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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 65,441

Journal Archives

On Voting

I take voting very seriously. I have voted in virtually every election since reaching voting age. I’ve also invested time and effort in voting registration drives over the years, primarily targeting two populations: those in low-income neighborhoods, and young adults. “Voter registration” is important, but to reach its full potential, it should be one part of a program that includes voter education, and voter participation.

Over the decades, I have also been a volunteer in dozens of campaigns. In more recent years, I’ve run numerous local and regional political campaigns. I do not charge so much as a penny for my efforts, nor accepted “gas money,” etc. I am involved in political campaigns for the same reason that I have been involved in social movements during these same years: I believe in what I do. It is a matter of conscience.

Voting is a right, and a responsibility. It is not a privilege. Those who think they have a right to deny others their right to vote have an unethical sense of entitlement. Those who insist that everyone has an obligation to vote exactly as they do has a sense of privilege. Those who attempt to make others feel guilty about how they vote, or insult others for doing so, are foolish. Everyone has the right to vote as their conscience tells them to.

I’m not sure who I will vote for in the Democratic presidential primary. There’s plenty of time for me to decide. But even in that -- a primary, not a general election -- I’ll vote according to who I believe is the best candidate. None of the announced Democratic candidates is “perfect.” They each have strengths and weaknesses. I will continue to evaluate each one of them.

What I won’t do is allow other people to decide for me. Those who make a strong case for a particular candidate may influence my thinking, to some extent. And I’ll ignore those who channel hatred, hurl insults, and/or attempt to instill a sense of collective guilt by way of mis-using sociological terms. For it would not be fair to judge any candidate, based upon the toxicity and ignorance of some of their followers.

H2O Man

Rachel Dolezal's Hair

In August of 2006, while attending an extended-family function, I was seated next to a retired FBI investigator. In an attempt to make “small talk,” I asked him if he thought that John Mark Karr, a strange character being featured on all the news, had actually murdered JonBenet Ramsey? After he stopped laughing, he explained to me why he believed Karr had nothing to do with the crime.

He said that as a rule, when the media gives such extensive coverage to a case such as this, it means that something else that is far more important nationally escapes notice. This isn’t to suggest that violent crimes against children is unimportant; rather, he explained, the media is appealing to the public’s uncanny ability to be distracted by what “shocks” or “outrages” them.

While I recognize that everyone has the right to view -- and judge -- this for themselves, it has made me question the reasons certain news stories are given such a high profile in the media. In a sense, I view the coverage of Rachel Dolezal in this light. This is not to suggest that issues of “race” are not extremely important in our society. They are. And they always have been. Our society has difficulty in discussing them in an open manner. Hence, while the topic of police violence against black citizens is very important, and deserves our attention, we benefit from hearing what organizations such as the NAACP has to say.

Yet, that is distinct from the issue of the confusion, or even dishonesty, of how Ms. Dolezal -- who has a connection with the NAACP --identifies herself. Indeed, there is a long and curious history of people in America who purposely, for a variety of reasons, attempt to identify themselves as something other than what they are.

It is something that has taken place for different historical reasons. In his powerful autobiography, Malcolm X spoke of the attempts by segments of the black community to appear white. Interestingly, around the same time that his former friend Muhammad Ali’s first biography -- “Black Is Beautiful” -- was published, a growing segment of the white population began to claim an Indian ancestor; Cherokee, Mohawk, and Sioux were the most popular tribes to claim a distant association with.

In 1961, an important book, “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin, was published. It detailed the author’s experiences passing as a black man in America. Yet, unlike Dolezal, Griffin always understood who he really was.

While progress has been made in “race relations,” this country has yet to come to terms with many of the realities of racism in modern times. In some of her activities, Dolezal was no doubt sincere in her efforts to deal with racism. Yet, there are some curious aspects to her approach. These appear to be related to some underlying dynamics in her family of origin. And they include a semi-tragic sense of not liking herself as she actually is.

Some media analysts are asking if this is much the same as with the transgender population. I think that this confuses a biological issue with a cultural one. However, in Dolezal’s case, there could be a genetic predisposition towards depression, which could have played a role in her choice to identify herself with a group she considered superior to her own. This is, of course, merely speculation upon my part.

