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Posted on Feb 17, 2012
Mr. Fish

By Mr. Fish

(Page 2)

Fish: Well, let me ask this—how has the culture changed over the last 40 years—or maybe the question should be how have you changed over the last 40 years? I assume that with an artist such as yourself, who is so politically and socially minded, that you’ve experienced both terrific camaraderie [with] and genuine disdain for American society as it succeeds and fails to maintain its most widely publicized virtues.

Baez: Well, I came from an era when there were a lot of causes, and I was very active in many of them, particularly those that related to nonviolence. Then I believe there came a very dry spell during which time we were taken backwards in many respects.

Fish: Was that during the ’80s?

Baez: Yes, the ’80s and part of the ’90s.

Fish: Well, let’s be specific about your legacy just so we have a point of comparison from which to measure the societal changes I’m talking about. All one needs to do is look at old footage from the 1960s of you performing “There but for Fortune” and “Oh, Freedom” and “We Shall Overcome,” and one gets a real sense of how deeply you and your audience cared about how important it was to propagate peace, justice, community, etc. These were spiritual events, and your dedication to humanitarian values was terribly authentic, and there seemed to be a real reverence towards the enormity of that responsibility. Are you able to find contemporary venues and audiences capable of recreating that sense of purpose and optimism?

Baez: Yeah, well, at the moment, I’m not trying to do a great deal with that, but I do know that when I walk onstage, I either represent history or the anti-Christ to people. I prefer history.

Fish: Is performing still a fresh experience for you?

Baez: In this atmosphere, with Barack Obama being elected president and becoming a real catalyst for change, yes, it’s totally fresh. For instance, I’m doing songs now that I haven’t done for many years because I thought they were just a nostalgia trip for people—songs like “[With] God on Our Side”—and I’m perfectly comfortable singing them now.

Fish: Particularly in light of what we had to endure during eight years of George W. Bush. I’ve often wondered about people like you—people who have committed themselves to adopting a lifestyle that reflects their politics so precisely. How frustrating is it to have the public perception of your values perverted by an administration that has, in effect, fought tirelessly to promote a cultural agenda that is the antithesis of everything your generation hoped for?

Baez: I’m not the only one who’s had to struggle hard to hang onto my Gandhian roots. It’s very difficult sometimes. But as far as frustration goes, the more you expect and the less that happens, the more frustrated you’ll be. For many years, including now, I haven’t expected too much from the human race, so it’s been easier to face whatever happens.

Fish: How would you compare the political activism and participation of young people today with young people in the 1960s?

Baez: Most of the interviews that I do nowadays are with kids who are really struggling to build a movement—a movement that has some meaning that makes sense because the legacy that we’ve given them is greed and a feeling of entitlement. [Americans] simply assume that they’re better than everybody else and that they deserve things and that nothing needs to be earned.

Fish: Right—peace and love is a brand nowadays and requires no commitment whatsoever. It’s easy to shop for the right outfit and to become a Gap hippie. They’re like goth kids who are as likely to become real vampires as somebody who puts on a baseball cap is to get a Cy Young Award. Now I don’t want to be overly condescending of anybody who might prefer the hippie lifestyle to, I don’t know, the Wall Street lifestyle. Still, it seems to me that, as compared to previous generations, a lot of people act like they’re carnivores for social justice; they understand the language of revolution, but they have no stomach for hunting.

Baez: I think that the word ‘sacrifice’ left our vocabulary a long time ago. Any serious social change does not take place without stepping way outside your comfort zone.

Fish: Well, your first husband went to jail for resisting the draft.

Baez: He sure did, for 20 months.

Fish: And, of course, now there’s no draft. It seems that the dominant culture has been able to structure things in a way that appeases people’s natural inclination towards preferring comfort over inconvenience without making any substantial changes to the imperial tendencies of the country.

Baez: Oh, that’s very well said. It is about inconvenience—it’s about going out on a limb.

Fish: Which begs a very important question: Does a movement that best operates from being perched on that limb—call it the Progressive Movement or the radical left—attempt, now, to partner with the Obama administration for positive change or does it proceed without demanding his participation?

Baez: I think we have to demand his participation. We have to be the ones he consults and not just the same old white guys with four stars on their shoulders that always seem to be standing around the president. Unless we step up, the opinions of the warriors will be the only advice he seeks and it will be the only advice he gets. I think we have half a chance, but it will take some doing. I hope he has compassion for all people. I hope he doesn’t want to go to war.

