Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bribing the poor

It is tacitly understood that most of the civil rights laws that were passed in the 1960s and 1970s were nothing more than bribery. All the legislation that eventually led to affirmative action mandates and expanded welfare benefits was designed primarily to keep the natives quiet, to mollify them, in the hopes that the prevailing rioting and other mayhem on the part of blacks would cease. The initial laws, amplified with promised goodies, offered incentives to the mobs to think twice before continuing to burn down neighborhoods. Many of those neighborhoods, by the way, were the very ones that members of the mobs lived in.

And so bribery on a massive scale was instituted under the camouflage of "justice" and "equality." Feckless whites, of course, would have agreed to any accommodation to end the disturbances and the threatened future chaos. Such whites might possibly have offered up their first born, as well as second born sons, in order to keep the peace. Keeping the peace, by any means necessary, was the order of the day. The thought that there were better means other than craven acquiescence never fluttered into their terrified souls.

All of this agitation and the consequent material rewards to blacks brought joy and delight to affluent middle class black elites who were, to use television journalist Tony Brown's stinging description of them, the "overseers of the bounty." As far as the race was concerned, declared Brown, the only role played by the black middle class is as "managers of resources allocated by government and corporate programs." Why risk your own resources by pooling capital to develop your own communities,
as so many blacks had done in the past, as well as every other ethnic group, when you can coerce substantial bonuses from a fearful government? Members of this well-off class, of course, always go to the front of the line with their pockets open, ready to become the "administrators" of the latest windfall, whenever the system deigns to dispense yet more gifts to the "downtrodden" poor.

A great many citizens may be familiar with this past history, but few know about the latest forms of bribery, as reported by Heather Mac Donald in Bribery Strikes Out:
It isn’t lack of opportunity that keeps poor people poor.
Mac Donald describes that which she calls "a dangerously misguided antipoverty program."

Begun in New York City in 2007, under the auspices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, this unusual initiative, Opportunity NYC-Family Rewards, bestows cash awards primarily on single mothers and their children, in order to induce them to, well, behave better. The project is modeled on a program in Mexico designed to target agricultural peasants, in spite of the fact that, according to Mac Donald, "multigenerational urban poverty in America is far different from Third World rural poverty." Although difficult for the welfare industry to accept, she argues, "the lives of America’s underclass are characterized by a degree of disorganization that is rarely grasped or acknowledged." Following are excerpts:
• • •

The much-heralded initiative that inspired Bloomberg’s program was based on the theory that Mexican campesinos were so trapped in the daily struggle for survival that they couldn’t undertake behaviors that would help them escape poverty over the long term. Facing grinding economic pressures, parents pull their children out of school to help with the harvest; mothers don’t take their children to the doctor because they can’t wrest time away from work in the fields or at home. Oportunidades, as the Mexican initiative was called, tried to change the perceived zero-sum relationship between self-improvement and present income by paying Mexican farm families for taking actions in their long-term self-interest, such as school work and medical visits.

Bloomberg’s version of Oportunidades officially pretended that New York’s underclass faced similar tragic choices. The poor failed to “plan for the future” because they were “so focused on surviving,” the mayor explained when inaugurating the program. They were engaged in a “struggle” for the very basics of existence, he said. Opportunity NYC–Family Rewards would alleviate the immediate pressure for survival that allegedly prevented the inner-city poor from investing in their future by paying them for self-improving behavior, thus offsetting the purported opportunity cost of future-oriented actions.

Of course, it’s ludicrous to suppose that what keeps America’s inner-city residents poor across generations is a struggle for subsistence in an economy of limited opportunities. The main drivers of poverty in America are family breakdown (in 2004, single-parent households nationally were six times as likely to be poor as married families). ... The antisocial behaviors that contribute to multigenerational poverty also have nothing to do with suffocating economic pressures: very few inner-city students cut classes or drop out of school to help their parents work; they do so because their peer culture is toxic and because their parents exercise little control over their lives.

