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C deaths as of 8 April 5 pm BST

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/04/2020 - 6:35am in

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Good Lord. The “hoax” thing is back

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/04/2020 - 3:30am in

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February 28, 2020

From Brian Stelter’s newsletter:

Some of the biggest names in right-wing media are questioning the official Covid-19 death toll. Indeed, they’re suggesting the numbers might be inflated in an effort to paint President Trump and/or the crisis in the worst possible light. In recent days, a version of this theory has been floated by personalties such as Rush LimbaughMark LevinTucker CarlsonBrit Hume, and “Diamond & Silk.” 

Hume, who previously tweeted that New York’s “fatality numbers are inflated,” tweeted on Tuesday evening, “Well Dr. [Deborah] Birx just said it. Anyone in U.S. who dies with Covid-19, regardless of what else may be wrong, is now being recorded as a Covid-19 death.” (This is not quite what Birx said. She explained that if someone who goes into the hospital to be treated for the virus also “had a pre-existing condition” that eventually caused the individual to die, that would be counted as a Covid-19 death.)

Hume later appeared on Carlson’s show and offered the same message he did in his tweet. “There may be reasons people seek an inaccurate death count,” Carlson replied. The Fox News prime time host added, “When journalists work with numbers, there sometimes is an agenda.”

Hume and Carlson are not alone. Levin tweeted Tuesday evening that he has “suspected this for weeks.” And Limbaugh, who initially dismissed the coronavirus as the “common cold,” said recently, “It’s admittedly speculation, but … what if we are recording a bunch of deaths to coronavirus which really should not be chalked up to coronavirus?”

The death toll is likely *UNDERSTATED*

Right-wing media luminaries are advancing their theory in the face of reporting which indicates that the coronavirus death toll is being understated. An April 5 NYT story noted, “Across the United States, even as coronavirus deaths are being recorded in terrifying numbers — many hundreds each day — the true death toll is likely much higher.”

The NYT story cited hospital officials, doctors, public health experts and medical examiners who said the official death toll doesn’t account for many people: “The undercount is a result of inconsistent protocols, limited resources and a patchwork of decision making from one state or county to the next.”

NYC Council health committee chair Mark Levine also said on Twitter the official NYC death toll “is certainly an undercount.” Levine explained, “Only people who die at home who are known to have a *positive coronavirus test* have the disease listed as the official cause on their death certificate. We know there are many others going uncounted.”

Trump was asked on Tuesday at the White House briefing about the accuracy of the death count, with a reporter suggesting it is a possible undercount because of the reasons outlined above. Trump pushed back, saying, “I think they’re pretty accurate on the death count. Somebody dies, I think the states have been pretty accurate.” Trump added, “No, the death counts, I think they are very, very accurate.” That said, given how the speculation about death counts being inflated are saturating right-wing media, it would not surprise me one bit if Trump later repeated the theory.

Of course he’s going to go with it. It may not be tomorrow or the next day. But he’ll get there.

And the fact that all those Fox News loonies are disseminating this crap to their millions of Trump cultists is simply horrifying. They are people without character or integrity who simply cannot ever, ever admit they are wrong. It’s one thing to engage in dirty politics. But this is next level.

They will say anything to keep Trump’s numbers down.

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Class and Race Inequality, Health, and COVID-19

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/04/2020 - 3:09am in

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The demographic data collected and reported in the media for sickness and mortality rates due to COVID-19 has focused on age and to a certain extent gender. While mass hardship from unemployment has been widely reported, we have heard little . . .

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The post Class and Race Inequality, Health, and COVID-19 appeared first on New Politics.

