Poverty is a Policy Choice

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'Inequality Is a Choice'


Nicholas Kristof

The eruptions in Baltimore have been tied, in complex ways, to frustrations at American inequality, and a new measure of the economic gaps arrived earlier this year:

It turns out that the Wall Street bonus pool in 2014 was roughly twice the total annual earnings of all Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage.

You read that right: Just the annual bonuses for just the sliver of Americans who work just in finance just in New York City dwarfed the combined year-round earnings of all Americans earning the federal minimum wage.

We've been walloped with staggering statistics like this long enough that although this used to be a Democratic issue, Republicans are now speaking up. "The United States is beset by a crisis in inequality," warned Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a Republican with Tea Party support (although he added that his concern is gaps in opportunity, not wealth).

Likewise, Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, declared recently that "we have to do a better job" of curbing inequality.

Yet while we broadly lament inequality, we treat it as some natural disaster imposed upon us. That's absurd. The roots of inequality are complex and, to some extent, reflect global forces, but they also reflect our policy choices.

In his new book, "The Great Divide," Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, includes two chapters whose titles sum it up: "Inequality Is Not Inevitable" and "Inequality Is a Choice."

"I overheard one billionaire -- who had gotten his start in life by inheriting a fortune -- discuss with another the problem of lazy Americans who were trying to free ride on the rest," Stiglitz writes. "Soon thereafter, they seamlessly transitioned into a discussion of tax shelters."

Say what?


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Collective compassion has meant an overall decrease in global poverty since the 1980s, says civil rights lawyer Gary Haugen. Yet for all the world's aid money, there's a pervasive hidden problem keeping poverty alive. Haugen reveals the dark underlying cause we must recognize and act on now.

Another Orbit Completed

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Tiny Homes for the Homeless

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This is so cool.

Local teens team with designers and builders to create a moveable eco-village for Seattle's homeless


In the middle of the tents, blue tarps, and simple shacks that make up Nickelsville--a homeless community in Seattle that roams from place to place wherever it can find land to use temporarily--there's a prototype of a tiny new green house. It's the beginning of a new, moveable "eco-village" for the community. And it was designed and built by teenagers.

Dubbed the Impossible City, the house is part of a project run by Sawhorse Revolution, a local nonprofit that teaches students basic design and construction skills while building things that the community can actually use. One day, project leaders happened to walk by Nickelsville and realized they could help.

Old Ladies To Love

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Top Ten Corporate Tax Cheats

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10 Corporate Tax Dodgers You Should Know About

Recently Bill Moyers spoke with Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, who argues that we must reform the tax code and stop subsidizing tax dodgers. A recent report by Americans for Tax Fairness suggests that corporate taxes are near a 60-year low -- and that's partially because corporations have become adept at not paying their share.

Here's a list of 10 tax-dodging corporations excerpted from the Americans for Tax Fairness report.

Bank of America logoBank of America runs its business through more than 300 offshore tax-haven subsidiaries. It reported $17.2 billion in accumulated offshore profits in 2012. It would owe $4.3 billion in US taxes if these funds were brought back to the US.
 Citi logoCitigroup had $42.6 billion in foreign profits parked offshore in 2012 on which it paid no US taxes. It reported that it would owe $11.5 billion if it brings these funds back to the US. A significant chunk is being held in tax-haven countries.
 ExxonMobil had a three-year federal income tax rate of just 15 percent. This gave the company a tax subsidy worth $6.2 billion from 2010-2012. It had $43 billion in offshore profits at the end of 2012, on which it paid no US taxes.
 Fedex logoFedEx made $6 billion over the last three years and didn't pay a dime in federal income taxes, in part because the tax code subsidized its purchase of new planes. This gave FedEx a huge tax subsidy worth $2.1 billion.
 GE LogoGeneral Electric received a tax subsidy of nearly $29 billion over the last 11 years. While dodging paying its fair share of federal income taxes, GE pocketed $21.8 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts from Uncle Sam between 2006 and 2012.
 Honeywell logoHoneywell had profits of $5 billion from 2009 to 2012. Yet it paid only $50 million in federal income taxes for the period. Its tax rate was just 1 percent over the last four years. This gave it a huge tax subsidy worth $1.7 billion.
 Merck logoMerck had profits of $13.6 billion and paid $2.5 billion in federal income taxes from 2009 to 2012. While dodging its fair share of federal income taxes, it pocketed $8.7 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts from Uncle Sam between 2006 and 2012.
 Microsoft logoMicrosoft saved $4.5 billion in federal income taxes from 2009 to 2011 by transferring profits to a subsidiary in the tax haven of Puerto Rico. It had $60.8 billion in profits stashed offshore in 2012 on which it paid no US taxes.
 Pfizer logoPfizer paid no US income taxes from 2010 to 2012 while earning $43 billion worldwide. It did this in part by performing accounting acrobatics to shift its US profits offshore. It received $2.2 billion in federal tax refunds.
 Verizon logoVerizon made $19.3 billion in US pretax profits from 2008 to 2012, yet didn't pay any federal income taxes during the period. Instead, it got $535 million in tax rebates. Verizon's effective federal income tax rate was negative 2.8 percent from 2008 to 2012.

