Our Apples Didn’t Fall Far From Their Tree

I just can’t help myself.  The election in the UK is so fascinating, if only to examine how the candidates deal with issues familiar to Americans.  Here’s a few snippets from the final debate yesterday, between David Cameron (Conservatives), Nick Clegg (LibDems), and PM Gordon Brown (Labour), featuring short discussions on the budget, taxes, and immigration:

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“As Dumb As A Brontosaurus In A Blizzard”

Gene Lyons’ column in yesterday Globe was titled, “Bail me out of these GOP lies.” On Salon.com the column, in a slightly modified form, was titled, “How the GOP gets away with it.”

However one wants to label it, the column exposed a large part of the reason why the country is so divided, and why it is so hard to find compromise as we try to solve some of the country’s problems.

Lyons began his explanation as to why the country is becoming “as dumb as a brontosaurus in a blizzard” with this:

Has the Republican Party gone completely off into Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, or have its leading spokesmen simply decided to mimic the party’s entertainment wing: trusting its loyal audience to believe even the most brazen falsehoods, and, equally important, to remember nothing?

[…] After all, you can trick a cow with an empty feed bucket once or twice. By the third try, it won’t even look at you.

GOP savants act as if Republican voters are more easily guided.

The specific issue Lyons was addressing was the Republican and conservative lies about the financial-reform bill being debated in the Senate, the one which Republicans claim would lead to “endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street banks,” a critique dreamed up by Republican spinmeister Frank Luntz, before there was a financial reform bill to criticize.

Never mind, as Lyons and nearly everyone else not employed by Rupert Murdoch has pointed out, the proposed legislation “would do exactly the opposite.”  Republicans seem to have the luxury these days of keeping large swaths of the population agitated by propagating fractional truths and outright falsehoods.

In any case, Lyons quotes Matt Yglesias, a blogger for Think Progress, as he nails the dynamics of the Republican strategy:

The only real test for whether or not lying works is whether or not you can bring your ideological fellow travelers along. Will Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck echo your line? Will the Weekly Standard and National Review? Will the bulk of your legislative caucus? The answers are yes, yes, and yes.

Lyons adds his own anecdotal evidence to the idea that “Fox News viewers and Limbaugh listeners” resist anything contradicting their world view,  a world view formed largely by disinformation campaigns like the one over financial reform:

Conditioned by decades of propaganda about liberal media bias, many react with overt hostility to any and all information from other sources. I must get 50 angry e-mails a week calling me a liar for citing some easily verifiable fact at odds with right-wing doctrine.

The column ends with a quote from Julian Sanchez, a libertarian from the Cato Institute:

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross-promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.

Those aren’t the words of a left-winger.  Again, Sanchez said:

Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross-promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.

Now, admittedly, I am a former dittohead and I have a PhD in Limbaughnics.  But anyone who has listened for five minutes to Rush, Sean, Glenn, or has tried to talk to someone who regularly listens to them, knows exactly what Mr. Sanchez means.

And that, boys and girls, goes a long way in explaining the deep fissures among us, and why it so hard to get Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, to work together on the stuff that ails us.

As I wrote in February of 2009:

Limbaugh, right-wing radio, and the Hannitized local minions who contribute to the Globe, obviously don’t long for a government that nurtures unity…Their conservatism is divisive and destructive, a toxic concoction by which the most famous of these snake oil salesmen earn a substantial, if sullied, living.

And as long as they can make such a substantial living—as long as people tune in—expect more to come.

UK Candidates And USA Republicans Mum About Budget Cuts

I’ve been trying to follow the election in the UK between Labour Party incumbent Gordon Brown (who screwed up royally yesterday by calling a voter a “bigoted woman”), David Cameron (Conservative Party), and fast-rising Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats*). 

A real possibility exists that after the May 6 election, no party will have a majority of MP’s in Parliament, which would be the first hung parliament since 1974 and would make for interesting politics. 

