Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Nashville is flooded, as if you had not already heard that from a dozen sources

This is the worst flood of my lifetime here in Nashville. Several main arteries have been underwater for times varying from an hour to almost twenty-four hours. I-24 southeast of the city had the worst of it yesterday, which this video of a school’s temporary classroom floating down the interstate and imploding shows vividly:

In that video, you can also see a rather large number of cars caught up in the flood. Many were folks just driving through Nashville on the way to somewhere else, probably listening to Lady Gaga and having no idea they were about to be trapped in a flood.

This morning, the west and southwest parts got hit hardest. This video shows Charlotte Pike, which is one of main arteries going west from the city. A large section is underwater and some guys have been on a roof for a couple of hours waiting for rescue.

Last I heard, the death toll was six, but that doesn’t really communicate the large number of businesses and homes that were washed out. There are plenty of videos on YouTube showing those, plus the usual number of videos from guys in pickup trucks demonstrating their foolishness by driving through flooded areas to shoot their video. Of course, YouTube has the successful ones. We don’t get to see the ones in which “Hold my beer – watch this” was preceded by a vehicle caught up in the flood.

I’d put up some of my own pictures, but there’s no particularly photogenic flooding around my neighborhood, and the local officials have requested everyone to stay home if at all possible. The water table got high enough to flood our old coal room to about six inches deep with some artesian pressure, but the only casualty was a 25-year-old water heater I was about to replace anyway. My teenage sons and I cleared the drainholes and bailed water for a while, and it’s drained now. We even had time for a shower apiece from the old heater before the water gave out.

The rain has stopped and things will probably be back to normal soon. Some numbers: We got about twenty inches of rain in less than three days, which is normally about a six month supply for us. That’s on top of a couple of inches last week which did a nice job of saturating the ground in preparation for this deluge.

Next week’s expected outlook: widely scattered insurance claims and flood damage sales.

*** Update 6:00 PM CST ***

If you want to see plenty of pictures and some more video, including a shot of the aftermath of the I-24 flooding, Donald Sensing has a couple of good posts up (found via Instapundit):

Yesterday.

Today.

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BlogTalk Radio – Tonight 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s):

Economy – what do the most recent quarter’s numbers mean? And why is Larry Summers saying high unemployment may be a perpetual thing?

Charlie Crist – is he the shape of things to come in the November election?

NYC carbomb – even though it malfunctioned the fact that it is claimed by the Taliban is significant. Does it usher in a new era of terrorism?

Oil spill – I question the timing. Seriously, what does it mean in terms of politics and energy?

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More on the NYC carbomb

It appears it was a Taliban of Pakistan attempt:

A top Pakistani Taliban commander took credit for yesterday’s failed car bomb attack in New York City.

Qari Hussain Mehsud, the top bomb maker for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said he takes “fully responsibility for the recent attack in the USA.” Qari Hussain made the claim on an audiotape accompanied by images that was released on a YouTube website that calls itself the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel.

The tape has yet to be verified, but US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal believe it is legitimate. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel on YouTube was created on April 30. Officials believe it was created to announce the Times Square attack, and Qari Hussain’s statement was pre-recorded.

All indications are the tape is legitimate. YouTube has pulled the video and shut down the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel since this article was published.

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Car Bomb Attempt in Times Square

The details are still a bit sketchy, but NYPD has evacuated Times Square after discovering a car bomb.

Police said a Nissan Pathfinder at West 45th Street and Seventh Avenue was loaded with a bomb made of electrical components, three propane gas tanks and two additional gas canisters. They received the call about the suspicious vehicle around 6:30 p.m. and blocked the area from West 43rd to 47th streets along Broadway and Seventh Avenue with metal railings. Parts of 48th Street were also closed.

A press conference from NYPD is scheduled momentarily.

