Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A New ‘Cannonball Run’ Record from New York to LA, Averaging 103 mph

 

The Cannonball Run’s record was broken by over an hour recently. The total time was 27 hours, 25 minutes and 7 seconds. They averaged 103 mph. What a great article! I recommend it highly.

For 2,825.3 miles, the trio dodged highway patrol officers, avoided roadside deer and roared through 13 states in 27 hours and 25 minutes. They crushed the previous record by nearly an hour and a half.

And they didn’t get pulled over once — except for after the run, on their way to celebrate with a late-night meal.

“Every cop I know saw the story of the record and said ‘Aw man, that’s so awesome,'” Doug Tabbutt told The Washington Post on Friday.

On Nov. 10, Toman, Tabbutt and Berkeley Chadwick started their souped-up, silver Mercedes just before 1 a.m., at the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan. Their destination: the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach, which is the customary finish for the illicit Cannonball Run challenge.

The record run, first reported by Road and Track, was a combination of skill, preparation, experience and luck, Tabbutt and Toman explained. They chose a day in November ahead of Thanksgiving so the highways were relatively clear. It didn’t rain. There wasn’t construction to bottleneck traffic. And Tabbutt’s hundreds of hours of planning ensured the route was optimized.

With 11 runs between them, both drivers acknowledged they broke traffic laws in every state, and some of the gear they used was lawful in some but illegal in others.

Read the whole thing.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Jury Duty Report

 

In late October I received a summons to appear for jury duty on December 6. This is old hat for me. Apparently, I am one of the lucky ones. This was my fifth summons for jury duty. One of the ladies there stated her age and said it was her first time. Her stated age was three years’ higher than my own. One of the judges came in to speak with us while we were waiting. The highest number she had ever heard of was a lady in her eighties who had been summoned six times.

The Process

If you have not been summoned to jury duty, or not been summoned lately, the process works something like this. You may receive a jury qualification questionaire. These days, such is filled out online. This may be a new thing or limited to some courts. I do not remember having filled one out before this current go-round. I received the summons to participate in the questionaire last summer.

Then you receive the summons for jury duty with a date. You may get a deferment or plead health, etc., by following the instructions that come with the summons. My summons was dated 29 October for a report date of 6 December. My county district courts apparenly summon a new pool of potential jurors monthly.

Nowadays, there is usually a call-in system where you can find out if you’re still needed. You call it the evening before your report date or each evening during your term of service in the jury pool. The courts summon a number of people based on how many cases are in progress and should see the jury phase for a given date. Many of the cases settle in one form or another before the jury trial date comes. For civil trials, it may be a settlement between the parties. For criminal cases, it may be a plea bargain. The judge who visited the jury assembly room yesterday mentioned that even having the jury pool present on the court date can spur action on the part of defendants to settle or plea. All of the cases on her docket for the upcoming week settled yesterday morning. Sometimes, enough cases settle early that they decide they don’t need jurors to come in or only a portion of those who received the initial summons. Thus the call-in system was born. Thank goodness for such modern technologies.

If you do have to go in, there is usually a jury assembly room where the prospective jurors are given a brief orientation and then wait to be called. You might want to bring a book. Depending on the court that has called you up, it could be a long wait. The first time I was called up, it was for a one-week period, and it was before the county I was living in at the time had instituted the call-in-the-evening-before system. I had to drive into the county seat every day that week and wait in the jury assembly room. Only on the last day did I get selected as a potential juror and saw the inside of the courtroom, but never got into the box. I did get to watch the voir dire for other veniremen, though.

Speaking of which, once you’re in the potential juror waiting area, whatever your court may call it, the clerk or clerks of the judge or judges for which you have been summoned may come in with a list. They will call the list of names. The number they call will depend on how large the jury is and other factors. In the court I was in yesterday, they would want seven jurors (six and an alternate) for a criminal trial and five for a civil. For the one criminal trial that actually went through at this small district court, they called about thirty veniremen to get the seven jurors. “Venireman,” or perhaps these days it’s “venireperson,” is a person who has been summoned for jury duty but not yet empaneled on the jury. Those who are called will follow the clerk out and go to the courtroom for the voir dire.

Voir dire is descended from Norman French, as many legal terms are, and originally was voire dire, “to speak the truth.” In the US, the term is now used to designate the questioning of veniremen to attempt to establish any prejudices, and so forth. It is the process through which some number of prospective jurors is whittled down to an actual seated jury.

What happens after that? I have no idea. I have never gotten that far.

My Experiences

My first summoning experience was more than a quarter-century ago. The county I was in at that time did not yet have the call-in system. My jury duty period was a week. I got to drive in about a dozen miles to the county seat each morning. I was in the jury assembly room for most of that week. Around noon each day, we were given the chance to experience the joys of restaurants available to us in beautiful downtown Mount Clemens. I was finally called into a courtroom and got to watch the voir dire process. I believe it was for a civil trial, rather than criminal. The jury was selected before I ever made it to the box, and I and the others who did not make it were sent back to the jury assembly room. Being at the county seat and at the main county courthouse, that assembly room was very large, easily large enough for a couple of hundred people.

One of the books I brought with me for that stint was Ferrol Sams’ Run with the Horsemen. A first cousin of my mother’s recommended Ferrol Sams to me. She had gone to Mercer in the same period as Dr. Sams did, although she was closer in age to John Birch (who had nothing to do with the society that was named after him posthumously). If you’re a Southerner or had a Southern upbringing, the book may explain things about your life that you never consciously thought about. It is semi-autobiographical about Sams’ childhood, and has some embarrassing scenes but also some hilarious bits. One of my favorites was where the young protagonist had just destroyed several acres of cropland and his father was heard to say, “You know, he’s a good boy. He minds well. I just can’t think of enough things to tell him not to do.” If you laugh out loud while reading a book in a jury assembly room, people look at you really funny.

My second summons was after the same county had installed the new call-in system. I called in five evenings in a row and was informed that I would not be needed. That was a wonderful thing, especially since I was badly needed at work.

My third experience was in a different county. In this one, I do not remember the terms of service offhand. I did have to go into the main county courthouse in the county seat. I was called to the courtroom and made it to the jury box for the voir dire. It was a criminal trial. I thought I was going to get on, but there was this one question: “Are you related to or close friends with any policemen, and if so, can you be fair as a juror and not prejudicial towards believing the policeman?” After I got through listing the close relatives who are or were law enforcement officers and all the ones from their departments I had known, I don’t think the defense attorney really cared whether I thought I could be objective. The police sergeant who was there to testify was shaking his head with one hand covering his mouth as he tried not to be seen to be laughing.

My fourth summons was for Federal Court. That would have meant going to downtown Detroit. If I remember rightly, it was another where I called in and was told I was not needed after all.

My fifth summons was for the county district court less than a mile from my home. That was for yesterday. I went in with about fifty other people. The jury assembly room only had about five empty chairs. It’s a small district court with only two courtroom and two judges. Shortly after our orientation video, about thirty people were called to go into one of the courtrooms. We who remained in the jury assembly room mostly read. Those of us who had not been called were finally dismissed around 12:30 PM with no more trials needing juries for next week. (Yesterday was jury selection for trials next week.) I brought along Michael Henry’s 5 Star. (Review to come later today, but short version: good novel.)

Other Thoughts

It was an interesting dynamic yesterday. As the room filled up, almost everyone tried to be as far from everyone else as possible. This became increasingly more difficult as more people arrived. There was one seat, the middle in a row of five up against one of the shorter walls of the room, where it was occupied by three different people. The first woman got up to use the lavatory, and another woman arrived and sat down there. When the first returned, she took the fifth seat in the row, but then the second woman got up to use the lavatory, and a third newly-arrived woman sat down in the middle seat.

Despite being a hermit and curmudgeon in my normal dealings, I had struck up a conversation with a few people before the assembly room was open and check-in had started. One of the other gents sat with me at a table, and we talked. He had been through a recent trial on a misdemeanor count related to his business and pursued by the recently ousted city manager. The former city manager of our suburb is apparently now making big rocks into small rocks, but the experience had left the other businessman with a bad attitude towards jury trials. “If I ever have something like that happen again, I’ll just leave it to a judge.” Guess who was the first name called to go through the voir dire for the one trial yesterday? A third guy who had sat at our table never even looked at us. Eventually, he discovered a blank spot against a wall and took his chair over there so as not to interact with humans. This seemed to be more of an issue with those under thirty than some of us who are a bit grayer and longer in the tooth.

My third time on jury duty, I believe we could bring in phones and computers to work on in the jury assembly room, but that was enough years ago that things have changed. No recording devices of any kind are allowed in the court building. And since most cell phones are cameras and portable computers have audio and video recording capabilities, none of them are allowed in. Apparently they had problems with people recording courtroom events and then editing video to make it appear as if things had happened that had not happened, so everyone suffers.

There are instructions that come with the summons. Among the instructions was this gem: “Please dress appropriately for the courtroom. Shorts, jeans and T-shirts are not allowed.” (They need an Oxford comma.) Despite this being right in the instructions, I noticed that at least six of the fifty potential jurors were wearing jeans. I did not notice any T-shirts, although there were sweatshirts and hoodies. Also, there were no shorts, but December in Michigan seldom has weather conducive to shorts. There were no suits, and I was the only male who even had a sportcoat. A few of the women were appropriately dressed, but I saw at least two pairs of yoga pants. No, ladies, yoga pants are not appropriate for wearing in court. Now, if I were a judge, I would be a bit worried about people selected as jurors who can’t follow instructions. Forget about being a judge, just as a citizen, I am concerned about that. Yet the veniremen who can follow instructions are the ones who will probably be eliminated first in the voir dire.

Et Vous, Ricochet

Have any of you had experiences you would like to share about being on jury duty? How many times have you been summoned? Perhaps you are a lawyer and have gone through the voir dire process from the other side? Any thoughts to share?

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Corrupt Politicians Drawn to Corrupt Country? Ukraine an Attractive Nuisance?

 

Reportedly, Ukraine has been one of the most corrupt countries on the face of the Earth. This is likely not a matter of some sort of defective national character, but rather a consequence of their geography and the past century of politics. Today, Putin, Democrats, and the US Deep State leverage Ukraine’s vulnerability to their own ends.

Anne Applebaum has done the real research and written the hard truths to power about evil perpetrated by the Soviet Union, including in Ukraine. Consider this MacClean’s interview of Applebaum on publication of her latest book, Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine.

Q: Part of the history is that the Holodomor didn’t come out of the blue. There has been a long continuity of attitude in Moscow—a contempt for Ukrainian nationalism—running through the Czarist, Soviet and post-Soviet eras. One of the more striking instances of continuity was Lenin sending in Russian troops in Ukrainian disguise during the Civil War, which almost a century later became a Putin tactic.

A: Several people have picked up on that. There were a couple of other similar moments, various tricks meant to undermine Ukraine, including Stalin at one point setting up mini-republics in Donbass, Odessa and elsewhere as a way of distracting and disorienting Ukraine. There is a kind of KGB playbook based on previous KGB practice and before them NKVD and Cheka and even Czarist tactics, used to manipulate minority nationalities. There’s a very old tradition of doing that in that region.

As a matter of geography, Ukraine has long been important to rulers in Moscow. Stalin murdered over 4 million Ukrainians almost a decade before Hitler’s Wannsee Conference. Stalin depopulated Ukraine through the instrument of forced, artificial famine, liquidating those who had a culture of self-reliance through farming their own land. Stalin then moved loyal Russians in to establish local political control. It is this population, and its children and grandchildren, who form the basis of disruption and the excuse for Russian intervention (to protect Russians).

Intertwined with the demographic replacement policy was the fundamental corruption of the communist system. The people who operated the system did not disappear, and they were not all imprisoned or executed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Instead, they leveraged their party influence into nominally lawful transfers or creation of title to the nation’s assets, as in Russia.

How bad did it get? Consider this 2015 Guardian account of corruption in Ukraine:

Kiev has a grand opera house, cathedrals, chain stores, sweeping central avenues, a metro, everything required to make a place look European. But it resembles a modern European capital city only in the way the Cancer Institute resembles a hospital. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index – the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide – rates Ukraine 142nd in the world, alongside Uganda. In the latest ranking, it fell behind Nigeria.