What isn’t speculation is that the nation had been focused on the issues involving police violence being directed towards black people, and that the Dolezal issue has distracted people from that. Rather than more reports about incidents such as the brute who assaulted the 15-year old girl from the swimming pool party, the media is currently saturated with the Dolezal case. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, and I know that it’s a shame.

Jeb Unplugged

“ ….I’m going to answer your question by saying ‘probably nothing’.”
-- Jeb Bush, responding to a reporter’s question regarding what he would do for African-Americans if elected governor of Florida; 1994.

Like many Americans, I find even the possibility of a third member of the Bush clan serving as president to be revolting. This isn’t simply the discomfort that the concept of “ruling families” should cause those who believe in democracy. The Bush family represents every negative associated with hereditary rule.

I’ve long recognized that Jeb is “smarter” than his brother. Admittedly, George W. Bush set the bar rather low. Arguably, a fried clam is more qualified to occupy the Oval Office than W. Thus, the question is whether Jeb is closer in capability to his father, or brother?

There are some similarities in form between George and Jeb -- both have served in both the corporate world, and as governor of a state that is significant for the republican machine. More, there is a largely unreported (hence, understood or appreciated) background that was made possible from their father’s connections with the company. If Dan Rather had been allowed to follow-up on W’s undocumented periods during the Vietnam war, he would have nailed it. Add to that a “businessman” who drives an oil company into the ground (and isn’t “saved” early by Dad’s buds. It was, of course, a front -- and W failed in that, too.

When you have people stepping back-and-forth behind that curtain between corporations and government (rather than the more common post-retirement position that, say, generals get with the military-industrial complex, including the media), they hold positions that aren’t on their resume. But that could put Jeb in a terrible position if he is asked certain questions during the campaign.

It would be almost political justice, really. Forum members of a certain age remember Bush the Elder’s campaign dogging Michael Dukakis about Willie Horton. The Elder’s henchmen knew that Dukakis bore no responsibility; yet, they appealed to racism in the most vicious form in politics. Between that, and a question about the death penalty, Dukakis failed to respond in a strong, concise manner. It hurt his campaign in a big way with previously “undecided” voters.

Jeb has a close history with a group, many of whom reside in Florida, that includes Cuban exiles who were documented for being involved with violent and illegal acts. In fact, Jeb lobbied on behalf of Orlando Bosch, the late international terrorist. Jeb did his best to get this man, who was convicted for his active role in blowing a rocket-missile into a Polish ship. Jeb requested that then-President Bush pardon Bosch; once freed, Bosch was granted residency in the United States. (Younger former members are encouraged to read about the US military’s -- and corporate para-militaries’ -- role in the wars in Central America in this era.)

If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s nominee, and Jeb the republican’s, it’s possible that this topic will be raised, though not necessarily by our candidate. I know that Bernie Sanders doesn’t believe in aggressively negative campaigning, but he is surely aware of this business. But there are two candidates in our primary contests that might speak openly on it. And there are journalists, even in the mainstream media, who I’m confident will address it, should Jeb’s backers be able to buy the nomination for him.

Jebis best response would be silence. But, of course, that could hurt his campaign. Or he could try to say something to deflect attention. Yet, in the past week, when Jeb speaks, he comes across as incapable of answering questions. He can deliver a written speech, but little else that translates well in campaigns.

I read an OP/thread claiming that Jeb’s speech today beat up President Obama, and tied Ms. Clinton to Obama. Baloney. It is more likely that Pee Wee Herman would knock the crap out of Mike Tyson, and then bite his ear off.

Another forum member noted the attack was red, raw meat for Jeb’s supporters. Baloney, again! It is, to quote an old friend, “like ancient rancid bacon ….(or) …. rotten green ham,” that has poisoned our country, and caused “the moral scurvy which is eating itself into the life of the people around us.”

If Jeb should reach the White House, it would be -- like his brother -- not because of his message, but in spite of him.

Hillary Clinton's Hair

I watched Hillary Clinton’s speech earlier today, and was quite impressed. I thought the content of her message was solid. It is easy to see why so many Democrats are supporting her campaign.