UPDATE (22:24 PST): Apparently, the bomb had been activated.  The vehicle was smoking, and an NYPD mounted officer kicked off the evacuation.  No injuries, and NYPD cleared Times Square in record time.  I suspect NYPD will have some questions for the vehicle’s owners, but it seems the license plate on the vehicle didn’t match the one originally issued.

According to MSNBC, cameras captured the car being parked at approx. 6:30PM ET and smoke coming out a few minutes later.

UPDATE (23:19 EST): Press Conference:

An T-Shirt vendor, who is a Viet Vet, called the cops.  Cops arrived, saw smoke, and evacuated the area, then called the bomb squad.

Bomb materials and such were found in the car.

It seems like the materials, though, are evidence of an amateur job.  Gas cans, propane tanks, consumer fireworks, etc.  In other words, it wasn’t stuffed to the gills with nitrates.

Mayor Bloomberg says the set-up was “amateurish”.  So, it seems like more of a whack-job doing something nutty, than some sort of al-Qaeda deal.

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Why are Democrats so tone deaf? (update)

Rasmussen has a poll out that addresses the public’s feeling about government and job creation. To put it succinctly, they mostly think that government can best serve the public in that regard by cutting taxes.

And:

Sixty-five percent (65%) say decisions made by U.S. business leaders to help their own businesses grow will do more to create jobs than decisions made by government officials. Twenty-five percent (25%) say decisions made by government officials to create jobs will do more.

So their faith in a government solution v. a private sector solution is obvious. As another survey points out, the public is “dubious” of the administration claimed success in aiding any economic recovery:

Just 33% say the economic stimulus passed by Congress last year has helped the job situation and only somewhat more (42%) say the loans the federal government provided to troubled financial institutions prevented a more severe financial crisis. Less than a third (31%) says that the government has made progress in fixing the problems that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

That means Democrats are unlikely to reap the political reward from an economic turnaround that they would like.

It goes without saying, dissatisfaction with the economy and government (and government’s efforts in behalf of the economy) mean political trouble for the party in power. It means even more trouble for that party when the people make clear their priorities for the party in power (jobs, the economy and the deficit) and that party ignores them (HCR, financial reform, cap-and-trade, etc).

Another interesting tidbit from the Rasmussen poll which shows how disconnected the “Political Class” is from “Mainstream Voters”:

Similar distinctions are evident in the views of Mainstream voters versus those of the Political Class. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Mainstream voters, for example, think decisions made by U.S. business leaders to help their own businesses grow will do more to create new jobs than job-creation decisions made by government officials. The plurality (47%) of Political Class voters have more confidence in the decisions made by government officials.

So how did a victorious Democratic party and a president swept into power on the “Hope and Change” platform become so tone deaf to what the public really wants?

Most, I’m sure, remember candidate Obama saying that one of the things he really wanted to do was make government “cool again”. And, one can imagine, he thought that was part of his and the Democrats mandate when he was elected. Of course, the underlying premise of a desire to make government “cool again” is the belief that government is the answer to most problems.  Or more government is good government and good government is “cool”. They’ve accomplished the “more government part”, but it certainly certainly hasn’t translated into a perception of good government, has it?

Interestingly, David Brooks recently addressed that in an article saying:

In the first year of the Obama administration, the Democrats, either wittingly or unwittingly, decided to put the big government-versus-small government debate at the center of American life.

But Arnold Kling differs with that and I think what he says is more on the mark. His premise helps explain a lot, such as the Democratic tone deafness and their reaction to the emergence of the Tea Parties, etc. Talking about Brook’s statement above he says:

I would put this somewhat differently. The left decided that the debate was settled. They took the view that the financial crisis proved once and for all that markets do not work, and that wherever markets produce imperfect outcomes, government is the answer.

They, as many political parties have in the past, misinterpreted the outcome as a mandate to do what they perceived to be the desire of the people – expand the size, scope and cost of government – and set out on their merry way to do exactly that.

