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Confessions of a New York Times Washington Correspondent – Bob Smith Pt 1/2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 11:55pm in

The New York Times is impartial when convenient...which wasn't during Watergate, My Lai, the Iraq War, and the Trump era, for instance

Democrats’ New Midterm Strategy: Knocking the GOP for Vote Against Police Funding

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 9:00pm in



As the 2022 midterm elections draw closer, Democrats in Congress are taking on a new strategy: blaming Republicans for voting to defund the police. And according to Democratic aides, the change in messaging is coming straight from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Establishment Democrats have spent months under fire, from both Republicans, who claimed that Democrats wanted to weaken law enforcement, and from members of their party’s own progressive wing, who were critical of the way the party bent to some of those attacks. Now those same moderate Democrats are fighting back — namely by highlighting Republicans’ vote against the American Rescue Plan, Congress’s coronavirus aid package and Democrats’ only major legislative achievement this session.

Pelosi was instrumental in the passage of the American Rescue Plan, which allocated money toward pandemic relief, increased the child tax credit, and expanded health care coverage; President Joe Biden signed the package into law in March. Given that every Republican in Congress voted against it, the bill is also now providing Democrats with new ammunition.

Localities have started to spend the first rounds of funds released in the package to hire more police officers, retain existing officers, and keep other first responders from being laid off, which means that Democrats now “actually have the ability to talk about specific localities where people are being kept on the police force,” said one senior Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “And we’re able to talk about it more concretely as opposed to theoretically.” In addition, they added, the GOP response to the January 6 attack on the Capitol made it easier for Democrats to highlight the party’s hypocrisy. “Once Americans saw Republicans disrespect the officers who protected them on January 6, it became a lot easier for us to point out hypocrisy on policing.”

Ahead of the 2022 midterms, Democrats still plan to push the message that they are the party of economic recovery, but the attack on funding for law enforcement will certainly be a new part of their offensive strategy. “Members are excited to punch back,” the aide said. “Republicans have spent an entire year essentially lying about what Democrats support and what Democrats have voted for. The fact that Democrats have really settled on a line here to push back on it, and to really go on offense, excites Democrats.”

At least a dozen Republican districts have either hired or retained police officers with funds from the American Rescue Plan, according to the aide, including the districts of Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Elise Stefanik of New York, both of whom have repeatedly claimed that Democrats want to defund the police. “These are places where you’re going to see Democrats hold them accountable and talk about the fact that they voted against funding for their own local police departments,” the aide said.

Several members have already started to implement the new strategy. “The former President and Radical Republican are disrespecting police officers,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted July 22. “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle in @HouseJudiciary this morning were yet again talking about ‘supporting the police,’ ‘funding the police.’ But they voted against the opportunity to fund the police in the American Rescue Plan. Watch what they do, not what they say,” Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., Orlando’s former police chief, tweeted the previous day. Earlier this month, Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., tweeted the same slogan: “4 Months Ago: All Republicans voted against #AmericanRescuePlan including funding for Police. 1 Month Ago: 21 Republicans voted against honoring Police for their work during the 1/6 Capitol riot. Now: Capitol Police may run out of funds. Watch what they do, not what they say.”

The Democratic National Committee is also using the new line of attack. After Capitol Police officers testified to Congress on Tuesday during the first hearing of the select committee investigating the January 6 riot, the DNC issued a press release describing the GOP as the caucus that “voted against additional funding for police” and criticized Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., for “*counterprogramming* police officers testifying about the day they protected those very same members of Congress from the violence of January 6.” While Republicans “disrespect the police officers,” the press release continued, the House committee “is hearing from police officers on that violent day and the country is reminded Republicans are siding with violent rioters and Donald Trump over justice and our police.”