In my opinion, her delivery was good. In fact, I thought it was better than anything from the 2008 Democratic primary. A few years prior to that, I had the opportunity to watch Ms. Clinton deliver an off-the-cuff talk to a very small group of local, grass roots Democrats in the Village of Sidney, New York. Seeing her in person in that small, casual setting -- including the question-and-answer period after her talk -- was extremely impressive.

I do not think she comes across as strongly as a speaker before large, more formal settings. For example, her husband is a more talented public speaker. Yet, I’ve always much preferred her to Bill Clinton. In part, this is because I think that she is further to the left than he is; also, I think that she is more trustworthy than Bill Clinton.

I was struck by the authority that she communicated with today. As I’ve noted on this forum before, there are three types of “authority” in this context: traditional, bureaucratic, and charismatic. “Traditional” is, of course, the way things have always been done. Obviously, as the potential first female President of the United States, she doesn’t represent traditional authority. Indeed, she is prepared to make a basic change in the way that things were always done in the pas.

“Bureaucratic” refers to large systems, dealing with numerous people. It is evident that Hillary Clinton is well-versed in our state and federal systems of government. In order for anyone -- be it her or anyone else -- to institute meaningful reform in our system of government, they absolutely have to have a keen understanding of how it works. It simply cannot be otherwise.

Ms. Clinton does not have the charisma of a John F. Kennedy, a Bill Clinton, or a Barack Obama. That doesn’t mean that she is as ponderous a public presenter as, say, a Lyndon Johnson. Nor, for that matter, is she as slimy as Richard Nixon, as dull as Gerald Ford, as shallow as Ronald Reagan, or as giddy a compulsive liar as George W. Bush. She comes across as competent, well-informed, and experienced.

Although I thought it was an impressive speech, I still understand why many good Democrats and members of the Democratic Left do not support Hillary Clinton. I feel no need to discuss these at this time, as this is simply about my impressions of her speech today. Nor am I intending to join with the cheerleaders.

There is a stark difference between Ms. Clinton and any of the announced or unannounced republican candidates. I do not expect that any of them will attempt to debate the substance of her speech. Rather, they will rely upon the right-wing “press” to attack her for non-issues, such as her hair style or outfit. Considering the pathetic cast of characters their party has to offer, I suppose that is about all they’ve got.

Anbar Province

There are a lot of things about President Obama that I really like. I support most of the positions and actions that he has taken. There are some areas where I have some disagreements, and a few where I disagree strongly with the President. Yet, I am not entirely sure where my concern with the decision to send 450 more troops to the Anbar Province in Iraq ranks.

I disagree with sending any more troops -- and failing to remove every last US military “adviser” from Iraq. There is some merit to the “you broke it, you pay for it” position. Yes, the Bush-Cheney administration broke Iraq. Yes, they should pay for it. But these slime have actually been paid for their crimes, and there appears to be little-to-no chance of their ever being held responsible. Instead, it is the military -- and the tax-payers -- who are paying for what Bush-Cheney broke.

The argument that ISIS poses a potential threat to the inhabitants of American cities, should they fully secure their own nation-state, strikes me as curious. Here I thought it was a group of grubby men, hiding in caves in the outer regions of Afghanistan, that orchestrated 9-11. And I’m not commenting about any conspiracy theory -- unless one considers the documented reasons that the United States uses for keeping a military force in that region as a “theory.” It seems more like a national policy to me.

George W. Bush’s nonsense about “why do they hate us?” was an insult to our intelligence. A valid question would be, “how could they not despise the US?” It would seem that our government knowingly takes steps to insure that the US will be hated. This tactic is surely part of one segment of the country’s agenda.

I’m not sure exactly how I view President Obama’s role in this. It would be vile indeed, were it simply part of apolitical move, such as to help a potential Democratic candidate in 2016. But I lean more to the idea that even the President of the United States has very limited ability to stop the US military occupation and on-going conflict in that region. I believe, for example, that President Obama was sincere about ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that he ordered the Joint Chiefs and Pentagon to make plans to do just that …..before learning that his decision had been over-ruled by forces more powerful than the executive branch of our government.

And that’s one of the reasons that I might endorse and support Bernie Sanders. It’s not that he would have more power than President Obama. Rather, it’s because I think he would be honest with the American public about why we are in Iraq, and why we don’t seem to be able to get out.

