Where I’m Coming From

I recently received a Facebook message from a Houston Chronicle reporter who is doing profiles on local voters. He’s trying to get beyond those who are supporting the two major candidates to also interview folks who are considering other options, and he noticed my Facebook posts about Evan McMullin. I asked him to pose his questions to me by email, and he did so. My reply turned into something of a major treatise of my political views. I know he can’t possibly publish the whole thing, but I decided to post it here for those who are curious about where I’m coming from.

I’m 38 years old, never married, was born in Maryland, and I’ve lived in Spring Branch since I was 6 years old. I own a condo and my younger sister lives with me. I have a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management, own my own business as a consultant for nonprofit organizations, and also work part-time for a Christian nonprofit.

I’m devoutly Christian (Protestant evangelical, if you want a label, although I am becoming increasingly skeptical of all labels and the baggage that is now associated with the word “evangelical”). My relationship with Jesus shapes every aspect of my life and my worldview, which of course drives my political opinions as well. Intellectual honesty, consistency, and principle are very important to me – more important than party politics. This election cycle has really made me reflect on that distinction! In general, I would say that I hold conservative views on social issues and libertarian views on economic issues. I value individual liberty over security/ authoritarianism, but I also believe that American military strength is an important (if very imperfect) stabilizing influence in the world and that we cannot afford to be isolationists when it comes to world affairs.

I don’t consider politics to be my calling in life, but I’ve enjoyed dabbling in discussions on Facebook and in other venues – I have a fairly diverse group of Facebook friends, so I read things from a lot of different perspectives! I did experiment with being more involved in the political process back in 2006, when I voted in the Republican primary and then went to my precinct meeting. Much to my surprise, I found myself elected to the senatorial district convention and then the state Republican convention as a delegate. But that experience was deeply disillusioning for me. I was horrified by the attitudes I heard expressed toward immigrants and the immigration issue.

I believe it’s important to secure our borders, but I also believe that we need to simultaneously drastically reform our immigration process (allowing the free market to set “limits” rather than trying to do so artificially through law) and provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who are already here. The three issues are inextricably linked in my mind; I don’t think you can do any one of the three “first” while ignoring the others. So at that 2006 state convention, I appeared before the Platform Committee to present what I hoped was a more balanced point of view as a proposed addition to the platform, and I was literally boo’ed out of the room by the spectators. At that point, I felt that I could either devote my life to politics and changing hearts and minds, or I could leave that task for others while devoting myself to other callings and continuing to vote my conscience.

I opted for the latter. I don’t have the stomach to be a political operative. But I guess you could say that was the beginning of a more arms’-length relationship with the Republican party for me. I have continued to vote in Republican primaries, generally looking for candidates who have a balanced view on the immigration issue while being solid on other issues that are important to me. If you had asked me before this year, I still would have said, “Yes, I’m a Republican, but I don’t necessarily agree with the party on everything.”

That has changed this year with the rise of Donald Trump and his ugly brand of authoritarianism. When I first heard he was running, I laughed out loud. I considered him a reality tv sideshow freak who couldn’t begin to stand a chance against the serious candidates in the race. Then all of a sudden he was leading in the polls, and I stopped laughing and started listening. Unfortunately, what I heard echoed back was a monstrous exaggeration of the worst things I’d heard in the Republican party ten years before. I wrote a blog piece about it back in February, which still accurately represents my views of Donald Trump, so rather than retype all that, I’ll just give you the link: https://yourtaxdollars.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/why-i-believe-donald-trump-is-more-dangerous-to-conservativism-than-clinton-or-sanders/ (His hateful, irresponsible, ignorant, racist, and misogynistic utterances since that time have only confirmed and deepened my opinion.)

All through the primary season, I hoped for better things from the Republican party. Ben Carson was the candidate who most interested me, and I actually ended up voting for Rubio in the primary, but I would have voted for any of them over Trump. And then, one by one, they folded and gave Trump their support. Each of them forever lost my respect when they did that, because I see it as a move of political expediency and partisan politics over principle. Quite a few so-called evangelical leaders have also forever lost my respect by jumping on the Trump bandwagon, some of them long before he was the “inevitable” nominee. My sister graduated from Liberty University, but I despise Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s opportunism in embracing Trump. It’s deeply discouraging and disillusioning – every time I think I’ve found someone to admire for standing on principle, they seem to cave in. I am wondering now who will be left with the moral authority to gather the tatters of the conservative banner once the madness of this election cycle has passed. All the “elder statesmen” of the movement seem to have gulped down the hemlock-laced Kool-Aid, whether reluctantly or enthusiastically.

