NOBODY PROMISED LIFE WOULD BE FAIR – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt – Fairness

No one promised me that life would be fair. Quite the opposite. My mother was a total cynic. Born in 1910, her earliest memories were of living through World War I which she always referred to as “The Great War,” and then living through World War II, which was simply “The Holocaust.”

She didn’t believe in God because how could any God allow such atrocities to occur to his people. She didn’t trust government because even when they sometimes did honorable things, behind locked doors they made dishonorable deals. She was convinced that they intentionally failed to blow up the Nazi concentration camp crematorium and gas chambers because they were good old rich white men and were happy that Hitler was getting rid of those annoying Jews.

She remembered how in the middle of the depression when there was more food than could be sold because people were desperately poor, the government put surplus food in empty lots and poured poison on it so no one could eat it. I heard this was a rumor, but she said it was true. She had seen it.

She knew that the U.S. had refused to let Jews desperate to escape from Germany enter the United States and many of them had died in ships that sank in the Atlantic, in view of the Statue of Liberty. She remembered the jailing of Japanese American citizens during the war and the destruction of Native Americans.

She despised the Catholic church because, she said, they were a bunch of pedophiles, something that proved true eventually.

Lady Justice – Old Bailey, London

She wanted me to get a nose job so I wouldn’t look “so Jewish.” She never trusted the government, always expected it to turn on us. I think she always had a bag packed in case she had to run.

So I never thought the world would be fair. But I also didn’t think it would be this ugly. I thought if we tried really hard we could make it better. That we could fix some of the broken pieces. That I could fix some of the broken pieces myself.

I was wrong but I tried.

Maybe someday we will succeed. May my granddaughter’s children — should she have any — will make things better.

No one told me to expect life would be fair. I always knew rich people would get the best “stuff” and the rest of us would get whatever was left over. It never crossed my mind that we were all genuinely “equal.”

We are all equal. Just some of us are more equal than others.

Those few times when life has gone well and things have seemed fair and evenhanded, it has been a huge surprise. It would be nice if there were more surprises to come, but I’m not holding my breath.

It doesn’t have to be a grand slam when a squeeze play will do – REBLOG – THE SHINBONE STAR

We are serious baseball fans. Garry has actually written a couple of pieces like this, but you need to “get” baseball to understand them. This is a great piece and if you are any kind of sports fan, you should recognize that “the big play” is sexy on TV. A huge homer makes the fans cheer and stomp while the TV crew gets all worked up.

There are a lot of ways to win — and lose. Whacking the ball over the wall is not a game.

A homer is just ONE play. A team needs a basket of strategies to make the game a winner — and a lot of winning games to take the season to a winning finish.

THE SHINBONE STAR

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, was just sentenced again in federal court.

So let’s talk baseball.

While such a segue is admittedly strained, the all-American game has lessons to teach sensible citizens who hang our heads over a combined seven-and-a-half-year sentence for Manafort that could allow the 69-year-old to still walk out of prison rather than be carried out on a slab.

Baseball today is a different game than the one many of us grew up with. ESPN’s Sports Center highlights helped turn the sport into one big home run derby, which prevented newer fans from ever learning baseball’s nuances. The stolen base, the hit-and-run, the run-scoring double off the wall are all exciting plays that are mostly unappreciated by newer fans who are conditioned to only get excited when the ball is hit over the fence.

It’s a crime, really, and speaking of crime, that brings us back…

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HONOR AND CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS – Marilyn Armstrong

From the Washington Post, these are Cohen’s quotes, not something “made up” by the writer. I’m sure he had help with it because these words have the ring of a professionally written and carefully polished speech.

That being said, I think this sums up much of what many of us feel:

“Mr. Trump is an enigma,” Cohen said in his opening statement. “He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.”

He went on to say:

“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen said. “He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’”

America. The greatest infomercial in political history? Also, probably, the biggest dive from greatest to pettiness, racism, ignorance, cruelty, and rampant destruction of what have always been the beauties of our world.

From the Post:

Cohen has insisted that “blind loyalty” is what drove him to commit crimes on Trump’s behalf. Federal prosecutors have contended that Cohen “relished the role of ultimate fixer” and that he was “driven by a desire to further ingratiate himself with a potential future president — for whose political success Cohen himself claimed credit.”