Since 1991, officials, members of parliament and businessmen have created complex and highly lucrative schemes to plunder the state budget. The theft has crippled Ukraine. The economy was as large as Poland’s at independence, now it is a third of the size. Ordinary Ukrainians have seen their living standards stagnate, while a handful of oligarchs have become billionaires.

Public fury has fuelled two revolutions. In 2004, street protests helped Viktor Yushchenko defeat an attempt by the then prime minister Viktor Yanukovych to rig the presidential election. During his five years in power, however, Yushchenko failed to dislodge the networks of patronage. Amid widespread disillusionment, he lost the 2010 election to Yanukovych, who was in turn driven out in February 2014, after corruption mutated into still more virulent forms.

Officials from the general prosecutor’s office, who were interviewed by Reuters, claimed that between 2010 and 2014, officials were stealing a fifth of the country’s national output every year. This behaviour has infected all sectors of Ukrainian society. President Yanukovych lived in a vast palace on the edge of Kiev. After he fled, protesters found millions of dollars worth of paintings, icons, books and ceramics stacked in his garage. He’d had nowhere to display them.

Transparency International provides an indicator of elite perception of corruption:

The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. More than two-thirds of countries score below 50 on this year’s CPI, with an average score of just 43.

Anne Applebaum pointed out in 2017 that Putin’s meddling and invasion was consistent with long Russian practice, and that there is a deep fear that if Ukraine could clean up its own act, that example would challenge the Russian kleptocracy’s narrative of national necessity. Russians might get a taste for honest, lawful society themselves.

In 2014, Russian officials looked with horror at the young people waving European flags and calling for democracy in Kiev’s Maidan Square and were determined to make sure such a movement would never spread to Russia itself: A mass anti-corruption protest — particularly one that ends with occupation of the dictator’s palace — is what Russia’s corrupt oligarchs fear most. Putin witnessed exactly that kind of “chaos” as a young KGB officer in Dresden in 1989, when the fall of the Berlin Wall struck him as catastrophic. He now blames protests against him on “foreign agents” and Hillary Clinton.

But the need to control Ukraine also has important roots in Russia’s historical memory, and the KGB’s. Turbulence in Ukraine hits panic buttons, because anarchy in the Soviet Union’s agricultural heartland has nearly destabilized Moscow more than once. Perhaps the best way to explain Putin’s paranoia and covetousness toward Kiev is this: Russia remembers those moments well.

Russian unease about Ukraine goes back to the very beginning of the Soviet Union, in 1917, when the Ukrainians first tried to set up their own state. During the civil war that followed the revolutions in Moscow and Kiev, Ukrainian peasants — radical, left wing and anti-Bolshevik all at once — rejected the imposition of Soviet rule. They pushed out the Red Army and, for a time, had the upper hand. But in the anarchy that followed the Red Army’s retreat, Polish armies as well as the Czarist White Army reentered Ukraine. One White general, Anton Denikin, crossed into Russia and came within 200 miles of Moscow, nearly ending the revolution before it really got underway.

So, Ukraine became a great place for crooked business, wrapped in a tissue of legality as needed. You can see how that, and China, would be very attractive to American politicians who make their family fortunes by leveraging their political offices. This corrupt practice is bipartisan and mostly technically legal…because the crooks are writing the laws for themselves!

John Hinderaker leveraged his guest hosting of the Phoenix AM 960 The Patriot’s Seth Leibsohn Show to conduct a long-form interview with Andrew McCarthy:

Hinderaker agreed with McCarthy that there was a real scandal in Ukraine; it was a $3 million bribe to the Biden family. McCarthy suggested that it might not be “illegal” because the crooks in Congress wrote the laws to let themselves be “legally” bribed. McCarthy cited Peter Schweizer’s latest work Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends. This is the latest in a series of Schweizer’s books that have no party political agenda, but rather have cataloged and warned against the inherent danger and corruption of a concentration of power in the federal government.

With this background, consider the following stream of tweets by Rudy Giuliani:

The Accounts Chamber in Ukraine found an alleged misuse of $5.3B in U.S. funds during the Obama administration while Biden was “Point Man.”

Obama embassy urged Ukrainian police NOT to investigate!

Stay tuned to find out why.
7:36 PM – 5 Dec 2019

Shocking disclosure:

Much of the $5.3B in US Aid Ukraine reported as misused was given to the embassy’s favored NGO’s.

At the time Yovanovitch, witness for the Witchunt, was the Amb. That embassy directed the police not to investigate.

Wonder why Obama forgot Art. 2, Sec. 3.
4:53 AM – 6 Dec 2019

Presidential Legal Obligations 101:

Art 2, Sec. 3 of the US Constitution obligates the President to investigate and ask for investigations of corruption in countries we provide funds to.

Who ever heard of a president being impeached for carrying out his constitutional mandate?
4:55 AM – 6 Dec 2019

It comes as a huge shock to Democrats that @realDonaldTrump will ask for investigations concerning violations of US laws & misused hard-earned tax payer dollars.

It’s called his legal obligation under Article 2, Sec. 3 of the US Constitution. Ignored by Obama.
5:54 AM – 6 Dec 2019

In reviewing my notes, it seems to me that a large scale joint investigation into Ukraine and the US would uncover and recover billions stolen by crooks, from both countries, at the highest levels.

This would be the most effective way to bring our two countries together.
9:34 AM – 6 Dec 2019

The Epoch Times provides some real reporting on these claims:

Giuliani did not offer any evidence for his claim. The day before, he wrote that the misuse was discovered by the “Accounts Chamber” in Ukraine, an apparent reference to Ukraine’s Accounting Chamber. The Accounting Chamber is an audit body for Ukraine’s parliament and acts as a watchdog over the state budget.

Giuliani leveled the allegation on the heels of a trip to Europe during which he met and interviewed several former Ukrainian officials, including Yuriy Lutsenko, Viktor Shokin, and Andrii Telizhenko. Shokin, Lutsenko, and Telizhenko have previously alleged misconduct by Obama-administration officials, including Yovanovitch and former Vice President Joe Biden.

One America News (OAN) filmed Giuliani’s interviews with the officials. The channel is scheduled to air the exclusive interview in a two-part series on Dec. 7 and 8. OAN claims the program will “debunk” the Democrat narrative at the center of the impeachment proceedings against Trump.

So, the upstart rival to Fox News, OAN, is making a move to generate original news coverage of a major political story, and to do so in a way that grabs viewership from Fox News. Have they done their due diligence in putting together the story? We will see. I note that searching on “Accounts Chamber” or “Ukraine’s Accounting Chamber” yields little US coverage. I had never heard of this entity before, and neither had our professional media, by all appearances.

As it turns out, they have a webpage, with a header: “The Accounting Chamber: Supreme Audit Institution of Ukraine.”

During the work of the updated composition of the Accounting Chamber, 90 criminal proceedings have already been initiated on the basis of its audits. This was reported by the Chairman of the Accounting Chamber Valeriy Patskan, during the meeting in Oslo with the Auditor General of the Kingdom of Norway, Per-Christian Foss.

Valeriy Patskan noted that reducing corruption is one of the major challenges Ukraine faces today and the Accounting Chamber plays a key role in this process. He admitted that one of the components of the fight against corruption is prevention of inefficient use of funds of each taxpayer. “One of the key tasks that I set for myself and our team is performance. We do not want to write “tick” reports. We want our recommendations to be 100% taken into account by the authorities, and those who are guilty of misappropriation of funds should be prosecuted,” Valeriy Patskan said.

[…]

Valeriy Patskan also recalled that last year the Accounting Chamber checked 598 auditees and found violations about 17 billion UAH in total. These violations are budgetary and other legislation, inefficient management and use of budget funds, property, funds of international organizations.

UAH is the Ukrainian Hryvnia, their unit of currency. Seventeen billion UAH are roughly 717 million US dollars. It is also equal to the total of reported private saving accumulated in Ukraine in 2018. The identified, documented, misuse of public funds, or funds flowing through government processes, was equal to annual total effort of citizens to accumulate savings.

We are not given the time frame for the violations, nor is there any claim that this is anything close to whatever the real total might be. What we go get is a clear picture of what has been an attractive nuisance for international fraudsters. It is likely that Americans in positions of political influence after the fall of the Soviet Union got their piece of the action. It is likely that the “foreign policy consensus” bakes that reality into its positions, not wishing to alienate our own political elite.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. 62 Years Ago: Vanguard TV-3 Blows Up (Flopnik)

 

In 1955, there was a competition between the three armed services for the right to launch the first American satellite during the International Geophysical Year (actually 18 months 7/57-12/58). The Naval Research Lab won. As some of you know, my father co-wrote the proposal. He worked on the Minitrack system and designed the small test satellites.

On October 2, 1957, a memo went out that there would be no more paid overtime. Two days later, Sputnik 1 was launched and the memo was ignored. Sputnik’s signal was at 20 and 40 MHz whereas the IGY specified 108 MHz. That night, Dad called his assistant Marty Votaw and told him that the Soviets had launched a satellite. Marty responded, “Good, now we know it can be done.” Dad responded that they needed to track it. Marty asked if he could finish dinner first. Dad said yes, but come down immediately after that. They worked for three days without going home and modified Minitrack successfully to track Sputnik.

Below are IGY and Vanguard people at NRL in April 1957. The big IGY guns are in the first row. Van Allen is probably the best known (Van Allen Belts). My father and Marty Votaw are the top left.

A month later the Soviets launched Sputnik 2 with a dog on it. The pressure on the Eisenhower administration increased. The first test of Vanguard with all three stages live was scheduled for December. The Vanguardians thought it had a small chance of working. Alas, it blew up and was dubbed Flopnik.

After the hoped-for satellite cooled down, it was brought to Marty who gave it to my father. Marty asked. “What should we do with it?” Dad replied, “I guess we should bring it back.” Dad carried it on a commercial flight back to Washington. It sat in our house overnight and is now in the National Air and Space Museum.

Explorer 1 was launched by the Army in January 1958. Vanguard 1 was successfully launched in March and is the oldest satellite still in orbit. I recently moved and found a binder full of primary source materials for Vanguard. I could post some of them if there’s interest.

Vanguardians discussed TV-3 and Vanguard 1 in 2008.

.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Memories: A Moment

 

It may have been a grey December day like this one, but I don’t remember. It must have been cold because I was wearing my bright red scarf. Did I buy the scarf or was it a gift? I don’t remember. I may have chosen it, although I generally avoid wearing red. It had a luxurious softness that I do remember because on an otherwise unmemorable day, I wore it to visit my grandmother.

She was sitting alone in her room. I remember that she didn’t say hello. She didn’t say anything at all. She didn’t smile, and she didn’t rise to greet me. When I leaned over to hug her, she felt my scarf. She stroked my scarf like an intrigued infant with a new, soft toy that she did not want to give back. Its gentle texture and pleasing bright color held her attention. Or was it that she was trying to acknowledge me?

Later, the nurse noted how calm she had been for the rest of the day. Was she comforted by the scarf, or perhaps she was soothed by my small gesture of affection. Or was it recognition? Even if she couldn’t show it, did she still remember me?

That may have been the last time I saw her alive, but I don’t remember. I remember the scarf and that moment when the woman who cuddled me throughout childhood, who knitted blankets for her family, who rooted tirelessly for the Chicago Cubs, and who held hands with her husband after 54 years of marriage, seemed incapable of remembering me.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A White Guy on White Male Privilege

 

It is high time people throw off old preconceptions of Republicans as the mean descendants of cotton plantation owners, you know, the old diatribe about white male privilege. With Trump’s rising numbers among minorities, maybe we’re all finally seeing people as just people who are all just trying to persevere and build a better life for themselves and their families.

I look at my children. They are half Hungarian blood on my wife’s side; that side came to the US through Ellis Island in the early 20th century and somehow they all found each other. They were not privileged at all; they had nothing. They were the children of simple farmers whose land was confiscated by the communists. They did not come but were sent to America for a better future, which they found in the factories in and around Bridgeport, CT.