However much of a walking disaster I think Donald Trump is, I still can’t vote for Hillary Clinton, with whom I disagree on nearly every major issue and whose character I deeply mistrust. I reject the argument that a third-party vote is a “wasted” vote. I know it is extremely unlikely (not quite impossible!) that a third-party candidate will win this election, but I’ve pretty much written off this election as a lost cause. I am looking to the future. And I believe the best hope for the future is to break the two-party, first-past-the-post system that gave us two such deplorable candidates.

For most of my lifetime, the Republican party has gotten by in elections by selecting “moderate” candidates who don’t really represent the views of people like me, and scaring us into voting for them by holding up the other party’s candidate as the bogeyman (bogeywoman?). This year, that system has backfired by producing an extreme candidate that only a minority section of Republicans actually want, and whom many people like me will actually refuse to vote for under any circumstances. I believe that we need a reform in the way we narrow down the field of candidates, or we will continue to get results like this as the decent candidates cancel each other out. One great reform would be to have a point system where voters rank candidates from best to worst, and the candidate with the most points wins. Trump could never have won under a system like that. It would instead produce a consensus candidate that the largest number of people in the party could agree on. I also believe that we need viable third and fourth parties to break up the Republican – Democrat monopoly, keeping them accountable through competition and forcing them to build consensus through coalitions.

And I believe that the most likely way to produce these kinds of reforms is for a disgusted electorate to vote for third-party candidates in noticeable numbers. The parties need to not take their “base” voters for granted, and losing them for an election cycle would force them to make changes that ensure they are building real consensus. In the broadest terms, people need to stop firing quippy soundbites past each other and need to start engaging in the kind of thoughtful, reasoned political discourse that actually shapes the way they think and act. Slogans, signs, and t-shirts do not govern a nation. A system that forces us to listen to each other, speak substantively, and work things through will produce immeasurably better results than one based on strategic maneuvering and demagoguery.

So with Trump and Clinton as the nominees, I want to vote for a third-party candidate. (Some people I know have decided to leave the Presidential race blank on their ballot, but that option is unattractive to me. Maybe it’s just my personality not to leave blanks on forms, but I don’t want my reasoned and principled abstention to be mistaken for apathy.)

The question remains, which candidate? Jill Stein is too far left to even be a consideration for me. The Libertarian Party would seem to be my natural second home, but the more I read about Gary Johnson, the less I like him. Apart from the abortion issue (more on that below), he holds a number of positions that are not consistent with classic libertarianism as I understand it. I also looked into Darrell Castle but wasn’t enthusiastic about some of his positions.

In August, I first heard that Evan McMullin had launched an independent candidacy for President. Intrigued, I began to look into his website and interviews. Listening to him is like a breath of fresh air…. like the feeling you got as a small child when a grown-up walked in the room and stopped the bigger kids from ugly squabbling with a few well-reasoned words. He gives the impression that he knows what he’s talking about, and that he has the calm temperament and strength of character to carry him through a crisis. The political platform posted on his website is a little thin, skips some things that are important to me, and is not 100% what I would write myself…. but it’s pretty good as far as it goes, better than anything I’ve seen from any other candidate.

I’ve been “burned” enough in recent months to be slow to commit to any candidate, especially on such brief acquaintance. But as things now stand, I’m likely to write in Evan McMullin’s name on my ballot in November. He did succeed in registering as a write-in candidate in Texas, and I understand he is available in 33 other states as well. He’s not going to win the election, apart from some bizarre twist involving throwing it into the House of Representatives and brokering a compromise (which I concede is nearly impossible). But as I said, if enough people vote for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Darrell Castle, Evan McMullin, and whatever other options are out there, I believe the major parties will be forced to institute some much-needed reforms to give us better choices in the future.

