Point of View Columns

College Admissions in America – The Tip of the Iceberg

The series of revelations describing a veritable cesspool of corruption, cheating, bribery and betrayals in the admissions process at prestigious schools of higher education including Georgetown, Stanford, the University of California, Los Angeles, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Austin, Wake Forest and Yale leaves one spectacular question swinging in the air like a rotting corpse of lies – what is it that we don’t know? In other words, in the jet-propelled world of high stakes college admissions, are we to believe that only the nine schools mentioned are the bad actors? Or are we looking at the tip of the iceberg?

In a country where a fake billionaire can lie his way into the presidency, why should we be surprised when anyone with $50,000 to $4,000,000 can lie and cheat to get their son or daughter into the college of their choice, instead of their child being chosen by the college on the basis of something resembling merit? The audacity of the half a hundred otherwise wealthy and respectable defendants is breathtaking in that whatever concerns that they might have about equity, fairness or….wait for it…..setting a good example for their children, were outweighed by their desire to be able to say that their child was a student at Yale, UCLA, Georgetown, etc.

In a culture where imagined success literally trumps actual success, we cannot be surprised to find out that there are privileged young men and women are at this very moment students in colleges and schools that they are not qualified to attend. And it is tragic that students who might actually benefit from having a cherished once in a lifetime opportunity to attend these schools are not attending because their place has been taken by someone who already has access to every opportunity that life has to offer.

But we should not be deceived into thinking that this is simply a matter of a few (fifty???) bad actors trying to game the college admissions system with several millions of dollars and some photo shopped applications. This is not the only way that the United Privileged Parents of America are gaming the college admissions system.

We should understand that even reasonably bright and capable young men and women are being asked to compete for seats in universities and colleges all over America with young men and women (who may or may not be reasonably bright and capable) who have the advantage of having SAT “coaches” and college admissions consultants which can cost their parents tens of thousands of dollars a year – not to mention the fact that attendance a prestigious (and therefore brutally expensive) private prep schools and “special” public schools. In other words, the system is so rigged that the notion of equal access and success based on merit are simply wisps of words that need not even be spoken.

The magnitude of these crimes are almost too profound to comprehend as we will never know how many truly qualified students are being denied admission to colleges. The magnitude of the crime of rigging the entire college admissions system to solely benefit the children of the rich and privileged not only deprives the children of everyone else, it also deprives this country of its best talent and its best chance for a successful future.

John D. Rockefeller, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Michelle Obama, Reginald Lewis, Mario Cuomo, Mark Cuban, Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz are just a few of the contemporary prominent achievers who would never have been able to compete in the high stakes college admissions racket – their parents simply didn’t have enough money to “buy” opportunity through SAT coaches, college consultants, etc., much less be able to buy their children’s admissions at schools where the price only needs to be right.

We may never find out the scope and breadth of the outright bribery that is taking place in the college admissions universe. There are prosecutors and judges and juries and prisons that can address this kind of bad behavior. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The iceberg is the entire imbalance in the K-12 and college/university environment where power plus money equals college admission. And this situation makes it all the more problematic when conservative foundations and their attack lawyers seek to eliminate the few programs that seek to successfully level the playing field for those whose parents are not rich and powerful. Because some day, sooner than later, those without power and money will simply need not apply.

And that is the real tragedy for these United States.

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Point of View Columns

Autopsy of a Debate – What Hillary Should Have Said

In the aftermath of the first presidential debate of 2016 there is no end of commentary, spinning, more commentary and yet more spinning. Upon reflection in the bright light of the day, it would seem fair to say that if Hillary Clinton’s goal was to shake, rattle and roll Donald Trump then she definitely succeeded. If Donald Trump wanted to engrave his “Crooked Hillary” slogan into the consciousness of America, he was clearly waiting for the second debate to do so. Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton left some money on the table as there were a few things that she should have said:

1. Presidential Look
When asked about his contention that Hillary Clinton did not look presidential, Trump said that she didn’t look presidential and didn’t have the stamina to be president. Hillary should have said:

“Donald, all 44 presidents of the United States have been male, 43 presidents have been white males. So I can understand why, from that limited perspective, a woman cannot look presidential. But I ask you to look around the world and through world history – Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi and Angela Merkel have all been successful leaders of their countries, and the citizens of those countries thought they looked quite presidential. And, by the way, since you seem to like Russia so much, have you ever heard of Catherine the Great?”

