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James Risen’s Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War – Book Salon Preview

By: Elliott Saturday November 22, 2014 8:16 am

Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War

Chat with James Risen about his new book. Hosted by Tim Shorrock, 5pm ET, 2pm PT.

War corrupts. Endless war corrupts absolutely.

Ever since 9/11 America has fought an endless war on terror, seeking enemies everywhere and never promising peace. In Pay Any Price, James Risen reveals an extraordinary litany of the hidden costs of that war: from squandered and stolen dollars, to outrageous abuses of power, to wars on normalcy, decency, and truth. In the name of fighting terrorism, our government has done things every bit as shameful as its historic wartime abuses — and until this book, it has worked very hard to cover them up.

Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. FDR authorized the internment of thousands of Japanese Americans. Presidents Bush and Obama now must face their own reckoning. Power corrupts, but it is endless war that corrupts absolutely.

James Risen is an investigative journalist with the New York Times, and author of the New York Times bestseller State of War, among other books. In 2006 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his stories about warrantless wiretapping by the NSA. In 2007 he was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

James Risen – Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War on Terror , Crackdown on Whistleblowers


Saturday Art and Archaeology: Mayan Dynasty of Copán

By: Ruth Calvo Saturday November 22, 2014 5:55 am


Altar Q shows succession of kings of Copán

The Maya ceremonial center of Copán contains numerous accounts about the rulers who reigned over the many years it was home to the Mesoamerican royal family dominant in this part of the world.  Its many memorials and stelae as well as the writings on them tell us details about their history and legends.

We know that the reign of a particular house was established by the many depictions of succession, like Altar Q showing the passing of the baton from early rulers to the king who had the altar built, Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat, the 16th ruler. While the stories of the rulers are laid out in the hieroglyphic stairway at Copán, a few stand out in its history. The city had been important but little is known about the ruling house before it returned from obscurity, not well interpreted from early writings, and was re-established in A.D. 426.

The city was refounded by K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’, establishing it as the capital of a new Maya kingdom.[2] This coup was apparently organized and launched from Tikal. Texts record the arrival of a warrior named K’uk’ Mo’ Ajaw who was installed upon the throne of the city in AD 426 and given a new royal name, K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ and the ochk’in kaloomte ”Lord of the West” title used a generation earlier by Siyaj K’ak’, a general from the great metropolis of Teotihuacan who had decisively intervened in the politics of the central Petén.[23] K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ was probably from Tikal and was likely to have been sponsored by Siyaj Chan K’awill II, the 16th ruler in the dynastic succession of Tikal. K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ may have legitimized his claim to rulership by marrying into the old Copán royal family, evidenced from the remains of his presumed widow. Bone analysis of her remains indicates that she was local to Copán.[24] After the establishment of the new kingdom of Copán, the city remained closely allied with Tikal.[25]The hieroglyphic text on Copán Altar Q describes the lord being elevated to kingship with the receipt of his royal scepter. The ceremonies involved in the founding of the Copán dynasty also included the installation of a subordinate king at Quiriguá.[26]

Probably the best known because of his disastrous end is Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil. His decapitation at the hands of one he had appointed as a member of his court, K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat, showed the passing of the reign into another capital, Quiriguá.

Although the exact details are unknown, in April 738 K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat captured Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil and burned two of Copán’s patron deities. Six days later Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil was decapitated in Quiriguá.[44] This coup does not seem to have physically affected either Copán or Quiriguá; there is no evidence that either city was attacked at this time and the victor seems not to have received any detectable tribute.[45] All of this seems to imply that K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat managed to somehow ambush Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil, rather than to have defeated him in outright battle. It has been suggested that Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil was attempting to attack another site to secure captives for sacrifice in order to dedicate the new ballcourt when he was ambushed by K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat and his Quiriguá warriors.[46] In the Late Classic, alliance with Calakmul was frequently associated with the promise of military support. The fact that Copán, a much more powerful city than Quiriguá, failed to retaliate against its former vassal implies that it feared the military intervention of Calakmul. Calakmul was far enough away from Quiriguá that K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat was not afraid of falling directly under its power as a full vassal state, even though it is likely that Calakmul sent warriors to help in the defeat of Copán. The alliance instead seems to have been one of mutual advantage: Calakmul managed to weaken a powerful ally of Tikal while Quiriguá gained its independence.[47] The disaster for Copán had long-lasting consequences; major construction ceased and no new monuments were raised for the next 17 years.[48]