As it turns out, they were dead wrong. In fact, the term “dead wrong” doesn’t even begin to describe how wrong they were. Not only did the financial crises not support their interpretation, but – as with the “science” of AGW – nothing about the debate concerning the size, scope and cost of government was settled by their election. That’s not at all what the election was about – yet their own hubris wouldn’t allow them to see that. They decided to interpret it the way they found served their ideological best interest.

And they’ve blown it.

Recognizing that has to give one some hope. Americans are mostly rejecting big government and government solutions. Government is not “cool” again. And while the Democrats haven’t yet realized that, the GOP seems to be waking up to it – somewhat. They’re not there yet, and a certain number of them are as clueless as the Democrats, but I think the public is gearing up to smack many of those who are popularly known as “RINOs” around a bit in November as well (especially if they favor more government).

I think it is interesting though to consider this explanation as to why Democrats don’t seem to be able to get out of their own way and why they seem unable to change course and address that which the electorate really wants. All of that goes directly against the interpretation they gave the election of 2008 and they can’t yet admit to themselves, much less anyone else, that they were wrong.

UPDATE: If you don’t believe me, consider the commencement speech President Obama just delivered at the University of Michigan today:

President Obama on Saturday urged graduates at the University of Michigan to participate in public life as the president forcefully defended an activist role for government in dealing with society’s problems.

Don’t expect he or the Democrats to figure it out anytime soon.

~McQ

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Political correctness: Will it be the death of Western civilization?

I wonder at times where our western civilization is headed.  I see signs of resistance to the slide toward oblivion, but for the most part I see things which convince me that slide is almost unrecoverable.

While reading the Belmont Club, I find that Richard Fernandez seems to be seeing the same thing.  And he brings two examples to the fore that signal the extent of our decent, not whether or not we’re actually sliding toward the inevitable end.

One has to do with a school teacher in the UK who was hounded by students to the point that he finally struck back violently.  The situation developed over months.  It was apparently known to all of those in positions of responsibility in the school.  Yet the solution apparently didn’t involve disciplining the children, but instead, having the teacher take 5 months leave of absence.  Of course, the fact that those who were behaving badly were left untouched by the authorities only meant the 5 months delayed the inevitable end:

Hounded for months by a group of students who decided to see what it would take to make him snap; tripped up, shoved him into hedges and followed home threateningly, Harvey went on a 5 month leave of absence because he feared he would lose his mind. Punishing the gang leaders was out of the question. Traditional classroom disciplinary measures were no longer available to him. No more harsh words, no more corporal punishment, however slight. Teachers had been sentenced to jail for striking students in a country where the police were called into classrooms 40 times a day because the schools had lost control. Upon his return from leave the same group decided to secretly record him going over the edge and arranged to goad him after which they planned to distribute the video to complete his humiliation. They didn’t reckon on the 7 pound dumb bell. The result was a 14 year old with a skull fracture and a man accused of murder.

Fernandez believes that political correctness has created a “new morality”.  Going on he says, “[t]hings are now ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ for reasons which only 20 years ago would have been regarded as completely crazy.”

The situation with teacher Peter Harvey points to this evolving morality of political correctness that completely changes the hierarchy of what is “acceptable” and “unacceptable” behavior.  It is the re-institution of a stratified society:Underlying the new morality is not some notion of good or bad, but the preservation of privileges in an unstated but obvious hierarchy. Things are now ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ in the old courtly sense. Did you forget yourself? Rise above your station? The idea that animals should not be filmed in their burrows is founded on the idea that  their relative ranking in the PC universe should be revised. “What does it say about our assumptions about animals?” That we think we’re better, hence we’re bigots. QED.

That formula (simply change “animals” to your favorite PC favored group and “bigot” to your favorite PC charge) brings us to our second example, again from the UK.

A Muslim protester who daubed a war memorial with graffiti glorifying Osama Bin Laden and proclaiming ‘Islam will dominate the world’ walked free from court after prosecutors ruled his actions were not motivated by religion.

