Archive for the ‘Free speech’ Category

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Demise of Officer Clancy, and…

June 1, 2018

… Equality as the new opiate ….

I wonder what it must have been like to live at a time when, despite public claims of having crossed the fearful ocean to seek “religious freedom”, people had very strictly prescribed limits within which they were required to go about their day to day activities, all under the watchful eyes of the Puritan church leaders. The consequences for straying could be severe, and in some cases fatal. There are stories about Quakers being tethered behind horse drawn wagons and towed from town to town in the dead of winter, half naked, as punishment for their noncompliance with Puritan mandates and as a warning to others to mind their ways.

One can travel back through history and find similar periods when populations were held to very exacting standards when it came to what they believed, what they did, and how they spoke, by virtue only of the fact that their oppressors had the power and the willingness to abuse it. Every culture has a system of ethical and moral values, and “mores” that express who and what the people wish to be, and members of the group are expected to live within the generally accepted parameters. Times of extreme restriction by a minority faction of the “people” and enforcement of their parameters seem to be almost cyclical.

With that thought in mind, I would suggest that the United States is presently going through such a time, driven by two primary influences. First, when Middle Eastern “terrorists” hijacked three airliners and crashed them into the Twin Towers in NY City and the Pentagon in Washington, with the third being retaken by passengers and crashing into a Pennsylvania field, the military posture and the civilian approach to security and law enforcement changed radically. Laws were passed which permitted the government to violate traditional and expected standards of privacy, to set up checkpoints that restricted a person’s right to travel freely, and more. Anyone and everyone became quietly subject to extreme measures of surveillance without due process. The Department of Homeland Security has often been compared to the authorities of Nazi Germany, and not without good reason.

Our military forces became aggressively involved in actions in the Middle East, overthrowing the ruler of Iraq, who somehow became the targeted scapegoat of American rage over the September 11, 2001 attacks on America by terrorists led by Osama bin Laden who was holed up on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Middle East has been in turmoil for the past eighteen years and we have since been engaged in accelerated conflicts with most of the region.

The self anointed defenders of Freedom and Human Rights, and Exemplars of Democracy have not exactly been cherubs throughout this process, with examples of prisoner abuse, torture, and killings of civilians. The streets run knee deep with dopamine, adrenalin and testosterone during warfare.

Meanwhile, domestic law enforcement in the United States has taken on a new military atmosphere with a flood of surplus equipment. The days of Officer Clancy walking his beat are long gone and almost sound like a myth now. “Shoot first and ask questions later” makes no sense today when the slightest tic may earn a suspect the full compliment of a 15 round Glock 22 magazine, multiplied by the number of officers jumping into the fray, whether innocent or not. A civilian would likely get the death penalty for such an action; the uniformed shooters get time off with pay and a few privately whispered “attaboys”.

Those with the power, whether that is bestowed through election, assumed, or otherwise acquired without public oversight, apparently have the willingness to wield that power, enforced by whatever means they deem necessary, for their own gain or benefit.

The second issue that I see as driving our current retreat into an aggressively restricted and directed society would be the sudden explosion of power within the Politically Correct or “PC” movement, directly related to the Civil Rights movement and a number of other “rights” oriented campaigns, and driven by a neo-Liberal would-be dictatorship.

This is similar to other times when our society and many others back through history have ironically, and perhaps inadvertently, converted a positive into a negative. Several factions have taken the very moral and positive concept of equal rights for all, regardless of race, belief systems, and associations, a principle quite central to the very existence of the United States, and created a culture that restricts those rights by separating people into groups receiving special attention and groups receiving blame.

A new category of law appeared from the shadows establishing forbidden patterns of speech, belief systems, and identifying certain crimes and other behaviors as “Hate” based. This last is particularly scary because it would seem to violate at least two of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights. The use of certain words is deemed “Hate” based and is therefore subject to special consequences, such as perhaps the stepping up of some crime or misdemeanor to a more serious level and thus meriting more severe punishments. When crimes are committed by a “white” person against a person belonging to one of the designated “special interest” segments of the population, the offense may be automatically presumed to have been “Hate” based and therefore subject to additional charges by the Federal government. This smacks of the Puritan culture of the seventeenth century and obviously upholds the principle of Guilty Until Proven Innocent. There has been a huge growth in references to “Racism”, meaning the discrimination of one person or group against another based upon things like ethnicity and physical characteristics like pigmentation, which usually translates into the presumption of “Hate”.