Beyond Words

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/04/2020 - 1:28am in

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Yesterday Mark Sommers QC, the extremely erudite and bookish second counsel for Julian Assange in his extradition hearing, trembled with anger in court. Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser had just made a ruling that the names of Julian Assange’s partner and young children could be published, which she stated was in the interests of “open justice”. His partner had submitted a letter in support of his Covid 19 related bail application (which Baraitser had summarily dismissed) to state he had a family to live with in London. Baraitser said that it was therefore in the interests of open justice that the family’s names be made public, and said that the defence had not convincingly shown this would cause any threat to their security or well-being. It was at this point Sommers barely kept control. He leapt to his feet and gave notice of an appeal to the High Court, asking for a 14 day stay. Baraitser granted four days, until 4pm on Friday.

I am in lockdown in Edinburgh, but received three separate eye witness reports. They are unanimous that yet again Baraitser entered the court carrying pre-written judgements before hearing oral argument; pre-written judgements she gave no appearance of amending.

There have been two Covid-19 deaths in Belmarsh prison so far. For obvious reasons the disease is ripping through the jail like wildfire. The Department of Justice is admitting to one death, and refuses to give statistics for the number of cases. As even very sick prisoners are not being tested, the figures would arguably not mean much anyway. As the court heard at the bail application, over 150 Belmarsh prison staff are off work self-isolating and the prison is scarcely functioning. It is the most complete definition of lockdown.

The Prison Governors’ Association submitted to the House of Commons Justice Committee (which yesterday morning considered prisoner releases in closed session) that 15,000 non-violent prisoners need to be released to give the jails any chance of managing COVID-19. The Department of Justice has suggested releasing 4,000 of whom just 2,000 have been identified. As of a couple of days ago, only about 100 had actually been released.

The prisons are now practising “cohorting” across the estate, although decisions currently lie with individual governors. Prisoners who have a cough – any cough – are being put together in segregated blocks. The consequences of this are of course potentially unthinkable. Julian has a cough and chronic lung condition for which he has been treated for years – a fact which is not in dispute.

Yesterday Baraitser again followed her usual path of refusing every single defence motion, following pre-written rulings (whether written or merely copied out by herself I know not), even when the prosecution did not object. You will recall that at the first week of extradition hearing proper, she insisted that Julian be kept in a glass cage, although counsel for the US government made no objection to his sitting in the body of the court, and she refused to intervene to stop his strip searching, handcuffing and the removal of his court papers, even though the US government joined the defence in querying her claim she had no power to do this (for which she was later roundly rebuked by the International Bar Association).

Yesterday the US government did not object to a defence motion to postpone the resumption of the extradition hearing. The defence put forward four grounds:

1) Julian is currently too ill to prepare his defence
2) Due to Covid-19 lockdown, access to his lawyers is virtually impossible
3) Vital defence witnesses, including from abroad, would not be able to be present to testify
4) Treatment for Julian’s mental health conditions had been stopped due to the Covid-19 situation.

Baraitser airily dismissed all these grounds – despite James Lewis QC saying the prosecution was neutral on the postponement – and insisted that the May 18 date remains. She stated that he could be brought to the cells in Westminster Magistrates Court for consultations with his lawyers. (Firstly, in practice that is not the case, and secondly these holding cells have a constant thoughput of prisoners which is very obviously undesirable with Covid19).

It is worth noting that the prosecution stated that the US government’s own psychiatrist, appointed to do an assessment of Julian, had been unable to access him in Belmarsh due to Covid 19 restrictions.

This is getting beyond me as it is getting beyond Mark Sommers and the defence team. Even before Covid 19 became such a threat, I stated that I had been forced to the conclusion the British Government is seeking Assange’s death in jail. The evidence for that is now overwhelming.

Here are three measures of hypocrisy.

Firstly, the UK insists on keeping this political prisoner – accused of nothing but publishing – in a Covid 19 infested maximum security jail while the much-derided Iranian government lets Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe out and hopefully will release her altogether.
Which is the inhumane regime?

Secondly, “open justice” allegedly justifies the release of the identities of Julian’s partner and kids, while the state enforces the secrecy of Alex Salmond’s busted accusers, even though the court heard evidence that they specifically colluded to destroy him using, as a deliberate tool, the anonymity afforded to people making sexual accusations.