On my side, my children can count an Englishman lured here by his brother in the late 19th century. His brother had married well and joined the family business. My great grandfather first served in the Army during the Spanish American war, gained citizenship, and joined his brother. Two of my other great grandparents (Sullivan and Mahoney) fled Ireland during the potato famine. The rest were American mutts, descended from early Puritans, pilgrims, and other unknowns.

I can say this; my great grandparents were all proud, worked hard, and not one left a single trust fund dollar or any kind of inheritance. One of my great grandfathers owned a general store. Another was a doctor. Yet another was a businessman and it is said, profited during prohibition, a scandal. The last worked for his brother in a lumber and quarry business in upstate New Hampshire.

They all lived in rural New England, owned homes, and lived full lives. As for privilege or inheritance, nothing survived to be passed down. My mother was orphaned at 13 when her father died of leukemia and her mother was declared incompetent and relegated to the state mental hospital. The family farm was auctioned to pay the medical bills. In the early ’50s, my father’s father contracted polio. He partially recovered and then lost everything when disease ravaged the local chicken farms leaving his inherited general store with nothing having advanced a season of feed to all the local growers.

My parents married at 18, produced two children (I was #2) before they were 20 and moved to the city to work. We lived in the projects then later moved into a three-decker walk-up. It was a cold flat, which meant there was no central heat, just an oil heater installed in an ancient fireplace in the front room. When I was about five, we moved to Portland, ME, to our own home, a rented bungalow. My dad got a job with the phone company, which was a great thing. He was transferred to the Boston area and there he bought his first house, a small Cape Cod on a ragged, unpaved street, the last in the city, three lots from the commuter train tracks. When the heavy freight trains rode by, the house would convulse with a continued, soft, low-frequency rumble.

My point is, I don’t think any of my progenitors owned a cotton plantation. And though I may be of fair complexion (and that is not necessarily such a good thing, as my dermatologist can tell you) I’ve never felt the least bit privileged. The neighborhood I grew up in was filled with first-generation Irish, Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, and French Canadians. I felt like Schlitz and Wonder Bread in a world of basement Fortissimo and crusty rolls and exotic baguettes. When I had to continually fight my way through the neighborhood pecking order, I never once felt privilege, not once. I felt a few punches to the face, but not privilege.

Even now, with my degrees piled up, my wife the urban choir teacher, my suburban house, my educated daughters, my savings account, my cars, my stuff, I still don’t feel privileged. I may leave some stuff to my kids, but it won’t be enough to do much for the following generation.

My mother’s family was brought up to be staunch Democrats. My father’s dad was a prominent Republican. The only thing I inherited from my forebears besides my complexion was my intellect and my willingness to work and persevere. That’s not privilege. It’s just plain stubbornness. And it’s enough for me.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Meet and Greet with a Hopeful Congressman

 

Thursday evening, Papa Toad and I went to an event with Tony German, a retired two-star general (when he retired, Tony was Adjutant General of the New York National Guard, leading 20,000 airmen, sailors, soldiers, and civilian staff) who is seeking to unseat our one-term useless congressman, Antonio Delgado.

I first heard of Tony about a month ago when, out of the blue, I found a message from him on my home phone, telling me he was running for the nomination and hoped to speak to me to find out what issues were important to me. I was quite impressed, and, I admit, flattered. I called him back and left a message for Tony to the effect that I was heartened to hear his message, and that I hoped he would kick some [redacted] and that we would be praying for him. Tony called me back and we had a good long chat about the state of the state, and what could be done at the federal level to improve things.

When we heard Tony was having a fundraiser nearby, we made sure to get to it. It was a lovely event with an open bar, fantastic hors d’oeuvres, but not many people. His wife Diana was very pleasant and, as homeschooling moms (hers all graduated, me with three still at home), we found much to talk about. I offered to host some kind of event for Tony at my home, and was in touch with his staff this morning to make that happen in the near future.

It was so heartening to meet someone with leadership experience and a strong desire to serve his country with integrity. The election in 2018 had lots of mudslinging and negative mailings, so I hope that Tony can fight and, more importantly, fight dirty fighters. There are a couple of other declared candidates, but I’ve never heard their names. We’ll see what happens.

What is the landscape like in your district? Is your seat Republican? Democrat? I want us to flip the House in 2020, so I’m curious.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Left’s Diffusion Challenge

 

We on the right and our counterparts on the left are each convinced that the media are biased, though we disagree about which way the press tilts. Spoiler: It tilts left — it isn’t even close. Worse, it tilts left more blatantly and extremely and unashamedly than it ever has before, at least in my lifetime. Most of our institutions tilt left, our universities and schools and entertainment industry — and, of course, those noble defenders of democracy who elide and dissemble under cover of press passes.

So here’s the problem for our friends on the left. The trailblazing institutions of progressive innovation have outpaced the roughly half of the country that doesn’t think of itself as generally conservative. We on the right think they’re crazy; increasingly, registered Democrats who earn their living in the real world and who are normal people kind of agree, even if they aren’t eager to talk about it. As the gap between the vanguard of the left and the nominal progressive voter widens, the views of the two groups must necessarily diverge: radical ideas can only diffuse through the culture so quickly, and the pop-cultural pace-setters are moving faster than normal people care to keep up, or are even able to keep up.

I think the trans movement is the first conspicuous example of this rift. It’s going to fail, because it demands too much too quickly. No normal person signed on for co-ed locker rooms and the de facto end of women’s sports, but that’s where it will inevitably lead, and with the blessing of the blithely unaware mavens of radicalism. If we can survive the next few bouts of inevitable Democratic governance, I think we’ll begin to see a return to sanity.

The press will be the last to know.

 

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Andrew Klavan, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Gritty Christian Realism

 

Andrew Klavan of Daily Wire and Ricochet Audio Network fame is a talented author of fiction and a stern critic of contemporary Christian works. He often says he gets flack from Christians for including profanities and, um, non-Christian behaviors in his novels and screenplays. But, he finds most overtly Christian movies unrelatable and clunky attempts at messaging, which end up only delivering pablum. I agree. We Chauvinists haven’t paid to see a Christian movie in the theater since Fireproof (2008), which was uninspiring enough for us to forswear God’s Not Dead, its sequels, and all the rest.

However, when Mr. C found a theater production of Jesus Christ Superstar (JCS) playing in Denver, we jumped at the chance to see it. Our tickets were for Black (Good?) Friday. Coincidence?

Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera written by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice about the Passion of Christ as told from the perspective of Judas, Jesus’ betrayer. The story itself — some would say the greatest story ever told (I would) — is about as gritty as it gets, but the rock element takes the production into the realm of high art, in my opinion. The screaming guitars and wailing vocals delivering Tim Rice’s brilliant lyrics (which authentically represent the Biblical account) portray the Passion in a way modern audiences can get. It’s art, and yet it’s devastatingly real. True Myth, C.S. Lewis would say.

It’s the insight into fallen human nature that gives JCS its power. The actor Will Smith got into trouble several years ago for saying (paraphrased), “Hitler didn’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to make the world a worse place.’ He thought he was doing good for Aryan Germans, at least.” Weber and Rice made the same controversial statement first about Judas, though.

In the scene where Mary Magdalene is anointing Jesus, Judas complains that the money used to purchase the oil could have been spent to help the poor and starving.

Jesus’ response brings us back to harsh reality:

Surely you’re not saying we have the resources
To save the poor from their lot?
There will be poor always, pathetically struggling.
Look at the good things you’ve got.
Think while you still have me!
Move while you still see me!
You’ll be lost, and you’ll be sorry when I’m gone.

Judas has tried to warn Jesus of the consequences of exciting crowds and drawing the attention of occupying Roman forces:

Listen Jesus I don’t like what I see.
All I ask is that you listen to me.
And remember, I’ve been your right hand man all along.
You have set them all on fire.
They think they’ve found the new Messiah.
And they’ll hurt you when they find they’re wrong.

I remember when this whole thing began.
No talk of God then, we called you a man.
And believe me, my admiration for you hasn’t died.
But every word you say today
Gets twisted ’round some other way.
And they’ll hurt you if they think you’ve lied.
Nazareth, your famous son should have stayed a great unknown
Like his father carving wood He’d have made good.
Tables, chairs, and oaken chests would have suited Jesus best.
He’d have caused nobody harm; no one alarm.

Listen, Jesus, do you care for your race?
Don’t you see we must keep in our place?
We are occupied; have you forgotten how put down we are?

I am frightened by the crowd.
For we are getting much too loud.
And they’ll crush us if we go too far.
If they go too far….

Listen, Jesus, to the warning I give.
Please remember that I want us to live.
But it’s sad to see our chances weakening with every hour.
All your followers are blind.
Too much heaven on their minds.
It was beautiful, but now it’s sour.

Yes it’s all gone sour.

Listen, Jesus, to the warning I give.
Please remember that I want us to live.

C’mon, c’mon
He won’t listen to me …
C’mon, c’mon
He won’t listen to me …

Does this sound like anyone you know? Judas wants to serve the poor; he wants to protect Jesus and the Jewish race; he’s afraid for Jesus and his followers and just wants them to live. What’s wrong with any of that? He has good intentions.

The problem from a Christian perspective is Judas has no faith. He puts his trust in men — especially himself. This calls to mind the whole progressive mindset for me. It’s Greta Thunberg writ large.

Of course, unlike the prophet-of-doom Greta, Judas isn’t wrong about the consequences of Jesus’ rise to prominence. Jesus will agonize over his forthcoming suffering; he will be flogged and humiliated; he will fall under the weight of his Cross — the instrument of his torture — and our salvation; and he will die crying out to God the sorrow of his abandonment. But, Judas doesn’t foresee the Resurrection. And, while he turns out to be right about Rome crushing Israel and the Jews through the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, he does not understand that the mighty Roman Empire will become the means by which Christianity will ultimately spread throughout the world to become a universal blessing in the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.

God’s repeated question to us throughout Old and New Testaments is, “Do you trust Me?” All too often throughout history and today, we tell God to “talk to the hand,” we’ve got this, rather than seeking to do His will. It is a particular characteristic of the progressive mindset to implore God to “listen to me!,” I have the answers — and to value good intentions above all. But, JCS’s portrayal of Judas shows us good intentions are not exculpatory. It is by our fruits we can know whether we’re accomplishing God’s will, which is always for glorious purposes. Whether we’re progressives or not, though, we’re all the same species — Homo Betrayus — and we need a Savior.

I doubt Weber and Rice meant JCS to be a method of evangelization, but it is for me. I think it’s a modern Christian work of genius. I wonder what @andrewklavan makes of it?

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Build a Better Mouse House …

 

… and maybe you can get more people to take the stairs. At least, my working theory is that the following series of events was cooked up as an HR wellness initative to get our company’s employees to move more. It all started on November 22 when I was hiking back to the sixth floor from my daily treadmill break in the main floor gym. I noticed that next to a small hole in the wall of the stairwell, someone had amusingly placed a rubber mouse.

Funny, I thought. I snapped a pic and posted it on Facebook. Apparently the mouse had been there about a month already, but newfound exposure jumpstarted something inexplicable. By November 25, there were two.

My coworkers are hilarious, I thought. But it didn’t stop there.

Ok, that’s cozy and sweet. But then …

A child! Apparently the young one has spurred a renewed interest in religion. So of course …

… along come the missionaries. And Santa Claus. Then things started to get a little out of hand.

Even in the best of rodent families, commercialism begins to take over Christmas. Last I saw this morning, this is how their home stands. If anything else develops, I’ll be sure to post updates. You are welcome to come along for the ride.

UPDATE: A few pieces of furniture were added in Friday. Note that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is playing on the TV. 

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Bad News for Sleepy Joe

 

Joe Biden got an endorsement from John Kerry today, a former Senator and Secretary of State. Some people still remember him. The value of Kerry’s endorsement to Biden falls somewhere between that of Neville Chamberlin’s and the foreign minister of Iran’s. 

 

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Turley’s Turn

 

Professor Jonathan Turley has upset the progressives — so he must be silenced. As Ann Althouse blogged Friday morning, Turley was excoriated in the Washington Post and The Nation. The charge? That he is now saying (on behalf of Trump) the opposite of what he was saying in testimony regarding Obama and Clinton. But is this true?

