Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do Indiana Republicans Really Care About Voter Fraud?

Note: I wrote the following post with the intent of submitting it to The Indianapolis Star for the IN Touch blog. However, though I tried, I just couldn’t get it down to the length that they are looking for (150 – 250 words). And, in all honesty, I don’t think that it one of the better examples of my writing, but the subject matter is a bit time sensitive and I just don’t have the time right now to keep working on this text. So, I added a few additional thoughts and posted what I’ve written here.

Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly have worked hard to address the threat of in person voter fraud notwithstanding the fact that Indiana had no known cases of actual in person voter fraud. Indiana was so concerned with the issue that we litigated the right to disenfranchise voters all the way to both the United States and Indiana Supreme Courts.

Yet now that Indiana is faced with an actual case of voter fraud on the part of Charlie White, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State — office charged with overseeing Indiana’s elections — most Republicans have remained silent on the issue or put the fraud off to simple mistake. Why is it that they are so vigorous about stopping nonexistent in person voter fraud (and keeping nuns and the poor from voting) and practically silent when one of their own is caught perpetrating an actual fraud? And are we to trust the current Secretary of State, Republican Todd Rokita — who was apparently involved in choosing White to run for the office and who was also apparently a college classmate of White — to conduct the investigation into White’s conduct?

Two other points are worth mentioning. I agree with Matt Tully that the notion of an elected politician not knowing the boundaries of his district is simply implausible (virtually every politician that I’ve met can recite the precise borders of his or her district); moreover, even if plausible, what does that say about the White’s qualifications to be in charge of Indiana’s election laws.

Even more troubling though, is the focus on White’s excuse (oops, I forgot or didn’t have enough time) without really examining the fact that he engaged in actual, affirmative action to conceal that he’d moved out of his district. If he’d simply forgotten to update his registration address, we might give him the benefit of the doubt. But that’s not what happened. Instead, when White moved, rather than changing his registration address to his new address (and thereby becoming ineligible), he changed his address to his ex-wife’s address, where he had not lived for several years. Why did he change his registration to her address rather than his new address? Could it be that he wanted to conceal that his new condo was not within his district? Why else would a politician take the time to lie about where they live? Are we expected to believe that when he changed his registration address he forgot about where he really lived?

Do we really want a Secretary of State who is willing to commit fraud just to stay on a town council? And why, if Republicans are so concerned with voter fraud, aren’t they clamoring for an investigation and prosecution or calling for White to be removed from the ballot? I wonder if it might have something to do with the fact that “major party” status and access to the ballot in Indiana is premised upon votes garnered in the race for Secretary of State.

Oh, one more thought: I suspect that Charlie White could be found guilty and he’d still win the election in November. Hell, he’d probably win from a jail cell. Why? His opponent is an African American named Vop Osili. Hopefully, Hoosiers will take the time to learn about Vop (hint, try visiting his website) and make their choice on the basis of issues and qualifications (not to mention character and fitness for the office). But I’m afraid that Charlie White will beat Vop Osili for the same reasons that Tim Crawford beat Dr. Nasser Hanna in the Democratic primary back in May.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

A Few Pre-Election Things to Contemplate

Here are just a few things to think about as we approach the mid-term elections (in no particular order):

  • Do Republican and Tea Party candidates believe that global warming is a threat to our planet? If not, how will that viewpoint impact environmental and energy legislation?
  • Several Republican and Tea Party candidates have indicated that they oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest. How does that square with your view? (And just think of a family in which the husband lost his job at an auto company because Republicans didn’t want to give a bailout and that can’t afford health insurance and the wife is raped but who, if Republicans had their way, would nevertheless have to have the child and pay for the cost of health care during the pregnancy.)
  • Many Republican and Tea Party candidates want to repeal “Obamacare” (incidentally, if you hear someone refer to it as Obamacare instead of health care reform, you can be sure where that person likely stands). Which if any elements of the health care reform would they keep? Denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, even for children? Co-pays on preventive screenings? Children being able to remain on their parents’ coverage until 26? Ability to drop coverage when someone actually needs it? Do Republicans represent humans or insurance companies?
  • Republicans and Tea Party candidates opposed the stimulus act. Query what the economy might have looked like if there hadn’t been a stimulus act. How many more jobs would have been lost? Would we be in the midst of a great depression?
  • Republicans also opposed the auto bailout. But ask these questions: How many people would have lost their jobs if GM and/or Chrysler shut down and who would have been hurt by those shutdowns and job losses? Obviously, the workers would have been hurt. But would hedge fund managers and bankers and insurance company executives have been hurt? Would you?
  • Why is it that Republicans oppose additional regulation of the banking industry? And while thinking about that, don’t forget that the Republican led Congress last decade made it harder for consumers to declare bankruptcy, and gave additional protections to credit card companies.
  • Why do so many Republican candidates refuse to debate or to even give interviews to media (other than Fox News)? How can voters really learn about a candidate’s views if the candidate will only accept “softball” questions from friendly media?
  • Do you support things like the Civil Rights Act or Americans With Disabilities Act or fair pay provisions? Many Republicans and Tea Party candidates don’t.
  • And what do you think of repealing the 14th or 17th Amendments to the Constitution? Lots of Republicans and Tea Party candidates think that’s a good idea.
  • Do Republican and Tea Party candidates endorse the racist and violent rhetoric so prevalent at tea party rallies? Don’t forget that New York’s gubernatorial candidate was caught sending out incredibly vile racist emails about President Obama and the Republican Senate candidate in Nevada suggested people might resort to 2nd Amendment remedies, talks about the need to “take out” Harry Reid, and argues that there are “domestic enemies” in Congress.
  • Why are Republicans and Tea Party supporters so unwilling to believe that President Obama is a Christian but willing to give Christine O’Donnell a complete pass for her admitted dabbling in witchcraft?
  • For that matter, why are so many Republicans unable or unwilling to believe facts put in front of them (whether it be global warming or President Obama’s birth certificate) and what does that say about the way that they’ll govern?
  • What do you think about stem cell research? Republicans don’t like it very much.
  • Do we want politicians in power who are so afraid of homosexuals that they won’t let them help protect our country and who are willing to amend the Constitution to deprive them of the right to marry?
  • Do we want politicians who essentially refuse to even discuss comprehensive immigration reform and who think that it’s acceptable to engage in racial profiling?
  • If Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives, will Rep. Darrell Issa spend the next two years issuing subpoenas to the Obama administration, trying to find dirt the same way the Republicans did during the Clinton administration? Will they try to impeach President Obama for “being a socialist” or “bowing down to Muslims” or whatever other contrivance they can come up with?
  • Why is that Republicans don’t like limits on campaign spending, especially unlimited spending by corporations? And why is that they don’t think that those spending enormous sums to influence our elections should have to disclose who they are or where their funding comes from?
  • Are we really expected to believe that Republicans will take steps to lower spending and reduce the deficit when they came into office in 2000 with a surplus and blew it? Don’t forget that the estimates are for deficit increases of $700 billion if the tax cuts on those earning more than $250,000 are continued and $100 billion if health care reform is repealed. Oh, and don’t forget this: It was Republicans who wrote the current tax provisions and provided that they would expire this year precisely because of the impact on the deficit!
  • Finally, consider this: Do we really want our legislative leaders to be people who get their information from Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and are afraid to even criticize Rush Limbaugh?

