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Michael Harris' Moving Mother's Day Story

Montreal Simon - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 15:59


Well today is Mother's Day which is a good day for florists, and yet another good excuse to tell your Mum you love her.

And I see that Stephen Harper is using the occasion to make us believe that he's on their side.

Today we celebrate all mothers across Canada for their dedication, unconditional love & support for their families. http://t.co/5AxJJcTzuz— Stephen Harper (@pmharper) May 10, 2015
But I'd rather think that Mother's Day is every day of the year, and remember all the mothers, especially single mothers, he has done nothing to help.

Or as Michael Harris writes, remember the mothers Harper's Army has betrayed. 
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Historic clam gardens latest evidence to undermine narrative of First Nations as simple hunter-gatherers

Metaneos - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 15:30
Calgary Herald
This line is classic:
“It’s astounding that it’s taken a whole team of scientists and more than 150 years to figure this out, that our people weren’t standing there with a frying pan in their hand waiting for a sockeye to jump in,” she said.

Harvard Youth Poll Results Out - Brace Yourselves

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 11:51
Twice a year the Harvard Public Opinion Project surveys America's youth on everything ranging from climate change to foreign wars.  The latest numbers show American young people turning anti-science, becoming indifferent or distrustful of climate change, and supporting American military interventionism abroad.

Growing distrust of science, here.

Losing interest in fighting climate change, here.

Increasing support for more U.S. military interventionism, here.

If the Harvard numbers are right, American youth seem to be turning very rightwing.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 10:29
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- The Vancouver Sun interviews Andrew MacLeod about his new book on inequality in British Columbia. And Tanara Yelland talks to Guy Standing about the need for governments responsive to the needs of the precariat:
One central demand Standing makes is for the establishment of a universal basic income. Having the Canadian government provide all citizens (or all residents regardless of citizenship status, if you want to get really radical) would allow people to live without fear of things like starvation and homelessness, and would actually, according to research done on the subject, lead to low-income people working more. 
The current employment insurance system in Canada, which pays a portion of a person's last salary but ends payments once they've found work paying 20 percent more than their benefits, disincentivizes people from accepting work that might be temporary or with unstable hours. Getting a meager yet reliable amount from the government makes far more sense than taking a job whose hours you can't depend on—especially when you know that should your job end, it will be a month or more before you see any new benefit money coming in.
"In effect," said Standing, "the system for the precariat has a huge disincentive for people taking low-wage jobs and punishes them for doing so. That is thoroughly unfair." - Meanwhile, Sarah Kendzior discusses how payday lenders exploit unstable work and unreliable income.

- Ian Welsh offers an important suggestion as to how the left needs to respond to the UK's election of a Conservative majority, while Gerard Di Trolio sees the NDP's emergence in Alberta as a prime example as to how challenges to corporate orthodoxy can be as politically beneficial as they are socially necessary. And Roderick Benns writes that Naheed Nenshi and Don Iveson are among the emerging group of politicians willing to tackle burgeoning poverty and inequality head-on - while noting that other levels of government will need to participate to develop truly effective policies.

- Peter Beinart proposes a name-and-shame approach to the outsized influence of the filthy rich in U.S. politics.

- And finally, Maude Barlow studies the Harper Cons' concerted effort to stifle citizens' voices in Canada.

But What Did They Expect?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 08:50
David Cameron is wasting no time hammering rightwing nails in Britain's coffin. He has served notice he'll be making the most of his slim majority win last week and the first thing to go will be Britain's Human Rights Act.

Just as Harper has Poillevre to do his slime work, Cameron has his own poindexter to axe the Human Rights Act, this guy, Michael Gove:

Backpheifengesicht anyone?
Cameron is also preparing his ransom note to the European Union.  His win has unleashed a backbench clamoring for a new deal with the EU whereby Britain could opt out of EU legislation as it saw fit.

It remains to be seen how far Cameron can go before he again ignites the fuze of Scottish independence.


And So It Begins

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 08:41


It's an idea that's been kicked around for quite a while - the use of military force to thwart climate change migration.  To some it's a matter of doing what's necessary to keep the barbarian horde at bay.  Underlying it is this element of self-defence, self-preservation - necessity.