Interestingly, the concept of “race” has long been challenged by anthropologists as it has no meaning in the science of taxonomy, or the classification of living things. I have written elsewhere about this issue.

All things considered, it would seem we are living in one of those highly restrictive periods of irony, with “equality” appearing to be expressed as some are more equal than others. This is the opposite of the original reason for the sudden increased interest in ensuring all are seen as equal under the law. Freedoms of speech and association have been reduced to the proscribed and the “approved”. Any expression of negativity by one against another is subject to a rather strict filter to see if it might be “Hate” based. Certain groups are called “Hate” groups because of their beliefs and are discriminated against because they do not pass “PC” muster.

There are many reasons for an observer to suggest that the United States has strayed from its historic values and its purpose, and those who might be most likely to, and capable of putting the nation back on course are also the most likely to be demonized and socially isolated, prosecuted under unconstitutional “thought control” statutes, and otherwise eliminated somehow if possible.

I, of course, oppose any and all tyrannical movements, whether they are popularly based like the “PC” epidemic, or government based like the invention of the “hate” crime designations and a decided shift to more authoritarian, prescriptive and proscriptive methods. I believe in the Constitution as written, and urge extreme caution during the quite necessary process of periodically adapting it to the changing times. Reinterpreting terminology to justify one perspective in a nation that boasts of itself as a world haven for Freedom of Speech, Religion, Association, et cetera is nothing short of an obscenity. These freedoms were officially acknowledged specifically to protect the liberty of those who disagreed with the self-anointed dispensers of morality and wisdom.

Some people seem to have forgotten that “equality” means having the same rights as everyone else; it does not mean suddenly meriting a parade, banner headlines, documentaries, or special certificates to tape to the family refrigerator just for doing the same things everyone else does as a matter of course in the day to day conduct of their lives.

Perhaps it is normal behavior for young people turning 21 to celebrate their “emancipation” by kicking up their heels a bit, making the rounds of the local bars, and so on. But the life of a society or nation is not subject to adolescent mile markers when breaking the rules or stretching the boundaries a tad may be somewhat forgivable. Those rules were painstakingly put to parchment precisely because the act of stretching boundaries for a selected group within a society restricts them for all others.

I’m pleased that certain populations are finally being given the fundamental human respect they deserve, but I am reminded of something the Admiral said at my Commissioning: We were told that respect must be earned, it cannot be commanded. All who continue to demand special laws, special treatment, and special status because of their newly protected rights need to be reminded that no law can or ever will earn them respect. Wielding power over people who may resemble those who once unfairly wielded underserved power over you or people who resembled you is not “Equality”…it is simply changing deck chairs on the Titanic.

My suggestion to those whose lives have finally been given the constitutional and judicial recognition they have long sought would be for them to tone down the parades, the temptation to seek special recognition over and above actual equality under the law. Live, enjoy your newly expanded access to your guaranteed liberty, and pursue happiness. Pay no attention to those on the sidelines demanding more and more on your behalf; truth be told, they serve their own needs, not yours.

My suggestion to the “PC” Police and all of those chanting and demanding and “occupying” on behalf of different groups and causes: Support those in need and those who are oppressed, to be sure, but know that if you attempt to take from me to give to another, you do so at your own peril. Being an advocate does not mean one spontaneously acquires any special status or authority to collect and redistribute anything on behalf of anybody.

My suggestion to legislators who have supported the redistribution of wealth and power in the name of various glibly and overly glorified causes or for your own benefit in the often vicious battlefield of politics: Retire. Apologize and go away. You have apparently become what you once despised when you first ran for public office. The Scarlet Letter for those who have betrayed the sacred trust given them to legislate honorably and protect the Constitution is almost universally the act of being the man or woman who first walks into his or her office with a dollar and walks out a multimillionaire with lifetime benefits only enjoyed by a few of the most successful of civilians.