Professor Turley says not. In the Obama testimony, he urged Congress — a matter of separation of powers — to challenge Obama’s unilateral acts that encroached on legislative powers, not to impeach him. In the Clinton testimony, he took the position that House could impeach for a non-criminal act (just as they are doing here). But Turley testified in the case of Trump that the record needs to be developed in greater depth and detail than the House Democrats have deigned to do.

In other words, you need to do the hard and time-consuming work of gathering public evidence that persuades the nation’s voters of the extraordinary need to remove a president. To be sure, Turley is making a procedural argument and not passing on the substance of the charges. In this, he is again distinguishing himself from the other law professors who were more than willing to assert the truth of the charges that the Democrats are making.

One of Ann’s observations is directly on point:

There should have been a witness who did take the position that the President can only be impeached for criminal acts. Turley took a middle position, and perhaps he demonstrates the dangers of moderation. He’s drawing distinctions that his antagonists can fail or decline to see.

From this post and prior posts, I don’t infer that Ann is taking a position that Trump (or any president) can only be impeached for a crime delineated in the nation’s criminal code. But she highlights how important it is for the standard to be clear and not subject to political passions of the moment. That is best decided by strong and clear positions staked out by the contending parties. If impeachment does not require a crime, how much less than a crime does it take? How do you determine what that is if no one even argues that there must be a crime? That, as I interpret Ann, was a fatal weakness of the “law professor” day in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

So let me make the argument for what should be impeachable that is not a violation of the criminal code: nothing. Conjure up some conduct by the president that is not criminal and ask yourself whether that is a justified basis for involuntary removal from office before the expiration of the constitutionally prescribed term. Forget “crazy,” that’s already covered by the 25th amendment. Also recall that even when a crime is made, e.g., perjury, that removal is not automatic and may be waived.

So what action is there, really, that justifies impeachment (as opposed to censure) that is not criminal? Getting an action overturned by the Supreme Court? Never happened even though presidents have both won and lost cases there. Failing to spend money appropriated? It has happened (called Impoundment) and no president was impeached over it for 172 years. (Congress passed a law in 1974 to specify certain procedures to be followed.) Failing to “faithfully execute the laws?” Recall Obama “prosecutorial discretion” rationale to grant protections to illegal aliens. No impeachment there.

To call impeachment a “political act” is to say nothing. Everything that Congress does is a political act by definition. To say that impeachment can be justified by political disagreement is to remove the electorate from the process. At least in a parliamentary system, a vote of “no confidence” triggers a national election, even if prematurely. I would rather the House vote no confidence and have a national election in February, than for them to do what they are doing. Let’s get real: the Democrats do not like our constitution unless it can be twisted into anything they want it to be.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Trump’s Ukraine Call Was Necessary and Right: Change My Mind

 

I don’t think there is any doubt about the following (I’ve highlighted things that I would like to have better details for):
1. Ukraine has had a long-term problem with corruption, including with its politicians.
2. We knew #1 and they knew #1.
3. We have a treaty with Ukraine to support each other in anti-corruption investigations. This predates the Trump administration.
4. Burisma is one Ukrainian company with a history of corruption.
5. Joe Biden’s son Hunter was given an amazingly lucrative position on the board of Burisma, given his experience.
6. Joe Biden claimed (in public and recorded) that he forced the removal of the prosecutor who happened to be investigating Burisma by threatening to withhold $1 billion in aid. (There is some confusion that the prosecutor had other corruption issues, but when he was replaced by a “solid guy,” the investigation into Burisma was stopped.)
7. Before the time period of interest, both the US and Ukraine had elections. Zelenskyy ran on a platform of getting rid of corruption and Trump on a platform that included being careful about how our foreign aid is sent to countries that are either corrupt or act against US interests. Trump was also interested in getting more buy-in from allies more local to the issues than the US.
8. Trump held up the aid to Ukraine until he was reassured by a bipartisan senatorial group that the new president of Ukraine was “the real deal.” (The media says this was because Trump heard about the whistleblower. I think both were very close in time, but I don’t think Trump would worry much about the whistleblower.)

So, from the US standpoint, I think Trump’s motivation was to reassure himself on points #7 and #8. From my perspective, that seems like not only a legitimate goal, but a required one.

What I haven’t seen mentioned is what Zelenskyy needed to get out of the call. This is speculation on my part, but makes sense to me.

1. He knows of the corruption issues – and ran on them.
2. He knows that there is a joint treaty on fighting corruption.
3. In spite of #2, he knows that the Vice President’s son (of the previous administration) was involved in one of his corrupt companies and that the Vice President had interfered with the prosecution of that company.
4. So, he must be thinking that #2 is sort of a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” agreement to go after corruption except where it involved members of the US administration.
5. Trump needed to let him know that there was a new sheriff in town and he supported a full-blown investigation, no matter where it went.

Now, maybe Trump should have said something like, “I know you ran on fighting corruption and want you to know that my administration will back you up even if some from my country are involved,” but I think his mentioning of both “CrowdStrike” and the Bidens would be hard to misinterpret.

So as far as I am concerned, the call was necessary if not “perfect.”

Where am I wrong?

EDIT: @rgbact in comment 10, added more doubt to the confusion I had in #6 above about potential corruption of the prosecutor Biden pressured to be fired. I am grateful for that, since if #6 is significantly wrong, I think my sequence starts falling apart. I am looking into it, but haven’t had much time today. If anyone has more information about the prior prosecutor and the timing of the Burisma investigation, I would love to see it either as a comment or new post.

 

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

I don’t usually read things like this, but a friend who doesn’t usually recommend things like this suggested it: I think it’s worthy of discussion. Sexual morality and the collapse of civilization  

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Happy Analemma Day

 

It’s that time of year. Feeling gloomy? Perhaps it’s the shorter days of the season. Indeed, there’s a lot less sunlight. The afternoons seem to be particularly short.

Well, I have good news; this is Analemma Day. This is the day of the earliest sunset in most of the northern hemisphere. After today, we’re over the hump, and the afternoons get progressively longer.

“What? I thought the shortest day of the year was the winter solstice, December 21.”

Indeed it is. But the earth’s orbit is elliptical, and “local noon” moves back and forth a bit.

If you set up a camera outside, with a timer set to pop off a shot at noon each day, of course you’d see the sun higher in the summer and lower in the winter. But you’d also see the sun moving back and forth, and overall make the shape of a figure eight of sorts. This is the analemma.

So while the shortest day is December 21, today is the day of the earliest sunset.

The Analemma Wikipedia Page is pretty good.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Congress Doesn’t Need No Stinking Evidence!

 

“So what? We can’t get felony approval for anything without finding twenty witnesses, a dozen surveillance cameras, a victim interview, the offender’s mother’s statement AND a confession on video…..and even then, it’s probably going to be a C.I. [Continuing Investigation] until such time as God himself descends from Heaven to declare ‘This [redacted] is GUILTY and has forfeited his eternal reward.'” – Anonymous Chicago Police Officer

The quote comes from a Chicago police officer in a reaction to State’s Attorney Kimmie Foxx recusing herself from the Jussie Smollett case. Unlike the Chicago Police Department Adam Schiff goes on a fishing trip with a backhoe.

Adam Schiff obtained the cell phone logs from Verizon and AT&T of a Congressman, a Congressional staffer, a journalist, a lawyer, and an op-ed television host. The call logs may or may not contain content, just the times that the calls were made, and to whom they were made. Verizon and AT&T are in a tough spot. To tell someone from Congress; “Come back with a warrant” could affect any pending legislation concerning them. This may not be coercion, but it reeks of an abuse of power.

From an article written by Byron York, and published by the Washington Examiner:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s decision to publish the phone records of the president’s personal attorneys, a journalist, a fellow lawmaker, a National Security Council aide, and others has sent a chill among Republicans concerned about the reach of a powerful chairman determined to root out the communications of people with connections to the Trump-Ukraine affair. Rep. Devin Nunes, ranking Republican on the committee, whose phone records were included among those released, called the move a “gross abuse of power.”

The Intelligence Committee Democrats’ Trump-Ukraine impeachment investigation report, released publicly Tuesday, included records of some phone calls by presidential lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, Nunes, journalist John Solomon, Fox News host Sean Hannity, indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, National Security Council aide and former Nunes staffer Kash Patel, lawyer Victoria Toensing, and unidentified people at the White House and Office of Management and Budget.

The published records consisted only of the two parties on each call, plus the date and duration of the call. No content from any call was released.

Schiff subpoenaed AT&T and Verizon for the information. Sources involved in the matter have only minimal information of exactly what Schiff did, but they believe the chairman subpoenaed a total of five phone numbers — it is not clear who each number was associated with — from which the published information was taken.

It is also not clear how much phone record information Schiff received from AT&T and Verizon that was not included in the report.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel (Part 7): Lure of the Lava Lady

 

On an island far away, the mwahaha flies.

The mwahaha is a bird – not, funnily enough, so called because its cry resembles the laugh of an old-fashioned villain, twirling his moustache as the express train draws near – but just out of sheer soppy sentimentality. There used to be a thriving colony of them somewhere up around old Hollywood way, back in the “real” world. People keep hoping they might come back someday, but, sad to tell, no one in living memory can remember seeing an active colony of mwahahas. Like the dodo, they have passed into the mists of history …

… Except, here, where one watched with curiosity from the branches of a flowering tree, on the slopes of the volcano. It was watching a curious assemblage running towards it. A man, who seemed faintly luminescent, carrying a beautiful young lady in his arms, apparently unslowed by shifting rocky ground or jungle scrub, or even by running straight uphill. On his shoulder, a parrot was squawking encouragement. Behind them, masked warriors flung spears, darts, and arrows while giving chase. It’s a strange world, sometimes, the mwahaha thought, and fluttered off. Some ancient instinct warned it what might lie ahead …

***

Even in the moonlight, the temple of the volcano goddess Cthoney glittered. It was an intriguing place: Partly because, it was rumoured, swirled among the marbled columns were veins and lumps of ruby and emerald, gold and silver – and partly, because when a temple hasn’t been so much constructed as shaped and moulded from the still-smoking molten lava, and is decorated around with statues that looked like someone had just been standing there five minutes ago, asking, so to speak, for the time, a certain … not quite magic, but “energy” seems to descend upon a place, so that it practically glows with it. Who or what designed it, no one was quite sure or wanted to know (and what happened to the builders was anyone’s guess).

Under ordinary circumstances, sane people didn’t enter it, or go knocking at the door. However, when you’re being pursued by a couple of dozen angry islanders in carved wooden masks, with darts, arrows, and spears whizzing past your ears, you start to get a mite less fussy about the shelter you’ll consider. ‘Whew!’ said Feathers, talking parrot, wise-ass, and rescue co-ordinator extraordinaire, as the big bronze doors closed behind them with a clang and the man Nemo pulled the switch that brought a gigantic reinforced bar down across them. ‘That should hold ’em. At least, for a while, anyway …’ He sniffed. ‘Um, does anyone smell something burning?’

***

‘More like … sulphur, I’d say,’ said Nessa, wrinkling her nose. ‘Though now you come to mention it, there does seem to be a certain magma-like quality to the place. It sure is dark in here.’

They felt it as Nemo stepped forward. For one thing, the ground sunk about an inch with the sound of shifting stone, as fiery lamps flickered into life.

Nessa gazed up and around, mouth open. ‘Wow …’

Feathers whistled. ‘Yep.’

They were in a kind of entrance hall, with rising pillars reaching off to a far off ceiling, the walls were covered in strange glyphs and pictograms, beautiful but strangely haunting statues stood in a variety of poses around it. Here and there and between some of the pillars, great jar-like flame lanterns that resembled nothing so much as giant lava lamps lit with real glowing lava provided a reddish-yellow orangey glow to the proceedings.

The thing was, if this was an entrance hall, there didn’t actually appear to be any other doors …

‘Is it just me,’ said Nessa, ‘or is there not any other way out of here?’

‘Yep,’ said Feathers again, nodding on Nemo’s shoulder opposite her, ‘we’re trapped.’

