Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Not quite EVERY national indicator, Ms. Grimes

“He thinks that another six years on top of the 30 he’s already had constitutes change, well we don’t buy that,” Grimes said. “He thinks that we can’t live without his seniority, well has he seen that we’re at the bottom of every national indicator that’s out there? Henderson, are ya’ll better off after having Mitch McConnell for the last 30 years?”

“No!” roared the crowd of more than 150.

Kentucky Democrat Tears Up on Campaign Trail, Jay Newton-Small, Time.com, reporting yesterday from Henderson, Ky

Actually, there’s one important national indicator that Kentucky is no longer at the bottom of: the percentage of residents who have no healthcare insurance. That’s because of Kynect and the Medicaid expansion, under the ACA.  Y’know, under Obamacare. Paid for 100% by the federal government.

Shhhhh.

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Alison Lundergan Grimes vs. The Kentucky Newspaper Editorial Boards That Endorsed Her Today

Two major Kentucky newspapers have endorsed Alison Lundergan Grimes for Senate over incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).

The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader both ran editorials Sunday in support of the Democrat, who currently serves as Kentucky’s Secretary of State.

In its endorsement, the Courier-Journal’s editorial board praised Grimes’ stance on issues like the minimum wage and early childhood education, while accusing McConnell of “lacking a vision for Kentucky.”

“[McConnell] lost his way to the point where he now is identified largely as the master of obstruction and gridlock in Washington,” reads the endorsement. “Kentucky needs a U.S. senator who sees a higher calling than personal ambition and a greater goal than self-aggrandizement.” …

The Lexington Herald-Leader‘s endorsement strongly rebukes McConnell, who the editorial board says has “repeatedly hurt the country to advance his political strategy.”

“The Senate may never recover from the bitter paralysis McConnell has inflicted through record filibusters that allow his minority to rule by obstruction,” reads the editorial. “He poses as a champion of the right to criticize the government, but it’s really his rich buddies’ right to buy the government that he champions.”

Kentucky Newspapers Endorse Alison Lundergan Grimes, Mollie Reilly, Huffington Post, this morning

Two weeks ago, the big political story out of Kentucky was that Grimes refused to answer when a televised-debate monitor asked her whether she had voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.  So important was this, politically, that Chuck Todd reacted to it by saying (in)famously that Grimes had disqualified herself, and McConnell immediately began featuring Todd’s comment in an ad, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee ended its ad buys in the state.

At the same debate, though, McConnell said that Kynect, Kentucky’s ACA-funded healthcare insurance exchange—through which Kentuckians can purchase independent-market policies that comply with the statute and apply the statute’s tax credits toward premium payments—actually is just a website that lists healthcare policies and allows sign-ups but has no financial benefit to purchasers of the insurance plans.  This, too, was reported nationally and highlighted, apparently, in local news recaps of the debate, but it was presumed, I guess, that it wouldn’t matter.  Although McConnell had made a vaguer but substantively similar statement earlier in the campaign, and although it was reported by national and Kentucky newspapers, its significance apparently hadn’t penetrated to much of the electorate, mainly because Grimes was perfectly happy to have Kentuckians think that the popular Kynect had nothing to do with the hated Obamacare—much less with Obama himself.

And, although by then consistently down by several points in the polls, and appearing to lose ground as the election neared, she didn’t blink in this.  Asked about McConnell’s brazenly false claim about the nature and effect of Kynect, a spokeswoman for Grimes’ campaign responded with something like, “Alison Grimes will always choose Kentucky over Washington.”  That’s right; Alison Grimes will vote to remove federal financial support for the website and, especially, end the federal tax subsidies for purchase of the policies.