 

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C’mon, Mr. President…

September 25, 2017

it’s time to earn your keep….

One thing is for certain: President Donald Trump doesn’t give a northbound rat’s south end whether you and I approve of what he says or does, though I have to note that he hasn’t done anything except trade mother cuts out by the swing sets with his North Korean counterpart, and he hasn’t said anything of substance since he unpacked his toy box at the White House.

Today, I am taking aim at our bombastic head of state regarding his rather Narcissistic attempt at defining the who, when, what, why, where, and how of addressing the American Flag, and more importantly, his suggesting that those who do otherwise should be fired, et cetera.

First of all, the responsibility of the President is to carry out the laws of the land, not to supercede Congress and the Supreme Court to redefine or interpret them to suit his own purposes. He has alleged that the actions of some professional football players who were making a statement by declining to join in some patriotic rituals were inappropriate and against the rules.

I beg to differ, Mr. President. There are no “rules”, as such, nor are there prescribed consequences for failing to act as though there were. In fact, that flag that you so dramatically, yet I suspect insincerely, deify symbolizes the right to kneel, stand, sit, or whatever one chooses. In general, Americans have long established traditions and rituals regarding how our national icons should be respected, but they are not laws. Certain behaviors are considered rude in most circles, but in this day of everybody waxing indignant about one thing or another, being “rude” is the norm, a skill you aren’t shy about practicing yourself.

Our flag has meant many things down through the years, but regardless of the details, the greatest thing it symbolizes is that Americans don’t have to fear annoying the sensibilities of some power drunk monarch, pope, or duly elected CIC.

I respect the office of the President of the United States, whether it is occupied by an affable genius or a drooling mad-man, but my respect for that individual must be earned. The election of 2016 was a “no-win” showdown in my view, but frankly, I think it would have been worse had your opponent won, Mr. President. The downside is that, thus far, you have clearly demonstrated the symptoms of an emerging dictator rather than those of a leader of free people.

I keep hoping you will undergo some spontaneous metamorphosis and start working with your Cabinet Members and Congress to redirect the nation away from the collectivist precipice the Progressives and Neo-Liberals seem so enamored of. I can’t help but wonder if you intend to drain the swamp or develop it. In any event, I for one would like to see you take your job seriously instead of like some Reality Show or a pathetic sit-com.

 

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the Accidental F-Bomb

July 15, 2017

Shawmut F-Bomb_Redo2

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What you need, what you want…

January 27, 2017

…and what your neighbors can afford…

This started out as a response to a post by an Angry Young Woman, which she posted to explain why she and many other AYWs marched the day after the inauguration, adding that they didn’t do it because Donald Trump won. Okay, “dog-licking-himself syndrome, then; kind of a just for the helluvit, seemed like a fun thing to do on a January afternoon sort of deal. Whatever the reason(s), and she mentioned a few, I couldn’t just let sleeping dogs lie, or lick, or whatever, so I’m putting my three cents worth in. To wit:

Whether you marched because Trump won or not is of little relevance, although since you brought it up, I suspect that it was a significant motivator. After all, President Trump did not walk up to the first podium and decide to take things away from you. Certain changes became highpoints of his campaign because your friends and neighbors and millions of people you never heard of wanted those changes. virtually everything you fear the loss of is paid for by somebody else, involuntarily in most cases. Clean water, clean air, and national parks are all valued by most Americans. As with any household budget though, we have to ask first: how much can I afford? We need transportation, but need alone does not provide a blank check for most of us to purchase luxury vehicles. Blank checks for many needs, and wants redefined as needs, have been handed out like Halloween treats for too long. Goosing up the national debt to pay for them doesn’t get nearly the blow-back that goosing up taxes instead would get. The “conservative” view says to put away the global credit card and get things under control; the “neo-liberal,” judgment is “damn the spending limits, full charge ahead!”

Healthcare: do we all deserve it? Of course we do. We deserve many things, but we will actually acquire or enjoy relatively few of them. Do we have a right to quality, affordable healthcare? Yes, but the questions are, what does that mean and how will we avail ourselves of it?

