Russiagate ICYMI Open Thread: Paul Manafort’s Chicago Banker Busted

This was an insanely busy week — and not just for national politics — but it’s good to remember that the work of uncovering the Oval Office Occupation’s myriad crimes goes on, relentlessly. I take this (apart from the obvious) as a reminder to any other Big Money Guys who might’ve approved some less-than-Grade-A Trump-associate transactions… that the Mueller team and its state associates are not demonstrating the kind of sympathetic, who-among-us attitude to which the GOP has accustomed them.

Impeachable (Open Thread)

I’ve talked myself off the “Trump must be impeached now!” ledge by acknowledging two obvious facts: impeachment is a political instrument, and there aren’t enough House Democrats in favor of it right now to proceed. It was inexcusably naive of me to think of it any other way, of course.

As a political instrument, impeachment can’t realistically have a “moral imperative” attached to it since political acts either result in good or bad outcomes for the party committing them, and that is the measure of their success or failure.

If we’re serious about upholding the rule of law in the executive branch in a post-Trump era, we’ll have to figure out another enforcement avenue. The constitutional remedy has been rendered garbage by partisan extremists in the Republican Party who’ve made it clear where their allegiance lies.

Liz Warren and others who point out that Congress has a constitutional duty to act are correct, and I’m glad they’re saying so. But reality is what it is, and that’s what Nancy Pelosi is dealing with right now.

The political risk Pelosi is trying to avoid is galvanizing Trump’s base through an impeachment process that will inevitably end in “exoneration” in the Senate, no matter what the investigation uncovers. That the Senate Republicans will “exonerate” Trump regardless is a near-universally acknowledged truth.

The argument is whether that should be a factor in a decision to impeach or not. I can see both sides of that argument, but if the ultimate goal is to get rid of Trump as soon as possible, the reality is we have to get people on board for impeachment through investigations, if only to clear the “impeached in the House” hurdle, and that work isn’t complete. Read more

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Numbers Gaming

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Friday Night Open Thread- Strawberries and I Love This God Damned Duck

I went to a local farm today (Family Roots Farm) and got a bunch of freshly picked strawberries, and man, there is nothing better:

I cleaned them all and have them in the fridge (those I did not eat), and on Sunday I am going to make a run of jam. Because I am a fatbody, I am going to try to make a small batch with Stevia and see how I like it. The berries are so sweet I can’t imagine it won’t be delicious. I’d do it tomorrow, but Lily has her appointment in Pittsburgh, so by the time I get home tomorrow I won’t want to deal with it.

In other news, a fellow on the other side of town is completely redoing his garden- he’s getting old and does not want to deal with it anymore, so I got about 150 dug up dandelion daffodil bulbs, a bunch of ferns, and a bunch of other stuff, so we tilled the outside of my fence, put down landscape paper, planted all the bulbs, and mulched. Also on the outside of the fence I am putting a mess of black eyed susans I grew, as well as some more honeysuckle, and a bunch of day lilies and I dug up some of my perennials that spread like nuts, split em, and those are going there, too.

Getting a bunch of early blooms on the first run of tomatoes that I planted several weeks ago, while the second run is about a foot tall, and the third run is still only 3-5 inches big. Spotted a few broccoli crowns, the squash is going well, peppers are looking good, peas are up to about six inches and starting to climb the trellis, and it looks like next week I will have to construct the stick teepee trellises for the pole beans.

It also looks like it is going to be a banner year for sunflowers- I planted about 40 of them all around the place, the big honking 12′ tall ones. Last year they didn’t do much of anything, but this year they are looking like champs. Also, I am going to have my first run of blueberries this year and looks like the dozen or so blackberries I put in around the compost pile are really taking off. I swear I can sit and watch the apple and oak and maple trees grow this year they are getting so big- maybe the willow is teaching them something. So far this year, everything is going gangbusters on the garden front.

Speaking of honking, I am in love with Pearl and I told Tamara that we are making her an unofficial BJ mascot. I think when I revamp the store after the site relaunch, she is going to be featured on some items. I mean look at her:

I mean that’s a good god damned lucking duck, and she knows it. I swear she is smirking. A reliable source has informed me that she is possibly nesting with Mabel and Maddie tonight.