The reign returned to Copán later, and continued on until what shows to have become a less prosperous time when the strain on the countryside of retaining its powerful in splendor appears to have offset its riches.  That is when throughout the area, and Mesoamerica in general, the Maya ceremonial centers began to be drained of the influence and central rule they had enjoyed. The complete account of ruling elites at Copán is contained, and has been interpreted from, the Heiroglyphic Staircase there as well as on the monuments to rulers who succeeded their earlier kings, and built onto the structure that had been modified by those earlier royal heirs. The story is long and elaborate, and shows the motivation behind the many sculptures and writings of legitimizing each ruler in turn.

(Picture below courtesy of Michael Swigart at

Hieroglyphic Staircase tells history of rulers at Copán, Stela M (K’ak’ Yipyaj Chan K’awiil.) in front of staircase

Stela A, in field of Stela at Copán, erected by Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil in 731 AD

Stela A places Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil ‘s rulership among the four most powerful kingdoms in the Maya region, alongside Palenque, Tikal and Calakmul.[18]

Mark Udall and the Unspeakable

By: David Swanson Saturday November 22, 2014 4:32 am

President Obama, who is just now un-ending again the ending of the endless war on Afghanistan, has never made a secret of taking direction from the military, CIA, and NSA. He’s escalated wars that generals had publicly insisted he escalate. He’s committed to not prosecuting torturers after seven former heads of the CIA publicly told him not to. He’s gone after whistleblowers with a vengeance and is struggling to keep this Bush-era torture report, or parts of it, secret in a manner that should confuse his partisan supporters.

But the depth of elected officials’ obedience to a permanent war machine is usually a topic avoided in polite company — usually, not always. Back in 2011, the dean of the law school at UC Berkeley, a member of Obama’s transition team in 2009, said publicly that Obama had decided in 2009 to block prosecutions of Bush-era criminals in part because the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt. Ray McGovern says he has a trustworthy witness to Obama saying he would leave the crimes unpunished because, in Obama’s words, “Don’t you remember what happened to Martin Luther King?” Neither of those incidents has interested major media outlets in the slightest.

As we pass the 51st anniversary of the murder of President John F. Kennedy, many of us are urging Senator Mark Udall to make the torture report public by placing it into the Congressional Record, as Senator Mike Gravel did with the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Gravel is alive and well, and there’s every reason to believe that Udall would go on to live many years deeply appreciated for his action. But there is — let us be honest for a moment — a reason Udall might hesitate that we don’t want to speak about.

The general thinking is that because Udall’s term ends this month, he doesn’t have to please those who fund his election campaigns through the U.S. system of legalized bribery, and he doesn’t have to please his fellow corrupt senators because he won’t be working with them any longer. Both of those points may be false. Udall may intend to run for the Senate again, or — like most senators, I suspect — he may secretly plan on running for president some day. And the big payoffs for elected officials who work to please plutocracy always come after they leave office. But there is another consideration. The need to please the permanent war machine ends only when one is willing to die for something — what Dr. King said one must be willing to do to have a life worth living — not when one leaves office.

Presidents and Congress members send large numbers of people to risk their lives murdering much larger numbers of people in wars all the time. They have taken on jobs — particularly the presidency — in which they know they will be in danger no matter what they do.  And yet everyone in Washington knows (and no one says) that making an enemy of the CIA is just not done and has not been done since the last man to do it died in a convertible in Dallas. We’ve seen progressive members of Congress like Dennis Kucinich leave without putting crucial documents that they thought should be public into the Congressional Record. Any member of Congress, newly reelected or not, could give the public the torture report. A group of 10 of them could do it collectively for the good of humanity. But nobody thinks they will. Challenging a president who does not challenge the CIA is just not something that’s done.

