Category Archives: Critical Thinking

The EU is sleepwalking into anarchy

Sept. 26, 2022 – By Thomas Faze

Source: The EU is sleepwalking into anarchy – UnHerd

All eyes may be on the Italian election results this morning, but Europe’s got much bigger problems on its hands than the prospect of a Right-wing government. Winter is coming, and the catastrophic consequences of Europe’s self-imposed energy crisis are already being felt across the continent.

As politicians continue to devise unrealistic plans for energy rationing, the reality is that soaring energy prices and falling demand have already caused dozens of plants across a diverse range of energy-intensive industries — glass, steel, aluminium, zinc, fertilisers, chemicals — to cut back production or shut down, causing thousands of workers to be laid off. Even the pro-war New York Times was recently forced to acknowledge the “crippling” impact that Brussels’s sanctions are having on industry and the working class in Europe. “High energy prices are lashing European industry, forcing factories to cut production quickly and put tens of thousands of employees on furlough,” it reported.

Zinc, aluminium and silicon production cuts (amounting to a staggering 50% of output) have already left consumers in the Europe’s steel, auto and construction industries facing severe shortages, which are being offset by shipments from China and elsewhere. Meanwhile, steel plants in Spain, Italy, France, Germany and other countries — more than two dozen in total — are beginning to slow down or entirely stop their output.

The fertiliser industry, which is heavily dependent on gas as a key feedstock as well as a source of power, is in even bigger trouble. More than two-thirds of production — around 30 plants — has already been halted. The German chemicals powerhouse BASF has temporarily shut down 80 plants worldwide and is slowing production at another 100 as it plans further output cuts depending on what happens to gas prices. To make things worse, EU sanctions have also limited imports of Russian fertilisers.

Dwindling supplies of fertilisers are also having a dramatic knock-on effect on European farmers, which are being forced to scale back their use of the key nutrient. This means higher prices for less output, and the consequences are bound to be felt well beyond Europe’s borders, potentially triggering a global food shortage.

But the shortage of fertiliser isn’t the only problem facing European farmers. Across northern and western Europe, vegetable producers are contemplating halting their activities because of the crippling energy costs — in some cases ten times higher than those of 2021 — required to heat greenhouse through the winter and keep harvests refrigerated, on top of rising transport and packaging costs. Greenhouse industry group Glastuinbouw Nederland says up to 40% of its 3,000 members are in financial distress. This further threatens food supplies — and will certainly lead to even higher food prices which, coupled with soaring energy bills, is likely to drive millions of European into poverty. In other words, the European energy and cost-of-living crisis is on course to descend into an outright humanitarian crisis.

In the UK, 45 million people are forecast to face fuel poverty by January 2023; as a result, “millions of children’s development will be blighted” with lung damage, toxic stress and deepening educational inequalities, as children struggle to keep up with school work in freezing homes. Lives will be lost, experts warn. Meanwhile, in Germany’s Rheingau-Taunus district, the authorities have carried out a simulation of what such a blackout would mean for them, and the results are shocking: more than 400 people would die in the first 96 hours. And this in a district of just 190,000 inhabitants.

Now, these numbers may well be overestimates, but the local government can’t afford to ignore them. Indeed, Gerd Landsberg, general manager of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, has urged residents to stockpile water and food for 14 days. Landsberg says that Germany is “in no way” prepared for such a scenario.

What’s important to understand is that this is not some temporary crisis where all we need to do is grit our teeth through the winter, after which things will return to normal. The reality, as the chief executive of Shell recently made clear, is that if European governments insist on decoupling Europe from Russian supplies, the continent will face gas shortages “likely to last several winters”. It’s a bitter truth, but there’s simply no short-term alternative to Russia’s gas. Indeed, the European Commission forecasts gas and electricity prices to “remain high and volatile until at least 2023”.

To put it simply, if it stays on its current course, Europe is looking at years of economic contraction, inflation, deindustrialisation, declining living standards, mass impoverishment, and shortages — and this without taking into account the terrifying prospect of an outright military confrontation with Russia. How can anyone think Europe can survive this without plunging into anarchy?