The strategy isn’t necessarily designed to be effective with Republican voters, according to another Democratic aide, but to give cover to moderate members who complained that calls to defund the police hurt their margins in the 2020 election. “The majority is made in the suburbs. It gives cover for them when they go back to their district, because it gives them a return message, it gives them something to fire back with,” said the second Democratic aide. Part of the criticism last cycle from Beltway strategists and moderates was that Republicans were accusing Democrats of wanting to defund law enforcement, and “we didn’t have anything to say back. Now, you have something to say back.” Democrats would be “foolish” not to carry the strategy into the midterms, they added. “The American Rescue Plan and the child tax credit is what you will run on in the midterm,” and part of that is hitting Republicans for their votes.

The new messaging has already provoked a response from the GOP, at least on Twitter. In a CNN town hall on July 21, anchor Don Lemon asked Biden how he responded to criticisms from Republicans that the party wants to defund the police. Biden said he didn’t support that and that he didn’t know any communities that didn’t want police. The House GOP Twitter account quote-tweeted a clip of Biden’s answer and wrote, “So why do Democrats’ [sic] support defunding the police?”

Pelosi’s deputy communications director, Robyn Patterson, replied to the House GOP tweet: “Republicans can’t name a single Congressional Democrat who voted to defund the police. Fox News, however, can name 210 House Republicans and 50 Senate Republicans who voted to.”

In a follow-up statement to The Intercept, Patterson added, “Our top message will always be the economy and the money we’re putting into the pockets of working and middle class families. But as long as Republicans lie about crime, we’re going to force them to own their hypocrisy and explain why House Republicans voted to defund their own police departments, disrespect the officers who defended Capitol from violent Insurrectionists, and against common sense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

It’s not clear that the entire caucus is on board. Several progressive members have advocated to reallocate funds away from law enforcement agencies and toward community services, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y.; Cori Bush, D-Mo.; and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. And the American Recovery Plan wasn’t the first time Republicans voted to do just that. In 2019, the House passed by voice vote an amendment from Ocasio-Cortez to move millions of dollars away from the Drug Enforcement Agency and toward opioid recovery and treatment programs.

“There’s a lot of hubbub and resistance, particularly from Republicans, on the idea of defunding and reallocating certain resources,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a virtual town hall in June with Bowman in response to an audience question on how each member would shift funds away from the New York Police Department. “Before last year’s protests in 2019, I was able to get almost the entire Republican party to successfully vote for a defund amendment in our appropriations,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Because when it’s in the context of their communities, it’s very easy for them to see — oh yes, we shouldn’t be treating addiction as a crime. We should be treating it as a public health issue.”

The post Democrats’ New Midterm Strategy: Knocking the GOP for Vote Against Police Funding appeared first on The Intercept.

Tax justice and tax transparency in 2021

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 8:32pm in

In its eighteen or so years in existence, the tax justice movement has always campaigned for tax transparency. So, it has delivered country-by-country reporting for tax, and led the calls for that data to be made public. And it has tackled the opacity of tax havens.

But, building on those successes is essential and tax transparency is a much bigger issue than this focus on multinational corporations and tax havens suggests. It is very much a domestic tax issue as well, permeating the whole way the tax system works and how it delivers fair outcomes. In 2021 I suggest it's time tax justice thinks more widely on tax transparency and in this video I explain why.

For more thinking on this issue see https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2021/04/07/making-tax-work/

The other four videos in this series are here, here, here and here.

CDC Reversal on Masks, Vaccinated as Covid Spreaders, While Boosters Look to Be Coming Late and Not Hugely Effective

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 8:02pm in

If you weren't worried about Covid, you should be, between rising infections and evidence of CDC incompetence.

Aducanumab: The Drug That Breaks Medicare?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 4:51pm in

Biogen plans to price-gouge for the barely-effective Alzheimer's drug aducanumab to such a degree that it could bust Medicare.

First they came for the NHS. Then they came for the RNLI. Who next is in the far right’s sight lines?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 4:28pm in


Ethics, Politics

The instability that the far right is creating in UK society is becoming dangerous.

