Cardin: I’ll have a trans woman who was convicted of felony leaking run against him!” – is too inane to merit any additional ridicule.

But this is the climate in Washington: no conspiracy theory is too moronic, too demented, too self-evidently laughable to disqualify its advocates from being taken seriously – as long as it involves accusations that someone is a covert tool of the Kremlin.

The most recent development in the Russiagate investigation (insurance policy?) is the indictment of 13 Russians. Once again the resistance is hyping this latest development as further evidence of Russia influencing America’s election.

For a perspective you won’t get from either MSM echo chamber, Moon of Alabama has a very interesting take in a post titled Mueller Indictment – The “Russian Influence” Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme. Read the whole post, it’s compelling.

I linked to MoA’s post on Montana Post’s Facebook page, and the reaction was predictable. I’m accused of watching Fox News and the actual substance of the post was of course totally ignored. At one point in the comments whoever is running MP’s Facebook page said this:

Putin is a dictator who influenced our election. The way to defeat him is sanctions. Trump won’t implement them.

To which I asked “how did Putin, the dictator, specifically influence the election? Where is the evidence that directly implicates the Kremlin?

And this is the response I got:

The internet is a magical place. Enjoy exploring it Travis. You can find information that fits any bias you have. It takes a rational person to find the facts, analyze them and make conclusions. I hope you enjoy your journey in cyberspace.

I will conclude this post with the final comment I made to this ridiculous non-answer:

After a year and a half of scapegoating Russia there is no direct evidence, that is the sad reality you partisans refuse to acknowledge, but it doesn’t stop you from making the same unsubstantiated accusations. Trump’s regime is disgusting and corrupt, but Russiagate is not going to be the impeachable scandal you hope it is. You are wasting time and sapping energy by continuing to promote your xenophobic, anti-Russian conspiracy theories.

Like Vonnegut said, And so it goes…

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Greed Is Not Good

by William Skink

A higher return on investment is just another way of saying greed, and greed is ultimately at the core of the world’s financial problems. Fuck modest returns on investment, say the self-anointed Masters of the Universe. If you take away our derivative toys we’ll just leverage the shit out of VIX instead.

If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about it don’t worry, neither do I. It’s not just strange financial terms that befuddle regular people from understanding what is happening, it’s the increasing complexity of what return junkies have to do to get their fix.

I’ve been watching Zerohedge for an article that explains yesterday’s signal that we’ve entered a period of volatility in language I can understand. I think this piece, titled The Death Of The “Death Of Contagion” Central Bank Meme, is worth reading even though the language is still a bit heavy on Wall Street Speak. Here’s an excerpt:

We’re experiencing a major correction in the equity markets brought on in a mean-reversion exercise thanks to central banks trying to shore up their defenses around the last battle they lost, namely off-exchange, unregulated CDOs — synthetic debt-based investment products.

Humans are clever and will always find a way around a problem. The problem is incentives. The banks created CDO’s because there was a demand for investment returns far above what the central banks were allowing the market to pay, by setting interest rates well below the real risk profile of the investment community.

In other words, government bonds were over-priced and investors went looking for better returns. Now that Yellen et.al. have stamped out most of that market investors still need yield.

The response to the 2008 financial crisis was zero-bound interest rates and trillions in liquidity created by the central banks sitting around looking for yield. It found its way into the equity markets which over the past six plus years been on an historic rally off the October 2011 low.

During that time the VIX became more important. What was once only discussed by the real pros was now in the hands of everyone. Contagion risks jumped asset classes.

Essentially what this is saying is that gambling addicts enabled by greedy investors moved their derivative scam after the economic crisis to another arcane niche of the financial universe.

Why? Because why not? The architects of the last crisis were bailed out and no one went to jail. So why not chase some other scheme for investors?

Whatever comes next–and it won’t be more immediate financial carnage–Donald Trump is going to own it. By claiming the high water mark of the market, whatever comes next is his.

The reality is the seeds were sewn as Obama took power and Democrats controlled Congress. Thanks to the complicity of the entire political class, no high-profile bankster went to prison, the Federal Reserve opened the zero-interest spigots, and greed went back to work with the same incentives in place to maximize short-term returns and fuck everything else.

To be clear, that everything else is us.

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Suicide by Cop: “is Common”

By JC

In the latest incident of “to call or not to call” the police it appears that cops killing individuals in Montana has become normalized:

A welfare check near East Helena late Thursday night led to an officer-involved shooting that left the suspect dead…

A caller reported a male at the residence was bleeding from self-inflicted injuries and might be armed with a handgun.