Fish: Yeah, me too. Still, it’s horrifying to see what happens to practically everybody’s credibility when the presidential seal is looming large. How heartbreaking was it, for example, to watch while Dennis Kucinich, with his opposition to NAFTA, the Patriot Act and the Iraq War, went from being the Eugene Debs of East Capitol Street to becoming Miss Cleveland of Hooterville, USA, answering questions at the MSNBC debate about UFOs and Shirley MacLaine? My suspicion is that in four years, no matter what happens between now and then, Obama will be fighting for his [political] life because somebody else’s campaign promises sound at least as promising as his do.

Baez: Well, he’s got to be better than the dude he’s replacing.

Fish: Replacing Bush with an empty chair would be better, so I don’t think we can measure Obama fairly that way. Besides that, I’ve always thought that campaign promises are only good for one thing: They manure the ground for all the real political activity that must go on outside the Beltway when the cacophonous bullshit of the campaign season isn’t happening. So maybe we should bask in the stench of all the raw waste we got piling up to our eyeballs and figure that it’s just the very first day of planting season.

Baez: That’s one way to look at it.






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By kitpw, February 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm Link to this comment

gerard, thank you for your thoughtful response.  What
you say makes sense.  Even so, I would think that SOME
progressive websites would make an effort to draw
attention to progressive candidates, just as some of
their readers do.  Ross Perot got 18% of the vote in
1992, and that was after he made serious blunders in
his campaign.

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By drbhelthi, February 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment

“The principle of feudalism is that all power is concentrated at the one guy at the
top. To help run things he distributes part of it to a small group of people below
him, who in return owe him loyalty and support.”  Marian Griffith

Right.  Fits the current, functional description of Mr. -  -  what´s his name?  The
foreigner slid into office by the slimy ones he is now paying off.  The man who has
only a recently generated birth certificate.

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By John Poole, February 20, 2012 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To Marion Griffith.  Rep or direct democracy is an ideal which would require an
informed and educated populace. It hasn’t worked here in the USA.  It is an ethos
worth striving for but one must not assume it will save Americans from their
purposeful ignorance.  I use the term “feudalism” to describe a mindset where
human nature at its worst reigns.  Right now we have the elite being bailed out
again at the loss to the serfs via the machinations of a “freely elected”
representative of the majority (Barack Obama). We could impeach him? Unlikely.

Report this

By Marian Griffith, February 20, 2012 at 4:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@John Poole
—-I maintain that feudalism is the default setting for humankind with aberrations
such as democracy appearing occasionally but mainly as a ruse.
I also maintain there never was a “By, For and Of”  regarding the people’s voice. It was pure fantasy. Democracy has been a scam by the powerful in this country from its beginning.—-

The problems you are refering to are more an issue of the USA than they are of democracy in and of itself. There are several countries that have been democratic for centuries. Iceland has been one pretty much since it was first settled (*) The Netherlands have been an odd mix between democracy and oligarchy since the mid 1600s. The same can be said of many other European countries that, while they were an absolute monarchy, at a regional and local level the leaders were reliant on popular support even if they weren’t quite elected. Democracy is not about elections, and it is technically called a representative democracy what most of the (western) world is practicing, indicating there are other variations. Many a dictator faithfully has elections every few years, but that does not make their rule democratic (only a scam). At the heart of the definition of democracy is that it offers its citizens the final control of polity to a meaningful and independent degree.
By that definition it is questionable if the USA is still at its deepest level a democracy. It is after all doubtful that there is a meaningful degree of influence by the citizens over the polity.

That said, feudalism is a stable but stagnant form of government, and one that is pretty much incompatible with high technology, and it is only partially a match with a post industrial financial services driven economy anyway. The principle of feudalism is that all power is concentrated at the one guy at the top. To help run things he distributes part of it to a small group of people below him, who in return owe him loyalty and support. This process repeats a few times until you get to the level where further splitting would decrease the power base below the point where it can no longer support neither the person in charge nor the one he is owing allegiance to. This gets you down to a percent of the population or less directly involved in the pyramid of power. All of them have a retinue of servants and protectors (in the medieval time the power was that of being able to raise a number of armed solders and levies for their own lord’s army, in modern times it is more along the lines of controlling increasingly smaller fractions of multinational megacorporations down to individual factories and investment companies). They make up about 20 pct of the population, or less, depending on the degree of luxury and wealth they can tax out of the remaining 80pct. The last group does the grunt work. Historically it was tilling the fields and they literally did not own a thing. They were part of the farm they worked on and everything the produced, including children, was for their lord to control. They were not slaves in that they could not themselves be sold, but in all other aspects they should be considered one.
This will not work with a modern economy though. There is no point in creating lots of goods in factories when 80pct of the population can not afford the goods they are producing. And the 20pct can not develop the new technology needed to keep up with the rest of the world. We are not heading towards a feudal system, it will collapse before it gets there. But heading there will cause a lot of damage and misery so trying to stop the slide would be in everybody’s best interest. Even that of the greedy ones who run the show these days.