As if to reinforce the situation, what sounded like a giant gong seemed to go off behind them, as the bronze doors shook resoundingly.

‘Would that be a battering ram, do you think?’ said the talking parrot.

Feathers glanced sideways at the man called Nemo, who was still sort of glowing with a strange energy after someone (Feathers shuffled his clawed feet) had arranged for him to eat an outaya gourd – one of the rare mystic fruits to be found in this tropical paradise – and so charge off on an insanely heroic rescue attempt. Even if that meant he had gotten so carried away he hadn’t noticed they were running up towards the volcano with nowhere to go but into this strange and forbidding temple with no other apparent exits. Guess you can’t win ‘em all.

‘Um, Nemo,’ said Nessa, gently.

‘Yes?’

‘I think I might nearly have the circulation back in my feet. You can put me down now.’

‘Oh. Right …’

‘Only, it might be best if we all looked around. To see if we can find another way out,’ she added quickly.

Was his face a bit flushed? Probably just the glow from the lava lanterns, she thought, as he set her, very gently, down on a stretch of glyph-inscribed floor. She noticed the way he kind of looked away and to one side.

‘How are your … your, um …’

‘Ankles?’ she provided.

‘Yeah …’

‘Much better. Thank you.’ She lifted one of her feet demonstratively.

Nemo didn’t seem to know where to look.

She smiled at him.

‘Best get looking, huh?’ he said.

‘Yeah …’

She was actually kind of glad of the reddish-tinged glow from the lava lanterns. Hopefully no one could see her blushing. She sighed, and leaned on to her elbow to try and push herself up – the floor seemed to tilt out from under her—

Neeeeeeeeeeeemmooooooooooooooooo … !’

***

Nemo turned around and saw the hole sliding off into the blackness where he’d set Nessa down a moment before. ‘Nessaaaaaaaaaa!’ he called, diving after her.

‘Hey, kid, what are you—‘ Feathers sighed, as he watched Nemo disappear down a sloping hole in the floor. Ah, well, he thought, flapping over. When ya can’t beat ’em, join ’em:

‘Geeeronimoooooooooooo!’

***

Outside the temple, masked figures brought the impromptu battering ram round one more time. As it thudded into the big ornamental bronze doors it made a sound a bit like a giant gong. Bonggg … Bongggg … Bonggggg ….

What are you doing!’

Uh-oh. About two dozen grown men were suddenly anxious to be elsewhere, as Vexila, the Witch Doctress herself, strode on up the hill, the eyes on her mask blazing with some sort of glowing fire, several of her widely feared assistants in tow.

‘You idiots!’ she said. ‘Get that thing away from there! Do you want to wake Her up?’ She strode up the doors, pushing past as they shuffled awkwardly back. ‘Captain Argalos!’she called to a man in a grass skirt and big elaborately carved mask.

‘Yes, ma’am,’ said the captain of the guards, stepping forward smartly.

‘Send out patrols. Circle all the known gates. They must not escape. I will have that girl, and when I find her I will cut out her heart and throw her to Cthoney!’

The mountain echoed with the rumbling thunder of the volcano.

‘Ma’am …’ he said, fiddling with the straps on his big wooden mask nervously.

‘Have some of your guards wait here. The door mechanism will reset soon. The rest of you, get going. Well, what are you waiting for!’

‘Yes, ma’am!’ The captain hurried off, frantically giving orders. He didn’t want to be around if the Witch Doctress should decide he was to blame for letting the girl escape. Come to think of it, had anyone seen Simeo or Vaxil lately?

***

Nessa raised her head. Everything was pitch black. She could hear the distant rumble of stone, presumably that trick floor sliding back into place and sealing them in.

She tried to get up but couldn’t. Everything felt bruised. She reached out her arm awkwardly and patted at her breeches pocket. Still had it. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too damaged. ‘Parrot,’ she said, ‘are you there?’

‘Present,’ said Feathers.

‘Where are you?’

‘Over here.’

‘Well, stand clear. I don’t want to singe your feathers.’

A soft golden flame flickered into life in the darkness and Nessa held up a slightly battered, but still working, cigarette lighter. The parrot was off to one side, a few feathers out of place, but otherwise fine. Nemo … was sprawled bonelessly over her legs. That had been why she couldn’t get up.

‘Nemo,’ she said, pushing at his back. ‘Nemo … wakey-wakey, rise and shine. C’mon,’ she said encouragingly, ‘up and at ’em, champ.’

‘Guess he’s just tuckered out after all that heroing. It takes people that way sometimes,’ said Feathers, hopping over to him. ‘Here let me give it a try.’ Nessa blinked at what, in the flame-light, looked like a mischievous grin on his beak.

‘Bird, wait.’

‘Awww, I never get to have any fun!’

Carefully lifting one leg at a time and then another (he was heavy), she slid out from under and brought the lighter round. She felt his neck, and then his head. It was wet. She held her fingers up to the light. Blood glinted back at her. As she had touched him, something happened: ‘Why’s he glowing like that again? I thought he’d stopped.’

‘Yeah, ain’t that odd,’ said Feathers, thoughtfully. ‘Is … is he okay?’

If Nessa didn’t know better, she’d say there was just a hint of worry in the parrot’s voice. She tried not to show it in her own as she reached forward to try to wake him. ‘Nemo,’ she whispered again, squeezing his shoulder. ‘Can you hear me … ?’

***

Nemo could hear voices, calling to him in the darkness … His head throbbed. Thump-thump. His heart beat. Bum-bump.

Nemo …’ a voice called. ‘Ne-mo …

‘Nessa?’ he asked.

The voices went still for a moment. Whisperings in the darkness, faint twinklings like underground stars. He saw things, floating, fading in and out of his imagination in a way that didn’t quite make sense. A cloak of night … and fire. Glowing flames, in a fiery ring …

The voices called to him. And one voice in particular …

Nemo …

‘Polo,’ he said, dozily.

Nemo – is that your name … ?’ 

The voice became clearer, focusing in on him. It was a beautiful voice. And a lonely one … Why did things have to be like this, it seemed to say. Why won’t anyone talk to me … Be there with me, in the darkness of my deepest night …

He found himself whispering back, words that passed through his head without him knowing them …

The voice called again: ‘Neeeemo …’

***

In the ancient legends of the islands, there is an old verse that has survived in various forms to the present day. It runs as follows:

‘In her Halls of Sleep,

Cthoney lies dreaming,

Waiting for One Who Is Lost to set her free:

Once more to see the Sunlight,

Dawning o’er the Mountain.

To taste Soul Fruit and flowers’ scent,

To walk with her through the Garden …

… and the Ring of Fire …

Nobody’s quite sure what it means …

***

Nemo woke up. So beautiful and yet so alone … 

He tried to open his eyes. A blurring face. Fire and flame. In the fires of a heart that has never stopped burning, fiercer than all the stars, yearning … 

Something soft brushed his face. Set me free, mortal … and never die … 

He blinked, confused, trying to separate the voices … ‘ … What is it with you and getting knocked on the head?’ Nessa was saying to him.

‘Huh?’ His vision seemed to clear. Golden hair, warm smile, slight sparkle about the eyes—

‘Glad to see you’re still with us.’ She looked at him uncertainly. ‘Nemo?’

He shook himself awake, felt the sudden throb in his head. Winced. ‘I …’

‘Yeah, you got a slight bump on the head on the way down. Just try not to do it again …’

Rawk! Time to be movin’! We still need to get outta here. C’mon, glow-boy, toots,’ Feathers said with a nod to Nessa, but she seemed to miss it, ‘we needs ta get going! Had ya forgotten all those mad islanders, tryin’ to kill us? Honestly, good thing ya both gots me to keep your minds on the job. Let’s go, let’s go,’ he finished, and then fluttered up onto Nessa’s shoulder. Nessa glanced at the parrot slightly uncertainly but didn’t try to shift him.

Only one way to go: They headed into the darkness.

***

‘It’s like the set of a movie …’ said Nessa, eyes wide, gazing around the tunnels.

‘Yeah …’ said Nemo. ‘Wait, they have those here?’

‘Uh, yeah …’ said Nessa. ‘Don’t they where you come from?’

‘Kids, kids, kids,’ said Feathers. ‘Concentrate. Booby-traps at every turn, spiked pits, rolling boulders, ceiling blocks that come hurtling down at you, and poisoned arrows that shoot outta the walls? Any of this ring a bell?’

Nessa looked at him, as he sat bobbing along there on Nemo’s shoulder.

‘What?’ said Feathers. Something about the intensity of Nessa’s gaze was making him nervous. He tried to change the subject. ‘Hey, is it just me or is it getting hot in here?’ He ran a fore-feather around the inside of a metaphorical collar. ‘Whew-ee!’

Nessa stopped, putting her hand out in front of Nemo. ‘You know, he’s right. I hate to admit it, but the feather-brain is right.’ She felt her shirt.

Feather-brain?‘ sputtered Feathers. ‘I’ll have you know, lady, that if it weren’t for me, you’d still be stuck in durance vile about to be thrown into a volcano— Mmmph. Hey, hey! Hands off the beak!’ But he didn’t quite dare to try nipping Nessa’s fingers, the way he would, say, Nemo’s. Something about the way she was looking at him just now told him it wouldn’t be a good idea.

‘Quiet, you,’ she said. ‘How close are we to the volcano –’

‘The name is Feathers, lady. And pretty close I should reckon. We musta fell a ways, and if ya listens real close there’s a sort of … rumbling … I didn’t likes ta mention it, or make anyone nervous, but hey, ya did ask.’

‘Hey, birdbr— Feathers,’ she said, carefully. ‘Come over here a moment. I want to talk to you. Nemo, don’t go anywhere, all right?’

Nemo nodded airily. She looked at him. The glow was getting worse. He was like a walking lightbulb. Er. Whatever one of those was …

She got Feathers over round a turn in the tunnel. ‘He’s getting worse.’

‘You said it, sister! Rawk!

‘Shhh. I don’t want him to hear us! It’s just … did you hear the way he was whispering when he was … sleeping? I couldn’t really make it out — but together with that glowing… Is something happening to him? Something to do with this place? And don’t you breathe a word about this to him. I don’t want him thinking I don’t trust him.’

‘Oh, I gets it. Just our little secret, right. Tell me, honeycakes, you been in the mermaid business long?’

‘What— I, oh … Honeycakes?’ She scowled.

‘Anyway,’ continued Feathers, moving swiftly on, ‘what we got here is a bit of a conundrum, like one of them mysteries of the sea. Like, suppose, you has one of them ships that floats into port … no crew, but all the table’s set out for a meal, candles still lit – and no one knows what’s happened … Like the — what was that ship called, the one that ran aground off the Sirens’ Triangle? — the something-something … the Lulu-Marie Celeste?’

Lulu-Marie?’ said Nessa. ‘That can’t be right.’

‘Oh, well, you would know, being a mermaid and all … But what I was trying to say was, you get places like this sometimes. Just like you get ghost ships, and Old Ones in the Hidden Deeps, seeking a return to this plane of existence …’ he intoned melodramatically. In the background, the volcano rumbled, as if on cue, like thunder echoing down to those very Hidden Deeps. ‘On the other hand,’ he continued, backing and filling, ‘maybe it’s just an interesting natural geographical feature and— Mmmpphh!’

‘This isn’t helping,’ she said. ‘This volcano’s still active, right? And it’s been rumbling a lot lately, hasn’t it? I’ve heard it. So we need to get out of here. I mean, these tunnels could leak. Maybe that’s why it’s getting so much hotter. Maybe the volcano’s about to erupt. So if we don’t want to end up in a river of lava, and you don’t want to end up as Parrot a l’Orange, we’d better come up with something constructive here.’

‘—Guess we just keep going,’ said Feathers. ‘Only … hadn’t we better go check on the kid—’

‘He’s not a kid,’ said Nessa heatedly, ‘he’s— Wait a minute …’ She stepped back round the corner. Sitting on her shoulder, Feathers sighed deeply. Nemo was gone.

From somewhere down in the tunnels ahead, she could hear voices, voices echoing with the sounds of things past trying to claw their way into the present (as Feathers might say), and, in the darkness, a strange clear note … And the temperature was still rising. Nemo, you idiot, if anything happens to you, so help me, I’ll …

No time for thinking, she ran ahead, Feathers gripping on tight to her shoulder and trying not to wince at impending descent or springing of things going squish, splat, or spike.

