Mitch McConnell

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/11/2017 - 7:49am in

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Until the 1990s, American electoral politics were divided ideologically, between the opposing ideas of liberalism and conservatism. Now we have Team Politics: Democrat versus Republican, my party right or wrong.

Back then, Rush Limbaugh sometimes accused the Republican Party of betraying conservative principles. At the same time, the liberal op-ed writers at the New York Times occasionally took the Democratic Party to task for not being liberal enough.

Those things don’t happen now. Americans back their party the same way they back their favorite sports team — with automatic, stupid loyalty.

If you are a liberal, you support the Democratic Party no matter what. You vote for Democrats who vote for Republican wars of choice. You look the other way when they do things that only Republicans should do, like order political assassinations and regime change. You even make excuses for outright betrayal, like when Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and welfare reform.

If you are a conservative, you support the Republican Party no matter what. You vote for Republicans who drive up the deficit with unnecessary spending. You look the other way when they do things that only Democrats should do, like allowing the NSA to violate basic privacy rights and failing to put America first when it comes to foreign trade. You even make excuses for outright betrayal, like when “family values” Republicans wallow in sexual impropriety.

Never have team politics been more evident than in the current tsunami of sexual harassment scandals. Republicans make excuses for their politicians, like Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly, even when they are credibly accused of sexual assault. Most notably with Bill Clinton but arguably continuing with big-time democratic donor Harvey Weinstein and perhaps Al Franken, Democrats do the same.

I can’t predict whether this national conversation on sexual harassment will yield the ideal result, a widespread cultural consensus that no means no and that workplaces should be desexualized. It seems clear that permanent positive change is in the making. This moment should certainly mark the beginning of the end of silly Team Politics.

It would go too far to argue that Harvey Weinstein got a free pass for so many years despite his hideous behavior including alleged rape, solely because he donated millions of dollars to the Clintons and the Democrats, and hosted lavish fundraisers at his home for top Democrats like Barack Obama. But Weinstein’s high rank in Team Democrat was part of it.

And it was pretty much the whole deal for Bill Clinton. Sexual harassment and assault charges against the then-Arkansas Governor were swept aside by Democratic voters in 1992. After four years of the clueless George H.W. Bush, whose economic policies prolonged a deep recession, neither liberal voters nor liberal pundits nor the corporate Democrat classes were going to let Bill’s “bimbo eruption” stand in the way of a change. Even after the Monica Lewinsky scandal — if Louis C.K. lost jobs because he abused his “power” over fellow comedians, how about the power gap between a President of the United States and a 21-year-old intern? It was just a blow job, after all.

You may have forgotten: MoveOn.org got its name from those who wanted to “move on” past the Clinton impeachment. Nothing to see here, folks!

Give (a few) liberals credit. Some are finally giving Clinton accuser Juanita Broaddrick the fair consideration she never got in 1999, when she said the future president had raped her in 1978.

ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson, known for his aggressiveness, admitted at the time that “people in charge of our coverage, at managing editor status, have not seen this as a story they wanted to spend a lot of time on…lots of people argued that it was unseemly.” Better 18 years late than never — at age 74, Broaddrick is lucky to have lived long enough to see her story discussed (albeit not deeply or at length).

Democrats who claimed to be feminists yet ignored Clinton’s misogyny feel sheepish and hypocritical. As they should. So they’re mostly keeping quiet and hoping for a change in subject. Which they shouldn’t. At least there’s a chance they won’t reflexively resort to the empty tribalism of Team Politics the next time one of “theirs” faces similar allegations. (Hello, Representative John Conyers.)

Now it’s the Republicans’ turn to come to Jesus.

Yeah, Mitch McConnell says Roy Moore isn’t fit to serve in the Senate. But that means nothing; McConnell didn’t like Moore in the first place. Trump is the head of the Republican Party — and the president is still tacitly endorsing Moore, and might even campaign in person for the alleged child molester.

Better a pedophile than a Democrat, Trump argues insanely. But kneejerk support for a GOP candidate this repugnant, as even most Republicans can plainly see, is Team Politics having jumped the shark and then some.

Die, Team Politics!

Let’s Make the Ideological Divide Great Again.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) next book is “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Cartoon of the day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/11/2017 - 12:00am in

Hazard this!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/10/2017 - 12:00am in

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When I read about Scott Pruitt’s trip to Hazard, Kentucky to announce the gutting of Barack Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, I immediately turned to Dwight Billings—a West Virginia native, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Kentucky, and preeminent scholar of Appalachia—to provide some context. I am pleased to publish this guest post by him. (Interested readers might also want to take a look at Billings’s review of J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.)

