Thursday, January 31, 2013

Four of five headlines on my Yahoo U.S. news feed at 7 pm.

Child held hostage for third day after Alabama shooting
Teenaged student wounded in Atlanta school shooting
Arizona shooting suspect found dead in apparent suicide
Assistant District Attorney shot and killed in Texas

There's one or two shooting headlines nearly every day in news feed of my local paper, the Star-Ledger.  National media is paying more attention now. I hope the attention doesn't flag. Gun "enthusiasts" have to accept that not shooting someone with a  gun is not news.

Even Geraldo Rivera on Fox News wants to know why we have no scientific studies to determine if legal gun ownership, & availability of legal firearms, actually correlates with a lower incidence of gun related injuries & deaths.  Such a study was being done by the Center for Disease Control  over a decade ago (gun violence being a serious national health problem), & was shut down. Why? Gun lobby brought pressure because it didn't trust the results would be favorable to its own claims.

I do appreciate the honesty of gun "enthusiasts" willing to admit they purchase guns designed to kill many people quickly because they expect someday to have to kill many people quickly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In 1967, my then-girlfriend's uncle died. He lived with her large Catholic, Irish-American family.  The uncle, though a nice man, was the embodiment of what I later learned was "Jansenism." Jansenism was  (according to Wikipedia) "a Christian theological movement, primarily in France, that emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination. The movement originated from the posthumously published work of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen, who died in 1638."  "Catholic theological movement" is more accurate. It was influenced by Calvinism, a strict, tough, rather depressing form of Protestantism easily discerned in our  American right wing.  Jansenism was a French movement, but by the time  the Catholic Church suppressed it, it had infected the Irish Church through priests educated in France, & was carried to America, where the Irish controlled the Church institutions.

The atmosphere in my girlfriend's home lightened considerably, although the family remained strictly Catholic.  A bedroom had become vacant in  the house. As a result, my girlfriend, the oldest of six  got her own room. She insisted upon it, & she was very insistent young woman.   I don't think I ever saw that room. It was still highly improper in nearly every home, including my own, to  have a non-family person of the opposite sex in your bedroom. What you did in a parked car or the basement was another matter.

Then my girlfriend's aunt came for  a visit. She was an educated nun, principal of a grammar school. Vatican II reforms were seeping into the religious orders & hers had adopted a simple brown dress with the order's pin on it, The headdress (formerly called "veil") was a  small thing she promptly removed for the duration of her stay. I had never talked to a nun before (shortly thereafter, I had lunch  at college with a famous - or infamous, depending on your view - anti-war activist nun,  Elizabeth McAllister. ) The difference the change in  nun habit made for me was remarkable.  It was like a wall had been removed.   She was no longer a "symbol" of what I disliked about Catholicism, & still do: The "religious" as a distinctly separate class, the perception & reality enforced by a mode of costume carried over from Medievalism. I thought Catholicism treated nuns in an especially egregious way. The old habits were hardly better than full burkas; even worse in some ways. A kind of clothing originally intended to be like that of ordinary people had come to define & place them apart.

I had several long conversations with my girlfriend's aunt, most of them at the small table in the undersized kitchen. We talked about literature & religion. She was amused by my personal story; being baptized Catholic while my oldest brother was already in Methodist Sunday School; the Catholic grandmother in my home until I was ten or eleven, then retired to Atlantic City. She may have told me that  I was no longer Catholic unless I wanted to be, having reached my 18th birthday & freely chosen my own path. That wasn't an important matter to me, just a point of curiosity. I may have even confessed that a part of me has always felt a little bit Catholic,    not a bad thing at all if you think about it.

Blog post inspired by When Style Trumps Spirit: Ministry and Clothing, with thanks to Fran Rossi Szpylczyn.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Point Pleasant NJ

Old scene on Point Pleasant Canal linking Manasquan Inlet & River with upper Barnegat Bay. Part of the Intracoastal Waterway,  boats have to sail open ocean between Manasquan & New York Harbor.