2. It’s Just Business
When Hillary mentioned his not paying contractors and employees, Trump said it was “just business”. Hillary should have said:

Donald, you say that you are a successful businessman, but most successful businessmen pay their bills, they pay their contractors and they most certainly pay their employees. Certainly there are disputes over performance and delivery of service in business, but you have had a unique capacity to attract litigation while putting small business people out of business and leaving entire communities worse off because your business practices – all anyone has to do is to ask the citizens of Atlantic City.

And, by the way Donald was it just business to operate Trump University, which was never a legal university? Was it just business to recruit the students, actually the customers, of your fake university and tell them to max out their credit cards to learn the “secrets” of your success, secrets which turned out to be little more than rehashed versions of your same old, tired speeches?

Tell the American people Donald, is this kind of business the American people can expect from you if you should, heaven forbid, ever sit in the Oval Office.”

3. It is Smart Not to Pay Taxes

When Hillary suggested that the reason that Trump is not releasing his taxes because he does not pay federal income taxes, Trump stated that this made him smart. Hillary did mention that this would mean that he had paid zero dollars in support of troops, veterans, etc. Hillary could have also said:

“So Donald, I guess that since most Americans do pay their federal taxes, that means that most of us aren’t as smart as you. I guess that means that, by your definition, if Americans were as smart as you, we could end up with a tax noncompliance crisis just like Greece. Is that how you want to make America great again Donald? Do you really want to make America like Greece?”

4. Being a Birther is a Good Thing
Donald Trump actually said that he did Barack Obama did Barack Obama a favor in “forcing” him to show his birth certificate. Here is what Hillary should have said:

“Donald, you will never cease to amaze the American people. Do you think that we don’t realize that during your lifetime, during which there have been twelve presidents, there has never been a question about the birth certificate of the eleven white presidents, only the one black president?

Do you think that the American people don’t realize that during your primary campaign, you never, never, never asked to see the Ted Cruz birth certificate even though everyone knows that he was born in Canada? Is it because you like Ted Cruz so much, or just that Ted Cruz is not black?

Maybe you are not as smart as the American people after all”

That’s what Hillary should have said….and hopefully may still say in the next two debates.

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Point of View Columns

Lock Her Up and Bring Out the Firing Squad – The 2016 Republican National Committee Convention in Real Time

July 21, 2016 – 8:14 P.M. – EST

One week after Bastille Day, the 2016 RNC Convention will be remembered for being the first time that a major American political party seriously called for the imprisonment of the presumptive candidate of the other party. And, not to be out done, a mouth breathing New Hampshire Neanderthal named Al Baldasaro called for Hillary Clinton to also be brought before a firing squad.

As the grand finale of the convention approaches – no doubt as Donald Trump is still seeking to master the intricacies of a teleprompter- a bit of reflection of nights 2 and 3 might be in order.

On Night 2, future federal defendant, Chris Christie, led the primal chant of “Lock Her Up” as he recited his “indictment” of Hillary Clinton. The irony of Christie’s senior aides about to go on trial for blocking the George Washington Bridge was lost on the assembled Republicans. And, by the way, the recent conviction of Christie’s appointee as chairman of the New York New Jersey Port Authority was conveniently swept out of sight and under the rug.

The most interesting part about the “Lock Her Up” chant is that it sounded primal and was on just this side of what a lynch mob must sound like. One can imagine that if Hillary Clinton had easily imagine that if she somehow appeared in the Quicken Loans Arena she would have suffered great bodily damage.

What should be noted, however, is that on the night that the convention was supposed to focus on the economy and jobs, the takeaway for the evening was locking up Hillary Clinton. Unless the new Trump jobs are related to penal institutions, it is hard to see how any new thoughts were presented to the American people regarding how life would be better with The Donald as president.

