2016 Presidential Prediction

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This will be my third Presidential Prediction, but just when I thought of applying for a patent on The Methodology, it appears the effort would be wasted as its 100% reliability is likely to be disproved.  But, hey, speaking of 100% wasted, that’s pretty much the guarantee this particular November.  The despicable (no one is calling liberals that) and the deplorable (someone is calling Republicans that) face off on whether the Corrupt or the Crackpot will take the Oval Office . 

I’ve been incredibly non-partisan, I think, my last two times at bat, and even looking back at prior elections to test The Methodology.  As a quick reminder, here ‘tis:   Liberals vote Democratic, Conservatives vote Republican, and the soft gooey center of the populace (the undecided) votes for the candidate that they would invite to a backyard BBQ.   Please understand, gentle reader, that backyard BBQ’s do not include discussion of religion or politics.  That limits the subjects under discussion, happily.  Your friends are visiting, there’s a cooker bellowing smoke with your favored meat, a couple coolers full of beer sit adjacent to the recycling bin, plenty of lawn chairs are spread around the deck/porch/yard, and there’s maybe a few kids running through a lawn sprinkler because someone’s babysitter didn’t show.  Got it pictured?  Well, let’s get to it! 

First up, Hillary Clinton!

MADAM SECRETARY

Oops.  Wrong Secretary of State.  Drat!

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Ah, here we go.  Hillary Clinton. 

Well, I can’t find a single hobby, activity or generally fun thing about Mrs. Clinton that would suggest she’s good company.   Her defining presence in public USA has been “the first woman to be elected President of the United States,” a role for which she’s been preparing for over 20 years.  Her experience as a New York State Senator and as Secretary of State uniquely qualify her as a person who cares.  Well, caring worked for her husband, and it’s a smart tactic when you haven’t actually accomplished anything (positive) during your decades of public service.   In BBQ terms, we’re nowhere. 

What works against her, well, I’ll trim the list.   1) Often reputed by former White House staffers and Secret Service personnel to have a temperament that varies between striking the fear of God in lackeys (duck in doorways if you see her coming, folks) and 2) the condescension that comes from identifying and surviving every Right Wing Conspiracy since before her husband was even elected.   Her “Let them eat cake” moment is coming, and her adoring followers love it because someone else will pay for it.  Oh, wait.  Keeping this in BBQ terms.  Well, condescension… boredom… longsuffering… Benghazi.  Libya.  Whatever.  She’s no fun.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t consider the risk of inviting her into my home as well.  It could get awkward arguing that any furnishings she took a fancy to were not intended as gifts.

Which brings me to The Donald:

childcatcher

Look at him, not even a politician yet, and  he’s already handing out treats.  The hat though… definitely a need.

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What would work at the BBQ for the Donald is… the company he keeps!

trumpuniverse

And it’s not a big deal!  Twenty or thirty women, and, look at ‘em,  it’s not like it’s going to cost me more to feed them.  They don’t eat!  On the other hand, they’re overdressed, and the only photo I can find with the Donald in casual mode is:

18bb_pop

And you know what?  That’s okay.  Guys like to talk golf.  And, maybe he’d bring some of these friends also.  Joe Torre for baseball, Billy Krystal for jokes and, heck, Bill Clinton for how to pick up women and piss Hillary off at the same time!

Now, before anyone gets offended, let’s restate the scene.  This is a BBQ not chosen by me, but by the “undecideds.”  This term doesn’t include those reasonably intelligent people who loudly declare that they’re independent thinkers and not mindless lemmings falling for Party platitudes (and who always vote for the same Party).  No, no no!  This is a BBQ party by those people who vote only if the polling station doesn’t detour them their weekly lottery buy, if it doesn’t interfere with bowling league, and/or if they don’t need to rush home to Entertainment Tonight to see what a plastic surgeon says about a Kardashian’s latest look.  As such, they’re not going to be bothered by “He said he did what to women?” or otherwise question if Trump actually agreed with any of the words coming from his mouth.  Just keep those PBRs coming!

