Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ron Paul - Right though he is, still more correct than not.

Of course, Ron Paul wants to cut off ALL foreign aid - and he makes a compelling case as to why supporting dictators and "the lesser of two evils" is an inherently bad idea that ultimately sabotages our national interest.

The problem is, we have been blessed with leadership over the last several decades that have been increasingly enamored of poking foreigners with sharp sticks in order to gain domestic support.

The founders - having had all of European history involving The Sport of Kings and various pseudo-religious wars, intended a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of others, backed up with a rattlesnake's response to being trod upon. Paul points out to NEIL CAVUTO that we can hardly afford the logical consequences of continuing this policy. Niel apparently knew better than to argue against the obvious.

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Bob Altemeyer's "The Authoritarians"

I'm devouring this book, and the footnotes are as tasty and entertaining (in a dark, horrifying, goddamit, I TOLD you so sort of way) as the text itself. While this is obviously mandatory socio-political ammunition for democrats and leftists, it's far, far more vital for Centrists, Independents, Libertarians and traditional Conservatives to read and understand.

Bob Altemeyer's - The Authoritarians Chapter 6 Authoritarianism and Politics chapter6.pdf

10 On September 20, 2006 an independent Congressional-watch organization called
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released its second annual “Most
Corrupt Members of Congress Report.” Three senators and seventeen members of the
House were named, most of them hold-overs from the first annual report (although the
news release noted with some glee that two of the previous winners were already on
their way to jail).

I found it instructive to look up the ratings these 20 lawmakers' voting records
received from the Family Research Council, the successor to the Christian Coalition
as the major lobbying organization for the Religious Right. The average was 80%.
Eight of the “most corrupt” had perfect 100% endorsements from the Family Research
Council. The lowest score was a 64% posted by the Democratic Representative Alan
Mollohan from West Virginia. (Seventeen of the twenty “most corrupt” were
Republicans.)

To be sure, many other lawmakers who got high scores from the Family
Research Council did not get named as most corrupt. But I think I read somewhere
that there’s this interesting connection between being a lying, dishonest, amoral
manipulator and becoming a leader of right-wing political/religious movements.
Back to Chapter

And then there's footnote seven, which I absolutely must highlight, with a link to John Dean's book, Conservatives without Conscience, which is referenced here.


7 If anyone ought to be interested in understanding authoritarianism, it’s the
mainstream conservatives who used to form and control the Republican Party. They
have seen their political party hijacked by the most radical element in their party, and
it’s anybody’s guess whether they can get it back. The takeover has been so complete
that many people have forgotten what “conservative” meant before it became
“authoritarian.” I don’t look forward to “conservative” becoming a dirty word the way
“liberal” did. Until we find someone who’s always right, democracy needs both
traditional and progressive voices to choose from. But the principled conservative
options have been badly tarred lately by authoritarianism.
I can’t imagine Senator Barry Goldwater agreeing with, “Our country
desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the
radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.”As John Dean points out,
Goldwater was quite apprehensive about what the “cultural conservatives” would do
to the Grand Old Party. “Mark my word,” the former senator said after the 1994 midterm
election, “if and when these preachers get control of the party, and they’re sure
trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten
me.” (Conservatives Without Conscience, p. xxxiv.)


I should also direct you to a particular post about the book - because of the hilariously ironic "criticism" of Dean's book by people who are clearly RWA's who MUST argue the premise - but cannot even seriously consider it deeply enough to argue, as it would require confronting their own demons. Almost literally.

Mr. Terence J. Nugent says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Hide post again.]
This book'spremise is the most absurd yet. He implies tha the Bush Administration fuels terror to preserve and expand quasi-dictatorial powers. In that case, it called an aisrike in on its own position on 9/11, as the White House was targeted. Perhaps Dean is on the jihadi payroll, as this is absurd as the anti-Zionist theory that the Isaelis did it.