The only sections of the Waterway I've seen from a boat are between Ocean City NJ & the lower end of Long Beach Island to the north, long ago. The waterway is really interesting, even spectacular in places. The scenery ranges from narrow canals lined with expensive waterside houses,  luxurious yachts at the docks; seafood restaurants with open decks;  to the Atlantic City back bay;  & across expanses of open water,  past salt marshes with tall waving grass intersected by shallow, muddy tidal creeks,   isolate sand islands with nests of herons in the scraggly vegatation, all sorts of water fowl. Of course, the bridges.  The old drawbridges with the bridgekeepers are disappearing, replaced by high fixed spans. 

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Had an odd dream last night in which my former landlord was suing me to collect some old utility bills I'd somehow stuck him with. He was decent  man, affable, community-minded,  but he was a hard-nosed businessman when he had to be. The circumstances of leaving that apartment are not ones I like to remember. But he recognized I had other very serious issues, he had to be pushed a long way before he had had enough.

Besides that shock in the dream, a former girlfriend, the one I lived with for many years, showed up as a sympathetic character.  Usually, I dream of her as a sort of remote, detached personality, & I'm not certain what my relationship is with her. The guy she's married to now is often lurking around in the background. Which was pretty much how the end of our relationship played out. But in this dream she was clearly indignant about the suit. Indignation was probably her most pronounced emotion. She could get really wound up  - & stay wound up -  over some perceived slight by someone that I tended to dismiss as not worth the  emotional energy. Of course, it might be different if it happened to me. But I was inclined to let those things go as characteristic of the person, if I knew the person well enough.  I'd have a private burst of anger, the steam vented, & that was that. Betrayal or disloyalty were different matters. & a stalled express checkout line at the supermarket could put me in a lousy mood for hours.  She had a much closer relationship with her family than I had with mine; I needed surrogate family, a few steady friends & allies, applying a "family" standard of being supportive even if I  didn't agree with how a friend was handling a particular situation. We had a very "closed" relationship (not the same as a private one).  She preferred it. I think I just fell into it. It was easy to do. After we broke up, I was absolutely certain she would have the same kind of relationship with the guy she married. i warned our mutual friends, "She's gonna swim away from you,  wait & see. Nothing really personal. It'll just happen. " It did.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Approving women for combat roles really brought out the misogynists in force. Now it's o.k. to  insult American military personnel if they happen to be women? The Defense Secretary is just acknowledging what women are already doing, giving them more opportunities for service & advancement.

Why didn't  these guys didn't object ten years ago when they saw photos of women in desert fatigues, armed to the teeth, being deployed to Afghanistan & Iraq. Those women weren't asking to be left at home while the men went into harm's way.

War is a horrible matter.  Being in combat or under fire can't be imagined;  it has to be experienced. But we crossed over a cultural barrier & once that happens it's nearly impossible to turn back. Women chose to cross it. Some have been sneaking past it since The Revolution, disguised as men or by demanding roles that put them as close to the front as possible.

Serving in the military  is now not only physically demanding, but requires technological skills obtained with time & training. Women are fighter pilots.  Our military wants to retain & advance the best, most qualified people, give them more responsibilities, more leadership roles. It doesn't  park women behind desks anymore just because they are women.

No one is forced to serve in the military. It can be argued if that is  necessarily a good thing in time of war, when maybe Americans should be asked to make some kind of personal decision. Anyway, it's only fair to give those who do choose to enlist the chance to make the most of their service, talents & ambitions. It is the honorable thing.

I do get some amusement from reading the sputtering, bigoted, inarticulate comments of men powerless to do anything about it, as happened when the Don't ask, don't tell policy was ended in the military.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama Part Two

President Obama's Second Inaugural  speech had a lot  less "we can all  work together" & a good deal more liberal heart  to it. It took him awhile to realize he doesn't just have opposition; he has enemies, & those enemies are well-represented in Congress. Not to directly compare his two speeches or the circumstances with those of the incomparable Abraham Lincoln, but he learned some similar lessons between One & Two. The hate isn't only for what the President does, but also for the man himself. No insult made to him is too vulgar; no lie too outrageous; & no threat can be treated as empty.

