Archive for the ‘Sociology’ Category

The Thinker

No right to work in “right to work” laws

Wisconsin is the latest state to enact a so-called “right to work” law. With this law exactly half of the states are now right to work states. If your state is a right to work state, this means that you cannot be required to join a union as a condition for taking a job. If collective bargaining exists at a job site, the union can still negotiate benefits for you. You just have the right not to pay them union dues.

The effects on employees in these states are easily documented. In general you will earn less for the same job than in a state with no such laws. Unsurprisingly, this is because it is harder for a union to win the right to negotiate wages and benefits when they have fewer resources (union dues) to do it with. If paying union dues bothers you, there is an alternative: don’t take a job in the first place. If you think union dues are too high, as a union member you can petition for changes. Like any union (such as a credit union) a labor union is owned by its members. A union can disband itself if its members feel it is ineffective or if its dues are too onerous.

The supposed rationalization for right to work laws is that you as an employee should not have to pay from your wages fees that you do not want to pay. However, we are already required to have withheld from our wages federal income taxes, state income taxes, often city income taxes, pension contributions, Social Security and Medicare taxes. We can’t opt out of these. In many states other things are automatically withheld unless you explicitly opt out, such as your contribution to a 401-K retirement fund.

What if anything does all this have with a “right to work”? The theory seems to be that paying union dues by itself might be the difference between having a job that pays a wage you can live on and one you cannot live on. This is at best a dubious proposition, since you would be hard pressed to find a service-related profession where the real wage (after union dues) is less than a similar job without a union. It’s almost guaranteed that union members will negotiate better benefits for their members than you would by yourself bargaining with your employer.

“Right to work” laws are misnamed. You have no right to a job in any state. The closest we came was during the Great Depression. Government-created agencies like the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps hired the unemployed to build bridges and improve our national parks when private industry would not. My grandfather was one of these people that depended on a WPA job during the Great Depression. Today, if you are unemployed the best you can hope for are some limited unemployment benefits and food stamps. The reality for most people is that these benefits don’t begin to cover the real cost of living, so they are employed. They are just not employed enough to have a living wage. Many of these people are so good at finding jobs that they have two or three jobs simultaneously, generally part time with no benefits. Yet they still cannot afford to live and they survive at the margins, perhaps in group housing but often they end up homeless.

So right to work states don’t guarantee any right to work. Such laws thus provide no particular incentive to get work. And if you can’t find a job, state assistance at helping you find a job will be marginal at best. Maybe there is a state unemployment office where you can go to look at local job listings, although this is mostly done online now. To the extent you can get unemployment benefits, you will likely have to prove you are diligently searching for a job. This isn’t normally a problem because you cannot survive long on unemployment benefits. At best you will draw from your savings less quickly than you would without them.

What would a right to work look like? A right is distinguished from a privilege because it is inherent and inalienable. You have the right to practice the religion of your choice. If you had a true right to work then either a employer would have to hire you or the government would be the employer of last resort. You might not like the work they would give you but it would be work that you are capable of doing. And since it would be work instead of free labor, they would have to pay you a wage. And since we work to survive, the work would have to pay a living wage, i.e. you should be able to live above the poverty line from a full time job.

You’ll see none of this in any “right to work” state, or any state at all, which means there is no right to work in this country. What they really are is “the right to opt out of paying union dues while enjoying the benefits of a union should your job be covered by a collective bargaining agreement.” Of course if because of insufficient union dues, the union goes bankrupt then you are out of luck. And as is often the case in right to work states, with no requirement for you to pay union dues, most unions can’t organize to win collective bargaining rights. Unsurprisingly “right to work” states have much lower rates of unionized workers than other states.

Without a labor union not only are you likely to have fewer benefits, you are also more likely to lose your job, which contradicts the whole “right to work” philosophy. You are an “at will” employee, which means you can quit for anytime and any reason and leave your employer in the lurch. Your employer also has the right to fire you at any time, and generally for any reason except those few reasons (like due to your sex or race) prohibited by law. Of course, it is very hard to prove that you were deliberately fired due to these factors, so basically you can be let go at any time, for any reason or no reason at all, and with no severance pay unless there is a state law on that. You might be able to retain your health insurance under the COBRA law, only if you can pay the full cost of the premiums while getting no income.

Right to work laws are simply snake oil wherein the state gives you the “right” not to pay union dues at the almost certain cost of a reduced standard of living and with a greater likelihood of sudden unemployment. If it were explained to workers this way almost no employees would want them.

 
The Thinker

Don’t be the roadkill on the global climate change super highway

Most Americans are comfortably in denial about global climate change. In some places, like in the Florida state government, saying the phrases global warming or global climate change may get you in trouble. Governor Tim Scott doesn’t believe it’s happening and doesn’t want to hear his minions utter these naughty words. His overwhelmingly Republican legislature is happy to back him up. Meanwhile, in places like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, where rising sea levels are already happening, city and county officials are funding mitigation strategies to minimize flooding that is already underway. A king tide can pull ocean water onto streets at certain times of the year when the earth is closest to the sun and the moon is closest to the earth. Meanwhile, condos keep going up along Florida’s coasts.

My sister lives in Hollywood near Fort Lauderdale. She has the typical ranch house. Despite having a house on concrete blocks, twice in the last few years her house has flooded. Like most of her neighbors, she loves living in Florida and particularly near the coast. Her boat is parked at a local marina. Retirement is on her horizon. She is not stupid and understands that rising sea levels are already affecting her and it will be more of a problem in their future. Her retirement plans, such as they are, are to move inland to Arcadia, where the cost of living is very cheap and the elevation is 57 feet above sea level, which it at least higher than Hollywood’s 9 feet.

Perhaps that will work for her. As sea levels rise, it will be harder to get goods to places like Arcadia. In general there will be a lot of people along Florida’s coasts slowly coming to grasp the magnitude of climate change events underway. It’s not hard to predict more dikes and heightened sand dunes along the coasts as a coping mechanism. It’s not hard to figure out who will eventually win: Mother Nature. Rick Scott may want to deny it, but you can’t change chemistry or pretend it’s not happening. Add more carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere, and the atmosphere will warm, ice will melt and sea levels will rise. I’ve urged my sister to move out of Florida altogether, or if she must live in Florida to pick a place like Tallahassee where the elevation gets as high as 203 feet.