Thirdly, nobody cultivates her own anonymity more than Vanessa Baraitser who has her existence carefully removed from the internet almost entirely. Yet she seeks to destroy the peace and young lives of Julian’s family.

Keep fighting for Julian’s life and for freedom.

Pieter Evert sent me this rather good cartoon, for which many thanks:

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible.

This article is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation, and I very much hope people will do so actively. Truth shall set us free.

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“The economy”—pandemic edition

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 11:08pm in

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from David Ruccio We’re back at it again: “the economy” has broken down and we’re all being enlisted into the effort to get it back up and working again. As soon as possible. The Congressional Budget Office has announced that it expects the U.S. economy will contract sharply during the second quarter of 2020: Gross domestic product is […]

Bound but not protected

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 11:01pm in

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Rosie Redmond, 79, first in line (VERY long line) at Riverside High, MKE. Arrived 5:30 a.m. “I’m a voter. I do not miss voting.”

We’ll get to the election Wisconsin Republicans insisted occur during a deadly pandemic in a minute.

Paul Rosenburg on Monday reposted this 2018 observation about conservatism by Frank Wilhoit (the composer, not the late political scientist):

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

There is nothing more or else to it, and there never has been, in any place or time.

Conservatism had no name for millennia, Wilhoit asserts. The proposition originated in the divine right of kings: “The king can do no wrong.” Naturally, that privilege extended to the king’s friends and select allies. Others the law punishes. We have fewer kings in the 21st century, but the same privilege still benefits friends of the powerful today. The aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse proved that definitively.

Everything from conservative think tanks to racks of books to stacks of white papers — “an elaborate backwash of pseudophilosophy” — is intended to obscure conservatism’s nucleus.

Wilhoit’s observation echoes what I’ve written for years. Unconsciously, conservatives are royalists:

At the end of the Revolutionary War, there were an estimated half million Tories in this country. Royalists by temperament, loyal to the King and England, predisposed to government by hereditary royalty and landed nobility, men dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal.

After the Treaty of Paris, you know where they went? Nowhere. A few moved back to England, or to Florida or to Canada. But most stayed right here.

Take a look around. Their progeny are still with us among the one percent and their vassals. Spouting adolescent tripe from Ayn Rand, kissing up, kicking down, chasing their masters’ carriages or haughtily looking down their noses at people they consider inferiors.

At out-groups, at Irresponsibles. That’s how conservatism views them, especially racial minorities. Case in point: conservative opinion writer Star Parker. “Personal responsibility,” Parker wrote one month ago, is one of the last things black liberals want legitimized.

Out-groups

Sachin Chheda, director and co-founder of the Fair Elections Project, tweeted Tuesday about Republican calls for more “personal responsibility” from Wisconsin voters. They mean out-group voters the law should bind but not protect.

Reid J. Epstein of the New York Times describes how conservatives view voting by out-groups:

Tuesday’s mess of an election in Wisconsin is the culmination of a decade of efforts by state Republicans to make voting harder, redraw legislative boundaries and dilute the power of voters in the state’s urban centers. [read: black and/or Democrat]

The Republican-dominated state legislature, which has held a majority since 2011, due in part to gerrymandered maps, refused to entertain the Democratic governor’s request to mail absentee ballots to all voters or move the primary. Then the State Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservative justices, overturned the governor’s ruling to postpone the election until June.

For Republicans, Democrats of any color are out-group. The acting president made that clear on Monday by saying Democrats “shouldn’t be allowed to win” this fall’s election. Thus, voters can expect worse this fall wherever Republicans hold power.

