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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Bigotry

Pity the lowly bigot, who is not only a terrible human being, but also an embarrassment. Hating on an entire group — gays, blacks, immigrants — is mean, nasty, juvenile, and unjustifiable. I call that embarrassing.

Bigotry reveals a lot about the bigot. It says the hater is either dumb and suggestible or has mental and/or emotional issues.

Which is why it pains me to question whether I have a bigotry problem myself.

I like to think I’m a sensible and realistic person. But it’s a fact that I am deeply offended by — appalled, angered, outraged by — political conservatives. ALL of them. Anyone who identifies as Republican, right-wing, or MAGA.

Actually, I believe the correct acronym now is MAGAGA — Make American Great and Glorious Again. That’s the knee-slapper the Orange Gasbag used when he announced for president again.

But to stay on point, since my stated position re the GOP amounts to enmity toward the entire group, that seems uncomfortably close to bigotry. Hmm.

Let’s consider the facts. Conservatives are wrong on essentially every issue. Their beliefs are selfish and heinous to a cartoonish degree.

These people hate, resent, or are suspicious of anyone who isn’t white and Christian. They cling to their guns and religion. They’ve learned they can embrace, without consequence, outrageous falsehoods and the patently absurd. They rail about stolen elections, immigrant caravans, crisis actors, and imaginary pedophile rings.

And when you hear about Jewish space lasers or drinking the blood of infants in satanic rituals, you can be sure the source is MAGAGA-land.

Then there’s the fact that, if some conservatives don’t deserve scorn, why do they still call themselves conservatives? Have they repented, cut the ties, and walked away? They have not.

I will ponder this matter further.

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The Indifferent Half

It’s a fine thing that Raphael Warnock defeated Herschel Walker and preserved a Senate seat for the Democrats.

But it stinks that the Republicans will have a majority in the House. The return of the GOP clown car means constructive legislation will come to a halt. Instead, we’ll have idiotic investigations into such weighty matters as Hunter Biden’s laptop.

They’re Republicans. They’re incapable of positive contributions.

I had hoped Senator Warnock would win by a larger margin, but Georgia’s bible-thumpers, nutjobs, and rednecks are rigidly tribal, and they automatically vote Republican. In my county, which is 87 percent white and staunchly GOP, Walker got 21,600 votes, and Warnock got 5,800.

Herschel was a lame and embarrassing candidate, but you have to feel bad for him. He is a troubled guy who doesn’t belong in the public eye. Putting him there was cruel.

In spite of the behavior of the rednecks and MAGAGAs, however, the larger problem is that half of eligible voters don’t vote.

In a typical US election, roughly one-quarter of the electorate votes Democratic, one-quarter votes Republican, and one-half stays home.

In the 2018 midterms, 48 percent of the voting-age population voted, and 52 percent did not.

In the Biden-Trump presidential election, only 63 percent of the voting-age population went to the polls. 37 percent couldn’t be bothered.

Compare our record to Sweden’s: in 2022, 80 percent of their voting age population voted. In 2021 in Peru, the number was 84 percent. In 2020 in New Zealand, it was 77 percent.

In the US, with the right-wingers becoming more wild-eyed and bonkers every day, and the democratic process literally in peril, failing to vote is practically criminal.

In 19 countries, it IS criminal.

In Australia, voting has been compulsory since 1924. Federal elections are held every three years, and all citizens over 18 are required to vote, or at least to show up at the polls.

Since the system was instituted, turnout has never been lower than 90 percent.

I’m certainly in favor of mandatory voting in the US, but it isn’t likely to happen. Requiring people to vote would bring GOP/MAGAGA influence to an immediate halt, since far more of us are rational than not. The right-wingers would riot in the streets to prevent that.

Still, the idea of lighting a fire under the indifferent half is mighty appealing.

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Your MAGA Overlords

The November 8 mid-term elections will be hugely consequential. The Republicans are perfectly willing to trade democracy for fascism, if it helps them retain power. That lunacy needs to be stopped.

The right wing already controls the Supreme Court, many lower courts, and most statehouses. If the GOP takes over the House and Senate, America won’t be America anymore. And that isn’t hyperbole.