To understand why, I recommend reading Jim Douglass’ book JFK and the Unspeakable. Douglass is currently writing about three other murders, those of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Distant history? Something that doesn’t happen anymore? Perhaps, but is that because we’ve run out of lone nuts with guns? Clearly not. Is it because the permanent war machine has stopped killing its enemies? Or is it, rather, because no one has presented the same challenge to the permanent war machine that those people did? Peace voices are no longer allowed in the U.S. media. Both political parties favor widespread war. War has become a matter of routine. Enforcement has become unnecessary, because the threat, or other influences that align with it, has been so successful.

I recommend checking out, the website of a play by Court Dorsey that recounts the killing of JFK, Malcolm, Martin, and RFK. (Or check out a performance in Harlem planned for February 21.)

The play consists almost entirely of actual quotes by public figures. While no attempt is made, of course, at including a comprehensive collection of information, enough evidence is included in the play to completely erase belief in the official stories of how those four men died. And evidence is included showing who actually killed them, how, and why.

As if that weren’t enough to persuade the viewer that our society is mentally blocking out something uncomfortable, the glaring obviousness of what happened in those years of assassinations is highlighted. President Kennedy was publicly asked if he might be murdered exactly as he was, and he publicly replied that it could certainly happen. His brother discussed the likelihood of it with Khrushchev for godsake. The killing of Malcolm X was not the war machine’s first attempt on his life. He and King both saw what was coming quite clearly and said so. Bobby Kennedy knew too, did not believe the official account of his brother’s murder. King’s family rejects the claim that James Earl Ray killed MLK, pointing instead to the CIA killer shown in the photographs of the assassination but never questioned as a witness. A jury has unanimously agreed with King’s family against the government and the history books.

The attention to President Kennedy has always been so intense that fear and suppression have been required. The doctors said he was shot from the front. Everyone agreed there were more bullets shot than left the gun of the official suspect, who was positioned behind the target. But investigators and witnesses have died in very suspect circumstances. The other deaths have not been in exactly the same glaring spotlight. New evidence in the killing of Robert Kennedy emerges every few years and is chatted about as a curiosity for a moment before simply being ignored. After all, the man is dead.

Let’s try an analogy. I live in Charlottesville, Va., where the University of Virginia is. This week, Rolling Stone published an article about violent gang rapes of female students in a fraternity house. I had known that rape victims are often reluctant to come forward. I had known that rape can be a hard charge to prove. But I had also known that young women sometimes regret sex and falsely accuse nonviolent well-meaning young men of rape, and that UVA held rallies against date rape, and that opposition to sexual assault and harassment was all over the news and widely accepted as the proper progressive position. With California passing a law to clarify what consent is, I had assumed everyone knew violent assault had nothing to do with consent. I had assumed brutal gang attacks by students who are expelled if they cheat on a test or write a bad check could not go unknown. And now it seems there’s something of a widely known unspoken epidemic. In the analysis of the Rolling Stone article, women deny rape goes on to shield themselves from the fear, while men deny it in order to shield themselves from any discomfort about their party-going fun-loving carelessness. And yet some significant number of students knew and stayed silent until one brave victim spoke, just as every whistleblower in Washington exists alongside thousands of people who keep their mouths shut.

What if someone in Washington were to speak? What if the unspeakable were made speakable?

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Carole Nelson Douglas

By: dakine01 Saturday November 22, 2014 4:00 am
cat crimes ii

Cat Crimes II includes the Midnight Louie story “Maltese Double Cross”

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

I’m not sure exactly when I first picked up something by Carole Nelson Douglas but I’m pretty sure it was sometime in the late ’80s. From her wiki intro:

Carole Nelson Douglas is an American writer of sixty novels and many short stories. She has written in many genres, but is best known for two popular mystery series, the Irene Adler Sherlockian suspense novels and the Midnight Louie mystery series.