I retired from the local medical center after twenty five years, and I saw many things change over that time span. The institution was “self-insured” early on, and my expenses for care as an employee were reasonable but certainly not “free” just because I worked in a hospital. I could pick up prescriptions from the hospital pharmacy, and have the cost deducted incrementally from my paycheck. They weren’t cheap, but it was affordable. If I visited my physician, he billed my (supplementary) insurance company, and then he billed me for the difference. When I ended up hospitalized for three days in the mid-eighties with chest pain….eventually diagnosed as GERD…my bill was about $3, essentially for the TV in my room.

We are not a rich community, but the people did not go without care for lack of money. The hospital had a “charity care” program for those who could not pay. They still do, as a matter of fact, because enforced insurance or no, many people have unreasonable and unreachable “deductibles”, and therefore would go without if the community didn’t do as it has always done and find a way to get it done.

Family violence shelters and services deserve funding, of course, but if the people cannot afford to pay for the level of care recommended or desired, and if the country can’t afford to provide same without borrowing the money on the world market or snatching it out of the taxpayer’s wallet, then we have to find another way. We can.

You mentioned education, Rabbi, a topic close to my heart. But I don’t want bureaucrats and paid advocates deciding what our children should learn and how they should learn it. The elementary school I went to back in the fifties isn’t there anymore. It was one of those cavernous brick buildings with 14 ft. ceilings, stairways that echoed, and the playground was dust or mud, depending on the weather. But we learned. My late cousin was a brilliant man. Like his father, he went to MIT and became a Chemical Engineer. He stopped short of completing his PhD because he was too busy working.

I went to school with him one day when my family visited on an early summer vacation. My school had finished for the year. It was quite an experience. Believe it or not, it was a little one room schoolhouse! He eventually went to a prestigious private school on scholarship, the same way he went to MIT.

There were no federal rules, regulations, and mandates to follow beyond the fundamentals back then. If I had my druthers, we would dismantle the Department of Education. I think our teachers would be free to teach more, instead of connecting the dots, and I’d bet the kids would learn just fine.

Last but not least on your list, Rabbi, is the right to free speech, which you, and I, and those who marched on January 21 have all done and are doing. I believe it is in the best interests of our nation as it was conceived, and of the 325 million plus people now living here, to think about what we have been doing, think about the outcomes, and question how we might best proceed.

One thing is clear to me. We cannot continue to hold “need” as the primary justification for actions taken, and convenience for the manner in which they are taken.  

One thing that must change is the National Credit Card. I’ve torn up a couple in my lifetime and I’m still kicking. I trust our nation can do the same. It’s not a simple problem to resolve, of course, because it is not a single problem and they are not independent of each other. But we have to start. I’ve untangle some pretty nasty line snags over the years, but it never stopped me from fishing.

Another thing I have seen change over the years is the fragmenting of the sense of community, and the dissolution of the family unit as where and how we learn our values. Much of that is now defined and described on a bureaucratic or legislative level. Those are cold eyes through which to see the world, ones friends, neighbors, and family. While may seem rather philosophical in nature, I did major in the behavioral and social sciences, so I think about such things.

As federal programs and funding have been made available, people have come to problem-solve differently. Need is the new currency of acquisition, administered by countless bureaucracies and “government contractors’” the latter which is provide services that government will pay for. Too many of the “critical” needs, I fear, are identified at the polls.   And, you know, when the rumblings started about actually repealing the AFA, I was somewhat stunned but not particularly surprised that some of the first gasps of protest were about the jobs that would be lost!  Then it got down to the PR push about healthcare itself.

What it boils down to, is we have a society with a near-religious sense of entitlement. We have many things to which we feel we have a right, deserve, to which we believe we are entitled, with the caveat they will all be provided “free.” The problem is, these quantities are uniformly named, created, distributed, and paid for by the federal government. The federal; government does not pay for them, however, because the federal; government has no money and doesn’t produce any. The bills are paid through debt and by being confiscated in one way or another from us. You. Me.

That’s my take on it, Rabbi, and not surprisingly, “we” aren’t giving up easily, either.

Regards,
Jeffrey Marsh
Retired

By the way, opposing Trump or his policies with a winner take all mindset may serve political or personal goals, but that doesn’t mean it would be best for the country. I would suggest that the smart money will search for productive ways to work with his administration. This country wasn’t built only by folks on one side of the road, and it won’t survive if managed that way much longer.