In retrospect, his 2008 win over McCain/Palin was too easy. The difficult part - getting an early edge on Hillary Clinton & hanging on to it - was put behind him in the  Convention Lovefest. Barack Obama wasn't all that seasoned a politician in the trenches of bitter, partisan warfare. He's probably consults Jimmy Carter & Bill & Hillary Clinton more often now on what he can do with Executive Action. I think the turning point for The President was ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military, not health care reform. All wartime Presidents since Washington understood the American Armed forces are a laboratory  for permanent social change. I suspect Michelle Obama had a good deal of influence on the decision.

If he is not an extraordinary President, there is no doubt in my mind he is an extraordinary person. He has born with dignity  horrendous abuse, most of it motivated by racial bigotry. Neither of the two living Republican ex-presidents have joined in the cacophony  of irrational criticism. The air has become so foul with it that they have rarely  spoken out even on those serious issues in which their opinions might have weight.  Mitt Romney, who didn't sling enough shit at Barack Obama to suit his party's base, has already been disowned by them.

 N.J. Gov. Chris Christie demonstrated  his traditional  values of state loyalty (yes, states rights) by doing whatever he had to do to get this broken state moving forward again after Hurricane Sandy, even though it meant cooperating with a Democratic President & Vice President near the close of a presidential election race.,later  berating his own  Republican leadership, & he  may have to pay a steep price for it  if he decides to run for President. Polls showed most Americans wanted the kind of bipartisan cooperation  shown by Christie & Obama in a time of disaster, but it won't play well to the hardcore Repug primary voters in 2016.

This time around the President isn't fooling himself. He's a more experienced & hardened politician. He won the election, & he let America know it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Jersey City NJ

Tony's Pushcart

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gun Appreciation Day

I've allowed myself to be ambivalent about firearm law reform for so long that I don't think anyone could accuse me of  being  "anti-gun." But my knowledge of firearms  & "gun" laws, never strong, is now completely inadequate to the issues at hand. It's past time for our society to make some serious changes in our laws & attitudes. So, the next time I goto  the main library, I'm checking out some books on firearms, firearm handling & safety, & reading them.

There is something to the cliche, "Changing the script."  Today is "Gun Appreciation Day," but the news is about three people accidentally shot at gun shows. Don't blame it on the "liberal" media. The Newtown massacre was the worst of a series of horrific mass shootings; it wasn't the climax of a movie, a fiction, with no more to come. It suggested the possibility that guns, & gun culture, might be inciting the madness. In the aftermath, the more outspoken gun defenders themselves sounded crazy, beyond inappropriate & vulgar.  It's difficult to capture the attention of Americans & hold on to it for very long. Sounding crazy is one way to do it.

It's like when the owners of Chick-fil-A were exposed as fanatical homobigots & marriage equality opponents reacted to the bad publicity by appointing a day to crowd in their restaurants as a show of support for prejudice against LGBT. Eat chicken filet sandwiches because marriage is between one man & one woman. The more rabid gun enthusiasts are stumbling into the same kind of loony scenario, & I say, let them.

Friday, January 18, 2013

DC Breaking Local News Weather Sports FOX 5 WTTG

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Te'o, Te'o, football over & me wan' to go home

The tale of Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o's imaginary or fake girlfriend is quite bizarre. Nobody is fully buying Notre Dame's official statement that it was a totally a cruel hoax on Manti. Perhaps it was. But there are some curious matters involving his own statements  & his reaction to news of her "death."

However, the naivete of Mormons should not be underestimated. & for a young, single Mormon of  large size & Samoan extraction, The Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Indiana might be a very lonely place even for a Heisman Trophy candidate.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jodie's big "secret"

Why has Jodie Foster's rambling speech the other night generated so much controversy?  My immediate impression was that she had had a couple of cocktails & was having some fun with the audience. Do we really care if she's "out" out?