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By drbhelthi, February 20, 2012 at 3:29 am Link to this comment

“And as long as they believe it, it will be true—but not one day longer.”  gerard

How very accurate !

As practiced by the forbears of and current Zionists, openly repeated by NAZI
propaganda minister Goebbels, the underlying theme of the NAZI inspired CIA, and now incorporated by LIGNET, as trumpeted by former CIA Chief, Hayden and “company” cohorts.  What evil deeds is Petraeus covering up, this week?

One questions if propaganda published by NEWSMAX of Florida is provided by the CIA, if NEWSMAX is similar to the former Air America, or if the CIA only pays for articles published by NEWSMAX.  Would payment derive from the poppy fields in Afghanistan or certain coca plantations in Columbia?  Both of which are protected by the USMilitary.

Will a U.S.Congressperson ever notice - accidentally - the connection between drug smuggling into the US and the protection provided poppy plantations in Afghanistan and coca plantations in Columbia, by the USMilitary?  Of course, in a manner similar to the notice of the new bldg across the Potomac that was the new, CIA HQ that Congress had not been informed about - - several years ago ?

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By gerard, February 19, 2012 at 8:02 pm Link to this comment

kitpw: “What flummoxes me is the lack of articles that do the same or, even better, discuss the third-party candidates that we already have.”

  1. They judge from past experience that a third party cannot win under present election methods.
  2.  They don’t want to or can’t get out and organize people to start and promote a third party—canvassing, community work, etc. etc.
  3.  They think that, with the 1% able to buy off the entire government apparatus, and the Supreme Court being entirely retrograde, including the military being in dominant control, there is no way that a third party could make a difference in that “system.”
  We now have a country that is almost entireliy overwhelmed, either economically, psychologically or politically—or all three. And as long as they believe it, it will be true—but not one day longer.

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By kitpw, February 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment

I see that, once again, the comments include the
suggestion that we cultivate third party candidacies. 
What flummoxes me is the lack of articles that do the
same or, even better, discuss the third-party
candidates that we already have.  Why do progressive
websites and media continue to ignore third party
alternatives, even when many of their readers do not? 
They seem to suffer from the same tunnel vision as the
mainstream media.  I’m beginning to wonder if it is
deliberate.

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By ardee, February 19, 2012 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment

By John Poole, February 19 at 6:09 am

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion and your cynicism.

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By drbhelthi, February 19, 2012 at 8:03 am Link to this comment

Organizing and placing additional political parties into competition with the current two sounds to me like one appropriate direction.  However, the GHWBushSr entourage´s latest super brain, LIGNET, is focussing in another direction.  Focussing energy toward the destruction of Iran distracts from establishing a new political party.

Former general and former CIA director, Michael Hayden, with associates of “the
company,” are telling the alleged intelligentsia to follow LIGNET.

LIGNET prognostication attempts to intensify mistrust of Arab types, especially Iran.  It is predictable that “the company”- with MOSSAD assistance- will set up Iran with
additional used-car-salesmen types.  Maybe additional, naïve/stupid youth to load their shorts with saltpetre before sneaking onto another international flight, like Christmas 2009.  Perhaps this time with vial of skunk oil they will call mustard gas.

Engaging the US Military in a war against Iran – to pacify the Zionist element on Wall St. while distracting from Israel´s nuclear armory –would intensify the difficulty of establishing a new, political party.  However, WWII NAZI-types are not concerned with setting off another World War.