The folly of the situation becomes even more apparent when we consider that, in its attempt to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, the EU is increasing its reliance on supplies from countries like China and India — which, it would appear, are simply reselling to Europe gas that comes from… Russia (at a higher price, of course). If people’s lives weren’t on the line, this whole thing would seem like a sick joke.

Europe has lost the energy war

By Thomas Fazi

It’s truly a sign of the feebleness of Europe’s politicians that despite the fast-approaching cliff, no one can bring themselves to state the obvious: that the sanctions need to end. There’s simply no moral justification for destroying the livelihoods of millions of Europeans simply to school Putin, even if the sanctions were helping to achieve that aim, which they clearly aren’t.

And so, rather depressingly, the only voice of reason appears to be that of Hungary’s prime minister, Victor Orbán. For weeks he and other members of his government have been warning about the economic calamity facing Europe. “The attempts to weaken Russia have not succeeded,” he said recently. “By contrast, it is Europe that could be brought to its knees by brutal inflation and energy shortages resulting from sanctions”. This is a statement of fact, not an opinion. But nobody seems to want to listen.

In response, the technocrats in Brussels are proving to be just as senseless as national leaders. Not only is the EU’s gung-ho approach to Russia one of the main causes of the present crisis, but its leadership continues to pour petrol on the fire. Just this month, Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that “the strategy against Russia is working and must continue” — and promised new sanctions.

Even worse, the EU isn’t even doing anything to help cushion the effects of the crisis it helped create. After dropping the ridiculous proposal of capping only the price of Russian gas — which would have led to the latter’s immediate cut-off — Brussels is now mulling a cap on all gas imports, which even the German Minister of State for Europe has warned could lead to severe shortages.

The proposal also fails to take into account a basic fact: it’s not energy exporters that are ramping up the price of gas; the latter today is linked to the price at which gas is traded on virtual trading markets such as the TTF in Amsterdam, where speculators have been rallying up prices for months, making huge profits. Moreover, in today’s liberalised market, which is based on so-called marginal-cost pricing, the final price of power is set by the most expensive fuel needed to meet all demands — in this case gas. This means that as gas prices soar, so does electricity, even if cheaper, clean sources contribute to the total mix.

So, if the EU were serious about tackling about energy prices, it would decouple the price of gas from speculative trading markets and overhaul the marginal-cost pricing system. But that would go against the European technocrats’ fundamental ideology: the idea that prices should be set by markets. Indeed, the EU was among the most ardent supporters, against Putin’s advice, of the shift from long-term, fixed price gas deals to a system where the price is set by virtual trading markets.

Civil disobedience is coming

Given the unlikelihood of radical reform, what will Brussels do next? In all likelihood, it will settle for half-baked solutions — such as a cap on the excess revenues made by non-gas power plants and a windfall tax on surplus profits — as well as for what it does best: austerity. Meanwhile, the ECB, instead of announcing a new round of bond purchases to provide governments with the cash they need to cushion citizens and companies from soaring gas and energy prices, has started to taper its quantitative easing programmes and hiked interest rates, causing the spread between 10-year government bonds issued by Italy and Germany to widen to their highest levels since the pandemic began. This could easily precipitate a new debt crisis, which is the last thing Europe needs.

Without central bank support, governments in the EU have essentially been left to fend for themselves. Once again we are reminded of what it means for euro countries to have given up the power to issue their own money; it’s no coincidence that the UK alone has allocated more than 50% of what has been set aside by the EU as a whole.

This is already leading to beggar-thy-neighbour policies: those countries, such as Germany, that can rely on financial markets to raise the cash they need to help citizens and businesses, and nationalise or bail out ailing energy utilities, will inevitably outcompete weaker countries that are already facing stress on bond markets, such as Italy. In fact, this is already starting to happen, as more and more countries engage in what can only be described as energy protectionism.

In theory, Europe’s gas security is governed by a regulation adopted in 2017, which makes solidarity among European countries mandatory. But EU countries don’t always observe those rules when confronted with a supply crisis. So, for example, the Italian newspaper la Repubblica recently reported that Italy had received written notification from France’s state-controlled utility EDF regarding a potential two-year halt on power exports as part of France’s energy-saving plans. A spokesperson for Italy’s Ministry of Ecological Transition later confirmed the newspaper report, although it was denied by EDF. Similarly, Croatia and Hungary have both announced that plans to implement measures to limit exports of natural gas to neighbouring countries. While Norway, which has supplanted Russia as the EU’s largest source of gas, making gigantic profits on the back of higher gas prices, has thus refused to back a price cap on its gas exports.