“Taken together, these offenses reveal a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy,” prosecutors wrote in a memorandum to a federal judge before Cohen was sentenced. “His motivation to do so was not borne from naiveté, carelessness, misplaced loyalty or political ideology. Rather, these were knowing and calculated acts — acts Cohen executed in order to profit personally, build his own power, and enhance his level of influence.”

I can understand why many people would be hesitant to believe the words of a man who, in the name of ambition, would follow a man he knew to be bad in every way that counted.

On the other hand, these people are defending the exact same bad guy and I will bet that every one of them knows how evil Trump really is. They aren’t doing the right thing. They are doing the politically expedient “thing” which they know to be wrong.

Photo: NBC News

I find it hard to fathom anyone having that level of ambition, yet I see it everywhere. Even back in college, there was always one little wormy kid who would do anything to grab the job you were trying to get — and this was back when we weren’t even paid for the work. It was all a matter of personal honor.

Too many people have no honor. These days, it would seem that more than ever, people have no honor — just a personal agenda. Furthermore, they don’t comprehend the concept of honor. They think it’s about ambition and flags … but it isn’t and never was.

From left to right: The four sisters: my mother (Dorothy), Aunt Pearl, Aunt Kate, and Aunt Yetta

Time for a personal story. In my freshman year of college, I met a boy and we fell in love. I was 16. He was 17. He wasn’t a virgin — but he was barely not a virgin. I was a virgin — I was 16, after all — so we went to be together in a borrowed apartment and it was wonderful. It was. He eventually turned out to be more than a little psycho, so while we had an affair that lasted many years, we did not marry. Oddly, he shared Garry’s birthday. As did another boyfriend from that period.

I know we all don’t believe in “fate,” but that’s pretty fateful. I digress. Back to the story.

I actually told my mother about it. You have to understand that my mother was all in favor of modern sex and not being held to old-fashioned standards, so when she went completely bonkers, I was baffled, boggled, and bewildered. I said: “What about …”

And she said: ” Not MY daughter!”

That was when I realized that your beliefs and your BELIEFS didn’t have to be the same. Mom decided I needed to talk to the grand dame of her sisters — my Aunt Kate. My mother’s oldest sister.

Left to right: Aunt Pearl, my mother (Dorothy), Aunt Ethel (Uncle Herman’s wife) and Aunt Kate

She was born in “the old country” and was the only member of the household who still kept Kosher. She remained Jewish without ever casting aspersions on family members who had gone another way.

I adored my Aunt Kate. She was beautiful, a dead ringer for Katherine Hepburn as a young woman. Even older, she had cheekbones to die for. But beyond that, she was deeply and passionately kind. There was inherent goodness about her I have known rarely through the years.

I told her what had been going on. She listened. Quietly. Then she said: “But what about honor?”

Honor?

I had never considered honor as part of the love/sex/passion thing. Nobody had used the word, not even my mother. It was a concept that swept in from the past and put the issue into an entirely new perspective. And I never forgot that for some people, it’s about their version of religion or faith. For others, there are just “rules” you follow because “you’re supposed to follow the rules.” For Aunt Kate, it was about honor. And after that, I never forgot to consider whether or not what I was doing was honorable.

Shortly after that conversation, I pointed out (proudly) to Aunt Kate that I was still wearing the fake fur coat she’d give me when I was in Junior High School because I loved it. Horrified that I could still be wearing that old coat, in the middle of Manhattan, she pulled off her coat and gave it to me. I tried really hard to give it back, but it stuck. Until I moved to Israel when I got rid of most of my heavy winter clothing, it was my “good coat.” It was a fake beaver coat. No fur, just poly whatever, but it looked and felt like the real thing and had a wonderful swing to it.

We had lunch at a hotel dining room and I tucked my arm into the crook of her arm and we walked locked together down the avenues of Manhattan.

Honor.

That’s what is missing from today’s America. Our sense of honor is gone. We stand naked and shivering in the winds of ambition with no moral code. There’s no one worse than us, though there are a few probably at least as bad other places.