Night Two mercifully ended an entire day of the Trump campaign denying that Melania Trump lifted even a single word from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. They denied by asking the world to disbelieve their lying eyes and ears. But by the end of the day they had lied themselves into exhaustion and a nonentity from the Trump speechwriting pool was chosen for sacrifice (but she was not fired).

The only other item of note was that two more of the Trump children spoke glowingly of their father. While their presentations may have served to humanize the Human Sound Machine Called Trump, it cannot be a surprise that his children came on national television to say that they admire and love their wealthy father.

Night 3 was supposed to introduce Mike Pence, Indiana governor and Tea Party stalking horse, as the Vice Presidential nominee. And once again the evening was hijacked. First it was hijacked by Ted Cruz and then it was kidnapped by Donald Trump.

To be fair, the real culprit on Wednesday was Ted Cruz. Cruz was the last loser in a line of losers knocked off by Trump like a series of poorly made kewpie dolls. Cruz was still smoldering over being called a “liar” over and over, he certainly didn’t forget Trump threatening to “spill the beans” on his beloved wife Heidi and he will never forgive Trump for accusing his cherished father of being an accomplice in the assassination of President John Kennedy.

So it really should not have been a surprise that Cruz ended his speech without endorsing Trump, advising Republicans to “vote their conscience”. But the assembled Trump partisan howled and bayed at the full moon and seemed to threaten Cruz’ wife with physical harm, to the extent that she had to be escorted out of the arena with guards protecting her.

As that opportunity to demonstrate party unity withered and died, Mike Pence presented himself to the national audience without mentioning his willingness to shut down the federal government in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. He also conveniently neglected to mention his classic wish that Roe v. Wade be overturned and relegated to “the trash heap of history”, which is also where the right of women to choose would also reside in the world of Trump and Pence.

Not surprisingly, Pence received workmanlike applause at which time The Donald appeared. Clearly he is unable to allow anyone to reside in the spotlight for too long – and so he came on stage and tried to kiss Pence. Pence gave him the “iron shoulder” and Trump’s attempt at osculation turned into an air kiss.

Night 4 has already been hijacked by the announcement that Roger Ailes, the founder and CEO of Fox News resigned effective immediately. What the implosion of the Republican house T.V. channel means remains to be seen. But nobody in Trump Land is cheering.

12:09 A.M. – And finally, finally, Ivanka Trump had her star turn and she was clearly ready for her close up. She introduced her father who then delivered a 75 minute and 15 minute doom and gloom speech with the very clear message that only Donald Trump could save America. He is running for president but perhaps he has something more special in mind.

Indeed, when he speaks of “liberating” the American people from crime Trump sounded like a strong man wannabe. Perhaps he was able find one of Juan Peron’s speechwriters, but however the speech came together, Trump clearly wants to frighten the American people into believing that he is the only person in this country who can save this country………….and we are supposed to wait until he takes the oath of office to find out what the details of his master plan look like.

8:41 A.M. – The balloon and confetti have been swept out of Quicken Loans Arena. The entire Trump Royal Family has now flown out of Cleveland, perhaps doing one last flyover to wow his adoring adherents.

Donald Trump envisions himself as America’s Strong Man. Ivanka Trump tells us that her father will take care of us. The question now is whether Americans want a leader or a strongman/father figure as president.

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Point of View Columns

Trump and Cruz – Beware of the Head Fake

In most sports the head fake is an important weapon, both on offense and defense. The intent of the head fake is to get the opponent to go in a direction different from that which is planned. The head fake is meant to trick, fool and bamboozle the opponent. And, the more that we hear about members of the Republican establishment uniting to derail the Trump candidacy, the more we should beware the dreaded head fake.

So much, too much, has been written about Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. It is quite clear that he can be profane, insulting, bombastic and boorish in the extreme. He may be the most unpresidential presidential candidate since………Michele Bachman, and that’s saying a lot. Many leaders of the Republican Party find the idea of a Trump presidency so repulsive that they are supporting Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as viable alternatives to Trumpageddon.