Douglas was a theater and English literature major in college. After graduation, she worked as a newspaper reporter and then editor in the [Minneapolis-St. Paul] area. During her time there, she discovered a long, expensive classified advertisement offering a black cat named Midnight Louie to the “right” home for one dollar and wrote a feature story on the plucky survival artist, putting it into the cat’s point of view. The cat found a country home but its name was revived for her feline PI mystery series many years later. Some of the Midnight Louie series entries include the dedication “For the real and original Midnight Louie. Nine lives were not enough.”

She began writing fiction in the late 1970s. The late director/playwright/novelist Garson Kanin, a pleased interview subject, took her first novel to Doubleday and it sold shortly after. Amberleigh is a post-feminist historical Gothic novel. Douglas has always addressed women’s issues in her fiction and preferred mixing genres from contemporary to historical mystery/thriller, romance and women’s fiction, and high and urban fantasy.[1]

As I look through her list of books from, I think the first book of hers I read was the second of a fantasy series titled Heir of Rengarth. I do know that shortly after, I picked up the first two from her Irene Adler series, Good Night Mr Holmes and Good Morning, Irene then shortly after Irene at Large and Another Scandal in Bohemia. As I noted back last year, I have always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes so it was easy for me to pick up reading an adjunct series based on a character from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (Irene Adler was featured in the Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemia.)

I think most folks know I am a cat person so how could I begin to resist a “detective” series starring a cat with an attitude? From the wiki for Midnight Louie:

Midnight Louie is the name of a slightly overweight (20 pounds) fictional black cat in a series of mystery novels by author Carole Nelson Douglas, and is the general title for the same series. Each volume of the series is told from the point of view of the cat’s “roommate”, Temple Barr, a freelance public relations consultant, and from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself. Midnight Louie’s chapters are written in what the author describes as a style reminiscent of Damon Runyan, generic gumshoe, and Mrs. Malaprop. As the Las Vegas-set series continues, three other main human characters have points of view: a hard-boiled female homicide detective, C.R. Molina; Matt Devine, an ex-priest; and Max Kinsella, a stage magician. The mix of adventure, mystery, humor and social issues is why the author describes the series as “cozy-noir.”

There are now 26 novels in the Midnight Louie series. I have not come close to reading them all. In fact, I have only read the first eight or so starting with Catnap through Cat in a Golden Garland. I have also read a number of mystery anthologies that have included Midnight Louie short stories including Cat Crimes II, Cat Crimes for the Holidays, and Cat Crimes Through Time.

If you are a cat person, you need to become familiar with Midnight Louie and with other crime solving felines. Plus, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you need to read about a woman that he admired and with whom he was impressed.

Pull Up a Chair: Thanksgiving Celebration 2014

By: eCAHNomics Saturday November 22, 2014 3:51 am

We have much to be thankful for

Here we are, the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Twenty questions for you, of a sort: What will your menu be Thursday? Who preps the food? Who do you spend the holiday with, how many people; relatives, friends? How far do you travel, by what mode (air, train, bus, car…)?  How long is your trip?  How long do you stay? What traditions? Do you have to work? If so, will you celebrate another day? Will you bag the effort to cook at home and go to a restaurant? If so, what kind?

My plans are somewhat different and somewhat the same this year…


•Hors d’oeuvres
•Traditional roast turkey
•Bread stuffing.
•Mashed white potatoes
•Green vegetable
•Exotic mushroom dish
•Fancy white wine from wine cellar
•Pumpkin crème brûlée
•After dinner drinks

Food Particulars

Hors d’oeuvres:

I haven’t decided yet. Something small, maybe Parmesan-thyme crackers, with some pickles, olives, and other savories.

Organic turkey:

From Old Ford Farm, 3 miles as the bee flies, 11 miles by road, over the river. Here’s their description of their chicken/turkey operation. They also sell raw milk, organic veggies, and pork in October.