Has any star  ever led a truly secret life in "Hollywood"?  Is it ever a stretch for gay or lesbian actor to play a straight character?  Well, maybe Paul Lynde, who didn't try, even in Bye Bye Birdie. One of my favorite TV raconteurs,  the late, great Charles Nelson Reilly (also a genuine theater person, largely unnoticed by all except other actors & theater people), told hilarious stories on the Tonight Show about being gay in Hollywood without actually saying he was gay, & with less of Paul Lynde's bitch queen act.

Reilly astonished me one night long ago when he came on The Tonight Show to promote The Belle of Amherst, a wonderful one woman show he directed with Julie Harris as Emily Dickinson (& 14 other characters). Of course, he & Johnny didn't dwell on that subject for very long.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Ottorino Respighi - Notturno

Lovely piece  I first heard a few nights ago, appropriately about 3 a.m.  Some versions  are performed over one minute shorter & I enjoy those also. But slower sounds more a "musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night."

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Roselle Park NJ

1937. Westfield Ave. at Chestnut St., facing west.
Scene as my Dad knew it. The center divider still exists in that form & continues all the way into Elizabeth not far from where I live. Much of my neighborhood resembles  Roselle Park. The theater & Hap's & Cap's  were  there when I was growing up. Hap's & Cap's had atmosphere, hangout for high school guys sitting at the lunch counter eating  fried hot dogs & drinking cherry Cokes. You could smell the hot dogs outside.  Good comics selection; only store in town with rack of Classics Illustrated comics. 

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Friday, January 11, 2013

He's "gonna start killin' people"

I can see the beginnings of a long-term strategy for gun reform. It will be very difficult to fight. It will take a few years to really take effect.  It involves a kind of ju jitsu of values, turning the "power" of the more rabid gun owners against them, because the "rights" they claim are fundamentally tied to the power of gun posession itself as much as to their Constitutional arguments. The tendency of these gun owners is to speak their minds too freely, rely too much on slogans, & wrap their grievances in paranoia & threats.

Every screwed up teenage suburban boy who walks into a school with loaded gun is the son of an angry  gun owner. The latter enabled the former.

Every enraged murderous man locking himself in a house, shooting his wife & firing out the windows at police is the angry guy in his home with his stash of guns. The latter became the former.

Every madman on a mass murder spree in a public  place is the angry  guy claiming he needs guns to defend against the madman.  The latter is potentially the former.

After every nationally reported gun crime using guns purchased legally,  the resultant angry defense of guns further exposes the insanity of gun   culture & makes the defenders sound like people who would commit those crimes, even commit seditious acts against the United States.

The NRA is not the extreme "legal" gun culture in America. This is:

The NRA doesn't have the influence to silence men like this. Yes, there is some demonizing involved,  tying conservative   gun owners to crazies like the one in the video. But keep in mind that this man is quite representative of a large segment of American gun culture,  A mild mannered relative of my posts  angry defenses of all gun ownership on Facebook every day & expresses seditious  sentiments, never in his own words, but through graphics he shares from other FB pages, including spurious quotes from Thomas Jefferson.  If he is made to seem a lunatic, that's his problem. All he can do is say, "I am not a lunatic," & proceed to come across like one.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The small laundry room in the basement has been locked for several days. One washer, one dryer.  This is a big problem for me. I do one load per week on average. The alternatives are my small, old portable apt washer, which requires hand wringing clothes & hang dry, & doesn't rinse very well;  or hauling a bag to a local laundromat & sitting around for 90 minutes. Or the expense of dropping the clothes off & having them done  by the laundromat attendant.
Yesterday I had an 8:30 a.m. appt with city housing auth, annual visit, no big deal.  Don't like the early time - could mean 1/2 hour taxi wait on a bitterly cold morning, yesterday was o.k.. on both. At that time I'm usually the first client, so short wait.  Yesterday the tenant interviewer was so slow. The others I get recognize how easy I am to do & just copy my various docs,  have me sign a dozen forms, hand me the required lead paint brochure.  Then she did something that's  never  happened before & gave me pause. She handed me two forms, one to be filled out by my psychiatrist & the other by my  counselor at a private rehab agency. I have these  two forms filled out annually for the private agency, for a special program that in turn qualifies me for housing assistance, if I meet the city  also approves.  The private agency handles the confidential medical information.  The city then  is concerned only with my identity, residence, income & expenses, which I provide with indisputably authentic hard copy documents.  I noted this to the interviewer. I said if they need these other documents, the private agency has my permission to provide them as needed, & that I did not care for the idea of providing them directly. The interviewer dismissed this concern as no big deal, records are confidential, destroyed after a period of time,  & the most disturbing revelation,  that the city agency didn't even really need them; the private agency wanted them in the city files. But now I'm doing the job I thought the private agency was doing.  In my mind, a line is being crossed here, & I don't like it.

