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[The live blog has ended as of 5:00PM Eastern, but it was certainly lively, and I encourage you all to read and continue the conversation. --lambert]

In a few moments, we'll begin our chat with Paul Street, author of two books that uncover Barack Obama's "deep conservatism."

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Submitted by MontanaMaven on

And before that I read his articles which is one of the reasons I was not a fan of Obama early on in 2006. I was also not wowed by his speech at the convention when I was a delegate.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

I did a piece on ZNet two days after Keynote address: "Keynote Reflections" (late July 2004) taking that speech apart as deeply conservative in numerous ways. I ot 100+ e-mails (most approving) the day after. They were muzzling antiwar delegates on the floor and Obama was giving interview to the NYT and Chi Trib deeply qualiying his 'antiwar' position. Even then I thouht it all smelled "next president" and from the speech I assumed he would keep the imperial machine set on kill.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Yes, VastLeft....a few others (Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report) were on the Obama beat with a strong left criticism pretty early on....like in ate 2003 and early 04. I was on early in part because I was working in the civil rights industry on the south side of Chicago 2000-2005 (VP and research director at chicago urban league) and had dealings (unpleasant) with Obama and has no illusions whatsoever thanks to early contact. You don't rise up in Daley's Chicago and Blago's Illinois by being the left progressives so many Iowans wanted to see in Obama in 2007!!!

Submitted by hipparchia on


Serious left vision is about all-around leveling before, during, and after the policy process.

i'm looking forward to reading the rest of it too.

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

But Noam C. is still unreal...I just started his latest book, the first part on Latin America and its just scary all the connections he makes and sources he mentions annd the pithy insights he hits you with like a left hook: boom. There will never be another Chomsky.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

of the Iowa caucus in 2008? I was with the Edwards campaign and the Obama people at the precinct I was at in Des Moines were big guys and ex-Republicans. They were intimidating Hilary and Dodd people.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Not that I know of Montanamaven I haven't seen that in depth study yet. I was in Iowa City in 2007-08 and did help Edwards somewhat. The Johnson County Dems were deeply in thrall to the Obama machine on the whole. Still, we had a whole bunch of labbor progressive Edwards types and they had a very advanced critique of Obama as a conciliator, neo corporatist fake-progressive imperial half Republican and of how identity politics was seducing a lot of the academic sorts at U Iowa. Hillary was pretty unpopular in Iowa City. She did not run a good Caucus-specific campaign...lotsa money but not spent as wisely as the Obama people spent theirs, what withh their slick micro-targeting and niche-martketing. The Obama campaign here was slick, slick,....very sharp. The Obama staffers were vapid, not especially progressives. The Edwards staffers were more out of labor and other social movements; the Obama staffers were goofy but at the top level and out of Chicago slick. And they had the kids, the college students all locked up at U Iowa.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Oh I think its the same old Obama but yes the Tea O.P, mid term triumph is enhancing his rightward drift instincts (which go back to the beginning...he first achived notoreity by becoming editor of Harvard Law Review and he did that by cutting a deal with the right wing Federalist society - that's been a pattern throughout) but now he no longer has as much Blue Dog cover and so has to more obviously reach out to the GOP. The federal worker pay freeze is sick deficit reduction theater....very insulting. It does little for the deficit and federal pay is not that high. It's a negative for the economy in that it reduces the purchasing power of working people. He is going to go along with GOP on keeping Bush II tax cuts for the rich, which is a real deficit-driver and totally dysfunctinal, economically speaking. Of course, this is a time for federal job creation, not deficit reduction games...

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Submitted by Paul Street on

I don't think its spineless. He's not nice on a personal level - not afraid to alienate and tell you to go eff yourself. I remember from Chicago. Not like he was some kind of guy you could bully. I don't really get into the spinleless narrative. I think he's really conservative. And I think he's very narcissistic, which is of course a common trait among politicians. He wanted and got the presidency and was more than willing to cut deals with the people who could make that possible...with the plutocracy. They vetted him carefully and well. Ken Silverstein wrote about some of this in a 2006 essay at Harper's: "Obama Inc." It started in 2003, when Obama got the nod to go for U.S. Senate seat. Well, indoctrination in ruling class and imperial ideology started earlier. Not so much spineles on progressive issues as not commitment to those issues. In my days in Chicago he was this operator who would come into the middle of some issue and craft some sort of half-measure that seemed like a progressive reform but really wasn't, put it on his resume and move forward with his career. Started at Harvard Law...