Meanwhile, California is trying to grasp with the magnitude of its issues, which is driven by global climate change, which was triggered by global warming. It’s not news to read they are about a decade into a steadily worsening drought. Only 5% of the normal snowpack fell in the mountains this year. Governor Jerry Brown, who does acknowledge global climate change, is trying to ration water but there are lots of legal exemptions. California is browning up, but it’s hardly alone in the west. Much of its population is in real risk of having their taps run dry in the next few years. In some places in California, it already has as wells run dry.

As Bachman-Turner Overdrive sang: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” To grasp the future, look at what is happening today in the Mediterranean Sea. Almost daily there are heartbreaking stories of refugees fleeing Africa and the east coast of the Mediterranean for Europe, and many are drowning at sea when their boats capsize or are deliberately sunk. It’s true that a lot of these refugees are escaping war or political unrest, and overpopulation in that area is also straining resources, which is contributing to their poverty and desperation. But climate change is certainly a factor there as well and some believe provided the fuel for wars in Syria. When it becomes sufficiently painful, people will use whatever resources they have to move from poverty to wealth and from war to peace. Thousands have already perished at sea but still they come despite the risks. As climate change worsens we’ll see this problem only get worse, and it will drive a lot of war and conflict. As sea levels rise people will simply vote with their feet and move to higher elevations, causing political instability and turmoil.

Global climate change is inescapable, but that doesn’t mean a lot of it cannot be mitigated. My wife and I are now residents of Massachusetts and were formerly residents of Northern Virginia. Nestled now in mountainous western Massachusetts, we are strategically positioned to minimize the effects of global climate change on our lives. The one comment we invariably got when we disclosed we were moving north was, “But you are supposed to move south when you retire.”

That’s the old rules. In 36 years of living in Northern Virginia we have already witnessed climate change (not to mention explosive growth). What were once native plantings in our area are no longer suited for the new climate reality. They are now considered native further north. We’ve seen temperatures rising in general and more frequent severe weather. Life was a lot more bearable in Northern Virginia in 1984 when I first moved to Reston than 31 years later. New England is changing too. It’s becoming the new Mid-Atlantic, with more severe weather and higher temperatures. It will get into the eighties up here this week, and it’s only the first week of May.

We made a conscious decision not to retire out west, at least not to those areas that are already impacted by climate change, which is most of the west. Their problems are only exacerbated by population growth. California is very vulnerable, but it is hardly alone. Most of the population of the southwest survives due to the largess of the Colorado River, which on average is recording reduced streamflow every year. The Colorado River is typically dry before it hits the Pacific Ocean, all due to human usage.

That’s not a problem out here in western Massachusetts, at least not yet. We’re nowhere near the coast, so coastal storms will affect us less, although the last few years around here have seen record snowfalls. Water is in abundant supply and there are huge reservoirs to supplement the supply during droughts. We are close to local farms as well as major interstates. Not coincidentally we are not too far from major cities like New York and Boston, so we can enjoy their amenities as we age.

In short, our retirement choices were built around the reality of global climate change to maximize our happiness and to reduce our costs and vulnerabilities due to climate change. We have chosen to be proactive about this obvious problem rather than stick our heads in the sand like Rick Scott is doing.

We will all be impacted by climate change, and I suspect the majority will be severely impacted eventually. I can and do advocate for changes to reduce the rate of global warming. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, who sees the future and plans to profit from it by offering batteries to power the home encourage me. In the new neighborhood we will call home when our house constructed is finished, about half the homes already have solar panels. I expect within a few years we will as well, with the eventual goal of going off-grid if we can. Massachusetts agrees as well, and offers generous credits for those interested in solar power and reducing energy usage. Don’t expect Rick Scott to do anything this intelligent for his citizens.

Human nature being what it is, most of us will live in ignorance or choose denial about global climate change until it is too late. By then it will be far more costly to do something about it than it is today. In the case of my sister in Florida, I’ve urged her to sell her house now. It’s not practical for her at the moment since she is not retired, but now she can get full price for her house. As the reality of global climate change settles in down there, it’s going to lower everyone’s home prices. Eventually these properties will be worthless and much of her net worth could be irretrievably lost.

I don’t want her to become roadkill on the global climate change superhighway. I don’t want you too either. It is time to get past the self-destructive denial on the issue, and plan your lives to minimize its impact. It’s coming at you and it will change everything but unfortunately it’s hard to see because it seems so abstract and nebulous. But it’s coming nonetheless.

Be prepared.

 
The Thinker

Craigslist casual encounters weirdness: April 2015 edition

This will be my last monthly survey of Northern Virginia Craigslist casual encounter section. A month from now I will be living in New England. Western Massachusetts (where I’ll be living) has a very lame Craigslist casual encounters section. But I’ll be an hour from Hartford, Connecticut and ninety minutes from Boston. I might survey this section for these cities for future posts. It’s a cheap form of entertainment for you and it’s an easy way for me to garner hits without sweating too much at the keyboard. These posts garnered at least 175 web page views in March, about a hundred less than in February and amounted to just ten percent of web traffic. So I may have mined this Craigslist meme for all it’s worth, which may be a relief to some of you looking for weightier content. I’ll see how it goes.

Surveying the first page of posts tonight I see:

  • 46 men looking for a woman
  • 24 men looking for a man
  • 5 men looking for a couple
  • 8 women looking for a man
  • 1 woman looking for a woman, which appears to be a post warning that the referenced ad is a fake
  • 4 transgender people looking for a man
  • 2 couples looking for another couple

And now for the naughty bits:

  • Linda Lovelace lives … or at least has been reincarnated. This youngish woman of an unspecified age is going retro (early 1970s) when the braless look and halter-tops were in. If you don’t know what Linda was known for, let’s just say she claimed her clitoris was deep down her throat. That should be enough for you to know what she wants to do with a man tonight, and she wants her man very wide between his legs. I suspect this is another bogus ad, but who knows? Maybe she is into erotic asphyxiation.
  • Couples, what’s the point of having a threesome with just any man when you can go with a reliable source? This 48-year-old man from McLean claims to have done this many times, and misses his FWB couple and actually prefers to be the extra male. He does have some competition tonight, such as this 42-year-old Scot from Arlington, so be selective couples!
  • As a 50-plus man, I can understand the appeal of a “sugar babe” half my age if I were independently wealthy. But how much sugar should a 48-year-old woman be worth, particularly when she spells sugar “surgar” and can’t complete a grammatical sentence? Men: give her Splenda instead.
  • He’s a 28-year-old man from Gaithersburg wanting to buy women’s used panties, the messier the better. He’s open to worn bras as well. He’s either into female pheromones or, more likely, he’s so unattractive that this is the closest he can get to intimacy with a woman, which is pathetic. He is willing to trade just in case you are a woman with a similar kink.
  • Men seem to find infinite ways to have their M4W ad stand out on Craigslist. Usually it’s the unappealing dick pic. This six foot one inch guy of an indeterminate age is going for the mentorship angle. It probably won’t work but he must figure it’s worth a try.
  • Faked incest ads are still in evidence this month. Here’s a 24-year-old “son” looking for his freaky “mom”. He is looking for a woman over age 30. So it’s okay if your mom was 7 years old when she had you? What’s up with that?
  • She’s 31, married but attracted to her gender and wants to work out her feelings through dirty texting only.
  • He’s from Montgomery County, horny but doesn’t want to get past third base. He’s willing to pay you for your time. What’s with not wanting to score that home run? Most likely: fear of erectile dysfunction.
  • This is weird. He’s a 42-year-old guy from Centreville looking for a guy, but he’s got a girlfriend. He wants to deep throat you wearing his girlfriend’s nylon panties and he wants to do this in your car in a parking lot near where he lives. He’s not only weird; he’s weirdly particular. And there are seven pictures of him wearing various colors of his girlfriend’s panties. He pretty much gets all the colors of the rainbow.
  • It’s a 23-year-old surfer dude from Woodbridge who hasn’t been laid in two years. Ladies, check out his Beach Boys approved picture and catch his wave!
  • She’s a 33-year-old African American “pillow princess” from Manassas. Basically she and her boyfriend want to have a threesome with a woman. She wants to get dirty with you but screwing her man is out, although a blowjob is maybe okay. However, if you do it she’ll probably be upset and pout. So it basically sounds like she is not ready for this, so find another ad instead ladies.
  • If you are a woman looking for a woman tonight, go for this extremely cute 19-year-old from Ashburn. Most men would willingly undergo a sex change operation to have one encounter with her. Even weirder: the ad looks legit.
  • Craigslist ads are often baffling and this one from what looks like a black woman who is never having sex again but wants to give oral sex is one of the most baffling tonight. She either has a phobia against her own genitals or has a terrible yeast infection. Or she’s high as a kite. I’m going with the last one.
  • Married men looking for a bit on the side ads tend to overwhelm this Craigslist section. They all want a single woman who can host and are desperately advertising for her. Finally, a 41-year-old single woman from Alexandria has an ad just for you horn dogs. Doubtless her email inbox is overflowing and may be crashing her email server.
  • Speaking of dogs: men, are you submissive? Would you like to be her dog? Prepare to start howling for her moons. Good doggy!
  • A married 42-year-old BBW female exhibitionist with her husband’s consent seeks a single male voyeur. She is looking for erotic modeling requests, hopefully outdoors. If you are hoping for more, it looks like this is as far as you will get with her.
  • A group of older and mostly married bikers is looking for one woman. Basically they are only interested in making sperm bank deposits into your mouth.

For me the woman looking for a man to be her dog wins the award for the most bizarre and disturbing ad this month.

 
The Thinker

The endless battle of the bulge

There is some good news, somewhat anecdotal, on the relentless war on our waists. The other day food conglomerates Heinz and Kraft announced they would merge, forming a new company, Heinz-Kraft. It’s unlikely that these companies would be merging at all except that their sales are down. These kings of processed foods like macaroni and cheese and Velveeta are finding that profits are falling with their sales. They hope that by merging they can reverse the trend, or at least find cost savings to prop up profits even as processed food sales seem to be receding.

If I were a stockholder in either of these companies, I would be buying more of their shares, not selling them. When forced to choose between what I would like Americans to do (eat healthy food) and what they are likely to do, I think the great expansion of the American gut is ultimately going to win. Of course there are plenty of Americans who eat healthy, as evidenced by the sales at stores like Whole Foods. Most of these customers though were eating healthy before they started shopping there. They are shopping there I believe principally because it is more convenient, and they get more variety at places like Whole Foods. They are also understandably paranoid: about processed foods, about genetically modified foods and want to live in good health to at least 100. Good luck to them on this quest.

I am not at all convinced that those of us who are principally Heinz and Kraft consumers will change our eating habits. Dieting is certainly doable, but only a relative few of those who do diet will manage to successfully make the lifestyle changes to keep the weight off. I am one of many people who have yo-yoed over the years. Dieters are great at taking the weight off. Keeping it off is the only trick they haven’t mastered.

So why is it? Dieticians have their own ideas, but I suspect most dieticians don’t really understand the problem because they don’t experience it. I think most diets fail for cultural reasons. But also, it’s almost impossible not to encounter temptation. One can of course choose to resist temptation, but it’s much easier to do so when the temptation is not constantly in your face.

Alcoholics go to AA meetings regularly, or at least try to. It’s unlikely though when they drive down the street that they will pass a package store on every block. Of course in some states it’s not too hard to find a package store on every block, or what seems like every block. Florida comes to mind but there are many other states like this. Unsurprisingly, if you are an alcoholic you’ll have more luck staying sober in states where package stores are relatively rare. It’s easier to resist temptation when you encounter temptation less often.

If you are a consumer of processed foods, avoiding temptation is virtually impossible. If you grew up eating healthy then temptation is less of an issue because you do not crave these foods, so you can pass down a strip blissfully immune from the lure of pizza and burger joints along your route. If you picked up the habit over the years then going down the street is like having a package store on every block is to an alcoholic. Of course the danger is not just your local strip. It’s your local grocery store as well where Kraft and Heinz stuff most of the aisles with products. It’s at the quick mart, it’s at the vending machine down the hall at work or school, and it’s at the airport, the train station and pretty much anywhere you go. Unhealthy food is everywhere and it’s relatively cheap.

If you can manage to unlearn the habit of eating this stuff, you can find salvation. As noted, few manage to do so in the long run. It would help to live a cloistered life, but even if you manage to do so, you also need to cut yourself off from the larger world. Madison Avenue will make sure that ads are calculated to make you give in to temptation. It’s no wonder then that few Americans succeed in permanent weight loss. For what you really need is the superhuman ability to resist temptation and it turns out that we are only human.