As if this wasn't enought o prevent anyone of siound mind from spending their hard earned money on this abomination, the intellectual bankruptcy of his argument is absolutely appalling. It is axiomatic that left wing and right wing authoritarianisms are mirror images. Left and right traverse a circle that meets at dictatorship. Dean has evidently forgotten the communist authoritarian regimes of Joseph Stalin, Mau Tse Tung et. al. For a domestic example of quasi-liberal authoritarianism exhibit A is the Deomocratic dictatoship in the city of Chicago, and the County of Cook. Of course there is othing more authoitarian than jihadis, who we are trying to fight despite internal resistance from thelikes of Dean.

John Dean was driven mad by Watergate and has since become a pawn of the left, just as he was a pawn of the right during Watergate. He was then, and is now, a dangerously misguided man who would not recognize intellectual honesty if it became incarnate before his blinded eyes.
This is exactly the sort of response, of course, that Bob Altemeyer's research would suggest to be inevitable. And it's certainly exactly the sort of mindless personal attack I've come to expect from those who wish to disagree with an ethical critique, but cannot without defending the indefensible.

And of course, that means that you lose the debate - in rational circles.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Authoritarians

Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians:
"OK, what’s this book about? It’s about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.

“Well,” you might be thinking, “I don’t believe any of this is true.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “What else is new? I’ve believed this for years.” Why should a conservative, moderate, or liberal bother with this book? Why should any Republican, Independent, or Democrat click the “Introduction” link on this page?

Because if you do, you’ll begin an easy-ride journey through some relevant scientific studies I have done on authoritarian personalities--one that will take you a heck of a lot less time than the decades it took me. Those studies have a direct bearing on all the topics mentioned above. So if you think the first paragraph is a lot of hokum, or full of half-truths, I invite you to look at the research."


Bob Altemeyer has been good enough to share the fruits of his labor of years with everyone, for free. (If you don't like screen reading, though, he's got a bound version available for a rather modest $9.95 via Lulu.com.)

We shall probably always have individuals lurking among us who yearn to play
tyrant. Some of them will be dumber than two bags of broken hammers, and some will
be very bright. Many will start so far down in society that they have little chance of
amassing power; others will have easy access to money and influence all their lives.
On the national scene some will be frustrated by prosperity, internal tranquility, and
international peace--all of which significantly dim the prospects for a demagogue
-in-waiting. Others will benefit from historical crises that automatically drop increased
power into a leader’s lap. But ultimately, in a democracy, a wannabe tyrant is just a
comical figure on a soapbox unless a huge wave of supporters lifts him to high office.
That’s how Adolf Hitler destroyed the Wiemar Republic and became the Fuhrer. So
we need to understand the people out there doing the wave. Ultimately the problem
lay in the followers.

The sum of his book is that Authoritarian Personality Disorder is a greater threat to us than the Iraq War, terrorism, the lack of health care and a tanking economy, for all these things are in fact the result of mindlessly following those who lead cynically, mindlessly and abusively, while pandering to the worst of all common denominators.

Spiritual Deceptions - My first GraphicTruth.



`Gospel of wealth' facing scrutiny - Yahoo! News Annotated


The message flickered into Cindy Fleenor's living room each night: Be faithful in how you live and how you give, the television preachers said, and God will shower you with material riches.

And so the 53-year-old accountant from the Tampa, Fla., area pledged $500 a year to Joyce Meyer, the evangelist whose frank talk about recovering from childhood sexual abuse was so inspirational. She wrote checks to flamboyant faith healer Benny Hinnand a local preacher-made-good, Paula White.

Only the blessings didn't come. Fleenor ended up borrowing money from friends and payday loan companies just to buy groceries. At first she believed the explanation given on television: Her faith wasn't strong enough.

By their fruits you will know them.
  • There isn't any reason why a Christian can't be prosperous, of course, but there's nothing in the Bible - or any other spiritual text - that highlights wealth as a special and particular blessing of faith.

    As for those preachers who are enjoying the fruits of their ministry to the extent of living lavish lifestyles and hob-nobbing with presidents and powerful business leaders who love to think that their aquissitive nature is a spiritual gift - "Behold, they have their reward."