Look, I could go on and on and on. But spend a bit of time thinking about what our country would look like now had Republicans been in power these last 22 months. Would the deficit be smaller? Maybe, because there might not have been a stimulus or auto bailout. But then how many more people would be out of work? How much lower would our tax revenues have been? Would we be in the throws of another great depression? Would our health care insurance premiums continued to rise at unsustainable rates at the same time that millions and millions of Americans were unable to purchase affordable insurance? Would banks be continuing to engage in highly risky transactions that could keep our economy on the brink? Would we still be throwing more and more soldiers into Iraq and Afghanistan?

I understand that some are upset with the Democrats. I am, too. Of course, I’m angry because they haven’t been able to do enough (largely because of the obstacles set up by the “Party of No”). But instead of just saying, “Gee, I’m mad at Democrats, so I’ll vote for Republicans,” think about whether that will serve any good purpose or will just be a case of cutting of your nose to spite your proverbial face.

And for those of you in Indiana, recognize that if we allow Dan Coats to return to the Senate or if we allow wingnuts like Jackie Walorski or Marvin Scott to serve in Congress, we’re handing control to the lunatic fringe. We can’t – neither Indiana nor America – let that happen.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Indianapolis Star Asks About Lessons of Atonement and Repentance

This past weekend Jews celebrated Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Apparently in recognition of the holiday, The Indianapolis Star included an article “Yom Kippur's message is vital to us all” in which three local faith community leaders (a Methodist Reverend, Jewish Rabbi, and Sikh community spokesperson) addressed the question: “What lessons do its central themes of atonement and repentance offer to people of all faiths?”

What struck me as odd about this article was the very notion of having people who are not Jews commenting on the core subject of the most important Jewish holiday on that very holiday. Could you imagine Buddhists and Jews being asked their views on resurrection on Easter or Muslims and Native Americans being asked about the lessons of Christmas? I don’t find the responses or viewpoints objectionable, but I wonder at the appropriateness and timing of the article.

Am I too sensitive or does anybody else find this a strange article?


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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Further Deterioration of Responsible Journalism

Think of all the movies that you’ve seen about newspaper or magazine reporters where the surly editor-in-chief pushes the reporter to be sure that the “big story” has been carefully fact-checked before the story is printed. I’ve always imagined (or at least hoped) that there was some kernel of truth to those portrayals of journalism. Unfortunately, television news (in particular Fox News) doesn’t seem to subscribe to this vision of journalism; then again, at least with regard to Fox News, it may simply be that the network recognizes that they’re not practicing journalism, so doesn’t see any reason to keep up the pretense. More unfortunately, the deterioration of responsible journalism continues in the print media.

In the current issue of Forbes conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza has written an article on the subject of “How Obama Thinks”. In summary, D’Souza’s argument is that President Obama looks at the world from a Kenyan anti-colonialist viewpoint because, of course, the father that abandoned Obama and his mother when Obama was a child – and who Obama subsequently had virtually no contact with – was from Kenya.The article has been roundly criticized (at least on the left) for its racist overtones and ridiculous conclusions; however, right-wing “luminaries” like Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck have praised the article and echoed D’Souza’s conclusions.

So what does D’Souza’s article have to do with the deterioration of responsible journalism? Well, beyond the obvious question of how a serious magazine could publish drivel like this (oh, wait, I forgot that Steve Forbes is involved with Forbes…), one need only read through the second paragraph of the article to realize how devoid of facts D’Souza’s conclusions are:

The President's actions are so bizarre that they mystify his critics and supporters alike. Consider this headline from the Aug. 18, 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal: "Obama Underwrites Offshore Drilling." Did you read that correctly? You did. The Administration supports offshore drilling--but drilling off the shores of Brazil. With Obama's backing, the U.S. Export-Import Bank offered $2 billion in loans and guarantees to Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras to finance exploration in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro--not so the oil ends up in the U.S. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil.

Does any of that sound familiar?

Allow me to reprint a portion of my blog entry of June 24, 2010 (“Dan Burton Parrots a Glenn Beck Lie to Smear President Obama”):

I called to complain about a charge that Rep. Burton made on the floor of the House of Representatives earlier this week that was designed to smear President Obama. The allegation came a day after Glenn Beck made the same allegation (with pretty drawings on his chalk board, no less) on Fox News. The problem? The allegation is totally false. Moreover, it was proven to be false at least nine months ago. Yet both Beck and Rep. Burton were willing to place that allegation front and square before the American public and to hell with truth and accuracy. That is what is wrong with politics in America today.

The allegation in question has, in one form or another, been around for over a year. It has made its way into one of those ever-present chain emails … [the chain email message can be viewed in my original post]

But here is what (a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center) said about the allegation back in September 2009:

This claim stems from a "preliminary committment" made back on April 14 by the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The bank intends to loan up to $2 billion to finance exports to the Brazilian oil company Petróleo Brasileiro S.A., known as Petrobras, over the next several years.