The European Union is now at this point.

The European Union has drawn up plans for military attacks in Libya to try to curb the influx of migrants across the Mediterranean by targeting the trafficking networks. It is to launch a bid on Monday to secure a UN mandate for armed action in Libya’s territorial waters.Britain is drafting the UN security council resolution that would authorise the mission, said senior officials in Brussels. It would come under Italian command, have the participation of around 10 EU countries, including Britain, France, Spain, and Italy, and could also drag in Nato although there are no plans for initial alliance involvement....This would entail having EU vessels in Libyan territorial waters, including the Royal Navy flagship HMS Bulwark – currently in Malta – and deploying helicopter gunships to “neutralise” identified traffickers’ ships used to send tens of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East on the short but highly risky voyage from the Libyan coast to the shores of southern Italy.Libyan militias, jihadi groups, and Islamic State affiliates believed to be in cahoots with the trafficking networks are said to have heavy artillery and anti-aircraft batteries deployed close to the coast. Attacks on EU vessels and aircraft could trigger an escalation and force Nato to get involved, said policymakers in Brussels.Oh great, we can get into another war in Libya.  That'll show those damned Muslims.  We'll kick hell out of them.  They'll start sending zealots over here to retaliate.  Just like ping-pong only with bombs and guns.Closer to home, the Pentagon is looking at its own options to seal off America's southern borders to climate refugees out of Mexico and Central America.  In his book, "Climate Wars," Gwynne Dyer discusses some of the ideas being considered including the establishment of robotic weapons systems to make the American border an automated killing zone.  That sounds inconceivable except to the people who are conceiving it.

Oh, And Another Thing

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 06:32


Without doubt, some readers will be wearying of my seeming obsession with Omar Khadr. A good part of my interest in him over the past few years stems from the injustice with which he has been treated, given the flouting by both Canada and the U.S. of International human rights law as it pertains to the child soldier. The other part of my interest stems from the fact that Khadr has been a Rorschach test for the Harper government, revealing the latter's relentless meanspiritedness and willingness to sacrifice people for electoral power.

It is my hope, as stated previously, that the tide will begin to turn against the Harper regime as its mask slips away, given the public's opportunity to see and hear Khadr now that he has been released into his lawyer's custody.

If the following letters from The Globe and Mail are any indication, people are beginning to see beyond the stereotype of the 'terrorist' that Harper et al. have been promoting all these years:

Capacity for reform
Anyone who heard Omar Khadr’s comments to the media after being released on bail cannot help but be struck by the federal government’s doggedly vindictive response (‘Freedom Is Way Better Than I Thought’ – May 8). If the heart and soul of the Canadian penal system is truly rehabilitation, surely he is a good example of the human capacity for reform. Unless, of course, the government is committed to an ideological agenda from which it is unwilling to deviate, however compelling the evidence to the contrary.

Peter Laurie, Peterborough, Ont.

..........

At last, the “convicted terrorist” Omar Khadr speaks. First, Prime Minister Stephen Harper muzzled the child, then he muzzled the man, but on Thursday Canadians were allowed to finally hear him for themselves. I am proud of Canada.

Robin Hannah, TorontoWhether any of this has long-term efficacy will, of course, be put to the test in October.
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Becoming - Mother's Day

Fat and Not Afraid - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 06:00

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, a day rooted in peace activism, but commercialized beyond recognition. Gabe was upset he didn't win me a cake at school on Friday and I told him that was fine, if he never bought me a single thing for Mother's Day, only remembered to come by or phone and say hi, I'd be ok with that. He was relieved. At not even nine years old he's already feeling the pressure of capitalism which pisses me off as you can imagine.