Submitted by lambert on

1. It's not true;

2. The answer is implicit in the framing: A better candidate. So it's simply the flip site of celebrity-driven politics, done amateurishly.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Perhaps more often, the notion is that the same incumbent candidate just needs a wake-up call (such as a not-so-sternly worded MoveOn petition/fundraising drive), and then his wonderful instincts and values will come to the fore.

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

...will not leave without a rank and file rebellion and completely new leadership. I used to naively think I could do real work for the American labor movement and just kept running into this iron law of oligarchy ahd sheer conservative stupidity. Quite horrifying.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

I like his writing style. "Which Side are You On" is a devastating look at labor through a labor lawyer's eyes.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

I met TG once at a speaking thing at Northwestern. Nice guy - idiosyncratic but smart.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

On unions and dems, please remember two gross things; (1) in late 2007 he assaults Edwards (actually pro-labor) as a tool of "the big special interests that control Washington") because Edwards was getting advertisement support from SEIU (as if big labor was the big power in the country...absurd); (2) in 2008 in his economic advisor the neoliberal jerk economist Austan Goolsbee told Canadian officials to disregard Obama's campaign rhetoric (to Ohioe workers) about trade law reform ...basically Goolsbee said "don't worry, this is just the fake populist crap you have to say to all these sorry ass proletarian shlubs; he's really safe for global capital." Well that promise has been born out. They haven't lifted a finger for EFCA. And labor leadership seems not to care; just pathetic.

Submitted by Hugh on

I just saw this attempt at Salon to belittle a primary challenge to Obama. I have pretty much moved beyond the Democratic party, and not that interested in whether they primary Obama or not. But I think that history shows that the electorate has a strong record of voting against failed and unpopular Presidents by voting in the other of our two corporatist parties. So the Democrats if they stick with Obama, or not, look to be setting themselves up for a loss in 2012. This is mostly academic for me, because barring a third party progressive candidacy (which looks unlikely right now) and party ticket, what we will get no matter who wins in 2012 is more of the same.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Well it will be a great sign of how completely and finally dead the Dems are as any kind of agent of any half progressive vision of a good society that Obama's cringing corporatism and aggressive miltiarism and police-statism etc. does not yield a significant progressive primary challenge. I tend to protest/left vote but without illusion. We would have to fundamentally overhaul the existing dominant big money mib media candidate centered electoral/party system for third/fourth party electoralism to make much difference right now.

Submitted by hipparchia on

from your website:

Although mainstream journalists have noted discrepancies between Obama's original vision and reality, Paul Street uniquely measures Obama's record against the expectations of the truly progressive agenda many of his supporters expected him to follow.

i thought from the beginning that obama's original 'vision' was republican, so how [or why], in your opinion, did his supporters expect a progressive agenda?

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Well his progressive supporters were often very childish in projecting their own values and identity on him but they were encouraged to do so in the primary campaign and to some extent in the general election. I saw the Obama campaign work to create a progressive imagery about Obama in campus towns in 2007 and 2008. They knew what they were doing. But of course they also said other things to other constituents and made all kinds of nice promises of safety and allegiance to the power/business elite....to the unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire. I was very irritated at his intellectual supporters who claimed to be left but would't go do any basic due diligence research on his statements to the elite and who wouldn't do any serious content analysis looking for the many conservative signs in his campaign rhetoric and writing etc.

The capitalists and big shot politcos/election investors interviewed by Silverstein for his 2006 essay had no illusions: "What's the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist" one big lobbyist told KS. "We wouldn't be investing in Brand Obama if we didn't know he was safe to wall Street." well...more than safe: he offered them a fake progrerssive multicultural re-branding (same for the Empire abroad). Now Katrina Vanden Heuevel at al,,,,had no need to be reality based on His Holiness the Dalai Obama and really debased themselves. Michael Moore liberal man crush was disgusting to behold. I wanted to tell him to go get a room with his Obama poster!

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

because of their turning away from progressive candidates in favor of the fake one. Yes, gross and disgusting behavior from Moore. Maybe you and Matt Taibbi should run in the "At Least We aren't Pricks Party" or at least do a book tour together.

Submitted by racetoinfinity on

I very much like your proposal for a Democracy Constitutional Amendment - I won't list the points now - but wouldn't that be such a long slog that we might be in 3rd or 4th world land then, with a more "police 'war-on-terror-manufactured-meme - state" happening? Or is this "conspiracy" hyper-fantasizing about the future (the police state atmosphere)?