In other bird news, I got a lot of them and they are demanding as all hell. I am going to have to fill the hummingbird feeder tomorrow, I have so many of those dive bombing little bastards around. I can sit on the porch for an hour and not see one, and then one shows up at the feeder and six of the pricks show up out of nowhere and jump on the poor bastard. Looks like the battle of Midway around here.

Finally, I spoke with Sarah, the author of D-Day girls, and she would love to do an AMA. You all want to set a time? Like in a couple weeks so people can read the book first?

Glass-Half-Full Open Thread: Fewer, If Fiercer, Racists?

Like me, the Washington Post always looks for a little optimism to start its readers’ day. From this morning:

Racial prejudice has not increased among white Americans since the explosive 2016 election, argues political scientist Daniel J. Hopkins. It has actually decreased by some measures, he found, possibly as a reaction to Trump’s unexpected ascension to the White House.

Hopkins told The Washington Post that the results initially surprised him. Upon reflection, however, “it’s quite conceivable that Trump has simultaneously galvanized a small number of highly prejudiced white Americans while also pushing millions more to affirm that they are not as prejudiced,” he argued.

In other words, Hopkins believes the study provides evidence that the racially incendiary rhetoric and policies issuing from Trump’s White House have pushed the majority of Americans in the opposite direction.

The specialist in race and political behavior acknowledged that his findings speak only to professed bias and not to concrete behavior, such as whether Americans are moving into heterogeneous neighborhoods.

The study, currently under review but posted on the Social Science Research Network on Thursday, starts from an unambiguous premise: “As a political leader, Donald Trump has used racist rhetoric to build political support.”

Hopkins and an undergraduate student, Samantha Washington, set out to determine what effect that rhetoric was having on white Americans, 57 percent of whom voted for Trump in 2016, according to exit polling. Among white men, that figure was 62 percent.

Most think the president is motivating his racist supporters to declare their bigoted views. A Quinnipiac University poll last summer found that 55 percent of voters believed that Trump was emboldening people who hold racist beliefs to state them outright.

There are two ways that effect might play out, the study observes. One is normalization, whereby members of the public would feel more comfortable expressing racist beliefs that they always harbored but once felt were outside the mainstream. The other is so-called opinion leadership, whereby the public would be moved to adopt racist positions advanced by political elites.

Instead, the authors found evidence of an altogether different effect — people actually moving away from the positions embraced by those in power…

Across the roughly 12-year period covered by the data, anti-black prejudice declined based on these metrics, with an especially marked drop between November 2016 and November 2018. The effect was only slightly more pronounced among Democrats than among Republicans. Education was not a decisive factor.

“The decline was apparently not driven by Trump’s candidacy — or by white Americans’ reactions to his campaign rhetoric in 2015 and 2016 — but instead by their reactions to his presidency itself,” the paper claims…

Whether the shift discovered by researchers has actually “shaped social behaviors” — rather than being empty value statements or even cover for discriminatory conduct — “is another critical question for future work,” the study suggests. But it casts into doubt whether hate crimes that rose 17 percent in 2017 reflect deepening hatred across the board.

Instead, the political scientist points to the increasing isolation of an extremist minority whose prejudices have intensified in the face of a broader shift away from the sort of opinions aired in Trump’s White House and on his Twitter feed…

More detail at the link. I’m not completely convinced, either — it’s a lot easier to lie to a pollster about the purity of one’s beliefs than to change hundreds of years of prejudice. But, on the other hand, there’s also the fact that acting out good values, however spurious one’s motives, does tend to gradually shift one’s core values towards those actions.

It also makes sense that the committed racists, seeing or sensing a shift among their neighbors, would respond with an extinction burst of exaggeratedly horrible, explicitly racist behavior. Donald Trump, rancid old sack of pasty overprivileged man-meat, is pretty much a bigot extinction burst made flesh.