Our days of lecturing the rest of the world about right and wrong are, I think, over. Or at least over for the next 50 years while we try to repair our image. Maybe longer, depending on whether or not the chaotic Democratic Party can collect itself and think nationally and rationally.

Let us find honor for all rather than self-aggrandizement for a few.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

“PROVOCATIVE” QUESTION 16: GOVERNMENT IS JUST ANOTHER MENU

Fandango’s Provocative Question #16

So the question is:


“Should taxpayers have the option to explicitly say what they don’t want their tax dollars spent on?”

I think we settled this during our revolutionary war. We explicitly demanded that only voters can be taxed. We never suggested we have the right to choose what we pay for. We don’t get a menu of selections, check those that suit us and refuse to pay for the rest.

In this benighted world, here’s my neighborhood.

My right-hand neighbor hates cops. He doesn’t want to pay for them.

The guy on the left resents school taxes.  He never had kids. Never wanted them. Doesn’t feel like paying for education no one in his family is going to get.

Down the road, that guy has a big powerful SUV, so he doesn’t care if the roads are plowed or not. If you can’t get through, well, too bad. Why should he pay for your transportation? He’s got his own.

The then there’s the one on the opposite corner. He doesn’t believe in government at all. He doesn’t feel obliged to pay for anything. He’s the creepy guy who wouldn’t turn his hose on if his neighbor’s house was on fire. You want him choosing which taxes to pay? Maybe he’s part of a group and none of them will pay anything at all.

We settled this. Long ago.

Taxes exist in law. We pay them because we are legally required to do so. You don’t have to like anything about the government, governor, Congress, or the school board. Or the cops, the town selectman, or the Mayor.

There are laws and we abide by them.

Government is not lunch where you get to pick whatever you want from any page on the menu. No picking and choosing which parts of the government you support. The closest you can get to that kind of choice is voting for whoever will support the programs you support. That’s what makes a government.

The picking and choosing from different parts of the menu is not a government. It’s lunch.

I’LL GIVE YOU MY REALITY IF YOU GIVE ME YOURS – By Tom Curley

I figured it out! The solution to reality! This reality! This reality TV reality!

The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s not working. Each time something happens that we might think is positive, the next day — or the next hour — we discover we were deluded.

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Do you know what does work?

Fictional TV reality!

Think about it. There was a show called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government was blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court? Wiped off the earth.

The only cabinet member that had to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the government from the ground up. While he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal in which the ones responsible for blowing everybody up are also trying to take over the country.

In spite of that, their government and President are doing a lot better job than ours! They are noticeably more sane and coherent and sometimes, they make intelligent decisions. Imagine that!

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So here’s what we do.  We switch realities!

It’s a win-win for everybody. How? It’s simple — at least in theory.

First

The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV, 24/7. Every day. You like watching the news? You’ll never miss another show!

Second

On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger.

And on Fox News.

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They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News.

As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Third

OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?

Here’s who. Honest to God fictional ones.

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The cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. And if we dig into the DNC pool, we’ve got dozens more. Hell, every billionaire is ready to declare!

We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” Again. As a matter of fact, just keep watching it over and over until you feel better. It’s like a political tranquilizer.

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We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

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We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was the President, but he was (is currently, I believe) also God!

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The list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Fourth

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already a Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

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Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

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Secretary of Defense? I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

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ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.

(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

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Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

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Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from any medical show you’ve enjoyed over the years. Any of them will do fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

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Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

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(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

Five: The Election

How do we do this?

We have an election. Not the usual kind. What with voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and just candidates that don’t have the right scriptwriters, our elections are not working out well. That’s how we got into this mess, to begin with.

We have the election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time.

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Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College.

We can set up March Madness-style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. Imagine how many office pools there will be. You might even win!

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And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.

This is absolute Democracy at work!

It could work!

As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people:

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“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”


THE SHINBONE STAR – REBLOG By NATHANIEL R. “NAT” HELMS

TIME HEALS OLD WOUNDS . . . UNLESS THEY’VE TURNED GANGRENOUS

A self-imposed exile from the machinations of Donald Trump is a good thing. It is like spraying Febreze Clean Linen scent inside your skull until the rotten stench is completely covered. Two weeks wasn’t long enough to fully enjoy it, but it is a start.