The rest of us need to rise up and vote against every Republican, in every race, at every level of government. They aren’t worthy of a single vote.

Since the Reagan era, conservatives have been veering steadily to the right, becoming more and more a grotesque caricature of themselves. The right-wing extremists — the homophobes, racists, misogynists, bigots, fascists, white supremacists, autocrat-lovers — have gravitated to the Republican Party.

The GOP has been thoroughly unsavory for some time, but it got worse when Trump came along. With his willingness to lie like a rug and to violate any democratic norm, Donald Trump emboldened and enabled the wackos. He turned the GOP into a rancid cesspool.

Today, Republicans come in two varieties. One is the above-described extremist nutjobs. The other is the people who side with the crazies, or remain silent because of tribalism; they blindly identify as Republicans and want their team to win.

Let’s be real. The Republican Party is a collection of damaged people united by vile beliefs and determined to win by any means. They don’t believe in democracy. They believe in lying and cheating to get their way. Which tells you all you need to know about their character and integrity.

The occasional Democrat who gets in trouble — Al Franken, Anthony Weiner — always pays the price, but GOP politicians do not. And only the Republican Party would field candidates like Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz.

The current GOP is beyond redemption. It is the party of MAGA thugs storming the Capitol to sabotage an election. It is the party of armed goons intimidating voters at ballot drop-boxes. It is the party of people evil enough to crack the skull of an old man with a hammer, while Fox News and GOP politicians vilify the old man.

We can’t reason with people like that or change their minds. But we can overwhelm them — vote them out of office, replace them with rational people, and drive the MAGA crowd underground again.

It’s a sad fact that two-thirds of eligible voters don’t vote. If enough non-voters don’t wake up and get themselves to the ballot box, this democracy may damn well be over.

And your MAGA overlords will be teaching our children to goose step.

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A Way With Words

As I noted a while back in this post, I’m not a fan of the works of William Shakespeare. I put it this way:

Most of us, especially we writers, have an ingrained tendency to be precise and literal when we communicate. We try to speak and write in ways that best convey our intended meaning to others. That would seem to be the point: to express thoughts clearly and precisely.

Shakespeare saw it differently. He was among the poets and authors to whom clarity and precision are optional. Their goal, apparently, was to perform and entertain.

Well, I prefer clarity and precision. So I tune out the likes of Shakespeare in favor of, oh, Robert Frost and Sarah Teasdale and Dorothy Parker and Poe and Kipling.

Shakespeare himself, of course, was a genius. His mastery of the English language was astounding. And he created hundreds of new words and phrases, as well as found new ways to use existing ones.

His phrases “break the ice,” “melted into thin air,” and “the lady doth protest too much” are wonderfully, brilliantly descriptive.

Here are other common expressions Shakespeare is credibly thought to have originated:

All that glitters is not gold
All the livelong day
As luck would have it
Be-all and end-all
Brave new world
Breathe one’s last
Brevity is the soul of wit
Clothes make the man
Down the primrose path
Eat me out of house and home
Fancy-free
Fit for the gods
Foregone conclusion
Forever and a day
The game is afoot
Give the devil his due
Good riddance
Greek to me
Have not slept one wink
Heart of gold
In my heart of hearts
Kill with kindness
Knock, knock. Who’s there?
Lie low
Love is blind
Made of sterner stuff
Method in one’s madness
Mind’s eye
My own flesh and blood
Naked truth
Neither rhyme nor reason
Off with his head
One fell swoop
Pitched battle
Pure as the driven snow
Seen better days
Something wicked this way comes
Smells to high heaven
Star-crossed lovers
Strange bedfellows
To each his own
Too much of a good thing
Tower of strength
Wear my heart upon my sleeve
What’s done is done
Wild goose chase
The world is my oyster

As for the individual words he created, most were legitimate and useful, rarely designed for dramatic one-time use, as in Lewis Carroll’s “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves…”

Many were existing words he cleverly combined, such as cruel-hearted and never-ending.Or words whose usage he changed — converting verbs to adjectives, nouns to verbs, etc., such as converting the noun elbow to a verb to describe the act of elbowing.