Learn more about each company at the Americans for Tax Fairness website or download and read the entire report (PDF).


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The Fairest Tax of All

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William Gates, Sr. and Chuck Collins on Why the Inheritance Tax Is Fair

This week, by a vote of 240-179 that broke down largely on partisan lines, House Republicans voted to repeal the estate tax. The Hill reports that "killing off the estate tax would increase the deficit by $269 billion over a decade." It's not clear whether the bill will make it through the Senate -- 54 senators went on record supporting it earlier this year -- and the White House says it will veto it.

The bill is a longtime priority of the Republican party. The campaign to end the so-called "death tax" was started by a group of wealthy Republicans in the 1990s. In this 2003 clip from NOW, Bill talks with two millionaires who support the tax. William Gates, Sr., and Chuck Close talk about the history of the movement to repeal the inheritance tax and their opinion that it is a fair tax that should remain in place.

Now with Bill Moyers: William Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Noam Chomsky: Exceptionalism Is a Concept Held by Every Great Power and It's Always Wrong

In a conversation with theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, Noam Chomsky explains why American exceptionalism is neither unique nor founded on truth. The renowned linguist goes on to discuss how, despite the fact that many are under the illusion that United States interventionist attitudes abroad are altruistic, the country's foreign policy only benefits the most powerful Americans, among other important topics.

Watch the two-part dialogue, which forms part of Arizona State University's Origins Project, below.

2 Yr Old DJ

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A toddler disc jockey fascinates South African fans

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- At first it seems like a fluke -- a 2-year-old playing with the knobs and buttons of a sophisticated music system. Yet, the tiny boy is in control of the big beat of the bass-heavy house music. He is South Africa's youngest disc jockey, DJ AJ.

At a shopping mall appearance, a crowd gathers around the young boy as he bops his head to the beat, his large headphones slipping off. Adults whip out their cellphones to capture the moment while children just stare.

Oratilwe Hlongwane is still learning to put together words but the toddler is already able to select and play music from a laptop and has become a viral phenomenon on South Africa's social media.

His mother, Refiloe Marumo, credits his father's decision to buy an iPad for his then unborn son. Glen Hlongwane planned to download educational apps to speed up his child's education. Hlongwane, a gymnastics coach and aspiring DJ, also downloaded a disc jockeying app for himself.

At about a year old, DJ AJ learned how to manipulate the gadget. Not satisfied with number recognition games, he began to fiddle with his father's DJ app.

The parents were blown away when their son, still in diapers, repeated what he had learned on the app on actual DJ equipment, playing with sound effects and bouncing between songs. A cellphone video of him playing went viral and now DJ AJ has nearly 25,000 facebook followers.

Policing the Police

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A comprehensive list of death by police.

Killed By Police 2015


Still Crazy...Bitch, I'm Madonna

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The New 57 yrs old

$ vs $

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Billionaire donor's climate group plans to punish GOP in 2016

By Benjy Sarlin

NextGen Climate, the environmental super PAC founded by billionaire Tom Steyer, announced plans on Monday to punish Republican presidential candidates who reject the scientific consensus on climate change.

The group spent over $70 million in the 2014 midterms attacking Republican candidates in a number of high-profile Senate races, but were unable to stem the tide in what was ultimately a strong GOP year. On a call with reporters on Monday, NGC chief strategist Chris Lehane declined to provide a specific dollar pledge for the 2016 race, but said that Steyer and his allies would "spend what it takes" to make climate a damaging campaign issue for Republicans.

Much of the effort will center on linking Republican attacks on climate science, where the overwhelming consensus points towards man-made emissions causing dangerous changes in the environment, to political spending by conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch. The Koch brothers have pledged to raise upwards of $889 million in the 2016 election cycle, rivaling spending by the two major parties in 2012.