So, then. The Methodology speaks, loudly.  Your next President:

trump_angry

 

Now, normally, I’d leave it right there, because I trust the Methodology (and it hasn’t actually failed yet, has it?).  But reality suggests it will, and this aggravates me severely, not because I prefer a Trump outcome, but because just when I figure my Methodology is ready to be patented, I get stuck with this abomination of an election as my base presumption is found in error.   I’ll explain, and maybe I can garner an asterisk for 2016 and look for a more compliant 2020.  Liberals are doing their part.  They’re voting Democrat.   Conservatives though… The Methodology says conservatives vote Republican.  I think they did… in the Primaries, where their votes were sliced and diced among any number of candidates who would otherwise now be leading the polls.  But that is not the case because just enough of those gooey “Deplorables” (Hillary’s word for a sizable group of American citizens) actually voted in the Primary, for a non-conservative, in high enough numbers!  They really have no place voting in Primaries.

So, where do conservatives turn?  If they decide that four years of Trump is a lesser evil than a decidedly liberal Supreme Court for the next 20 years… they hold their nose, mute their conscience, detour around any public admission, and select the (R) candidate… and cross their fingers for four years.  Gun rights advocates really have no choice but to vote Trump.  Otherwise, the only other conservative choice is Evan McMullin, a write-in candidate… a noble gesture and and concession that 12 years of liberalism is bound to bring better things next time (and in doing so place their trust in an inept Republican Congress while praying that the Supreme Court justices enjoy their good health and find retirement objectionable.)

In any case, the non-Methodology prognostication is that for at least the next four years, our Pravda TV networks and newspapers will remind us regularly that the nose continues to grow as we age.

hillary-clinton-LIES-800x445

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Stone Mountain Highland Games

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My wife and I decided to go explore the 44th Annual Stone Mountain Highland Games and Festival.  These events are apparently held all over the nation now, but Stone Mountain’s has proven some endurance.  There was much that we didn’t see, for example competitions for Highland dance, harp, fiddling, piping and drumming, as well as various musical performances and sheep herding (done the next day).  But here’s the summary.

First, there’s the story teller, looking and dressed for the role.  He’s  reviewing breakfast foods and whatever else that might either interest people or, better, persuade them to visit Scotland.  With a face like that, there’s dozens of movies he should have been in.

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The opening ceremonies had various people who are the head of clans or otherwise hold some sort of official status in Scotland or here.  Aside from the kilt and requisite wardrobe, it seems a walking stick is a requirement.  Clan shepherds, I suppose.

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Once ensconced in their Officials booth, the music was queued with drums, fifes and, of course, bagpipes.  How do you tell one bagpipe tune from another?  By the titles.

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The drummers use tenor drum sticks, essentially small balls at the tips, but with a handle wrapped so that they can spin them in the air when they raise their arm.  It’s not done in unison, but, hey, it was something to watch.

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After they had marched in, there was speaking and… Hey, with everyone watching, it’s a good time to grab a bite to eat!

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We didn’t get our food from this vendor, but let it be known that I could have had haggis and was not man enough for it.  Instead, we went to a vendor who had this:  Fish and Chips, Meat Pie, and a Scottish Egg (located in the back of the photo).  The egg is boiled, somehow wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs, and deep fried.  Eh, when in (almost) Scotland… why not?  I had the Scottish Egg.

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Not bad, but next time, it’ll be the fish and chips.

The main program interest for us was the athletic events.  Participants are divided into men and women, and on the men’s side, at least, further divided into Professional Masters, Professional, and Amateurs A and B.  Sunday would host the women’s division and a competition between clans.  But first, it wouldn’t be a legitimate event without Renaissance Fair-looking flags:

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Ok, must be legit.  First observations were some amateurs taking some reps with the Stone of Strength.  It’s 28 lbs. and made of granite.  I have no idea how far they threw it, but it wasn’t far.  The record is almost 40’ for the Stone Mountain competition.  Each competitor gets three turns, with the farthest toss counting for their score.

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Next up was The Weight – divided into two competitions using 56 and 28 lb. weights, attached to  a short chain.  There is a stick on the ground which is not a foot fault limitation but rather a hand fault – which should not pass the line before releasing the weight.  Professionals seemed to take full two revolutions as they approached it for release.

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The 56 lb. weight is also tossed for height in a separate competition.  The records for distance are 48’ 10” and 95’ 5” respectively.  Next up is the Sheaf Toss, where a 20 lb. sheaf of hay in a burlap bag is thrown using a pitchfork over a bar.  The competitor fits the fork, and most took a couple of back and forth swinging motions before releasing it over their shoulders and hoping for the best.  We saw a few clear the bar.