It was a day or two later that the DSCC announces its removal of financial support for Grimes’ campaign.  But then something apparently completely unexpected happened: A Bluegrass Poll showed Grimes suddenly trailing McConnell by a single point.  And then last week Grimes, who dismayingly had failed to highlight in ads or appearances a video that surfaced a couple of weeks earlier showing McConnell outlining to a Koch brothers’ group his exciting plans as Senate Majority Leader, suddenly began running an ad showing a clip of the video.  A day or two later, the DSCC restored its financial ad-buy support for Grimes’ campaign.  Asked why, a spokesperson for the DSCC said that polls were showing that undecideds were moving toward Grimes.

And so they must be, because a day or two ago it as reported that McConnell had just committed $1.8 million of his own money for the campaign.

The problem with Grimes’ campaign—and with candidates like Grimes herself—can be seen in a  nutshell in an article by Richard Eskow published on Huffington Post on Friday, discussing the specifics of McConnell’s comments to that Koch brothers crowd in August, captured on that video.  McConnell promises not only to defund Obamacare but also the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and to force a repeal not only of the CFPB but of the entire Dodd-Frank law that created that agency and that includes the financial-industry regulations enacted in the wake of 2008 economic collapse. But, of course, no one knows of the existence of the CFPC and no one knows that the Senate Republicans and candidates are pledging to repeal the post-2008 financial-industry regulations.  Just as no one knows, or at least no one remembers—because the Democratic candidates apparently won’t be caught dead mentioning it—that among the new regulations enacted by the Democratic-controlled Congress during the first two years of the Obama presidency (and pushed entirely by Democrats such as Dick Durbin)—are ones ending the banking-industry practice of exorbitant overdraft fees for small, sometimes-momentary checking-account overdrafts, and the so-called “Durbin Amendment” that prohibits disproportionately high payments by retailers (including small ones) to Visa and Mastercard for customer purchases using those cards.

Look.  If you want to run a Washington-vs.-our-state campaign as a Democrat, you need to make that campaign about the issue of who it is that determines specific Washington policy—in other words, about whether it’s the Kochs who effectively write legislation and dictate what legislation is filibustered or never brought to a vote, or instead small-business owners or ordinary individuals who play some meaningful role in this process.  A campaign for Congress by a Democrat that amounts to a generic ideological “Washington vs. our state” is a campaign that is incoherent. Grimes’ campaign is Exhibit A, but it’s certainly not the only current Exhibit.

The Louisville Courier-Journal, in its endorsement editorial, points out that Grimes supports such policies as a raise in the federal minimum wage and federally sponsored universal access to preschool.  But these are federal programs; she’s running for the United States Senate, not the Kentucky Senate. “Washington vs. our state” as a generic ideological precept precludes these. If Grimes’ ideology is really the same as Joni Ernst’s, then she should switch parties.  If it’s not, then she should make that clear, and make clear why it’s not.

And if Grimes wins, it will be precisely because of why it’s not—and because McConnell, not Grimes, finally made that clear to Kentucky’s voters.

And next time someone like Ashley Judd wants to run for Senate in a state like Kentucky, the Democratic Establishment should not insist that she not run because, after all, a “centrist” would have a better chance.  Judd would win this election comfortably, I’d bet.

Finally, though, the spot-on eloquence of the Courier-Journal’s and (especially) the Herald-Leader’s editorials should be noted for their courage, their emphatic directness and their specificity.

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About that “State and local governments are closer to the people” thing …

Indeed, they are; state and local governments are closer to the people.  It’s just that the people they’re closer to probably aren’t, well … you. So, here’s a question: Why isn’t, say, Kay Hagan, who’s running against the Speaker of the State House*, or Charlie Crist, who’s running against Florida governor Rick Scott, um, mentioning this in their campaigns?