***

The tunnels split off multiple ways ahead. And, there were traps, only someone had triggered them and apparently gone by in one particular direction. It was how she could tell which tunnels to follow, quickly doubling back if there were no signs of disarmed traps ahead. In one of the corridors, it was the strangest thing, but there was a hat lying on the ground. With a whip. Huh. She wondered how long they’d been down there. Someone had apparently left them behind. She hoped they’d got out.

‘Hold it, hold it,’ said Feathers. ‘You hear that?’

A voice – Nemo’s, except somehow not – speaking soft and low, but surprisingly clear. It echoed through to them. ‘Deep in her prisoned sleep, the Lady lies dreaming …’

‘Follow that voice!’ said Feathers, urgently. ‘Trust me, if this is what I think it is, we better stop him before—’

But Nessa was already running, loping forward as fast as her legs would carry her. Nemo …

***

She skidded to a halt in a large open cavern. Nemo was there, glowing still, before some huge … altar? No … Yes. But not quite. It was complicated. Up above, a fissure in the rock let a beam of daylight through. Formations like huge drips of molten rock frozen in motion hung from the ceiling and around the cavern. Gemstones and jewels sparkled in them. Fiery lanterns, like the ones that had lit up the entrance hall before they’d fallen down here, burned with a fierce heat.

Nemo was stepping slowly, hypnotically, towards a bridge over a shallow channel. On the other side, a kind of raised dais with a stone plinth or bier on it – like a bed – and a stone figure in the shadows lying as if in sleep.

On the walls, glyphs and pictograms began to glow into shades of magma and lava, searing with incandescent heat. Refracted light sparkling off rubies and sapphires, emeralds and diamonds …

Madre de Pollo!’ whistled Feathers. ‘Will you look at that …’

From the direction of the bier on the dais, a voice, rich and feminine, flowed out over the cavern. Smouldering with long-banked fires. ‘I have been waiting, so lonely through the centuries … Will you be my hero, Wandering One – will you release me from my Endless Night?’

Nessa had a bad feeling about this. ‘Nemo!’

He wasn’t listening. He couldn’t hear her.

‘Kid, step away from the dais. Trust me on this … This is not good …’

Cthoney in her Halls of Sleep lies dreaming,’ intoned Nemo, drifting zombie-like towards the bridge, ‘waiting for One Who Is Lost to set her free …’ At the mention of the word Cthoney, the whole chamber rumbled and shook. Had that statue just moved, Nessa thought.

This had gone far enough. She ran forward and grabbed Nemo and tried to pull him back. ‘Feathers, do something!’ she cried.

She risked a backward glance. ‘Feathers?’

***

Feathers emerged struggling through the open fissure onto the ashy mountainside and scanned the horizon. Please, please, please, he thought … Bingo-bango, we’re in luck. He’d thought it might. Now, to find the right one … He scanned through the leaves quickly, but he couldn’t see … Oh. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. She’d just have to make do.

***

‘Feathers!’ Nessa called again. ‘I can’t hold him much longer. ‘He’s almost at the bridge! Feathers!’ Nemo was dragging them both ever nearer to the sleeping stone figure. It was a woman, beautiful in her feathered head dress and feather-decked costume. Her eyes closed as if in endless sleep, but as if troubled constantly by an uneasy dream. Her hands and feet were manacled with stone chains bound to the rock. A stone band with a stone lock was bound around her waist running into the rock of the bier. Someone had gone to an awful lot of trouble to make sure she stayed down here.

So this is volcano goddess, she thought. Someone must have worked ages to carve her so intricately. It was like— A suspicion dawned, and then it hit her. ‘Nemo. Nemo, please …’

But Nemo’s eyes were unseeing. He was glowing more than ever now. A fluttering from above caught her attention as Feathers the parrot struggled back through the fissure in ceiling ungainlily. A moment later, he flopped down heavily on her shoulder, with something that looked like a pear-shaped yellow-reddy lemon lodged in his mouth.. ‘Eat thif,’ he mumbled.

‘What!’

‘Ib’ll helf.’

‘Feathers,’ she said straining to keep Nemo from getting past her to the bridge. ‘I’m a little – busy – here.’

‘It’f ‘ur only chanfe.’

No time to hesitate. She grabbed the fruit from the bird’s beak. It came away and she bit into it, holding on to Nemo and pushing with her shoulder.

‘Keep going. I think you’ll need it all – it was the best one I could find.’

‘What is this?’ she said, chewing. But she could feel herself getting stronger. She took another bite. Nemo’s rate of movement was slowing. Another. She had him stready. She finished the strange fruit with a gulp and jerked Nemo back. ‘Right, mister, we are getting out of here.’

He tried to turn back towards the statue of the sleeping Cthoney.

‘Oh, no you don’t.’ She’d never felt like this before. As she pulled Nemo round again, with surprising ease, she grabbed him by his collar and drew him towards her. The sound of the slap she gave him made quite an echo through the cavern. Nemo opened his eyes.

‘Er, Nessa,’ he said. ‘Why are you glowing?’

She looked down at her hand, still stinging, but also glowing with a yellowish golden-red light. The same sort of light Nemo was glowing with, roughly. ‘Feathers …’ she said.

‘What? It got the job done didn’t it? No harm, no fowl — so to speak.’ He grinned at her.

Nemo glanced at Feathers, who was twitching again. ‘Feathers, have you been at the outayas again?’

‘I had to hold it in my beak to get it to her. Don’t look at me like that, you was about to wake up a dormant volcano goddess.’

‘I — what?’

‘Actually,’ said Feathers, ‘while we’re on the subject, should that statue be moving like that?’

On the bier, the stone Cthoney was restless and shifting. Glowing slits of light pouring out from about where her eyes would be. Beneath the little stone bridge over to the dais, lava seemed to be pouring in from somewhere, glowing as it flowed through the channel. Over the moving stone form, fiery lines of light seemed to be gathering and coalescing in an outline of something.

They turned to each other in unison: ‘Run!’

***

It’s surprising how quickly you can move through trap-infested tunnels when the alternative is being roasted alive in a molten-rock bath or, as it may happen, the reawakened avatar of a restless volcano goddess.

Rawk! Careful there! That one almost got me.’ A few feathers floated down behind them as if to prove the point.

‘Bird, if we don’t keep moving –‘ Whfft! — ‘our goose is cooked!’

There was light up ahead. Which was just as well, even though with the combined glows of Nemo and Nessa meant they hadn’t really needed the cigarette lighter when they were to see by. ‘Almost there …’

***

They emerged into the jungle at a dead run and kept moving. A little way further on, as the mwahaha (or perchance, the parrot) flies, they found themselves in a small clearing, where they tried to catch their breath.

‘We made it,’ Nemo said, panting. ‘Oh, hey, you’ve got a little – actually quite a lot of—’

‘You too,’ said Nessa, looking at her hands. ‘Guess it was all the smoke down there.’

Feathers, meanwhile, was looking around. He flapped up into a tree. Something was unsettling him. Nice enough place and all, flowers twining among creepers, a little overgrown perhaps, but almost like a little garden. Sun was shining, birds were— Oh. No, they weren’t, really, were they? Ah.

***

‘Thanks for—‘

‘Nessa, I—‘

‘No, you go—‘

‘No, it’s okay, you—‘

Rawk! Whi-hoo! Shiver me timbers! — run! — pretty Polly! Rawk!

‘What’s gotten into that bird now …’

***

Captain Argalos motioned to his men as they trod stealthily through the jungle. He thought they’d found them, the girl and the other one. It was difficult to be sure, but he was pretty certain there weren’t another pair on the island that looked quite like that – i.e., as if they’d been through a furnace and then gone swimming in a vat of smoke. He was man with a curious imagination at times, but there you are. He passed the signal to close in.

***

Nessa paused. Her attention had been caught by a bird. And not, for the first time in a while, a certain talking parrot. She thought it might be what they called a Bird of Paradise. It had big beautiful feathers, in so many different colours. Purples and pinks and yellows, orange, red, and gold, green and blue … In fact, the colours seemed to shimmer, changing as they went, almost glowing with different-coloured light and heat mist and … was that branch beneath its feet … smoking?

She shook her head. Probably just imagining it. Dehydration, that was what it was. Overheating. After all that time in the tunnels.

‘Say, we should find some water—‘

‘Don’t anybody move! We have you surrounded!

They turned together, suddenly back to back. Spear and arrow points seemed to sprout from the undergrowth.

‘I was afraid of that,’ she said. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the Bird of Paradise was no longer be there. Where it was, a couple of sets of claw marks smouldered.

At last, my love, I am free …

She spun them round, pulling Nemo flat to the ground as arrows and darts started flying — and then suddenly stopped. She dared to look up. Feet were walking towards her. A woman’s feet. And where they stepped, the jungle started giving off smoke and heat and little bursts of flame – which didn’t seem to affect even the trails of her flowing feathered dress in every colour of the rainbow (every colour of a Bird of Paradise, in fact) — or her tropical feathered mantle or head-dress, resting amid her long black hair.

For a moment, molten dark eyes flashed with fire and flame and all the heat of a volcano’s fiery heart. And she was looking, Nessa noticed, first at her, with something like curiosity – but always coming back to Nemo.

After endless years of dreaming,’ said the feather-decked fire lady, ‘Cthoney is free.’ She turned to the masked islanders around them, before letting her gaze fall on Nemo once again, with a long, slow smile, and a strange look in her eyes (if anything could be stranger than a fiery volcano goddess come to life, that is). ‘Prepare a wedding feast! And bring … my betrothed …‘ she said.

Nessa couldn’t hold it in any longer. ‘Your betrothed — you don’t mean— You leave him alone!’ she said, springing to her feet and towards Cthoney. A hand gripped her arm. A burning-hot hand. And those eyes looked into hers. She pulled away quickly, but not quick enough. She felt searing heat run through her arm. Cthoney was ridiculously strong, but lucky for her Feathers had got her that outaya. As she pulled away, there were charred holes in the sleeve of her shirt and a vivid hand-shaped patch of skin blistering up on her arm.

And bring this other one,‘ said Cthoney. ‘She may be … of service …’ The volcano goddess made a strange hand gesture over Nemo. Clutching her burnt arm, trying to fight back tears, Nessa watched him struggle to his feet, the glow that had suffused him flickering as he struggled with something internally. His eyes looked like he was fighting for control of himself.

‘Leave … her … be …’ he managed, though Nessa doubted if anyone else could make it out.

‘Patience, Beloved. Bring them!

The guards closed in.

Daylight, come, and carry my Beloved home …

***

Swaying upside down from a carrying pole, with your hands and ankles bound (again), gives a girl time to think. One of the things Nessa was thinking about was Nemo. And Cthoney …

Nemo, swaying upside down between another couple of bearers on the pole next to hers, tried to speak to her. ‘Nessa, are you all right, are you—‘

‘I’m not speaking to you,’ she said.

‘Nessa …’

But she didn’t say another word.

***

Dear Ma, she thought to herself. Well, here I am, in jail again … She kicked out and her boot hit a stone wall. A more solid and difficult-to-get-out-of jail than the last time. It wasn’t as if she’d even done anything. The witch doctress had shot her an evil look when she saw her again. Which felt the wrong way round, somehow. (How she could tell through the mask, she wasn’t sure, but just on general principles she was sure it was evil.)

This building she was in now seemed older somehow than the village, and as if it hadn’t been much used for a while.

A fluttering sound up above caught her attention. A beaked head peered in through carved stonework before descending.

‘Hey, birdbrain …’

‘Heya, yourself … I … brought ya something.’

‘Another outaya?’ she said, hardly able to keep the bitterness out of her voice. But it wasn’t directed at Feathers. She wasn’t even sure who it was directed at. Nemo? (She wouldn’t even say that fire thing’s name in her own head.) Herself?