The e-mail is false on two counts.

  • The message falsely says the decision was due to an "executive order" by the president. No presidential order was required. Furthermore, none of President Obama’s appointees had joined the Ex-Im board at the time of the vote, which was unanimous, and bipartisan. The Ex-Im Bank states: "In fact, at the time the Bank’s Board consisted of three Republicans and two Democrats, all of whom were appointed by George W. Bush."
  • The message falsely claims that "we have absolutely no gain" from the loan. In fact, the loan is being made specifically to finance purchase by Petrobras of U.S.-made oilfield equipment and services. The mission of the Ex-Im Bank is to encourage exports by making such loans.

The bank’s chairman and president, Fred P. Hochberg, underscored the purpose of the loan during a trip to Brazil at the end of July:

Ex-Im Bank President Hochberg, July 29: I chose Brazil as my first international destination for good reason: Brazil is a powerhouse among South American economies and offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. exporters in many sectors. I want Brazilians to know that Ex-Im Bank has the will and the capacity to finance their purchases of U.S. equipment, products and services

Obama appointed Hochberg to the Ex-Im Bank on April 20, nearly a week after the board voted to approve the loan. He was confirmed May 14 and sworn in May 21.

The Ex-Im Bank also would like it known that no loan has yet been made, and that the "preliminary commitment" could eventually result in either a direct loan or a loan guarantee. Either way, the Ex-Im Bank states, "no taxpayer dollars are involved." The bank is self-sustaining.

It is also worth noting that if you go to the website for the Export-Import Bank of the United States and type “Petrobras” in the search box, you’ll find several articles describing and discussing the proposed loan transaction, including the an article entitled “Facts About the Proposed Ex-Im Bank Loans for Petrobras' Brazilian Offshore Oil Exploration and Development”:

Background on Ex-Im Bank:

Charges and facts:

Charge: The U.S. government is giving away more than $2 billion in taxpayer dollars to Brazil’s largest oil and gas company to drill for oil in Brazil.

Fact: The Bank has approved a preliminary commitment to lend up to $2 billion to Petrobras for the purchase of American-made goods and services. The funds will go to American exporters as payment for their sales to the company. Of note, the Bank is self-sustaining and no taxpayer dollars are involved.

Charge: The loans to Petrobras represent a giveaway of U.S. tax dollars.

Fact: The Bank’s activities do not cost the American taxpayer a dime. In fact, since 1992 the American people netted more than $4.9 billion and the jobs those exports created.

Charge: America is exporting jobs to Brazil as a result of the loans.

Fact: Only American made goods and services qualify for Ex-Im Bank loans or guarantees. This is the government doing what it's supposed to do - helping to create U.S. jobs, making sure that Americans get a fair shot at selling goods and services, and helping American workers compete on a level playing field against foreign competition.

Charge: The loan to Petrobras represents a reversal of the Obama Administration’s policies on off-shore drilling.

Fact: The Bank’s bipartisan Board unanimously approved the preliminary commitment to Petrobras on April 14, 2009, before any Obama appointees joined the Bank. In fact, at the time the Bank’s Board consisted of three Republicans and two Democrats, all of whom were appointed by George W. Bush.

Read Chairman Hochberg's Letter to the Editor that appeared in the August 21, 2009 editions of the Wall Street Journal.

So if D’Souza is so far off on the facts in the second paragraph of his article why should we trust anything else that he says? I’ve skimmed the article (why bother reading it?) and the fallacies and half-truths come fast and furious; it’s almost as if he scoured the Internet for every anti-Obama allegation that he could lay his hands on and then reprinted them as truth without so much as a simple analysis to see if any of those allegations was even partially accurate. D’Souza almost … almost … makes Fox News and Glenn Beck look like responsible journalists. You don’t suppose that the article has anything to do with D’Souza’s desire to sell new his new book, quaintly entitled The Roots of Obama's Rage?

And what of the responsibility of Forbes to fact-check information before it is presented in the magazine? D’Souza’s article is the Forbes cover story. So why should we trust anything that is printed in Forbes either?

As I’ve been saying for years now, to the Right, facts simply aren’t important, especially when it comes to smearing President Obama. The effort to unburden the electorate of facts and to present lies as truth (1984, anyone?) is a dangerous path down which the Right it taking America. In November we have a chance to show that these tactics don’t work. But I’m afraid that too many people have already been influenced by the lies (what percent of people think President Obama is a Muslim or not born in the US?) and that we may soon be subject to “government (lie to) the people, of the (lying) people, and for the (rich) people”. That may be just what people like Dinesh D’Souza, Steve Forbes, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, and Dan Burton want.


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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

US Army Soldiers Punished for Choosing Not to Attend Evangelical Christian Concert

I remember when I was in high school having an argument with the school administration because the entire school was expected to attend a school assembly shortly before Christmas at which the school’s choir was to sing Handel’s Messiah. I was also told that students would be expected to rise for the Hallelujah chorus. I expressed dismay that the school was requiring students to attend the recital of a religious production (not to mention that this particular oratorio was chosen in the first place) and, especially in the case of non-Christian students, to stand to pay respect to the notion of Jesus as messiah. Let’s just say that the argument did not go well.*

But that was 1983.

Yes despite so many advances, more than a quarter of a century later, some Christians in government still haven’t come to grips with what the separation of church and state is all about:

For the past several years, two U.S. Army posts in Virginia, Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, have been putting on a series of what are called Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concerts. As I’ve written in a number of other posts, “spiritual fitness” is just the military’s new term for promoting religion, particularly evangelical Christianity. And this concert series is no different.

On May 13, 2010, about eighty soldiers, stationed at Fort Eustis while attending a training course, were punished for opting out of attending one of these Christian concerts. The headliner at this concert was a Christian rock band called BarlowGirl, a band that describes itself as taking “an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God.”

Any doubt that this was an evangelical Christian event was cleared up by the Army post’s newspaper, the Fort Eustis Wheel, which ran an article after the concert that began:

“Following the Apostle Paul's message to the Ephesians in the Bible, Christian rock music's edgy, all-girl band BarlowGirl brought the armor of God to the warriors and families of Fort Eustis during another installment of the Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concert Series May 13 at Jacobs Theater.”