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the currently misnamed Environmental Protection Agency, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) traveled to Hazard, Kentucky in the economically depressed coalfields of Appalachia on 10 October to proclaim that the Democrats’ purported “War on Coal” was over—even though it was a war that was barely ever fought.

They came to announce the rollback of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his administration’s effort to reduce the 2030 CO2 emissions of electricity-generating plants by 32 percent compared to 2005 levels, a key plank in the United States’ agreement to the 2016 Paris Accord on Climate Change that Trump has since revoked. The Clean Power Plan was to be achieved by cutting back on coal burning, substituting natural gas and renewable power sources (wind and solar), and encouraging conservation. But the EPA plan was never implemented. since it continues to be held up for review in the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt—climate change denier, advocate of fossil fuels, and now head of the EPA—led the charge by 27 fossil-fuel producing states to challenge the Obama EPA policy in court.

Despite Trump’s promise to Appalachian coal miners that they would be “going back to work” if he were elected, industry analysts suggest that annulling the Clean Coal Plan will actually do little or nothing to increase mining jobs in Central Appalachia, where the rollback was announced and where nearly 12 thousand mining jobs in eastern Kentucky (84 percent) have been lost since 2009. Aging coal-fired generating plants are being shuttered due largely to a combination of market factors—not regulation as Republicans and industry spokespersons claim—including the abundance of cheap natural gas (due to a hydraulic fracturing boom) and the rapidly declining costs of renewables. Domestic and international declines in coal demand since the 2008 depression and the longer-term effects of mechanization and surface mining also account for job loss. Further, as Appalachia’s richest coal seams are mostly depleted, Appalachian coal is becoming harder to recover. Surface mines in Kentucky produce on average only 3 short tons of coal per employee hour compared with the rate of 30 short tons per hour in the vast surface mines of Wyoming, Kentucky’s chief rival, which now account for more than 40 percent of the nation’s coal.

So why would Republicans announce their gutting of the Clean Power Plan in Hazard rather than, for instance, Wright, Wyoming? Several factors are at work.

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Black Thunder mine, in Wright, Wyoming

Trump has often proclaimed that he “loves” coal miners. Kentucky employs more miners than any other state except West Virginia. The iconic image of Appalachia’s hyper-masculine, hardworking, and self-sacrificing miners, ready to go back to work if only given the chance, better supports his administration’s public relations stunt in Hazard than would pictures of the monstrous earth-moving machines that dig massive amounts of coal with few employees in Wyoming or Appalachia. After all, the promise of jobs always trumps the environment, even when there aren’t any.

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Mountaintop removal near Hazard

And then there’s Hazard itself. (The irony of its name has not been lost on environmentalists who point out the hazards in the Trump/Pruitt plans to derail efforts to prevent climate change.) Located In the heart of Kentucky’s Appalachian coalfields, Hazard is the county seat of Perry County, eastern Kentucky’s second largest coal producer and once its greatest. Thousands of acres across Perry County have been ravaged by decades of strip mining and mountaintop removal. One fourth of its people live in poverty. Far more of Hazard’s residents are employed in education and healthcare than coal mining, but coal has been the town’s historical lifeline and curse. One of Hazard’s favorite sons is billionaire coal baron Joe Craft, President and CEO of Alliance Resource Partners (ARP), the second largest coal producer in the eastern United States and one of the largest holders of coal reserves in the nation. Craft grew up in Hazard where his father was a coal lawyer and his grandfather, also a coal lawyer, was mayor in the 1920s. Like Pruitt (who also grew up in Kentucky and now lives in Tulsa), Craft is currently a Tulsa, Oklahoma resident (ARP is headquartered there with an office in Kentucky). But he maintains close ties to Hazard and is a major donor to Hazard’s Center of Excellence in Rural Health. Also like Pruitt, Craft is a Republican, a close associate of the Koch brothers, and, through his organizations, a million-dollar contributor to Trump’s presidential campaign. Craft’s hometown may not win any mining jobs from its renewed oath of fealty to King Coal, but its credentials as a foot soldier in Trump’s war on the climate have probably been secured.

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Finally, there is Mitch McConnell. Despite his vast war chest of campaign funds, McConnell is vulnerable. He is on the outs with Trump, and his aura as a Congressional wizard has been tarnished by his failure to bring a legislative end to Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Senators on the Republican right are calling for him to step down from his leadership position in the Senate. And, he is widely despised back home in Kentucky. With an approval rating of only 18 percent there, McConnell is the least popular of any U. S. Senator at home. Currently, only 37 percent of Kentuckians report they would reelect him. Small wonder then that McConnell would jump at the chance to remind Kentucky voters of his role in helping to end the fictive “War on Coal” he had helped to construct.* After all, he did much the same less than three weeks earlier when he toured Kentucky with new Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch whose appointment he had helped to engineer—a trip the Associated Press described as a “home turf victory lap for McConnell.”

