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Friday, May 31, 2019

Quick and Easy




And we begin here:



90% of the Drugs coming into the United States come through Mexico & our Southern Border. 80,000 people died last year, 1,000,000 people ruined. This has gone on for many years & nothing has been done about it. We have a 100 Billion Dollar Trade Deficit with Mexico. It’s time!

If you need an example of a non sequitur logical fallacy, this is really good one -- or bad one, depending.

Break it down:

"90% of the Drugs coming into the United States come through Mexico & our Southern Border."

Is that true?

Of drugs used in the US but manufactured outside of our borders, do ninety percent come into the country via Mexico across the southern border? Is that true?

Wait, drugs?

Trump said "Drugs." Capital D.

Not illegal drugs. Drugs. Now, from the context he likely means illegal drugs, but how can you be sure? I mean, he capitalized it, does that means all drugs, legal and illegal? Or do we just capitalize illegal drugs? The AP Style Guide is no help here, so what does he mean? No, I’m not just being pedantic. This is the president of the United States doing foreign policy via twitter. Words matter. Precision of thought, especially on this scale, matters. And that’s the point here, as I will demonstrate.

For the sake of simplicity, let's say it's illegal drugs.

Ninety percent of illegal drugs smuggled into the US, come through the southern border. Is that true?

DEA statistics for 2018 show that 90% of heroin, 88% of cocaine, 87% of methamphetamine, and 80% of fentanyl seized on the southern border were found at Ports of Entry, i.e. legal crossing points, but are those numbers 90% of all illegal drugs entering the US?

Is it?

There’s a difference between “seized” and “all.”

Ninety percent of heroin.

Ninety percent of total illegal drug smuggling.

Is that the same number?

Is it?

Trump’s talking about the amount of drugs crossing the US/Mexican border, but what percentage of the total illegal drugs entering the US is it?

Because Trump say it's 90%, but he seems to be confusing the amount of drugs seized at legal crossing points compared to the total suspected amount crossing the border WITH THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF ILLEGAL DRUGS ENTERING THE US.

And nobody calls him on it.

Nobody calls on him to produce a comparison to the Canadian border or to maritime ports of entry or US international airports.

We just let that number go: 90% of illegal drugs entering the US come via Mexico.

So, right out of the gate, the argument is based on an assumption without any proof of validation – and it gets much worse than that when you discover most of the numbers used by the DEA, FBI, and other government agencies regarding volume of drugs manufactured, used, and smuggled into the US are total bullshit based on spotty data, incomplete information, hunches, guesses, and numbers padded to make budget requests look good. That’s the first thing you learn, if you ever do counter-narcotics work, all the numbers are complete bullshit. No one can prove anything with any degree of confidence and they’ve long since given up trying, there’s something downright Soviet about it.

Next: "80,000 people died last year, 1,000,000 people ruined."

80,000 deaths.

A million people "ruined."

Assuming, I guess, from drug use. Though he doesn't actually say so, or where that number came from. With the implication being that the drugs which killed and ruined these people came from ... Mexico.

And note that he just says "deaths." He doesn't break down those drug related deaths into specifics. As if a heroin overdose is the same as death by anti-depressant abuse is the same as death via chronic methamphetamine usage.

As if the complex circumstances that lead people to a drug related death are all the same and can be solved with the simple expedient of cutting off the supply of foreign drugs on just the Mexican border.

As if two thirds of drug overdose deaths last year were not caused by opioids, a significant fraction of which were manufactured and prescribed legally. Now, while it's true, as Trump says, that the majority of illegal opioids, usually some variation of Fentanyl, are manufactured in China and smuggled into the US in part via Mexico, most of it comes via US Ports of Entry -- meaning a wall wouldn't do a damned thing to stop it. Trump never addresses this, never even acknowledges it because it doesn’t fit his simple narrative.

Next: "This has gone on for many years & nothing has been done about it."

This is a complete load of crap.