JM

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Is there a “Plan-B”…?

January 23, 2017

themarch_001mount

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Uncle Sam’s tacit approval…

December 12, 2016

of “political correctness” tyranny….

The first time I recall having experimented with a “racist” epithet was, I believe, in the second grade. It was at recess, in the school yard by the big steel swing set where classmate Robert and I were doing a little scuff and spit over the last available seat. Robert was a “negro”, the accepted “polite” form of the time. I called him a nigger. He punched me in the nose. That was the end of that. We were friends after that.

There is no telling how many millions of dollars that little interaction saved the American taxpayer. I’m not advocating for violence, mind you, but I’m not advocating for some hydra-headed bureaucracy employing thousands of people dispatching an agent or three to shake their fingers at rude brats and lay out the permitted lexicon. Robert seemed to have handled the task rather nicely, for free.

Similarly, I spent my last couple of years in college at a small university in Florida where My Spanish professor was a Cuban refugee and many of my friends had made their way from that island nation to south Florida on makeshift rafts and other flotsam and jetsam. Let’s face it, when a teenager learns a foreign language, learning the popular pejoratives is a social requirement. Context and timing are fine details learned later, often by trial and error, like when I committed the error of addressing my friend Rufino as “maracon.” He was an athlete, and if he had caught me I have no doubt that his lesson in manners would have been considerably less benign than Robert’s had been many years before. Nevertheless, Rufino and I remained friends, and as with the Robert incident, there is no telling how many millions of dollars that frantic night pursuit through the palmettos saved the American taxpayer.

Jump forward about fifty years to the day Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar etched the same epithet into his eye-black, the dark smears athletes use to ward off glare, as a taunt to the opposing players. He was suspended without pay, had to donate the nearly $100k in lost salary to same-sex advocacy groups, and participate in “sensitivity” exercises. It would have been far simpler, and would have brought his intra-cultural communications awareness up to date more directly, if someone with a personal complaint about the little display of locker room banter had just taken a swing at him.

Needless to say, things are quite different from when I was younger. For one thing, the job of teaching “family values” and community standards has migrated from the family and the community to vague bureaucratic clusters of authority in orbit around the federal government. It all kind of grew out of the Civil Rights movement and related politic of the past four or five decades, like a boil may develop on the ass of a student who spends long hours sitting on hard seats to absorb knowledge. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes positive actions spawn unintended negative sidebars.

The so-called “PC”, or “Political Correctness” phenomenon, a case in point, achieved a level of power and influence that many find to be incompatible with traditional understandings of the Constitution and philosophies of the United States as a society. Those wielding the power, or those profiting and benefiting from its application, strongly disagree, of course.

Political correctness is difficult to explain, since it’s largely subjective in nature. Perhaps it can be illustrated by recalling certain aspects of childhood, both the real and the somewhat mythical. I am thinking of how, in the final months before Christmas, kids would be acutely aware of how their conduct might influence the outcome on that anxiously anticipated morning. We didn’t become angels, but the atmosphere of consequences being especially welded to behaviors during that time period was palpable. Certainly, parents and other interested parties in the adult population must have reaped some benefits from the “Santa Method” The “PC” of the twenty first century is like that.

Those with the power, and it can be anybody, make the rules, set the standards, sort the lexicon into Permitted and Taboo piles, endorse selected belief systems while condemning others, and generally work to engineer the culture to their liking. This is nothing new. Human cultures have always established their accepted ways in this manner. However, when the Colonists rebelled against England and put together a homegrown system of governance of their own, it was structured to prevent such centralization of power and authority into elite cliques and to make it truly a government “of the people, by the people, for the people, ” as Lincoln later phrased it.

Note that I have been discussing what I see as the downside of a “Politically Correct” movement in general. I believe the separation of a population into classes of the Ruled and the Rulers, while absolutely a “normal” human behavior, is a handicap to the modern society as a whole. The thing that takes a normal “grouping” action and gives it the potential to do harm is the endorsement of government, which is supposed to be an expression of all of the people. The founders were acutely aware of such dangers and worked very hard to avoid the pitfalls of pure Democracy, which can become a matter of “mob rule”.

