Going High

This is how the White House describes her:

First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th and current President, Barack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States.

Last night, this is how Michelle Obama described the United States:

That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States. So, look, so don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth!

I’m not ashamed to admit I teared up during her speech last night. I’m not ashamed to admit I felt something of a restoration of my faith in the idea of America, a faith that has been under assault by that country-bashing racist in an orange mask. Delivered in less than 15 minutes, Michelle Obama’s speech was able to counter months and months and months of negative talk about our country—depressing, debilitating, damaging talk about a nation constructed on principles that, so far, have survived every test.

Below is her remarkable speech, one for the ages, but I want to first quote another beautiful passage, one where Mrs. Obama touched on just what it is that has made the Obamas such special people—such special Americans—despite the indignities and insults they have endured for nearly eight years now:

When they set off for their first day at their new school, I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns. And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, what have we done?

See, because at that moment I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation for who they would become and how well we managed this experience could truly make or break them. That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight, how we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level.

No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.

I can’t promise that if the country goes low in November that I will go high. I can only say that if the country does go low, there will be no doubt that its highest point will have been Barack and Michelle and Sasha and Malia Obama “in a house that was built by slaves.”

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26 Comments

  1. I wish Obama could serve another term. He has been nothing less than Lincoln-like in my opinion, given the dignity he brings to the office despite all the insulting treatment he has endured.

    Reflecting on this now, I realize that while good leadership alone is essential, it is not enough. We the people are in charge of this nation as much as are our president and our Congress. A representative democracy, that fragile thing that de Tocqueville declared financially unstable, ultimately depends on a shared ethos and it is up to us whether to heed words like Barack’s and Michelle’s, or those of the Donald Trumps who demagogue that our nation and our military are wrecks and that only he can restore them. It is a time of testing and it is we citizens who will pass or fail.

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    • Jim,

      This truly is a time of testing. The test is whether we can govern ourselves without succumbing not just to demagoguery, but a special kind of demagoguery in Trump’s case. In him we have a demagogue who not only manipulates people by fear and bigotry, but who himself has no ability to apply reason, rather than emotion, to public policy decisions, especially foreign policy decisions. It’s as if he is manipulated by his own rhetoric, unable to distinguish reality from the fantasies he spins. And at the end of all this may lie, as I said to Anson, a future in which the West is destabilized (best case scenario) or a future with a catastrophic nuclear war. I’ve never, in all my life, feared an outcome as much as I fear a Trump win.

      Liked by 1 person

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  2. Anonymous

     /  July 26, 2016

    One classy and intelligent lady! The Obama’s will be missed!

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  3. Bret

     /  July 28, 2016

    Nice speech, but:

    “…I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.”

    Why the continued obsession with slavery? It has long been abolished and no one in their right mind still condones it.

    ” And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.”

    Hillary Clinton should get no credit for the fact that a woman can be President. It has been possible for quite a while. She just happens to be the first to be selected as a party candidate. For that matter, it should make no difference whether the candidate is a man or a woman. We should be electing the best candidate based on their leadership skills and character, not their gender.

    ” Because this right now is the greatest country on earth!”

    True. But it won’t remain that way if we continue doing things that undermine its future. i.e.

    – Devalue the family structure ( I mean, traditional marriage of course)
    – Tax our future generation to death
    – Use tax payers money to support people who refuse to work

    Just to name three.

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    • Bret,

      Here we are now venturing into the realm of the political!

      Again, I proceed from top to bottom:

      1. You wrote, “Why the continued obsession with slavery? It has long been abolished and no one in their right mind still condones it.” Based on that question, I assume you are white. But even being white, you should be able to see why it was important for Mrs. Obama to sell the greatness of America to Americans and the world by demonstrating how far we have come, thanks to a lot of hard work and to a system open to modification. Injustices can be rectified in this country. Things can improve and we need to be reminded, again and again, how far we have come from where we were.

      Beyond that, I suppose one could ask Jews, “Why are you obsessed with the Holocaust? No one in their right mind still condones what happened.” Of course that misses the point. There are at least two reasons to keep reminding people about the Holocaust and about slavery: one is what I mentioned above. We need to know our history, and we need to know how far we have positively traveled away from that history and that there is more to do. The second reason is related: there remain among us pockets of racism and prejudice. It is important to remind people what can happen if we don’t fight it when we see it.