For most of our history, mankind has been hunter/gatherers. We foraged for food. We killed local animals for meat. Foraging is built into us. To survive foragers preferred food sources close to where they were living. So if there were berries to eat across the stream, they were more likely to be eaten than to travel a dozen miles for something else. Survival depended on expending calories wisely. This is so engrained in us that today we unconsciously select food choices close to us. So if there is an unhealthy food option a block away and a healthy food option two blocks away, when we get hungry more than likely the unhealthy option will win. Location tends to win. Meanwhile Madison Avenue keeps refining pitches to us via various media to try newer and tastier foods. So maybe we find that we prefer Papa Johns pizza to Pizza Hut, so over time that encourages Papa Johns to build a store near you, increasing the likelihood that you will prefer unhealthy food. In short, most of us are caught up in au unhealthy food cycle that will become virtually impossible to break. Hence, most diets fail in the long run.

Eating of course is also a highly social activity. No one would come to a party where no is food served, and they don’t come to eat healthy. We will tend to emulate the eating habits of those around us simply to fit in. So if other members of our family are eating unhealthy then we are likely to do so as well. But we’re also likelier to do so if our friends and neighbors do as well.

So breaking this cycle looks pretty hopeless. One way to increase the odds that you will break the odds is to hang out with people that eat healthy. Of course, there’s some likelihood that they won’t let you into their club because you aren’t skinny waifs like them. And they won’t understand your craving for a Ding Dong when they naturally select stalks of celery to munch on.

What can be done but probably won’t happen in this country is we could tax unhealthy food. We could also use zoning to limit the number of unhealthy places to acquire food, recognizing that these places are essentially public nuisances. One offshoot of the Affordable Care Act is that restaurants of a certain size are going to have to list calorie counts on their menus. This is a small step in the right direction, but resisting temptation is much easier when temptation is not in your face, or it costs extra to indulge in a temptation. Social engineering does work given time. It has dramatically reduced smoking rates over a couple of generations. However we have to find the moxey to put into office politicians that will do these things. Given that campaigns are increasingly funded by the very rich whose wealth often depends on you maintaining your unhealthy eating habits, this approach is unlikely at best.

Which is why it would be foolish to bet against Heinz-Kraft. Hold on to your stock and maybe use your capital gains to shop at Whole Foods instead. As for me, I’m sadly betting that in this Battle of the Bulge, our bulge is going to win out.

 
The Thinker

Craigslist casual encounters weirdness: March 2015 edition

Sorry Craigslist fans. I am a bit late with this month’s review. I typically do it on the first Friday of the month. But I was occupied with my weekend trip to Baltimore and selling my house. So here I am midweek and wondering if the quality of postings on the Northern Virginia Craigslist Casual Encounters section on a Wednesday will come close to matching those I usually find on Fridays. There’s only one way to find out and that’s to dive in.

A few statistics first. For February I had at least 255 web page requests for my Craigslist posts, about 14% of total traffic. Doubtless there were many more via email and newsfeeds that I can’t track. The first page of listings today shows no women at all looking for men. This would be strange except such posts are almost quickly flagged and deleted, because they are usually judged as bogus. So I will browse beyond the first page so women get some representation today. Otherwise on page one I see:

  • 39 men looking for women
  • 47 men looking for a man
  • 2 men looking for a couple
  • 2 women looking for a woman
  • 1 couple looking for another couple
  • 4 transgender people looking for a man

So here we go:

  • He’s a 23-year-old man with a hotel room and his own gloryhole inside it. I’m trying to figure out how he does this. He can’t replace the hotel room door with his own door. I guess he would have to haul his own door into the hotel room and put it up there, but presumably it can’t attach to the wall or anything. And it would be pretty hard to hide from security cameras. Or maybe he strings a blanket from the ceiling and cuts out a hole in it, or puts up an eight foot high piece of cardboard attached to the walls with duct tape. I have no particular attraction to my own sex, but I kind of wish he included a picture with his set up. It would probably qualify for posting on whitetrashrepairs.com.
  • She’s from Manassas and wants to learn how to milk your prostate. Speaking as a guy, this sounds about as much fun as getting kicked in the balls, but if you are into this give her a try. You must send a photo and be over 40.
  • He’s basically a 22-year-old virgin. He’d probably have more luck snaring a woman if he simply put that in the ad’s title.
  • She’s 19, from Bristow and is into daddy incest. Not with her real daddy of course, and I suspect this is ultimately about separating you from your wallet. Her picture may convince you to give her a try. If you want to do this with a MILF, this 41-year-old woman is looking for a male to do bondage with and possibly incest role-play as well. What she really wants is to use you to find another woman to join you who she would then top. This sounds very complicated! So if that’s too much, there’s also this 42-year-old woman looking for a similar daddy encounter, which presumably would mean a happy time for some 60+ area man. Incest, or really fake incest, must be the new up and coming kink on Craigslist.
  • They are a couple looking for another couple but they do have their standards. To weed out flakes, the women must chat on the phone first and you must send them a picture of both of you together. Also, you must be in shape and under 50.
  • Somewhere in Sterling or Ashburn is a 48-year-old crossdressing man who wants to meet another man in the public restroom stall in his office building. He wants to get to the bottom of this encounter, his bottom actually, but only until 5. Presumably he’ll be on an extended potty break from his desk job.
  • If you are into urinating on, berating and degrading women on their balcony in the dark check out this attractive woman. She’s also looking for a big cock (aren’t they all?). Bonus if you like chomping on and smoking cigars. For something this weird, I actually hope she realizes her fantasy.
  • Here’s a forties couple from Manassas/Woodbridge looking for a couple to basically date. Getting between the sheets is not their main objective.
  • Men, if you are not into lady boys, you might want to make an exception for this 25-year-old tranny from Dunn Loring. Check out her picture and tell me what you think. Her only requirement is that you be under 30. Or maybe you would prefer a visiting black tranny with long black hair and wearing a spotted bra and a cool leather coat. Only I think she is charging. The Dunn Loring lady boy swears she is not.
  • This is a bit strange. A 50+ guy is looking for a 50+ woman, principally because he needs a woman with him to get admitted into local nudist parties.
  • He’s a 28-year-old tomcat, but at least he’s open enough about it. He wants to screw you every which way possible, all unprotected. Just don’t expect him to hang around and do boring things like love you, marry you and pay child support. I’d suggest that he hook up with this 24-year-old woman from Arlington, but she is looking for someone at least three years younger.
  • For some reason I don’t understand, plenty of women are into seeing their man get off with another man. Do you have a husband, boyfriend or significant other you’d like to see get oral sex from another man while you watch? Here’s a guy that will oblige, but he’s strangely particular. The guy must be at least seven inches and under 35.
  • Are you a man with an extensive collection of sex toys? This 31-year-old woman from Woodbridge is willing to let you try all of them on her, providing you are okay with her being a very, very large woman. You must host.