Below is a list — abbreviated, mind you — of words attributed to Shakespeare.

Admirable
Arch-villain
Barefaced
Baseless
Belongings
Birthplace
Bloodstained
Bloodsucking
Catlike
Cold-blooded
Cold-hearted
Countless
Dauntless
Disgraceful
Distasteful
Distrustful
Eventful
Excitement
Eyeball
Fairyland
Fanged
Fashionable
Featureless
Fitful
Foul-mouthed
Fretful
Gallantry
Go-between
Homely
Hot-blooded
Ill-tempered
Indistinguishable
Lackluster
Majestic
Malignancy
Meditate
Mimic
Money’s worth
Monumental
Mortifying
Motionless
Nimble-footed
Overblown
Pageantry
Premeditated
Pious
Priceless
Profitless
Quarrelsome
Rawboned
Reclusive
Remorseless
Resolve
Restraint
Savagery
Shipwrecked
Soft-hearted
Spectacled
Swagger
Time-honored
To blanket
To castigate
To champion
To dishearten
To dislocate
To enmesh
To impede
To muddy
To overpower
To perplex
To petition
To rant
To reword
To secure
To sire
To squabble
To sully
To undervalue
To undress
Tranquil
Transcendence
Unappeased
Unchanging
Uneducated
Unquestioned
Unrivaled
Unscratched
Unsolicited
Unsullied
Unswayed
Unvarnished
Unwillingness
Useful
Vulnerable
Well-behaved
Well-bred
Well-educated
Well-read

To sum up, I give the devil his due. I applaud Shakespeare as a wunderkind, a virtuoso of the English language. In that regard, he is unrivaled.

But in my heart of hearts, writing like this turns me off:

Accuse me thus: that I have scanted all
Wherein I should your great deserts repay,
Forgot upon your dearest love to call,
Whereto all bonds do tie me day by day;
That I have frequent been with unknown minds,
And giv’n to time your own dear purchased right;
That I have hoisted sail to all the winds
Which should transport me farthest from your sight.

All I can say is, to each his own.

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Just Do It

Okay, it’s time. Donald Trump, the disgraceful, traitorous former president, was caught stealing government documents. Attorney General Garland needs to direct his minions to file charges. Just do it.

Here are the facts about Trump, the twice-impeached loser, and the stolen documents.

In August, after a year of politely asking for the return of missing documents, and doing a dance with the Trump lawyers, the FBI finally did the right thing, got a warrant, and raided Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s country club in Palm Beach.

There, FBI agents confiscated 20-odd boxes of documents, among which were over 100 marked secret and top secret, plus a boatload of unclassified files.

All of it was being held illegally. Under the law, when a President leaves office, his documents and emails, all of them, become the property of the US government and must be turned over to the National Archives.

Yes, a judge friendly to Trump wants a “special master” to review the confiscated documents. It was a ham-handed ruling that probably tanked her career. But the fact that Trump stole the material is not in question. He had no legitimate reason to be in possession of any government documents. He stole them.

For a year now, the conversation on the news has been about why Trump took the documents and what he did with them.

Did he sell secrets to the highest bidder? Was his goal to pay debts? Show off? Did classified information end up in the hands of foreign countries? Were people endangered or killed?

Critical questions all, and the answers eventually will surface. But the feds already have enough evidence to charge Trump with stealing the documents. And charge him they should.

Some of the documents confiscated at Mar-a-Lago were so highly classified that the FBI agents who found them needed additional security clearances to process them.

Which is why the Justice Department needs to charge and arrest Trump for theft. DOJ needs to get the process started now. Posthaste. ASAP.

After the filing of charges and the arrest, Trump no doubt would plead not guilty and post bail.

Whether he remains in the US or defects to Russia or Saudi Arabia, his trial should proceed. If he is convicted and sentenced, that’s justice being served, even if he flees and can’t be extradited.

At some point, depending on what their investigation uncovers, DOJ may bring additional charges. They probably will.