‘No, it’s … well, that burn looked pretty bad before I took off there. I didn’t want to, ya understand, but I thoughts to myself, if one of us keeps free, he might be able to help the others escape …’

‘I’m not sure if you’re going to be able to help us this time, Feathers,’ she said, wiping her eyes on her sleeve with a sniff. ‘Anyway, lover-boy already brought me something for the burn, when he came in, under armed guard.’

Feathers noticed a pale green splat against the wall and a shattered jar beneath it. He also noticed how livid the burn was still, as if it hadn’t been used. It’s true, pride’ll kill you. But there were worse things …

‘Here, c’mon now, kid. Chin up. It ain’t over till it’s over.’ He fluttered awkwardly along, dragging a little green fruit with him.

‘I want it to be over,’ she said.

‘Oh, c’mon, now. That kid’s crackers about you, you can see it in his eyes—‘

I don’t care what he—‘

She felt a bird-like head and a spread wing against one knee.

‘Are you – trying to give me a hug?’

‘Ya looked like maybe ya could use it,’ said Feathers. ‘Only don’t tell nobody. I got a reputation to keep up, here.’

‘Not a soul,’ she murmured. ‘C’m’ere, birdbrain.’ She reached out to lift him up as he folded his wing in again.

‘Mind the feathers! Mind the feathers! Rawk!

‘Now, what do I do with this?’ she said, picking up the little green fruit the parrot had brought.

‘Just break it over the burn and rub it in. Should stop it going bad. Or at least from bad to worse. Ya gotta look after yourself. I don’t know how, but somehow we’ll make it. You, me, the kid.’

She put him down and broke open the fruit against her arm.

Then she huddled into the straw in the corner of the cell, a strange fruity smell tickling her nostrils as the fruit soaked into the burn. It felt a little less sore, at least. ‘Feathers … Can you … sit with me a while?’

‘Sure, kid. And don’t you worry, we’ll think of something.’

A hand reached out. A clawed foot rested on an outstretched finger. Occasionally, it shook.

‘Shhh. It’s all right. Goin’ to be all right …’

***

Vexila, A.K.A. the Witch Doctress, snarled, hurling a potion bottle into the flames. It burned with a sickly green tinge mixed with blue. After all these years of careful planning … After everything she’d done, everything (and everyone) she’d sacrificed, and some … goof comes and messes it all up at the critical moment.

They could have sent Cthoney to sleep for another thousand years, and she could have continued to rule. Now … a wedding … she was going to marry that … that … imbecile! Where had he even come from? And the girl was to be spared, apparently … for now …

I don’t care who you think you are, she thought, I own you. I rule here. And I will have that girl’s heart out and use her to send you back to sleep where you belong! But first, she’d have to do a little something about the stranger – the one they called “Nemo” … Far be it for her to predict the future, but it looked like the groom-to-be was going to have himself a little accident A magical accident – the best kind. It would take some arranging. And she’d have to be careful. She couldn’t afford to challenge Cthoney directly. Not in a straight fight. But there were ways. Oh, there were ways, all right …

Nemo or whatever your name is, your days are numbered

***

To Be Continued …

[Previous –> Part 6: Out of the Frying Pan.] [Next –> … ?]

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The U.S. and Consorting with Terrorists

 

We haven’t had a major terrorist action like the 9/11 attacks in the US for good reason. Our governmental agencies still take potential attacks seriously in this country and are vigilant. My greatest concern now is that we, the public, will become complacent.

Many Islamic groups appear to be taking an increasingly public stand against efforts that protect this country; they are determined to undermine our counter-terrorism activities. And they’re making an ongoing effort to manipulate our lawmakers to help them forward their agenda. Many concerning people are also running for government positions all over the country.

One global threat that our lawmakers continue to ignore is the Muslim Brotherhood. Just last year a panel spoke to Congress about the Brotherhood, with mixed results. A former coordinator of counter-terrorism for the Obama State Department, Daniel Benjamin, tried to assure Congress that the Brotherhood was not a threat. He added “. . . that taking a hardline approach against the group could alienate non-extremist Muslims living in the U.S.”

He likely has no evidence for that concern.

Yet the Brotherhood has held onto its original manifesto, as one panelist explained:

Jonathan Schanzer, a senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the panel, “There’s really nothing in [the Brotherhood’s] creed, which is ultimately the dogma that they adhere to at their core, that suggests that they have given up violence as an approach or that they have embraced democracy.”

The Muslim Brotherhood has also spawned multiple organizations with radical agendas all over the world.

Another organization that has become more visible in recent years is the Coalition for Civil Freedoms. It is a Muslim lobbyist group for jihadists.

CCF affiliates with, among other Muslim organizations, the Council of American Islamic Relations. In 2014, Florida chapter members held a pro-Hamas rally outside the Israeli consulate in Miami; attendees shouted, “We are Hamas!” and “Hamas kicked your -ss!”

Even more concerning is that CCF is lobbying for new legislation, the Entrapment and Government Overreach Relief Act. Here is a summary of the legislation:

Liberty today is threatened by political encroachment and governmental overreach, in the name of National Security. At present there is no codified defense against entrapment, no check on the arbitrary expansion of security laws to include Constitutionally protected activities, and no prohibition against showing secret evidence to judges (but not the defense) in criminal trials. The government uses these legal loop holes to incarcerate political enemies rather than people who actually intended to commit crimes. The EGO Relief Act limits these abuses by:

  1. Codifying (for the first time) an Entrapment defense to limit prosecutions of targets induced by the FBI to commit crimes created by the government;
  2. Limiting material support to terrorism prosecutions to cases where there is proof that the target intends to support violence;
  3. Providing that any classified evidence shown to the judge by the prosecution must also be disclosed to security-cleared defense counsel.

This type of legislation will, in fact, compromise our national security. CCF has met with legislators, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, to promote this cause. Of course, we don’t know how they’ve responded, but their pro-Palestinian positions are well-known.

Finally, as of last year, over 90 Muslims, almost all of them Democrats, are running for office, ranging from local school Boards to the US Senate, and some are acknowledging that their Muslim identity is central to their campaign. One source makes the following statement about candidates, with which I concur:

There is no problem with a Muslim in the U.S. who sincerely renounces jihad and sharia, and who is working to reform Islam, and is clear about rejecting the elements of sharia that contradict American laws and principles, running for office. The problem is that all these far-left Democrat candidates will never even be asked by the mainstream media about their views of jihad and sharia, and they will be working, as the Democrat establishment does, against counter-terror efforts.

If a different ethnic and religious community were involved, I might be delighted to know that they are engaging with our American culture and want to help forward our beliefs and values. But with the ambivalence of our lawmakers about assertively managing the Islamic dangers; with, even now, Congressional representatives making statements that are anti-American and anti-Semitic; and with the organizations that are determined to discourage our efforts to act against radical Islam, I’m very concerned.

Complacency will always lose to bad actors.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Serial Seppuku in the Capital

 

In all my many years of watching politics, I have never seen so many people so absolutely convinced of something where the facts support the exact opposite conclusion. The Democrats are literally screaming for Trump’s removal for a myriad of so-called high crimes and misdemeanors while the facts show none of their accusations are valid. The Ukraine aid was released, meetings were not denied and Zelinskyy never initiated any investigation nor promised to do so.

The actual transcript of the so-called incriminating conversation mentions no conditions on aid or assistance; in fact, it does not mention any assistance or aid at all. Zelisnkyy said he never felt pressured by Trump and did not know that the aid had been even delayed at the time of the call. There were five high-level meetings between US and Ukraine officials subsequent to the initial call and not once was any condition mentioned regarding the forthcoming aid.

The only “fact” witness who had any direct dealing with President Trump was Ambassador Sondland, and he made it clear that he just assumed there were conditions. Trump never once told him, in fact no one ever told him, that the aid was conditioned on an investigation of the Bidens. Sondland just assumed. And when he asked President Trump about this directly; that is “what did he [President Trump] want from Ukraine?” Trump said, “I want nothing. I want nothing. There is no quid pro quo.”

And yet the Democrats maintain their death-hold on the allegation that Trump demanded dirt on the Bidens in exchange for aid. Quite frankly, this entire ordeal likely bodes the end of the Biden candidacy (RIP) as it casts sunshine on Hunter Biden’s sweet dealings in Ukraine, Romania, and China. The more daylight Hunter receives, the more he looks like a corrupt rent seeker, a fraud, eager to sell out America for his fortune. And that does not reflect well on dad, the well-honed persona of everyman, blue-collar Joe.

Have they forgotten that the US Senate is controlled by the opposition? A Senate trial could prove very damaging to those who engineered the Russia hoax, the Hillary dismissal, the surveillance of the Trump campaign, and the so-called House Intelligence investigation. Imagine a damaging inspector general report, a thorough Senate trial and acquittal, and a devastating Durham investigation.

This will not be a good election year for Democrats; worse yet for their deep state allies and their cronies in the press.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. But That Was Yesterday…

 

Remember (not all that long ago), when those on the Left decried the Founding Fathers as a bunch of white, racist, slave-holding, and did I mention racist, rich, and did I mention racist, old men whose crown jewel, the Constitution of the United States was an out-of-date screed written by privileged, old (ADIMR) fuddy-duddies with no connection to the modern (and so much better) world?

When Beto almost cried at the thought of having to explain a concept so arcane and unfair as the reasoning behind the Electoral College to his children? And when that scholarly intellectual luminary AOC called that same Electoral College a scam?

When students at major institutions (and a large proportion of the faculty) near-rioted in order to get statues and memorializations of Washington, Jefferson, and others taken down? When people like left-wing CNN commentator (but I repeat myself) Angela Rye said, “to me, I don’t care if it’s a George Washington statue or a Thomas Jefferson statue or a Robert E. Lee statue, they all need to come down.”

When the poor guys couldn’t do anything right, and what they did, quite simply, was enable the worst, most corrupt, most vicious, greedy, and self-serving (ADIMR) Republic in the history of the world, and there’s nothing we can do except grovel and apologize for it from now until the end of time?

No more.

What visionaries the Founding Fathers were! How absolutely correct and forward-thinking! It’s almost as if they predicted the coming of Donald Trump! Every word of the Constitution is sacrosanct, and Trump has stricken it to the heart. Don’t mess with our founding documents! Nancy is flying to the rescue and she, and the Democrats, will save and enshrine it for future generations!

Who knows what tomorrow may bring.

I can’t wait. When the time comes, I hope the Republicans remember to call the Merry Musketeers from yesterday’s charade to present the rationale against, and to testify to the unwisdom of, a national popular vote. I’m sure they’ll be anxious to put their case.

Yeah. No.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. ‘What Happened to Drudge?’ Answered

 

Instapundit links to a Townhall piece by Derek Hunter, “What Happened to Drudge?” Hunter examines a bit of the history and mystery of the man. Noting the shift from 2016 to 2019 from decidedly pro-Trump to manifestly anti-Trump, Hunter wonders why:

I did get a hint. I have a friend who is actual, real-life friends with Matt. I asked them what the deal is. After all, no website was more pro-Trump in 2016 than the Drudge Report. Matt even ventured to a debate to see it all firsthand. The answer was telling, if only because there’s so little to go on.

“Maybe he’s sick of nothing being done on the border,” was the gist of the answer.

If that’s the case, it would be good to know. Because the entire tone of the Drudge Report has changed. Stories about Trump’s failures, impeachment, and Democratic talking points dominate the coverage of the president. Headlines you’d expect to see on the Huffington Post are now in that familiar black text on white background.

If it’s just one issue, that seems incredibly petty. If it’s more, the audience that has made Matt Drudge a multimillionaire would like to know what it is. Since Drudge answers to no one, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know.

Well, I think I know the Rosetta Stone: Ann Coulter. Recall back when Drudge had a TV show he frequently had Ann on as a guest and they would trade snark. It was apparent that they had a good working relationship and shared a lot in their political outlook. I haven’t done the math, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Ann headlines were amongst the most numerous on Drudge since her appearance on the political stage.

Ann’s outlook on Trump has soured over the border wall:

“I’m telling you how to get Trump,” Coulter said. “He promised something for 18 months and he lied about it. That’s how you get Trump. It’s not this Russia nonsense.”