H2O Man

Word Wars

“Language and song, to me, apart from being pure vibrations, is just like trying to describe a dream. And because we don’t have telepathy, we try to describe the dream to each other, to verify to each other what we know, what we believe to be inside each other. And stuttering is right -- because we can’t say it. No matter how you say it, it’s never how you want to say it.”
-- John Lennon

There has been a great deal of discussion in the past few days about the use of words in communicating on DU:GD. Although I cannot say that I’ve read most of the OP/threads regarding an incident involving the use of one offensive word, it has got me thinking about words.

“The pen is mightier than the sword,” it is said. Yet, like the sword, words can be used carefully, or recklessly. Words can be harmfully or helpfully. Words can wound, or heal.

Some people, like myself, are not generally offended by certain words. They are a stick that I don’t feel. But I understand that a lot of people -- some that I know, many more that I don’t know -- are offended by specific words. This often has to do with the historical context of the word. No matter if the said word bothers me or not, I can respect that it offends others.

Some of those offended may be people I don’t like. That has no bearing whatsoever. There are slurs about sex, sexual preference, skin color, ethnic identity, and many other things, that I chose not to use. My children don’t use them. You won’t hear them said by anyone in my house.

I do, however, find some people offensive. It’s generally more a result of what they do, than the individual words they use to communicate. For example, the people associated with the Westboro Baptist church strike me as toxic.

I admire Lenny Bruce. He understood the necessity and benefit of offending certain segments of the population with words. George Carlin did a similar thing, too. Both seemed to have an instinctual ability to pick their battles at the right time -- even though Bruce in particular did opt for battles he was aware he wouldn’t “win.”

That is distinct from, for example, arguing about the power of such words in a format where you really have no chance -- and not simply no chance to advocate for a position that is sure to result in one being removed from the venue, but even of attempting to discuss context. Pick your battles. There are numerous examples of people’s not honing this skill on DU:GD.

One of the funniest examples of people not grasping concepts of “free speech” -- a valuable topic -- is when someone on DU:GD asks, “Yeah, but what about my right to free speech?” This question illustrates a shallow grasp of both the Constitution, and of this forum.

Saying certain words, or expressing certain opinions, can lead to a post being deleted, a thread locked, and a person being temporarily suspended, or tomb-stoned. One may not agree with the rules here, or may not think they are evenly enforced. But that isn’t a battle they are ever going to “win.” More, they aren’t going to look good trying.

By no coincidence, the DU:GD “word wars” increase in frequency and intensity during presidential primary seasons. Thus, they often play out in the context of a group of people who support candidate A versus supporters of candidate B. This is unfortunate, because sincere beliefs can be mistaken for insincere agendas. Yet, it is easily avoidable.

Let’s consider, for example, if there is a discussion about NJ governor Chris Chistie. There is no possible value to pointing out that he is male, nor his ethnic heritage, nor his weight. None of these things should be mistaken for an important factor. Society’s prejudices against “over-weight” people could be, in a limited context. Yet, it is ripe for abuse, much in the manner that a female’s running for president too often is.

Rather, Chris Christie’s policies, personality, and beliefs are all worthy of discussion. The same holds true of any politician, be they Democrats, republicans, or other affiliations. These are valid topics. We shouldn’t allow other issues to distract our discussions of these things.

The Thunder Storm

A few years ago, a Clan Mother told me that when the “world” begins spinning with greater momentum, it is important to take time to step out of it, and to go into the natural world. To rest, re-invigorate, and to assess, before stepping back into the world as humans experience it.

I thought about that last night. About an hour after the sun went down, the thick clouds of a thunder storm began to darken the night sky to the west. The night birds went silent. I put the fire out at the pit near my pond, and prepared to head inside. My dog Kelly was focused entirely upon the hot dogs and rolls that I had planned to cook over the fire. As he devoured them, I had the impression of his being a four-legged land shark.