I used to want a lot of recognition on Mother's Day. Motherhood hasn't come easily to me; for a long time I didn't even know if I wanted kids (Gabe was a happy-ish accident) while Ryan knew forever he wanted to be a dad. Gabe and I's relationship got off on the wrong foot, to put it lightly. Flowers and a nice card, a quiet day, a pat on the back, some recognition for all the work I've done, and do, as Mom, isn't unwelcome, it's just not necessary any more. As a parent I'm doing a good job; my kids are happy, well adjusted and for the most part, polite. They know they are loved not just by their parents, but by their grandparents and aunts and uncles as well. Every day isn't ice cream and sprinkles but I keep trying to put into practise all of the things I've learned over the years on how to be the best mom I can, building on the foundation my mom laid for me, Leslie's shored up, and countless internet moms and science have expanded.

From my mom I learned to always tuck your kids in at night no matter how old they are, to take the time to check in and listen, to give them space to talk or just be with you. Leave the light on at night to guide them home. She is a model for knowing how to pick your battles, though there are a few I wish she'd fought a little harder. From her I get my no-nonsense attitude in a crisis and first aid skills, such as they are, and 'keep your head down and mouth shut' tendancies (which I tend to ignore when I probably shouldn't). My mom shows she cares by feeding us, tidying and taking care of my kids, and slipping me money my dad doesn't know about for little things I want or need. She may not always understand me but she's always supported me in the ways she can. It's not her way to make things easy for me or do for me things her mother never did. Both my parents have raised me with a very 'take care of yourself' focus and I think it's served me well in a lot of ways, and hindered me in others. I hope to temper this with my own kids.

Leslie has added her incredible generosity to the mix, showing me over and over there is nothing a parent wouldn't do for their kid. Seriously, the amount she has helped us out over the years would be embarassing to post. Throw in a sometimes overwhelming fierceness in protecting her famlily and you realize that woman is a tiger. Don't mess with her cubs.

Thanks to the internet I've been allowed to follow the journey of a few special moms and dads in intimate detail, from the woman at The Progressive Parent who lost her little boy Patrick to SUDC, to the hilarious dudes who run How to Be A Dad.com and their growing families. Evolutionary Parenting and The Feminist Breeder keep posting up the articles I need to practise patience, compassion and patience some more with myself and my kids, rooting their pieces in the latest science around child development. It helps me to know that my kid's brains are still building themselves, to remind myself that they're not just little adults in smaller bodies who just need instruction on how to be proper grownups.

I'm working this Mother's Day so here's to all the moms out there who are putting in the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears to do it as well as they can with what they have. For those of you who may be having a hard time with Mother's Day, being estranged from your mom or mourning her passing, I hope you get a chance to practise self-care today. Be kind to you.

Changing The Frame

Northern Reflections - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 04:32
 
George Lakoff, a Professor of Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley, argues that we all see the world through brain structures he calls frames:

Those brain structures are called “frames.” If the facts don’t fit your frames, the frames stay; the facts are ignored, belittled or attacked. The facts alone won’t set you free.All words are defined relative to largely unconscious cognitive frames. Hearing a word activates and strengthens the frame. If I say “Don’t think of an elephant!” you will think of an elephant. Arguing against, or negating, frames just helps the other side.
Politicians understand  how important it is to sell their frames to voters. And, for the last thirty years, conservatives have managed to effectively frame issues to their advantage. However, the conservative frame is rooted in denial:

Conservatism means denying a central truth: that private life and business depend on public resources. Indeed, it means destroying public resources and maximizing private control and private gain. It means putting public health in private hands, making everyone pay through the nose for maintaining their bodies. It means destroying unions. Unions are about freedom, freedom from corporate servitude and wage slavery, freedom from unsafe working conditions, and the freedom in later life that comes from fair pensions, which are delayed payments for work done earlier in life. It means destroying nature for private gain, not public benefit.
Progressives see the world through a different frame:
[Progressivism] means caring about others as well as taking care of yourself, and it means working through the government to provide public resources for all. Private business and private life depend on public resources — roads, bridges, sewers, an electric grid, satellite communication, public schools and research universities, public health and national health care, public safety, and on and on. The private depends on the public, both in business and private life.
Canada has always been about
kindness, warmth, hospitality, co-operation, community and what goes with all that, including public education, health care for all, a love of nature and care for the environment, a welcoming of immigrants, a respect for native peoples, an aversion to war. As an American, those were the values that I and other Americans associated with Canada. The centre has been empathy – caring and acting on that care.
Canadians have traditionally seen their country through a different frame than the one Mr. Harper  espouses. The next election will be all about changing the frame.