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I don’t think that particular toss made it.  And, lastly, there was the Caber Toss.  The goal is to toss it end over end with the small end falling directly away from the competitor’s feet as it is released.  A judge follows the competitor to essentially judge the fall somewhere between 10:00 and 2:00 on a watch face, with 12:00 being perfect.  Most observed “tosses” failed to make it past the vertical, and a side judge would at least judge the angle that it reached.  Helpers would place and hold the caber vertically while the contestant fitted it against his shoulder.  He then has to measure the balance and get his hands under it unassisted.  The judge can call for the contestant to drop it if it appears he’s losing control – as the referees, other contestants, and observers could be hurt.  Several tended to waver around a little after the initial lift.  How long they held it or with what speed they were walking when they made the toss didn’t seem to matter.  The timing of the toss appeared to be the critical element, with the heavy end of the Caber already in motion as gravity does it work.  Here’s a series of an almost perfect toss.  The Caber was over 19’ and weighed about 150 lbs.

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And, then there was people watching.  Here, a gentleman wears his Scottish baseball cap and some standard American apparel.

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I have no idea what authentic Scottish headwear is, but maybe this guy has it.  It also begs the question of shoes – laced dress shoes or hiking sneakers… Hmm.  I’d guess the latter when carrying the walking stick.

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Wearing a kilt doesn’t mean that you have to go full-Scot, though.

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This was the only sword I saw, but, hey, it’s a nice one, and otherwise it just sits on the den wall, right?

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And, some people just wear whatever.  But that’s okay.

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Clan reunions are like family reunions, so many wore their respective Clan shirts.

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My wife noted that there was no small number of red-headed children, so it seems as if some belong.  Otherwise, there was a sense that the various clans, staked out in tents, are happy to have anyone join who has a name reasonably similar to the Clan name, if willing to join their club for a fee.

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And, once you’re part of the family, you should go buy the clan plaid, right?   It was definitely for sale (and, I believe, anyone can officially apply for a registered pattern for their family name for a fee as well).

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There were other things for sale.  Gargoyles and other creepy things:

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T-shirts:

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Kilts. Here, a Georgia fan is probably looking to switch his allegiance to something more enduring.

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As we were leaving, we watched a few more Caber tosses.  The “pitch” had a slope to it that we hadn’t noticed earlier.

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Cool stuff, but at $20 per person admission plus a $15 park admission, this was a “one and done” event for us.  Still, it was a beautiful fall Saturday and a good outdoor experience.

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The Corrupt vs the Crackpot

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The presidential debate is tonight, and I’d rather do anything else because it’s an unhelpful proposition to ask questions of two candidates that 1) do not answer questions in detail or in any helpful way and 2)  are the living proof of the dumbing down of the American voter, which, sadly, affects people of all IQs.

I view this as the competition of the Corrupt vs. the Crackpot.  If you’re confused, that’s Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively.  The first is a consummate liar and the latter is a celebrity without a filter who rarely can construct a sentence beyond six words.  “Believe me.”  It’s awful.

That said, it’s not as awful as the modern media, whose role in all of this should be to shed light into the darkness, exposing what the candidates would prefer to hide and, to the extent possible, hold them accountable.  More than ever, the last few weeks have shown that the media, in aggregation, is a hitman on Trump.  I don’t fault them for that.  I fault them for not showing the same prosecuting tactics towards Clinton.

We all know Trump either has or used to have money.  Going back 21 years, three pages of his leaked tax return shows that he filed a $916 million loss, thus avoiding payable taxes.  I’d like to see that document, but even my expert Google skills show nothing other than what the New York Times says about them.  So, we have a 21 year old tax return and a media that trumpets, without questioning, Mrs. Clinton’s charge that he unfairly uses the tax code to avoid paying “his fair share.”  His response:  It’s legal.

This is such a simplistic card to play, but it also incites anger towards the wealthy.  If he’s rich, he should be paying taxes, right?  Wrong.  Taxes are for income in a single year, and it doesn’t surprise me a bit that Trump wasn’t successful that year, or however many others.  Wealth isn’t taxed; income is.  The media doesn’t bother to mention that, preferring the narrative that that the rich don’t pay their fair share. 