Apparently the commanding officers did everything they could to make it clear to soldiers that they were expected to attend the show, including marching them all to the theater. According to one soldier who chose not to attend the show:

We were to be on lock-down in the company (not released from duty), could not go anywhere on post (no PX, no library, etc). We were to go to strictly to the barracks and contact maintenance. If we were caught sitting in our rooms, in our beds, or having/handling electronics (cell phones, laptops, games) and doing anything other than maintenance, we would further have our weekend passes revoked and continue barracks maintenance for the entirety of the weekend.

Yes, you read that correctly. Soldiers in the United States Army who chose not to attend an evangelical Christian concert were required to perform maintenance (i.e., cleaning the barracks) and couldn’t even sit in their rooms or go to the library!

What message does this send to non-Christians (or even non-evangelical Christians) in the military? Are Jews and Muslims not welcome in the US Army? And when did it become the responsibility of the US military (there are ongoing allegations of aggressive evangelical proselytizing at the US Air Force Academy) to promote evangelical Christianity?

*After arguing with the Dean, he agreed that students who did not want to attend could go to the library and sit quietly, but he refused to tell the student body that this option was available. He also suggested that I talk to the choir teacher. When I expressed my concerns to her, she explained that Messiah was sung because of the fabulous example of multi-part harmony (or some kind of musical mumbo-jumbo) and not because of its religious message.

“If that’s true,” I asked her, “why don’t you sing it during the spring recital?”

“Because then it would lose its meaning,” she replied.


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Mayor Brainard Believes That Americans “Are a Smarter People Than to Blame a Radical Act of Terrorism on an Entire Religion”.

Yesterday, I wrote about my loss of respect for Sen. Richard Lugar because of his stance (or lack thereof) on the Park 51/“Ground Zero Mosque” issue. Today, I saw the following story about another Republican politician, Carmel's Mayor Jim Brainard. His views on the subject should be a shining example to all of us, especially politicians like Sen. Lugar:

While Carmel is a long way from New York and ground zero, the city, which is outside of Indianapolis, has a connection.

After 9/11, New York’s fire department was decimated by the losses at the World Trade Center. So Carmel, at its own expense, sent its senior fire department trainers to New York to help the NYFD quickly train new recruits to help keep the city safe.

The next year, New York sent a group of firefighters to Carmel to thank the city for its effort, says Mayor Brainard.

Brainard, who was involved in the decision to help New York, knows the World Trade Center site and some of the firefighters who worked in the days and weeks to try to recover victims' remains. He has no issues with the proposed Cordoba Initiative.

“This country was built on the premise of freedom of religion,” says Brainard, who was passing through New York on his way to speak at a conference in Qatar, a Middle East emirate. “We are a smarter people than to blame a radical act of terrorism on an entire religion.”

Bravo. Now that’s what I call leadership.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I’m Losing Respect for Sen. Lugar

First, a confession. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) has been my Senator since before I could vote. In fact, he was elected to his second term two years before I turned 18. And, though I’m a Democrat, I’ve always thought very highly of, respected, and even supported Sen. Lugar. But my respect has begun to wane. In recent years, I’ve felt that Sen. Lugar lost his ability (or desire) to think independently and became just another Republican. From time to time, he’d recapture some of the spark that made him so distinguished, but those moments seem fleeting. And over the last two years, he’s been all too quiet as Congressional Republicans have become simply the party of “no” without any new ideas or direction.

Now as you might be able to guess, I’m the kind of person that routinely contacts my Congressmen to tell them what I think about certain issues. I make sure to have a good idea of what I want to say and to try to make my point cogently and concisely (yeah, I know…). And I try to remember to call to say “thanks” when they do something that I like, not just calling to complain or to oppose something.

So a few weeks ago, I read or heard that Sen. Lugar said that he was not going to take a position on the Park 51 community center (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”). This struck me as wrong, especially given Sen. Lugar’s expertise on foreign affairs and his position as a senior statesman among Congressional Republicans. Therefore, I called his office and expressed two thoughts: First, I told the staffer to whom I spoke, that I strongly supported the right of those who want to build Park 51 and that the decision of whether doing so was a good idea should be left to that group; second, I explained that I thought it was important for a Senator with the seniority, expertise, and gravitas of Sen. Lugar to make a forceful statement recognizing the right to build Park 51 and the importance of freedom of religion to our country and society. The staffer thanked me and said that he’d pass my message to Sen. Lugar.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I received the following letter from Sen. Lugar’s office a few days ago:

Thank you for sharing with me your opposition to a proposal to construct a mosque and Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero.

While this matter will be decided by the City of New York and New Yorkers, I agree that the site’s proximity to Ground Zero, where more than 2,600 innocent civilians lost their lives, as well as the concerns of surviving family members, should be taken into account as the City considers whether or not to allow this project to move forward. I will continue to closely follow this matter.

Excuse me?

Not only did my support somehow morph into opposition, but Sen. Lugar apparently now believes that the right to construct a house of worship or cultural center is, at least in part, dependent upon the concerns of third parties? Funny, but the last time that I read the First Amendment, I missed the part where it said “except when the exercise of Freedom of Religion might offend someone else”. By Sen. Lugar’s formulation, does that mean that construction of a Catholic church should depend on whether parents of children might be offended or whether the sensitivities of Jews (for 2,000 years of claims of deicide and such things as the Spanish Inquisition) might be impacted? Do Muslims have the right to build a mosque in a community that lost soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan? Do Japanese have a right to erect cultural centers in Honolulu? Do southerners have a right to preach or waive Confederate battle flags north of the Mason-Dixon line? Do Mormons have a right to posthumously “baptize” non-Mormons? Do Christians have the right to proselytize me? This kind on nonsense can go on forever.