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Submitted by Paul Street on

I have friends who are very into this - the democracy amendment --- but my God that would be difficult to bring about. The hurldes are very high and the notion of existin authorities lettin us re-write elections laws along left progressive-friendly lines is pretty fantastic.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"You were right about Obama, I was wrong."

In four-and-a-half years of Obama-skeptic writing at Corrente, I can only recall two pro-Obama bloggers coming out and saying that to us.

You were well ahead of us. Have many people come forward and apologized to you for blowing off your critique (or worse)?

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Submitted by Terri on

Is the live blogging still taking place?

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Submitted by vastleft on

Yes, we're still on the air!

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

I am not monitoring this - the progressive silence but yes that's what I would expect. Glen Greenwald has some very good writings on the role that journalists are playing in the assault on Assagne and WikiLeaks. Sad. The sorry surrender of the of the so-called radical left continues.

Terri's picture
Submitted by Terri on

Thank you VL and Paul!

In the UK's Telegraph, appeared this article: "Is this the Keystone Kops presidency? Barack Obama needs to get serious about WikiLeaks" which noted:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/nilega...

"OBAMA hasn’t even commented publicly on the release of over a
quarter of a million US diplomatic cables, despite the immense damage
the leak is doing to American diplomacy and US strategic interests on
the world stage. He is giving all the appearance of a commander-in-chief
who is not in control, with an inept administration that seems to
blunder from one crisis to another, at times with no-one at the helm."

Paul, what do you make about Obama's silence and lack of commentary regarding WikiLeaks?

Thanks.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Oh he wants to deny Assange and WL credibility and thinks it would lend them legitimacy to comment. The empire is very embarassed by the image of the U.S. a big pathetic and pitiful and ugly beast that is spread by the WL cable and by the fact that Assange and WL keep getting whistleblown stuff out there. I don't think its just Obama administration. Gabriel Kolko has written for years, well decades, about the empire's delusion that it can run the whole world from the banks of the Potomac and how they blunder from one fiasco to another.....having this bluidnering exposed is bad in their view. The big Mafia Don. the world's only "superpower" must look smart, effective, and when necessary ruthless. They don't want to recognize the real existence and relevance of this "punk" Assange and his band of merry leakers and exposers.

Submitted by lambert on

Wiki is a technical platform; WikiLeaks is an editorial work product.

It's like confusing "newspapers" with "the newspaper of record" and the (unintentionally, no doubt) deceptive shorthand tends to discredit the technical platform, which is used for a lot of interesting and not especially corporate endeavors that leftists tend to support.

Submitted by lambert on

Basically, Versailles looks like a tear-down, to me. And for reasons that might be obvious, it makes sense to get to know your local sherrif and the rest of town government.

Thoughts on this?

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Oh there's a lot do at the local level. Support local foods and sustainable agriculture over suburban sprawl and mass retailing. Eco building standards. the list goes on. If the national political culture is just on lock down because of the aforementioned de facto dictatorships by all means think about doing stuff at local level.

Submitted by Hugh on

You were ahead of me on the learning curve with regard to Obama. I was one of those who did not consider Obama progressive but thought he was likely going to be the Democratic nominee and that he would a Democrat that progressives could work with. But then there was the Jeremiah Wright affair. There was his belligerence on Iran. And finally the FISA Amendments Act in July 2008. When he bailed on that. I bailed on him.

He has lived down to my expectations ever since. I sort of wonder how much of Obama was successful merchandizing and how much was that the blogosphere was still evolving and still saw a difference between the two parties.

I am a self-exile from firedoglake. When I left there what struck me was how much of the blogosphere and how many of the liberal orgs are owned by the Democrats. With some it is overt, and then there are places like firedoglake which I call Trojan horses. They criticize some Democrats some of the time but many of their staff are Democratic activists and so the site invariably sees the world through an essentially Democratic-Republican prism. I have become quite critical of this because I think it serves to vent and dissipate progressive energies rather than concentrate them in opposition to the anti-progressive Democrats.

Submitted by Hugh on

I think it was Keynes who said the markets can stay irrational longer than you can remain solvent, but I have been predicting a crash in 2011 for almost two years now. There is a lot of static and noise in the economic picture but the conditions for such a collapse are intensifying both here and around the world.

So if there is a crash in say the next 12 months, how do you think it will change the political picture? Will it change it?