However, I can find the tax return for the 2013 Clinton Foundation, at their own website.  Let’s take a peek at the facts (with some rounding of numbers):

Line 12 – 2013 Revenue – $148M
Line 15 – Salaries/Compensation – $30M (none of which goes to Bill, Hillary, or Chelsea)
Line 17 – Other expenses – $45M – these are detailed beginning on Page 10, Part IX

So, Part IX:

Lines 1 and 3 – Grants to governments/organizations – $9M
Lines 5 –10 – Compensation and other salaries/wages – the aforementioned $30M
Line 12 – Advertising – $670K
Lines 13 – 16 – Office related – $11M
Line 17 – Travel – $8M
Line 19 – Conferences, conventions and meetings – $9M
Line 11(g) – Other fees for services – $7M – says see Form O for details

Form O (page 45 of the pdf) does not list any actual numbers.  It has an extended narrative of launching programs domestically and abroad, and when it finally mentions actual $ expended, it appears their partners bear the majority of the load, for example the $12.5M program with Kenya to deliver reliable greenhouse gas data. 

Another example is $30M that the Clinton Foundation “facilitated” in direct foreign investment to Haiti.  That’s a sore subject with Haitians these days…  The case studies go on and on (to page 63 of the pdf), but keep in mind that the total allotted expense contributed by the Foundation was $7M noted on Line 11(g).

It’s a non-profit, so no taxes were directly paid.  That said, the plain statement on the first page amounts to $147M in contributions for the single year and $9M in grants and similar accounts paid, with an increase in net assets from $184M to $247M in a single year.  A quick peek at their 2014 return shows another increase to $332M.

It seems this would be worth a little news – 6% of revenue going to grants/assistance in a non-profit that increases its assets by 34% a year.  And what of $9M in conferences and $8M in related travel?  It looks like some awfully good living for those working a non-profit life.

I’m not a tax form expert, but that’s how I read the numbers.  Charity Watch somehow translates a very similar 2014 return to equate to 88% “of its cash budget” going to programs.  It would be helpful to have an asterisk (*) to refer to make clearer what cash lies inside or outside of a “cash budget.”  It seems simple, but obviously, it isn’t.   

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Life is but a dream

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I was in Hartford recently and tried a new pub/restaurant for dinner on a Sunday night, free of the usual, but not unwelcome, compromises that comes with weeknight business dinners.  To my surprise, there was a musical performer, and, better, they were good.  Instruments were acoustic, so conversation was not overwhelmed, the music was crisply played, and the lead singer had an excellent baritone voice.  Among other traditional songs, he sang “Michael Row The Boat Ashore,” a negro spiritual from South Carolina (not my words, but Wiki’s, lest I offend).   I don’t expect to return on a Sunday night, but if I did, I’d plan a return visit as they play there weekly. 

The timbre in the singer’s voice of “Michael” had potency, and earnestness of conviction to the lyrics which speak of spiritual yearning and freedom. It had been many, many years since I’d heard it, definitely at some childhood age, likely at a church camp.  It was a pleasant recollection that putsrowyourboat the mind to wondering what other songs were sung… aside from “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” always an irritant.

More distinctly, I remember learning “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in kindergarten, sung on different beats between boys and girls or “sung as a round.”  Cutesy.    “Row Your Boat…”  The lyrics had no meaning; it was all about getting the timing right among the four groups in which we were split.  Both songs feature the rowing of boats and, hey, what’s that song about, anyway?

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream

In perfect hindsight, the plain reading remains innocuous, but, hey, as adults, words mean things.   Time to dissect.

“Row, row, row your boat” – I guess no one would row just one stroke, so three strokes make sense.  Still, there’s an obvious repetition that suggests the labor required for movement.  It’s not the same as joyously paddling a kayak, but in any case, perhaps it’s a metaphor for the the work and motion of living or even the passing of time.

“Gently down the stream” – Okay, you don’t have to row hard if you’re going with the current, so there is a definite feeling of going with the flow, stopping to smell the roses.   More pointedly, it’s not rowing up the stream and all of the struggle suggested in that path.  

“Merrily” x4 –  It seems so obvious, but let’s check the definition.

mer·ri·ly

ˈmerəlē/
adverb
  1. 1) in a cheerful way.
  2. 2) without consideration of possible problems or future implications
     

These options offer legitimacy to both a harmless ditty or to a masterfully refined wooing, offered like the Child Catcher’s sugary sweets to those gullible kids in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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“Life is but a dream” – To be frank, this is the most troublesome line.  Maybe, well, let’s see what else rhymes with “stream”… “scream?” No.  “Cream,” “theme,” “steam,” “beam,” “scheme”…. no.  “Dream” is clearly the best suited. 