      2. You don’t think Clinton deserves “credit” for being the first president, if she goes on to win. I confess I don’t understand that all. Again, you seem to miss the point. Pioneers, whether they be astronauts or politicians, are honored because they have either helped to break down or have broken down certain barriers. They have overcome systemic obstacles to progress. It is just common decency to acknowledge it.

      3. While I’m not surprised that you think that things like gay marriage “devalue the family structure,” I am surprised you didn’t include, say, serial marriages like those Donald Trump has enjoyed. Or doesn’t that count? It’s hard to see how discarding your older wife for a younger, more attractive one (a couple of times) adds value to “family structure.” But I am witnessing a fairly widespread embrace, by the conservative evangelical community, of Trump, which demonstrates just how phony their concerns about our culture are.

      4. “Tax our future generation to death.” How so? Compared to the rest of the world, our tax rates  per capita are almost right in the middle of OECD countries. And as a % of GDP we are much nearer to the bottom, in terms of burden. The effective corporate tax rate (the statutory rate doesn’t matter) is slightly higher than the average foreign effective rate.

      5. I don’t know anyone who wants to use public money to support people who “refuse to work.” Maybe you can point me to some who advocate that.

      Duane

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      • Bret

         /  July 28, 2016

        Hi Duane,

        1. I just find it odd that black slavery to white men need even be mentioned today as something from which people have overcome. It’s as if there is a chip on the shoulder for which society must always atone. When I grew up I never looked upon the color of a man’s skin to mean anything other than it is a different color. That’s it. I agree that racism is wrong. It just seems weird to me that some people still bring it up. When I see the same thing expressed by people on the other side of the political aisle I dissent as well.

        I think the example of the Holocaust misses the point. Horrors like it should be remembered, including the horrors of back slavery, but I would have a hard time with a Jew, for example, who made public notice of the holocaust as an excuse to dislike modern-day Germans. So whenever black people today continue to bemoan slavery I find their victim mentally banal.

        2. Barriers notwithstanding, I think too much is made of some barriers. If Clinton wins election she will certainly have broken a barrier, but much is made about her gender and not her character. Many voted for Barack Obama because he was black, not necessarily because he was the best man for the job.

        3. The devaluing of the family would certainly include serial marriages, to a point. I would not be too condemning of people who divorce. I come from a home which had one. It would also include polygamy, adultery,and homosexuality. The culture, and I think the left in particular, seems to accept these things more readily than not.

        4. We are presently taxed too much. I don’t care how it compares to the rest of the world. And, given the power to do so, a more progressive government would merely make the tax burden greater which will place an undue burden on the future generations.

        5. I refer to those who take advantage of the welfare state and to a more and more progressively minded government that uses tax money to underwrite them. Though I do conceded that these abuses are minor compared to the general notion by the left that we are not taxed enough. I think we are.

        Sincerely,
        Bret

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        • Bret,

          1. People still bring up racism because it is still with us, in both its blatant and subtle forms. Like me, as a white male who abhors it, nevertheless can’t feel its sting. And just because you and I can’t feel its sting doesn’t mean it isn’t stinging someone somewhere. And those being stung by it have a right to point it out no matter how much it might be off-putting to white people like us.

          Mrs. Obama, though, was merely pointing out how great this country is in that it overcame such a dark past and put a black man in what had always been the White’s House. She didn’t use the reference “as an excuse to dislike” anyone. She was extolling the virtues of her country, a sentiment I would think you would applaud. But with the Obamas, it is hard for some people to see anything but their color, despite the fact that they say color doesn’t matter to them. You see, the statement she made could only have been made, effectively, by a person of color. No, really. Can’t you see that?

          2. Many people are voting for Donald Trump because he is a white man. And it is precisely because he is a white man that such people think he is right for the job. That is a different case from a black American wanting to see one of their own, after what black people have been through in this country, at the top. It sends a special message to their children: it is possible, after all, to rise to the top. If you don’t think that is an important message to send, then its because you aren’t black. Ditto, women who are proud to vote for their first woman, who is obviously qualified, no matter what you think of her politics. Little girls everywhere have reason to believe that they, too, can rise to the top. Again, if that message means nothing to you, then you must ask yourself why. In both the cases of African-Americans and women, you should wonder if your reaction to it is because you have spent your life as a privileged white male.