A real exile from Trump means no cable news, newspapers, Facebook memes and rants, not answering taunts and jibes and no light-hearted political discussion with the neighbors.

Netflix is a good hiding place. A more extreme alternative is Devotional Hour with Sister Marie, the wizened old nun who provides solace on a local Catholic television show. Five minutes cured everything. Even with great alternatives available, actually weaning oneself off the Trumpian titty is like quitting smoking without a nicotine patch. His nefarious influence is everywhere.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about such an experience is discovering that people who must work every day to care for their kids, dogs, and homes don’t often give a tinker’s damn about politics. It takes a particularly powerful whiff of Trumplandian swamp gas for them to even notice all is still not well in Washington, D.C. They apparently leave all the angst for old retired people who won’t suffer too long no matter what happens.

Several other discoveries jumped out immediately. The Trumpian Wall saga has run its course across the emotional nerves of my neighbors. So have mass shootings, the endless litany of #MeToo sexual peccadilloes and reports about election campaigns so far in the future they are irrelevant. The baffling Mueller probe is seen in the same light as all the other probes getting shoved in people’s keisters in the name of New Age correctness.

My hardworking neighbors know that a Saudi journalist named Khashoggi was chopped into mincemeat by lackeys of some medieval Arab prince who won’t be touched; that war in Syria and Afghanistan may be over but don’t count on it; and that some big, bald-headed guy on TV when they arrived home Friday was in a pointless pissing match with the Democrats. None of it touched their lives.

What really pisses off Mr. and Mrs. Working America is finding out that they aren’t going to get the income tax refund they used to use to buy a little fun, the really unimaginative halftime show at the cliché’-rich Super Bowl and that the constantly rising price of food and gas never gets factored into those glowing reports about how rich America is.

Just ask a working mom who looks forward to taking the kids for a week at the beach that won’t happen this year because she didn’t get a useful tax refund. Ask the tradesman who tolerated his union dues going to Democrats, thinking their expanded presence in the House would improve his life. Instead, they are using his money to buy a bully pulpit to promote themselves without accomplishing much else.

Perhaps the most illuminating people to talk to are the mid-level government employees where I live that are wracked with doubt because they spent all their savings just to survive Trump’s 35-day government shutdown. They are imminently aware that another shutdown is still in the cards. They are equally certain that at some point a shutdown will wreck the economy the same way it already has wrecked their households.

The so-called Trumpian base, the badly informed working class folks who turn to anyone who offers them red meat, are confused and angered as well. They thought their lot would have improved by now, said one of my forsaken buddies while buying donuts. We’ve been punching holes in targets together for 30 years and he still can’t bring himself to say he might have been wrong about Trump.

My old buddy lives in a trailer court down the road. He lives there because he can’t afford a house. He can’t afford a house because he earns a $1,000 or more a week during the working season and still can’t save enough for the 20-percent down payment. Despite all the news stories about how the country has run out of skilled and unskilled labor, he doesn’t have a job.

His mobile home costs $780 a month plus utilities. His wife doesn’t work because they can’t afford daycare for his three kids. Being a union laborer doesn’t provide much work in the dead of winter, he said. Unemployed union laborers go on the extra board and draw $280 a week unemployment that they hope will last until the spring thaw. The only thing being a cherished veteran got him is a VA house loan and lip service. Meanwhile, Republicans who supported Trump in Missouri are again trying to introduce “right-to-work” laws because they think laborers like my friend are paid too much.

I learned a lesson from this experience. To move forward, the country must clear its head, put its feet back on the ground and wean itself off the milk of Trumpian discourse. Hate holds only bankrupt answers. Trump’s forte is lies. It is time for Democrats to go around him, under him, over him or through him, the way illegal aliens would get past his useless border wall.

The presumption that time heals all wounds is misplaced. Time only heals wounds that don’t turn gangrenous.

Democratic leaders need to spend less time blaming Trump’s egregious behavior for the country’s wounds and begin binding them instead.