Beats me, although it may actually be that they don’t know about this, since apparently the news media in these states and the other six that have enacted similar laws hasn’t bothered to report it. It’s part of what I now think of as vacuum-packed politics, in which only the Republicans ever say anything, and in which for nearly six years now we’ve had a Democratic president who doesn’t trouble himself to respond to falsehoods about policy, or ever actually educate the public about, like, anything. Normally, I would expect the president to, for example, inform the public that, as the New York Times puts it in an editorial today, complaining about the self-defeating cowardice of most of the Democratic Senate candidates in “red” or “purple” states, that the reason he has not imposed a ban on travel to this country from “African countries with Ebola cases [is that] most public­health experts say such a ban would be ineffective and could make the situation worse.  But I don’t expect that, because this president just plain doesn’t do explanation to the public.  It’s pretty difficult for a senator or Senate candidate to educate the public about something of this sort, but it would be very easy for the president to do that.

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Sooo …. which of Obama’s economic policies do you want to repeal or defeat, Repubs?? And replace those policies with whose–I mean, what–economic policies, exactly? Do tell!

Barack Obama wanted to galvanize Democrats when he insisted this week that his economic policies are on the ballot in November. Instead, the soundbite has already become the centerpiece of new Republican attack ads.

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell uses the clip in a new commercial, shared first with POLITICO. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts turned his own ad earlier Friday morning. And New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown is using the clip in a web video against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

“Alison Grimes says this election is not about her support for Barack Obama and his failed policies,” a narrator says over footage of a Grimes commercial that showed her shooting a gun. “But Obama himself says a vote for Alison is a vote for his policies.”

Obama’s comments Thursday came in front of a supportive crowd in Illinois during a speech billed as an attempt to refocus the national discourse on his economic agenda.

“I am not on the ballot this fall … But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot — every single one of them,” he said.

GOP ads pounce on Obama’s economy comments, James Hohmann and Kyle Cheney, Politico, today

The article goes on to say that Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and New Hampshire Repub. Senate nominee Scott Brown will run similar ads in their respective states.

To which I say: Please do.  It is, after all, Obama himself, not Obama’s actual economic policies—which most people have no clue about—that creates the problem for the Democrats.  Much less is the problem for the Dems the Senate Democrats’ proposed economic policies— which most people have no clue about.  The economic policies that the Senate Republicans are blocking.

Obama prefaced those comments with some actual specifics about the results thus far of one set of his policies, Obamacare. Justic Sink of The Hill reported yesterday (H/T Paul Waldman):

“There’s a reason fewer [Republicans] are running against ObamaCare — because while good, affordable healthcare might still be a fanged threat to freedom on Fox News, it’s working pretty well in the real world,” the president said.

The day after the anniversary of rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, Obama argued that a “dramatic slowdown in the rising cost of healthcare” had led to more individuals being covered and prices staying lower.

“If we hadn’t taken this on, and premiums had kept growing at the rate they did in the last decade, the average premium for family coverage today would be $1,800 higher than they are,” Obama said. “That’s $1,800 you don’t have to pay out of our pocket or see vanish from your paycheck. That’s like an $1,800 tax cut.”

And, Obama said, the cost of government healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid are decreasing alongside the costs of private insurance.

“Healthcare has long been the single biggest driver of America’s future deficits,” Obama said. “Healthcare is now the single biggest factor driving those deficits down.” …

“In just the last year, we’ve reduced the share of uninsured Americans by 26 percent,” Obama said. “That means 1 in 4 uninsured Americans — about 10 million people — have gained the financial security of health insurance in less than one year.”

The president also argued that the availability of insurance through ObamaCare meant young entrepreneurs were freed “to strike out on your own and chase that new idea,” rather than remaining in jobs that provided medical coverage.

It’s great that Obama finally deigned to speak publicly about the specifics—including specific results—of one of his policies, Obamacare.  He generally doesn’t do speaking publicly about the specifics (and certainly not specific results) of his policies, or, regarding most of his and the congressional Dems’ economic policies, even the existence of their policies and policy proposals.  Which may be why no one knows the specifics, or even the generalities.

But, the press being the press, and the political punditry being the political punditry, what matters is that Obama said the words, “I am not on the ballot this fall … But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot — every single one of them.”  “These policies” could mean … well … it doesn’t matter.