Another Great Canadian Writer Goes After Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Sun, 05/10/2015 - 03:08


There are a number of good books out there that document the horror of what Stephen Harper and his monstrous regime have done to Canada.

Books by writers like Lawrence Martin, Michael Harris, Mark Bourrie, Christian Nadeau and others.

And now from a distinguished Canadian who has spent a lifetime standing up for this country and its values, comes another good book. 

And another wake-up call for our battered and bleeding democracy. 
Read more »

Are Stephen Harper's Cons Sheltering a Nazi War Criminal?

Montreal Simon - Sat, 05/09/2015 - 19:15


As the world celebrates V-E Day, on the 70th anniversary of the great victory over the Nazis.

And Stephen Harper uses the occasion to celebrate himself.

A disturbing question must be asked.

Are him and his foul Con regime sheltering a Nazi war criminal? 
Read more »

Connecting the Dots on Climate Change

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 05/09/2015 - 13:09
One of the biggest failures in climate change reporting is the tendency to focus on particular aspects without considering the bigger picture.  What does sea level rise have to do with droughts or floods?  What is the role of changing ocean circulation patterns?  How do these impacts all factor into our rapidly changing jet stream patterns?

When we look at individual aspects we usually wind up with charts that reveal a linear pattern.  Sure, there may be dramatic increases on the curve, but nothing that appears wild or unpredictable.

Yet we're nearing the point where climate change impacts will be wild and unpredictable, totally non-linear.  A big part of this results from the "cascade effect" in which a number of seemingly unrelated impacts begin operating together, even harnessing man-made change with natural feedback mechanisms that will be much harder to control and nearly impossible to reverse.

An online course being presented by Germany's prestigious Potsdam Institute provides the missing link.  It begins to connect all the dots to reveal how changes already underway that will continue to accelerate and worsen even if we miraculously decarbonize today to make our world a far more difficult place for almost all forms of life.

One example is the Greenland ice sheet.  As it melts, the cold freshwater released to the sea has a direct impact on the thermohalene circulation (Gulf Stream) which, in turn, speeds up the decline in the Arctic sea ice and the thawing of high latitude permafrost and the loss of Alpine glaciers.

As the Arctic warms the temperature differential between the Arctic and temperate latitudes narrows,  weakening the jet stream and giving rise to Rossby waves, blocking events that can stall weather fronts in a particular location for upwards of four weeks.  These Rossby waves are responsible for Atlanta, Georgia falling into a February deep freeze while a village in Alaska hits temps. in the 60s.  These Rossby waves created the conditions for the Calgary flood and triggered the recent drought in Russia that ruined the wheat harvest there.

The Amazon rainforest governs precipitation patterns in much of South America. A warming beyond 2C carries the risk of transforming the Amazon into savannah grasslands, upending essential rainfall needed for many millions of Brazilians and their neighbours.

The hydrologic cycle is the climate change cycle.  Our civilization is utterly dependent on the steady and predictable supply of precipitation for human needs (drinking, cooking, sanitation), for agricultural production and for industry. When precipitation falters and becomes unreliable or sporadic, there goes your economy and, with it, your civilization.   This is nothing new.  We have a rich history of this sort of societal collapse.

Already billions lack adequate access to safe water.  Billions do not have access to basic sanitation.  Even as we experience growing water scarcity many of the most vulnerable countries also heavily contaminate their freshwater resources. This is compounded by deteriorating ecosystems and by failing infrastructure and lack of investment.  Water is something we're all too ready to fight over when scarcity sets in and there are few coherent international policies to deal with conflict.

Two areas expected to be among the hardest hit are Africa and Asia.  They're also experiencing explosive population growth.  They're going to be especially vulnerable to droughts, floods and sea level rise.  It's estimated the world will need to up food production by 50-70% by 2050 to keep up with the growing population yet these climate change impacts, taken cumulatively, will cause a sharp decline in food production in the most needy areas.  Draw your own conclusions as to how that will play out especially in the Hindu Kush.