But the real reason I mention all this is the following item, which illustrates that it’s not just American politicians who have trouble facing the hard facts about deficits and debts: 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said none of the three largest parties at Westminster has come “anywhere close” to making clear where cuts would be made to meet their deficit reduction targets over the next four years. 

Here at home, Republicans don’t even have “deficit reduction targets,” not to mention specific budget cuts they are willing to defend.  They just whine about Obama’s spending and agitate for tax cuts for the wealthy. 

As a side note about the UK election and the parliamentary form of government, here is a list of the parties running for seats in Parliament, other than the three biggies mentioned above: 

Democratic Unionist Party; Scottish National Party; Sinn Fein; Plaid Cymru; Social Democratic & Labour Party; Ulster Conservative & Unionist New Force; Respect (Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, and Trade Unionism); UK Independence Party; Green Party (England & Wales); British National Party; Scottish Green Party; Alliance Party; Green Party (Northern Ireland); English Democrats; Scottish Socialist Party; Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition; Traditional Unionist Voice     

*They’re not what you may think. 



Tucson Touché

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, Arizona (Tucson), has some interesting things to say about the troubling new law passed in his state. 

But Republicans shouldn’t pay any attention to him; he’s only been in law enforcement for 52 years, and on Pima County’s southern border is a place called Mexico.  So, what the hell does Sheriff Dupnik know about the immigration issue?

Watch, and find out:

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A Vale Of Fears

Former First Lady Laura Bush will have her memoirs published next week, which will, understandably, contain a robust defense of her husband, who, the latest poll shows, still remains an object of blame for our ongoing economic morass.  59% of Americans, including 30% of Republicans, give Bush his due for the weakened state of our fiscal health.

That having been said, I was struck by something unexpected that apparently is in Mrs. Bush’s book.

The New York Times procured, of course, a copy of, Spoken From the Heart, which includes a rather poignant discussion of an auto accident involving Mrs. Bush when she was only 17 years old.  As the Times put it,

On a November night in 1963, Mrs. Bush and a girlfriend were hurrying to a drive-in theater when Mrs. Bush, at the wheel of her father’s Chevy Impala, ran a stop sign on a small road and smashed into a car being driven by Mike Douglas, a star athlete and popular student at her school… Mrs. Bush concedes that she and her friend were chatting when she ran the stop sign.

It turns out the young Mike Douglas died.

Mrs. Bush writes:

I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years. It was the first time that I had prayed to God for something, begged him for something, not the simple childhood wishing on a star but humbly begging for another human life. And it was as if no one heard. My begging, to my seventeen-year-old mind, had made no difference. The only answer was the sound of Mrs. Douglas’s sobs on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain.

And it was as if no one heard.”

Who hasn’t experienced that alienating feeling?  And why wouldn’t it cause a young woman to lose her faith in a God who allegedly hears and answers earnest prayers? Such is the way it is in this vale of fears, prominent among them the fear that we are alone, that there is no one to hear our pleas and cries for mercy, if not for justice.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear,” wrote C.S. Lewis, as he suffered through his own crisis of faith over the death of his wife, Joy Davidman.

I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning.  I keep on swallowing.

Yes, this is really a vale of fears, at least for most of us.

I don’t know how Mrs. Bush recovered her faith, or if she ever did fully recover it, or if she should have recovered it.  And I don’t pretend to understand the dynamics of such recovery or even understand the seemingly mysterious events that conspire to give rise to the emotions the young Laura Bush experienced so long ago.

Perhaps, as C.S. Lewis finally concluded:

We cannot understand.  The best is perhaps what we understand least.


A Ditty Sheal

I confess that Charles Krauthammer is one of the smartest guys on the right, but admittedly the bar on that side is not all that high these days.  And I confess that I admire his considerable intellect, which every once in a while is employed in ways that bring honor to it.

Then there are those moments when all you can do is shake your head and pity a man who wastes such a valuable instrument.