Some Thoughts on Revolution

Before we begin and everyone freaks out, I’m not calling for one! Nor for anyone to take up arms and rebel! Rather, I wanted to come back to a tweet by Dave Weigel that Anne Laurie posted the other day:

I’ve spent a lot of time reading the scholarly literature on low intensity war, everything from revolution to terrorism since I began my career in the early 1990s. Since going to work for the Army in 2007, I’ve spent a lot of time reading the professional military’s and defense policy community’s literature on this topic as well – everything from manuals to analyses to assessments to articles in professional journals. And I’ve contributed to it as well. I think that Weigel, in these two tweets, has summed up something that is so much a part of the conventional wisdom of understanding low intensity war that it is just background noise that is normally never explicitly stated. Quite simply: it is very, very, very difficult to start a revolution or a rebellion because of the social and economic costs.

The social and economic costs of a revolution or a rebellion are just too great for almost anyone who is not an elite, or an exceedingly committed ideologue, to overcome. The vast majority of people are just trying to get through the day. To make it home to their families. To survive until they repeat it all again the next day, and the next, and the next. And that’s in the US where what Senator Sanders is asking for is simply political, social, and economic mobilization through constitutional and legal means to change the government at the ballot box, not to violently overthrow it.

Imagine how much harder and more difficult it is for people to revolt or rebel in places where they are facing hypertrophic internal surveillance states, secret police, and the entire power of the state utilized to ensure the survival of the regime, those in the regime, and those favored by the regime? If you ever wondered why oppressed people, whether in the Soviet Union when it still existed or in Russia and the former Soviet states today, in states and societies in the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, in Central and South America, in Cuba don’t revolt or rebel, it is because they just don’t have the energy to do so. All of their energy goes in to surviving. To being able to put enough food on the table, to ensuring one or one’s loved ones don’t get scarfed up by the security services, to just making it through to the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Places where you’d expect revolutions and rebellions to occur don’t have them because them people that live in those states and societies can’t socially or economically afford to undertake a popular revolt or rebellion.

The American revolution against the British was conceived, promoted, and led by elites. The southern rebellion against the United States was conceived, promoted, and led by the southern elites of the emerging Confederacy. As was the post Great Rebellion, know doing business as the Civil War, insurgency against the United States known as the Lost Cause. This insurgency, still ongoing today in the former Confederate states, as well as places that it was exported under the guise of some forms of white evangelicalism, has always been both violent and non-violent at the same time, led by elites, and conducted to co-opt non-elite support. Neither the American revolution or the Confederacy’s counter-rebellion against the US and post war insurgency were popular uprisings of the masses. And this is because it is only elites with the time, money, other resources, and the liberty that time, money, and those other resources provide them, who are able to pay the social and economic costs of trying to start a revolution or a rebellion. Or to escape them.

What Senator Sanders and his supporters, just as Jill Stein and her supporters, and Ralph Nader and his supporters, and others who think heightening the contradictions will lead to a non-violent political, social, and economic revolution in the US don’t understand is that when the contradictions get heightened, very, very, very bad things happen to those who can least afford to endure them. And being subjected to these bad things does not incentivize those enduring them to revolt and rebel, even through legal and constitutional means like demonstrating, protesting, and voting. Rather, they are further incentivized to just try to survive. To make enough to put food on the table. To get through the day and get home to their loved ones. And to do whatever they can to ensure that they and/or their loved ones can survive to the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that.

Open thread!

Respite Open Thread: NASA Needs You

I posted this in a thread earlier, but I’ll drop it here, too. We are all that little boy at the beginning of the video:

Bonus Pearl:

She’s doing great and fully integrated with her fowl siblings. She’s got plenty of attitude and if she wants you to pet, feed or otherwise pay attention, she’ll nibble on your finger or sleeve to get your attention. More photos here.

Respite open thread

Book Recommendation: D-Day Girls

In between gardening and other things, starting to read D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose. I have a backlog of things I need to read, including this, The Theft of a Decade: How the Baby Boomers Stole the Millennials’ Economic Future, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic, and about 85 others, but I really wanted to read this one first. It caught my eye when I saw someone retweet the author (her twitter is @thesarahrose), and I was immediately interested because my mom is fascinated with female codebreakers (among one of her many niche fascinations). So I started talking to her, mentioned my mom had read other books in this area, learned that Sarah had written a book called For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History, bought it, liked it, and got a copy of D-Day Girls.