With Donald Trump so much is so wrong, be it is his endorsement of torture, his willingness to insult everyone and everything, or his mythic policy proposals – from building walls with Mexican money to winning trade wars with China and Japan. As a result, the prospect of Trump as the Republican standard bearer strikes many Republican leaders as the beginning of the last days and times of the G.O.P. And according this same Republican establishment, the antidote to this noxious prospect is Ted Cruz or maybe Marco Rubio.

For those who care about what happens to this country, this Cruz-Rubio alternative to Donald Trump is the ultimate right wing head fake. If the rationale for the Cruz-Rubio antidote for the virulent form of Trumpitis that is sweeping this country is that either one of them is better than Donald Trump, the American people are being forced to pick their poison.

Far too much has been written and said about the odious Mr. Trump, but that does not make Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio gifts from heaven. Consider that both of them are irrationally committed to the total dismantling of the Affordable Care Act “on day one” of their presidency. The fact that almost 20 million Americans will lose health care coverage on that dreaded “day one” has not inspired either of them to propose and alternative for what will take place on “day one”.

Consider that Ted Cruz has called for the carpet bombing of various parts of the Middle East “until sand turns to glass”. He has held to this position despite the opinion of various military experts that such a strategy would result in untold civilian deaths and the virtually eternal enmity of the survivors, thereby confirming the rhetoric of jihadists throughout the region who reference the United States as “The Great Satan”.

Both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio adhere to an antediluvian Neanderthal view of the right of women to choose their healthcare provider (e.g. the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood) and the right of women to freely exercise their Constitutional right to access abortion services. The administration of President Cruz or President Rubio would take this country back to a time before the Roe v. Wade decision of 1972 when women had to exercise their right to choose in back alleys.

Their positions on immigration reform can be distilled in a few words – when to deport and how to deport. The fact that close to 12 million human beings might be subject to policies that are sickeningly close to fascism do not seem to faze either of these children of immigrants.

Ted Cruz proposes a flat tax and the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service without telling anyone how taxes will be collected in the United States of Cruz. Both Cruz and Rubio do not believe in the science that supports the existence of climate change on this planet, which means that President Cruz or President Rubio would have a good chance of dooming the children of this country to inhabiting and environmentally damned planet.

The point is that the entire Republican presidential campaign cycle has revealed the party to still be the Party of No. The Republican platform that is hammered together in Cleveland will once again demean the humanity of immigrants, place the gun on an altar, demean the rights of women and worship a fossil fuel philosophy when it comes to climate change.

So when Mitt Romney or John McCain or Lindsey Graham tells the American people that Cruz or Rubio are palatable alternatives on the Republican menu as opposed to the option of a Trump entrée, we should remember that any of these choices will make America sick to its stomach.

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Point of View Columns

Trump and Black People. It was Just a Matter of Time.

Since he announced his candidacy for president, Donald J. Trump has serially assaulted the sensibilities of…..well, just about everybody. Everyone remembers his inaugural smear of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. His appearance before a group of Jewish leaders and praising them for “making good deals” was a Trump classic. In a bizarre cross-cultural slur, Trump has made Muslims his personal piñata. And all along black Americans knew, just knew, that it was a just a matter of time.

Donald Trump managed to insult every woman who does not aspire to look like a runway model when he went after Carly Fiorina. He bashed differently able citizens of this planet when he mocked a New York Times reporter with physical challenges. And all along black Americans knew, just knew, that it was just a matter of time.

And true to form Donald Trump added a race-baiting grenade to his arsenal. When asked whether he disavowed the tacit endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke he tiptoed, spun and moonwalked all over the place before finally “disavowing” Duke. Of course he “disavowed” with a dog whistle, a Trumpian wink and an elbow nudge to all those who think that David Duke isn’t such a bad guy and that the Ku Klux Klan is no worse than Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

The reason why black Americans have been so prescient is not due to some shared race memory. It has been one of the sad themes of American racial history that when hatemongering begins in this country, black Americans will not fare well. And when it comes to Donald Trump his record regarding racial issues goes back a lot further than his recent Texas Two Step with the David Duke question.