Nor does American poverty bear any resemblance to Third World poverty. New York City is awash in welfare programs that confer on the poor benefits that would be unthinkable in rural Mexico or Africa, such as free high-tech medical care, monthly welfare checks, and free or subsidized housing. Family Rewards is an add-on to an already generous safety net; the Mexican version is the safety net. New York’s poor also enjoy a clean, reliable water supply, a public health system that controls environmentally borne infectious disease, a sound transportation infrastructure, and the rule of law. ...

Nevertheless, lurking beneath the Family Rewards rhetoric about “our impoverished campesinos” was an implicit acknowledgment of a truth rarely spoken in antipoverty circles: it’s the behavior of the inner-city poor that perpetuates poverty, not just “structural inequalities,” rapacious capitalism, or racism. That covert acknowledgment was enough to earn the initiative the opprobrium of many in the traditional poverty industry.

But the program’s proposed cure is potentially worse than the disease: paying families for activities that are part of the normal repertoire of what it means to be a responsible parent or student. ... Elementary- and middle-school students who make progress on annual academic tests net their parents $300 and $350, respectively. High school students get $600 each year that they accumulate 11 course credits (the bare minimum to stay on track to graduate) and another $600 for each New York State Regents exam that they pass.

Parents are paid $25 for attending a parent-teacher conference or discussing their child’s test results with a teacher; they receive $50 for getting their child a library card. Taking advantage of taxpayer-subsidized Medicaid services, such as free medical checkups, brings a $200 annual windfall; simply maintaining free Medicaid insurance earns the recipient $20 a month. Working full-time earns an additional $150 a month beyond the existing salary. Seeking education and training while working at least ten hours a week could net a parent $3,000 over three years.

The hubris behind this menu of bribes is breathtaking. Working on the premise that American society didn’t sufficiently reward self-discipline, effort, and achievement, the Family Rewards architects decided that they needed to correct the inadequate signals that the economy and the culture sent to the poor. ... The problem is that the poor don’t respond to incentives that are already abundantly present. Nevertheless, convinced of their own superior capacities to engineer sound social signals, the program’s planners arbitrarily made up a schedule of payments that would induce a welfare mother, for example, to make sure that her child went to school every day. Is monthly school attendance worth $25 or $100? Is a single Regents exam worth $600 or $1,200? ...

Once the expectation of payment for morally and socially responsible actions became widespread, there would be no dislodging it. Poor children would make an effort in school not because their parents had instilled in them the importance of education but because of the expectation of immediate cash. Once word got out that some students in a school were getting paid for their study habits, trying to withhold payments from every child in that school or indeed from every school in the system would be nearly impossible. ...

Those who worried about the long-term consequences of the conditional cash transfers (CCTs) need not have done so, however. Contrary to the expectations of both its supporters and critics, the Bloomberg experiment had almost no effect on its participants’ behavior. ... The program had no effect on students’ attendance rates compared with those of students in the control group; it had no effect on average test scores or academic proficiency rates; it had no effect on high school students’ overall accumulation of course credits or successfully passed Regents exams; it had only a negligible effect on the rate at which parents sought a free annual checkup for themselves or their children compared with parents in the control group; and it had a negative effect on the rate at which parents sought education or training for themselves. ...

“The premise of conditional cash transfers is that the stresses of poverty cause people to make choices that are not in their long-term interest,” MDRC president Gordon Berlin said at the press conference announcing the interim results. He may have it backward. It is the inability of some people to make choices in their long-term interest that causes poverty, as sociologist Edward Banfield argued four decades ago in The Unheavenly City. The poor have short time horizons, Banfield wrote, the rich, very long ones. No external force can change those psychological dispositions. ...

But the best solution for poverty reduction is the one that is the least likely to pass the lips of liberal policy makers: marriage. As was already abundantly clear before the CCTs, single-parent households are the primary source of long-term poverty in New York City and the country. Looked at from a purely economic standpoint (the least relevant one), a married father provides his children with additional material support and manpower backup when all hell breaks out in a household, as it periodically will. A father also serves as a more credible authority figure than a mother, on average, something that boys particularly need.

Read complete article here.
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Where are honest journalists when it comes to Israel?

In Why there is no mainstream investigative journalism about the Israel lobby, the intrepid Philip Weiss expresses anger over the mainstream media's pattern of relentless pursuit of the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church, while journalists gingerly skip around the scandal of the Israel lobby's ability to shut up all critics of Israeli policies.