Deputies attempted to engage the male in verbal negotiations, but ultimately a deputy had to fire his weapon to protect himself and other individuals present at the time, [Sheriff] Dutton said. As is common in incidents of this nature, the deputy is currently on administrative leave, Dutton said. [emphasis added]

Of course, I expect that few care anymore that an attempted suicide leading to a cop shooting, and a “mercy killing” of the downtrodden has become de rigueur these days.

Numbness to the news of the constant tragedies that surround our communities has taken its (intended?) toll. So lets keep cutting those public and mental healthcare budgets, laying off case workers, and squeezing the (budgetary) life out of counseling and treatment facilities.

Paying for administrative leave for cops appears to have become a cheaper — and common — way to balance budgets and guarantee tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals than paying for an adequate level of caseworkers or crisis response training for police. And hey, one less depressed, suicidal individual to have to cover with Medicaid and/or other public services — bonus!

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More Questions Than Answers In Missoula Indy’s Look At Glacier Hope Homes

By William Skink

When I got an email last month from Indy reporter Susan Shepherd about an upcoming story about Glacier Hope Homes, I was intrigued. What would turn up?

For a quick recap, I first wrote about Glacier Hope Homes in 2015, when I was still a contributor to 4&20 Blackbirds. Though comments on that post were mentioned in the Indy article, my subsequent attempts to bring attention to this potential scammer exploiting Veterans in the Flathead were not. Maybe if I had responded to that email this blog’s role would have been included in the story. Oh well.

After reading the article this morning, then thinking about it while I drove to work, two things stand out that leave me a bit confused. The first is that the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office “confirmed that it has issued a warrant for Stevens’ arrest on a felony bad check charge.” The second comes near the end of the article. Shepherd writes:

Stevens says he has been spending a lot of time traveling to Texas in order to set up another shelter, to be called Veterans Hope Home, in the Houston area. “We were just awarded our contract, so I will be headed back down there in a week,” Stevens says. “It’s a Homeless Veteran Grant. It’s a grant for homelessness.” The VA hasn’t yet responded to a request to confirm the award.

How can someone with a warrant for his arrest on felony forgery charges feel free to travel around the country to set up the next scam in another state? Why has Jason Stevens not been arrested? Has he already fled Montana? Is this scam artist exploiting Veterans not a priority for the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office?

The website for Glacier Hope Homes is still up and still advertising services Stevens himself, in the article, admits are not being provided to Veterans. Services like job placement and money management training. How can this be allowed to go on?

I’m glad the Indy did this story, but now am wondering if it will amount to anything. If Jason Stevens is allowed to keep lying and ripping people off in another state, those future victims will have the inaction of authorities in Montana to thank for letting this scam artist saunter away to find suckers in Houston because he ran out of suckers in the Flathead willing to buy his bullshit.

One of those suckers was a Senator looking for a photo-op with Veterans, Senator Steve Daines:

Sen. Steve Daines visited for the ribbon-cutting and spoke to the first group of veterans to stay there. A photograph Daines posted to Twitter shows him standing on a portable stage in front of rustic buildings, talking to a number of men in veterans’ regalia sitting on folding chairs arranged on the grass.

Maybe Tester’s office will get involved since Veterans are a very important demographic to his reelection efforts. I don’t think it would look very good if authorities in Montana allow a scam artist taking advantage of Veterans to potentially victimize more Veterans in another state.

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The State Of The Resistance Is Wrong

by William Skink

How is the neverTrump resistance able to ignore the growing evidence of FBI/DOJ misconduct? It helps that the media continues framing criticism of the FBI as a Republican campaign to discredit these institutions solely to protect Trump.

Stepping outside the blinding tribalism of American politics allows one to see the utter corruption of both parties. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump exist on the same plane of moral depravity and political opportunism–a statement that probably sounds absurd to partisans.

But to those same partisans it doesn’t seem to matter one bit that HRC reportedly protected a lecherous campaign staffer. The Grammy spot for this two-time presidential loser is something to be cheered.

The resistance has thrown in on one side of a political civil war I want no part in. I do not believe in the ends justifying the means. I am greatly troubled that a bullshit dossier was used by their political opposition to unmask Americans in order to spy on them.

I feel it necessary to point out one can have these opinions while still opposing Trump’s presidency, which I absolutely do. Trump is as much a swamp creature as the Clintons. Those who think otherwise must embrace increasingly fantastical thinking, like the growing belief in “The Storm”, a grand conspiracy that posits some pretty ridiculous things.