To be more specific, and to revisit the incidents in which I had a role many years ago, the community response to offensive language was previously a matter decided within families, who were in turn influenced by extended family, neighbors, and the community in general. Cultures have always sought cohesion, but I have watched the current wave grow over a lifetime. This “PC” twist is not just a temporary ripple in response to a specific episode or issue. It is an overall shift towards a more prescriptive, centralized, national government that seems increasingly distanced from the individual on Main Street, USA. This is a two sided coin, of course, and a complacent populace has allowed it to build, in part because most have felt untouched by it or somehow immune.

The “please and thank you” aspects of daily life were, in fact, considered largely to be either “off limits” to those in Washington, DC, or of little interest to them. Mother, father, the church, and others taught us what it was “nice” to say or do, and what was not tolerated in those areas. That would differ from family to family, and from community to community, and those with much in common would associate, while those with significant differences would not. The role of any centralized form government was focused on the central, common denominators under the accepted rule of law, in such matters as felonious crimes of violence and property.

Through various mechanisms, and in response to a number of certain events and circumstances, The United States has become sharply divided between those striving for a more “statist” society while attempting to override or diminish the value of individuality, and those who are poised to defend a more traditional Constitutionalist approach. “Gated Communities,” where everyone is expected to adhere to codes of behavior and appearance devised by a ruling committee, are preferred by some people, but living in one is voluntary. Converting the entire nation into one big “Gated Community” would not be voluntary nor would it serve the preferences of those who want to be free to express themselves as individuals rather than as just part of a group that paints their houses and landscapes their yards in unison and subject to approval. The iconic example today would be the Affordable Care Act. The title smiles gently and sounds caring, but in practice essentially nationalized the health insurance and medical industries and has benefited just enough people to maintain an air of legitimacy, while being little more than a Mafia-style protection racket. Buy the prescribed insurance or the Knee Breakers will take your tax refund money away from you. By associating the health insurance mandate with the Internal Revenue Service, it isn’t much of a stretch to re-label noncompliance as “tax evasion” and other life changing white collar felonies.

When my friend Robert punched me in the nose, and my friend Rufino threatened me with serious bodily harm, along with a long list of other “learning experiences” I have logged during my life, the values and expected rules of social interaction favored by our society and culture have survived, adapted as needed to changes in the world and the neighborhood, and been successfully passed on to a couple more generations. We as a people have faced challenges before, and I’m not afraid of our way of life being taken away from us. I sense that this time is different, however, and the danger instead is that we will simply throw it away. We’ve already started. The ACA isn’t the only stop sign we’ve run.

Bureaucracy, which one cannot avoid in a nation of 325 million people, has gained excessive levels of power and authority on a broad scale. One of the ways this is accomplished is through the way regulations are structured and funded. Simply put, if a federal agency wants to move people in a certain direction, it may do so through regulation. The agency wants everyone nationwide to follow a certain line or program, so it threatens to withhold funding from states that don’t impose supportive regulations of their own. Another way is to issue the “unfunded mandate” type of regulation, and offer funding to those who march in step and to withhold funding from those who do not, as well as to issue penalties. The ACA has elements of the latter. I thought about how someone might simply arrange their tax withholdings to zero out so there would be no funds to confiscate for failing to purchase the mandated insurance. I anticipate that, if it has not already done so, the IRS will soon close that “loophole”. Odd, isn’t it? A tax action that was considered good personal financial management just a few years ago either is now, or soon will be, a federal white-collar crime worthy of imprisonment.

I look forward to the day when we, the people, wrest our responsibilities and liberties back from our own government and once again adhere to a code where one doesn’t fear for one’s well being or freedom for saying, writing, or endorsing words and ideas that someone else just doesn’t like. The right to be rude and ignorant should once again be a freedom, along with the potential consequences of speaking or acting in such a manner. The government’s responsibility is to protect us while we wind our way through such issues, not to play the irate Nanny telling people how to chew their food and not to say things like nigger, spic, slope, chink, wop, kike, frog, etcetera, etcetera. Where is George Carlin when you need him?

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the big IF….

November 12, 2016

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