Weiss describes a radio program and the manner in which reporters handled the subject of the Church's problems. The Catholic participants in the program, two of them journalists, wanted the scandal to be openly addressed, but they did not want it to hurt the Church. Following are excerpts:
• • •

Now let me get to the central dynamic of the show. The Catholic writers were performing damage control; still, [Marty] Moss-Coane [the woman host, not Catholic] bored in on them, and whenever a caller went further than she had gone, for instance, about sexuality and celibacy, she promptly echoed the caller’s point. She stood up for the Times coverage. She asked, wisely, Is the church treating a crime as a sin? She said, What signal does it send people when a former bishop who played an active role in covering up a sex scandal is awarded a sinecure? (The writers said, Well it’s a giant step down for the bishop…) She said, What about what that caller just asked, How is this affecting congregations?

And to every push by Moss-Coane, the Catholic writers pushed back and defended the church. And they would: because they love the church, they see it as a force for good.

Why do I think this was fine journalism? Because the host was behaving as a good broadcast journalist with smart questions, the New York Times was behaving like a good investigative zealous newspaper when it smells a disgraceful scandal, and the listeners were sharp and engaged, pushing the story. ...

When the Catholic writers protested that the memo the Times uncovered from the ’80s (describing slap-on-the-knuckles discipline in a pedophilia case, and the future Pope was cc’d) doesn’t implicate the Pope, because he was just part of a “culture,” I think, Don’t b.s. me. This was not a routine memo. And isn’t there a problem with an institution that wakes up 30 years after the fact to the idea that it’s not good to damage children?

The significance of this piece for me was wholly about the journalism of the Israel lobby. The central problem in that story is that the roles of the Journalist and the New York Times are being played by the Catholic writers! The very parochial attitudes that Moss-Coane found so distasteful in the Catholic story are exhibited by countless journalists when it comes to Israel. Because they are Jews who have an investment in the emotional goodness of the Jewish state. Yes, people like Dan Schorr and Wolf Blitzer and Tom Friedman and Jeffrey Goldberg and Ethan Bronner, but also a lot of fellow travelers whose investment is not as well known to me. And they all get away with their piety all the time!

In the Israel lobby case we have an allegation now several years old that is way more serious than the Catholic scandal: the allegation that the forcible conflation of American and Israeli interests is damaging our country’s reputation. It is a form of corruption as deep and “cultural” as the Catholic mess Moss-Coane is investigating, but this time the broker-journalists are implicated in the culture.

The former executive editor of the New York Times, Max Frankel, is vetting editorials to protect the Jewish state; my old newspaper the New York Observer is telling me to take a hike because I want to write about the Israel lobby; the Atlantic is killing Walt and Mearsheimer; Wolf Blitzer and Dan Schorr used to work for the lobby and are now all over cable; and Jeff Goldberg used to be an Israeli soldier and is interviewed on Meet the Press by David Gregory, who is studying Hebrew. Ethan Bronner’s son goes into the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), and Bronner is the lead reporter for the New York Times???!! And on it goes, it never stops.

I am saying that all the f—ing excuses that the two Catholic writers made for their beloved church are being made all the time for the Jewish state by our journalists; it is in the culture of our journalism; and meanwhile there is no Moss-Coane to jump on them and keep them honest. I wonder if she’s ever covered the Israel/Palestine situation with half the honesty she covered the Catholic scandal, let alone the question of how it is corrupting our politics. I bet she hasn’t. Has she ever had on Palestinians to talk about the separate roadways in the West Bank, and then asked, why Americans are supporting Jim Crow conditions?

Well you get the point. And again, the New York Times, which should be printing the Pentagon Papers of the Iraq war, which should be interrogating neoconservatives about their crazy theory that invading Baghdad would take the Arabs’ minds off Israel/Palestine, which should be asking John Mearsheimer what his evidence is that oil had nothing to do with the disastrous decision to go to war, which should be telling readers why Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban give so much money to the political parties, and asking whether Adelson’s $300,000 gift in 2000 had anything to do with the hiring of Douglas “One-Jerusalem” Feith to a big job at the Pentagon where he would pass cooked data to Congress – the Times is doing no investigative journalism about the lobby at all. ...