The last two rolls will be left as an offering. Clearly, if left upon the ground, Kelly will consume them. Although I’d fed the koi earlier, I can hear other fish feeding on the insects at the water’s surface. So I begin to tear the rolls, and toss the small pieces into the pond. As I finish, a white bolt streaks by me, almost knocking me off the stone retaining wall into the pond, and there is a loud splash. I’m unsure if Kelly was diving after a bread crumb, or a fish. Even the frogs on the far side of the pond become silent.

I begin the journey back towards the distant light that is my house. Along the path through a swampy area, I see the tiny lights of a few fire-flies, as they begin climbing the tall grass, before flying into the sky. A very wet dog, overcome with sheer pleasure, jumps up on me to get his head petted, before racing around the fields, in the most indirect path to the house. The chorus of the frogs and toads becomes louder and louder, with a variety far greater than when the peepers announce spring’s arrival.

By the time I reach my driveway, the wind has picked up, and the leaves on the trees make their whispering sound. Lightening is flashing through the sky, and the sound of the thunder is much closer. When I look at the outline of my house in the quick flashes, I think of how it used to be: my driveway was part of an early turnpike, and the house the first stage coach station in this region, west of the Fort Stanwix Treaty Line after the Revolutionary War.

In our world, “time” is a straight line, much like my driveway; in the natural world, there isn’t “time” as we experience it, only cycles. I find myself thinking of how, in the distant past, other people have stood where I now stand, and looked at this same building when lightning brightens the sky. For whatever reason, I’m reminded of Old Fred, who once lived here; he told me not to believe the saying that lightening never strikes twice, as the house and trees around it had been struck six times since the early 1800s. That had officially become seven times since I’ve inhabited the place.

In utter defiance of claims that I am not smart enough to come in out of the rain, I enter my house. I turn the light off, light a couple of candles, and walk out onto the enclosed porch to experience the thunder storm. My trusty friend Sam -- Kelly’s brother -- jumps up on the couch with me, and attempts to climb onto my lap. I’ve lived here longer than anyone else in the 220+ years the house has been here. More, I’m certain that I’m the first inhabitant to consume Guiness Blonde lager inside or out.

The past two years have been the most challenging. One former inhabitant moved out unannounced, leaving me the single father of two teen-aged daughters. It goes way beyond the financial difficulties I’ve encountered -- though that stress is increased, when one parent fails to accept financial responsibility for their own children -- because all teens, especially girls, need a stable mother at that age.

Obviously, I cannot be both a father and mother. However, I have stepped back from almost all of my outside activities, and focused my attention upon being there for my daughters. The older one is in her twenties now, and in her third year of college. She was recently here for a few weeks, which were largely fun. There was, of course, some stress related to her mother’s contact with her. She deals with that by talking with her older brothers, not me, which is good. The four of them provide a great support system for one another.

It’s been hardest on my youngest daughter. Her siblings are fully aware of this, and I’m mighty proud of how they are there for her. She and I have also grown closer. A high school student should always have a parent there for school sports, band, chorus, and award ceremonies. And it’s also fun for us to work on carpentry projects, building stone walls, gardening, cooking, and shopping. On Mother’s Day, she made me a wonderful card, along with a beautiful letter saying how much she appreciates me.

In two weeks, she’ll graduate from high school. She plans to spend most of the summer up north with her sister, who has a fantastic summer job with her university. Then it will be off to college for her -- and she has a great head start on that.

The rain slows down, then stops. There is still some flashes of lightening, and the sound of the thunder becomes further away, to the east. Soon, the only noise I hear is Sam’s snoring. This cycle in my life will soon end, and I’ll be entering a new one.

H2O Man


Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words

My favorite politician is the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY). As we approach the anniversary of his death, I like to look through the numerous RFK books in my library, including those written about and by him. This year, I thought I’d share some information on one of those books, as it is as important as it is overlooked by both historians and the general public.

I found the book in Boston, where I was staying for several weeks in late june-early July of 1988. Its title is “Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words (The Unpublished Recollections of the Kennedy Years)” published by Bantam Books (1988). I’ve rarely seen it in other book stores for sale, but I’m sure that in this day and age, one could find copies for sale on the internet.

In 1964, ‘65, and ‘67, Kennedy was interviewed by Anthony Lewis, John Bartlow Martin, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and John Francis Stewart, for the John F. Kennedy Library. The series of interviews cover the “Thousand Days” that President Kennedy served in office. They go into great detail, not only about the issues the Kennedy administration was confronted with, but also the personalities of those in the administration.