Last weekend saw a former nurse suggest to a cheering Trafalgar Square crowd that doctors and nurses who have been involved in vaccination programmes should be listed to appear before potential Nuremberg style trials. The very clear aim was to intimidate and threaten NHS staff and their families. There are, already, signs that this is working: the threat is being perceived by those working on these essential programmes.

Now Nigel Farage has turned on the RNLI, another institution in the UK, suggesting that its volunteer life saving crews in the English Channel are acting as a ‘migrant taxi service’. The intention is, of course, to intimidate crews into abandoning migrants to their fate at sea.

And the government is, as I have noted before, introducing legislation that has a 14 year prison sentenced attached to an RNLI volunteer crew member who actually saves the life of a migrant by bringing them to safety in the UK. I am, of course, aware that the Home Office says that the legislation will not apply to the RNLI, but the new law remains quite explicit in providing no such exemption, and so very clearly it does.

This law is deliberately intimidatory in that case. The threat is very real. And that is obviously deliberate; there has been no hint that others undertaking their obligation (both moral and imposed under international law) to save life at sea will enjoy any protection from criminal charges for doing so.

The threat should be apparent. The far right - and I include our government in that category precisely because it is now very obviously planning to use legal means to threaten the lives of those of those at sea when they are seeking to claim their legal right to be considered as asylum seekers in the UK - is seeking to intimidate in ways that threaten the physical well being and personal freedoms of people undertaking what have been considered ethical, principled and laudable activities in the UK.

First they came for the NHS.

Then they came for the RNLI.

Who and what next? When these organisations, and those who work for them,are the victims of such abuse are there any limits to the intimidation that might follow?

We really do need to worry.

Tom Englelhardt: Our Empire in Decline

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 4:07pm in

Trying to understand America's self-and-other-destructive empire fetish.

In the Race Against Nina Turner, GOP Donors Fund Shontel Brown

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 7:03am in



As the Democratic primary for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District draws to a close, establishment pick Shontel Brown, a current Cuyahoga County Council Member and county Democratic Party chair, is facing a potential ethics probe for her past work supporting millions of dollars in contracts awarded to companies run by her partner and campaign donors. According to a story published Tuesday by Newsweek and the Daily Poster, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office took interest in an earlier Intercept story and in June referred it to the state auditor’s office, where officials agreed the matter should go before the state ethics commission. Meanwhile, and unrelated to the potential probe, newly released campaign finance disclosures show that Brown and a major Democratic PAC supporting her campaign have been heavily funded by donors who usually support Republicans.

The revelations come with just one week left in the contest between Brown and Nina Turner, a progressive former state senator who stumped for Sen. Bernie Sanders during his 2016 and 2020 presidential runs and who, to many observers, remains representative of his campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Clinton, a high-profile backer of Brown, notoriously lambasted Sanders as “not a Democrat,” and said that she was proud that her greatest enemies were “Republicans.” But in this case, finance reports show GOP donors flocking to Clinton’s chosen candidate in the heated congressional race.

With Clinton and Sanders again pitted against each other, this time via state-level surrogates, the special election race for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District has been described as a reflection of “party tensions.” In addition to Clinton, Democratic establishment figures like Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and well-funded super PACs have rallied behind Brown, while progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Justice Democrats have coalesced to support Turner.

Undergirding these tensions are donors with long histories of support for Republican candidates who are now funding Brown’s campaign, either directly or via the political action committee Democratic Majority for Israel, a major backer of her campaign. Most notable among them is New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a close ally of Donald Trump who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration and has supported a slew of Republican candidates. A staunch supporter of Israel, Kraft in 2019 also launched and donated $20 million to a foundation to combat anti-Semitism and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, earning him a gala reception in Jerusalem to receive the Israeli Genesis Prize. Kraft has individually donated the election maximum $5,800 to Brown’s campaign, and with his family contributed more than $20,000.