Lastly, if Trump’s Nazi goon fans object, well, we have police, national guard, and military forces that can deal with them as appropriate.

File the damn charges.

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Fully Nazified

You may be familiar with the handful of countries — Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland — rated highest in terms of health, safety, quality of life, and satisfied citizens.

The US is somewhere down around 20th place. That’s because we excel in other categories: mass shootings, bankruptcies due to medical bills, rate of incarceration, and black people killed by police during traffic stops.

When I was young, I remember thinking I was lucky to have been born an American. I was grateful and proud.

But that was then. Today, the US is a flailing, bumbling embarrassment. Thanks to the right-wing loonies and the wild-eyed, fully-Nazified Republican Party, we’re in the worst shape since the Civil War.

The MAGA crowd learned from Donald Trump, the orange gasbag, that lying and cheating are acceptable options and essentially consequence-free. (According to the records of the Washington Post, Trump lied or made misleading statements 30,573 times while President.)

In this new reality, the efforts of Democrats to play by the rules becomes a waste of time. And we are screwed unless enough normal, decent, rational people start voting en masse for Democrats, and we overwhelm the nutjobs.

In the past, Republicans were, by nature, merely the most cautious and conservative of us. They always were guarded and awkwardly weird, but largely were in touch with their faculties.

Not any more. Conservatives today are fire-breathing extremists whose creepy religious overtones are getting more unsettling. The Republican Party has morphed into a terrorist organization.

These are the people who put Trump, one of the most wretched, crooked, despicable humans alive, in the White House.

Trump is owned by, and financially beholden to, Vladimir Putin. Trump caused the death of one million people by bungling the COVID pandemic. He sent white supremacist goons to storm the Capitol and attempted a literal coup to try to remain President. We all saw it on live television, remember?

Why he isn’t already in prison is a disgrace.

The other bad news lately is about the radicalized Supreme Court and the efforts of right-wing state legislatures to ban abortions. Even when medically necessary. Even when caused by rape or incest.

AND they want to ban women from crossing state lines to get the procedure. AND they want to outlaw contraception. AND they want to end gay marriage.

The bible-thumping, neo-Nazi minority of the country will make our lives miserable, but they won’t win. The rational majority won’t stand for it.

Abortions will continue. Contraception and gay people aren’t going anywhere. Those genies are out of the bottle, folks.

So, what are normal people to do?

Vote. Vote only for Democrats in every election from now on. Do NOT vote for a single Republican in any race, at any level, period, full stop.

If you vote Republican, you reject democracy and embrace fascism.

If you vote Republican, you are no friend of this country. You want to end it.

If you think I’m being alarmist, then let’s talk about the uniquely American epidemic of gun deaths and the right-wing’s depraved obsession with weapons.

When you enter the voting booth, remind yourself that Republicans believe a 10-year-old rape victim should be forced by the government to have the baby, and Democrats think the very idea is appalling, obscene, and monstrous.

It’s that simple.

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Friends, I am a skeptical guy and proud of it. It pays to be skeptical.

I also have a healthy BS detector. BS detection is an essential ability.

Together, my skepticism and BS detector help me avoid being relieved of money by those looking to profit at my expense, whether illegally or by selling me something I don’t need.

The key in this respect is simple: just remember that no business or institution will offer a product or service unless they will derive an acceptable profit from the transaction. Period.

My mortgage company, for example, constantly reminds me that refinancing my mortgage, or taking out a second mortgage, will solve all my problems and improve my life immeasurably. It will be quick and easy. Give us a call.

Translation: borrow more money from us so we can collect more interest.

Another example is a relatively new entry in the insurance business: car repair insurance, aka mechanical breakdown insurance. It applies to repairs that are not accident-related and thus are not covered by your regular auto insurance. You’re probably familiar with ads for CarShield and others.

The fact is, most people never use the coverage — which is quite limited, not to mention saddled with deductibles. Ergo, repair insurance is a guaranteed money-maker for the providers.

And finally, my favorite: a truly artful scam, Medicare Part C.