    - post by graphictruth

The probe by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has brought new scrutiny to the underlying belief that brings in millions of dollars and fills churches from Atlanta to Los Angeles — the "Gospel of Prosperity," or the notion that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches.

This story is very personal to me - and the connection to Oral Roberts is direct.

You see, my mother - a religious addict by any reasonable use of the term - was much taken with Oral Robert's ministry, back when I was ten or twelve, and on days when she didn't feel up to driving the thirty-odd miles it would take to get us to church, she'd watch his show.

And usually, she'd stuff whatever "love offering" he requested for whatever trinket he was selling that day.

Now, our usual church was Episcopal. Being a dutiful and very aspy child, I took my mother's obvious wish that I become "saved" and conversant with the words and works of Jesus very seriously indeed. And as it happened, that church had a very advanced Sunday school, where we really got our teeth into the word, and chewed it with the help of concordances, interlinear bibles, and various translations. I had my own Amplified Bible, which I found very useful.

To make a long story short, I was quite the little deacon at that point, although I had by that time also learned that in regards to my parents, "hiding my light under a bushel" was by far the best course.

However, when Oral Roberts pulled a "prayer cloth" with his holy blessed hand-print upon it, stated that he'd personally prayed over each and every one of these objects, and because of that, they would by some twisted transubstantiation personally connect him to you via the Holy Idiot Box if you placed your hand over his as he prayed with his own hand raised on Teevee...

Well, this little deacon exploded, and while I didn't speak in tongues - as mother really thought any believer should - for once I did not hold it. Nor was it a "word of knowledge." You don't need that when scriptural first principles are being raped before your eyes.

I pointed out that it was idolatry - both of an object and a man, and as graphic an example of a man placing himself before God, as a god-substitute as you would ever see. It still angers me to this day, that a man professing to be a Christian minister could not even get through the FIRST commandment without pissing all over it.

I say that deliberately, as a graphic and visceral illustration of the clear and mindful insult to both his followers and to the God he pretended to serve.

I was actually rather surprised the roof didn't fall in on him right then. It took a few more years, and the "fall" was metaphorical, but rather satisfying, nonetheless.

But in any case, that one time my mother listened to me and did not actually put twenty bucks in an envelope. But it didn't keep her from sending it off to Bob Schuller. Indeed, she sent hundreds, if not thousands to him. One Christmas, my major gift was a window in the Chrystal Cathedral.

Imagine my joy.



As far as I'm concerned, nothing says "transparent fraud" better than the Crystal cathedral. Although these days it's far from the worst such church. Rev. Bob Schuller was a sincere advocate of an inoffensive ministry that was based more on his blandly optimistic self-help pep-talks than on the Bible.

It was a dose of weekly feelgood that came with no strings of personal obligation, other than to buy his books and be optimistic - and all you needed to do in order to progress spiritually was just that - buy his books and be optimistic.

It wasn't nearly as offensive as the "name it - claim it" theology of Oral Roberts, and that is what my mother fell back into later on.

And just like the bitter woman in this article, my mother ended up bitter and unfulfilled, having sacrificed pretty much everything in a futile quest for sanctity and moral superiority without doing the heavy lifting involved involved in discerning Right Action.

Yes, I am informed by other religious traditions. As should you be, if you are moved toward a quest for spiritual insight. If you merely wish to belong to a church that offers a community of belief at a reasonable price, and puts some effort into doing a good job of it, though, I would recommend either a Catholic or Anglican Communion congregation, depending upon your need for governing authorities.

The important thing in my mind is that neither faith is one that encourages self-righteousness and self-involvement to the same degree as the evangelical, "prosperity gospel" mega-churches.

And that, of course, brings us back into the secular world. Indeed, since we are speaking of Oral Roberts and his Mega-church legacy of sanctified greed and the elevation of
moralism
over actual moral virtue, we have never left the secular realm!