I still don’t know if Park 51 is a good idea. But that’s not my decision or concern. Those of the right who are so worried about erosion of the Constitution need to stop and think about what freedoms we’re really trying to protect and which parts of the Constitution they actually do like (besides the Second and Tenth Amendments). And people like Sen. Lugar need to grow some proverbial cojones and stand up for the rights that our Constitution guarantees to all citizens, not just to the favored majority.

Over the years, Sen. Lugar has done a lot of good things for America, Indiana, and even the world. But his position on this matter further erodes my support and respect for the man.

One other point. When I received Sen. Lugar’s letter, I called his office to tell them that they’d made a mistake and to move my tally from oppose to support. I got angry at the staffer to whom I spoke when he didn’t offer much of an apology for my position being misidentified in the first place. And then I got very angry when he repeated, several times, that Park 51 is a mosque. I told him that it was my understanding that it was a cultural or community center that would have a room for worship but that it was not principally a mosque. I felt that he expressed derision at this point of view. I told him that I thought it was important that decisions like this be made on the basis of facts and honesty and not talking points being thrown about by Islamophobes or Fox News. He said that he’d pass my message to Sen. Lugar. Unfortunately, I no longer trust that the messages from constituents are being accurately reported to Sen. Lugar; instead, I suspect (and I’d say that the letter that I received is evidence) that he’s hearing from his staff the messages that they like for him to hear.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Yet More Tea Party Signs: Racism, Violent Rhetoric, and Idiocy

And here we go yet again. On Saturday, September 12, 2010, tea partiers gathered in Washington once again to protest … um … er … something or other. And once again, photographs show that the tea partiers aren’t violent or racist or stupid. (Note: Many of these photos are taken from a slideshow available at Talking Points Memo.)

1You could probably stop after looking at just this photo; it should be enough to chill to the bone any American who values our political process. Recall the photos from prior tea party rallies claiming that protestors “came unarmed this time” (see the 19th photo in this prior post, for example). Well, apparently, we’re expected to understand that if the tea party wingnuts don’t get their way at the ballot box, we can expect that they’ll be resorting to bullets. One question: What does this idiot mean by restoration? What does he want to restore?

gallery-smalltea5 Again, remember that the tea party isn’t about race. That’s why they keep repeating President Obama’s middle name; that’s why they show him in a turban or keffiyeh; and that’s why they call him an “Imam”. Nope, no racism or Islamophobia from this fan of the Washington Senators. And I’d love to hear this guy make the case that President Obama has committed treason (for which the Constitution provides a penalty of death).

gallery-smalltea7I liked this picture in a sort of “two-for-one” way. First we have the reference (remember, no racism or birtherism here…) to President Obama as a Kenyan. And then we have the quaint suggestion that “Obama-ism is Socialism”. Um, can somebody explain what Obama-ism is? Would that have something to do with trying to help people get back to work? Might it have anything to do with trying to make health care affordable? Or perhaps it has something to do with trying to regulate banks so that they don’t cause another global financial meltdown. And for the record, if President Obama really was a socialist, don’t you think that he would have simply proposed a massive government jobs program similar to the Works Progress Administration that directly employed millions of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression rather than promote programs that sought to have private businesses employ Americans? If President Obama really was a socialist, wouldn’t he have pushed much more forcefully for a single payer system rather than keeping insurance companies in place? Ah, but those “-isms” are sound scary.

gallery-smalltea8 I’m not sure if this is a racist image or not. Something about the horns suggests to me that she isn’t simply objecting to President Obama’s policies. Oh, and I like the bonus “Infidel” shirt the guy is wearing.

gallery-smalltea13 Well, I guess if Sarah Palin says that “refudiate” is a word, then it must be true! One Alaskan idiot makes shit up (remember death panels?) and the wingnut right believes her. Now that’s scary.

gallery-smalltea17 For those who aren’t Christians, I guess that no hope remains? Seriously, though, this poster should help Jews, Muslims, atheists, and other non-Christians understand that the tea party is not an inclusive movement. And did you notice the bonus bit in this photo? Look at the T-shirt of the guy in the foreground. FreedomWorks is the organization run by former Congressman Dick Armey that has been driving much of the tea party movement. When people refer to the tea party as “astroturf” instead of grass roots, it’s because of groups like FreedomWorks that organize the people into the supposed groundswell of “grass roots” support. Here we have a guy who is a “Volunteer Leader” for the astroturf organizer that is paid for by big business.

gallery-smalltea21So many things to say, so little time. Let’s see: President Obama is a terrorist? Well, I suppose people who have been on the receiving end of drone missile strikes might agree with that, but I don’t really think that’s what this guy is referring to. So what terrorist acts has President Obama committed that got this guy’s panties in a knot? Next, he seems to be suggesting that President Obama is both a communist and a Muslim. Again, no racism in the Muslim part of the allegation, right? But do you think that this guy even has a clue what communism really is? I guess we should take him seriously, though, because he is wearing a camouflage cap! Finally, if President Obama is a communist, how can he also be a king (I presume that’s what the crown is for). Aren’t communism and royalty mutually exclusive? Oh? What’s that? Damn, you’re right. My bad. I mistakenly resorted to logic again. I’ll try to refrain from that in the future.


What do you suppose Ronald Reagan would have to say about the tea party, the birthers, the rampant racism and Islamophobia, the threats of violence (not to mention actual use of violence), and the Republicans’ “just say no” approach to governance? I suspect that Ronnie would be appalled.

gallery-smalltea24More of the threats of violence. During the 2008 campaign, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) told Chris Matthews on Hardball that there were people in Congress with “anti-American” views. And recall that Sharon Angle, the Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada, suggested the use of “Second Amendment remedies” and that Sen. Harry Reid should be “taken out”. More recently, she has on several occasions declined to retract a previous assertion that there are “domestic enemies” in Congress. It seems that those on the nutcase right have concluded that an elected representative who favors a policy to which the right objects is, by definition, an enemy of America, because, obviously, only an enemy of America would dare adopt or support a policy with which those on the right disagree. Disagreements about which policy is better are no longer in vogue; instead, a representative (who was, most likely, elected by a majority in that representative’s district) who supports a non-tea party approved position is an enemy who should be “taken out” with “Second Amendment remedies”. Does that call to political violence or even civil war trouble anyone else?