As it happens, a majority of the public, even in “red” states, aren’t all that keen on the prospect of the Koch brothers’ policies becoming Congress’s blatant policies.  So the new Republican ads about Obama’s policies being on the ballot should be countered not only with a demand to know which specific economic, fiscal and regulatory policies these candidates want to repeal but also with reminders that the Koch brothers’ policies are on the ballot, too.

Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

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Freedom! Liberty! And Being For the Little Guy. As Brought to You By the Conservative Movement.

Update appended below. (Second indented quote format also corrected.)

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In the Comments thread to Dan Crawford’s post below titled “Kalamazoo County Michigan…People and Offices to Write to Protest the Stealing of a Home,” I wrote:

Dan, you don’t understand. This is freedom, see. I mean, it’s not like it’s the FEDERAL government that’s doing this. It’s a local government that is doing it, so how could this be anything other than freedom! liberty!??

A huge part of the Conservative Movement has been to simply shift the funding of government from progressive taxation to exorbitant fines and fees for traffic violations, parking tickets, misdemeanors of other sorts, property forfeitures of large amounts of money or homes or cars, home foreclosures and forfeiture of the entire proceeds from the sale of the home for failure to pay a small property tax bill (including if you didn’t know that it was due or was not paid).

This is all part of freedom! Liberty! The private contractors for government services and operations, and the police and judges whose conflict of interest ensures the more-than-adequacy of this method of government funding, have to be paid, y’know.

In the last two weeks, the Washington Post has run a slew of articles on all this. Links to some of the articles are:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/09/03/how-st-louis-county-missouri-profits-from-poverty/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/09/10/all-i-wanted-was-to-visit-my-dying-father-now-i-owe-massachusetts-10000/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/withering-inspector-general-report-criticizes-dc-parking-and-traffic-ticketing/2014/09/08/da6ae324-3781-11e4-8601-97ba88884ffd_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/06/stop-and-seize/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/08/they-fought-the-law-who-won/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/08/they-fought-the-law-who-won/

In that thread, Dan linked to an Alternet article by David Morris about two Kentucky officeholders, a town mayor and a state senator, cousins both with the last name Girder, who are on opposing sides of the “Government is the problem, not the solution” slogan = policy thing.  The article explains:

On July 19, after years of complaints about local gasoline prices being higher than those in surrounding communities, the city of Somerset decided to take matters into its own hands and began selling gasoline directly to the public. Two-term state senator Chris Girdler immediately declared, “socialism is alive and well in Somerset.” Two-term mayor Eddie Girdler, a distant cousin, responded, “If government doesn’t do it to protect the public, then who does it?”

In an interview, Girdler, paraphrasing Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum insisted, “the government is not the answer—government’s the problem.” Regrettably the interviewer did not remind the readers that government laid the very foundation of Somerset’s economy. In 1950 the Army Corps of Engineers completed construction of one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. A little over 100 miles in length with an average depth of 85 feet, Lake Cumberland “transformed Somerset from a sleepy rural community into one of the largest recreation centers in Kentucky, drawing more than 1.7 million visitors annually.” It would have been instructive to discover whether Sen. Girdler would describe Lake Cumberland as a “socialist enterprise.”

Girdler wants to protect us from big government. Senator Girdler approvingly cites Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum, “You can’t be for big government, big taxes and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy.” Mayor Girdler wants to protect us from the predations of big giant corporation and he views government as a proper vehicle for doing so. “It’s the role of government to protect us from big business,” he maintains.

So there you have it: You can’t be for big government, big taxes and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy. Uh-uh. No, Sir.  No way.  The way to be for the little guy is to remove all government protections vis-à-vis private corporations and state and local police forces and courts.  It means privatizing traditional government operations and services, and funding government operations and services (whether already privatized, or instead still directly operated by state, local, or the federal government) entirely by huge, spiraling fines and fees for trivia, and by confiscating cash and homes and cars to resell.