MENA Mashup: The I/P, Egypt, ISIL, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey

By: CTuttle Friday November 21, 2014 6:46 pm

Columbia Prof. Rashid Khalidi is dead-on with his assertion that we’re the biggest enablers to Israel’s illegal occupation…!

BDS is on the rise… Solidarity with Palestine Soaring on US Campuses

Jerusalem on edge after deadly attacks and a summer of war

Today, from Ma’an News…

Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian protests across West Bank

Israeli forces opened fire and injured dozens of Palestinians across the West Bank on Friday, as hundreds marched in a number of cities and villages in protest against the Israeli occupation and recent Israeli violence in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli soldiers opened fire on rallies in Nabi Saleh, central Hebron, at Qalandia checkpoint and in al-Bireh near Ramallah, in Kafr Qaddum, al-Masara, Jalazun refugee camp, Aida refugee camp, and in other villages across the West Bank, injuring dozens.

Two Israeli soldiers were also reported injured in clashes that erupted following the protests.

The protests came after a night of violence in Jerusalem, where two different hate attacks were reported against Palestinians on the basis of their ethnicity, in addition to two other such incidents inside Israel.

On Friday afternoon, meanwhile, a Palestinian woman was run over by a Jewish settler near Shufat in East Jerusalem, and later in the evening a brawl erupted as a group of Jewish settlers passed through the Palestinian neighborhood of al-Tur, resulting in the stabbing and light injuring of two Jews.

The violence follows escalating tensions in the holy city, where the long-term dispossession and discrimination by Israeli authorities who have occupied the city since 1967 has combined in recent months with a series of heavy-handed security operations and right-wing politicians’ religious provocations to form a combustible mix.

Nightly protests in Jerusalem by Palestinians have been met by heavy police force, while a series of attacks with cars or by stabbing undertaken by individual Palestinians against random Israelis has been countered by right-wing Jewish mob violence across the city.

Despite this, protesters across the West Bank held more than a dozen marches condemning the violence of Israeli authorities and calling for end to the occupation.

Now, here’s a textbook example of the US Neo/Ziocon Thinktank response to Obama and our failed I/P relations, from FP… White House Diplomacy With Israel Isn’t Just Short-Sighted – It’s Self-Defeating

Meanwhile, more fuel is poured on the fires…

From the Times of Israel… Jerusalem mayor likens Ashkelon’s anti-Arab move to 1930s Germany

Sadly… Majority of Jews in Israel support Ashkelon mayor’s decision to ban Arab workers

Now, I’m sure this is a brilliant idea… Israel to probe allowing Israelis greater access to firearms

Edit: From Gideon Levy… In Israel, only Jewish blood shocks anyone

Moving along to Egypt and Al-Sisi’s actions in the Sinai…

Chances Are the FBI Has Files on Your Favorite Human Rights Activist

By: Ben Norton Friday November 21, 2014 11:55 am

“There is only one thing left for you to do…”

Yale University American historian Beverly Gage was sifting through the US National Archives in the summer of 2014, doing research for a book on J. Edgar Hoover, when she came across a letter historians had been searching for for many a decade. Written from the perspective of an imaginary yet disappointed admirer of Martin Luther King, Jr., the missive encouraged the leading civil rights, anti-war, and socialist activist to kill himself.

“There is only one thing left for you to do,” the anonymous author warned, “before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.” “You know what it is.”

For years, the existence of the letter had been known, yet it had only been released in drastically redacted form. When Dr. Gage stumbled across the letter, she only confirmed what everyone knew all along: This thinly disguised threat was penned by none other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Dr. King knew this the moment he opened the envelope, 50 years ago. Gage writes, “Despite its half-baked prose, self-conscious amateurism and other attempts at misdirection, King was certain the letter had come from the F.B.I. Its infamous director, J. Edgar Hoover, made no secret of his desire to see King discredited.”