Over twenty years ago, during the furor surrounding the Central Park Five, it was Donald Trump who called the black and brown defendants “animals” and stoked the flames that in earlier times would have resulted in a lynching. And even when the five (now not so young) men were fully exonerated and received some compensation for their suffering, it was Republican Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump who said they should not receive a penny.

And it was only six years ago that Donald Trump assumed the mantle of leader of the “birther” movement, seeking to delegitimize the Obama presidency by casting doubts on his citizenship. It is important to remember that there was never any question or doubt that Barack Obama’s mother was a white American woman from Kansas and (according to the supporters of the Canadian-born Ted Cruz) that should have ended any questions regarding the citizenship of Barack Obama.

But Donald Trump persisted with a passion that bordered on obsession, demanding to see the Obama birth certificate. And when that Hawaiian document was presented Trump went on to seek Obama transcripts from Columbia and Harvard. This bizarre and possessed questioning of the qualifications of Barack Obama is all too familiar to any black American with any aspirations and any experience on Planet America. And black Americans know that this questioning is undoubtedly race-based.

But Trump’s shadowboxing with the Klan question is particularly troubling because it would be easy enough for him to channel his inner hypocrite and denounce an original domestic terrorist organization. His failure to do so raises the same concerns that we should have if he failed to clearly denounce Nazis or Isis.

Of course, Donald Trump is not really interested in the black vote or what black people think. He is outreach to the black community is limited to a neo-minstrelsy opening act of the “Diamond and Silk” black sister act and the few black apologists who do not know of the tragic intersection of black heritage and the Klan, or just don’t care as long as Trump is signing the checks and those checks don’t bounce (with Trump one never knows, do one?).

Again, Donald J. Trump is not really interested in the black vote. But he is very interested in those disaffected, angry white voters who hear his racist dog whistle loud and clear.

Who let the dogs out? Donald J. Trump, that’s who.

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The Teapublican Road to Perdition

Since January 20, 2009, the Teapublicans in Congress and throughout this country have pursued a constant and consistent strategy of endeavoring to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. It is the stuff of legend, but it is undeniably true that on the evening of Inauguration Day Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman John Boehner and other leading Republicans (that had yet to evolve into Teapublicans) met and decided on a strategy that could be summarized as “Just Say No to Obama”. And they have spent the better part of seven years doing just that – and only that.

It is nothing short of remarkable, indeed it is miraculous that the Obama Administration has been able to achieve anything, much less the historic accomplishments that will be remembered long after names like McConnell and Boehner are mere footnotes written in italics in the narrative of American history. Salvation of the automobile industry, a Stimulus Program that helped to rescue the American economy, record job growth, record corporate profits, institutional change in the financial services industry; historic appointments to the Supreme Court and this country’s first national healthcare system are part of the real “change” that Senator Obama promised during his first campaign for president.

The Republican/Teapublican response has been, channeling their inner Nancy Reagan, to just say “no”. And that nihilist response has gone so far as to justify shutting down the government of the United States and coming close to seriously damaging the international credit of this country by taking all of us to the brink of default.

And it should be clear that a great deal of the Teapublican opposition to Barack Obama is not based on some great philosophical divide. President Obama was twice elected President of the United States by margins that dwarf the victory margins of George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy. Obamacare is largely based upon a healthcare plan devised by a Republican think tank. The bailout of the financial industry began with legislation passed during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, there has been a concerted effort to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. Whether it has been calling him a liar during his speech to Congress (that would be Congressman Joe Wilson, another living breathing footnote to a footnote) or refusing invitations to attend state dinners at the White House, many Teapublicans have refused to accept the reality of an Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Consider that opposition to the Obama Administration’s support of a nuclear energy limitation agreement with Iran was legitimate. But the unprecedented act of 47 United States Senators sending a letter to Iran’s Ayatollah cannot be explained by a simple matter of policy differences. Those 47 senators simply cannot bring themselves to truly accept the Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Although Barack Obama’s mother was born in Kansas and there has always been a Hawaiian birth certificate to further confirm his citizenship, the “birther” controversy has surrounding the 44th president has never died. Although Bernie Sanders father was born in Poland, Donald Trump’s mother was born in Scotland and the fathers of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were born in Cuba, no one has ever uttered a word about the birth certificates of these men. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