It’s been said one reason for Donald Trump’s popularity with his conservative base is he is not politically correct. Trump says the quiet parts out loud. But Trump is sui generis, as Digby observes. Most officials on the right still know better than to speak so bluntly.*

But not everyone. In his disastrous 2013 “Daily Show” interview, North Carolina Republican Party official Don Yelton used overtly racist language the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater explained (in 1981) conservatives largely abandoned by 1968. The party shifted to “more abstract” expressions, Atwater said, like forced busing or states’ rights. And to advocating “totally economic things” like cutting taxes, “and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Yelton (still a conservative Democrat when I met him) defended North Carolina’s voter ID law, saying, “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

“Personal responsibility” is how politically correct conservatives say “bunch of lazy blacks”. Abstractly.

This morning’s online headline at the Washington Post reads, “The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate.” Wisconsin Republicans on Tuesday made them stand on line in Milwaukee for hours to vote during a deadly pandemic. That will show them.

Understanding the in-group/out-group core of conservatism, Wilhoit writes, tells us what anti-conservatism must be, whether we call it liberalism, progressivism or whatever: “the proposition that the law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone, and cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.”

* Mimicking Trump’s style in an attempt to please him cost Trump’s acting navy secretary Thomas Modly his job yesterday. Modly traveled halfway around the world to show the sailors of the USS Theodore Roosevelt who’s boss after they’d cheered and applauded the captain he fired.

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

For The Win, 3rd Edition is ready for download. Request a copy of my free countywide election mechanics guide at ForTheWin.us. This is what winning looks like.
Note: The pandemic will upend standard field tactics in 2020. If enough promising “improvisations” come my way by June, perhaps I can issue a COVID-19 supplement.

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How many WELLBYs is the corona panic costing?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 9:24pm in

How much unhappiness is created by the unemployment of millions of people in Western countries (mainly N-Am +Europe) caused by the corona panic? How much unhappiness has been created due to the vast expansion of loneliness and physical inactivity? And in terms of the tradeoff between the quality of life and the length of life, how many “equivalent lives” are the isolation policies costing us via our reduced quality of life?

In an earlier post I calculated the loss of life due to the economic recession caused by the hysteria to be at least 10 million whole lives in the whole world, probably closer to 50 million. This was essentially calculated from taking the discounted economic loss to be at least 50 trillion and combining it with the rule of thumb that the value of a statistical life in the world is around 1-4 million each, a bit higher in the richer countries and much lower in the poorest countries. 10-50 million lives lost was thus the expected loss of life in the decades to come due to less government services, poorer nutrition, and increased social tensions of the type we are seeing in India.

Now I want to consider the importance of the quality of life, focussing just on the billion or so living in the West, using a wellbeing criterion: the likely effect of the social isolation and the economic collapse on the levels of life satisfaction of the population. The basic unit of analysis is the WELLBY, which is one point change in life satisfaction for one person for one year when measured on a 0-10 scale. As a rule of thumb, the average year of life in richer countries is worth about 6 WELLBYs, less in poorer countries where average wellbeing levels are lower. Then a whole life of 80 years, which is the average life expectancy in the West, is worth about 480 WELLBYs.

I will look only at the two items that I think are the most important components of the WELLBY loss involved in the panic and the social isolation policies: unemployment and the mental health costs of isolation.

We cannot accurately know the full WELLBY costs from unemployment and loneliness caused by the corona panic, but we can make an educated guess using the estimates around on the economic collapse, the social collapse, and what we know from the wellbeing literature. Over the fold, I detail why I think another month of mass isolation will cost the West at least the equivalent of a million deaths in terms of reduced quality of life.

First the unemployment levels. What we know from past recessions is that unemployment goes up very quickly and then goes down much more slowly. An important consequence of this is that a large recession is far worse than a few small ones spread out over time as you then have a much larger glut of individuals being unemployed for much longer. So for instance, the US in 2019 still had not recovered all the jobs lost in the 2007/2008 Global Financial Crisis. Basically, the cost of a recession is close to quadratic in its severity, not linear, so it rather matters how severe it is.