Victory laps and theatrical displays of symbolic politics, however, will not bring coal mining jobs back to eastern Kentucky, nor help the region move toward an economic future beyond coal. ** As a Lexington Herald-Leader staff writer asked the day after the Hazard ceremony, “How long will Kentuckians continue to be suckers?”***

 

*Earlier this year, McConnell pushed through Congressional repeal of the Obama Administration’s 2016 “Stream Protection Rule,” which had sought to protect water quality near mountaintop removal mine sites and was eight years in the making.

**Gone now, too, is the Obama Power Plus Plan that would have invested a billion dollars from the Abandoned Mine Lands fund in post-coal redevelopment. Trump has also proposed eliminating funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission which channels federal dollars toward economic diversification and job training in the region.

***Kentucky voters may have been suckered by Trump in the general election, but eastern Kentucky voters in the coal field counties and all West Virginia counties supported Sanders in the presidential primary election, an expression of frustration with politicians’ neglect of rural areas and an indicator of a desire for change.

Tagged: Appalachia, Bernie Sanders, climate change, coal, environment, EPA, jobs, Kentucky, miners, Mitch McConnell, mountaintop removal, Neil Gorsuch, Obama, Pruitt, Supreme Court, Trump, West Virginia, Wyoming

Clean Power Plan: Pruitt picks winners & losers. Are you tired of winning yet?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/10/2017 - 2:30am in

We are intimately familiar with all the politicians who feed at the trough of Koch Brothers’ money, yet are always carrying on about how government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. That is just so much eyewash designed to bamboozle the weak-minded. In reality, they insist government pick winners (them) and losers (everyone else). Pruitt’s trashing […]

The post Clean Power Plan: Pruitt picks winners & losers. Are you tired of winning yet? appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.


A New Trump?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/09/2017 - 11:16pm in

This post originally appeared at Project Syndicate.

It’s generally agreed in Washington, DC, that President Donald Trump’s presidency is entering a new phase. Defining that phase is proving to be problematic.

The widespread expectation was that the removal of Stephen Bannon — the former White House chief adviser and resident avatar of white American nationalism — would make the administration run more smoothly, mitigate (though not eliminate) infighting, and reduce the number of leaks. The internal warfare may be quieter since John Kelly took over as White House chief of staff and imposed more order in the West Wing. But so long as Trump is president, orderliness will not be the White House’s chief characteristic. In fact, Trump remains in frequent contact with Bannon, who is back in charge at Breitbart News.

So long as Trump is president, orderliness will not be the White House’s chief characteristic.

Inevitably, by early September, after Kelly had been on the job for all of five weeks, Trump was chafing under his new chief of staff’s restrictions. Kelly has imposed tight controls over who may enter the Oval Office, listens in on most of Trump’s phone calls during office hours, and controls what pieces of paper reach the president’s desk, thus eliminating the highly ideological screeds that some staff members used to slip him.

The problem is that Trump likes disorder; that’s how he had run his business, and he doesn’t take well to being managed. He liked having favored people wandering into his office as they chose, and it’s been his managerial creed to play people off each other. Nor does he bother to control his temper when dealing with aides. Even Kelly, an ex-Marine Corps general, has come under the lash of Trump’s tongue. Observers now take bets on when Kelly will decide he’s had enough.

I’ve never known a White House where so much depends on who has incurred the president’s ire. Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president and chief operating officer who serves as Trump’s chief economic adviser, is the latest to be frozen out. Cohn’s sin was to let it be known publicly that he almost resigned following the violence last month in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Trump equated white supremacist and neo-Nazi demonstrators, many of them armed, with those who opposed them.


RELATED: Democracy & Government


The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Robert Jay Lifton and Bill Moyers on ‘A Duty to Warn’

BY Bill Moyers | September 14, 2017

Actually, one can have some sympathy for a president with an aide who wants to have it both ways, as Cohn did — letting his apparent anguish be known without acting on it. But there can be problems when a president chooses to disregard his chief economic adviser. Cohn has been seen as one of the administration’s more moderate voices, and he has wanted to succeed Janet Yellen as chair of the US Federal Reserve.