You asked what issues are most important to me. I know I talked a lot previously about the immigration issue, and that is important to me, but actually abortion is still the top issue as far as I’m concerned. If you believe (as I do) that human life begins at conception and that a human embryo from its earliest days is deserving of the same respect, rights, and protections as a human infant or adult, then I don’t know how you could put the abortion issue anywhere but on top. It would be like living in Hitler’s Germany and considering the concentration camps to be a secondary issue. We as a nation are guilty on a daily basis of genocide that far surpasses anything committed by the most atrocious war criminals history can produce, and this slaughter is openly celebrated and embraced by a large portion of the population. The only difference is that the victims have no names, no one to mourn them, no opportunity to have built a life that would miss them; they are put to death out of sight, out of mind, amid the trappings of the sort of care that is supposed to improve and extend human life. Anything I can do to stem the slaughter, in the political arena or any other arena, is a righteous deed.

That said, Trump’s supposed “pro-life” position does not in any way incline me to vote for him. He has mouthed words he does not understand or believe in the interest of political expediency, as his past record and current incoherent ramblings clearly demonstrate. If anything could persuade me to hold my nose, close my eyes, plug my ears, and vote for him, it would be the slender hope that he would accidentally nominate Supreme Court justices who might be effective in rolling back the legal precedents that protect the ongoing slaughter. However, given Trump’s political opportunism and deep-seated lack of integrity, I consider that hope so slim as to be unworthy of influencing my vote. I believe the pro-life movement has done itself great harm by uncritically embracing politicians who pay it lip service while doing little to advance its cause; we need to reserve our support for those who are passionate and dedicated to making real progress in ending abortion.

Next on my list of critical issues is protection of personal liberty – freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. “Freedom of conscience” is so much broader and deeper than merely “freedom of worship” (which is sometimes wrongly used as if it were an equivalent expression). Our consciences dictate action in every aspect of our lives, not merely rituals and ceremonies of worship. Historically, we have gone to great lengths to protect minorities from being forced to commit actions that violate their consciences (or forced to abstain from actions that their consciences require) – even granting exemptions from laws that apply to the rest of the population. The standard used to be that individuals could live out their beliefs, however far out of the mainstream, as long as they did not deprive others of life, liberty, or property. Now the standard seems to be that individuals can live out their beliefs as long as they do not cause emotional distress or inconvenience to others whose values are closer to the mainstream. The culture that brought us “safe spaces” is now redefining and re-prioritizing human rights in such a way that I fear for the safety and livelihood of those who suddenly find themselves in disagreement with the latest whims of popular culture. I would look to our political leaders to stop the madness and re-establish the protection of the Constitution for everyone, however unpopular.

Domestically, I believe we need to get government spending under control, pay down the staggering national debt, and change the public mindset regarding the appropriate source of the “safety net” for vulnerable populations. Having worked for the past 15 years in the nonprofit sector, I believe that it is infinitely better equipped than the government to take care of people and elevate them to self-sufficiency. My work has included writing and administering government grants for nonprofits, and I see how well-meaning legislative limitations on funding end up doing much more harm than good. I want a government that will shift both responsibility and empowerment into the nonprofit sector to address most of our major domestic issues. I have some specific ideas about this that I wrote out here: https://yourtaxdollars.wordpress.com/a-better-way-to-go/

In foreign policy… the world is a mess. We’ve helped make it a mess with our well-meaning but inept attempts at making things better. We have earned a lot of hatred by naively supporting what we think are “the lesser of two evils” and by creating power vacuums that are filled by demagogues with horrendous human rights records. (Hm, this is starting to sound familiar.) I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a number of immigrants and refugees who provide insights you rarely hear in American media. We must do better. I don’t believe withdrawing from world affairs is the answer; we can’t just take our marbles and go home. But we also can’t look for quick, painless solutions that let us proclaim “Mission Accomplished!” after a few weeks while the real problems are only beginning. I wish I had the wisdom to fix the messes south of our border and in the Middle East and Europe and Africa. I don’t have an answer to tell the next President what to do. But he or she needs to listen to people who know – people from other countries who live in and understand the cultures and peoples involved.