If you have not yet grasped the thrust of my words, let me be blunt - I consider none of these televangelists, with their politicalmaneuverings and highly profitable enterprises to be anything other than entirely secular con-men, or, for the very best of a bad lot, no better than any other motivational speaker.

But the worst of them - Benny Hinn leaps to mind - are fully in the tradition of Marjoe Gortner and P.T. Barnum, but blessed with even less conscience than either of those.

Now, I have studied the Bible from front to back and back to front over the years, searching for the context and intent of the words of Christ. For the most part, I consider what I've learned to be highly personal, and not at all something I feel either comfortable or qualified to preach toward - though it would be easy to argue that my scruples are rather unusual in that regard.

One truth is obvious enough to me to share with you in context. In the times of Jesus, sheep were a vital part of the economy, and nobody could possibly have missed the subtext of Christ saying to his Disciples, "feed my sheep."

It's not a complementary metaphor. There are few animals that make a collie or Irish setter seem bright in comparison, and sheep are at the top of the list. They have been bred over thousands and thousands of years to be meek, inoffensive, biddable, stupid creatures who are incapable of finding food for themselves. They NEED to be "led to green pastures" and "to lie beside still waters."

So when Christ said "feed my sheep," nobody thought it was anything other than a thankless chore involving inherently stupid creatures who needed to gently and compassionately cared for. Jesus cared about his stupid, bleating, sheep like followers, who could as easily be led to war against the Romans as "beside the still waters."

What he did NOT say was "fleece my sheep." And that is what these mega-churches do, with their for profit banks that will helpfully accept direct deposits from your place of work and deduct a thirty percent tithe.

Oh yes. Thirty percent. Some actually take that much.

Tax free, for them. Not for you, of course. Since even if you are able to deduct all the thirty percent, you will still be paying the differential on property and other municipal taxes to allow for that corporate monstrosity.

That's not just fleecing the sheep, it's skinning them alive, and then slaughtering their lambs in front of their bleeding, soon to be corpses.

That metaphor applies to the Evangelically sanctified "war on terror."

Meanwhile, these massive edifices exist without paying property tax or any other fees to the "godless" community they take advantage of, even though the impact is similar to a large stadium in terms of traffic and environmental impact.

All of this is in return for a promise that you will get into heaven eventually, and meanwhile, due to your faith, deserve all kinds of rewards in the here and now.

Some of these churches actually take a step toward making that happen, with an entire "grey" economy wherein all the members essentially agree to do business only with other members of that church - so an illusion of prosperity, and even perhaps a little actual prosperity may occur - but of course, only for a few, who are held up as exemplars of Christian virtue, even though scandal after scandal seems to reveal intentional patterns of fraud, abuse and the worst sorts of sexual and political corruption.

I think we have all suffered enough at the hands of such "virtuous" Christian shepherds, and shoveled all the crap left behind them that we need to grasp the point that they cannot be trusted with the lives and prosperity of those foolish enough to take them at their word. We need to "shake the dust from our feet."

Matthew, Chapter Ten is pretty much the definitive instruction set and doctrinal basis for Evangelism. Inasmuch as it contradicts just about everything mega church, prosperity gospel "evangelists" say and do, you can, and SHOULD take it as Gospel.

After all, it IS Gospel. Believe it, or do not, but if you believe the Bible is true, then you must admit that such creatures are false to the core - and how much more obviously true this must be if you consider the gospels to be a variety of fable.

And as this "prosperity gospel" with it's emotional and authoritarian appeals are so deeply entwined with our current administration and it's political appointees that there is effectively no difference, I suggest that no distinction need be made. We should impeach and convict the lot of them. The righteous need to retake the churches, while those who believe in ethical, constitutional, professional and accountable leadership must retake all three branches of government.

Please do what you can to encourage Sen. Grassley toward Right Action in this regard, that in service to this action of cleansing our body politic of the pernicious influence of corrupt and deceptive churches, he should become a co-sponsor of Dennis Kucinich's Impeachment resolution, if he has not already.