Yesterday, On Special Report with Bret Baier, the pinnacle of fair and balanced journalism on the Reactionary Network also known as Fox “News,” this bit of silliness transpired:

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Just to repeat, Krauthammer compared the appearance of Goldman Sachs executives before a committee of one of the national legislative bodies of a democratic republic to, well, here’s the transcript of his comments:

When the Incas had a crop failure, they would take somebody up on a hill, and they would execute them. This process is the same except it has a little less dignity. I’m sure the language was cleaner in the Inca process…

Now, Krauthammer’s tongue-in-cheek reference to the “language” brings me to a strange thing I noticed yesterday on Fox “News.” 

As I was watching the various ways the cable outlets were covering the progress of the Goldman Sachs hearing, I couldn’t help but notice the odd fascination that most of them had with the use of the word “shitty,” which was originally used by a Goldman insider to describe the crap they were urging their customers to buy. 

But on Fox, there was what amounted to disgust that legislators, including our own Claire McCaskill, would repeat such a naughty word. 

In fact, on shows like Your World with Neil Cavuto, there was more outrage expressed over the use of profanity than over the fact that greedy gamblers on Wall Street harmed the country, not only by running the economy off the road, but by flipping us the bonus bird when taxpayers got them back in their cars and driving again toward even more profits.

Outrage over those events—rather than over our elected Senators grilling greedy Goldman employees with colorful language—should inspire intellectuals like Charles Krauthammer to use their noggins to come up with a bloodthirsty Inca metaphor applicable to the behavior of smartasses on Wall Street.

But there will be no Inca metaphor coming from Krauthammer or other right-wing intellectuals describing the excesses of big “bankers” that crippled our economy and cost many middle class Americans their jobs.  Nope.

Not when we have more important things to worry about, like the fact that our legislators used one of the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.

How Barney Frank Can Become President

If I needed another reason to avoid Texas, I found one today.

The governor of that state, former Texas A&M cheerleader Rick Perry, endorsed the views of Glenn Beck and made him an “honorary Texan,” which come to think of it, fits very well.

But Pom-pon Perry did us a favor by correctly pointing out Beck’s proper place on the star-studded right-wing, including the Tea Party movement. 

At a “Taking Back America” event in Tyler, Texas, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Perry said:

The governor described Beck as a national leader of a powerful group sending a message to the current administration and congress about Washington, D.C., how to control spending and Americans taking their country back.

A national leader.  That’s Glenn Beck. 

He speaks for the pale-faced patriots in the tea parties. 

He speaks for the God-fearing folks in the country who just want “their” country back. 

He speaks for those who believe Barack Obama’s presidency is a curse from God, sort of God’s way of saying, “I want a tax cut,” or something like that.

One person who didn’t need Glenn to speak for him at the event last Saturday was Texas state representative Leo Berman, who said:

I believe that Barack Obama is God’s punishment on us today, but in 2012, we are going to make Obama a one-term president.

Now, I know a little about divine retribution, having read about it in the Old Testament, and if Mr. Berman thinks the country can escape so easily from an Angry God, he’d better think again.  

Making Glenn Beck an honorary Texan and calling President Obama a socialist and parading patriotically around Tea Party rallies in powdered wigs will not appease the Almighty’s sense of justice.

We need to do more than that or else.

If anyone thinks Obama is a curse from God, how about President Barney Frank?  How would that bit of godly chastisement tickle the toes of teapartiers in Tyler?

Better get on your knees boys and girls or we could soon have a sodomite in the White House!

“Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord.

Arizona Angst: The White Man’s Revenge

My post earlier in the week on the new anti-immigrant law in Arizona attempted to document the real reasons behind that extreme overreaction to the problem of illegal immigrants.

Essentially, much of the impetus behind the law is not the fact that illegals killed a rancher recently or that illegals are stealing American jobs or that illegals are overburdening social services.

Nope. It’s just white angst.