          3. I’m a little surprised about your attitude toward divorce. It, unlike homosexuality, was directly condemned by Jesus (“But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery”). And also unlike homosexuality, divorce directly contributes to the breakdown of the family structure in our culture. Evangelicals, by the way, get divorced at roughly the same rate as the larger population. Maybe that is why many of them seem to have made their peace with it while, amazingly, targeting homosexuality and making it a scapegoat for some of the family breakdown we see. Maybe you can explain to me, by the way, why Jesus didn’t bother to talk about homosexuality, if it is such a grievous, family- and culture-destroying sin? He clearly called out divorce, which you don’t condemn, but didn’t say a word about homosexuality, which you do. Hmm.

          4. On taxation, you say, you “don’t care” how our tax burden compares to the rest of the world. I really don’t know what to say to that.

          5. Remember your original statement about something you thought would “undermine” our country if we continued doing it: “Use tax payers money to support people who refuse to work.” Government programs, of course, are not designed to be used by people who “refuse” to work. If you say we need to do a better job of finding out people who are abusing taxpayer money, I agree with you. But cutting off people who do need help, or cutting the budgets of programs that help those people, is not the answer. I am sure you are familiar with Leviticus 19 and how God instructed that the corners of the fields were to be left for the “poor and the stranger.” I am sure that among some of those poor, and among some of those strangers, were folks who refused to work. That, however, didn’t mean you could ignore God’s command, though, right?

          Sincerely,

          Duane

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      • Duane, on your point 1 above about remembering slavery and the Holocaust, I wrote an op-ed back in 2011, that addressed those two very tragic events. The inspiration for the piece was a news item I saw that said the Texas school board was undertaking a rewrite of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to remove some 200+ uses of the “N” word. I thought then, and still do, that editing a masterpiece of one of America’s greatest authors was a travesty.

        I compared it to Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, “Schindler’s List” where Spielberg’s conditions for NBC running the movie in prime time was (1) that there would be no commercial interruptions during the entire three and one-half hour running time, and (2) the movie must be uncut, not one frame left out or altered. NBC agreed and the show aired on Feb. 23rd, 1997. Naturally, there was an outcry because of the violence and nudity. One such complainer was Oklahoma’s former senator Tom Coburn.

        To me, rewriting Huckleberry Finn would be like editing out all the violence and nudity in Schindler’s List.

        I closed out the op-ed, titled “Oskar and Huck,” with this:

        “Huck came to find that, contrary to the ubiquitous and hate-filled racism of the day, an escaped slave, a black man, was a real human being, worthy of respect and deserving of freedom. This is a book that exposes the ignorance of that racism and transforms Huck, much like it transformed Oskar Schindler, from a bystander into a participant doing his best to help fight man’s inhumanity to man.

        “No, removing the N-word from Huckleberry Finn would be like removing the material Senator Coburn objected to from Schindler’s List. The meaning would be lost. And the true suffering of the African-Americans and the Jews would soon be forgotten.

        “This dilemma was not lost on Huck: “It would get all around, that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was to ever see anybody from that town again, I’d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That’s just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don’t want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide it, it ain’t no disgrace.”

        Disgrace indeed.

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        • Thanks, Herb. It is nonsense for people to alter great works (or any work not your own, for that matter). Using Huck Finn as it is would, if I were a teacher in a classroom, give me a great opportunity to teach exactly what Twain was trying to teach us in the passage you quoted. 

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  July 29, 2016

    Bret and Duane,

    I comment herein, not to engage in a point by point debate. Rather I try to comment on a “basic” fault in America today, one that underlies probably all of our domestic political dispute. The dissolution of the American family across all racial, ethnic and socio-economic classes has created an environment that old “hippies” called for, “If it feels good, do it”.

    The lack of “character” reflected by errant police, gangs, Black Lives Matter, New Black Panthers, white hate groups, Wall Street financial groups and the list goes on forever reflects, at its core, individuals that believe their aggressive push for dominance at the expense of others is the “right” thing to do.

    I know of no way for government to resolve that problem, a problem of how best to develop “character” in young lives.

    I make only one example. Check out the personal history of Alton Sterling, the black man killed in Baton Rouge by police. No, his personal history does not mean he should have been shot. But that history is a clear example of a man headed for personal destruction, at the hands of someone. How do you fix that?