After all, it's the same lot of corrupt bastards, all scratching each other's backs, swapping their private planes and fleecing the gullible sheep.

The goats need to take back their flocks.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Best Political Blog Posts of 2007 | Jon Swift

Witty and skilled political blogger Jon Swift collects the best posts from bloggers on his blogroll. The resulting collection of blog posts reads like a top 50 political blog posts of the year. And Your Humble Scribe is among them, with "Bad Cop, No Doughnut."

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A Dispatch from Second Life

A delightfully sarcastic little video...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Having just Re-Read The Tao, I become Yodafied.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?


Today, I found it important to remind myself of the Tao.

8

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.



Then I stumbled across a silly blogmeme, and found that in reading the Tao, I had become Yodified.

A venerated sage with vast power and knowledge, you gently guide forces around you while serving as a champion of the light.

Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not - for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminescent beings are we, not this crude matter! You must feel the Force around you, everywhere.

Yoda is a is a character in the Star Wars universe. More Yoda information is available at the Star Wars Databank.


Finding my great thoughts mirrored in the mundane and trivial, I feel validated in a zen kinda way.

Madison Avenue has been Automated

generated by sloganizer.net


Sloganizer.net - Instant slogans with our slogan generator.:

The magic of the internet strikes again:

In days of yore, large firms on Madison Avenue used to actually pay people to sit around tables and "brainstorm" slogans such as this program generates randomly, no doubt using some simple table lookup system. Now, such simple tools have been available to even the half-bright since the first PET computer appeared on the market, but of course, one would traditionally secrete a printout of the best slogans in one's briefcase before the client meeting.

Nobody ever imagined a day when such tools might come to the awareness of the client! Horrors! Sacrelidge! The End of the Gravy Train! I mean, how can a wealthy public awareness firm provide it's staff with Eames chairs and Gucchi briefcases when it must compete with slogans of this quality - slogans you may actually recognize from cereal boxes, computer products and even maxipads.

«Graphictruth - be ready.»
«The Power of Graphictruth.»
«Graphictruth for you!»
«Graphictruth - to feel free!»
«Graphictruth is what the world was waiting for.»

Their next logical offering is a Logo Generator that will create a selection of cutting edge corporate definitions from any scanned image - like a coffee stain, an ink blot or a photocopy made of a drunken executive secretary's buttocks at the last corporate Christmas party.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

The Official Graphictruth Unendorsement of Ron Paul

The War on Religion by Rep. Ron Paul: "The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian yet religiously tolerant America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance. Throughout our nation’s history, churches have done what no government can ever do, namely teach morality and civility. Moral and civil individuals are largely governed by their own sense of right and wrong, and hence have little need for external government. This is the real reason the collectivist Left hates religion: Churches as institutions compete with the state for the people’s allegiance, and many devout people put their faith in God before their faith in the state. Knowing this, the secularists wage an ongoing war against religion, chipping away bit by bit at our nation’s Christian heritage. Christmas itself may soon be a casualty of that war."

I think Ron Paul needs the blessing of being on the short end of those taught "morality and civility" by Christian churches. I grew up in a town where there were as many churches as taverns - and there were a LOT of taverns. If the one thing didn't justify a particular flavor of abusive crap, well, the other was there to fill in for it.

As much as I personally benefited from the civility that is undoubtedly well-taught by the Episcopal Church, "morality" and "conformity" were pretty much interchangeable concepts. While some in that church were unquestionably both moral and ethical persons, I would say that at least half were there because it was "the right church" to belong to, if you were "the right sort of person."

It was no different with the Catholics, the Baptists, the Lutherans and the various Evangelical and Pentecostal churches.

Later on, as I came to deal with multiples and abuse survivors and as everyone started comparing notes; there was hardly a one of us where religion had not played a huge role in our abuse - especially the "keeping silence" part. The worse the abuse, the more rigid the facade, the taller the "pillar of the community."