Those who, like myself, hold RFK in extremely high regard, tend to separate his public career into two distinct phases: his career before November 22, 1963, and the relatively short span from 1964 until his death in June of 1968. While this is fair, reading this book reinforces the belief that Robert Kennedy had begun his transformation while serving as Attorney General: the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Civil Rights movement expanded his thinking on the conditions the United States was confronted with in both foreign and domestic affairs.

The majority of these interviews were conducted in that brief period between Dallas and his becoming the driven social-political activist between 1966-68, of which his 90-day run for the Democratic nomination for President stands alone in American history. It was that period that most of his biographers refer to as a time of severe depression. This book documents that Kennedy -- not surprisingly -- experienced the range of emotions that are known as the Kubler-Ross model for dealing with death and dying.

In his early career, Robert Kennedy earned a reputation for being “ruthless.” Indeed, that description is something he jokes about in the interviews. His public enemies viewed him as a self-righteous, hostile , vindictive prick. More than a little of this comes through in what Kubler-Ross identifies as the “anger stage” of grief -- in which an individual focuses rage upon proximate people in their surroundings. The mutual dislike between RFK and LBJ is, of course, legendary. However, in the early interviews, Robert attacks the reputations of the majority of those who played roles in the Thousand Days -- both inside and outside the administration. It’s only in the final, 1967 section that one encounters RFK’s acceptance of people and events, although it is clear that he has become re-focused on eventually reaching the goals that he and his brother shared.

For people of my generation, it brings up the two “political” questions that continue to haunt us: what if Dallas had not happened? What if RFK had not been murdered? What direction might our nation have gone in?

The book provides insight into the “everyday” workings of a White House. This includes the built-in tensions between the White House and State Department. It also details the difficulties a President has in exercising control over intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA, as well as the military leadership.

Perhaps the most interesting part, at least for me, was Robert Kennedy’s description of events involving the Bay of Pigs. He tells of how military officers working with the rebel forces as they trained in Nicaragua were prepared to go far beyond the limitations that President Kennedy had laid out for the US military and the para-military forces they were training. His description includes the quote that what they planned was: “Virtually treason!” (page 245)

It was on this foundation, constructed during his pre-Attorney General days, and his experiences in the Kennedy administration, that Robert was transformed into a US Senator and presidential candidate who had the potential to make the United States a much better country. There are, f course, another dozen books that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in that era. RFK’s death in 1968 is part of the history of that period of time -- especially that year -- when our nation underwent a wide range of changes.

H2O Man

Standard Blues Changes

There have been a few discussions regarding the differences between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley on DU:GD in the past month or so. Some of these include informative and valuable insights; others focus on the poster’s opinion; and at least two or three seem to be rather negative. Well, at least that’s my interpretation.

This morning, as I went on my daily walk -- and found a perfect flint arrowhead, circa 1300 ad -- I was thinking about what these three announced Democratic Party candidates have in common. I’m confident that the synergism of my being old and lacking in intelligence insures that my list is far from complete, but I thought it was important.

Each of the three is a superior choice, compared to the announced republican presidential candidates, or any potential republican who may enter the race.

Each of the three can win the national election; this is particularly true if the Democratic Party as a whole works for their election.

Each of the three could lose the election, if the party is divided.

Each of the three could be effective in getting meaningful legislation passed, if the party also works at electing/ re-electing good candidates to the House and Senate, and continues to put pressure upon our elected officials.

Each of the three could find it impossible to pass meaningful legislation, if we do not focus attention upon both Houses of Congress.

Each of the three has strengths and potential weaknesses, as all three are not only human beings, but are politicians.

I’m sure that there are more than this half-dozen common features. If you can think of more, I would appreciate it if you could list them.

H2O Man

Wow! (Your Opinion, Please!)

An associate just sent me the following link. It is to a news article, complete with an audio recording of Senator Ted Cruz. I read the article and listened to the recording; admittedly, I am only half-way through my first cup of coffee this morning, and can't be 100% sure, but I suspect that this could remove this pimple on the republican party's ass.

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