The US has spent an astounding amount of resources over decades attempting to stop the flow is drugs smuggled into our country.

Our prisons are full to bursting with the results of the so-called war on drugs.

Hell, I myself spent more time than I care to mention hunting drug smugglers, including three miserable months in South and Central America chasing down boatloads of cocaine and heroin and even though we brought back record numbers of captured drugs and drug smugglers it was nothing. Less than a drop in the bucket. Drugs are a Just In Time model of Supply and Demand, meaning drug pushers don’t keep huge warehouses of stock in case their supply takes a hit. If they have it, they sell it. Drug users don’t stockpile for a rainy day, if they buy it, they use it. And then they buy more. Despite the simplistic boneheaded logic of the War on Drugs, less drugs do not translate into less drug users or less violence or less crime, it just means that drugs cost more – and because they cost more, you get more crime and more violence. And that means if you want to know how effective the billions of dollars you’re spending sending Navy ships south of the Galapagos to chase smuggling boats, all you have to do is look at the price of various drugs on the street.  Guess what? There’s no impact. None. Drugs are getting cheaper.

Likewise, Trump’s wall will have no effect. Why? Because it doesn’t address the basic problem: Americans want drugs!

We have dozens of federal and state agencies, law enforcement, the military, working on stopping the flow of illegal drugs. And they have no effect. None. The price of drugs are falling. Drugs are everywhere. If you want drugs, you can get them. The war on drugs is a total failure. Why? Because it doesn’t address the basic problem. Americans. Want. Drugs.

But that's the thing, right there. Drugs are complicated. The reason why people do drugs is complex and there are millions upon millions of variations of this problem. There isn’t one easy simple solution. You have to understand the problem and address the actual causative issues. And if Prohibition taught America anything, it's that cutting off the supply doesn’t do shit to fix those underlying problems and in fact might just make the situation worse in a hundred unexpected ways – like increased crime and violence.

You can't just build a wall and fix it.

It's vastly more complicated than that.

People want drugs and they are going to get them even if they have to make them in their bathtub like gin in the 1930s. Even if they have to murder for them.

And then: "We have a 100 Billion Dollar Trade Deficit with Mexico."

The hell do trade deficits have to do with illegal drugs?

Nothing, that's what.

Nothing.

Not a damned thing.

He starts with a claim about the origin of illegal drugs, segues into drug deaths, falsely claims no one has every done anything about it, and fetches up at trade deficits on legal products. It’s a non sequitur logical fallacy in that one does not in any way follow the other.

This, right here, is the problem with critical thinking in America. This scatterbrained gibberish.

It seems that Trump is actually saying something, but his comment literally makes no sense. It's three different issues mashed together like Frankenstein's monster stitched together from dead body parts.

And the majority of Americans aren't equipped to even recognize this as nonsense.

The news media, the average citizen, lets nonsense -- literally "no sense" -- like this just roll on past without question, without any deeper examination. Liberals reject it because it's Trump, conservatives embrace it for the same reason. But they don't even know why.

It's just nonsense. Faulty thinking. Failed reasoning.

This is why problems don't get solved.

This is why shit keeps getting worse.

This is how some moron like Trump gets elected and why 60 million morons think he's some sort of genius.

Because as a people we are deliberately incapable of critical analysis on even a fundamental level. And that’s the real tragedy. It’s not rocket science. It’s the basics. When you break it down, examine each piece, drug smuggling, drug deaths, legal trade deficits, all of these are highly complex problems that may or may not relate to each other in complex ways -- but not in the manner Trump describes. And that should be obvious, even if you don’t understand the complex issues underneath. But for too many Americans, it’s not.

If he can't understand it, he can’t fix it.

If you can’t understand that, you’ll never fix The Republic.


And that is a metaphor for not only America, but the very future.


Then he moves from faulty thinking to outright lies:

"Hard to believe that with the Crisis on the Border, the Dems won’t do the quick and easy fix. Would solve the problem but they want Open Borders, which equals crime!"