Medicare Parts A and B provide basic, legitimate coverage from Uncle Sam. Part C consists of “Medicare Advantage” plans from private insurance companies. The idea was invented back in the 1990s by the Republicans under the second George Bush as a way for private industry to get on the Medicare bandwagon and make money.

In coverage as well as cost, Part C plans vary with the provider. The complexity is intentional. It creates a smokescreen that makes the cost and coverage unclear. Clarity does not serve the interests of the insurance provider.

Think about the barrage of advertising and mass mailings unleashed each year during the Part C enrollment period. The insurance industry would never, ever work so feverishly to sell Part C unless it yielded significant profits.

In reality, very few individuals benefit from buying Part C coverage. Experts say it may — may — benefit people who struggle to pay for real Medicare coverage under Parts A and B. Beyond that, Part C is a cash cow for the insurance companies.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

My advice: remember the key to skepticism and BS detection: no individual or entity will offer a product or service unless they will derive an acceptable profit from the transaction.

Period.

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Unsustainable

You realize, I presume, that the good old days never existed.

To be blunt, human history has been a random progression of events, mostly involving misery, suffering, cruelty, and death, intermingled with sporadic discoveries that were advantageous to our health and lifespans, plus allowed us to create more potent weapons.

And that history has carried us to a truly bad place. Humanity today is in dreadful shape, and we are dragging the planet down with us.

Earth is badly polluted and reeling from overpopulation. The polar icecaps are melting. While we sit here watching it happen, the greenhouse effect is leading us to our extinction.

Poverty and starvation are widespread. The rich and powerful control everything and everyone. Most people live under autocratic regimes.

In many ways, life for Homo sapiens (which ironically means “wise human”) has changed little since the Dark Ages.

Adding to the general unpleasantness, the Republicans in the US, all of them, have lost their minds. Their beliefs are closer to those of the Taliban or the Nazis than to American democracy.

A sad outcome for a political party founded to oppose the expansion of slavery.

Speaking of Republicans, I found this definition on Wikipedia:

Fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and the economy.

That describes present-day Republicans as succinctly as it does the regimes of Mussolini and Hitler. Republicans see Donald Trump, one of the most deplorable human beings imaginable, as a kind of creepy father figure. Their very own Hitler. Incredibly, they put Trump in the White House and would do it again.

Moreover, after 50 years of trying, the right-wingers apparently have a Supreme Court willing to reverse Roe v. Wade. That should come as no surprise. Outlawing abortion has been at the top of the conservative agenda for decades.

The looming demise of Roe ought to shock great numbers of rational people into voting, but I doubt that it will. When the Access Hollywood tape didn’t end Trump’s political career on a dime, I learned an important lesson about my fellow citizens.

The difference between the political left and right is like day and night. Liberals, the normal people, want universal healthcare, a living wage, rational gun control, and action to save the planet. They want to protect women’s rights and voting rights. They want police to stop killing people.

Over on the Dark Side, the conservatives want to give tax cuts to billionaires, close the borders to non-whites, ban books, and put women in their place.

If, for some mysterious reason, you still wonder who the good guys are, consider this: of the 42 million jobs created in the US since 1989, 40 million — 95 percent — were created while a Democrat was President.

The Republicans, who haven’t done anything remotely positive in half a century, have managed to poison the Senate and the Supreme Court.

These are the people, for God’s sake, who stormed the Capitol when Trump lost the presidency. They literally attempted to stage a coup. Their low-life politicians are working nationwide to rig voting systems. They have nothing to offer, so, with no qualms whatsoever, they resort to lying and cheating.

This is unsustainable. When an entire political party decides to ignore the rules of governance, the country can’t survive.

The current GOP fascist cult is a minority. To defeat them, we need to end the filibuster so the actual majority can rule again, make sure the election system is protected from the cultists, and vote against every Republican on every ballot in every election, until they go extinct.

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Miscalculation

Even though the Republicans have gone full fascist, and will lie and cheat with no reservations, we are living, miraculously, under a Democratic President again. And we are moving past the COVID pandemic, despite the bonkers efforts of the conservatives at sabotage.

Many of them, by the way, still talk about jailing or executing Anthony Fauci.