PANTS ON FIRE – Rich Paschall

State of the Union Address, aka SOTU

Let’s get right to the point, something political speeches usually do not do.  The pronouncements made by the occupant of the White House fall into basically two categories: Lies, and True, but misleading.  It is not unusual for political leaders to take a tidbit of truth and spin it into something it is not.  They like to take any positive news and make the most of it. It is another thing, however, to just lie to the American people and expect to get away with it.

Believe me, folks.

Certainly, 45 and his minions must have known that the fact checkers would be scrutinizing everything he said, especially given his history of daily lies.  That did not seem to stop him from telling some whoppers designed to fire up his fan base.  Followers do not care how much he lies, much to the amazement of many Americans and people around the world.

A vast array of news outlets and independent agencies found a long list of falsehoods and misleading statements by the orange one.  Almost all posted a list of lies except one, the state-friendly FOX News.  They thought the others were just “nitpicking” in their comments on Trump’s supposed “facts.”

While I was reluctant to call the following statements “lies,” rather than “false,” “misstatement,” “error,” or “miscalculation,” I decided that “lie” will work just fine.  After all, the SOTU is an address that is planned well in advance.  The WH has an army of staffers.

Certainly, many of them are checking the facts and cautioning 45 not to say anything too inflammatory or incorrect. That did not stop him.  Maybe it is just more of his “willful ignorance,” but whatever it is, he certainly knows better, or should have.

“The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.”

Lie.

The economy slowed in the fourth quarter last year and is expected to show that it slowed even more in January.  Further, a list of countries has shown greater improvement of economies: Poland, China, India, Latvia. Even Greece, struggling economically for many years, showed greater growth.

“We recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions and billions of dollars.”

Misleading.

This is not a good thing as 45 seems to imply.  The US importer pays these extra duties and tariffs.  Usually they are passed along, so in reality, it is the American consumer who is being punished by tariffs.  Even more than this, previously profitable companies are hurting due to extra costs. GM and Ford both claim to lose about a billion dollars each to tariffs.

“My administration has cut more regulations in a short period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure.”

Lie.

Both the Carter and Reagan administrations cut regulations at a faster pace in a number of industries.

“We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs — something which almost everyone said was impossible to do, but the fact is, we are just getting started.”

Lie.

Certainly, the White House has better access to the Bureau of Labor Statistics than we do.  His numbers are inflated and the pace of job growth is on par with a two-year period of the Obama administration.  Don’t tell him that, he will go crazy (crazier?).

“More people are working now than at any time in our history.”

Misleading.

The reason is by sheer numbers.  There are more people living here “now than at any time in our history.”

“The border city of El Paso, Tex., used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities.”

Lie.

El Paso did not have a high crime rate.  Prior to the 2008 border barrier, they were second lowest among cities of similar size.  It is about the same today.

“As we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States.”

Misleading.

Many plan to stay in Mexico due to new policies there regarding visas.  Some said they will try to enter the US. They did not say they would try “illegally.”

“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.”

Lie.

“Cheered with delight?” Cruel to even suggest this happened. NY state passed a state law to protect the right to choose in case the Supreme Court, now with two Trump extreme right wingers on board, should strike down Roe v. Wade. Abortion after 24 weeks would remain very restricted.

“We had the case of the governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.”

Lie.

Worse than the lie above.

This is just a handful of the false or misleading statements handed out by 45 in the 82-minute marathon.  There are plenty of sources for checking the facts if you think there is any point to it.  If you are to the left of the aisle, you probably figure most of the SOTU was not true. If you are a supporter of 45, you likely ate up every word of it.  It makes you wish the president would go back to the practice of submitting the address in writing.

Sources:

State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong,” http://www.nytimes.com, Feb. 5, 2019.
Dem response to the State of the Union,” http://www.politico.com, Feb. 6, 2019.
Bizarre State of the Union ‘fact checks’ fall flat, as media accused of nitpicking,” http://www.foxnews.com, Feb. 6, 2019.
Trump’s tariffs have already cost Ford $1B; now it’s planning layoffs,” http://www.nbcnews.com, October 8, 2018.
Trump State of the Union 2019: Which president delivered the longest State of the Union? Shortest?http://www.al.com, Feb. 5, 2019.
Intelligence briefers warn of ‘willful ignorance’ on Trump’s part: report,” http://www.thehill.com, Feb. 3, 2019.