This is not a bad sampling for midweek. Another review will come next month, which is likely to be my last Craigslist critique, at least for here in Northern Virginia, as we’ll be moving. It is likely that there won’t be this level of kink and craziness where we are going.

 
The Thinker

The Walmart egg cracks at last

Walmart protesters like me are cheering, somewhat tentatively. We are celebrating Walmart’s announcement this week that it is raising its starting wages. Walmart will boost starting wages to $9 per hour this year and it will raise them to $10 per hour by February 2016. $10 an hour is still not a living wage, but it is at least a start in the right direction. In addition, Walmart is changing policies to allow more predictive schedules for its employees, many of who are part time and many of who have to struggle their Walmart schedules with other job schedules. Employees will know more than two weeks in advance what their hours will be and when their hours will be. In addition, those desiring more hours will be able to request them. This good news is trickling up. Department managers will get a raise too, up from $13 an hour to $15 an hour.

So hip hooray, for Walmart, but certainly not a hip-hip hooray. Walmart has obviously been assessing the optics of its labor policies for a long time. Organizations like Making Change at Walmart have given widespread attention to their lagging wages, and the hassles and often brutish conditions that their employees endure. This included some strikes, sit-downs and walkouts, not to mention Black Friday protests such as I helped organize last year. It is quite likely that without these events there would have been no announcement this week from Walmart.

I have been focusing on Walmart’s unfair labor practices for many years because I believed it was where the fulcrum of labor change needed be applied. This is because it is the nation’s (if not the world’s) largest private employer. So affecting real change in Walmart was likely to have a nudging effect on all the other private employers out there. Indeed, that is the expectation. There is at least one Walmart in any community of size. $10 an hour may still not be a living wage, but when someone looking for a job has a choice between Walmart at $10 an hour and washing dishes at an Applebees at $7.25 an hour, they will go with Walmart. Walmart gets a richer set of potential employees to choose from. To compete at some point Applebees has to raise its wages too.

Unquestionably some of this is due to the improving economy. With the official unemployment rate at 5.8 percent and many disaffected people rejoining the labor market each month, the labor pool is tightening up at last. A number of employers have been proactive. Costco and Wegmans have long paid their starting employees a living wage and not coincidentally have prospered. Starbucks, Gap Inc., Hobby Lobby and IKEA have all seen this freight train coming their way and recently raised wages. Walmart then is something of a laggard. However, due to its size it has sent a signal that other employers must respond to or have their businesses put in peril.

I doubt that the bean counters at Walmart have figured this out, but raising their employees’ wages is good for their bottom line as well. Most likely much of the raises will be spent at Walmart. As starting wages are raised nationwide Walmart stands to increase sales, as they cater to value customers that come predominantly from the middle class, working class and poor. Happier employees are likely to be more productive as well, which means that Walmart’s notoriously poorly stocked shelves may be less so in the future.

It also means, however marginally, that money which would have otherwise gone toward the rich, where it is unlikely to be spent, will instead go toward the working class, where it will almost certainly be spent. In short, it will mean that the economy will grow more than it otherwise would have. Since the United States leads the world economy, our greater prosperity and our demands for goods and services will spur the world economy, the beginning of a virtuous cycle.

None of this should be news, but it may be to those who favor austerity. Walmart’s and all employers’ low wage policies are ultimately self-defeating. Low wages create high turnover and lower employee morage. Low wages do not build employee loyalty and give no onus for employees to be productive. Low wages make employees feel used instead of valued. It creates unnecessary conflict between employees and management and creates the conditions for labor to organize that employers don’t like. It taints businesses by projecting them as cheap, uncaring and harsh.

It also tends to stifle business creativity. Fast food restaurants like Chipotle are prospering by offering fresher, tastier, trendier and more natural foods. Chipotle’s simple use of a cafeteria line moves customers through more quickly and more cheaply while allowing them to pay employees more while needing fewer of them. In short, this makes them more productive and profitable. McDonalds, which has used the counter methodology for its more than sixty years in business, can’t seem to rethink its business model in such obvious ways. Clinging to tradition rather than embracing change is a major reason for their lackluster sales.

Employers that demonstrate that they value employees in the form of living wages set up a virtuous cycle wherein higher profits are a probable outcome of a generous corporate philosophy. Walmart is beginning to dimly grasp this but in fact this is what worked for American for most of the latter half of the 20th century. In truth, Walmart’s profitability is centered on its ability to treat its employees with respect through living wages and humane working conditions. Without employees it simply cannot survive. It needs to see its employees as invaluable and treasured assets, not as commodities. Living wages are the primary way to demonstrate this. Then Walmart may see sustainable increases in sales and profits again.

 
The Thinker

Craigslist casual encounters weirdness: February 2015 edition

It’s the first Friday of the month so that means it’s that time of the month … to plumb my local Craigslist Casual Encounters Section to see what bizarre and unusual postings are out there this cold night. Hopefully the embers of local Craigslist denizens are burning red hot tonight.

Some statistics for January come first. Google Analytics reports at least 261 pages of my Craigslist posts were served in January, quite a bit higher than in December, but traffic was up a bit in general last month. This amounted to about 14 percent of my overall web traffic. Meanwhile, looking at the first page of ads popping up tonight, I see the following posting demographics:

  • 37 men looking for a woman
  • 32 men looking for a man
  • 3 men looking for a couple
  • 4 men looking for a transgender
  • 6 women looking for a man
  • 5 women looking for a woman
  • 4 couples looking for other couples
  • 2 couples looking for a woman
  • 6 couples looking for a man
  • 4 transgender people (I must use the politically correct term) looking for a man

Let’s see how many eyebrows I can raise tonight. Not much fazes me anymore, so it’s more of a challenge to see if anything will raise my eyebrow.