"It is a party that is in essence acquired and purchased by the Koch brothers," Lehane said.

A spokeswoman for Koch Industries did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Environmental group Greenpeace has accused the Koch network of spending tens of millions of dollars on organizations that work to undermine mainstream climate science. Koch Industries has said it promotes "sound science." 

"It is a party that is in essence acquired and purchased by the Koch brothers," Lehane said.

A spokeswoman for Koch Industries did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Environmental group Greenpeace has accused the Koch network of spending tens of millions of dollars on organizations that work to undermine mainstream climate science. Koch Industries has said it promotes "sound science."

President Obama has made climate change a top priority in his second term, presiding over a series of major new regulations on emissions as well as a landmark climate agreement with China. Scientists warn that immediate and further action is needed to stave off global warming of 2 degrees or higher by 2100, a tipping point that experts fear would have especially dangerous consequences.

Much of the likely GOP 2016 field has questioned or outright dismissed the idea that human activity is responsible for climate change. Establishment frontrunner Jeb Bush has called himself a "skeptic," for example, while Senator Ted Cruz recently likened climate activists to "flat-earthers."

Enter the Millenials

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Fantastic Journey

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Love it...Brave Loves.

Let Me Speak

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One of the best correctives I ever received in my life was at the inception of a 40 minute private talk with Joni on a ferry ride to the Sechelt Penninsula where she and i lived temporarily. She has always been a life long hero of mine, her lyrics frequently a script for my own life. I introduced myself as a life long fan. She answered with a smile and extended hand to shake adding..." I prefer the term ardent admirer over fan...what do you think?"

Of course. Perfect.

Now she has fallen seriously ill and I am saddened at the thought of losing her.


Joni Mitchell's famous fans are voicing their support for the folk singer while she is in hospital in Los Angeles.

Harry Potter star Emma Watson said on Twitter: "heard about Joni and haven't been able to concentrate all morning. So hope she's doing ok."

Kiss lead singer Paul Stanley tweeted a recent picture of himself and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, telling his followers to send her love and prayers.

Actor Kevin Bacon tweeted that he was "sending good wishes today to one of the finest singing, song-writing, guitar playing artists in history".

Boy George, Billy Idol and Tori Amos were also among the well-wishers.

Mitchell, 71, was found unconscious in her home on Tuesday night and taken to hospital by ambulance. Her website said she was in intensive care and undergoing tests.

Mitchell told Billboard magazine last year that she has a rare skin condition, Morgellons disease, which prevents her from performing.


Pet Rock Creator Gary Dahl Dies

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The best advertizing and product of the 20th century.

The man who put plain rocks in a box and sold them for $3.95 as "pets," igniting a 1970's fad, has passed.

Gary Ross Dahl, the creator of the wildly popular 1970s fad the Pet Rock, died at age 78 in southern Oregon.

Progressive Punishment

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Good idea that should be in place in the US


It's a tradition referred to in Finland as "progressive punishment," and driving fines are charged as percentages of income. For Kuisla, who earned €6.5 million on his 2013 tax return, driving over the speed limit cost tens of thousands of euros.

Kuisla took to his Facebook page to speak out against the decades-old practice in Finland. "Ten years ago I wouldn't have believed that I would seriously consider moving abroad. Finland is impossible to live in for certain kinds of people who have high incomes and wealth."

And it's not the biggest fine in Finnish history. In 2002, a Nokia executive was fined €112,000 for speeding on his motorcycle. And Finnish ice hockey player Teemu Selänne was fined about €39,000 for speeding in the 90s.

What's your craziest speeding ticket story?

Parallels With the Past

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Why Reconstruction Matters

Eric Foner

The surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, 150 years ago next month, effectively ended the Civil War. Preoccupied with the challenges of our own time, Americans will probably devote little attention to the sesquicentennial of Reconstruction, the turbulent era that followed the conflict. This is unfortunate, for if any historical period deserves the label "relevant," it is Reconstruction.

Issues that agitate American politics today -- access to citizenship and voting rights, the relative powers of the national and state governments, the relationship between political and economic democracy, the proper response to terrorism -- all of these are Reconstruction questions. But that era has long been misunderstood.