But just when I had hopes that better times are possible, Vladimir Putin, the villainous, murderous dictator, started a war.

And yet, the villain miscalculated.

Unexpectedly — to me, anyway — Ukraine is holding its own. Putin believed his forces would declare victory within days, but they couldn’t. While the Russian forces seem curiously hapless, the Ukrainian people and armed forces have shined.

Putin miscalculated so badly, in fact, that more countries than ever are united behind Ukraine, NATO, the European Union, and the US. And more are imposing sanctions on Russia.

My reaction to Putin’s War was alarm and outrage, followed by puzzlement. Why did he do it?

The world is too small today, with too many complex interconnections and alliances, to send a ground army into another country and not expect major blowback. Putin underestimated the strength of the Ukrainian forces and the resolve of Ukraine’s allies, and overestimated that of his own. But why?

I think he is becoming more aware of his own mortality. The guy is 69 years old. Time is running out to resurrect the former USSR under his glorious leadership.

It’s possible, too, that he has health issues. An illness would speed up the timetable. Or cloud his judgment.

As you would expect, he threatens nuclear destruction if his enemies go too far and force his hand. It’s a dictator thing.

Everyone hopes Putin is not insane enough to start firing off tactical nukes, but we don’t know for sure.

Everyone hopes he will find a way to declare partial victory and go home, but we see no easy way out.

In whatever manner Putin meets his end, I hope it is sudden, unpleasant, and soon.

I have been genuinely impressed by the courage and fortitude of the Ukrainian people, and especially by the example of President Zelenskyy. I haven’t been this inspired and heartened in quite some time. It’s a good feeling.

It even distracts my thoughts, albeit briefly, from this maniac.

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Birds of a Feather

Spring is here, and, like the pine pollen, politics is in the air. Primary elections are approaching, and the candidates are going all out to inflame the voters.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m living in Nazi Germany. Most of the locals voted for Trump in 2016 and would again. They are lifelong, closed-minded conservatives, most of whom see outsiders, non-whites, and Democrats as menacing in a manner they can’t quite explain.

As you know, back in 2020, the Democrats won Georgia’s two US Senate seats, which stunned and enraged the MAGA crowd. Worse, a handful of GOP elected officials here, including the Governor and the Secretary of State, unexpectedly found the integrity to declare Biden the winner in Georgia.

To this day, cries of “RINOs!” ring out. The offending officeholders, now anathema to Trump and his minions, are being vigorously primaried.

In Georgia, Trump has endorsed candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and the one Senate seat on the ballot this year. Trump’s choices, I assure you, are deplorable.

One of them, hoping to challenge Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, is even mentally ill. Literally. Certifiably and admittedly.

Herschel Walker, the former football player, is a typical, fanatical, space-cadet Trump supporter. Walker claims — get this — that the January 6 insurrection in Washington was a false flag operation orchestrated by the Democrats.

More to the point, Walker has for years suffered from “multiple personality disorder.” The condition has a new name now, but the original is nicely descriptive. Walker wrote a book about his struggles with it.

Supposedly residing in his head are half a dozen personalities, ranging from benign to violent. Apparently, any of the personalities can emerge and recede unbidden. I assume he is being medicated to keep the various Herschels in check.

Some years ago, one of the more violent Herschels pointed a pistol at his wife’s head, threatened her with a knife, and held a straight razor to her throat. After she wisely divorced him, he threatened to kill her and her new boyfriend, whereupon a court banned him from owning guns.

There’s more. For years, Walker publicly claimed he was the valedictorian of his high school graduating class. His high school said they had no valedictorian during the years Walker attended.

He also claimed he graduated from the University of Georgia in the top one percent of his class; the University points out that Walker dropped out of UGA in his junior year to sign with the New Jersey Generals, never graduated, and had a B average while at UGA.

Walker later amended the story to say that, years later, he re-enrolled at UGA and then graduated in the top one percent of his class. The University says no, he never re-enrolled and never graduated.

So, this is the person today’s Republicans support for the US Senate — a lying, mentally ill conspiracy theorist.

Well, of course it is. Birds of a feather, right?

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