Being for the little guy also means allowing banks to do whatever they please, including making billions of dollars a year in fees for tiny overdrafts—something that the Democratic-controlled House and Senate, and Obama, banned via statute in 2010—and including allowing mortgage companies to misrepresent mortgage terms.  And it means allowing monopolistic credit card companies to charge small businesses outrageous rates for small credit card purchases by their customers.  So in order to be for the little guy, we damn well better repeal the several laws that prohibit these things, enacted by Congress and signed into law by Obama in the two years before the Dems lost control of the House and lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Yes, Sir. We’re talkin’ being for the little guy, here!

Being for the little guy also means, of course, removing Big Government—or any government—from direct involvement in, or regulation of, college-student loan programs.  Access to higher education is not an appropriate function of government. I know this for a fact, because this was an official policy of the Reagan administration, expressly stated by a member of Reagan’s cabinet.  Which explains not just the dramatic reduction of reasonable-interest-rate student loans since, y’know, 1981, but also the extreme reduction in direct state and indirect federal funding for state public universities and colleges—since, y’know, 1981.

Uh-huh. The Conservative Movement, and certainly the Conservative Legal Movement, are all about sleight-of-hand redefinitions of common terms, and rely in the extreme on the idea of government-by-slogan, government-by-cliché.

The Koch brothers are little guys.  Who knew?

This continues to work well for them so often, politically, because the Democrats have allowed it to, by failing—refusing—to address it, in particulars, head-on.

To wit: The witless campaign that Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Dem nominee for Senate, is running in her effort to dethrone Mitch McConnell. Hey, Ms. Grimes: How’s that I’m-a-tough-Kentucky-woman-so-Kentucky-women-will-vote-for-me campaign goin’ for ya?  Might it now be time to try somethin’ different?  Like, addressing specifics of Dem public policy and recent Dem legislative achievements—and Repub votes on such things?  Nah.  You’re a tough Kentucky woman! So policy won’t matter in the outcome of the election.

Which it won’t, you can be absolutely sure, as long as you don’t deign to mention any of it. Are you really gonna allow election day to come without, like, informing the electorate that, uh, Kynect is—OMG!—Obamacare, and that McConnell has promised to defund it if the Repubs gain control of the Senate?  I mean … really?

This woman’s campaign, more than any other this year, just dismays me.  Then again, I myelf don’t give a damn that she’s a tough Kentucky woman.  (Or, for that matter, that she’s a woman.)  And apparently, either do all that many Kentucky women.  She may well be tough. But tough, it turns out, is not the same thing as gutsy.

I’m so, so, so, so, so, so tired of watching this kind of campaign—this flaccid, craven, I’m-embarrassed-that-I’m-a-Democrat genre—from Democrats.

Especially since IT DOESN’T WORK.  Really; it doesn’t work.

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UPDATE:  Well, well. Our newest wingy troller, Jack, wasted only 16 minutes after I posted this post before commenting:

The standard false dichotomy fallacy — if you’re against Big Government, you must be against ALL government.

The Powers of the U.S. government is clearly spelled out in its Constitution, and the States and the people retain the rest. If you say that those who want the U.S. government to not exceed the Powers given to it by the States in the Constitution, want no U.S. government at all, then you must believe that the States, in that Constitution, ceded no Powers at all to the central government.

I, in turn, wasted only 18 minutes—I’m just not as quick as he is; I’m a liberal, after all—before replying:

Ah. That’s right, Jack. The issue isn’t what powers the Constitution–the original document, the Bill of Rights, the succeeding amendments (including the reconstruction amendments) give to the federal government vis-a-vis the states. No, the issue is cliches referencing the enumerated powers, but of course only generically.

I do understand that your brand of constitutional interpretation holds that Freedom! Liberty! means he freedom of state and local governments to violate even the most fundamental of constitutional and human rights of individuals–as long as those rights don’t involve, y’know, gun-ownership rights or one of the other select few rights that you folk hold dear.

I also understand that you and your ilk conflate laisse faire economic and fiscal policy with “the enumerated powers”. You’re Rorschach interpretation of the Constitution is tiresome and ridiculous, albeit widely recited, mantra-like, by the far right.