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By John Poole, February 19, 2012 at 7:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ardee:
I maintain that feudalism is the default setting for humankind with aberrations
such as democracy appearing occasionally but mainly as a ruse.  One might
actually obtain power via fair elections with honest results in a so called
democracy but once in power one tries to figure out how to keep others from
using democracy to replace you. The elite have jumped way beyond the
constraints on power that so called democracy engenders. Once “elected” the
elite find ways to be able to wield power beyond the legal term of office. I also
maintain there never was a “By, For and Of”  regarding the people’s voice. It was
pure fantasy. Democracy has been a scam by the powerful in this country from
its beginning.  So what am I saying?  Easy! Learn to live with feudalism-watch out
for the moat-it’s deeper than you think and don’t get hit by the drawbridge
when the elite occasionally leave the palace to mingle with the serfs and vassals.
One can have a wonderful life without democracy and still be happy within a
feudal system. Don’t look to the fantasy of democracy making things “right” in
America.

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By Anarcissie, February 19, 2012 at 7:01 am Link to this comment

One might want to say what one means by ‘democracy’.

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By entropy2, February 19, 2012 at 6:15 am Link to this comment

Why the despair Mr. F?

Because we repeatedly deliver the license to ultimate power over our lives into the hands of idiots, crooks and sociopaths?

Because a deluded population believes that this time it’ll be different? We’ll make sure that the next ones we “choose” most certainly won’t be idiots, crooks and sociopaths. Well, or, maybe the ones after that…

Because that same gutless, divided and utterly dependent population pretends that they have the authority to make demands?

Because all that stuff you learned in Civics and History class back in high school has turned out to be bullshit?

...or something else?

As long as we, INDIVIDUALLY, choose to live in dependency on a corporate-state supported economy of gasoline, agribusiness and big-box stores, the price we (and many others) pay WILL be continued dehumanization of the working class here and around the world, the deepening repression of personal liberty and eternal war.

It’s up to us to build practical alternatives to the ponderous, fragile, violent and unsustainable political-economic systems that rule our lives and ruins our world. Voting and hoping ain’t cutting it.

There are people all around who DO actually share your values…find them.

Roll up your sleeves folks…nobody’s going to do this for us.

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By ardee, February 19, 2012 at 4:56 am Link to this comment

By John Poole, February 18 at 1:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ardee- you have it half right with Democracy being a competitive participatory
game for humans.  Democracy is something one seeks to triumph over.

While I appreciate the response I would ask for a clarification of your knock on “Democracy”. My own remarks sought to extoll the system, explain why it isn’t currently working, and proffer a path to the restoration thereof.


.
The only way you can feel or say you’ve won is when you’ve gotten rid of
democracy.  It is something that stands in the way of feeling secure in your
winner position.

Again I fail to grasp your meaning here. Sorry.


  I also stated earlier that America used to worship a holy trinity of Democracy,
Christianity, and Capitalism. We switched to monotheism a long time ago. Guess
which one of the three won?  “Ye shall worship no other Gods above the bottom
line!”

You begin speaking about democracy and end up talking about Capitalism. Yes indeed, the system is corrupted by Capitalists, but can be restored by ending the power of money over legislators.

by Big B, February 18 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment

I tend to agree with ardee. The only way we can save ourselves now is with a third party, and fourth and fifth and sixth…

Thanks and I trust your words are followed by deeds.

But while we bitch and bicker, the 1% keep consolidating their power, getting ever stonger. Things are too far gone (FUBAR’ed my old military buddies say). This will be a long battle, I wonder if we in the western world have the patience for it. After all, it took Ghandi almost 40 years. One has to wonder if our commitment challenged modern generations possess the “chutzpa” for this battle.

Yes , it is a long and difficult struggle on which we embark. Not the least of our problems is encountering the resistance of those loyal to the status quo, as well as the ownership of the system by the two selfish political parties that are far too similar in far too many important ways.

But, just because a task is difficult does not make it impossible. Or unnecessary. I think it an unfortunate fact that, as capitalism continues to squeeze the last drops of profit from our dying planet ( Ok drama for effect), as the lives of our citizens approach the intolerable, we will see more and more motivated to work for change.

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By gerard, February 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm Link to this comment

Surfboy: Sorry I hit a nerve.

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By heterochromatic, February 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm Link to this comment

Marian, I think that Fish writes better than he
cartoons and that if he cut back on the frequency of
cartooning he could raise the quality.

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By Anarcissie, February 18, 2012 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment

‘I graduated cum laud in education.’  Heh.

All right, I know, it was just a typo.

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By gerard, February 18, 2012 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment

surfboy:  Where in the name of google-searchers have you been for the last 50 years?  You have the ragged gall to say ...“the woman’s comfortable entitlement driven life style of: never having to make ones self uncomfortable once the children are born!” etc.
  I’m not going to belabor you with the facts of most of our lives because obviously you are a slow learner. Or are you kidding to see who will bite the hook? Well, the “war of the sexes” is too well-worn as a gambit.  B-o-r-i-n-g!