  • Couples, would it be a turn on to have a sex with guy in his mid 50s with a pock marked face and long flowing blondish hair that makes him look sort of girlish? Yes, this man is brave enough to post his picture though thankfully he has his clothes on. He says he’s bi and that his hair is shorter now. While he says he’s done this before he is really after the guy. He wants to orally please him to complete ecstasy. Oh, he smokes and is “physically challenged”. To me he looks like a creepy serial murderer.
  • He’s 28 and from Alexandria and his birthday is Sunday. His Latina girlfriend will be his slave for the day as his birthday present. What he wants to do is tie her up naked on the bed and let men come over and jerk off all over her. Apparently this does not include penetration or any oral sex. You can see head and crotch shots of her at the link. The younger the better but you must be at least seven inches and in shape to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • This 23-year-old guy is into female nerds, presumably the type that watch Third Rock from the Sun. He’s looking for freckles, braces and glasses and wants all three but will settle for less. Curiously one thing he is not explicitly looking for is sex. Now that’s kinky!
  • This submissive bottom transgender’s ad is nothing special, but the little white ball hanging off the back of his/her panties certainly is odd. He’s 38 and lives in South Arlington and, of course, is looking for a man.
  • Men don’t get to have all the kinky fun on Craigslist. Women can let their hair down too, as in this woman for multiple women ad proves. She’s a 30-year-old woman who is hosting a women only party tomorrow. You can be hetero, bi or a lesbian, it doesn’t matter, but you should come prepared to let your hair down. From the posted pictures also be prepared to let most of your clothes down as well. The fun starts at 8 p.m. and lasts until 1 a.m. If you are a woman in a hurry and are looking for just one woman tonight and are between 25-40, hit this size 18 up!
  • She’s 32, lives in Vienna and looks great with soapy water running down her ass. She is also married but that doesn’t seem to be an issue if you want to be intimate with her, providing you are a dominant black man six foot or taller and 35+.
  • Here’s a new way to get women’s attention: lure them with the promise of naked yoga. A few problems: he’s 40, married and new to yoga. Be prepared to dial 911 when he breaks a hamstring.
  • If you are gay and into deciphering a very hard to understand post full of acronyms, partially spelled words and lots of odd punctuation, this 51-year-old old coot from Fort Hunt may be just what you need tonight. Clearly, he won’t be winning any spelling bees.
  • If I were part of a couple into swinging with other couples and about twenty years younger, I’d definitely run, not walk, for the opportunity to hook up with the female half of this couple from Arlington. She’s Asian, has long flowing hair and breasts of someone half her age. In fact, I may need to go take a cold shower! If you can’t find the ad don’t worry as apparently it was posted twice.
  • All right, 35-year-old guy from Sterling! Four ads about your desire to give a woman oral sex (and get yourself a FWB) are enough! Most likely you still won’t get any legitimate responses.
  • Submissive ladies, why have one master when you can have two? Actually, it’s one master (49) and one mistress (29) and you can look forward to bondage, humiliation, pain and more humiliation. They are waiting for your worthless reply.
  • I had no idea what “manscaping” was until I read this ad from a 44-year-old guy near Fair Oaks Mall. Apparently it involves razors and shaving cream and it’s something men do to other men. I’ll pass, thanks.
  • Here’s something odd: a couple looking for a woman, but only to take photos of them nude.
  • One of the kinks out there I will never get is urinating into someone’s mouth. Here’s a 28-year-old guy from Arlington (warning: explicit picture) looking for a guy to do this to him.

If the above looks pretty kinky or bizarre to you, you don’t hang out on Craigslist regularly. This is pretty pedestrian stuff. Let’s see if I find something weirder next month.

 
The Thinker

What should marriage mean anyhow?

Barring a surprise from the Supreme Court later this year, it is likely that same sex marriage will be legal throughout the entire United States by the end of 2015. This train seems unstoppable. Thirty-five states now permit gay marriage. There are lawsuits by litigants protesting bans in all the remaining states. In the unlikely event that the Supreme Court does allow states to ban gay marriages, it probably won’t allow states to not recognize same sex marriages performed in other states. This would effectively mean that the only extra cost for same sex couples wanting to get married would be to go to a state that does recognize same sex marriage and marry there, presumably a minor inconvenience. Here in Virginia, which still has a constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriage that was subsequently voided by decisions by federal courts, I noticed that the state’s tax forms this year includes changes that allow married same sex couples to file as a married couple. This is progress!

Mostly absent from the same sex marriage discussion is what does it mean to be married. Those of us who are married have already figured this out: it means exactly what the two people involved in the marriage want it to mean. If, like former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, you interpret your marriage contract to mean you cannot sit on a sofa with any adult woman other than your wife, go for it. Similarly, if you and your spouse want to have a completely open marriage where either of you can screw whoever you want whenever you want (with presumably the requirement to inform your spouse first) it can be this as well. In fact, a marriage can be anything the two in the marriage agree it will be, and even stuff they don’t agree it will be if it is tacitly permitted. It ends with a legal divorce. Thankfully, there is no requirement for a marriage inspector to pay periodic visits to determine that you are being monogamous or that you actually live together. This is in effect what marriage has always meant, at least here in the United States for the last hundred years or so.

What should the meaning of marriage be? In some respects the question is hypothetical because what it should be and what it actually is for a couple are often two different things. There are two aspects to this question. First, it should mean whatever it means to the couple based on their agreement or expectations going into the marriage. Hopefully, they will have had many long conversations about this before they tie the knot, ideally facilitated through premarital counseling. Both of them should have a common understanding. Ideally, it would be written down somewhere so that either can refer to it, or to renegotiate the terms from time to time. Many couples choose to have prenuptial agreements that give the force of law to certain aspects of their marriage.

The other aspect is what should the meaning of marriage be to civil society at large? As same sex marriage opponents like to point out, traditionally marriage existed to provide a legal framework for children to be raised. Before looking at what is should be, let’s look at what marriage is for society.

At least here in the United States, marriage offers no particular tax advantages. In fact most married couple discover they pay more taxes as a married couple than they did as two single people combined. You can claim your children as dependents, providing you actually pay for their care. However, you can take this claim outside the framework of marriage if you pay support for pretty much anyone who is your legal dependent. There are legal privileges to being married, and they vary from state to state. For example, if you are married you are generally assumed to be the first “next of kin”. There are also contractual obligations that come with marriage. In most cases you are libel for debts incurred by your spouse.