Reconstruction refers to the period, generally dated from 1865 to 1877, during which the nation's laws and Constitution were rewritten to guarantee the basic rights of the former slaves, and biracial governments came to power throughout the defeated Confederacy. For decades, these years were widely seen as the nadir in the saga of American democracy. According to this view, Radical Republicans in Congress, bent on punishing defeated Confederates, established corrupt Southern governments presided over by carpetbaggers (unscrupulous Northerners who ventured south to reap the spoils of office), scalawags (Southern whites who supported the new regimes) and freed African-Americans, unfit to exercise democratic rights. The heroes of the story were the self-styled Redeemers, who restored white supremacy to the South.

This portrait, which received scholarly expression in the early-20th-century works of William A. Dunning and his students at Columbia University, was popularized by the 1915 film "Birth of A Nation" and by Claude Bowers's 1929 best-selling history, "The Tragic Era." It provided an intellectual foundation for the system of segregation and black disenfranchisement that followed Reconstruction. Any effort to restore the rights of Southern blacks, it implied, would lead to a repeat of the alleged horrors of Reconstruction.

Historians have long since rejected this lurid account, although it retains a stubborn hold on the popular imagination. Today, scholars believe that if the era was "tragic," it was not because Reconstruction was attempted but because it failed.

Reconstruction actually began in December 1863, when Abraham Lincoln announced a plan to establish governments in the South loyal to the Union. Lincoln granted amnesty to most Confederates so long as they accepted the abolition of slavery, but said nothing about rights for freed blacks. Rather than a blueprint for the postwar South, this was a war measure, an effort to detach whites from the Confederacy. On Reconstruction, as on other questions, Lincoln's ideas evolved. At the end of his life, he called for limited black suffrage in the postwar South, singling out the "very intelligent" (prewar free blacks) and "those who serve our cause as soldiers" as most worthy.

Lincoln did not live to preside over Reconstruction. That task fell to his successor, Andrew Johnson. Once lionized as a heroic defender of the Constitution against Radical Republicans, Johnson today is viewed by historians as one of the worst presidents to occupy the White House. He was incorrigibly racist, unwilling to listen to criticism and unable to work with Congress. Johnson set up new Southern governments controlled by ex-Confederates. They quickly enacted the Black Codes, laws that severely limited the freed people's rights and sought, through vagrancy regulations, to force them back to work on the plantations. But these measures aroused bitter protests among blacks, and convinced Northerners that the white South was trying to restore slavery in all but name.

LHC Is Monster

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andreas-lubitz.jpg"Attention, passengers, tis is your co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, you are about to cement my place in history, I thank you for your sacrifice.

That is all."


Another example of where human vanity can have lethal results.


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Today's sermon from Rev Jim at the local Baptist congregation of friendlies was from the Mount where Jesus lays out the concept and powerful magic of Mercy. He said:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

The change in perspective and reference frame that comes if one allows that:

In Mercy He does not give us what we deserve

summated in "There but for the grace of God go I"

or "Why to stop judging others as the fundament of being merciful."

Imagine letting go of road rage as a conscious elevating exercise.

Integrity Can Be Everything

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I disagree with Capehart's interpretation, but not with his desire to take such a potentially unpopular stand. He is showing a tremendous amount of personal integrity

Black Snitches (see White Snitches)

Expanding the Human Umwelt

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As humans, we can perceive less than a ten-trillionth of all light waves. "Our experience of reality," says neuroscientist David Eagleman, "is constrained by our biology." He wants to change that.

His research into our brain processes has led him to create new interfaces -- such as a sensory vest -- to take in previously unseen information about the world around us.

The practical implications of this are astounding.

Let Your Little Light Shine

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City of Madera Police Department

Last night Jose Espinoza fled from a stolen car. Officers arrested Jose later in the evening after he fled a second time. This time Jose spray painted his face black in an effort to camouflage himself. The camouflage was ineffective. Jose was booked at MDOC. JA 3597

White Snitches

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Dr. Jason Johnson is a politics and culture analyst and a professor of Political Science at Hiram College

He writes about being brave in the face of your own ilk.

OpEd: SAE Fraternity and The 'White Snitch' Phenomenon

Way back in 2004 the press and pop culture became obsessed with the "Stop Snitching" campaign.

Snitching -- which is really just a layman's term for whistleblowing -- was seen as the lowest form of betrayal. Rappers, law enforcement, criminals and pundits argued over this idea that you don't rat out your friends, co-workers, or even criminal conspirators because betrayal is a worse crime than whatever it was you're going to the authorities about.

But the truth is, almost nothing in America has ever progressed without a few snitches here and there. And nowhere is that more evident than in the recent scandal of the racist chant caught on video, as performed by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma.