This one is looking to be a very large recession. In the US already over 6 million people filed for unemployment in the last few weeks, and in the UK in March the Department for Work and Pensions reported nearly a million more welfare claimants in just 2 weeks in March 2020. That is over 3% of the entire workforce. The joblessness is thereby rising many times faster than in the GFC when similar surges took months. This has lead many labour economists trying to estimate how bad it is going to get, with some estimates that we’re in for 20% unemployment levels within a year. That spike is more than twice as high as the GFC and even above the level of the Great Depression.

Labour economists (which I used to be) do not expect those people to find jobs within a few weeks if the isolation restrictions are lifted: whole industries are collapsing and hundreds of thousands of companies are close to bankruptcy. That kind of thing does not magically “sort itself out quickly”, or at least it hasn’t in the past. It takes years, not weeks.

So let us take the worst-case scenario first: 20% unemployment of the labour force in Western countries, taking a decade to get re-absorbed into the economy. That is about 80 million additional unemployed in the first year, and 400 million excess unemployment years till the excess unemployed are finally re-absorbed in the economy.

From a large literature on the effects of unemployment on wellbeing, we know the effect of unemployment to the unemployed is at least 0.7 WELLBY per year. On top of that, there is a likely multiplier effect in terms of the increased desperation and anxiety among the family and friends of the unemployed, as well as the increased anxiety among the employed. At the high end, this multiplier is believed to be about 3. So at the high-end estimate, every year of unemployment costs society 2.1 WELLBYs. So that’s a loss of 820 million WELLBYs due to the recession. This is equivalent to 2 million whole lives lost. In terms of deaths of individuals with, say, 5 good years of life left, which is generous if you look at the victims of the corona virus, these 820 million WELLBYs are equivalent to about 30 million deaths.

That is the high-end estimate. The low-end estimate is that this recession will have a spike in unemployment of no more than 5% above the previous level and that this recession will be over unusually quickly, say within 5 years. Then the excess number of unemployment years is only 70 million. If we then dismiss the notion of a social multiplier on the misery of the unemployed, this would amount to only about 50 million lost WELLBYs, equivalent to about 100,000 whole lives or 1.7 million deaths of people with 5 more good years left.

Then loneliness. The mass incarceration of the population we are now seeing in the West is putting abused people together with their tormentors, “for their safety”. It is also in many other ways doing exactly the opposite of what health services and government agencies have been advocating the last couple of years, which is to have lots of close physical contact, being in nature, socialising, exercising.

At worst we are killing good health habits of exercise and socialising for a whole generation, something which would kill many tens of millions outright in the decades to come if any of the previous pronouncements by health authorities on the importance of good behaviour are to be believed.

However, let’s not take the worst case scenario on the effects of social isolation on lifetime health behaviours, because that would lead one to the immediate conclusion that the current policies on isolation are monstrously misguided and damaging, causing health emergencies that dwarf the worst projections on what the corona virus could do. It would make a total mockery of the health advisers who say staying inside is the only safe to do. Let’s be a little less dramatic.

Consider the somewhat simpler case that the effects of social isolation will wear off over time as people get rid of the traumas, the extra weight, and gradually re-socialise. As a rule of thumb, we know that medium level depressions cost at least a WELLBY per year, and basically halve in severity in each subsequent year, so let’s say that a year of social isolation costs twice the amount of WELLBYs lost in that year due to the isolation.

How much is the isolation hurting individuals via loneliness, anxiety, etc.? This is hard to know as many surveys on this very issue are only in the field right now. A report on over 2,000 British teenagers surveyed between March 20-25 showed huge increases in mental health problems, particularly anxiety, easily worth half a point in life satisfaction. Still, teenagers are not the whole population and anxiety cannot be expected to last that long.

We do know that warm social relations are the single most important thing for wellbeing, even more important than money or physical health. So someone emotionally and socially lonely without any close friends and family will be at least one WELLBY below the average in the population.