Tohseef Shah, 21, could have faced a tougher sentence if the court had accepted that the insults – which included a threat to kill the Prime Minister – were inspired by religious hatred.

But – citing a loophole in the law – the Crown Prosecution Service chose not to charge him with that offence and he escaped with only a two-year conditional discharge and an order to pay the council £500 compensation after admitting causing criminal damage.

So, since he wasn’t “motivated by religious hatred” according to CPS, his crime was less heinous than had it actually been motivated by such hatred. The fact that he scrawled “Kill Gordon Brown” on the memorial is just plain vanilla hate, one supposes and much less worrisome – although had Shah carried out the threat, I’m sure a dead Gordon Brown wouldn’t particularly care what his motivation actually was.

Shah showed no remorse for what he’d done in court. And although his lawyer contends there was nothing religious about the act and it has nothing to do with his culture – “he’s just an ordinary guy.” But who is it he sends out to speak for him?

[H]e appointed Abdullah Ibn Abbas, who described himself as spiritual leader of a group called Road to Jannah, to speak on his behalf.

He said: ‘It really doesn’t concern us how the British people feel about the graffiti he wrote – the real outrage should be about the thousands of Muslims who are being killed and butchered as a result of British foreign policy.’

Very conciliatory, wouldn’t you say?  Certainly nothing to do with his culture or religion, right?

But the authorities are hoist on their own petard. They were unable to act because of the fear of being “politically incorrect” which is obviously much worse than confronting the crime for what it is and punishing the perpetrator. Why Shah isn’t in prison orange and physically cleaning the graffiti off the monument right now as he would have been 20 years ago, is something only those who let him walk with a fine can answer.

As Fernandez notes:

Everything, guilt or innocence, morality or immorality is judged not by what is done, but by who did it. Alternet has an article by a rape victim who thinks her Haitian attacker was justified because she was white and deserved to be punished. Others are above it all. If Roman Polanski does rape, is it really rape? The need to judge every act within the new hierarchy means only one real crime is left in the world: not knowing your place.

This is our world as it is evolving today. It is a crippling disease that turns the current western concept of justice on its head.

Political correctness is gradually replacing common sense and natural law with an unstated but controlling code of manners. Certain things cannot be said; certain illegal things are legal and vice versa; things though evident may not exist.

The problem, of course, are the results of such nonsense and avoidance. Dead 14 year olds because their behavior was excused regardless of how abhorrent or destructive it was. A situation that was allowed to spin out of control. The obvious sin to those who allowed this to manifest itself over those months of hell for the teacher was the possibility of being charged with damaging the fragile egos and trashing the self-esteem of the hooligans who perpetrated the crime by making them behave in a civilized manner. Instead, the responsibility was shifted to a teacher who had no power to correct the situation or stop it other than the way he eventually did.

The authorities in the case were more terrified, for various reasons, of taking on the perpetrators than stopping the abuse. And the perpetrators continued to be abusive because they knew they could get away with it. The results speak for themselves.

In the case of Shah, the same thing seems evident. He knew, based on recent history, that his chances of being punished in any meaningful way were minimal if caught. PC demands that authorities pretend that the motivations of political or religious minorities be considered pure as the driven snow or ignored. Punishing them is bad form. Consequently:

In brief the politically correct world is becoming very much like Mr. Peter Harvey’s classroom: a “caring place” seething with hatred; a place of forced gaiety, of smiles as mirthful as the Joker’s, a place you want to take five month’s vacation from knowing nothing will have changed when you get back.

And one in which those who know their behavior will be excused, no matter how vile, abhorrent or excessive, will continue to take advantage of the situation.

~McQ

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Democrats – giving “your papers please” a new twist

Sometimes I just love the Democrats.  After fomenting a near meltdown over the Arizona immigration law, with charges of nazism and cries of “show me you papers!” flying hither and yon, the Democrats introduce an immigration framework with what?

Improved papers, of course.