Here is a short segment from Rachel Maddow broadcast last night:

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Don’t Dis Darwin, Danny Ditto

Dan Walters attacked my criticism of end times theology today in the Joplin Globe.  Earlier this month the paper published a column I wrote, “Theology has ominous message,” which took issue with certain presentations of Christian eschatology, that of Pastor Mack Evans and the Hutaree.

Now, after I caught my breath from confronting so early in the morning such Christian vitriol charity on the pages of my beloved home-town newspaper, I then took on the chore of fixing at least one thing Mr. Walters wrote: 

Dear Dan,

Nevermind that you brought my late mother into the discussion.  That’s a bit unfair, since she’d probably be on your side on this one, Danno.

Nevermind that you accused me of having “the gall of bitterness.”  I don’t.  I had it removed years ago.

Nevermind that you accused me of having “contempt for 6,000 years of Christianity.” I don’t. Mainly because Christianity has only been around about 2,000 years, Danny Man.  But also because I wasn’t attacking Christianity in the piece I wrote about Mack Evans and the Hutaree. I was attacking a particular brand of “apocalyptic doom” that I find disturbing, as you should, too.

Nevermind that you accused me of “falsely representing the Bible as mind pollution, superstition and ignorance.” I didn’t, technically, for two reasons:

1) I didn’t falsely represent it as mind pollution, superstition and ignorance. I truly represented it as mind pollution, superstition, and ignorance

2) To be fair, I only represented end times theology, to the extent it is extracted from the Bible by people like Mack Evans and the Hutaree, as mind pollution, superstition, and ignorance.  Not the entire Bible.

Nevermind that you suggested I go down to the “next school board meeting” and have them excise a couple of pages from the Origin of Species, which you found distasteful.  That wouldn’t work, Daniel, because I doubt seriously if our Joplin schools use that fine book in our classrooms. 

Would to God they did.

So, nevermind all that.  My only suggestion for the above is that you look into having your own gall of bitterness removed.  Obamacare ™ will cover the procedure, I am sure.

What really vexed me, Mr. Walters, was your clipping a couple of passages from Charles Darwin’s book and drawing an erroneous conclusion, namely “that Darwin’s affection for violence makes the world a little safer for guns, SUVs and Fox News.” 

Such slander is unconscionable, even for a conservative Christian.

Now, I have come to expect such reasoning from Fox “News” devotees and dittoheads (the SUV  reference gives you away, Danny Ditto.)

But I just can’t let this one stand.

By all accounts, Charles Darwin was a good and decent man, a man of peace, who loved his wife and his children profusely and devotedly.  The passages you quoted were not evidence of his approval of the violence in nature, but an appreciation of the workings of natural selection, something that shouldn’t even have to be said. 

And besides that, you left out a phrase in your quote that some of your fundy friends might find helpful. Part of your quote ran:

…and maternal love or maternal hatred is all the same to the inexorable principle or [sic] natural selection…

My edition reads:

…and maternal love or maternal hatred, though the latter fortunately is most rare, is all the same to the inexorable principle of natural selection…

That, “though the latter fortunately is most rare,” kind of contradicts your dumb point, doesn’t it?

In fact, some of the things you cited, especially the ichneumon wasp, were quite troubling to Darwin’s conscience, if not to your own.   He wrote to Asa Gray in 1860, a year after the publication of the Origin of Species:

I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.

Even before the publication of his game-changing book, Darwin wrote this to Joseph Hooker:

What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horribly cruel works of nature!

So, in your zeal to attack me* for criticizing hard-core Christian eschatology, you got Darwin all wrong. 

Now, you can get back to Fox “News.”  It’s almost time for Glenn Beck.

Duane Graham


*I was also attacked today by Joe Johnson, but since Mr. Johnson didn’t bring up my mother or slander Charles Darwin—he only attacked my logic and my ignorance of “the current social, political and economic unrest sweeping the planet“—I will let him slide.

Arizona Attempts To Prevent “A Giant Kosovo In The Southwest”

Even Republicans outside of Arizona, reacting to that state’s unfortunate response to the illegal immigration problem—in effect now becoming a quasi-authoritarian state—generally say that the law is justified because the federal government has failed to act on the problems associated with our southern border.