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Submitted by Paul Street on

...oh it would guarantee a Republican victory in 2012. Right now I think BO is even money to come back. With a crash he's toast.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Hugh --- well we are working up a statement about 'the left and Obama" and hope to see it released soon. Regarding FDL we shall see if JH wants to sign and that will be an indications. Last year I think they got way far into holding hope for some sort of ill-definend "public option" when the only real thing to be advancingt was single payer.

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Single payer (the only actual progressive health reform) was exiled from the discussion from day one...Didn't even get to be part of the long grotesque strip tease of summer and fall 2009. The public option thing seduced progressives who should have known better,

And of course BO trumpeted sinle payer quite stridently as recenently as late 2002..speaking to AFL-CIO at Palmer Hilton in Chigao...the speech is on YouTube.

Submitted by Hugh on

Yes, good times! It was pretty amazing how far they went as the PO became more and more tenuous. Jane Hamsher has said that she finally moved into opposition on the bill when the PO was definitively killed, but it has been effectively sliced and diced before then. I think some of us telling her that her credibility was going to be destroyed if she stuck with the bill was as important a factor. But that too was an example where being right about the PO and single payer won no friends among the fdl management.

Submitted by lambert on

It's a Versailles dynamic:

Be right when the conventional wisdom is wrong, and you get shunned.

Be wrong, and you get a bigger platform and get to double down on FAIL

As with the Iraq critics, so with single payer. And as with, say, Thomas Friedman, so with Jane. Yay!

NOTE Any Eric Berne fans here? Is there a name for this? In AA, it's a lot like "A merry-go-round called denial"...

Terri's picture
Submitted by Terri on

...is a mythological creature designed from the onset to detract -- and never really a viable option -- from the only true 'public option' single payer.

As I see it, the Public Option was always a bunch of hot air which created much chatter and media limelight, but which was never attainable.

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

As I said a statement on Obama and his left supporters is in the words. fdl will have a chance to say something if it chooses.

I should add that FDL hahs been very strong in permitting me to do good book chats on my two books on the Obama phenomenon and presidency.

Submitted by lambert on

They had Bill Bllack on accounting fraud. And you, of course ;-)

Still, the PO stuff was incredibly damaging; there were people advocating it as a write-in, for example...

Terri's picture
Submitted by Terri on

Paul,

I recently was fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report.

Glen stated that with the election of Obama the black-Left has split (some blacks supporting Obama/some not) and as a result of this anger and action have been tamped down.

He stated that historically it has been "blacks leading the way" with civil actions and with so many in the black community having their anger quieted (even though data is reveals that much is "worse for blacks" under Obama)...Glen is suggesting that the entire LEFT is shut down because blacks (now quieted) are not "leading the way".

Ford made a distinction between the "black" left and the "white" left and that without the black radical left leading it....the entire left is shut down.

Do you agree with Ford's understanding on the Left shutdown?

Terri

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Submitted by Paul Street on

Agree that white lelftists can't movement forward without leadership from the blackk left? Huh. I don't know. I have argued that it would be very very useful for there to be a black left rebellion and yes that would e useful in moving guilty white leftists and progressives...very useful. I have found Black Agenda Report very useful as something I can point white radicals/lefties/progresssives to, saying "see, there IS serious black left criticism of Obama.."

Submitted by jawbone on

It's so hard to get your kind of views "out there." Any luck?

However, I do recall Amy Goodman's single appearance on The Charlie Rose Show (at the very beginning of the Iraq invasion, iirc). Rose became unglued -- he was outraged that she was saying the MCM had not reported info about Iraq adequately or truthfully.

He spent most of his time lecturing her, then closed with saying he'd have her back soon. Has not happened yet....

It's tough to try to change the Narrative.

And, suggestions for getting through to people?

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

I have been quoted and book mentioned on CNN a few times. Back when I had an establisment job (VP and research director at Chicago Urban League) I was regularly quoted and shown in MCM at the metropolitan level. Now outside all that, fugghetabout it for the most part. In fact, I can't seem to get recognized by Amy Goodman -----many funny and sad stories about near and non-apperances on Democracy Now!

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

Well, the left has its own star system and its hard to make the team. I go the tryouts and wait to see names on roster. It is what it ia.

elisehendrick's picture
Submitted by elisehendrick on

One of the things that worries me at the moment is the Obama administration - right down to the midterm results and the rebranded Contract with America (Tea Party) "movement" is that it looks like we're in for a repeat of Clinton's administration with more blood and worse wages, with Left and potentially-Left forces receding into disgruntlement and resignation rather than organising on any mass level. Do you share this not-particularly-sunny outlook (and if you do, what do you think is needed to change directions)?

