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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  02:13:38  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This is a new thread to discuss the topics started here:
http://www.skepticfriends.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=8937&whichpage=9#135631

Where bngbuck said:
It sounds to me from what you said above that you are genuinely passionate about politics. I am also, to the extent that I am involved in the local Democratic Party effort here in Red, Red Idaho! Hopeless! What do you feel you can do to actually do to affect the politics of the state you live in? (I lived in Ocala in 2001-2002)

Is there any practical political effort that can come from this SFN site or any Internet interactive idea exchange medium? Do you know of any members actively involved in Politics with ideas for any form of active participation?

Or is our (ivory tower dwellers) role inescapably one of mere observation and comment? I have money, time, and intelligence! What can I do to help correct the deplorable condition that this country has descended into? Have you ideas? Anyone?


Passionate? Maybe I once was, but now I am closer to despondent, maybe even forlorn.

Let me draw upon your experience and ask a question or two. Was there ever a time in this country, that you can recall, when the public discourse on political issues was open and honest? Has there ever been a time when a politician could admit error and not be lynched by the opposition?

The advent of evangelical christians entering into politics as first a voting block, and then as politicians themselves (who exist politically only to promote their religion), seems to have been a tipping point. The advent of cable news and the 24hour news cycle another. It may go back further, to the 50s and McCarthy, but I really don't know.

I didn't really pay attention to politics in the 80s, and was far to young to grasp most of it before '84 or so. Not until the 90s did I begin to notice and be concerned with politics. I have followed national politics closely ever since though, and the main problem I see only gets worse every year.

In a nutshell: Ever since social issues became acceptable political fodder the public discourse has been on a downward spiral. There can be no reasoned and rational debate about abortion when one side of the issue is throwing pictures of a dead fetus around and screaming "murdered!" at the top of their lungs. There can be no reason and rational debate about human embryonic stem cells when one side declares, by fiat of will, that a fertilized egg is a human life and then refuse to even engage in the semantics negotiation that must precede all meaningful debates!

Political candidates say less and less every year. They spout pithy prhases, hire focus groups to evaluate their position on issues, hire language specialists to invent spin (estate tax is bad, lets call it a "death" tax so we can get support to get rid of it!), and so on.

This year the candidates of both the big parties are mostly disgusting. The truly intelligent and interesting candidates from both parties have no hope of winning in the primaries because they can't get cash from the huge corporate doners, because they are percieved as unelectable. For example Ron Paul on the GOP side, and Dennis (UFO) Kucinich and Joe Biden on the dem side. All of them engage in the same dispicable crap though.

And they are all in deadly fear of being the lead story on any cable news show! They roboticise and sterilize themselves so thoroughly that they are, every one of them, a stepford wife! For good reason though, because apparently Hillary is down six points from last week because the news channels have been running her "stumble" in the last debate (only last week) every hour with dissection and Jerry Springer style commentary (Jerry, I love you man. Thank you for the transexual crossdressing lesbian alien abductee maried to his/her cousin who is also a gay man and is cheating with his/her brother and having a fistfight with his/her grandmother and his/her uncle, who is really a woman, on national television... But I fucking hate your guts too! Thank you for creating the only TV format capable of beating Oprah in ratings, you dirty bastard. If only you had taken out a patent and denied the news channels use of it!).


What can be done about it? That is a damn hard question to answer. For a start we must hold ourselves, as individuals, to a higher standard of discourse. We need to be able to examine our political positions and excise the the parts that can't be rigorously defended with logic and evidence. We need to be capable of acknowledging when the opposition has a superior answer to a given problem. It is not a weakness to abandon an old position in the face of evidence that proves you wrong!