In other words, because Republicans—mostly hard-core conservatives on the radio and television*—derailed comprehensive federal immigration reform, efforts that began in 2005, any state government is now justified in beginning the process of turning itself into the kind of place only a fan of fascism could love. 

As Brit Hume, who is the senior political analyst for Fox “News” and thus the network’s top working Republican journalist, said this morning, the Arizona response was “reasonable” in passing a “somewhat draconian law” because “the fault really lies with the utter failure of the federal government in Washington to deal with this issue.”

So, since the defense of Arizona Republicans is that the feds failed to act, let’s look back briefly on how the right-wing helped squash sensible national reforms, reforms that would have helped states like Arizona (indeed, John McCain, from Arizona, championed such sensible reforms before he gave up and joined the right-wing rabble), and would have prevented the harsh, reactionary measures that now have become law in that state. 

The view from the hard right is that, essentially, our cultural identity is at stake:

Just as a representative sample of how the right felt about an emerging agreement on immigration reform, here’s what Don Feder, a popular columnist at the right-wing FrontPageMag.com said on April 7, 2006:

The Senate has reached a “compromise” on illegal immigration. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist  (who, by his conduct here, just lost the ’08 nomination) called it a “huge breakthrough” – a moral collapse would be more like it.

Feder went on to call the compromise between Republicans and Democrats a “rape of our national identity,” and ended with this flourish:

The party’s conservative base – its very essence – is furious with this unpardonable betrayal. 

If this gift to illegal aliens becomes law, there will be no amnesty for the Republican Party.

Speaking of our national identity, its rape notwithstanding, Tom Tancredo, a congressman from Colorado at the time and a loud-mouthed leader of the hard-core anti-immigration movement in the U.S. House, had said in November of 2006 that Miami, Florida, “has become a Third World country,” due to its large Hispanic population. 

Never mind that those Hispanics were also Americans. 

And never mind that people we would call Hispanics were living in America long before the lilliest white Pat Buchanans arrived to then dream of sending them back to Latin America.

Speaking of Pat Buchanan, MSNBC’s token conservative culture warrior, he said in 2006, “you’re going to have a giant Kosovo in the Southwest,” and told Chris Matthews :

BUCHANAN: I think what’s coming is the complete balkanization of America, and I’m afraid it’s going to be by ethnicity and culture, and language, and every other way. And we’re going to be like the Balkans, only we’ve got a much larger and more prosperous country. And so, then, it’s not like the country you and I grew up in, Chris, whereby —

MATTHEWS: It’s already not that.

BUCHANAN: — we were monocultural. We were monocultural.

MATTHEWS: Well, it’s already not that.

Buchanan also told an approving Glenn Beck in 2006:

What I’m saying is, we’ve got a fifth column here, European-Americans are leaving California. And in an amount of time, by 2050, this will be so Mexican, it’ll be like Kosovo is to Serbia, and we will lose the Southwest. Not militarily – ethnically, linguistically, socially, culturally.

Buchanan wrote in a book released in 2007 (Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed are Tearing America Apart) that America was committing “national suicide.”  Here’s why:

The American majority is not reproducing itself. Its birthrate has been below replacement level for decades. Forty-five million of its young have been destroyed in the womb since Roe v. Wade, as Asian, African, and Latin American children come to inherit the estate the lost generation of American children never got to see.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2005 to 2006, our minority population rose 2.4 million to exceed 100 million. Hispanics, 1 percent of the U.S. population in 1950, are now 14.4 percent. Since 2000, their numbers have soured 25 percent to 45 million. The U.S. Asian population grew by 24 percent since 2000, as the number of white kids of school age fell 4 percent. Half the children five and younger today are minority children.