There are certain financial advantages to marriage as well. Health insurance may be cheaper if procured for a couple instead of individually. The biggest financial advantage of marriage probably comes from sharing housing. It’s much cheaper for two people to inhabit one household than for two people to maintain separate households. Two unmarried people can of course “shack up” and achieve similar savings, if the zoning allows this, but with less likelihood that these savings could be sustained over many years.

But what should marriage mean to society at large? As with the people in a marriage, it will mean whatever government thinks it should mean. Of course, society’s expectations for marriage often vary widely from the actual consequences of marriage. This is borne out in divorce and domestic abuse statistics. Society should expect that married couples will have nurturing and healthy relationships, and because of this it will make society in general better. Society should expect that due to marriage, children of married couples should be happier and healthier than children raised in a single parent household. Crime rates for these households should be lower. Of course, at best the empirical data to support all this is mixed, although there is good evidence that crime rates are lower in general in communities where people own their homes compared to rental communities. In general though the expectation is that marriage should promote societal harmony and prosperity. This does imply though that society would be less of these if no one ever married. I doubt this argument could be empirically validated either. A lot of people get married thinking they will be happier. When they try it they often find out they were happier as singles. In truth, living with the same person for many years is more often harder than easy, at least compared with who you were before the marriage.

For me, I think that marriage should mean that two people are happier living together than apart; otherwise there is no point to being married. For society, if it actually promotes societal harmony then marriage should enjoy legal protections. The evidence here is mixed, to say the least. I don’t believe that the state should give special privileges to married couples, such as tax breaks, because it discriminates against single people. However, I see nothing wrong with society sanctioning marriage because it allows two people to have greater happiness. We formed the United States in part to allow each person to pursue happiness. If civil marriage can facilitate a sense of intimacy and closeness between two people, it’s a worthy thing for government to sanction.

Beyond that marriage should mean very little to society at large, the same way that my neighbor five doors down’s marriage means little to me personally. In short, I think marriage should mean a great deal to those who are married. For the most part though marriage should mean a lot less to society at large than we ascribe to it. Those obsessing about it should just take a chill pill.

 
The Thinker

A taxing situation for Intuit and TurboTax

Corporations of course are out to make money, but surely one of the first things you should learn when you study for an MBA is not to antagonize your loyal and profitable customers. TurboTax is by far the largest selling income tax software out there, in part because it was the first to market. I remember you could buy TurboTax for MS-DOS back in the 1980s. TurboTax apparently decided to screw the pooch this tax season by deprecating a lot of features in its TurboTax Basic and Deluxe versions that have always came with the price.

It sure was a shock for me when I got down to the part of our form 1040 where I report self-employment income and it politely informed me to pony up an extra $40. It also wanted me to pony up $35 to create a Schedule D. (I wasn’t sure I needed to, but we did convert some stocks to cash last year.) My reaction was unprintable but I can give its acronym: WTF???

I sat in my chair kind of dumfounded. Basically, the $39.99 TurboTax Deluxe software I bought was unusable to me. Even if I downloaded the self-employment income forms from the IRS and filled them out myself, there was no way to integrate the numbers into TurboTax Deluxe to calculate the correct refund. I either had to give them $40 more or buy some other tax software. This was after having invested a few hours already putting in much of our income into it.

Okay, caveat emptor. I could have read the box carefully before buying it. But after twenty years or more of using tax software and with the features of each version never changing, I just picked up the box at my local Costco and threw it into my shopping cart assuming nothing had changed. (That was the first mistake. I bought a CD and my new iMac doesn’t have a CD drive. So I had to call TurboTax and download a version of it. Curiously, they never asked me to prove I had bought it. I guess this is one way to get a copy of it free, if you are unscrupulous.) My mistake though was completely understandable because it never occurred to me that a company with a reputation like Intuit would do such a brain-dead thing. Maybe they could have named it TurboTax Deluxe Lite or something, to clue us in. You don’t often see a company screwing the pooch, and this was more than just screwing one pooch. It was screwing a whole kennel full of them!

The firestorm on social media has been unforgiving. However, when one company chooses folly, smarter and more agile companies try to move in for the kill. H&R Block quickly figured out this was the way for them to earn some new loyal customers and market share, at TurboTax’s expense. H&R Block has always been Pepsi to TurboTax’s Coke. I suspect a lot of TurboTax customers had no idea H&R Block even sold tax software, so automatic is it for them to reach for the TurboTax box. They do, although until a few years ago their software was simply known as TaxCut. Most of the time I used H&R Block tax software, but I like to vary the software I use, as the price tends to be the same. Last year I tried an online solution, taxslayer.com. It was okay, but I noticed it missed a few things, so I decided to give it a pass this year, even though overall it cut my tax software costs in half. For those of you with simpler needs, you might want to give it a try.

H&R Block at least knows how to be agile. All you have to do is prove that you purchased TurboTax Basic or Deluxe and you can download a copy of their version for free. (It takes a couple of days to get the link to the software.) Accept their generous offer and guess whose tax software you are likely to buy next year, especially when TurboTax filers discover there is no big difference between the two, but H&R Block doesn’t screw its customers? I’m sure one of the first things they will do (after giving you the software for free) is collect your email address and remind you next year to buy their software.

Anyhow, Intuit CEO Brad Smith (Intuit also makes Quicken, which I use) finally figured out that he made a catastrophically stupid mistake. He is promising that customers with these versions won’t have to pay to upgrade, although Intuit is not agile enough to figure out how to do this quickly. Meanwhile, those customers that did pay extra for features that used to come with the product can apply for a $25 rebate, which is $15 less than the cost of the upgrade. Presumably the rest of it will come in time. You can see an amusing and self-deprecating 3:28 video of Mr. Smith saying he’s sorry here.

CEOs of course are responsible to shareholders, and doubtless he was trying to meet their expectations for increased profits. It all made sense on paper; it just failed the common sense test. What’s amazing is that he did not figure this out until after his mistake. I have a hard time believing his underlings did not question his decision.