Mom inhaled it in a few days and loved it and wrote a glowing blurb:

So that is on my schedule this weekend, mainly because I am interested, but also because I will have something to talk about with my mom other than stupid Pirates baseball which she loves but makes my eyes glaze over.

The politics of surprise billing legislation

Tomato Queen asked a good question in comments yesterday on my post about a proposed national all payer claims database:

Why is this being done now? Is it a shiny object to distract? I see it’s bi-partisan, and am deeply suspicious, esp as it sounds like two good ideas, one for the customers, the other for the kids in the back room, are appearing in the same bill. How the hell did that happen?

I think we need to look at the political incentives in broad strokes after we look at recent health policy history.

Post-2009 Medicaid and the individual market coverage expansions are highly polarized health policy pursuits on the Hill. The parties don’t agree on fundamental values therefore any movement in any direction is a slog.

However, Congress has shown that it is more than willing to work on a bipartisan and somewhat technocratic basis on non-Medicaid and non-individual market coverage health policy options on a repeated basis since March 23, 2010. The big bills that have gone through have been PDUFA 5 which changed how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers evidence and approves drugs, MACRA which re-authorized CHIP and permanantly got rid of the Sustainable Growth Rate formula that was an ongoing and recurring farce. 21st Century Cures Act again changed and quicken the FDA approval process for new drugs.

Congress can act on health policy and they have acted on health policy. Yesterday, Dylan Scott at Vox looked at some of the major players involved in the bipartisan surprise billing talks and dueling bill drafts:

The Alexander-Murray proposal joins several others that have already been introduced: a recently released House bill from Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Greg Walden (R-OR); another Senate bill by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) released last week; yet another House proposal from Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and Phil Roe (R-TN) that came out on Thursday. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) also introduced a bill back in January. Congress really is serious about doing something on surprise bills.

The notable thing about all of these bills is that the lead sponsors (or at least their senior policy staff) can easily and readily count to eleven with their shoes on when it comes to health policy. These bills are being introduced and championed by people with significant knowledge, interest and most importantly, control of several critical legislative chokepoints. If there is an agreement among these stakeholders, there is a clear pathway through the Hill.

So that brings us back to the basic question of WHY?

The surprise billing mainly falls on people who are not on government health programs. Medicaid recipients have no money for the surprise billers to chase, and Medicare has strong rules to protect and limit the size of surprise shocks. Surprise billing is a problem for people who get their insurance primarily through employers. Surprise billing is also an individual market problem but it is a much smaller problem.

If surprise billing is primarily a problem for people with insurance through their employers, it is primarily a problem for people who have moderate or higher income and are over the age of thirty. Another way of characterizing a population with moderate or higher income and over the age of thirty is “likely voters”.

All of the bills under discussion hold the patient harmless for any cost sharing above normal in-network rates. This makes the insurance as experienced by a patient far more valuable and far less confusing/anxiety inducing. Politicians of any party like to make likely voters happy if they can plausibly claim credit for the reason of happiness. Politicians also like to make their likely voters happy if there aren’t too many hard trade-offs and hard fought pay-fors.

This is the simple and somewhat crass explanation.

The slightly more complex version is that the health finance markets are kludgy at best. Eliminating or at least reducing a segment of the market which is currently an informational and contractual blackhole of doom helps the markets perform slightly better. There is no viable minimum winning coalition that wants to nationalize all US healthcare facilities so making the markets work slightly better is a common area of agreement among both parties (the question is usually what market and what is “better”? and whose rentier interests are gouged).

The All Payer Claim Database (APCD) segment falls into the same bucket. The healthcare markets are a massive informational black hole. An APCD with complete information could at least help us see the event horizon better and plan around it. If there is better negotiations due to better information that leads to lower price levels, it solves or at least contributes to solving a major federal policy problem without much risk or effort on the part of the current and future Congresses.