Though, to be fair, his lies are a result of his faulty thinking.

Leaving aside the obvious lie regarding his manufactured "crisis" and his provably false assertion that democrats as a whole "want open borders,” the critical part of that statement is "quick and easy fix."

Quick and easy.

Shoot it. Hang it. Kill it. Bomb it. Bulldoze it. Build a wall.

The simpleminded are always looking for simple solutions to complex problems.

Like Trump -- exactly like Trump -- they don't have the capability to process the complexity of the world and they just will never understand that there are no "quick and easy" solutions to immigration, to poverty, to violence, to drug abuse, to crime, to national security, to governing a nation, to any of it.

Even their God knows that. That's what their prophet told them, that salvation wasn't going to be easy, there aren't any quick and easy solutions, you actually have to be a better person. Even, especially, when it's hard. If you want the reward, you have to do the work. And two thousand years later, they still can't wrap their pointy brains around it and have reduced that complex message to thoughts and prayer and hate that guy over there. Even the pious who study that religion do so mostly in order to figure out how not to have to think about it.

"Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades."

Ain't nobody gets "taken advantage of" like a rich guy who craps in a golden toilet and lives in a giant dick-shaped tower with his name on the side in 30-foot-high golden letters. Oh there ain't no bigger victims than the poor put-upon wealthy of America.

That's what he's saying here. When he says "America," he means rich people. Not you and me.

I mean, look at it: advantage how?

How is Mexico taking advantage of the United States? How?

If anything, the power structure would suggest that we take advantage of Mexico.

That we daily take advantage of lax Mexican laws and cheap Mexican labor and cheap Mexican vacations and cheap Mexican produce and, hell, the conditions that make for cheap Mexican drugs. I mean, it's easier to buy foreign illegal drugs than it is to make them ourselves. Just as it's easier and more profitable to manufacture car parts in Mexico than it is to pay Americans a living wage.

That's not to Mexico's advantage except by accident.

Those jobs are in Mexico, and in China, etc, because that’s how rich people like Trump want it.

That’s how the wealthy business owners got rich in the first place. They don't want to pay a living wage. They don't want to pay for healthcare. They don't want to give baby leave or benefits or build safe factories that don't pollute. They don't want to hire Americans because it costs them money.

Those factories, those jobs, they weren't moved to Mexico for Mexico’s advantage, but to make rich Americans even richer.

That’s who benefits.

That's who is taking advantage, right there. The rich. Not Mexico.

"Because of the Dems, our Immigration Laws are BAD."

And we're back to immigration without taking a breath.

And what are those immigrants doing here anyway?

It's not only democrats who hire cheap day laborers from every corner in Arizona and California.

It's not just democrats who own the farms and ranches where cheap migrant laborers go seeking work.

It's not just democrats who hire cheap nannies and gardeners and handymen.

Our laws were made by democrats and republicans, and signed into effect by both kinds of presidents, and it's that way because that is to both democrat and republican advantage – it sure has hell wasn’t done for immigrants.

"Mexico makes a FORTUNE from the U.S., have for decades, they can easily fix this problem."

Mexico?

America makes literal fortunes from Mexico, and has for decades.

Or did you think the stockholders of General Motors, Ford, and Chevy, and every other major manufacturer in the US was sending their factories south of the border just for fun? This wasn’t done for Mexico, it was done for American profit, to make rich people richer.

It's ironic that a guy who made his alleged fortune at least in part from products bearing his name and that are manufactured overseas, and by hiring cheap foreign labor to operate his golf courses because he doesn't want to pay Americans a living wage, doesn't seem to get this.

"Time for them to finally do what must be done!"

And what's that? Cut the United States off? Go into business making cars and underwear for China and Russia? Because that's what's going to happen.

It's instructive Trump sees immigration as "taking advantage" of the US and blames democrats for it. But somehow jumps right over the part where foreign nations profit from the US because Republican capitalism moved our manufacturing there in search of greater profit.