The former chair of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, Roger Synenberg, donated $1,000 to Brown’s campaign. Synenberg attracted controversy in 2018 for mailing an anonymous letter to a former county auditor, calling him a “snitch” for his role in an unfolding corruption investigation in the county.

Democratic Majority for Israel, a hybrid PAC/super PAC that has spent $1.2 million on ads supporting Brown and opposing Turner in the election, also has a slew of donors who have made ample donations to Republican candidates and causes. Leonard Feinstein, who donated $25,000 to DMFI on June 14, has made large contributions to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County, and to committees supporting Republican Rick Berg’s 2012 campaign for Senate in North Dakota.

Steven Fishman, who donated $20,000 to DMFI on June 14, made over $10,000 in campaign contributions to Republicans running in 2020, including Lindsey Graham, Jim Risch, Mike Rounds, and Michael McCaul. He also donated $1,800 to Brown.

David Heller, a Cleveland-area real estate executive, donated $10,000 to DMFI on February 23 and also donated $2,800 to Brown. Heller, who has been an avid supporter of Republicans in Ohio and in Texas, donated over $13,000 to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in 2020, as well as $5,000 to Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, who is leading the push to restrict voting rights in that state.

Neil Kadisha, who donated $2,000 to Brown on June 1 and $18,000 to DMFI on June 14, donated to Trump’s reelection campaign in 2019, as well as to then-Vice President Mike Pence’s PAC. In 2012, Kadisha made large donations to both the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Some Republican donors have not supported Brown directly but have poured funding into DMFI. David Horowitz, an executive at the New York school cafeteria food company Tasty Brands, donated $10,000 to DMFI on June 7. In 2020, he donated $25,000 to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, as well as making maxed-out contributions to losing Georgia Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Philip De Toledo, the president of the Capital Group, donated $50,000 to DMFI on June 8, 2020. De Toledo donated over $25,000 in campaign contributions to Republicans running in the 2020 elections, including right-wing Reps. Patrick McHenry and Jim Risch.

Victor Kohn, another Capital Group executive who donated $100,000 to DMFI from his family trust on June 10, spent over $10,000 in the 2020 cycle supporting Republicans Mike Rounds, Bill Cassidy, Cynthia Lummis, Ben Sasse, and Kay Granger.

“How can we have someone who is the party chair and says that she’s a Democrat’s Democrat but is accepting Republican money?”

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Democratic Majority for Israel accused The Intercept of wanting to “cherry pick contributors” and said that DMFI has only supported “outstanding” Democratic candidates. Shontel Brown’s campaign did not return a request for comment.

State Rep. Juanita Brent, a Turner backer who represents Cuyahoga County in the Ohio House, and was referred to The Intercept by the Turner campaign, panned the role of the GOP in the Democratic primary campaign. “As a Democrat who has helped Democrats all over the state, we cannot condone Democrats that are accepting money associated with Trump,” Brent told The Intercept. “How can we have someone who is the party chair and says that she’s a Democrat’s Democrat but is accepting Republican money?”

The post In the Race Against Nina Turner, GOP Donors Fund Shontel Brown appeared first on The Intercept.

Gladys Tells Victorians That They Should Send NSW Their Extra Netflix Login

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 7:00am in



Deputy Prime Minister for Sydney Gladys Berejiklian has used her daily press conference to order Victorians coming out of lockdown to hand over their spare Netflix logins to those still locked down in NSW.

”The people of Victoria need to show a bit of compassion and understanding for what we are currently going through in NSW,” said Premier Berejiklian. ”As a show of good faith, I think it would be nice of them to send us their spare logins for Netflix or Stan or Amazon, and, of course, couple that with all their vaccines.”

”After all, NSW is the gold standard when it comes to Australia!”

When asked why she was always seeking to blame or throw shade on other states rather than accept any culpability herself, the Premier said: ”Who suggested that question, Dan or Anastacia?”

”Sounds like Anastacia. She thinks she’s so clever with her Olympics and no lockdowns!”