Ideology is not the same as fact. Nor is it the same as the enumerated powers. Except, that is, when, as now, there is an aggressive hijacking of constitutional law by five members of the Supreme Court and Federalist Society lower-level federal appellate judges.

Enough said?  No. But that’ll have to do, for now.

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Ted Olson Wants Congress to Bar the Koch Brothers’ Contributions to Incumbents. I Say: Good Idea!

Post updated below.

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Forty-six Senate Democrats have concluded that the First Amendment is an impediment to re-election that a little tinkering can cure. They are proposing a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and state legislatures the authority to regulate the degree to which citizens can devote their resources to advocating the election or defeat of candidates. Voters, whatever their political views, should rise up against politicians who want to dilute the Bill of Rights to perpetuate their tenure in office.

Led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, these Senate Democrats claim that they are merely interested in good government to “restore democracy to the American people” by reducing the amount of money in politics. Do not believe it. When politicians seek to restrict political speech, it is invariably to protect their own incumbency and avoid having to defend their policies in the marketplace of ideas.

—  Harry Reid Rewrites the First Amendment. When politicians seek to restrict speech, they are invariably trying to pr otect their own incumbency.  By Theodore B. Olson, Wall Street Journal, today

Hmmm.  The McCain-Feingold campaign-finance statute, which the Supreme Court largely eviscerated in Citizens United v. FEC in early 2010 and all but completed the job earlier this year in McCutcheon v. FEC, was enacted in 2002.  In 2006, the Democrats unexpectedly gained control of both the Senate and the House, largely by defeating, y’know, Republican incumbents, and substantially increased their majority in both houses in 2008, mainly by defeating, um, Republican incumbents.  Citizens United certainly helped the Republicans gain control of the House in 2010, but failed that year and again in 2012 to recapture the Senate.  Harry Reid won reelection in 2010, despite the Kochs’ and Karl Rove’s very best efforts.

Led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans, as Koch puppets, claim that by defeating the proposed constitutional amendment to nullify Citizens United and McCutcheon, they are merely interested in good government to “return democracy to the American people” by continuing to allow unlimited amounts of money in politics. Do not believe it. When politicians seek to have Congress and state legislatures controlled by plutocratic puppeteers who actually draft legislation secretly and then deliver the finished draft to their legislator puppets, it is invariably to protect their own incumbency and try to gain or retain a stranglehold on mechanisms of government and avoid having to defend their policies in the marketplace of ideas.

That said, if Ted Olson’s real concern is that a return to pre-Citizens United, McCain-Feingold-like campaign finance laws would just serve to strengthen incumbency, the obvious answer is to demand that Mitch McConnell, an incumbent currently running for reelection, step up to the plate, return his Koch contributions, and propose legislation that would restrict contributions to incumbents in order to give challengers a stronger voice.  That’s something that McConnell and his challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, might agree on.

It’s all about the First Amendment, see.

What a moronic op-ed.

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UPDATE: I posted the following comment in the Comments thread in response to some comments there indicating that some readers missed the specific intended point of this post:

The intended point of my post is that Olson’s claim is clearly false that removing restrictions on contributions by the very wealthy and corporations hurts incumbents. This is a canard that the right is using to try to tamp down anger about Citizens United and McCutcheon and the unlimited amounts of money that are now purchasing elections, candidates and elected officials—and to undermine attempts to nullify those opinions.

Clearly, the Kochs and other very, very wealthy people are individually paying huge amounts of money to finance McConnell’s campaign. McConnell is an incumbent. So are the current Republican House members whose reelection campaigns these people are funding. McConnell’s opponent isn’t an incumbent; she’s a challenger. So are the Democrats trying to unseat House Republican incumbents. This is a sleight-of-hand that Olson and the others think no one will notice. I noticed. It’s a false statement of fact.

9/9 at 12:09 p.m.

 

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