“In order not to pay Tariffs, if they start rising, companies will leave Mexico, which has taken 30% of our Auto Industry, and come back home to the USA. Mexico must take back their country from the drug lords and cartels. The Tariff is about stopping drugs as well as illegals!”

We are fond of quoting that bit about history and those who forget it.

But we mouth the words and never actually understand what they mean.

Companies leave Mexico – and by companies, he means manufacturing.

And why would they come back to the US? What? Suddenly they’re going to pay Americans a living wage? Build plants that comply with our safety and environmental laws? And give up those huge profits and those hundred million dollar CEO salaries? Really?

More likely, they just move manufacturing to somewhere else without tariffs. Some undeveloped 3rd World country that’s willing to chain its people to an assembly line for table scraps. Sure. I mean, goddamn, look at Trump, he’s not hiring Americans to wait tables and scrub toilets at Mar-a-Lago is he? He’s not giving up any profit. You think anybody else will? Come on.

But more than that, Trump says this is about illegal immigration, about violence and crime.

Ask yourself something: in those places where jobs disappear, where the cost of living is too high for most of the population, where the only work is illegal and dangerous, how are crime and violence statistics in those places?

So, you force Mexico out of business. What happens?

Will Americans stop buying drugs then?

No?

So what do you think will happen? When the jobs in Mexico go away? When the money goes away? When the cost of living skyrockets? When the tax base falls off as a result and thus Mexico itself has less and less resources to combat crime and violence? When people get desperate and the drug cartels and the crime bosses have all the power and all the money funded by American cash?

What then?

Do you think that America’s problems will be over?

Do you think that the violence and desperation south of the border won’t be our problem?

Do you think people won’t try to escape it, even if they have to climb a wall a hundred feet high? When there are no jobs and no hope and no advantage to staying in Mexico, do you think the solutions then will be “quick and easy?”

Trump is a simple fool.

Those who support him are worse fools.

Because the fools drag the foolish and the reasoned down alike.

And because they are the one who will someday soon suffer the worst of Trump’s quick and simple nonsense.

But by then, it’ll be too late.

Too late for us all.

42 comments:

  1. Not sure if the vast majority are incapable of critical reasoning or just too lazy to try it. They like having someone tell them what to think. Either way, we're screwed. BTW -- DEAD body parts.

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    1. Saying ANYTHING that sounds like a proven, accepted "sound bite" enables the least critical among us to feel like in-charge intellectuals. or, BRAINLESS SHEEP. BAAA.... That is what dRump is counting on.

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    2. The Majority of Fentanyl coming into America is from China! Yet, Trump never mentions that...

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    3. The majority of Fentanyl coming into America is from China! Yet, Trump never addresses that...

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  2. Another wonderful and reasoned essay. I wish I believed things will work out okay, but more and more I think we're all doomed. This essay is WHY. People refuse to reason and THINK and then we all have to pay. Thank you for writing these - sometimes I think your essays are keeping my head from exploding!

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  3. Even the words "Trade Deficit" are less-than-wrong - we have no "deficit". We gave them 100 Billion dollars (or whatever the real number is) - we got 100 Billion worth of *STUFF*.

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    1. I think he likes using “big government” words so that his base will believe he knows what he’s doing.

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  4. Matthew MarquiseeMay 31, 2019 at 4:07 PM

    Its amazing, in not a good way, how trumps mind works. Isnt a tariff on Mexico going to blow up his whole New NAFTA? Mexico didnt force anyone to go there and make stuff. The biggest con, of course, is that Mr. America First, is anything but. I mean, that right there. For all his complaining, he has his signature line of branded crap made everywhere BUT America. He has been bringing foreign workers in to work at Mar-a-Lago, for decades. Recently, he fired all the illegals working at his hotels because someone ptobably told him that it doesnt look right that he complains about illegal immigration but he is a big proponent of it. And if it was sudn a "quick and easy" fix, why didnt Repubs quickly and easily fix it when they controlled all three branches of govt? As always Jim, youre the best.