”Well, we’ll see won’t we? I’m gonna ask Papa ScoMo to move the Olympics to Sydney. They’ll look great in Leppington.”

Mark Williamson


You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

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PM’s focus on short-term fixes and politicisation of every conflict

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 4:59am in



Increasingly people realise that Morrison is full of bullshit, even (or especially) when he is being sincere.

Can prime ministerial temporising, short-term fixes and spin see him out to a new election? His best hope is continuing good economic news. But the real crisis is about his character and his credibility  — as well as his apparent abdication of a leadership agenda. Increasingly people realise that Morrison is full of bullshit, even (or especially) when he is being sincere. But there’s just as much of a problem with his failures to make real or lasting policy, instead of promises and quick fixes to instant political problems. Less and less does he seem in charge.

Most of his failings seem rusted on. He doesn’t change much. Or learn much from experience, however much he pretends.  His declining cred involves much more than an eccentricity about coming clean, or being resistant to telling the truth.

Nineteen months ago,  Morrison was widely criticised first for taking a family holiday as bushfires were raging and secondly for an almost complete want of empathy with bushfire victims. He confessed some error, but seemed determined to show he “got it” by pledges of large sums for reconstruction, calling in the military for emergency aid, and efforts to be seen to be very concerned, and very much in touch. At least until the pandemic became a problem a month or two later. Since then it has become clear that actual government help to survivors, other than that organised through a partisan political system of  helping friends and ignoring enemies, has been slow, and disorganised. And far from involving any inspiration or vision about a reconstruction program that improved the social, physical and economic environment of scores of little communities, it was boringly addressed, at best, to a grumpy and minimalist restoration of what had been lost. No Christopher Wren was involved.

Morrison made umpteen marketing efforts, not least in standing alongside compliant military officers, to show he felt for the victims and their losses. It was always a short-term public perception problem, and soon he was back inside his strange incapacity to see the world through eyes other than his own. The most one can expect is that the next natural disaster, of flood, or famine or fire, will come with warning so he won’t be caught with a beer in his hand on the other side of the world.

Morrison announced many inquiries and not a few initiatives when he and the government came under sustained public attack over issues of violence against women, including women who worked in parliament. At first, there was inertia, including a refusal (by himself and women ministers) to go outside to speak to a large gathering of women in front of Parliament House, alongside some tough talk to press gallery sycophants about how neither he nor the government were going to be bullied by street action. Soon after, he realised that he had miscalculated — again — on an issue he had long regarded as of low priority in the political order of things. He was, apparently, helped to this     insight by his wife. Later, he pleaded and wheedled about his failure to get it, and masqueraded his new-found empathy and determination to do lots of things — tough things by golly — about the problem, not least in his own backyard. Money was appropriated to astonishingly inept marketing campaigns. More women — none very well regarded by the sisterhood — were appointed to ministerial positions from which they could give the prime minister insights beyond those available from his wife. Reports were ticked off, but nothing much happened. Indeed, police have yet to launch a prosecution of the rape case, though they have compassionately assisted ministers in political strife about their inaction. Now we are to have a parliament house education program by which MPs are to be given, only if they feel like it, a one-hour chat with an expert on matters such as sexual harassment and assault. Morrison seems to feel that the political crisis — for him — has passed. It hasn’t. Worse, at least from his point of view, its return will not be countered by lists of the innumerable inquiries or recommendations adopted, but from fresh evidence, such as by the restoration of Barnaby Joyce, that the issue is not regarded as important by the Morrison  government.

Morrison, in short, has learnt very little from the affair, just as he learnt little from his public relations disaster with the bushfires. Very little fundamental, that is, other than about managing a political crisis, rather than dealing with the source of it. His short-term responses involve a little bending to the wind — a lot of promises, sometimes (if all too late) agreement that the problem was bigger than he thought. When the publicly funded public relations blast was over, and either a new crisis arrived or the momentum of the issue declined, back to inaction, inertia and conscious downgrading of any policy action. Symbolised, perhaps, by what was said to be the initial Cabinet discussion after the report of the aged care royal commission — with minister arguing about what minimum amount of money could be thrown at the “problem” so as to convey the public relations impression that the government was taking it seriously.