And now we have General Petraeus saying that the special relationship is hurting us; and Obama is trying to take Netanyahu on; and still these powerful men are getting no goddamn cover from the mainstream press in the form of investigative journalism that arouses the public about the abuses. If I were the Catholic church, I’d be mad.

Read entire article here.
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Making peace across the ideological chasm

In the May 2010 edition of The American Conservative magazine is a symposium in which we hear from conservatives and progressives on the subject of the ongoing militarism carried over from Bush to Obama. Entitled Left & Right: Prospects for Peace, 13 writers offer their views on the potential for long-term peace.

Is it possible that an effective end to war and empire will only come about through an alliance of progressives and conservatives? One of my favorite conservatives, Paul Gottfried, offers his observations:

• • •

I have no hope for any alliance between the antiwar Right and any significant leftist force. Individual liberals may establish informal relations with self-identified conservatives, but one should avoid generalizing from this observation. Individual libertarians, like Bill Kauffman and Justin Raimondo, may get on well with maverick leftists Alexander Cockburn and Gore Vidal. But this does not foreshadow larger trends. During the Bush administration, the antiwar Right struggled to connect with leftist opponents of the war, and they received hardly any attention from their would-be partners in organizing antiwar activity.

The reasons for this non-recognition seem self-evident. First, the Left has no interest in being allied to social reactionaries by becoming identified with the antiwar Right. The Left is happier to deal with “conservatives” like David Frum and David Brooks, with whom they agree on most social issues, even if they remain apart on foreign policy. For those who consider gay marriage, unrestricted abortion, and special rights for minorities to be paramount issues, having Catholic traditionalists or paleolibertarians as allies is not a genuine strategic option.

Second, there is no recognizable advantage for the Left to be allied to marginalized people on the Right. As long as neoconservatives control the media and financial resources of the conservative movement, no one, except for hopelessly deluded antiwar rightists, would consider an alliance with our side to be a political coup. Unless the antiwar Right can push itself into public attention and counteract the neoconservative-fashioned image of “conservatives,” the Left can have no practical interest in reaching across the ideological chasm.

Finally, unlike the antiwar Right, which has suffered grievously for its principled stand, most of the Left’s opposition to the war against terror was mere posturing. It was a means to get a Democrat elected president and to be able to advance a leftist social agenda. The noisy opposition to Bush’s war on terror turned into a whisper as soon as a black leftist president was put in charge of it. Liberals are much less concerned than the antiwar Right about how executive power is exercised. They have no problem with left-wing dictatorships that engage in massive social reform. What they object to is having politicians whom they don’t regard as leftists exercising power. Once Obama and his crew took over the ship of state, for most of the Left, opposition to the war ceased to matter.

Read complete article here.
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A dereliction of duty

Pat Buchanan once again offers his practical insights on the subject of immigration. In Whose Country Is This? he discusses the implications of Arizona's new law. Following are excerpts:

• • •

With the support of 70 percent of its citizens, Arizona has ordered sheriffs and police to secure the border and remove illegal aliens, half a million of whom now reside there. Arizona acted because the U.S. government has abdicated its constitutional duty to protect the states from invasion and refuses to enforce America’s immigration laws.

“We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” said Gov. Jan Brewer. “But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created an unacceptable situation.” We have a crisis in Arizona because we have a failed state in Washington. What is the response of Barack Obama, who took an oath to see to it that federal laws are faithfully executed?

He is siding with the law-breakers. He is pandering to the ethnic lobbies. He is not berating a Mexican regime that aids and abets this invasion of the country of which he is commander in chief. Instead, he attacks the government of Arizona for trying to fill a gaping hole in law enforcement left by his own dereliction of duty. ...

The state has a fiscal crisis caused in part by the burden of providing schooling and social welfare for illegals and their families, who consume far more in services than they pay in taxes and who continue to pour in.

Police officers and a prominent rancher have been murdered. There have been kidnappings believed to be tied to the Mexican drug cartels. There are nightly high-speed chases through the barrios where innocent people are constantly at risk. If Arizona does not get control of the border and stop the invasion, U.S. citizens will stop coming to Arizona and will begin to depart, as they are already fleeing California. ...