Speculation about the possibility of a “new Trump” peaked in early September, when the president suddenly cut a deal with Democratic congressional leaders. Trump agreed with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and her Senate counterpart, Chuck Schumer, on how to increase the federal debt limit, which Congress must raise each year as spending increases, and extend appropriations to keep the government running (because Congress routinely fails to write appropriations bills on time). Both items were tied to a special appropriation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to pay for recovery efforts. (The larger Hurricane Irma hadn’t yet hit.)

In the midst of the discussion at the Oval Office meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump interrupted Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as he was defending the Republicans’ position that these issues should be put off for 18 months, until after the 2018 congressional elections. The Democrats had argued that the increase in the debt ceiling and extension of appropriations should last for only three months, thus forcing the Republicans to take electorally risky votes before the 2018 elections.

Before the meeting, House Speaker Paul Ryan had adamantly rejected the Democrats’ proposal. But suddenly, without notifying even his own aides, Trump went for it. The author of The Art of the Deal had accepted the Democrats’ opening position.

Commentators went into overdrive, imbuing the episode with broad significance: Trump was now not a Republican but an independent. He might start a third party. His move marked the beginning of a new way of governing.

In fact, Trump merely saw an opportunity and took it. With no real legislative achievements to claim, he did something. The Republican congressional leaders, Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had been in bad odor with Trump for a while, because they had been unable to deliver on his legislative agenda. He was embarrassed and angered at their failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. (Trump didn’t recognize his own contributions to the debacle.) On many issues, Trump lacks a governing majority in the Senate.

Overlooked in all the excitement over Trump’s lining up with Democratic leaders was that the issue at hand concerned legislative timing, not substance. And the subsequent fevered discussions about Trump’s core beliefs — maybe he was a crypto-Democrat, who had, after all, donated to Democratic candidates at one time and sympathized with Democratic positions (such as on abortion) — missed the point. Trump harbors no particular political philosophy; he’s an opportunist who craves publicity and praise.

But his maverick behavior might turn out to be self-perpetuating. For all his contempt for the “dishonest media,” Trump was ecstatic about the positive press coverage his bipartisan move received. And that might lure him to try for more.

(Copyright Project Syndicate, 2017)

The post A New Trump? appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Cartoon of the day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/08/2017 - 9:00pm in

The Grand Old Party’s Over. Make Way for the Trump Party.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/08/2017 - 2:22am in

You’ve probably heard the story. It’s said that in ancient Rome, the emperor had a member of the Praetorian Guard who, amid all the pomp and all the accolades, would stand behind him and murmur: “Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.”

Sadly, the Little Caesar who currently rules the United States from the nearest Trump golf course is instead surrounded by guards who murmur enthusiastically, “Anything you say, boss. You’re a genius!”

The new chief of staff, Marine vet John Kelly, allegedly was supposed to rein this kind of stuff in, but while the meetings now may run more smoothly, his boss continues tweeting any nonsense he hears from Fox & Friends, declares himself pretty much the greatest president ever and casually threatens to start lobbing missiles at North Korea because he seems to think it would be cool to see what a thermonuclear fireball looks like. Locked and loaded indeed.

VICE News reported on Tuesday, “Twice a day since the beginning of the Trump administration, a special folder is prepared for the president…

These sensitive papers, described to VICE News by three current and former White House officials, don’t contain top-secret intelligence or updates on legislative initiatives. Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.

You can’t make this stuff up. One glimmer of hope in all this pandemonium is that more and more, some Republican members of Congress finally seem willing to challenge their misbegotten king. Witness, for example, the three GOP senators standing up against the health care travesty, the opposition to rumors of Trump firing Attorney General Sessions or special counsel Mueller and the overwhelming passage of new sanctions against Russia — legislation Trump was forced to sign although it clearly gave him a conniption.

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that staunchest of company men, told the crowd at a Rotary Club meeting back home in Kentucky this week that he thinks Trump doesn’t understand how Congress works, and “had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process, and so part of the reason I think people feel we’re underperforming is because of too many kind of artificial deadlines unrelated to the reality of the complexity of legislating.”

This quickly prompted belligerent comments from Trump and a volley of poison pen tweets taunting the Senate’s inability to repeal Obamacare, starting with this one:

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported over the weekend that “President Trump’s first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. weren’t involved.

The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term.

The “sheer disarray surrounding the presidency” has “prompted Republican officeholders to take steps unheard of so soon into a new administration.” That includes Vice President Mike Pence, who The Times notes already has set up a fundraising committee and hired a new chief of staff with more experience running campaigns than governing.