Then we need to hold our politicians to the same standards. (stop laughing gdamnit)

But the only way to do that, I think, is to change US election laws. Strip from the states the right to make up their own election rules and create one standardized federal election law. This law has to provide for a couple of changes. It needs to mainly create a rule for run-off elections held in each state. If the law in every state was the same, and a run-off election was mandatory if no candidate recieved 50.1% of the vote, it would (I think) open the door for potential third party candidates to have a shot at winning. If you have 3 or more people running and no one gets 50.1%, then you take the top two vote winners and have a run-off, winner determined by simple majority. This would allow people to vote on principle the first time out without fearing that they are tossing their vote away if they vote for Nader.

We need to truly end unlimited political money. Abolish the 501 PACs, or set strict single entity donation limits on them. Make it illegal for the billionaires, churches, and corporations to buy ads and run smear campaigns for their candidate of choice.

There is so much more... but its after 4am, and I think I may actually be able to get some sleep before daylight breaks today.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth

Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  06:05:12   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Those are all fine ideas, but these tackle symptoms of problems, and not the problems themselves. We need:

1)A reliable media. Corporate media is just not up to the job of looking out for the interests of the people of the world. That includes publishing, entertainment and educational materials as well as newspapers and TV.

2)Accountable corporations. Corporate charters should be handed out, as they used to be, to people who serve the public interest.

3)International institutions that serve the people of the world. The United Nations Security Council is a cold war relic that serves the interests of the wealthy. The IMF and WTO have been used to create abject poverty.


Until we start working on those problems, all the other work might help, but will ultimately be futile.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  06:34:36   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
A. A return to a rigidly enforced Fairness Doctrine would be a good first step to cleaning up our media.

B. A return to some kind of public service requirement from broadcasters in return for the use of the public spectrum would be nice too. Perhaps we'd see a step back from profit-driven news to, well, actual news.

C. Election reform! Yes yes yes! Some ideas:

1. 3 Day Elections in the summer time - Saturday, Sunday, and Monday the second week of June so it's convenient as hell to vote.

2. Run-Off Elections. Every election should require a simple majority with the top two candidates going toe to toe in a run-off if nobody gets a majority the first time around. This will eliminate the spoiler syndrome which keeps people from voting 3rd party.

3. None Of The Above. Ballots should have a none-of-the-above option. If none-of-the-above wins, then the election is a do-over. People will no longer be required to vote for the lesser of two evils and candidates will have to woo voters with good things about themselves rather than strictly bad things about their opponent. This will hopefully push against the "all I have to do is smear my opponent" election strategy.

4. Proportional Award of Electoral Votes or elimination of the electoral college. A few issues - small states, with the minimum electoral votes, have influence in elections their population doesn't justify. No longer should we tolerate the 'popular vote' going to Candidate A but the election going to Candidate B. Nor should a simple majority of votes in a big state dump all the support from that state on a single candidate.

5. 100% Publicly Funded Election Campaigns. If you meet the requirements to get on the ballot, you should have the same ability to reach the voting public with your ideas and policies as every other candidate. Once they have the support to get on the ballot, the only thing a candidate should have to do to get elected is be charismatic and have great ideas.

We can't keep electing people based on their support from wealthy doners and/or the efficiency of their fundraising machine. Equating money with speach means that freedom of speach is granted proportional to the speaker's wealth. When it comes to determining government, each individual should have the same baseline voice, not just in the votes we cast but in our ability to influence elections and to get elected.

This would also be a good first step in lobbying reform. Take private money out of elections and much potential for influence peddling goes with it.

-Chaloobi

Edited by - chaloobi on 11/07/2007 07:58:11
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  06:41:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by chaloobi

A. A return to a rigidly enforced Fairness Doctrine would be a good first step to cleaning up our media.

B. A return to some kind of public service requirement from broadcasters in return for the use of the public spectrum would be nice too. Perhaps we'd see a step back from profit-driven news to, well, actual news.


Right, and why not make them give part of their radio and TV time to campaigns, for instance. They're our airwaves.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  07:53:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Gorgo

Originally posted by chaloobi

A. A return to a rigidly enforced Fairness Doctrine would be a good first step to cleaning up our media.

B. A return to some kind of public service requirement from broadcasters in return for the use of the public spectrum would be nice too. Perhaps we'd see a step back from profit-driven news to, well, actual news.