    Anson

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    • Bret

       /  July 29, 2016

      Hi Anson,

      The way you fix character is to establish good character early. When you provide a family environment that embraces and encourages sound values – honestly, respect for authority, respect for your neighbor, truth, courage, love, etc. then you build a generation of people who have character.

      But the attack of the “nuclear” family in general and the vilification of Christianity in particular in our culture has lead to a generation or more of people who do not hold to these kinds of values. They want what they want when they want it. Hence, the actions you see played out today.

      How do we fix it? We get back to the basics of Christianity, though anathema it may be to many. For that reason I don’t have much hope that it will ever be fixed. Our culture has rejected God. We will suffer the natural consequences.

      Regards,
      Bret

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    • King Beauregard

       /  July 29, 2016

      So in a nutshell, problems are hard so vote Republican.

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    • I guess I don’t understand why you think our times are worse than times past. When you talk about the “lack of ‘character'” in this context, it makes me think back to our founding. Did the Founders have the character you extol? Hardly. Hell, they sometimes settled their differences with each other by dueling. They slandered each other openly for political gain and on and on. More than that, though, they thought only white men with property were worthy of the franchise. And they mostly collaborated with a system in which men and women of color (and others, too) were property to be used for the profit of whites. Some of them held slaves and profited by their labor, including Thomas Jefferson, who is venerated and celebrated and claimed by both political parties.
      So, I don’t think I want to hear about how we have a glaring lack of character here in 21st-century America. There is plenty of character, Anson. What we have today is the means to broadcast quickly and efficiently all of the hate you reference. That makes things seem much worse than they actually are. In fact, it is how groups like ISIS manage to do the most damage to the West: the fear they cultivate is amplified these days in so many ways that some people think things are going to hell. They are wrong. But if they elect Donald Trump, they may very well get the hell they fear.

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  5. Anonymous

     /  July 29, 2016

    To Christian conservatives,

    I’m not sure I understand your logic in nominating and support of Trump after you delivered him the following letter:
    https://christianconservatives.net/2016/03/26/an-open-letter-to-donald-trump/
    Hillary has stated her Christian values, but you support the Trump type of Christian values.

    The fact is the divorce rate has declined since the peak of the 70s and 80s. Look it up.
    The fact is crime has declined according to the Dept. of Justice. Look it up.
    The fact that Christianity is more responsible for good citizens than secular citizens is preposterous.

    As far as Alton Sterling is concerned, perhaps you should read the editorial from the Baltimore Sun. You know, the city where Freddy Gray was thrown into a van while unconsciensous, with no regard to his life.
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-bishop-0708-20160707-story.html
    SMDH

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    • SMDH, too.

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    • Bret

       /  July 31, 2016

      I usually don’t reply to anonymous posts, but since Duane did I will.

      The Open Letter was posted by Chris Mills. If he nominated Donald Trump then you have a point. If not, your point is moot.

      The dilemma for Christian conservatives is the two party system. The Democratic party represents little that we support. The Republican party represents some things we support, at least in the platform, though in practice not so much. No Independent or Libertarian candidate is any help either.

      So, admittedly, we either support a noodle-head like Trump or we don’t vote at all. I suspect if Christian conservatives had not been outnumbered by others in the primaries, then Trump would not have been nominated. But this is speculative.

      Bret

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      • I’ll ask you something, Bret. Of conservative Christians, you said “The Democratic party represents little that we support.” Little? Let’s leave aside abortion and homosexuality for just a minute. What else is it that Democrats officially stand for that is inherently antithetical to a Bible-believing Christian?

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      • Anonymous

         /  July 31, 2016

        Bret,

        Congressional Religious Breakdown: 56% are Protestant, 31% are Catholic, 3% Mormon, 6% Jewish, and <2% are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim. It would appear the Christian religion is pretty well represented. Are these bad Christians, and only you are good?
        http://www.pewforum.org/2012/11/16/faith-on-the-hill-the-religious-composition-of-the-113th-congress/
        A vote for Trump is a noodle-head voting for a noodle-head. This point is not moot.

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        • Bret

           /  August 1, 2016

          Hi Anonymous,

          The reason that Christian Conservatives like Chris Mills might support Trump now despite the Open Letter is that Trump is the leader of the party Chris supports. Even if Hillary Clinton is a better person than Trump, she leads the Democratic Party, a party not friendly to Christian Conservatism. Duane has asked me to comment further about this and will do so in time.