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

Well Elise, we did get that nice global justice upsurge (Seattle etc.) at the end of the Clinton years. If economy does not improve probably no second Dem (ClintObama) term but of course then Hillary runs in 2016. I'll foresake the crystal ball and just say its an existential requirement to organize on a mass scale: no resurgent and vast and effective and real and true left = death knell for the species. Sorry to be melodramatic but that's my sense.

Submitted by Hugh on

The midterms showed that the coalition that got Obama elected has fallen apart. Do you think any of this has sunk in to Obama? Do you think that they think that control of the levers of the Democratic party and the veal pen is sufficient? Do you think they think they can, even now, repeat the kind of organizing they did in 2007-2008?

Submitted by jawbone on

for them, so does he really care about having a second term?

And, will he go after SocSec in his remaining two years? Medicare? Rest of the social safety net?

I think he will be very dangerous with a Repub House and enough Blue Dog Corporatist Senate Dems to carry some awful legislation.

Submitted by Hugh on

That's the thing. In one way, it doesn't matter. If a Democrat or a Republican wins, no matter which one it is, it will be a victory for the corporatists. But in the kabuki of our political process, Obama and Democrats look like they are intent on political suicide. It's like they are pretending less and less about who and what they are.

This is why it is becoming such a critical issue for the Obama-centric left. The longer they stick with him the more cred they lose. On the other hand, you can see this talk of primarying Obama as a distraction from the real problem which is not Obama in particular but the Democrats in general.

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

He cares about his election chances, not about progressive reform. He wants to ba two termer. I think he may find the Tea O.P. mid-terms useful....he can run against Coogress like B. Clinton did after 1994. And the right shift gives him some cover to do some of the nastt center right things he wants to do anyway. But he did lose some of his Blue Dog cover...

Submitted by Hugh on

Yes, but he has done everything he could to destroy his chances. He's already lost the independents, the youth vote, and the left side of the left. The rest of the left is increasingly in crisis over their support of him vs. their cred. And we're still two years out. Running to the right is not going to help because their solutions don't work. So by 2012 he will be an even bigger failure. The economy will continue to suck, and he will have alienated even more of the coalition that got him elected.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

and dust off their Obama-stickered messenger bags and try it again.

Some haven't stopped their "Look, over there! Sarah Palin! Most important election evah!" act. There may not be enough of them to win the day for Obama in 2012, but there will be a lot of that.

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

Not likely. Can't mobilize as before. If he gets some jobs recovery he has even money chance of return. Without it he should be gone.

Submitted by Hugh on

Given current and likely policies, there will be no recovery in jobs. With the incoming more conservative Congress, the likelihood is that the jobs picture will worsen significantly.

Submitted by jawbone on

the party be able to stand against Obama?

At least one Congressional Dem, John Larson (CT) did say something pretty strong, albeit giving cover to Obama by using the plural pronoun:

The Democratic Party's Herbert Hoover-like response to high unemployment cost them their majority, a member of the House Democratic leadership team said Tuesday.

Rep. John Larson (Conn.), the House Democratic Caucus chairman who is expected to keep his position in a vote on Wednesday, said that his party did not do enough in the eyes of voters to help bring down the nation's 9.6 percent unemployment rate.

"We never did enough in terms of that area for us to have the kind of success we would have," he said on MSNBC. "We had a Roosevelt moment and responded like Hoover." (My emphasis)

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

Yes, Barack Hoover Obama, not FDR. Somebody named Baker did a Harper's piece on on the Hoover analogy last year. It was very interesting.

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

I feel like I've missed some questions. Apologies to any who hahve not gotten answered. Lots of good stuff here.

Paul Street's picture
Submitted by Paul Street on

The struggle continues....forget the crystal ball, throw it out. We will rebuild the left in this country or the species is done for...there's a happy thought!

Submitted by hipparchia on

and thank you, vl, for hosting this [and also for providing links on the fly].

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

since I couldn't access from the office. But I'm thrilled to be able to come home and read all of the thoughtful discussion. It's terrific of Paul Street to join us and thanks for arranging it VL. It's also a nice reminder that I need to order one of your shirts. I just can't seem to decide between "left" and "liberal".

Submitted by racetoinfinity on

By Paul Street on Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:48pm

-----------

My thoughts&feelings about it are the same almost to a tee - what a phrase that is lol.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

I'm sorry I couldn't be here for the conversation, but it's great reading the comments. I hope you come back again soon.

And Vast Left, thank you for arranging this and for moderating. Nice work. :)