Our ecosystems are in a migratory transition.  Plants and animals alike are responding to climate change by steadily moving away from the equator. Although you may think otherwise in central and eastern Canada, Spring is now arriving two weeks earlier globally.  Pests and disease are also migrating.  West Nile virus is one example.  Above 2C be prepared for a spread of malaria and a sharp increase in infections.  As it warms the incubation period for malaria plummets and mosquitoes bite a lot more.  Water-related diseases from cholera to typhus to dysentery also increase.

It's critical to consider the effect this warming already underway will have on biodiversity.  Many species are incapable of evolving to survive the current, early onset, rate of change.  If we fail to arrest global warming at 2C (now considered highly unlikely) and instead allow it to reach 4C, the number of species lost will skyrocket. 2C simply gives many species a window to survive through adaptation, evolution migration.

This week it was announced that, in March, we set another record when every part of the planet experienced GHG concentrations about 400 ppm. Everywhere. To put that in perspective, our coral reefs cannot survive long beyond 350 ppm. of atmospheric CO2.  It's calculated that 1.5C of warming will kill off all but 10% of the world's corals.  Here's the thing.  It was recently reported that our existing emissions, what we've already put into the atmosphere, will "lock in" 1.5C of warming by 2100.  We've already pulled the Celsius trigger.  Now we've pulled the acidification trigger.  Sea level rise stresses corals.  So do severe storm events such as the cyclones savaging the central western Pacific.

As I went through the lectures from these top world scientists, leaders in their own disciplines, in looking to what awaits in a 4C world each said the same thing - "all bets are off."  Each of them described their field in the context of a climate change impacts "cascade" but noted that these combined impacts and they synergies are beyond anything in the experience of human and other life forms. Most also pointed out that, by the time we get to understand the cascade fallout, it'll be too late to do anything about it.

To sum up, we've got two choices - just the two.  Either decarbonize now, just as quickly as humanly possible, or "don't worry, be happy."    

Working across the aisle

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 05/09/2015 - 12:36
Among the other lessons learned from Alberta's recent election, let's point out one more with implications for the federal scene.

While the main opposition parties recognized that they were too far apart in their general policy orientation to justify a formal coalition, both the NDP and the Wildrose Party were happy to point out some of the areas which were ripe for cooperation as part of their criticism of the governing PCs.

In other words, neither tried to pretend that there was no room to discuss post-election cooperation, nor to claim that some areas of disagreement or personal differences rendered it futile to even talk about shared interests. And both were rewarded with improved seat totals - while the majority-or-bust PCs were severely punished.

Which raises a couple of questions for discussion.

How different would the Alberta election have looked if either of the main opposition parties had taken the position that it was prepared to accept continued Prentice government if the alternative was working across party lines?

And if even the Wildrose Party can find areas of common ground with the NDP as part of a shared goal of achieving a change in government, how in the world can the federal Liberals keep a straight face while pretending that cooperation is impossible?

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 05/09/2015 - 07:26
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- CBC follows up on the connection between childhood poverty and increased health-care costs later in life. And Sunny Freeman points out how the living wage planned by Rachel Notley's NDP figures to benefit Alberta's economy in general.

- Meanwhile, William Gardner laments our lack of accurate information on health and well-being in the wake of the Cons' census shredding, particularly among exactly the marginalized communities who are most likely to need help.

- And Richard Thaler reminds us why it's foolish to assume that people and economies can be treated as if they'll operate according to market ideals of perfect information and equality in bargaining power. 

- Gerald Caplan offers a warning to the Notley government as to what it can expect from a corporate establishment which considers itself to be above the will of the public. And in keeping with the theme of this week's column, David McGrane sees the NDP's victory as bringing Alberta's politics in line with those of the other prairie provinces.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne discusses how the Cons managed to fit nearly every possible indictment of their government into a single day's worth of legislative abuses and public deception. And Robin Sears highlights why the next federal election campaign figures to be far less predictable than the government which will be up for public scrutiny.

Becoming Their Own Targets.