          Since Congress is made up of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Liberals and Conservatives, the facts of the religious breakdown you provided make it difficult to discern which of these members are Christian Conservatives. Besides, what congressmen declare is sometimes different than the way they vote. “Christianity” is well represented by name but how much so by action (I include myself in this admonishment)?

          Regards,
          Bret

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          • Anonymous

             /  August 1, 2016

            Bret,

            You seem to be saying that Christian Democrats, Christian Independents, Christian Liberals, and many conservative Christian Republicans (such as Bush 1 & 2) that do not support Trump have sinned against the tenets of their faith by not being a true “Christian conservative”. Do you think ill of Christian conservatives Bush I & II because they will not vote for him?

            I cannot understand any Christian, conservative or otherwise, that would support Trump, as he has proven himself to be a sociopathic, a serial liar, rampant xenophobic, racist, misogynist, who incites political violence and wants to ban an entire religion’s peoples from entering the United States. Romney’s Mormon principles will not allow him to support the GOP nominee, do you?

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            • Bret

               /  August 1, 2016

              Hi Anonymous,

              I am not meaning what you say in paragraph one. I only mean that Christian Conservatives in general are likely to vote for Trump and eschew Clinton because of the party each lead.

              However, in your second paragraph you state well the dilemma for any potential Trump voter; albeit a bit too harshly I think. A similar rap sheet of character issues can be listed for Clinton, lying being foremost.

              http://hotair.com/archives/2016/07/31/washington-post-hillary-clinton-is-an-inveterate-liar/

              I do not support Trump. This leaves me and those like me without a reasonable choice.

              Regards,
              Bret

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              • Anonymous

                 /  August 1, 2016

                Bret,

                I thank you sincerely for not supporting Trump! I believe he is truly mad by his actions which in no way represent the American Dream. I was raised a Methodist, but no longer attend services. The best preacher and his sermon that I ever heard was Dr. King. In his last speech, before he was murdered, he said he could die “happy” and “not fearing any man” because he was sure of his life’s mission, which included “standing up for the best of the American Dream.

                The only thing in life that is guaranteed is change. Each generation brings more change, betterment and progress, if possible. Hillary was certainly not my choice, however she does represent the party of progressives, that I support. I appreciate your honesty, and civility in our discussion, and would invite you to vote against what Trump represents by voting Democratic.

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                • Bret

                   /  August 2, 2016

                  Hi Anonymous,

                  It has been my pleasure interacting. I have a great amount of respect for John Wesley and the denomination he founded. It seems to have strayed from the Bible believing church it once was but my hope is that it will return to its roots. I encourage you, as a Methodist who does not attend services, to at least make Scripture reading a regular part of your life. God’s word is “…. living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword..”.

                  Despite your suggestion, I doubt I will be voting Democratic but I will take it under advisement.

                  Sincerely,
                  Bret

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  6. cbdoodle

     /  July 29, 2016

    Which Christianity is that, Bret?
    The hard one — the Jesus one? Or the cheap, shark tank one — the Jerry Falwell, Jr. one; the thieving Pat Robertson one; the hateful Mike Pence one? The reason the “church” is dying in Europe and these United States is that the proponents of your holier-than-thou religion (certainly not actual “Christianity”) have lied and cheated and bigoted their way into our present day. Somewhere along the way the “values” of Jesus were sold for a mess of huckster’s pottage. Corporate Christianity and its power hungry pastors and priests vilified themselves without any help from anyone at this blog. Sow the wind? Reap the whirlwind.

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    • Bret

       /  July 29, 2016

      Hi cbdoodle,

      Good point. Which Christianity? The genuine one. The biblical one. The one which calls out sin as sin and offers a remedy for it. The one which reveals the true nature and character of God and Man and their relationship to one another. The one which shows where we came from and where we are going – good or ill.

      Those who lie, and cheat, and steal, and and show bigotry (hate) even as they name Christ are certainly wrong to do so. Never mind those who care less for Him. They do as they please. Is there the same righteousness indignation on your part for those who don’t name Christ yet lie, cheat, steal and hate? I would hope so.

      Sincerely,
      Bret

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