The SAE scandal is the manifestation of the racist's biggest nightmare in the Obama era: they are losing their safe spaces.

There are plenty of legal, social and financial implications of this scandal to unpack, but the most overlooked aspect of the story is that somebody, on that bus, snitched. And despite all of the ugliness revealed by that video and the young men involved, the fact that we even heard about this story is a sign of amazing racial progress in the Obama era.

The University of Oklahoma and the SAE national fraternity were swift to punish the students involved in the racist chant. The fraternity brothers laugh and cheer as they sing about how black people should be lynched and how they'd never allow African Americans in their frat. It's pretty evident that this chant has been around for a long time, despite preposterous attempts to pin it on rappers. The conversation about the origins of the chant is just a red herring.

While I do not believe that students should be expelled just for saying racist words -- they are entitled to free speech and they were not using University equipment, or making explicit threats -- the wrangling over the legality of his action should not overshadow the significance of how this entire situation came to be known.

SAE wasn't exposed because of some dimwitted Facebook post of a racist dress up party, or some equally obnoxious Instagram. Someone on that BUS, most definitely a white person, and quite possibly a member of SAE filmed their chant and felt compelled to report it to authorities.

A bus full of white frat boys in Oklahoma used to be about the safest space for open air bigotry in America - but after this scandal, even that can be called into question.

The SAE scandal is the manifestation of the racist's biggest nightmare in the Obama era: they are losing their safe spaces.

There used to be a "Mad Men" type time in America when you could spout your angry racist invective and know that other white people -- whether they agreed with you or not -- would maintain that wall of white silence. Not anymore.

Some of the biggest racial controversy stories over the last few years have not been African Americans exposing white bigotry but white people exposing other white people for being bigots.

In 2013, when Paula Deen's accuser Lisa Jackson said "I may be a white woman, but racism still hurts," that wall started to crumble. In 2014 when North Carolina school teacher Cynthia Ramsey was suspended for reportedly saying she would "kill all black people," I'm sure she was shocked when it was a white parent that reported her.

When Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R- WI) can't make racial jokes about Michelle Obama in a white senior citizen's church bazaar because FLOTUS has fans, the world is changing. A bus full of white frat boys in Oklahoma used to be about the safest space for open air bigotry in America - but after this scandal, even that can be called into question.

It cannot be understated that there is a hero in the midst of this scandal who clearly put his moral conscience above his own safety, his own social standing, his fraternity and most importantly his racial privilege.

It is never easy to be a snitch, especially when the organization that you're about to expose is one that you have pledged loyalty to for the rest of your life. Nevertheless it cannot be understated that there is a hero in the midst of this scandal who clearly put his moral conscience above his own safety, his own social standing, his fraternity and most importantly his racial privilege.

There will likely never be a point where there aren't racists in America, and certainly the millennial generation is no panacea of racial progress. However, like President Obama so eloquently said in his speech last Sunday in Selma, we can't give in to cynicism either.

Fifty years ago when this chant was probably recited before every meal at SAE, nobody in the fraternity even had a problem with it, let alone felt morally compelled to bring scorn and condemnation to the organization over the chant.

When the whitest of white spaces, the hallowed chant of a white fraternity in Oklahoma is no longer a safe space for bigotry, we're seeing progress, and that's something worth celebrating.


Bongeziwe Mabandla

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I really love this music.


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Darkness Has No Power To Extinguish Even One Candle

Harry Baker

Sermonette # 10

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American Denial


You can't feel the heat until you hold your hand over the flame
You have to cross the line just to remember where it lays
You won't know your worth now, son, until you take a hit
And you won't find the beat until you lose yourself in it

That's why we won't back down
We won't run and hide
Yeah, 'cause these are the things that we can't deny
I'm passing over you like a satellite
So catch me if I fall
That's why we stick to your game plans and party lives
But at night we're conspiring by candlelight
We are the orphans of the American dream
So shine your light on me

You can't fill your cup until you empty all it has
You can't understand what lays ahead
If you don't understand the past
You'll never learn to fly now
'Til you're standing at the cliff
And you can't truly love until you've given up on it

That's why we won't back down
We won't run and hide
Yeah, 'cause these are the things that we can't deny
I'm passing over you like a satellite
So catch me if I fall
That's why we stick to your game plans and party lives
But at night we're conspiring by candlelight
We are the orphans of the American dream
So shine your light on me

She told me that she never could face the world again
So I offered up a plan

We'll sneak out while they sleep
And sail off in the night.

@kerk8472jim #25