Yet while moaning about such “lack of solidarity” between European states is easy, it is also naïve. This, after all, is simply how capitalism works. For all the talk of “global capitalism”, individual nations — or better, their respective capitalist elites — are still engaged in competition with each other. While the ruling classes of individual countries are more than happy to collaborate to pursue the interests of capital-in-general at the expense of workers — just look at the European Union — their competing interests inevitably re-emerge in times of crisis.

The EU, in fact, far from encouraging solidarity among countries, actually makes inter-capitalist competition even more fierce, by depriving countries of the basic economic tools that are required to deal with external shocks. It doesn’t matter if the continent is experiencing a financial crash, a global pandemic or an energy shortage. In Europe, beggar-thy-neighbour policies aren’t an exception to the rule — they are the rule.

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Study of the Week – Lessons from a Serious Medical Mistake

Source: Study of the Week – Lessons from a Serious Medical Mistake

At the heart of one of modern medicine’s greatest errors was confusing correlation and causation.

Sep 19, 2022

When I began medical training, experts felt they knew how to prevent heart disease in post-menopausal women. It was simple: extend their exposure to estrogen by giving hormone replacement therapy or HRT.

It made sense: estrogen worked in the liver to reduce levels of bad cholesterol. Rates of heart disease in women increased after menopause when estrogen levels dropped.

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And there were studies—lots of them.

In 1992, the prestigious journal, the Annals of Internal Medicine, published a meta-analysis (a combination study of studies) of hormonal therapy to prevent heart disease and prolong life in post-menopausal women.

I made a slide of the main findings and conclusions. In the right column are the many observational studies of HRT. Notice that most have estimates less than 1.00, which means that the group of women who took HRT had lower rates of coronary disease.

In the next slide I’ve highlighted the results and conclusions. Note the causal verbs.

HRT does not associate with better outcomes, it decreases the risk for coronary heart disease. I remind you that these were non-randomized comparisons of women who took HRT vs those who did not.

This had a serious effect on creating a therapeutic fashion.

Journalist Gary Taubes writes that by 2001, 15 million women were taking HRT for preventive purposes.

The exact number isn’t important; what’s important is that lots of women took preventive HRT—for years—in the absence of a proper randomized trial.

The trial finally came. JAMA published the Women’s Health Initiative trial in 2002.

It was a large trial with more than 8000 post-menopausal women in each group—HRT vs placebo. Their primary outcome was strong—heart attack or death due to heart disease. Breast cancer was a safety endpoint.

The results were stunning. Not only did HRT not prevent heart disease, it caused more heart disease, pulmonary embolisms, stroke, and breast cancer than placebo.

I did a little algebra to determine what a rate of 32 per 10,000 would look like in 2001 where 15 million women were taking HRT.

The numbers are staggering. In one year alone, HRT led to a nearly 50k women being harmed.

(An important caveat is that WHI looked at HRT for prevention.)

Two Main Lessons:

The first lesson is that bio-medicine is hard. No matter how much sense something makes, the likelihood is that it won’t work. From a Bayesian point of view, our prior expectations should mostly be pessimistic. This is especially true when it comes to preventing disease.

The second lesson is that observational research has serious limitations when it comes to making causal inference. Without random assignment, you don’t know if the comparison groups were similar.

In this case, women who decided to take HRT were likely healthier than women who did not. And it is those healthier attributes that led to the findings of lower risk.

Randomization fixes this flaw because it (mostly) balances characteristics that you can see and those that you cannot see.

And it doesn’t matter if these non-random studies contain large numbers of patients or if there are many studies. They can all be biased in the same way. A systemic bias is the same in a study of 100 or 10000 patients.

Cardiologist David Cohen succinctly states the existential problem with observational studies:

I want now to add two caveats about observational research.

It is not use-less. Observational studies can tell us things like what we are doing (e.g. the number of procedures), who we are doing these procedures on, and rates of complications. This is useful.