gallery-smalltea25 Does this guy really believe that socialism means that the government is going to begin killing people for their money? Given what we can see of the guy’s age, you have to wonder whether he takes that socialist Social Security check, accepts socialist Medicare, or visits the socialist VA for healthcare?

gallery-smalltea27 And to this couple, the idea of violence against Democrats and liberals seems to have crossed the Rubicon to include violence against moderate Republicans, too. If you’re not on the far right wing, you should apparently be in fear. Oh, I’m sure that these people would say that they only use the targeting crosshairs metaphorically, but given the reek of violence in the air and the extreme partisanship into which our system has descended, isn’t the metaphor more of an incitement?

gallery-smalltea29 I’ll admit that this sign also made me chuckle a bit. But I guess I am a bit confused. Are these guys angry at the unemployed? Are they implying that only liberals are out of work or that if you’re out of work you must be a liberal? And what makes them believe that liberals don’t have proverbial balls? Come on, it doesn’t take a lot of guts to tell insurance companies and big corporations that they can do whatever they want, does it? It doesn’t take a lot of guts to gather with a bunch of folks who look just like you? It doesn’t take balls to make racist and xenophobic attacks against minority groups. But it does take balls to say, “Gee, I want to do what’s right for everyone, not just for myself”. Anyway, I’m glad these guys want to cling to their Bible (though I have to wonder at the lack of facial hair as required by the bible and I suspect that those shirts and pants are made of more than one type of cloth) but what do the guns have to do with anything? Funny, I don’t recall G-d telling people to use their guns to threaten or kill those who want to help the less fortunate? Maybe that was one of Jesus’ lessons from the New Testament that I missed.

gallery-smalltea33Imagine the following: This guy is walking in a shopping mall and he sees an African-American teenager with this image on a T-shirt referring to “The Man” or maybe to the police. Would he be offended? And is this sign appropriate if there are kids at the rally? Ah, who cares. He gets to say “fuck you” in public! Of course, I am curious to know whether he gets his health care via either Medicare or the VA. After all, what he’s saying is that he should be entitled to his government-sponsored health care but the rest of us should fuck off, too.

gallery-smalltea34So, if pressed, do you think that this woman could offer a cogent argument to explain how the Constitution has been eroded. And, if pressed further, do you think that she would be able to distinguish the erosion of the Constitution under the Obama administration from that of the Bush administration? I don’t quite get why these wingnuts are so fixated on the Constitution now (especially the Tenth Amendment) while they watched silently as the Bush administration gave enormous handouts to corporations, imprisoned people without trial, wiretapped Americans without warrants, lied to the public and Congress to get us into a war, outed covert CIA agents, etc. But when President Obama tries to prevent a second Great Depression, tries to get people back to work, tries to provide affordable health care, and tries to regulate banks, the wingnuts yell and scream about the Constitution. Well, at least those parts that they like. They try to amend or repeal the parts that they find inconvenient, like the 14th Amendment, or add new amendment to stop scary advances in society (ooh, gay marriage…).

ZZ4C8449BBOne last birther bit of nonsense.

And finally, a “bonus” irony photo:

gallery-smalltea36For those who don’t know, that’s Andrew Breitbart. He’s the asshole (I see no reason to mince words when it comes to this piece of shit) who helped push the videos that allegedly showed malfeasance by ACORN. Recall, however, that when the full videos were examined, numerous prosecutors determined that the videos had been badly edited to make ACORN look bad. And he’s the same charlatan who pushed the Shirley Sherrod video (the USDA official who was allegedly a racist, when, in fact, she was actually talking about overcoming racism). Breitbart wouldn’t know the truth if it walked up to him and punched him square in the face. He’s a political assassin who uses badly edited video instead of a gun. And this is the guy telling people not to believe “the liberal media”. Give me a fuckin’ break. Breitbart is example #1 (well, maybe #2 after Faux News) of some of the worst problems that our system of government faces.

And a vote for Republicans in November will just reward this monster and those who believe his lies.


This post is the continuation of a series of posts showcasing images of the tea party. Here are links to all (I think) of the other posts in my series:

A Sampling of Signs from the "Tea Bag" Parties That You Didn't See on the News
A Sampling of Signs from the "Tea Bag" Parties That You Didn't See on the News (update 1)
Here We Go Again: More “Tax Protest” Signs
Here We Go Again: More “Tax Protest” Signs (Part 2)
Here We Go Again: More “Tax Protest” Signs (Part 3)
Here We Go Again: More “Tax Protest” Signs (Part 4)
Tea Party Idiots Are Back ... and Just as Vile
How Do We Respond?

and just for fun (with a bit of bonus racism):

Teabonics: More Reasons to Fear the Teabaggers.

I know that there are some dead links in some of those posts. I’ll try to fix them soon.


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Friday, September 10, 2010

What Do Tea Party/Glenn Beck

Watch these two videos recorded at Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington on August 28. See how many claims you can count that are completely made up, devoid of any empirical evidence, or just plain whacky.

Remember in November that these are the people who are going to be going to the polls. How comfortable will you be if these people succeed in electing like-minded (or is that like-out-of-their-freakin’-minded) people to “represent” us in Congress and state houses? These people think that our country is in a downward spiral; I can’t begin to imagine what our country would look like with this mindset in charge.If the views that these folks express give you any pause, then be sure to vote in November.


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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

IN Touch: Electorate Ignorance (Update 2: Letter to the Editor)

On August 23, I posted my sixteenth submission to The Indianapolis Stars IN Touch blog. That post was included in the print edition of The Star on August 25. My post generated several interesting comments and a follow-up letter to the editor printed on August 31, 2010. In this second of two posts (the first post is here), I want to look at that letter to the editor. But first, go back and read my initial post so that this will make some sense.