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  5. Amen, I cannot agree more than that.

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  6. I used to suffer fools gladly but not any longer. This essay, right here, points to all the reasons it is a fool's errand to suffer fools gladly.

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  7. Jim, your essay is exactly on point. Too many people don't use critical thinking today. There are so many complex problems today, but it's too much work to do the research to get to the root of the problem. So the simple minded grasp at any simple solution that takes the least amount of sacrifice on their part.
    This allows someone with ulterior motives to take advantage of the situation.
    Enter trump, a born salesman, the 21st century version of a snake oil salesman. And here we are, living in the America you describe in your essay.
    I hope it's not too late.

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  8. Frankenstein's monster stitched together from death body parts.
    Should be *dead* body parts

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  9. This guy’s “simple, easy solutions”’are right up there with the bullshit herbal “cures” for cancer. If they existed or worked, we wouldn’t be having walks, runs, cycling events or telethons to raise money for research. We’d be growing the medicinal plants and curing people of their diseases left and right.

    But the solutions aren’t simple (except maybe for the corporate assholes paying workers living wages instead of paying themselves 3,000-4,000 times more than their average employees). I guess he forgot that he said, on video, “Who knew healthcare was so hard?”. Duh! That would be the thinking portion of our population.

    Thank you for writing so well what the rest of us can’t say as eloquently so that we may share it.

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  10. Oh, if only more people could/ would read a bit and use their gray cells.

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  12. Critical thinking is overwhelmingly scary for many people. My mother was one of those people, so they are very real to me. This woman was a loving, generous person who always had an eye out for how she could help other people, but she was also an extremely anxious person who craved the comfort of rules and proclamations of authorities. Hard thinking was best left to priests and government officials, and life should be lived by the traditions she grew up by.

    Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of people like her, and to some extent I blame our school system. In the place and time where/when I grew up, a good education was available in Catholic schools, and so I did get introduced to the basics of the skill then. But I'm old, and it seems the skill is less and less taught.

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    1. I was wondering how many comments I'd read before someone blamed education. "..and to some extent I blame our school system". Do the research, do the hard work to find out what actually is happening in education. I suggest you start with either charter (for profit) schools or federal funding (or lack of funding) for special education and consequences to states if they don't fund special education. Or maybe, if education isn't your thing, look at research on the profound effects poverty has on children, families, and communities. I'm not saying these are the only issues, but a place to start. Trump blames Mexico for our drug problems, immigrants from all central American countries, and trade deficits, and you "to some extent" blame schools for a lack of critical thinking skills. That's an easy out, and yes I was a special education teacher for twenty six years.
      This wants to publish me as unknown, but I'm Bonnie.

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  13. Thank you for a much-needed refresher course on critical thinking. I fear that my ability to think critically is being eroded by overexposure to Trumpian irrationality. Or maybe it is just coincidental.

    BTW - "The US has spent an astounding amount of resources over decades attempting to stop the flow is drugs smuggled into our country." Did you mean "flow of drugs?"

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    1. I worry about that myself. I work in science, I'm used to thinking clearly and trying to be logical in my work, but the avalanche of irrational nonsensical word salad just makes me so tired and worried for the world my nieces and nephews are growing up in. :(

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  14. Looks like a Gish Gallop to me.

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  15. I have said this for a while now - It's easier to be angry than it is to do research. It is easier to go with the bullies than to seek the truth. Folks have been taught for decades now that quick and easy is better than hard work. That some other sucker will figure it out, and do the hard for us, therefore we don't need to "worry our purdy lil heads" over it. I am so saddened and sickened by how dumbed down we, as a nation have become.
    Awesome essay as usual, Jim. Thanks!

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  16. Sadly, I don't believe that Trump is as dumb as he wants people to think. His outrageousness seem calculated as does his meanness. It's all too effective to be happenstance, and everyone pointing to his "idiocy" is giving him cover.