The second caveat is that there are groups, such as Miguel Hernan’s team, working on ways to simulate trials from observational studies. The important point here is that his target trial technique is best used in spaces where there are no randomized trials or when randomized trials are not feasible.

Conclusion:

Medicine is replete with examples where hubris led us to cause harm.

Most often, it is over-confidence in therapies that make sense and show positive results in observational studies. Always beware of non-randomized comparisons.

The antidote is randomization. The onus is on the proponents of new therapies to show that it works in a randomized trial. In the end, this mindset will lead to far less harm.

 

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Normalizing vaccine induced myocarditis is not good medicine nor public health

BY Vinay Prasad, Sept. 19, 2022

Source: Normalizing vaccine induced myocarditis is not good medicine nor public health

Recently, I came across this shocking ad playing in New York outlets. It is a television ad for myocarditis in a child. She does well after developing it. Watch it.

Twitter avatar for @anish_kokaAnish Koka, MD @anish_koka

First child myocarditis ad I’ve ever seen

Image

My first question is: Why is this a young girl? It should be a man between the ages of 16-26, the highest risk demographic.

Vinay Prasad’s Observations and Thoughts is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

My second question is: Why are we normalizing myocarditis? I have never seen a TV ad for this condition before, and now there’s one. Why are we trying to normalize something that we can easily reduce?

Here’s what could have done, and still can do:

Ban Moderna in people under 40

Space the two doses apart

Test lower doses in the high risk demographic group

Reconsider boosters in the high risk demographic group

Allow exemptions for natural immunity

Run better studies on the new bivalent booster, particularly for young men.

No mandates

And yet, the CDC has only tried one of these: Allowing us to space the doses further apart, but this took them a year longer than it needed to. The companies have tons of cash to test variations in dose and schedule to try to optimize the safety in young men. But the administration has put no pressure on them to do so. This administration appears to be working as their marketing arm.

Even the most ardent proponent of vaccination must admit that there’s no point in giving it unsafely. If you can achieve the same goal, with less myocarditis, why wouldn’t you do that?

Along the way many scientists have said demonstrably false things such as that the risk of myocarditis from infection is always greater than from vaccine. This is demonstrably untrue for any 20-year-old man who received one dose of Moderna, who is about to receive D2 on day 28. Either way, dose two or not, he will have a breakthrough of COVID-19. One way brings the much higher rate of dose two myocarditis to add to his ledger.

The goal of vaccination is to vaccinate safely. It’s not to downplay serious safety concerns, as Rochelle Walensky has done. It is also not to create television ads to normalize something that is mutable, fixable, and preventable.

There is something between black and white, and that’s called sensible policy. We are not living in that world. This ad was unfortunate.

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C&C. 5th Circuit Win. History vs Truth?

Source: ☕️ Coffee & Covid ☙ Tuesday, September 20, 2022 ☙ SHAKING

 

🗞*COVID NEWS AND COMMENTARY* 🗞

🔥 In an epic win for social media user rights, on Friday, the Fifth Circuit upheld a new Texas statute prohibiting large social media platforms from political viewpoint-based user censorship. The Court noted that the platforms made the bizarre oxymoronic argument that they have a free speech right to “muzzle speech.”

The Fifth Circuit judges were having none of it. They explained that the platforms’ argument makes no sense:

The implications of the platforms’ argument are staggering. On the platforms’ view, email providers, mobile phone companies, and banks could cancel the accounts of anyone who sends an email, makes a phone call, or spends money in support of a disfavored political party, candidate, or business. What’s worse, the platforms argue that a business can acquire a dominant market position by holding itself out as open to everyone-as Twitter did in championing itself as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” Then, having cemented itself as the monopolist of “the modern public square,” Twitter unapologetically argues that it could turn around and ban all pro-LGBT speech for no other reason than its employees want to pick on members of that community.

The short, two-page order ended like this:

Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say. Because the district court held otherwise, we reverse its injunction and remand for further proceedings.

BOOM.

The appeal was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been doing some truly fantastic work lately.