My psychiatrist will fill out the form. Again.  As he did only two months ago. He has to do it for me. But he is very discreet man. I can tell he doesn't particularly like it. Nor do I. He prefers releasing information to another psychiatrist or licensed therapist.  I've been seeing him for years. Legally, ethically & by character he is completely trustworthy, as are all the staff I've known  at the clinic.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Notre Dame versus Alabama

Later: Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14. Ouch! Whadda nightmare!

Lost in this debacle is the fact that Notre Dame was unranked preseason & consensus was the team was a year away from really making an impact. Then they got lucky. They kept winning, including some games that were signs & portents of  vulnerability.  They over-achieved.  Oregon & Alabama lost games. Had the Irish lost a game during regular season, been ranked 4 or 5, played in another BCS bowl & won, or kept it close, the season would have been deemed a success, with great hopes for 2013-14.
Rooting for Notre Dame tonight.  Not as a Notre Dame fan -  a pair of married N.D. alumni friends softened me up a bit over past few years. With the possible exception of Tennessee, it's impossible for me to favor an S.E.C. school.

It's more that I grew up in an Army football family with a connection to the glory teams of WWII, an uncle at West Point then.  There was still some national prestige attached to Army in the late Fifties, with Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins.  For years, the Army - Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium was a national event. Army usually got its butt kicked. The series is Irish 38, Army 8, one tie - that 1946 scoreless contest one of the "Games of the Century." But it was an honorable rivalry, filled with tradition dating back to the famous 1913 "forward pass" game with Knute Rockne making the catches. It's generally forgotten that Army won in 1914.  Army fans will gladly point out that Navy has played Notre Dame nearly twice as many times, winning only 12 games.

The game Notre Dame won for "The Gipper"  was against Army. (See Ronald Reagan, whose career might have taken a different path had he not played George Gipp in "The Knute Rockne Story.")

Both teams still have their traditions & pageantry. No matter how awful Army is, a game at historic Michie Stadium  at West Point is an unforgettable experience. There  is a bond between the two teams.  Whatever one thinks of Notre Dame's conceit & arrogance (fueled by a relentless P.R. machine), The Joe Paterno / Penn State scandal showed that hubris takes many forms, even quietly evil ones masquerading as sainthood.

I'm not forgetting that there is at Notre Dame an unresolved sexual assault tragedy involving a current player & a St. Mary's student who later committed suicide. Notre Dame thinks it has been resolved, the dead student's family does not, nor do some Notre Dame alum sitting out this Championship Game because of it. It's received pitifully little attention over the past month. There may also be a second incident. Should Notre Dame win the Championship (I think "Bama will prevail), there could be a ticking time bomb inside it the Irish publicity machine cannot defuse.