And now, with the death of Antonin Scalia we hear the Teapublicans claim that President Obama should not be able to even nominate a replacement on the Supreme Court because……………it appears the rationale is that seven years of Barack Obama as president is enough. The call for “letting the people decide” on the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is a straw man, the people never have decided who should sit on the Court.

The people have always decided on who nominates Supreme Court justices, and right now that person is Barack Obama. Sixty five million American citizens elected Barack Obama to a four year term, not a three year term. Why would the Teapublicans seek to nullify sixty five million votes?

The answer is a matter of race.

The danger in the Teapublican strategy, in addition to the corrosive effect of racist behavior, is that in trying to delegitimize the Obama presidency they will delegitimize the presidency itself. Barack Obama’s legacy will be secured in history. The damage that the Teapublicans are doing to the institution of the presidency may turn out to be irreparable. It is very difficult to unbreak an egg.

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Point of View Columns

Harvest of the Dragon Seeds

In Greek mythology the teeth of dragons, once planted, would grow into fully armed and fearsome soldiers. Upon reflection, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan planted the dragon seeds and we now see the bitter harvest for America in the personages of Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio and yes, even Donald Trump.

As we sift through the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses and await the results of the New Hampshire (first in the nation) primary, we perceive a toxic blend of meanness and dog whistle rhetoric that beckons the hounds of misogyny, xenophobia, gun violence, homophobia and racism. And it is clear that this pack of mongrels is hunting for the heart and soul of America.

Ted Cruz proudly proclaims that he will “repeal every word of Obamacare”. Presumably he is okay with the fact that his proclamation will immediately eliminate healthcare coverage for over 18 million men, women and children. And if you ask him he will tell you that he is smart, so he should be smart enough to know that “every word of Obamacare” would mean sending people with pre-existing illness and chronic illness and catastrophic illness back into the Stone Age of healthcare coverage – that would be the Age before Obamacare. The harvest of the dragon seeds is a fearsome thing.

Ben Carson states that he would rather see “bullet riddled bodies” instead of any limitations to the Second Amendment. This is a statement that reeks of total disdain for human life and the pain that is suffered by survivors when those lives are lost to gun violence. Yet Dr. Carson did not disqualify himself from being a Teapublican presidential candidate. The harvest of the dragon seeds is a fearsome thing.

Marco Rubio has actually stated that as president he would sanction the resumption of the use of torture at Guantanamo in order to get ISIS captives to “tell us everything we need to know”. Aside from the fact that psychologists overwhelmingly state that torture is an ineffective interrogation tool, most reasonable people understand that torture is also an effective recruitment tool for ISIS. The harvest of the dragon seed is a fearsome thing.

And then there is Donald Trump, still the leading Teapublican presidential candidate. The Donald is the quintessential fruit of the dragon seed harvest. He is mean. He is vulgar. He wallows in his own ignorance. He clearly believes that insult and bombast are useful tools in business and in politics. And he is embraced by millions of Teapublican supporters who see him as the Savior who is going to Make America Great Again. Donald Trump is the most valued vintage fruit of the dragon seed harvest.

What is both interesting and sad is that according to most polls and polls of polls, these four candidates have garnered the support of over half of the Teapublican voters. It would take most people hours of mental contortions to understand the logic which results in the serious visualization of Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump as President of the United States – delivering the State of the Union address, speaking at the United Nations, negotiating at the G7 summit or going to the funerals of the victims of the next Sandy Hook.

But it is important to understand that there are millions of American voters who can successfully visualize such scenarios and they are to be taken seriously. And the power of their passion must be taken seriously.

In America the harvest of the dragon seed is a fearsome thing.

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