For voyeurs of business mistakes, this is a whopper. For me, it not only pissed me off but eventually amused me too. There has been a dearth of philandering politicians to criticize lately. In the annals of bad business mistakes there have certainly been worse things, like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which soiled British Petroleum’s reputation and much of the Gulf of Mexico not to mention it also killed millions of animals. There was also Dow Chemical’s 1984 Bhopal Disaster, which killed 3,787 people in Bhopal, India and exposed more than half a million Indians to methyl isocyanate. Both of these incidents were preventable too, but not as obviously preventable as this public relations disaster by Intuit. All it required was to put customers first.

I got to say, Intuit had it coming.

 
The Thinker

The real price of discrimination

Today’s Martin Luther King holiday actually has me reflecting on Martin Luther King. That’s in part due to the annual news stories about the holiday and snippets of his most famous speeches that always show up on social media on the holiday. Most churches reinforce his legacy, as mine did yesterday. The bloody march he led to Montgomery, Alabama, which began at a bridge in Selma, Alabama (it happened fifty years ago this March) killed some and injured many more innocent people who were simply demanding that blacks be treated equally.

One of those killed was a Unitarian Universalist minister, and that’s important to me because I am a UU. The Reverend Jim Reeb was one of many UU ministers who hustled down to Selma to join the march to Montgomery. White men with clubs attacked him and others on the march. He likely died because he could not get to a hospital in time, as he could only be transported in a black ambulance (which also got a flat tire en route), even though he was white. Also among the UU ministers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma was the UU minister Reverend John Wells, then of the Mount Vernon, Virginia UU church. He married my wife and I thirty years ago. He spoke proudly of his participation in the march when we met with him for some pre-nuptial planning.

2014 sobered many of us up who were beginning to believe we lived in a post racial society. After all we had elected a black president not once, but twice. Things are certainly better racially than they were fifty years ago in Selma. Yet if we have come a long way to end racism, it’s now undeniable that we still have a long way yet to go. Quite obviously though it’s not just racism that divides us. Martin Luther King spent most of his ministry trying to bring about racial justice, but he was certainly aware that injustice had many aspects. Racial injustice was easy to see and impossible to ignore. Dr. King also helped open the door to expose other forms of discrimination. While I feel aghast at how much work remains to create a racially just society, I can also feel satisfaction in how far we’ve come in other areas. Later this year it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will make same sex marriage a right. Fifty years ago homosexuals were barely acknowledged. This is tremendous progress.

There may be a reason that homophobia receded so quickly. Whereas skin color is impossible to ignore, someone’s sexual preference is impossible to know unless it is disclosed. It might be inferred but it’s hard to say with certainty. Whereas many whites may know few blacks intimately, most of us have a gay sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle in the family (and maybe several). This has the effect of forcing us to confront our prejudices. It is easier for us to identify with others when they are close to us. I think this principally explains the stunning advancement of marriage and parental rights for gays and lesbians. As gays and lesbians gain rights and broad acceptance in society, it is becoming easier for other queers to gain acceptance too. The brave new oppressed social group these days seems to be the transgender community. It’s not hard to predict that this community, which already has rights in some localities, will gain full equality relatively quickly as well as specific legal protections. Many of us have now encountered an openly transgender person in the workplace and they no longer seem scary. I have known three.

We don’t think of whites looking down on fellow whites, but in truth whites do this all the time. The whites that populate most of Appalachia, particularly the lower class whites, are targets of discrimination and ridicule too. Terms like “white trash” should be just as offensive as “nigger”. This is an area I need to work on, as I have lampooned Walmart shoppers in a few posts, although it’s not just whites that shop at Walmart. Sites like peopleofwalmart.com and whitetrashrepairs.com cater to those who like to look down at what we perceive as the faults or eccentricities of lower class whites, but really just those with lower incomes in general or that strike us as intensely peculiar.

The unspoken animus is that while we can afford our lifestyle, they cannot and therefore there must be something wrong with them. In truth, what is “wrong” with them is mostly our refusal to help them raise their economic status. These people are actually much stronger and resilient than those of us further up the economic ladder, they just don’t have the resources to ascend the ladder. If the rest of us were forced to live on a quarter of our income, we would not fare nearly as well, although we like to think we could. More about this is a subsequent post, perhaps.

There are many other ways we overtly or covertly discriminate, but they generally have “ism” in common. Most upper class whites are fine having blacks as neighbors providing they adopt our values, maintain their houses real well and don’t raise any problem children. Racism and ethnic discrimination usually amounts to classism. We gain perceived social status roughly based on our income, which we then parade in the quality of our neighborhoods, the skinniness of our trophy wives and the costs and brands of our cars.

The Irish are as white as any group of Caucasians from Europe, but they were ruthlessly discriminated and ghetto-ized when they came to America, as were many other white ethnic groups. They were not so much melted down as grudgingly accepted into the culture if they could find a golden ticket to the middle class. After a while someone’s ethnicity did not matter, but class still did. Sexism is going through something similar. One of our most glaring “isms” doesn’t quite have a word yet. I call it attractiveness discrimination. There is no question that attractive people in general have privileges and opportunities disproportionate to those perceived to be less attractive. Those judged to be plain or ugly are frequently victims of discrimination: in employment, in insurability, in wages and in many other ways. We project onto attractive people qualities they may or may not have, and sometimes discriminate against attractive people as well by assuming they can do things they cannot simply because they are attractive.

I don’t know how we fully rid ourselves of these biases and discriminatory tendencies. It is an ugly side to our species. Dogs to not appear to be classists by nature, so in that sense they are superior to us. What matters is only how they are treated, and sometimes not even that. What is hard to measure is the true cost of all this multilevel, multi-variable discrimination. Whatever the true cost is, it must be catastrophically high. When I read stories like Republicans in Congress trying to cut food stamp benefits or trying to take Medicaid away from the working poor, at best I wince and at worst I cry. To make people whose lives are already so miserable even more miserable seems like a crime worthy of being sent to hell’s lowest level. Our world is so miserable and the misery seems likely to only increase. Yet the classism within us makes the situation exponentially worse. It denies so many of us the ability to achieve their potential. Imagine what our country could be if everyone could live up to their potential. Imagine how enriched society would be.

This is the true cost of discrimination. Those of us who discriminate may do so overtly or covertly, but when we do it we stick the dagger not only into those we discriminate against, but also into ourselves. We empty ourselves of the values we need to have a loving and caring community.

On this Martin Luther King holiday, this is part of his message that so often overlooked that I am pondering. It leaves me feeling melancholy and fighting despair.

 

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