Neither Morrison, nor his health minister, Greg Hunt, are to blame for the individual disasters with particular vaccines, including the difficulties (not as great as expected) in  getting just the sort of medical advice they wanted so that they could solemnly swear to be acting on medical advice. But they, and their bureaucratic advisers, are to be faulted for putting all their eggs in one basket, failing to anticipate serious problems with supply, the initial privatisation of the logistics and delivery of vaccines, and continuing failures (even as they now have surpluses of Astro-Zenaca) to complete coverage of the aged, people in aged care institutions, the disabled, workers, in aged care homes and disability residences, indigenous people in settlements, and others in vulnerable occupations, including, as we now know, drivers transporting people to quarantine centres.

Morrison must be blamed for overpromising, schedules and declarations about the progress of vaccination, and prevarication and delays about supplies.

He is also the author of most of his own problems with the premiers, not least from the way that he opposed lockdowns — at least until NSW was forced into one — and suffered his ministers into attacking Labor premiers who closed their borders. All the more embarrassing now that the state he held up as the gold standard is locked into a still expanding crisis, one made worse by the premier’s failure to go early, or go toughly, in trying to contain an outbreak.  Ministers from the Treasurer down might have expected the sort of rebound their relentless politicisation of fresh outbreaks from clear evidence of high popularity of the Labor premiers, even in the face of non-stop attack by the Murdoch press.  In West Australia, the Liberal Party was virtually wiped out at the last election.

It would be wrong to suggest that Morrison’s shortcomings have only been  on display with issues and crises not anticipated when he won the leadership. No one was expecting a pandemic, and the various challenges that presented. Nor bushfires, or a sudden focus on the sexual and physical assault on women. These may have dominated the headlines, and created and compounded the impression that Morrison is a poor pilot, now scarcely in control of events.

But in fact all of the same problems have been evident in areas where the government ought to be achieving things, but isn’t. Over climate change, where the message changes daily according to the audience but where Morrison and the government are now manifestly out of touch with world opinion, and local public opinion. It has reached the point where Murdoch and Nine polemicists, particularly in the Australian and the Financial Review, are now arguing that Australia must give way to the emotional and overstated arguments of the wider world. Not because the wider world is right, according to them, but because Australia is coming to be seen as a leading recalcitrant and might soon suffer economic damage from our trading partners.

Inaction on climate change — and threats from the Nationals that they will oppose targets unless their constituencies (the coal lobby, first, then farmers) are handsomely bribed is a reflection not only on the government, but on the leadership and moral cowardice of Morrison himself.  Just as bad, however, has been his inaction over water, particularly in the Murray Darling basin, including his handing back control of it to the rorting ways of Barnaby Joyce. With that and more general environmental policy, the Morrison characteristic is to avoid or deny any sense of public stewardship -=- let alone any idea of being a trustee for future generations. Instead it’s all about short-term actions designed to appease lobbies, and neutralise opponents.

Morrison, and the government as a whole, have also been undermining their positions with a determined assault on the institutions of government, on the proprieties and decencies of public spending, and over Morrison’s refusal to acknowledge fault in serious, perhaps criminal, abuses of processes required by law. Down the track, indeed, this is a government which may be seen by history more for its corruption and abuse of power than for its local management of an unprecedented crisis. It will not be an attractive picture.

Some of Morrison’s fixes might paper over the cracks until the next election. But the more that colleagues, his political opponents, the lobbyists and the public come to believe that Morrison has lost moral authority and certainty, and a feel for the right thing, the harder they will press him. More and more will count him a dud. Even if they ruefully blame themselves in part for poor judgement in selecting their leader, they will probably, in the Morrison manner, not look back but seek to get rid of the problem.

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