The tasks that Arizonans are themselves undertaking are ones that belong by right, the Constitution and federal law, to the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Homeland Security. Arizona has been compelled to assume the feds’ role because the feds won’t do their job. And for that dereliction of duty the buck stops on the desk of the President of the United States.

Why is Obama paralyzed? Why does he not enforce the law, even if he dislikes it, by punishing the businessmen who hire illegals and by sending the 12 million to 20 million illegals back home? President Eisenhower did it. Why won’t he? Because he is politically correct. Because he owes a big debt to the Hispanic lobby that helped deliver two-thirds of that vote in 2008. Though most citizens of Hispanic descent in Arizona want the border protected and the laws enforced, the Hispanic lobby demands that the law be changed. ...

Let us see how many African-Americans, who are today frozen out of the 8 million jobs held by illegal aliens that might otherwise go to them or their children, will march to defend an invasion for which they are themselves paying the heaviest price. [See the role that black politicians play in promoting the invasion at the expense of working class blacks, in Immigration: Betrayal By Black Elites.]

Last year, while Americans were losing a net of 5 million jobs, the U.S. government — Bush and Obama both — issued 1,131,000 green cards to legal immigrants to come and take the jobs that did open up, a flood of immigrants equaled in only four other years in our history.

What are we doing to our own people? Whose country is this, anyway?

Read complete article here.
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Tea Party folk love big government when it makes war, wiretaps, and waterboards

So, the Tea Party folk are reported to be "wealthier and more educated than the general public," as opposed to that 1993 designation of this ilk as "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command" (famously misquoted as "easily led"). In Tea party activists: Do they hate liberals more than they love liberty?, Jim Bovard reflects on this group, based on the Partiers' claims to being patriotic constitutionalists and the policies they have supported over recent years. Following are excerpts:

• • •

A recent "tea party" rally showed lots of anger toward President Obama, but little consistent support for liberty in America. Many “tea party” activists staunchly oppose big government, except when it is warring, wiretapping, or waterboarding. A movement that started out denouncing government power apparently has no beef with some of the worst abuses of modern times. Unfortunately, there is scant evidence that most tea partyers have studied the copies of the Constitution they generously hand out to bystanders.

Ken Timmerman, the author of Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America and other hawkish books, declaimed that the US government must take every step to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Mr. Timmerman denounced the Obama administration for being soft on Tehran and urged support for legislation to impose harsh sanctions on Iran. Timmerman previously advocated a US naval blockade of Iran, which he claimed was planning a nuclear attack on the United States. [Easily led?]

Running through a litany of President Obama’s greatest failings, Timmerman denounced him for forcing US agents to “stop using enhanced interrogation methods. Has that made us safer?” “No!” the crowd hollered indignantly. ...

The rally featured a string of Republican candidates praising fiscal responsibility and denouncing the national debt. One would have thought that it had been 50 years, rather than 15 months, since the Republicans controlled the White House.

There was almost no dissent from any of the 300 attendees. One 50-something man in a faded green T-shirt walked around with a handmade sign declaring, “Stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – Bring Our Troops Home Now!” He told me that almost no one he’d talked to agreed with his message. Much more in tune with the crowd was the 20-something woman carrying a sign: “PROUD to be the Military Super Power.”

The fact that the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq thus far roughly equals the projected cost of the first decade of Obama’s health-care program is irrelevant. Military spending is viewed as holy water by many activists who otherwise despise Washington. While tea party activists rage over Obama’s alleged lies, they ignore the Bush administration’s deceptive justification to attack Iraq. ...

There are many decent Americans who understandably feel that the government has become too powerful and oppressive. Yet, seeking enlightenment from most tea party speakers is like searching in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there.

Read complete article here.

See Jim Bovard's blog here.
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Friday, April 02, 2010

You can't have your country back

In two articles, the New York Times offers us essentially the same theme and point of view, first from a black columnist, Charles Blow, and then from a white one, Frank Rich. You could render the theme as: White people are dwindling away and there's nothing you can do about it, Ha, Ha! Each writer seems to impart satisfaction over the fact that, at long last, whites will have a minimum influence in the nation founded by their ancestors. The theme is in keeping with former President Bill Clinton's discourse when he exulted, back in the 1990s, over the fact that whites would soon be in the minority in this country. Like Rich, he, too, seemed quite pleased about the prospect for the demise of his own race.