Before reprinting the letter to the editor, let me explain why I didn’t comment directly to that letter on The Stars website. As of the time of this writing, that letter has generated 199 comments. Many of those comments have been removed for violating the The Stars terms of service (there was a lot of very nasty, very offensive name calling). Moreover, very few of the comments to the letter have anything at all do with the actual subject matter of my post or the letter itself. Rather, those comments are largely nothing more than rants against President Obama in particular or those on the political left in general. And the hate being spewed is simply nauseating and frightening. I’d planned to re-post some of the most offensive comments in order to give readers a sense of what people are actually saying (especially when shielded by anonymity) but most of the comments that I wanted to share have (probably wisely) been removed.

So, with the thoughts from my original post in mind, let’s look at the letter to the editor from Gerardo Larreategui:

A recent poll revealing that 20 percent of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim elicited the usual denunciations of ignorance, fear and prejudice in the Aug. 25 Letters section. I decided to tackle the issue via the sort of "careful analysis" IN Touch blogger Michael Wallack so rightly praises, by actually reading the results of the Aug. 18 Pew Forum Poll.

Wallack and letter writer Carlie Anderson both made the erroneous assumption that anyone who subscribes to the Obama-is-a-Muslim trope must therefore hold a negative view of both Islam and the president. The poll reveals, however, that 26 percent of those who believe that Obama is a Muslim approve of his job performance. About 5 percent of Americans, then, would seem to view a Muslim president in positive terms. Perhaps the real prejudice is with those who automatically assume that the Muslim label -- even when erroneously applied -- is invariably a "bad thing."

So, did you notice anything interesting about Mr. Larreategui’s letter?

First, Mr. Larreategui suggests that I “made the erroneous assumption” that believing that President Obama is a Muslim equates to a negative view of President Obama and Islam. I went back and re-read my post and I can’t find any such assumption, at all. My analysis focused on the question of why religion mattered at all, how and why people were willing to believe proven fallacies, and what it means to our political system when disinformation rules the day. Moreover, my ultimate suggestion was simply that we demand more from our politicians and media and be more careful in our analysis of the facts upon which we rely.

Rather than focus on why people believe in the fallacy and on the real critical question of what the media, in particular that portion of the media that serves, essentially, as the communications arm of the Republican party (remember shortly after President Obama was elected when Fox News’ president identified the network as the voice of the “loyal opposition”), Mr. Larreategui attacks those who worry about people falling for misinformation. I’m not sure if that is technically an ad hominem attack, but in any event, it completely ignores the real problem. By diverting attention to the fact that some people may approve of a Muslim President or that by even raising the issue, I must be assuming that people hold negative views of Islam, Mr. Larreategui seeks to avoid discussion of why people and certain media outlets would lend credence to or actively disseminate false information and the danger that has on our political system. Oh, and with regard to any assumption about negative views of Islam, the protests against the “Ground Zero Mosque” or the arson at a mosque in Tennessee certainly don’t demonstrate any Islamophobia… Mr. Larreategui wants to divert attention and throw around claims of prejudice without examining the real issues.

For the record, here’s the letter from Carlie Anderson to which Mr. Larreategui also refers:

The Star reports that 20 percent of Americans wrongly believe that President Obama is a Muslim (Aug. 19). This is after that belief has been corrected, as it was this morning in The Star, many times. Ignorance and prejudice and fear all feed one another. Unfortunately, I think we are living in times when misconceptions and rumors such as this are rampant.

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IN Touch: Electorate Ignorance (Update 1: Comments)

On August 23, I posted my sixteenth submission to The Indianapolis Stars IN Touch blog. That post was included in the print edition of The Star on August 25. My post generated several interesting comments and a follow-up letter to the editor printed on August 31, 2010. In this first of two posts, I’ll share some of those comments. In the second post, I’ll look at the letter to the editor. But first, go back and read my initial post so that this will make some sense.

Several comments were posted in response to my IN Touch post (for some reason, IN Touch posts generate far fewer comments than other editorials and letters to the editor; that may have something to do with those IN Touch posts being a bit harder to find on The Star’s website if you don’t know quite what you’re looking for). Note that typos are from the original comments.

Bryan Hudson:

Anyone with half a brain knows that the president is a Christian, not a Muslim. So what does that say about those who say he is a Muslim. Do these folk want to be taken seriously? If they run for office, who will vote for them? Will they get votes from minorities or law-abiding Muslims?

Do they care about having their votes? Certainly not!

There's just not enough birthers, "Muslimers," and Tea Partiers to become a victorious regional or national movement.

These folks get all excited and make a lot of noise, but thinking people, including sensible conservatives don't buy it.

It's little more than self- marginalization in my view.


I really don't care what President Obama's religon is. It is a non-issue. What I do care about are his policies and where he wants to take this country. Those are the things I object.

Mick Lee:

Anyone who pays attention knows those "truthers" who believe secret American government agences flew those planes into the World Trade Center and the Petagon do a lot of damage to the body politic. Those who repeat "Bush lied, Men died" over and over would rather sing a little rhyme than read their history. And those who say the Republicans are "the party of the rich" never have compared the donor lists between the Dem's and the GOP.

Spreading poltical untruths doesn't just mean people are too foolish to inform themselves. There are also those who use untruths for malace.

Keeping up with national politics and foreign affairs requires work and more than just taking notes two weeks before election day. It certainly takes more than reading the Star, watching Jon Stewart or listening to David Letterman.

It also means that the most idiotic "birther's" vote counts just as much as your well-considered ballot. Welcome to America, me Bucko. Don't like it? Yeah things are touch all over.



You're comparing the concept that Bush & co. led us into war on less-than-truthful information to the idea that Obama is a sort of Muslim Manchurian candidate? My God! They're not even on the same crazy-scale!

Yes, it may be a bit of a stretch to say that Bush intentionally lied (about WMDs, about Iraq's connections to al-Qaeda, about Iraq's pursuit of "yellow cake," about the imminence of a mushroom cloud) but it's far from looney to say that the administration bent the truth on the threat posed by Iraq.

On the other hand, claiming that Obama was born in Kenya, that he's a practicing Muslim, that his birth certificate is a fake. That's some crazy stuff! And it's endorsed by a solid core of conservative elected officials! This isn't fringe element fanatics... these are people who actually vote on bills.

Good try on moral equivalence but the right is working on a whole other level these days.