Right, and why not make them give part of their radio and TV time to campaigns, for instance. They're our airwaves.
I was thinking that would be addressed in the 100% public financing of election campaigns.

-Chaloobi

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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  08:21:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I was thinking that would be addressed in the 100% public financing of election campaigns.


Either way. If corporations do not serve the public interest, pull their charters.

Corporations have too much power in the world. Whatever changes we make without affecting that power, will have little effect as politicians have cannot be elected unless they serve corporations.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  12:54:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dude.....

Thanks for starting this thread. I hope it can attract many and varied participants.

So far, in a little over 8 hours (most of them late night- early morning, we have Dude(37), Gorgo(54), Chaloobi(?), and bngbuck(79). I feel the ages are significant.

Dude, a relatively young man, has expressed despondency with respect to prospects for improvement in the political structure and mechanics of this country's government.

Gorgo, smack-dab into middle age, doesn't show much affect, looks to the big picture, rather dispassionately sees reform as possible but difficult, with failure as a distinct possibility.

Chaloobi, how old are you Chaloobi?, expresses significant enthusiasim, even optimism, for the possibility of reform, offers many specifics.

Bngbuck, old coot, is cynical but somewhat hopeful. I have lived through 19 major (presidential) election cycles. Herbert Hoover(R) was elected president the year I was born. There have been 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats in office during the last 80 years. Later, if this thread progresses, I would like to expand on the political timeline from 1928 to 2008. Historical perspective may have some use in formulating possible policy for improvement of this current deplorable and dangerous situation!

I see the real problem beginning during the post- WW2 Eisenhower(R) years. I was 24 and beginning to notice politics seriously. I lived in Washington D.C. during Eisenhower's second term. Anyone with more than three cerebral neurons has to be into politics living in D.C. The "Beltway Mentality" is a given in that geography.

Ike was a good and highly prescient President, having given the famous "beware the military-industrial complex" warning as he departed office. I firmly believe that very Power-Money concatenation is the primal cause of today's near disintegration of American democracy. So I am cynical, yes, after sixty years of watching and experiencing simple greed (corporate 'ethics') and pathological obsession with power (Cheney, et al) gradually take over and own the very essence of America!

I strongly would like to welcome additional comment on Dude's subject here, as I have 3 or 4 (good genes) more election cycles to see, and most of you folks have 14 or 15 (maybe more with the march of medical technology being what it is!)
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  13:47:09   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
We have Eisenhower to thank, among others, such as Kermit Roosevelt, for the state of things in Iran.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



Edited by - Gorgo on 11/07/2007 13:51:26
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  15:15:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well, if I had to pick one single thing to try and fix first, it would be elections.

Yes, the media is a major problem, no disagreement from me on that. But mandatory state level run-off elections between the top two vote winners in any election would correct the problems we have with our two-party deal. Elimination of the electoral college is also a fantastic idea. It serves only to give small states power beyond what their population should grant them. They will still get two senators, so it isn't as if they would be totally marginalized.

I fear that the current system is so entrenched that it will be highly resistant to even the suggestion of such changes.

As for corporations, we don't need to pull their charters. We need to create laws that prevent them from interfering in politics based solely on their wealth. Significant lobby reform is called for. Also, we need to empower the federal agencies charged with corporate oversight. Capitalism is great, I love it, but it also has the potential to be incredibly destructive. We have to maintain the balnce between our market forces and our sicial and economic justice. A difficult, but achievable, task. (I think)


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  22:44:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dude.....

Let me draw upon your experience and ask a question or two. Was there ever a time in this country, that you can recall, when the public discourse on political issues was open and honest? Has there ever been a time when a politician could admit error and not be lynched by the opposition?
In a word, no to both. But I do feel that things started heading south after Kennedy(D) was shot. Kennedy certainly had many personal issues and his old man was a crooked pirate, but civil rights certainly got a boost under Jack and Bobby. Johnson(D) was a megalomaniac and was properly dispatched by the horror that was Vietnam.