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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Asbury Park NJ

Lou's Huff and Puff Game

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Mark Twain in an open letter to Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1869:
"you seem to be the idol of only a crawling swarm of small souls, who love to glorify your most flagrant unworthiness in print; or praise your vast possessions worshippingly; or sing of your unimportant private habits and sayings and doings, as if your millions gave them dignity; friends who applaud your superhuman stinginess with the same gusto that they do your most magnificent displays of commercial genius and daring, and likewise your most lawless violation of commercial honor - for these infatuated worshippers of dollars not their own seem to make no distinctions, but swing their hats and shout hallelujah every time you do anything, no matter what it is. I do pity you."
Twain liked having money, appreciated living well, feared destitution (He went broke & had to lecture around the world to pay his debts), but he didn't believe  it required him to be the lapdog of avaricious, heartless capitalists.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Patti Page

Night.  Fifties. Long ride back from South Jersey shore or Lake Mohawk. Squeezed between Dad & Mom in the front seat or, when we had a modest station wagon, in the back seat or cargo space. Three older siblings & a small, panting, carsick dog. Dad twiddling with the radio dial. What is he looking for? Operetta? Music from the TV show Victory at Sea?  I catch intriguing snippets of doo wop, R&B, distant baseball games, religious blabbermouths. As often as not Dad turns off the radio in frustration. If he lands on the lovely, evocative "Old Cape Cod" & stays there, I know that's the best we're gonna get. Who wouldn't rather be on Cape Cod instead of riding in this car?

Fifties pop was not generally good. One realizes how exceptional Sinatra's Capitol recordings were, & why Peggy Lee worked so stubbornly to control her career. One appreciates that Count Basie held a band together, changed to the magnificent "atomic" lineup & style. One may even appreciate the pernicious influence of record label executive Mitch Miller & his ilk, wasting the talents of great singers but driving millions of teenagers to embrace rock & roll,

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Comment on Yahoo news page with photo of two happy gay men getting married in Washington state:
"I guess those two perverted sickos won't be at the fag bar tonight."
My reply:
" I guess you'll know for sure  when they don't show up."

It's too easy. It makes me think I could trade quips with the late greats Johnny Carson & Charles Nelson Reilly on the old Tonight Show, which of course I couldn't have done.  These people are so stupid. They always leave themselves wide open.  They never get it anyway. We've all  met them. They just look at you uncomprehendingly, their brains firing a few dozen neurons per second like a lizard  in deep hibernation.

I'm always grumpy (not to say easily enraged) during Presidential election years. It usually wears off within a few weeks in November. Maybe this year it was Sandy, or the Newtown school massacre. Or the incredible arrogance following President Obama's decisive reelection, five point vote margin & an Electoral College trouncing of their candidate. "That'll teach him for winning," they said. "Now Obama the secret Muslim commie has to listen to us."

Just as stunned as Mitt caught without  a prepared concession speech (an  old episode of West Wing humorously dealt with the common superstition of not preparing one).

A couple of right wing hometown Facebook friends  forgot that since I grew up in the same small all-white town, in a Republican family, I know all the racist code words, evasions, excuses & rationales, all the disguises.  I got up & walked over here to this  side,  pretty much at Richard Nixon's invitation as I reached voting age to get out & make room in his party  for  racist Democrats. I wasn't  raised a liberal who votes Democratic.

It comes down to this: A majority of white, non-Hispanic Americans believes that a President is legitimately elected only by winning a majority of white, non-Hispanic Americans. The male ones, just to make it  emphatic.

It doesn't work that way, folks.   Used to work that way when both candidates received a majority of white, non-Hispanic American votes, when there weren't many of any other kind of voter voting.  Including women. For much of our history, women couldn't vote for presidents, & of course African-Americans were disenfranchised for a hundred years  after the Civil War.

So that was the Repug strategy 2012: Disenfranchise enough of those other voters to swing the swing states.

Obama carried every one of the true swing states, Florida at last coming over a few weeks after the election, Romney's percentage of the vote slowly falling to, amazingly, 47%.  Would  any Evangelical care to suggest the, ah, Hand of God in Mitt hitting that number?

The long nights will creep along for a few weeks, then the sunsets will begin to happen  noticeably later.  & maybe some of this grumpiness will wear off.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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