Master of Business Administration:

Anyone with half a brain knows that the president is a Christian, not a Muslim.... Yeah, but most Americans don't have half a brain these days. Americans are grossly overeducated in worthless general knowledge terms and essentially ignorant and uneducated in the things that count in life.

Mick Lee:

Jeremy: You will note that I said nothing about the question of Obama's religion. (For the record, I say that if Obama says he is a Christian I am inclined to take him at his word.) My comment was on the body of Mr. Wallack's essay concerning an electorate which does not educate itself.

We can go back and refight the whole belated "ramp up to war" debate and how those who claim Bush knew then what we know now are full of cr*p. Let's just note that those in Congress who are the cheerleaders for the "Bush lied" team were also among those who raced to be at the front of the saber rattlers before the war. They were privy to the very same intelligence that Bush and co. were. Likewise, I know a whole bunch of former "warmongers" who now claim they knew all along that America should have never gone to war and were against doing so from the very beginning.

"...solid core of conservative elected officials"? Really? Just who are these folk? A "solid core"? Just who are these nimrods you are talking about?

Conservatives generally fall into two responses to the whole "is Barak a born American?" brawl. The first gets annoyed whenever the question gets pointed in their direction. It is an "issue" not worth the time or effort to answer--and it is certainly not an issue they need to beat asorted Democrats in the Fall. The second step back in amusement at the Obama administration's hamfisted handling of the whole matter. It's a dumb issue; but it is fun watching Obama and company trip all over it.

Only liberals think and speak in terms of "moral equivalence".


Mick Lee:

Quick question: Why are you only "inclined" to take President Obama at his word with regard to his religion?



Per the run-up to the war in Iraq, my point is not that Bush lied, or whether his administration distorted (or even manufactured) evidence against Iraq. All I'm saying is that the theory of the Bush administration making a less-than-honest case for war is far more sane than claiming Obama is a Muslim Manchurian candidate.

As for the "solid core of conservative elected officials" who espouse Obama-related conspiracy theories:

Republicans who co-sponsored H.R. 1503 "Birther Bill": Bill Posey, Marsha Blackburn, Dan Burton, John Campbell, John Carter, Michael Conaway, John Culberson, Trent Franks, Louis Gohmert, Robert Goodlatte, Kenny Marchant, Randy Neugebauer, and Ted Poe.

Senator Richard Shelby reportedly said, "Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate."

Not to mention the 31 Arizona State congressmen who voted in favor of the Arizona version of the "Birther Bill" and those who are advancing similar bills in Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma.


It matters to me Michael, what a person believes in matter of faith (or the lack thereof) for the following reason: Everyone of us has a worldview. We see the world around us through a lens that is focused by what we believe. I believe man was created by God in his image, and life is sustained by Him. In other words, the only reason I am breathing is because he allows it. It shapes my decisions on right and wrong, on truth and lies, over what to do in most any situation. It is no different for someone with no faith in God, or a faith in (insert diety here). There is no Constitutional requirement on faith, nor should there be. But it matters to me. Not because I want him to think just like me, but because what he believes will shape his thoughts and actions. If there is confusion, it isn't due to my having a half or a whole brain, it's more that Obama talks the talk, but I don't see much in him to say "there is a Christian". If he were a Muslim, he hides it pretty well. But I doubt he is. What I believe is he is not much more than a politician. A snake oil salesman who has made millions convincing people they are being held back, they'll never get a fair shot, but he can help them. He will even the playing field, just need to send a check to the campaign office. It would explain the Rev. Wright's church. A big room full of prospective clients. He's a politician. He'll be whatever the room calls for, whatever the crowd needs him to be. Hence the confusion. He's not the great hope that he was advertised to be. As people figure that out, the attacks will come. The president has to have thick skin. Ask any one of them.

The first interesting thing to note (at least to me) is how Mick Lee quickly equates people who don’t believe that President Obama is a Christian to those who believed that President Bush had foreknowledge of 9/11 (so-called “truthers”) or who accused President Bush of lying about WMDs and other issues in the run up to the war in Iraq. Though the difference may be subtle, it is important. On one hand, people are questioning whether President Obama is who he says he is, which really goes to his right to be President and his motives (communist Muslim racist who hates America). In other words, the effort is to delegitimize the man. In the case of President Bush, the criticism wasn’t directed at the man, but rather, at his policies. The better comparison, I suppose, would be to think back and ask how many soldiers refused to believe that President Bush (rather than Al Gore) was the rightful President; how many lawsuits were filed (other than Bush v. Gore) challenging President Bush’s right to be President; and how many lawsuits were filed challenging Vice President Cheney’s right to serve as Vice President given that he was, for all intents and purposes, from the same state as President Bush (in contravention of the Constitution)? There is an important difference between challenging the man as opposed to challenging the policies.

Moreover, at least with regard to the Iraq War there is evidence to support the allegation that President Bush lied. Remember Valerie Plame? Remember the link between Iraq and al-Quaeda? There is no evidence, whatsoever, that President Obama is a Muslim. And again, even if he was, so what? But is that so what the same with regard to taking the nation to war? I don’t think so.

Jeremy hit these observations on the head and was precisely right when he called out Mick Lee’s attempt at moral equivalence. The further dialogue between Mick Lee and Jeremy (with my query tossed in) is, I think, somewhat demonstrative of the issues. But note that Mick Lee never does get around to discussing the principal point to which my post was actually addressed.

Then look at this phrase from Master of Business Administration: “Americans are grossly overeducated in worthless general knowledge terms and essentially ignorant and uneducated in the things that count in life.” In other words, liberal arts knowledge is useless; instead we should all know how to hunt, fish, and farm? This is the sort of attack on the “liberal elite” that we saw during the 2008 campaign when people argued that Sarah Palin was more qualified than Barack Obama to be President. The notion that education is somehow a detriment is truly frightening.

I decided not to respond to Daniel because, frankly, it seemed pointless. But query this: How exactly is it logical to criticize President Obama for attending Rev. Wright’s church at the same time that you suggest (or are willing to even harbor a degree of suspicion) that President Obama is a Muslim? Which is it?

Anyway, in part two, I’ll look at that letter to the editor.

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