And then came Nixon!(R) He has been credited with some stabilization of relations with Russia and did do good work in establishing contact with China. Unfortunately, he was a crook and behaved like one. His domestic policies were remarkably liberal in many ways, but there is no doubt that Nixon set the stage for President-as-King which has been largely acted out by every Republican president since.

The massive conflation of raw power with obscene profits driven by Governmental policies started, of course, with Ronald Reagan.(R) Since 1968 there have been seven Republican and three Democratic presidential terms. I believe that most of the damage has been done during the past twenty-odd years.

The emergence of the neocons, Kristol, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and, of course Richard Cheney with his cadre of cohorts has taken the theft of America to its successful current Bush Administration climax! There is much more to say about the neocon rape of our country, but I would like right now to say this!

With regards to the upcoming election (2008), people with a liberal orientation really don't have the luxury of voting for anything but a Democratic President candidate. Despite all the talk about third parties, the unfortunate truth is that either a Republican or a Democrat will be elected (or appointed) in 2008. Any vote but a Democratic vote will be a splinter vote. And the overall popular vote tally does have a psychological effect on the body politic!

I would like to yield the floor to another for the moment.

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2007 :  23:49:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
bngbuck said:
With regards to the upcoming election (2008), people with a liberal orientation really don't have the luxury of voting for anything but a Democratic President candidate. Despite all the talk about third parties, the unfortunate truth is that either a Republican or a Democrat will be elected (or appointed) in 2008. Any vote but a Democratic vote will be a splinter vote. And the overall popular vote tally does have a psychological effect on the body politic!

There are consequences to votes, no question about that. The GOP certainly understood this when they provided assistance to Nader to get on the ballots.

If, hypothetically, Ron Paul were to get the GOP nod (yes yes I know, thats why I said hypothetically) there could be a reasonable option besides Hillary.

I'd like to see Biden or Kucinich, maybe Obama get the democrat nod, atleast then I could vote dem and not feel completely sick.

As the outcome looks now (it can, and prob will, change. Recall Gov Dean in 2004, he was the guy who was gonna win the dem primaries at this time then) Hillary will be the democrat nominee. And honestly, I can't tell that her position on Iraq is really any different than Bush's. She voted to declare the standing army of another nation a "terrorist organization"... wtf? (a topic for its own thread, but seriously, WTF?)

The congress, controlled by democrats, makes me sick to my stomach. Even more so than the republican congress, and I would have gladly strangled the GOP leadership of the congress since 1994. This democrat run congress sits in fear of Bush and the neocon media spin machine they control. They won't defund Iraq because they can't defend themselves against the inevitable "you don't support the troops". I don't know who is advising the dem leadership now, but they should all be fired, in a kiln. Spineless bastards can't even win on an issue that involves HEALTHCARE FOR CHILDREN! WTF?!

When you look at it like that, what it seems is actually occurring is the dems are intentionally allowing W to continue his "war on terror, hehe" and are intentionally letting him get away with vetoes on things that have wide bi-partisan support (like the SCHIP and stem cell funding bills). I hope that isn't the case, but a case can be made for it. They have motive (the worse Bush and congressional republicans look in nov2008, the more dem seats in both houses and greater chance of getting the exec job back), means (just don't fight to hard), and opportunity (they can blame it all on W's vetoes and lack of republican support to override the veto).

Of course, I could just be imagining all that.

What I would love to see is a third party candidate with the credibility and personal means to win the election, who is basically centrist. Bloomberg fits that bill. He would never have to fund-raise, never have to be beholden to corporate donors, etc. And he has a chance to be something other than a Nader. He could be a legitimate candidate, as could have been Ross Perot if he hadn't stepped in and out and back into the race in 1992. He did get 19% of the popular vote anyway!