Hoover was appointed head of the Bureau of Investigation, the FBI’s predecessor, in 1924. In 1935, he helped found the FBI, which he directed until his death, in 1972. In his half a century of rule, Hoover “waged war on homosexuals, black people and communists,” turning the bureau into what President Truman (no progressive himself, to say the least) warned was becoming the American “Gestapo or secret police.”

MLK is by no means the only American hero whose life the FBI tried to destroy. One need only browse through the digital vault of FBI records that have been declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), hosted electronically at, to find a slew of US history’s most renowned purveyors of justice. In just this limited archive alone—constituting a mere microscopic percentage of extant FBI files—the bureau has files on:

– the ACLU, Albert Einstein, the American Anti Imperialist League,
– Bertolt Brecht, the Bonus March, the Black Panther Party,
– Carl Sagan, Cesar Chavez, Claudia Jones, Coretta Scott King, Carlos Fuentes,
– Erich Fromm, Edward Abbey,
– Fred Hampton, Fidel Castro, the Freedom Riders,
– Greenpeace, the Gay Activist Alliance,
– Henry Wallace, Hanns Eisler, Helen Keller,
– the League of Women Voters, Lenny Bruce, Luis Buñuel, Langston Hughes, Leonard Bernstein,
– Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X,
– the NAACP, the National Organization for Women (NOW), Nelson Mandela,
– People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Paul Robeson,
– Stokely Carmichael,
– The Grateful Dead, Tupac Shakur, The Beatles,

among many, many, many more human rights activists, freedom fighters, intellectuals, and artists.

Notice a trend among these figures?

Those who have taken the US up on its claims that it provides “freedom,” “equality,” and “democracy” for all citizens—supposedly regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, etc.—have always been a thorn in the side of the US ruling class.

If you have ever openly challenged and mobilized against the structural racism of white supremacy, you probably have an FBI record. If you have ever openly challenged and mobilized against the structural sexism of patriarchy, you probably have an FBI record. If you have ever openly challenged and mobilized against the structural cisheterosexism of cisheteronormativity, you probably have an FBI record. And if you have ever openly challenged and mobilized against the structural inequality of capitalism and concomitant imperialism, you definitely have an FBI record.

In fact, “Anti-War” and “Civil Rights” activists have been blessed with their own special categories in this vault of FBI “criminal” records:

Should Si Se Puede, Jackasses! apply…

By: jaango Friday November 21, 2014 9:09 am

Should Si Se Puede, Jackasses! Apply to America’s conservatives?

With all the angst and anguish being expressed by the Conservatives, albeit, Republicans and Democrats alike, going to establish a message that encompasses a “reach out” for attracting Latino votes in the 2016 elections, especially when Latinos know full well that the Republicans in the House, and Speaker Boehner in particular, sat on the Senate-approved immigration bill for these past 17 months?

The reality for attracting Latino votes by the Republicans and a tad of Democrats, is not going to have much if any impact in the forthcoming elections of 2016, given that gerrymandering is still having a powerful effect all across America and followed by the subtext for the obvious and ongoing voter disenfranchisement efforts that continues to occur all across the Southern States.

Thus, the “push back” by the Progressive Movement is still coalescing and will begin to make its impact felt in the ‘primaries’ of the 2016 elections and where the well-camouflaged conservative Democrats will have to undergo their respective and localized purity tests for political viability. And perhaps, a progressive Democrat will be elected to the United States Senate and lead to the formal establishment of a Progressive Caucus in the United States Senate and thusly, a progressive political platform is established for this nationalized Progressive Movement.

Regardless, Hope is being born among Progressives and which will provide the requisite fig leaf that deflects America’s constant urge to express itself when it comes to today’s exposed and arterial bleeding that is bigotry and racism. Or perhaps, we, the Latinos, fail to recognize that “holding the reins on the Taxpayer’s Purse” is our current blind spot?  If so, our “unmet” Need can  be effectively addressed by requiring all eligible adults voting in the next election cycle and with very few exceptions permitted.