Equally ridiculous, though, is the hope that corrupt institutions like the FBI can operate in a non-corrupt manner to oust a President. If that happens, and the neverTrump resistance accepts that the ends justify the means, it won’t just be a political civil war between two parties.

Does the resistance understand this?

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May The Voices Of Writers Live On…

by William Skink

“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. …

We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.”

–Ursula Le Guin, accepting the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2014.

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Where Is The Opposition To American Imperialism?

By William Skink

Is America becoming globally isolated? Sure, there is a good argument to be made for that assertion, but America will never be alone as long as its global ambitions align with the other two members of the deranged triumvirate America leads, spreading death and chaos and pushing the world toward war.

As I was listening to NPR on the way to work last week I thought to myself there truly is no better arena to see the horrendous impacts of domestic propaganda on the American populace than the arena of foreign policy. It’s simply amazing what Americans don’t know, and don’t seem to care to know.

Last week Tillerson announced that the US will maintain a military presence in Syria indefinitely. One of the stated reasons is to make sure ISIS doesn’t re-emerge. That is utter bullshit. Why? Because the deranged triumvirate we are a part of created and continue to use ISIS to justify military incursions and occupations for control of resources.

I believe and will continue to claim that Obama’s 8 years of continued military intervention, after Bush’s years of exploiting 9/11 to rip open the Middle East, has rendered the vast majority of the political spectrum utterly incapable of speaking or acting honestly about American foreign policy. The rest of the world knows this, but the entitled arrogance of American Exceptionalism has allowed the American populace to live inside a cocoon of privileged ignorance about the carnage wrought by the triumvirate.

Americans are told about the dire protests in Iran but never shown the realities of the apartheid state of Israel. You won’t hear Angelina Jolie—celebrity propagandist for NATO—talk about Israel’s persecution of Ahed Tamimi. When women marched this past weekend in America, were any of them thinking about the hyper-militarized culture of Israel that apparently is so fragile a 16 year old’s defiance can cause these kinds of reactions?

The discussion amongst Israelis became all about the humiliation suffered by heavily armed soldiers, from a fearless 16-year old girl and her bare hands. Culture Minister Miri Regev said: “When I watched that, I felt humiliated, I felt crushed”. She called the incident “damaging to the honor of the military and the state of Israel.” She was echoing her own words from 2015, when Ahed also appeared in a viral video, wrestling a masked Israeli soldier, who was holding her little brother in a headlock and pressing him down on a rock, his broken arm in cast. Then Regev was “shocked to see the video this morning of Palestinians hitting an IDF soldier,” adding that, “It cannot be that our soldiers will be sent on missions with their hands tied behind their backs. It’s simply a disgrace!….We must immediately order that a soldier under attack be able to return fire. Period.”

There was a range of suggestions of what should happen with Ahed and the other girls.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett suggested that they “spend the rest of their days in prison”.

But a prominent journalist had a somewhat more cunning suggestion:

“In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”,

Ben Caspit wrote in his article (Hebrew) on Tuesday.

A teenage Palestinian girl is being threatened—IN PRINT—with implied sexual assault. Where is the outrage in America? Where are the big headlines in the New York Times and Washington Post? Where are the celebrities wearing pins?

I am not the only one who sees the women’s march as nothing more than a scheme to lead “the resistance” into the complicit arms of Democrats. There is no serious attempt to create solidarity with oppressed women across the globe and some women activists know this:

In Los Angeles the Palestinian American Women’s Association have pulled out of Women’s March L.A in protest over the inclusion of actress Scarlett Johansson as a featured speaker. The star has made public her support of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian activist Sana Ibrahim said that the Woman’s March call for human rights “does not extend to Palestinian human rights”. In Philadelphia some black and brown woman activists have called for other activist to boycott the march over the concerns that the march organizers are collaborating with police.

If the resistance is solely focused on voting it will fail. If the last election wasn’t enough to expose the utter corruption of our two party political system I don’t know what will. The sad reality is this: the Democratic party is the graveyard of social movements.

As someone who continued being against US imperialism even as the neoliberal messiah lulled liberals into a deep slumber for 8 years, I have no party. There is no political party or social movement that offers a substantive opposition of American militarism.

Even worse, the vast majority of Americans remain dangerously ignorant about what the deranged triumvirate continue to do to achieve its geopolitical goals of dominating natural resources and countering the rise of other power centers in an increasingly multipolar world.