My current guess is that then the whole population is at least a quarter of a unit of life satisfaction lower than before because of the social isolation and the stresses associated with it. This is less than half what the effect at a glance looks like for the interviewed teenagers, so I am being somewhat conservative, and of course I hope I am being too pessimistic.

Scaled up to the population of over 1 billion people living in the West, this means a loss of 250 million WELLBY for every 6 months of social isolation, because the presumed half-life of the mental health problems is a year. If we take this as a linear thing (which basically means we take the number of people whose mental health is severely negatively affected as the thing that increases linearly), then per month of isolation, that’s about 40 million WELLBY.

By that kind of calculation, social isolation in the West is costing about 70,000 whole lives per month, or the equivalent of a little over 1 million deaths of individuals with 5 more good years on average left.

If we then look at how long the social isolation would need to be kept up to “flatten the curve” long enough not to overwhelm the health system, the estimates vary from months to years (several Dutch modellers now think it would take years, as do some of the Americans and the Australians). A year of mass social isolation would then be equivalent to about a million whole lives lost and 12 million deaths of those with 5 more good years left.

All this only counts the West and we’re not even talking about other big costs, such as all the health problems that are now not addressed because of the focus on the corona virus, as well as the costs of the health problems being created by social isolation.

So however I look at it, it seems clear that the unemployment and emotional costs of mass social isolation far outweigh the threat of the virus and the immediate lifting of nearly all involuntary isolations is warranted. It is not “safe” to keep the isolations in place.

Even the worst-case scenarios of how many more people would get ill and would overwhelm the health system are dwarfed by the damage we are doing every minute we keep up this mass social isolation. Our lives have more meaning than merely being there to prevent hospitals from overflowing.

To sum up on isolation: data will come soon to give clarity on the WELLBY cost of social isolation, but my current best guess is that we’re talking the equivalent of at least 1 million deaths per month, which basically comes from saying that 6 months of social isolation will lead to something like 10% higher depression/anxiety rates.

The WELLBY costs via unemployment are harder to link to ongoing isolation, but it is probably fair to say that every month of mass isolation will cost at least 1% more unemployment than the current damage if we lifted all restrictions (this is far less than the current spike in new welfare cases suggest, which seems to suggest 2-5% is more realistic, particularly for the next month). On the margin, and taking the best-case scenario as to the current damage already done (5% more unemployment), this means the next additional month will cost about 25,000 whole lives or 400,000 deaths of people with 5 more good years. The month after that will cost over 30,000 whole lives and over 500,000 deaths (the costs go up higher than linear). If we start from a middle-base (10% higher unemployment already), then we are well over the equivalent of 1 million deaths for the next month of mass isolations for the West as a whole.

So basically I estimate another month of mass isolation to cost the West about 1.5-3 million deaths just in terms of reduced quality of life alone. It will cost the world as a whole far more.

Do provide a counter-estimate in the comments, preferably by trying to tackle the other costs of social isolation that I left out.

Finally, the burden of proof should be on those who want to keep inflicting the massive damage of isolation, rather than on those wanting our freedoms, our lives, our mental health, and our ability to take care of our physical health and our loved ones restored.

Mäki Rules on Rodrik’s Rules

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 8:42pm in

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from Asad Zaman Mäki, Uskali. “Rights and wrongs of economic modelling: refining Rodrik.” Journal of Economic Methodology 25.3 (2018): 218-236. Introduction: I must confess to having admired Dani Rodrik. His research was iconoclastic, fearlessly going after many sacred cows of economics. So, I was saddened and disappointed by his defense of Economics: Rodrik, Dani (2015) Economics Rules. Why […]

Tuesday Night Funny

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 11:00am in

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This new Youtube show is massively popular. For good reason…

Some people just can’t help but be creative even in the worst of circumstances…

Aaaand, funny — not funny:

These people are completely insane.

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Open thread April 7, 2020

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 9:35am in

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