This has been the singular most important issue for Ann for a very long time.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Memories: The Red Jacket

 

My dad was born on December 5, 1920. Dad loved wearing red; shirts, sweaters, pants, hats, and for the last decade or so of his life, a bright red windbreaker jacket. Me, not so much. In fact, I have always disliked wearing red. The closest I’d come was my blue Boston Red Sox cap with its red B.

Shortly after dad passed in 2014, my sister and I got together to go through his things. When we came across the red windbreaker I impulsively told her, “I’ll take it.” It was the only piece of his clothing I kept.

Now when we get cool mornings and evenings in Arizona (yes, we do occasionally get them), I often put on dad’s red jacket before going out and each time I smile and remember. I often think of my first memory of him when I was three or four. We are in the car, dad’s driving and he’s singing. Dad loved singing to my sister and I, and he loved driving around. He had a standard repertoire – including I’ve Been Working On The Railroad, Skin a Marink a Dink, and all four military service songs. We learned them all, sang along and never tired of them. As I write this I can hear his soft and smooth singing voice. I’ve inherited his love of singing (I’m not very good but have a wider range of tunes) and, like him, enjoy going on drives with no particular destination in mind. And now my son has the same driving habits.

So I’ll continue to gladly make this exception to my aversion to red clothing. Just don’t ask me to wear anything else red.

And now we’re making new memories. Three days ago, our first grandchild was born to our daughter and son-in-law. I wore the red jacket to the hospital. Dad would appreciate that.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Psychiatrists Need an Intervention

 

Goldwater TrumpThis is shaping up to be another very instructive week, as more people who most Americans used to take somewhat seriously dash their reputations on the rocks of reality. Consider the really important, consequential stuff that happened in London this week, laid out in “‘Interagency Consensus DIME’ Not Worth a Plugged Nickel on NATO” and “Real Leadership, Real Statesmanship: President Trump at NATO.” Contrast the actual, on camera, behavior and results of President Donald J. Trump with the fevered fantasy of credentialed quacks; “mental health professionals” who used the Goldwater Rule for kindling on the bonfire of their hate for us and our president:

In an email forwarded to PJ Media, three psychiatrists with the coalition ask other psychiatrists to sign on to a petition to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee to include a statement on Trump’s supposed mental instability into the official record of the impeachment inquiry.

Now, pay very close attention to the ringleaders’ affiliations [emphasis added]:

Dr. Bandy Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine; Dr. Jerrold Post, a psychiatrist and political psychologist who founded the CIA’s Center for Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior; and Dr. John Zinner, a clinical professor in the Psychiatry Department of the George Washington University School of Medicine, wrote the petition and statement condemning Trump.

“We are American psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals who have come together at this critical time in our nation’s history,” the petition begins. “We believe there are important mental health issues that need to be understood and addressed with regard to the president, whom we believe poses unique dangers to the country and the world.”

The pro-impeachment statement is one in a long line of psychiatric attacks on Trump, the petition explains. “A group of us first outlined our concerns at a conference at Yale School of Medicine in April 2017, when the majority of the public believed the president was ‘settling in.’ This was followed by a public-service book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, which many say predicted the course of this presidency. Thousands of others joined us to form a professional association known as the World Mental Health Coalition.

As Paul Hinderaker notes in “Trump Derangement Syndrome Breeds Professional Malpractice”:

These people have never met the president, and have no basis to offer a “diagnosis” of his mental health. I believe they are violating recognized standards in their profession by issuing groundless opinions of this sort.

Moreover, they have a hard time keeping their story straight. Is Trump a warmonger, or a Putin stooge who will let Russia rampage over Eastern Europe? Or is he neither, but an America-first president who wants to end long-term conflicts in places like Afghanistan? If Trump is “unstable,” why has he hewed consistently to such a coherent, and successful, set of policy preferences? If he is a threat to the Republic, why has his administration ushered in unprecedented levels of employment and income, and especially benefited minority populations, while maintaining peace abroad?

The American Psychiatric Association explains the origin of the Goldwater Rule:

“Do you believe Barry Goldwater is psychologically fit to serve as President of the United States?” the editors of Fact magazine asked 12,356 psychiatrists during the 1964 presidential campaign between Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson.

The responses set off a wave of reaction that resonated again most recently after media speculation about the mental status of the current Republican presidential candidate.

Fact published numerous comments questioning Sen. Barry Goldwater’s psychological capacity for office, which ultimately led to the creation of APA’s “Goldwater Rule” in 1973.

This explanation was excerpted from a longer article, “Goldwater Rule’s Origins Based on Long-Ago Controversy,” published August 2016, as leftists panicked about the nomination of Donald J. Trump, who clearly was not going to play the part of good-natured loser in their campaign to complete the fundamental transformation of American society. The APA itself stood firm against such dangerous deception by fake diagnosis.

“On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

— Section 7.3, American Psychiatric Association, The Principles of Medical Ethics: With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry

The January 9, 2018, APA public statement reads in part [emphasis added]:

Today, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reiterates its continued and unwavering commitment to the ethical principle known as “The Goldwater Rule.” We at the APA call for an end to psychiatrists providing professional opinions in the media about public figures whom they have not examined, whether it be on cable news appearances, books, or in social media. Armchair psychiatry or the use of psychiatry as a political tool is the misuse of psychiatry and is unacceptable and unethical.

The ethical principle, in place since 1973, guides physician members of the APA to refrain from publicly issuing professional medical opinions about individuals that they have not personally evaluated in a professional setting or context. Doing otherwise undermines the credibility and integrity of the profession and the physician-patient relationship. Although APA’s ethical guidelines can only be enforced against APA members, we urge all psychiatrists, regardless of membership, to abide by this guidance in respect of our patients and our profession.

A proper psychiatric evaluation requires more than a review of television appearances, tweets, and public comments. Psychiatrists are medical doctors; evaluating mental illness is no less thorough than diagnosing diabetes or heart disease. The standards in our profession require review of medical and psychiatric history and records and a complete examination of mental status. Often collateral information from family members or individuals who know the person well is included, with permission from the patient.

There is, indeed a mental health crisis, and it is in the psychiatric profession. Thankfully, the actual organization has not surrendered to rabid leftists. The list of official statements on the APA Goldwater Rule page, shown above, illustrates consistent stability in the organization’s position. Whatever their partisan ideology, APA leaders still understand the danger to their profession of naked fraud for political ends.

Now it is time for formal ethics complaints and public by-name denunciations of the quacks by APA leaders. It is time for concerned members of the profession to file complaints before licensing boards in the appropriate states. Concerned students, who perhaps feel “unsafe” because professors at their university are implying that their political beliefs are signs of mental illness, should publicly and loudly register formal complaints, seeking the administrative correction or even firing of these professors. Oh, but isn’t this “cancel culture?”

No. It is the appropriate response to truly dangerous ideas. One major political party is courting the votes of socialists and advocating socialist policies, even proposing to gut the Constitution to achieve socialism by nominally democratic means. Psychiatry was weaponized by the Communist Party in Russia.* These lab-coat leftists seek the same role here, and are signaling their willingness to do to you what their Soviet comrades did to others well within living memory.


For an excellent overview and research entry point to the Soviet political weaponization of psychiatry, see the exceptionally well-written and extensive Wikipedia article “Political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union.”

Consider this excerpt from a 1983 hearing before the House Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations:

ABUSE OF PSYCHIATRY IN THE SOVIET UNION

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 1983

[…]

Mr. Lantos. Last January, I led a congressional delegation to the Soviet Union. We again had firsthand opportunity to talk to a group of Soviet citizens in connection with the abuse of psychiatry as a weapon of punishment meted out to Soviet citizens.

I suspect those of us, Mr. Chairman, who have been following human rights violations in the Soviet Union for many years, via the psychiatric route or in other ways, were probably less surprised by the most recent Soviet brutality as exemplified in the shooting down of the Korean civilian airliner with 269 dead.

We are looking at a country which over its history has killed in cold blood millions of innocent human beings. But there are probably no more outrageous human rights violations in the long and ugly and dark history of the Soviet Union than the human rights abuses which relate to the use of highly trained, highly skilled physicians who are persuaded or cajoled or forced to pervert their scientific training, their training as physicians for the use of torturing people who see the Soviet Union in its true light.

[…]

STATEMENT OF CHARLES H. FAIRBANKS, JR., DEPUTY ASSIST ANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANI TARIAN AFFAIRS

Mr. Fairbanks. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. You have my prepared statement, and we have many experts present, so I will cover only certain issues right now. I am very grateful for this opportunity to testify before the members of the committee on the subject of psychiatric abuse.

Most human rights violations occur around the world, in many diverse countries. Psychiatric abuse is distinctive in that it is centered in the Soviet Union. There have been reports that some dissidents have undergone compulsory hospitalization for mental ill ness—sane dissidents that is—in a few other countries, but only in the Soviet Union has the misuse of psychiatry become widespread and systematic. For this reason, I would like to explore this after noon the significance of this appalling human rights violation in the Soviet Union.

By psychiatric abuse, we mean the diagnosis of sane dissenters as mentally ill, and their punishment by incarceration in psychiatric hospitals. This particular human rights violation is a distinctive feature of the current stage of Soviet history. During the 1930’s, of course, the Soviet Union carried out what Leszek Kolakowski called “probably the most massive warlike operation ever conducted by a state against its own citizens.”

A modest estimate of Stalin’s victims would be 6.5 million, a far more likely estimate is 20 million citizens of the Soviet Union. The overwhelming majority of these victims were either murdered by Soviet security personnel, usually after a nominal trial, or consigned to a slow death in slave labor camps.

After the death of Stalin, and particularly after 1956, conditions became vastly better in the Soviet Union. There was no longer mass terror against the population, and the law began to be administered in a less arbitrary way. A dissident subculture grew up within the Soviet Union which was able to pursue opinions independent of the regime within narrow limits.

But, ironically, it is only in the post-Stalin era, when successive Soviet Governments have sought to convince the rest of the world that they brought an end to the Stalin heritage and were no longer holding political prisoners, that psychiatric abuse became a major instrument of repression.

From the regime’s point of view, psychiatric commitment is a very convenient instrument of policy. It enables Soviet authorities to substitute judgments of psychiatrists for sentencing in a trial, or to avoid trial altogether. It enables the government to keep dissidents incarcerated an indefinite length of time and, of course, it en ables the regime to claim that Soviet citizens who express dissatisfaction with the system are simply mentally ill.

These advantages of psychiatric abuse for the Soviet leadership are worth somewhat further examination, particularly its effects on the rule of law, which is the last barrier against arbitrary despotism.

The U.S.S.R. has laws against dissidents which the regime can rule rather freely, for instance, the law against anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, but even totalitarian laws are a restriction on autocratic rule.

On the other hand, sentences on obviously political charges are an embarrassment to the regime which no longer wishes to appear Stalinist. In these circumstances, a method of dispensing with normal trials is very attractive, and sending dissidents to psychiatric hospitals achieves this end.

Moreover, since confinement in mental hospitals is not limited to a definite term, this technique enables Soviet officials to move into a realm of almost unlimited administrative discretion or whim, to evade the rule of law. Psychiatric abuse is a technique that perverts medicine in order to destroy law.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Stanford Law Professor’s Deplorables Seminar 101

 

Why are Leftist women so angry? Obviously trying to nullify 60 million or so votes is hard work, I get that. I watched the entire hearing today and there were moments that my eye’s started to glaze over several times during this sideshow. Jonathan Turley smiled at times, but the three Leftist activist law professors were grim and humorless. They were hardly happy warriors. They were actually poster children for recreational marijuana use and a government-provided Lava Lamp. Stare at the lamp, take a deep breath, and relax. Have another brownie.

Yep, I’m a deplorable, but I know when I’m being fed nonsense. My favorite moment was when Barron Trump was dragged into the fray. This woman has some serious anger issues. Notre Dame has Law Professor Amy Coney Barrett, Stanford has Pamela Karlan. Remember that when your kid wants to go to a law school.

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

I was rummaging around my basement looking for something (I forgot on the way downstairs), when I found this old dinosaur of mine: Had a problem getting it cranked up, but I think I can make it work. Ah, MS-DOS, 640K of RAM, and a 6″ X 8″ monochrome screen—the good old days!

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