Yes, the Dems screwed the pooch and included a national ID card in their proposed legislation.  And a biometric one at that.   As someone characterized it, it’s a “super Social Security card”.  Remember when you were assured that your SS card/number was not for identification purposes and never would be.  Well Bunky, that was as true as most of the promises politicians make.

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.

Heh … how do Democrats kill the momentum working in their favor in an issue which might actually help them in November?

Totally misunderstand the point.

For once, I’m in complete agreement with the ACLU who wasted no time in savaging the plan:

“Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy — one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel.

Oh, and the Gestapo.

~McQ

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Arizona makes some changes to its controversial immigration law

Byron York reports that the Arizona Legislature and the Governor have made a few “tweaks” to address some of the fears of critics and more specifically define the law.

The first concerns the phrase “lawful contact,” which is contained in this controversial portion of the bill: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…”  Although drafters of the law said the intent of “lawful contact” was to specify situations in which police have stopped someone because he or she was suspected of violating some other law — like a traffic stop — critics said it would allow cops to pick anyone out of a crowd and “demand their papers.”

So now, in response to those critics, lawmakers have removed “lawful contact” from the bill and replaced it with “lawful stop, detention or arrest.” In an explanatory note, lawmakers added that the change “stipulates that a lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state.”

The law now stipulates specifically that unless the officer is first involved in a “lawful stop, detention or arrest” that officer cannot just demand papers based on a suspicion the person is there illegally.

The second change concerns the word “solely.”  In a safeguard against racial profiling, the law contained the phrase, “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.”  Critics objected to that, too, arguing again that it would not prevent but instead lead to racial profiling.  So lawmakers have taken out the word “solely.”

Whether it will satisfy the critics is, frankly, doubtful.  It has been “politicized” now and that means that those who oppose it will most likely ignore, minimize or mischaracterize the changes in an effort to keep the issue alive.  There’s a whole movement at stake here and the race warlords are most likely unwilling to give it up this easily.  Additionally, those who want to see some sort of immigration reform law pushed through see this as giving the issue renewed visibility.  They’re unlikely to let that go, even if the law is indeed more satisfactory in terms of protecting civil rights than in its previous iteration.

~McQ

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Department Of Interior SWAT Teams Dispatched To The Gulf?

A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted a large coordinated response from the owner of the rig, BP, and the U.S. government. President Obama addressed the issue in a short speech yesterday where he said:

Earlier today, DHS Secretary Napolitano announced that this incident is of national significance and the Department of Interior has announced that they will be sending SWAT teams to the Gulf to inspect all platforms and rigs. And I have ordered the Secretaries of Interior and Homeland Security as well as Administrator Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency to visit the site on Friday to ensure that BP and the entire U.S. government is doing everything possible, not just to respond to this incident, but also to determine its cause.

I was immediately puzzled when I first heard this yesterday. Why on Earth would the DOI have SWAT (“S”pecial “W”eapons “A”nd “T”actics) Teams? What exactly would they need them for, and why would they be dispatched to “inspect” oil rigs in the middle of the Gulf? I was not alone in my puzzlement:

In an odd turn, Obama announced he’d be sending SWAT teams out to all oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf to inspect them, as pointed out by RealClearPolitics. We’re not sure what a Special Weapons And Tactics team is going to do on an oil rig but we’re pretty sure it’ll make good fodder for Tom Clancy’s next book.

I have to believe that Obama was being colorful in his language instead of literal. I checked the DOI website and could find no announcement about “SWAT teams” or any mention of such teams whatsoever. So, it must be the case that the man whose speeches cause tingles to run down the legs of newscasters, oceans to recede, and Nobel Prizes to fall from the sky simply misspoke.