The Times piece created such a stir that Pence immediately denounced it as “disgraceful and offensive to me, my family, and our entire team,” prompting The Washington Post to ask, why did the story make the vice president so hot and bothered? What is he so touchy about? Hmmm…

The catastrophe that the Republican Party has brought down on itself with this president is of such a magnitude that it may never recover, even if Mike Pence ends up taking over ahead of schedule.

The fact is, the catastrophe that the Republican Party has brought down on itself with this president is of such a magnitude that it may never recover, even if Mike Pence ends up taking over ahead of schedule. Party leaders are looking at Trump’s poll numbers (plus a Real Clear Politics generic poll that shows Americans now favoring a Democratic Party-controlled Congress by almost 9 points). And they’re experiencing the genuine dysfunction at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

So far, the few GOP higher-ups who publicly have expressed concern about all this seem to have done so more out of frustration and expedience than principle. The one exception would appear to be Arizona’s US Sen. Jeff Flake, who made a splash the last couple of weeks with his book, Conscience of a Conservative, a title appropriated from a famous tome by Barry Goldwater back in the ’60s.

“Never has a party so quickly or easily abandoned its core principles as my party did in the course of the 2016 campaign,” Flake writes.

And when you suddenly decide that you don’t believe what had recently been your most deeply held beliefs, then you open yourself to believing anything — or maybe nothing at all. Following the lead of a candidate who had a special skill for identifying problems, if not for solving them, we lurched like a tranquilized elephant from a broad consensus on economic philosophy and free trade that had held for generations to an incoherent and often untrue mash of back-of-the-envelope populist slogans.

The choice of Trump as candidate and president was a “Faustian bargain,” Flake declares:

We have given in to the politics of anger — the belief that riling up the base can make up for failed attempts to broaden the electorate. These are the spasms of a dying party. Anger and resentment and blaming groups of people for our problems might work politically in the short term, but it’s a dangerous impulse in a pluralistic society, and we know from history that it’s an impulse that, once acted upon, never ends well.

Yet as Esquire’s Charlie Pierce and others have pointed out, despite Flake’s rhetoric, he has voted with the Trump agenda, such as it is, 95 percent of the time.

But that doesn’t wash with this president; Flake has mouthed off and now must sleep with the fishes (remember, too, that Flake refused to endorse Trump’s candidacy).

The president has encouraged a primary challenge to Flake and met with three contenders. What’s more, Robert Mercer, the hedge fund billionaire who contributed heavily to the Trump campaign, is giving $300,000 to a super PAC backing Flake opponent Kelli Ward.

(You’ll recall that Dr. Ward recently suggested that cancer-stricken John McCain, to whom she lost a 2016 primary, should “step away as quickly as possible” and resign from the Senate. She added that she hoped the governor would consider appointing her to fill out McCain’s term. Classy.)

Republicans should forget about any White House loyalty to the party, especially now that Reince Priebus is gone. Trump has none — witness not only his attacks on incumbent senators Flake and McConnell but on any Republican not toeing the line or groveling in his general direction. Also note how he refers to Republicans as “they” and “them,” not “we.”

Plus, there’s a set of poll numbers he sees, too — as unpopular as he is, voters like Congress even less. According to a new CNN poll, “only about a quarter of all Americans (24 percent) judge the Republican Congress a success so far. President Trump gets the approval of 38 percent of Americans.”

Even as he mocks them, most of Republican leadership continues to grovel at the Trump shrine as they hope to continue the “sugar high,” as Jeff Flake calls it, that carried them to victory last year and which they keep thinking will advance their moribund agenda. But Trump’s base may not be buying it and already is turning on them. Trump sees this and will seize upon it as any opportunistic creature does with easy prey. Add to this lust for self-preservation an ego the size of a planet that takes credit for everything and blame for nothing.

And so, this scenario: Within months, Donald Trump has so riven the GOP that there is no unity left among Republicans except for those who see him as the second coming. Party members who attempt to field a Never Trump movement are as hapless as they were in 2016 and provide only token opposition to the careening Trump steamroller, despite its ever-expanding catalogue of catastrophe. If he hasn’t been drummed out of office, the Donald abides.

But Trump has no use for Republicans anymore, even if they provide him cover on Capitol Hill and a network of connections to deep pockets. He will announce the creation of a third party that will drumbeat for the re-election of Trump/Pence, incite the base and field its own slate of congressional candidates in 2020, perhaps even as soon as 2018.

It will, of course, be called the Trump Party.

You’ve been warned.

The post The Grand Old Party’s Over. Make Way for the Trump Party. appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Cartoon of the day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/08/2017 - 9:00pm in

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