May Resigns (Open Thread)

She’s out Friday the 7th. Here’s the resignation speech in full:

Good lord, she’s got to swim through a river of shit first, though, according to The Guardian:

The prime minister will remain in Downing Street, to shoulder the blame for what are expected to be dire results for her party from Thursday’s European elections – and to host Donald Trump when he visits.

Ewww. I’m not a fan of May — she’s been an unqualified disaster. But can you imagine how extra-insufferable Trump will be now that she’s resigned? He was an ungracious pig toward May last time he visited. Ugh. Anyhoo, what’s next for the UK?

Open thread!

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at

Have a wonderful day and weekend; enjoy the pictures!

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Friday Morning Open Thread — King Leer: “I Call It… Infrastructure Week!”

*Not* one of the more successful Shakespearian updates…

Somebody knows where to slip the shiv…

Read more

The President Has Given Attorney General Barr Declassification Authority Over the Intelligence Community In Order To Investigate the Origins of the Counterintelligence Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Election

Despite the fact that we already know the origins of how a counterintelligence investigation was established in mid 2016 into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Specifically because it was covered in the released, redacted Mueller Report; testimony by multiple senior DOJ and FBI officials to both the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; even the execrable Nunes’ FISA memos give us the details. The President has authorized Attorney General Barr to have full declassification authority, as if he was the original classification authority, over any and/or all classified information and materials pertaining to the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

What this means is that Attorney General Barr can declassify whatever he wants pertaining to this matter whether or not Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and his subordinates responsible for declassification at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or Director of Central Intelligence Gina Haspell, and her subordinates responsible for declassification at the Central Intelligence Agency, or the Director of the National Security Agency GEN Paul Nakasone, and his subordinates responsible for declassification at the National Security Agency, or Director Wray, and his subordinates at the Federal Bureau of Investigation agree or disagree with his decisions. And this reality is both important to keep in mind and very, very scary because it is now being reported that Attorney General Barr wants to know about the CIA’s sources in Russia and what they know about the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s interference.

One of the first thing authoritarians try to do once they feel they have consolidated enough power is to ferret out the human sources who were working against them prior to their attaining power. In this case it appears that AG Barr wants to start with the human sources that the CIA’s National Clandestine Service has cultivated and established in Russia. I can guarantee that the CIA’s leadership in general and that of the National Clandestine Service in specific are not happy about this!

I cannot stress enough how NOT NORMAL this is!!!!! Normally the Attorney General would not be fully read on to a counterintelligence investigation because they are completely compartmented. And the CIA not being able to control access to information about their sources and methods is completely abnormal! Same for the inevitable requests that will go to the NSA regarding the electronic and signals intelligence. Usually requests for this information by one agency would be zealously fought, in regard to institutional prerogatives, by the agency with the classified information.

Here’s what I think are the four most likely things that will happen now. And they are not all mutually exclusive.

1) He’ll do a review and then based on discussions with DNI Coats and DCI Haspell and Director Wray, he’ll declassify nothing and just let the IG and the two US Attorneys (Utah and Connecticut) do their thing. I think this is highly unlikely given what we know of Attorney General Barr, his career, and his ideological priors and assumptions regarding the power of the president.

2) He’ll actually do a by the book review, rather than  putting both thumbs on the scale. I don’t think he will actually do this, in fact I think he’s constitutionally incapable of doing so.

3) DNI Coats and DCI Haspell will simply refuse to read him on as they know he’s not an honest broker. I think there is a real possibility that one or both of them do this either by just slow walking everything or outright refusing.

4) Barr is read on. He then barbers, like he did with his framing summary memo of Special Counsel Mueller’s report, what he declassifies to make it look like there was a criminal conspiracy starting in 2016 to a) steal the election from Trump by fabricating the Russian interference and b) use that fabrication to drive Trump from office once he was elected when, in fact, this is not the case. We all know it is not the case because of what is in the Mueller Report and the materials in Nunes’ FISA memos from last year. At that point the Intelligence Community starts leaking to damage Barr.