There is a certain sort of person that builds such a facade for the sole purpose of keeping their particular brand of evil out of the public eye, while maintaining a secure hold on their access to victims.

And then, of course, the scandals started to happen as one by one, abused persons gained courage from one another (via the Internet, I suspect) and started disclosing. The Catholic Church has been hit hardest, but none have been immune. And there is one common thread - the idea of unaccountable, unquestionable "moral" authority.

I'm sorry, but if you simply wish to shove government out of the way of theocratic dominion, you and I must have words, Sir, for I've seen to what degree these people can be trusted, these people who wish to rule without the inconvenience of laws and customs that would permit escape from their clutches.

We have only just managed to break their stranglehold of conformity and moralism, just managed to pry their fingers from our throats, and we have just now started to speak seriously of the damage that has been done and how to proceed from here. We continue to fight those who would brand our rebellion and our individuality as evil, we resist those who would cheerfully rally the mobs - and those who would gladly sacrifice their own children upon the altar of Church and Conformity.

I've come by my anti authoritarian views honestly and by a very hard row. I trust none who hold themselves unaccountable, and who rely on religious doctrine and custom to justify their desire to dominate, control and exploit others, while I hold those who bow to and blindly trust Authority as being superior to their own conscience and more reliable than their own eyes.

I have nothing against faith - my faith has kept me alive when by all rights I should not have survived. What I take issue with is social engineering and ritually enforced cultural conformity - and that is all that Christmas has been for the last hundred years or so in these United States; a pastiche of semi-religious, semi-pagan cultural myths which amount to a shared cultural tradition. It is not a matter of faith, or a matter of true religion - it's merely a way of governing the lives of others without being accountable to an electorate or subject to the strictures of Constitution or law. And if it's somewhat benign on the surface, and behind closed doors in many cases, possibly even most - for the sake of those whom the facade is a prison, it must become both optional and transparent.

You, Ron Paul, should damn well know better, working as you do in such a den of vipers, knowing full well the distinction between the substance and the facade it conceals. There's a reason why there IS a constitution - and it's to trump those who would rule by Church, by Fiat and by Tradition.

Up to now, you have said all the right things to impress me. But it seems that as I cast about, you say quite different things to different audiences - and the whole speaks to me of a man who confuses conformity to social norms with morality, and would might well pander to shibboleths, rather than dealing with the scientifically described reality that presidents must - lest they be compared to George Bush.

And it seems to me that when doing the right thing and deference to authority come into conflict, you disappoint me. The fact that you contradicted your own position on the need to impeach Cheney means I must question your motives and alliances. The Largest Minority asks "Why did Ron Paul vote against Impeachment?"

I would like to urge all first-time pro-Paul visitors to my leftist pinko blog to please save all reactionary hate mail until after you’ve actually read what I have to say. Paul’s vote to table the impeachment resolution, then to refer it to committee is especially troubling coming from a supposed consitutionalist. He voted with the Democratic leadership on both accounts.
...

Perhaps even more confusing is this interview from the far-right website InfoWars from March:

Paul said that Bush should be impeached not under the umbrella of partisan vengeance but for ceaselessly breaking the laws of the land.

“I would have trouble arguing that he’s been a Constitutional President and once you violate the Constitution and be proven to do that I think these people should be removed from office.”

Opining that the U.S. had entered a period of “soft fascism,” Paul noted that the legacy of the Bush administration has been the total abandonment of Constitutional principles.

.. Ron Paul’s commitment to the constitution was tested yesterday, and it unfortunately fell short of our expectations. It’s contradictory to say there isn’t sufficient evidence to warrant an impeachment against the very same people you say are violating the constitution. Impeachment isn’t just an option, it’s an obligation. There’s no glory in defending the indefensible, and Paul’s vote was just that. I urge his supporters to contact Paul about his vote. Tell him to vote in favor of impeachment the next time Kucinich brings it back to the floor. And liberals, don’t forget to do the same with your representatives.


I'm not going to bother doing that. I'll be voting for Kucinich. Whoever gets the official nod.

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