As to Baez and Fish: Too retro to be relevant:
Fish asks:  “Are you able to find contemporary venues and audiences capable of recreating that sense of purpose and optimism?” Trite though it sounds in words, what else is the Occupy Movement doing, all over the country and even abroad? (Of course we have to realize that political cartoonists aged 50+ probably have a hard time these days with the optimism bit. Even their “sense of purpose” may get downcast by the horror-breeding perversities of the 1% these days.)

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By Big B, February 18, 2012 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment

I tend to agree with ardee. The only way we can save ourselves now is with a third party, and fourth and fifth and sixth…

But while we bitch and bicker, the 1% keep consolidating their power, getting ever stonger. Things are too far gone (FUBAR’ed my old military buddies say). This will be a long battle, I wonder if we in the western world have the patience for it. After all, it took Ghandi almost 40 years. One has to wonder if our commitment challenged modern generations possess the “chutzpa” for this battle.

Report this

By jim mcdonagh, February 18, 2012 at 4:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

boy were you ever wrong about barry o. i took alot of stick for being skeptical about o’bama sadly he turned out even worse adeciple of milty friedman and a remorseless killer when he thinks its expedient. bragging about shooting an old criminal in his pajamas is alittle much, even for a christian. i don’t think most americans know what gandhian pacifism is let me illuminate you.o.w.s. camps peacefully on the commons all over america until they are beaten gassed arrested or driven off. gandhis pacifism demands that you keep coming back until they kill you. the para-military are forced to carry the weight of thf031rmeir act. gandhi expected and accepted his imminent demise each time he marched.

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By John Poole, February 18, 2012 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ardee- you have it half right with Democracy being a competitive participatory
game for humans.  Democracy is something one seeks to triumph over.
The only way you can feel or say you’ve won is when you’ve gotten rid of
democracy.  It is something that stands in the way of feeling secure in your
winner position.
  I also stated earlier that America used to worship a holy trinity of Democracy,
Christianity, and Capitalism. We switched to monotheism a long time ago. Guess
which one of the three won?  “Ye shall worship no other Gods above the bottom
line!”

Report this

By ardee, February 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm Link to this comment

Democracy is a participatory sport.

Our form of government cannot thrive without the full and involved participation of the electorate. I happen to believe in our system, but, at the same time, am very aware of how it has been corrupted by money, and how efforts are made to keep the truth of things from the public and keep people from the polls.

I have been vociferous ( at least) in condemning those who preach non-involvement, especially those words of the cat in the hat, who explains no other choice but that, as if that was, in and of itself, a road away from fascism and constant violence.

Mr. Fish notes that replacing Bush with an empty chair would have been an improvement, and I agree. But instead we replaced him with an actually literate neo-Bush. But the truth of the matter is that we will not effect necessary change by changing the top.

We need to replace the duopoly in our Legislature with third party legislators who will, by reason of needing their votes to pass legislation, will keep progressive change alive.

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By John G, February 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pure poetry—very entertaining and prescient.

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By balkas, February 18, 2012 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

lesson for an eternity: don’t study god any longer—instead let god study us! and if
s/he’d be unhappy with that [and who could blame himher?] then just priests.
all major problems solved except hot air!

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By Jeff N., February 18, 2012 at 9:52 am Link to this comment

hahaha good stuff fish, wish i could write like that.

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By heterochromatic, February 18, 2012 at 8:47 am Link to this comment

yup, but only when my hair isn’t standing on end.

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By Anarcissie, February 18, 2012 at 8:13 am Link to this comment

Over your head, eh?

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By Marian Griffith, February 18, 2012 at 2:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@heterochromatic

No! do not cut back on the cartooning. But do write more!

We need more people telling the truth about what passes for democracy in the USA, in the (very faint) hope that with some of them it plants the seed of wondering if this really is the best way to run a society ...

But we will need the cartoons as the degree of literacy is falling to such an extent that some of the potential audience can only be reached through pictures ...

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By heterochromatic, February 17, 2012 at 9:01 pm Link to this comment

write more, Fish….. cut back on the cartooning.

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By John Poole, February 17, 2012 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

America used to worship a holy trinity- Democracy, Christianity and Capitalism. 
America switched to monotheism awhile back.  Guess which two were dropped?
OK, hint- “Ye shall worship no other Gods above the bottom line!”

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