If I had to guess, I expect the Intelligence Community to do at least one selective warning leak, like they did with Sessions to get him to recuse and Whitaker to get him to stop trying to poke around, as a warning shot across Barr’s bow. The question at that point isn’t whether Barr is smart enough to recognizing the warning for what it is and the danger that it signifies, but whether he actually cares. And this is tied into just how confident he is that he has now achieved his life’s ideological work of establishing an extreme unitary executive as reality. That the President is now, essentially, an elected king and therefore Barr as the elected King’s man in charge of the enforcement of the law on the investigation and prosecutorial side, is empowered to determine what is and is not legal.

Barr is very likely to use this new authority to selectively weaponization the information he declassifies to try to ratfuck the 2020 election. Remember, it was Barr who was leaning on the US Attorney in Little Rock to investigate then Governor Clinton regarding the Whitewater Savings & Loan scam in order to dirty Clinton up in advance of his general election campaign against Barr’s boss, President George H. W. Bush. Here’s Cory Lewandowski trying to connect Vice President Biden to the creation of the Steele Dossier on tonight’s Lou Dobbs’ show for an audience of one – the President, who I’m sure will be tweeting it out tomorrow.

We are way, way, way off the looking glass and through the map!

Open thread.

NY City Pet Bleg: Keith Olbermann Puts Up the Doggie Symbol for Helios!

I’m sure we don’t have the reach of Keith Olbermann’s twitter feed, no offense to Cole, but I figured putting this on the front page probably couldn’t hurt.

Here’s the details from the shelter’s page:


Hello, my name is Helios. My animal id is #62815. I am a desexed male white dog at the Manhattan Animal Care Center. The shelter thinks I am about 3 years 1 weeks old.

I came into the shelter as a agency on 14-May-2019.

Helios is at risk for medical reasons. Helios was diagnosed with canine infectious respiratory disease complex which is contagious to other animals and will require in home care. Behaviorally, Helios has exhibited poor impulse control and would benefit from some behavior modification.

Let’s get to know each other a bit more…

A volunteer writes: Helios is a radiantly happy guy who’s tiny in size but mighty in spirit and it seems only fitting that he’s named for a sun god as he lights up any room he enters and spreads sunshine wherever he roams. Full of good-natured energy, bouncy hugs and sweet snuggles, he’s always thrilled to get out of his den and go for a walk and extremely friendly with dogs and people alike. While he does pull slightly on leash, he’s a smart cookie who responds nicely to direction, seems house trained and already knows how to come, sit and stay on command and he’ll play enthusiastically yet softly with both toys and people. Helios is a natural athlete but his NBA-level jumping skills make him better suited to a home with older kids who are taller than he can bounce and his perfect match would be an active family who can provide ample play and snuggle time. Bonus points for those willing to teach him some new tricks! Helios is waiting at our Manhattan Care Center and he’s ready to be your sun, your moon, your stars, your everything. Will you be his?

“Helios has exhibited poor impulse control and would benefit from some behavior modification.” Helios is definitely jackal material!

Look at that face!

Anyhow, if you might be considering adopting a rescue dog, or you know someone who is, and you’re in the greater NY City area (I’ll let everyone decide that for themselves), give a thought to Helios.

Open thread!

Librarians in Our Midst: Graduation Edition

(Photo Courtesy of Mnemosyne Muse)

Mnemosyne Muse asked that I inform you all:

Since I think we all need some unabashedly happy news right now, today is the day that longtime commenter Darkrose is receiving her master’s degree in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University here in California. San Jose State Univerity is one of only two accredited Master of Library and Information Science programs in California (UCLA is the other one). I happen to know all of this because my spouse was in the same program at the same time as Darkrose, which we found out during a mini Bay Area meetup a few years ago, so I’ll be at the graduation as well.

This is a big accomplishment, so let’s all take a minute to congratulate Darkrose on her hard work!

And here’s the graduate herself!

(Darkrose’s Graduation Selfie!)

So wish her some congratulations, but keep it down or she’ll have to officially shush!!! you all for making too much noise in the comments.

Congrats to Darkrose, Mnemosyne’s husband, and all the other graduates.

Open thread!