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    1. He really is a 10 watt bulb in a 100 watt world. He really is that mean, coarse and obnoxious.

      But he has an amazing level of low cunning, and he is aware that a large portion of his fan club are even less intelligent, more mean, and *less* cunning than him. His only true gift is self-promotion, and his behavior can be both calculated and fantastically stupid at the same time. It only needs to be smarter than the fan club, and that's a very low bar.

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    2. +1

      And because of the "idiocy" we are spending cycles on this mostly non-story (well, the destruction of the economy...but, meh) and not on the thing he is distracting us from.

      And the thing he is distracting us from has little to do with Russia and collusion. It is all about obstruction....not of Russia but of his business affairs.

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    3. Wholeheartedly agree with you! He's not just a liar, but a professional liar.

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  17. Too bad the people that most need to read and understand this never will.

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  18. Listening to his unscripted verbal bowel movement presser today with reporters on the WH lawn shows that Tariffman is not only illogical and resistant to his own non sequitors and by the ways, but seemingly headed for straightjacket country. No, pardon, we can't do that to someone who is the leader of the free world and has allies in all the rich people who profit from "their moron." As Yeltsin was a drunk and Russians said yeah but he is OUR DRUNK. A compelling summary of where his alleged brain is located...hello, anyone home?

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  19. There is the salient quote from (ironically) Star Wars (1977), "Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?"

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  20. As usual you put this so eloquently and broke it down well. I love your writing and logic.

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  21. There is a flaw in Trump's numbers that you should point out that will strengthen the case against him. According to a Congressional Research Service report from February (using 2017 DEA data) of the 8000 kilos of heroin seized by the government only 3000 came across the southern border. The other 5000 kilos entered elsewhere. Another CPB Report lists on 7% of Fentanyl as coming across the southern border in 2017 with the most of the other 93% coming into the country via the mail. Time to wall off the post office?

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  22. And many of these topics boil down to people are not making enough money for the amount of work being done. Everybody is getting milked to maximize profits to the point of causing suffering.

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  23. Like most complex problems, this one has several simple and easy-to-understand wrong answers, and Trump knows them all.

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  24. Brilliant as always:) Unfortunately this phenomenon is not limited to the USA only, we are losing parts of our citizenry to this infesting shift to the right in Europe as well. Hard to believe that countries from the east of the continent, that - historically speaking - have recently liberated themselves from an undemocratic system, are now falling to the other side. But the explanation is the same: simple minds need simple answers and an "enemy" who hinders their well-being.

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  25. Thank you again, Jim, for continuing to tell the truth. I understand that Republicans removed the idea of teaching critical thinking from the Texas school curriculum. I'm sure that will serve them well in their efforts to keep the masses in their places. But keep up the good fight, Jim. There are a lot of us still reading, and thinking for ourselves.

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  26. For Robert, to whose post the system refuses to let me reply, I'm sorry, but he is indeed just as dumb as he appears/sounds. There's no calculation there; that's his real, incredibly awful self on display.

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  27. Nothing may be "quick and easy"
    But Trump's base makes me "sick and queasy"

    (a two-line poem in honor of this essay)

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  28. Well the DEA report on drugs is enlightening.
    Over 40,000 of Trump's deaths from drugs are prescription drugs.
    Lots of other good info.
    Trump lies about this, just as he lies about everything.

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  29. Just to enter a more practical thought, this essay demonstrated to me why a strong Navy is a good thing. I live just outside Plymouth, a great old hisoric naval port, and the last 10 years have seen me pay a lot more attention to the Royal Navy, as I meet serving and ex serving people and chat to them. The RN is down to "the bones of its arse" as we say. 19 surface units capable of fighting I believe. Its time to invest and help protect those trade routes and hold up the tradition of the RN. a few days ago, HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed pretty much past my front door - looked great. Maybe thats the future?

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