Five syllables to work with, how about “Go and live your dreams?”  It could be tweaked, but at least it’s life affirming.  The problem word is “but.”

but

bət/
conjunction
  1. 1.
    used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned.
  2. 2.
    used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated.
    "one cannot but sympathize"
preposition
  1. 1.
    except; apart from; other than.
    "in Texas, we were never anything but poor"
adverb
  1. 1.
    no more than; only.
    "he is but a shadow of his former self"
    synonyms: only, just, simply, merely, no more than, nothing but; 
    a mere
    "he is but a shadow of his former self"
noun
  1. 1.
    an argument against something; an objection.
    "no buts —just get out of here"

Of the above, the adverb is clearly the best fit.  Let’s see how it fits:

“Life is merely a dream.”  “Life is no more than a dream.”  “Life is nothing but a dream.”  Well, the last one there is a failure as it uses the word being defined in the definition…  In any case, it’s as obvious what the meaning of “is” is.

So, “life is but a dream.”  Sigh.  Yet another definition is needed for something so seemingly simple.

dream

drēm/

noun
  1. 1.
    a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep.
    "I had a recurrent dream about falling from great heights"
     
verb
  1. 1.
    experience dreams during sleep.
    "I dreamed about her last night"
    synonyms: daydream, be in a trance, be lost in thought, be preoccupied, be abstracted, stare into space, muse, be in la-la land
    "she's always dreaming"
  2. 2.
    contemplate the possibility of doing something or that something might be the case.
    "I wouldn't dream of foisting myself on you"

Well, the noun wins the contest, but that’s not very helpful.  Miriam-Webster offers this:   “An idea or vision that is created in your imagination and that is not real.”   Life is not real?  One might suppose that the life referred to is  purported to be “dreamy,” but I’m not confident that, to borrow from the verb definition, “la-la land” is the best guidance for molding young lives.  But you can choose that if you want.  My choices for the phrase lie between a concise nihilistic philosophy or a metaphysical swing (and miss)at the nature of consciousness.

So, let’s paraphrase the available interpretations.

1) It’s a silly children’s rhyme that doesn’t mean anything, lacking any moral relevance or instructional value other than musical.  It is only useful to occupy kids’ time so that they’re not more of a nuisance than they otherwise would be.

2) A morphine drip.

Do what you have to through life but
take the easy path.
Live without thinking of consequences
because life is not real

3) Simply understood.

Row your boat
Carefully because you’re going with the current
In a cheerful way
because life is as happy as a (good) dream.   (Think… warm puppy!)

I’ll let you choose where the evidence points.

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Drive-By Truckers–American Band

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Spotify saves the day again, or at least the $10 I used to spend confidently for a new Drive-By Truckers CD.  American Band, their latest release, has gathered significant pre-release attention for its intent to be a political album in an election year season of extolling the intolerable.  Rolling Stone comments AmericanBandthat “The result is more than a Clinton ad with Skynryd and Stones guitars… It’s political rock that never confused passionate commitment with smug certainty, asking more questions than it answers…” 

That’s a particularly apt description actually.  The band has long been able to craft their messages so that they’re spoken through relatable characters in difficult circumstances expressing an oughtness to life.   There are problems though.  The first is that while the narrative mines ample headlines for examples of “society gone wild,” it just echoes the frustrations of the political left (or right) that the change that was promised never arrived.   Well, DBT, write about this, then.  You get what you pay for in politics, and it’s not the American citizen that’s paying.  And, politics doesn’t change the hearts, minds and souls of men, it just fractures the willingness of people who think differently to work together.  

Failed or hopeful ideals are expected among artists though; they’re a mirror of our times.  Pointing out questions without having answers is par for the course.  Awareness.  Education. Challenges to how a person thinks.  It’s all good.  You take that and put it on a music CD and, well, there’s this other expectation – a worthy musical vehicle to carry the message.   And it’s here that DBT is failing.  The band has seemingly convinced itself that their audience, as middle-aged as they are, is tired of screaming guitars and rock and roll aggression.   They’re wrong, and hopefully they’re prepared for the consequences of posturing as folk singers when being a rock and roll band is what pays the bills.  There isn’t a musical ear worm in the bunch, and the band’s two vocalists, who are always at their peak with raw expression, have somehow decided they are actually singers.   So, sadly, this CD, like a newspaper editorial, is as timely as today and as enduring as yesterday’s news. 

Suggested track:  “Baggage”

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