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 11/08/2007 :  05:05:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

Well, if I had to pick one single thing to try and fix first, it would be elections.


I think that's fine, and what you suggest is good, but changing elections without a changing public perception really won't do much of anything.


Yes, the media is a major problem, no disagreement from me on that.


Education is really the only problem, and corporations own education. They print the newspapers and textbooks, they do the broadcasting, they own the think thanks. Sure, change lobbying, but that's only part of the story. Corporations have influence beyond lobbying. The Eisenhower story above was about undue influence.


I fear that the current system is so entrenched that it will be highly resistant to even the suggestion of such changes.


Agreed, but we both understand that things do change, and sometimes in rapid spurts. Most of the time it takes a lot of time at a high cost.


As for corporations, we don't need to pull their charters. We need to create laws that prevent them from interfering in politics based solely on their wealth. Significant lobby reform is called for. Also, we need to empower the federal agencies charged with corporate oversight. Capitalism is great, I love it, but it also has the potential to be incredibly destructive. We have to maintain the balnce between our market forces and our sicial and economic justice. A difficult, but achievable, task. (I think)


Corporations serve at the pleasure of the state. They are a creation of the state. Ending a corporations corporate charter does not end capitalism. But, it doesn't matter how you regulate them, just so long as you understand that they serve at the pleasure of the state, and were created, in the beginning, for the benefit of the public. Need to build a bridge? Form a corporation, and end the corporation when the bridge is done.

Yes, corporations can be regulated without pulling their charters, however. Whatever works.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



Edited by - Gorgo on 11/08/2007 05:10:58
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 11/08/2007 :  06:01:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by bngbuck

Dude.....

Chaloobi, how old are you Chaloobi?, expresses significant enthusiasim, even optimism, for the possibility of reform, offers many specifics.
I'm 38 and I'm not as optimistic about change as you think. I offer specifics because I'm detail oriented and I've given this a lot of thought. Clearly the electoral system needs to be reformed in order to get political reform, but we have no significant political leadership interested in upending the current system. Indeed, the existing system is structured so that it's impossible for anyone interested in major reform to be elected. Without electoral reform there can be no political change. And without political change there will be no real social reform. We have to bust open this 2 party system to new and varying ideas or we will continue this socially backward slide.

Are you really 79?

-Chaloobi

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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 11/08/2007 :  06:06:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

As the outcome looks now (it can, and prob will, change. Recall Gov Dean in 2004, he was the guy who was gonna win the dem primaries at this time then) Hillary will be the democrat nominee. And honestly, I can't tell that her position on Iraq is really any different than Bush's. She voted to declare the standing army of another nation a "terrorist organization"... wtf? (a topic for its own thread, but seriously, WTF?)
No kidding. That essentially gave Senate approval from the Bush Administration to cover attacks on Iran's military with the broad and vague umbrella of the "War on Terror." It's the same vote she cast to give the Administration carte blanche on Iraq. One would think she'd have learned something from the current fiasco! Prior to that vote I had no question that in the upcoming election I'd vote for her. Now I have serious doubts. And if GW hits Iran in his last year, I won't vote for her.

-Chaloobi

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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 11/08/2007 :  06:09:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Gorgo
Corporations serve at the pleasure of the state. They are a creation of the state. Ending a corporations corporate charter does not end capitalism. But, it doesn't matter how you regulate them, just so long as you understand that they serve at the pleasure of the state, and were created, in the beginning, for the benefit of the public. Need to build a bridge? Form a corporation, and end the corporation when the bridge is done.
I think the current reality is the opposite. Much of the government serves at the pleasure of corporate, or corporate associated, constituencies.

-Chaloobi

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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 11/08/2007 :  06:22:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think the current reality is the opposite. Much of the government serves at the pleasure of corporate, or corporate associated, constituencies.


I agree, and that's the problem. What I meant was that corporate charters come fromt the state, and should exist only if they have some benefit to the public beyond that of a short-term profit seeking enterprise.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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