The Court’s holding interferes with the deep state’s narrative-manipulation tools, so you can imagine that they must be thinking this is the worst thing that could ever have happened, literally a million times worse than the Hindenburg disaster. They’re squawking, too. For instance, here’s how deep state mouthpiece Foreign Policy magazine described the ruling in its headline:

See? According to the deep state, the problem is that a free and open social media town square is NOT SAFE. “Extremists” from “the globe” might post stuff that hurts your feelings, which is even worse than ACTUALLY hurting you, say through a jab mandate or something.

Safety uber-alles!

The authors of the Foreign Policy op-ed admitted their conflict of interests, noting parenthetically that “(Full disclosure: At Valens Global, we have received funding from Meta, the owner of Facebook, for our work on how national security intersects with technology.)” So.

The parade of horribles offered by the op-ed’s writers is mostly fantastical. For example, they begin the piece by warning their hands over a lunatic who live-streamed a shooting incident. If the platforms can’t censor THAT, then even more lunatics will be encouraged to shoot people and live-stream themselves.

The problem with that argument, of course, is that censoring criminal activity is not political viewpoint discrimination. The authors next invoked “radical Islam,” worrying that social media can be used to “radicalize” jihadists.

I’d say that letting the radical jihadist talk on social media helps us figure out where they are, and frankly I’m more concerned about the social media platforms censoring opinions for “Islamophobia.”

As my First Amendment professor used to say, “the antidote to bad speech is more speech.”

🔥 One of the dumb excuses Martha’s Vineyard locals used to justify why the 51 illegal immigrants couldn’t stay on their idyllic little island was that is just no work for them, what with the summer rush over and everything. For example, Charles Rus, music director at St. Andrew’s, the episcopal church in Edgartown where the illegal immigrants were temporarily housed, flatly told the Epoch Times there were no jobs on the island for the migrants, so. Buh bye.

But the Epoch Times did a little digging — a very little digging, it didn’t take much — and found jobs all over the place, in scads and buckets. For instance, there are over 50 help wanted ads in classified section of the Vineyard Gazette alone, including jobs for laborers, custodians, landscapers, bakers, cooks, dishwashers, technicians, library assistant, and several retail positions.

Epoch’s reporters also called the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA and discovered several more open positions, including housekeepers, “ice arena” workers, and a front desk administrator. The YMCA shares a building with a local charity, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, which itself needs a “bilingual” administrative assistant.

Bilingual.

Although the Community Services charity almost certainly receives state and/or federal funding, Epoch couldn’t find anyone in the generously-appointed offices when the reporter went by to ask about the job opening.

Even more appalling, Epoch’s reporter discovered that the island’s local supermarket chain, Stop & Shop, has empty worker dormitories — where the summer overflow workers live during the busy summer tourist season. Obviously the immigrants could have been housed there — and Stop & Shop is even hiring for several open positions right now.

Martha’s Vineyard is one of eight “sanctuary cities” in Massachusetts and — up till about 10 minutes ago — regularly “celebrated diversity.”

Not any more, apparently.

📈 MSN begrudgingly ran a story Friday headlined, “Ron DeSantis Breaks Fundraising Record For Governors Amid Martha’s Vineyard Immigration Stunt.”

The news agency reported that, following the news over last week’s Martha’s Vineyard disaster for liberals, Florida’s governor broke all-time fundraising records, ever, by any governor in U.S. history.

And it’s not just fundraising…

🔥 The latest figures on party registration in Florida show that, since DeSantis was elected governor in 2018, Florida’s Republican Party had added 509,420 new registered voters, but in the same period, Democrats have only added 17,197 voters.

Oops. Pretty soon, democrats in Florida might find out what California Republicans feel like.

🔥 Is the great cleanup starting? USA Today ran a revealing investigative story a couple weeks ago headlined, “Cashing In On Covid: USA Today Investigates Claims Against Companies That Profited In Pandemic.”

The article rounds up a series of related articles about state and federal investigations into pandemic “no bid” profiteering, where people who got government covid contracts under emergency authority are now having to account for where the money went.

And guess what? A lot of taxpayer money went right into people’s pockets. I know; shocking, right?

For now, the investigations are mostly into covid testing labs, the same ones who used absurdly-high PCR thresholds to inflate covid infection figures and keep the pandemic cash machine rolling — while keeping the rest of us locked down and masked up.