He continued:

…the greatest cohort of immigrants here today, legal and illegal, is from Mexico. One in five Mexicans is already here. But unlike the immigrants of old, Mexicans bear an ancient grudge against us as the country that robbed Mexico of half her land when both nations were young. By one survey, 72 percent of Mexicans look on Americans as “racists.” By another, 58 percent of Mexicans believe the American Southwest belongs to them.

…By 2050, more than 100 million Hispanics will be in the United States, concentrated in a Southwest that borders on Mexico. As the Serbs are losing Kosovo, so we may have lost the Southwest.

We may have lost the Southwest” is not meant to be ironic, even considering how we “won” parts of the Southwest in the first place.  In fact, there is little doubt that “liberal” immigration policies on the part of the Mexican government led to a later rebellion of those white American “immigrants,” who declared independence from Mexico in 1836, after they had grown to outnumber the citizens of Mexican Texas.

After the United States annexed Texas, and further provoked the Mexicans to war, the ensuing U.S. victory over Mexico in the Mexican-American War—which made Texas, California, and other parts of the Southwest part of American territory—satisfied the widespread sense of white American superiority, as expressed in the notion of Manifest Destiny, an idea that God himself had ordained our aggressive expansion across the continent all the way to the San Francisco Bay, our new gateway to the Pacific Ocean.

Now, with that understanding, let’s look at how Buchanan interacted with Sean Hannity, soon after Buchanan’s book was released:

HANNITY: You say we’re on a path of national suicide. I want to ask this question directly because you say it’s a day of reckoning. Do you really believe that America, the country we all love as we know it, is in jeopardy of existing?

BUCHANAN: I think — here’s what I think. I think America may exist, but I’ll tell you this: I do believe we’re going to lose the American Southwest. I think it is almost inevitable. If we do not put a fence on that border —

HANNITY: I agree with you.

BUCHANAN: — you’re going to have 100 million Hispanics in the country, most of them new immigrants from Mexico, which believes that belongs to them. What’s going to happen to us, Sean, in my judgment, is what is happening right now: We are Balkanizing. We are dividing and separating from one another politically, morally — on issues like abortion or Terri Schiavo — racially and ethnically, when you get Jena and then you get Don Imus, and all of these things ripping us apart. All the things that used to pull us together and hold us together no longer do.

HANNITY: You say that the greatest invasion in history of the Third World, et cetera, et cetera, talking about the invasion on our borders, and I agree with you. That to me is the number one security issue we have.

You talk about the culture is collapsing, the nation is being deconstructed along lines of race and class in America, a fiscal crisis is looming, Medicare, Social Security is going bankrupt, and we don’t have politicians that can get along enough to solve the problem.

I use Pat Buchanan as the salient example (the record is replete with other fine specimens) of what’s really going on in Arizona because Pat, to his credit, doesn’t hide behind economic or safety issues.  His view is that rampant and unchecked immigration is a threat to white culture, something that many conservatives won’t state openly, but nonetheless believe.

How else to explain the lack of congruence between the rhetoric of the Tea Party movement—Obama is threatening our liberty—and its members’ simultaneous support of the Arizona law?

As Paul Krugman pointed out this morning on This Week, it’s rather odd that most of the same people who think government is intruding into our lives as Americans don’t mind that Arizona policeman intrude into the lives of Hispanic Americans—who, no doubt, will be targeted as suspects, should the police in Arizona take this law seriously enough to enforce it.

But they had better take it seriously, because the law carries a penalty for not doing so: lawsuits from citizens (mostly white, no doubt) who don’t think local government is enforcing the law.

When it comes to protecting white culture, white folks just aren’t going to take it anymore, even if it means crapping on the white man’s most precious treasure: the Constitution.


*Various liberal groups also opposed some aspects of the immigration reform bills, from limiting family reunification visas to provisions providing for a “guest worker” program that labor groups deemed as creating a working underclass with no benefits, hurting American workers.  But it was the fierce and boisterous opposition from the right-wing, over more moderate (at the time) voices like John McCain and even George W. Bush, that ultimately doomed any chance of fixing the problem on the federal level.
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