In The Rage Is Not About Health Care, Rich writes about "an inexorable and immutable change in the very identity of America." In Whose Country Is It?, Blow snickers over the Tea Party movement, calling it "anachronistic to the direction of the country's demographics."

Rich claims that the "tsunami of anger" now being expressed by many whites is "illogical." But is it? Other than the current breed of Western whites, when has a group of people so willingly acquiesced in their own extinction, or submitted to the re-population of their space and territory without a bitter fight? Although we see the stirrings of consciousness among some whites, who have begun to understand what is taking place, most of them are still snoozing, enjoying the almost daily introduction of some new tech toy, while sending their sons off to Third World countries, apparently to fight for the "freedom" to continue enjoying the pleasures of said toys.

Blow is right to point out that the Tea Party "is not the future." If it were to have had any impact on the future, its members should have organized at least 20 years ago. Even then, the prospect of reversing immigration legislation or stemming the tide of social programs and biased laws created especially for certain "protected" groups would have been an upward struggle, given the nature of the Republican party, to which over 70% of Tea Party members belong. Yet it is feasible that the GOP might have been turned around a couple of decades ago had it been confronted with the kind of passion now on display.

In the face of a Hispanic population that is expected to triple over the next generation, that "inexorable and immutable change" is almost here. This will soon be a Latin American nation, with heavy doses of Asians and Africans, who will have options to write a new Constitution more befitting to the inclinations of its new owners. Kai Wright, in The Nation magazine, informs us that "Young, colored folks will drive the economy, the culture, the politics." Why shouldn't the formerly dominant white population resist its own displacement?

Blow cynically describes the new America as the "Remix," a land that is driven by "the relentless, irrepressible march of change." This demographic change, however, was not at all inevitable, but one engineered by those who opened the country's borders in the mid-60s to masses of foreigners, now correctly referred to as the "replacement population."

White Americans' counterparts in Europe also have opened their borders to masses of Third World immigrants. In one country after another, we see these outsiders rushing in to run for political office, in order to possess power and influence over the native European residents. Population replacement is swiftly underway, to the point where black Africans are strutting around calling themselves "Swedish," rendering the term meaningless. This is, indeed, "progress" for the African, as he flees his disordered lands and insists that he is capable of running the white man's countries, but, apparently, not his own.

The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is calling for outright miscegenation between white Europeans and the immigrant invaders. Here's a white man who can't wait to let nature take its course, but would speed up the assimilation process, so that the world might finally be rid of white skin, blue eyes and straight, light hair. Perhaps Europeans like Sarkozy can engineer a short cut to this enchanting future, by sponsoring government laws that would make marriages within the same race illegal. If forced miscegenation became the law of the land, impatient whites would not have to wait too long to see Europe transformed into a Haiti or Detroit.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, obtuse whites continue to encourage their sons to go off to die in worthless military conflicts, or end up as vegetables, as IEDs scramble their brains or relieve them of their limbs and eyesight. And those Tea Party folk, as dumb as rocks when it comes to what is really at stake, throw parties for a warmonger and immigration enthusiast like John McCain. It is understandable that Charles Blow mocks these misguided souls and their desperate dreams of taking their country back. "You may want your country back," he cajoles, "but you can't have it."

Actually, they don't deserve it. How else can you feel about a people who cheered on the destruction of their once unique republic, as it morphed from the Founders' intentions into an insidious empire? How else can you feel about a people who acceded to their country's manipulation by foreign lobbyists determined to keep it in permanent war mode, thus bankrupting its coffers?

How else to feel about a people who insist that loyalty to a foreign power is an imperative litmus test, in order to prove loyalty to the land of Jefferson, Madison and Jay? And how else can one feel about a people whose warped religious obsessions compel them to buy the poisonous doctrine of America's responsibility to "liberate the world" from wicked, godless tyrants, no matter the financial or moral costs to its citizens? Do such people deserve to take this country back?
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