One interesting thing to note is that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s declaration of the oil spill as an incident of “national significance” brings the whole mess within her Department’s purview. That of course allows all sorts of resources not otherwise available (i.e. money) to be employed in the cleanup, but it also raises the question as to what exactly the limits of the DHS are. Apparently they are quite willing to spend gobs of money and effort (and possible deploy SWAT teams!) to tackle an invasion of viscous minerals upon our southern shores, but are completely uninterested in doing anything about an invasion of vicious criminals upon our southern border, other than to challenge the right of individual States to defend themselves. Perhaps Arizona should spill a bunch of oil along the border and see what happens.

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Obama gives immigration reform a thumbs down

Harry Reid must be thrilled.

Instead of addressing the problem that Arizona’s legislature and governor felt compelled to address, Obama decides he’d rather fling poo and put it off again.

Of course I’m talking about addressing the immigration problem.   Given the fact that the administration has no desire at this time to address the issue, look for other states, such as Texas, to give what Arizona has done a hard look.

So let’s see, jobs aren’t a priority – something the American people have said they’d like to be the priority of government.  The deficit, another people’s priority, is obviously not a priority – and now immigration reform is off the table.

It appears Obama sees a political opportunity in postponing it yet again:

The president noted that lawmakers may lack the “appetite” to take on immigration while many of them are up for re-election and while another big legislative issue — climate change — is already on their plate.

“I don’t want us to do something just for the sake of politics that doesn’t solve the problem,” Obama told reporters Wednesday night aboard Air Force One.

Immigration reform was an issue Obama promised Latino groups that he would take up in his first year in office. But several hard realities — a tanked economy, a crowded agenda, election-year politics and lack of political will — led to so much foot-dragging in Congress that, ultimately, Obama decided to set the issue aside.

With that move, the president calculated that an immigration bill would not prove as costly to his party two years from now, when he seeks re-election, than it would today, even though some immigration reformers warned that a delay could so discourage Democratic-leaning Latino voters that they would stay home from the polls in November.

Consider that last sentence carefully – it tells you a lot about what Obama expects to happen in November, and it’s not good news for Democrats.  However he sees the opportunity, should the Congress go Republican, to use the issue as a wedge to energize the Latino base while blaming inaction on the GOP and enhancing his reelection possibilities.  The only thing transparent about this guy is his politics and that’s only because they’re so obvious.

Meanwhile, Daniel Griswold at CATO makes an excellent point about how immigration reform is best handled.  In fact, his point is good enough to make me reconsider my “secure the border first and then do reform” stance.  First his analogy:

Requiring successful enforcement of the current immigration laws before they can be changed is a non sequitur. It’s like saying, in 1932, that we can’t repeal the nationwide prohibition on alcohol consumption until we’ve drastically reduced the number of moonshine stills and bootleggers. But Prohibition itself created the conditions for the rise of those underground enterprises, and the repeal of Prohibition was necessary before the government could “get control” of its unintended consequences.

His point, of course, is we have to address the reason illegals are here first before we can reasonably expect to secure the border.  In other words, remove the incentive by making it easier to legally enter to do work here:

By essentially barring the legal entry of low-skilled immigrant workers, our own government has created the conditions for an underground labor market, complete with smuggling and day-labor operations. As long as the government maintains this prohibition, illegal immigration will be widespread, and the cost of reducing it, in tax dollars and compromised civil liberties, will be enormous.

We know from experience that expanding opportunities for legal immigration can dramatically reduce incentives for illegal immigration. In the 1950s, the federal government faced widespread illegal immigration across the Mexican border. In response, the government simultaneously beefed up enforcement while greatly expanding the number of workers allowed in the country through the Bracero guest-worker program. The result: Apprehensions at the border dropped by 95 percent. (For documentation, see this excellent 2003 paper by Stuart Anderson, a Cato adjunct scholar and executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy.)

I think he has a point – not that the federal government has any immediate plans to address it or the broader issue.  Instead it will continue to condemn states for acting in the absence of its action and abrogation of its responsibility. 

It is a disturbing, but typical example of how out-of-touch the federal government is with the priorities and needs of the citizenry and how captivated it has become of special interest groups.

~McQ

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