Northern Reflections - Sat, 05/09/2015 - 06:00

                                              http://what-buddha-said.net/

Chantal Hebert writes that it's been a rough week for the Harperites. They're beginning to look long in the tooth and extraordinarily incompetent. Consider Mr. Harper's "surprise" trip to Iraq:

The prime minister travels to Iraq and Kuwait — close to the frontline in the war against Islamic State extremists — ostensibly to show his support for our troops. Scores of photo opportunities follow. In their eagerness to showcase their boss in the role of commander-in-chief (and rake up pre-election points), the seasoned operators of the prime minister’s spin machine break protocol and post two promotional videos that feature members of Canada’s special forces. 
And the PMO -- not the Senator's travels -- was the centre of attention at the Duffy trial:

RCMP documents filed as part of Mike Duffy’s trial show that Harper’s palace guard doctored an independent Senate audit in an effort to keep a lid on the expense scandal. Slowly but inexorably, the disgraced senator’s trial continues to turn into a trial by proxy of the ethical culture that prevails at the highest levels of the current government. 
The wheels are coming off the Harper spin machine. Nothing underscored that more than Omar Khadr's first news conference after being released on bail:

The Conservatives lose a legal battle to keep Omar Khadr behind bars until a court hears a federal appeal of the decision to let him out on bail. That happens just as the Conservatives are primed to bask in the glow of the adoption of their anti-terror bill in the Commons. 
All week long the prime minister and his acolytes spit into the wind. And they became their own targets


A Very Good Week

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 05/09/2015 - 05:33

H/t The Toronto Star

For progressives, it has been a very good week. For Stephen Harper and his adherents, not so much.

First, there was the resounding and iconic defeat of the Progressive Conservative dynasty in Alberta. The message to the broader population: change is possible, a message not likely to be forgotten as we head into an October election.

Next, a major misplay by the Prime Minister's team in publishing online, for the infamous propaganda organ 24/Seven, the faces of Canadian soldiers during Harper's visit to iraq and Kuwait, part of his never-ending re-election campaign.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, was the release of Omar Khadr, the government's relentless efforts to keep Khadr from the public's view so they could control the narrative about him having failed, as noted yesterday. Instead of the remorseless terrorist portrayed by the regime, the public saw a thoughtful, gracious and reflective man eager to get on with his life.

As observed by Thomas Walkom in today's Star,
he came across in that brief press conference as remarkably human — as someone who wants to build a new life, but isn’t entirely sure how to do it; as a person who has outgrown his past but is still trying to come to terms with it.

This is not the Omar Khadr that the Harper government wants us to see. It prefers a world that is black and white, where the bad guys are terrorists who commit heinous crimes and the good guys are one-dimensionally heroic.

Government ministers, and the prime minister himself, refer to the fact that Khadr pled guilty to war crimes, including murder.The Star's Chantal Hebert is equally lacerating in her assessment of this week's displays of Harperian ineptitude:
All week, partisan overkill made the government look both ugly and inept. It is hard to think of a more self-defeating combination for a party that is about to solicit a fourth mandate.Her observations about Khadr echo those of Walkom:
As the former Guantanamo detainee holds his first scrum, it becomes apparent why Harper’s government was so adamant that he not be allowed to speak to the media. It was easier to paint Khadr as an unredeemable terrorist in the abstract than it will be now that most Canadians have the opportunity to hear from the actual person.Despite that, the government held firm, Mr. Harper refusing to utter even the glimmer of a gracious note, as he offered his thoughts and prayers to the family members of U.S. Sgt. Christopher Speer.


For a man who always seeks to be in total control, Stephen Harper must have found this a very frustrating week. May he continue to live in interesting times.

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Is Stephen Harper Slowly Cracking Up?

Montreal Simon - Sat, 05/09/2015 - 04:25


In one of my last posts I wrote about how Stephen Harper had been hit by a perfect storm of bad news. 

Which had left him badly shaken up, clinging to his sanity with both hands, and screaming with frustration.

And at a news conference yesterday that was only too apparent. For all the pancake makeup and mascara in the world couldn't conceal the fear in his cold dead eyes.

Or as Chantale Hebert writes, make him look more like a man who is just glad he made it to the weekend. 
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