Here’s a list of headlines from USA Today’s linked articles:

  • “This Utah Startup Had No Public Health Experience, But GOP Governors Paid It $219M For Questionable Covid Tests.”
  • “Timeline: How An Upstart Utah Company Made Millions Off Covid-19 Tests.”
  • “Utah Firms Gave $1M To GOP After Getting No-Bid Covid-19 Contracts.”
  • “How Pop-Up Coronavirus Test Sites And Labs Capitalize On Lax Regulations.”
  • “They Got Rich Off ‘Covid Money’ And Flaunted It. Now They’re Under Investigation.”
  • “Covid-19 Testing Chain Amassed Fortunes Amid Betrayal Of Trust: Lawsuit.”

If the references to GOP governors and states troubles you, don’t worry. There’ll be plenty of these cases in the blue states, too, you’ll see. They just won’t get as much corporate media coverage.

And if you ever wondered why the RINOs jumped right behind the pandemic madness — I didn’t — this is your explanation.

Covid was the biggest cash grab in human history. And I really believe that — sooner rather than later — we WILL ultimately crawl all the way up the chain, right up to the big pharma execs who snatched generational wealth from citizens, by selling dangerously defective snake oil to 70% of the first world’s population using no-bid government contracts.

Trust the greed process. There’s blood in the political water. The lower-level sharks are already circling around all that new generational wealth money, and the feeding frenzy could start anytime.

🔥 A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck southwest Mexico off the Pacific coast yesterday, which, along with the Taiwan quake, makes TWO recent serious earthquakes, on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, within a couple days of each other.

Fortunately there were no casualties or major building damage, according to reports.

The quake was weird for another reason. Yesterday’s earthquake hit on the September 19th anniversary of TWO previous large earthquakes around Mexico City, one that killed over 10,000 people in 1985, and another that killed over 360 in 2017. In other words, three major earthquakes have now hit Mexico on the same day of the year — September 19th.

In fact, because of the anniversaries, officials had JUST finished an earthquake drill in Mexico City when yesterday’s earthquake hit. You have to admit it’s kind of weird.

🔥 There are signs of intelligent life and ethics in the FBI. Yesterday, Jim Jordan sent a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray, complaining about what the FBI agents who are providing the House Judiciary Committee are saying about what’s been going on in the agency since Biden took up residence in the White House.

Jordan explained that, all around the country, FBI agents are being told to stand down child sex trafficking investigations, and start prioritizing investigations about J6 cases:

The whistleblower disclosed that the FBI is sacrificing its other important federal law-enforcement duties to pursue January 6 investigations. The whistleblower recalled, for example, being “told that child sexual abuse material investigations were no longer an FBI priority and should be referred to local law enforcement agencies.”

Jordan told Wray that “whistleblowers describe a “rotted” culture within the FBI’s senior leadership in Washington.” According to the whistleblowers, to make it look like there’s some kind of sudden explosion of domestic terrorism around the country, the DC field office is referring J6 cases to local offices around America and telling them to “originate” the case in those local jurisdictions.

According to the whistleblowers, this statistical sleight-of-hand lets the DOH claim that new cases are breaking out all over the country (instead of coming right from D.C.) amounting to “significant increases in domestic terrorism … instead of hundreds of investigations stemming from a single, black swan incident at the Capitol.”

I don’t know what will come of this, but the story shows there are still good cops in the FBI, and they’re talking a blue streak. Finally.

🔥 There are some significant signs that the culture may be shifting. Yesterday, Business Insider reported that Charlamagne The God, a center-left social media influencer turned Comedy Central “black news” commenter, called DeSantis a genius for sending the illegals to Martha’s Vineyard:

🔥 And last week, classically-liberal Bill Maher even called out leftist historical revisionism.

Maher is looking more conservative by the minute. But he hasn’t changed. Neither has Charlamagne. I’ll remind you of the brilliant cartoon illustration popularized by former democrat Elon Musk, showing how moderate liberals must be starting to view their place in the world:

So, be encouraged! We’re moving in the right direction. It just takes a long time to turn a mega-cruise-ship around, what with with Klaus Schwab constantly showing up on the bridge and trying to grab the helm.

Have a terrific Tuesday! I’ll see you guys back here tomorrow for more.

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