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A Quick Note

by William Skink

I haven’t been able to put a post out for awhile because I think nearly everything is bullshit, including vain attempts to cut through it. I don’t have the energy after working and parenting to address the deluge of bullshit coming at us.

Misdirection artists have powerful platforms and plenty of eager customers demanding their services. We are easily distracted, easily divided, easily conquered. I don’t see that changing.

The misdirection I let take me are works of fiction, shows on the screen. I find a lot there that interests me. But now is not the time, nor the place. Not yet.

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Criminal Justice Reform Still Uphill Battle

by William Skink

Yesterday it was reported as BREAKING NEWS that Cynthia Wolken got a new job with the Department of Corrections. The Montana Post framed this as a huge winfor criminal justice reform. My question: is it really?

Those with a longer attention span than the last news cycle might remember how tens of thousands of dollars were spent studying jail overcrowding in Missoula, only to have Mayor Engen balk at funding the recommendations. When the budget was being worked out last July it became clear jail diversion programs were not a priority for the Mayor:

However, the budget does not include the $82,000 requested by Parks and Recreation to cover the maintenance of several new greenways, including the Missoula Art Park and the pedestrian crossing at South Reserve Street.

Nor does it include $650,000 to fund the city’s Jail Diversion Master Plan. Among other things, the initiative seeks funding for a number of programs, including $38,000 for alcohol and drug monitoring, $62,000 for anger management and $17,000 for home arrest.

The latter effort would reduce the jail’s population by one inmate per day, according to Missoula Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Jenks.

“They can keep their jobs and they can take care of their kids,” Jenks said. “They can continue with medical plans and prescriptions. Those all get disrupted when you go to jail.”

The court and several City Council members plan to meet over the next week to discuss the proposal further and work to prioritize programs within the plan. And while the city may not fund the program this year, it could look at doing so next year, or approaching it in pieces.

So, if “progressive” Missoula didn’t make dealing with jail overcrowding a priority after one of its own politicians spent so much time (and money) studying the problem, what is Wolken going to be able to accomplish as Deputy Director of the DoC?

Despite the victories Wolken can point to at the State level with legislation she got signed into law, any gains being made are going to be wiped out thanks to the budget cuts. Slashing behavioral health services, like case management, will have many ripple effects, and one of those ripples will be increased numbers of people ending up in jail because their support system has been destroyed.

Putting competent people in higher positions of authority is not a bad thing, but I’m skeptical of what can actually be accomplished if our political leadership doesn’t make reform a priority. Making these high profile hires seems more like creating good optics that something is being done with difficult issues. I had a similar suspicion when Mayor Engen selected the former director of the Poverello Center to head up his new Housing Initiative ahead of his reelection campaign.

I hope Cynthia Wolken will continue to be effective in pushing for reform in the criminal justice system. I hope being a six-figure-salaried member of the system she is trying to reform doesn’t hamper those efforts. And if the Governor and other elected officials don’t follow up their lip services with substantive action, like Mayor Engen failed to do, I hope the Deputy Director of Montana’s DoC makes some noise.

My concern is a generous salary will provide a strong incentive to do the opposite.

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BOT Foreign Policy (Bush, Obama, Trump)

by William Skink

My interest in American foreign policy is one of the main factors that soured me on the Obama regime and the Democratic Party. All it took was a change in tone and slight change in tactics to lull Democrat supporters into complacency regarding the lethal use of military force across the globe.

I watched in disgust as “progressives” lined up behind Obama and Clinton to support a humanitarian intervention in Libya and color revolution in Ukraine. I couldn’t understand how a change of semantics could magically change opposition to the use of military force into support.

One of the reasons I wrote critical post after critical post during the Obama years is because I knew failure to address how the Obama regime used military force would mean his successor would inherit the Democratic codification of Bush Juniors abuses in the wake of 9/11.

Trump exploited the foreign entanglement aversion of Libertarianism to out-maneuver HRC on foreign policy. Now that Trump is in office those positions will mean nothing, just like it didn’t mean a damn thing to Obama supporters when Obama shifted gears to interventionist policies once elected.

One of Obama’s early tests was the social unrest in Iran that broke out in 2009. While the social unrest hinges on legitimate grievances, there will also be efforts to use the unrest to enact regime change. Google color revolutions if you want to see other examples of how this is accomplished.

How will the Trump regime respond? How accommodating will Trump be to the Zionists and Saudis in their lust to start a war with Iran? And, as Trump grows into the militancy required of the office, will his supporters raise any objections?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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