In the meeting place between foreign and domestic policy, I also know that we cannot legislate our own prosperity by artificially separating ourselves from the rest of the world. Protective tariffs, minimum wage laws, draconian immigration policies, criminalizing poverty, ever-more-detailed building codes and labor laws… they are all part of an effort to create the “perfect American life” where no one within our shores is ever hungry or cold or injured or unemployed or sad, even if this is attained at the expense of other nations and our own most vulnerable citizens. Real life doesn’t work that way. You can’t make it so any more than you can give everyone good health care by passing a law that it must be so. We still live on the same planet as the people in the slums of Havana and Shanghai and Mexico City and Johannesburg. When we pass laws that “protect” and increase our standard of living at their expense, we create a day of reckoning for ourselves as surely as the nobility of pre-Revolution France who used supposed divine right to lord it over their peasants.

If you compare all of the above to Evan McMullin’s positions page (https://www.evanmcmullin.com/issues), perhaps you can begin to see why he intrigues me. I’m not expecting him to miraculously sweep into the Presidency and save us from all our ills, but perhaps my one small vote can combine with others to help him add a modicum of reason to the bedlam.

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Immigration Reform

To completely reform our immigration system, there are three things that nearly everyone agrees need to happen: 1) secure the border so that we know clearly who is coming in and so that no unauthorized persons enter; 2) reform our broken visa system to eliminate absurd, archaic processes and restrictions, creating something that we are morally willing, practically able, and economically prepared to enforce; 3) deal with the illegal immigrants already living here so that they are either returned to their countries of origin, incarcerated for crimes committed, or given a legal status to live and work here.

So far, we have been talking about all three of these needs for at least thirty years, but have made very little progress on any of them because we can’t agree on appropriate solutions. This has the net effect of generally maintaining the status quo while allowing each of the three problems to grow worse year by year. If we don’t find some way to break our impasse soon, I am afraid that the sheer volume of these problems may reach a whole new level that begins to impact our society in ways we have not seen before.

The biggest problem I see is that people from all ideological points of view seem to want to address one or two of these problems “first,” but not all three at once. Everyone has a different opinion on which problem is most important or pressing and therefore deserving of the most immediate attention. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that it’s impossible to deal with all three problems simultaneously. We spend most of our time arguing on which problem to address “first,” while we actually address none of them.

But I believe that we not only CAN, but MUST, address all three of these problems simultaneously; I believe this is the only way we will ever come to any kind of workable solution. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1. Addressing everyone’s concerns at once is the most likely way to arrive at compromises we all can live with. Those who are most concerned about security are unlikely to budge on a reformed visa process or a path to citizenship if they see no good-faith effort to improve border security. Those most concerned about the well-being of immigrants are unlikely to support improved border security if they see a tight border permanently dividing families and leading to wholesale deportations. The security-conscious will feel better about expanding visas if they know that each recipient is well-screened and that no one is entering without a visa; the pro-immigrant activists will feel better about a secure border if they know that those they care about have a legal pathway to live and work here.

2. The three problems are not really three separate issues at all; they are intrinsically interconnected. We have so many illegal immigrants in this country because our border security is lax and because our visa process is so impossible. Border security is difficult to enforce because the sheer volume of human smuggling is so high.

Millions of people who would have LOVED to come here through an orderly, legal process, to become contributing citizens and taxpayers, were not able to do so because their chances of getting a visa were less than winning the lottery. Faced with hopeless grinding poverty and the brick wall of our bureaucracy on one side, and an easy border crossing and a good job on the other side, it’s not hard to understand the pressures that drove them.

The historical root problem behind our immigration system is the attitude that economics is something we can control by the force of law. In fact, this attitude has driven much of our political ideology for the past hundred years or more, often with ruinous consequences. Minimum wage law, the “War on Poverty,” protective trade laws, and our visa system are all products of this thinking. We have tried to artificially create a higher standard of living for ourselves than what the rest of the world experiences by creating laws that mandate it so. In the process, we have created a society where many traditional blue-collar jobs are economically unable to pay a living wage, creating an enormous divide between skilled professionals who have the life to which we aspired and low-skilled workers who are unable to survive on their own.

Of course, our economy still cries out for the low-skilled workers to fill jobs on our soil that we are unable to outsource to other countries. And there are millions of people from other countries who are willing to fill those jobs at the natural prices our economy can afford (below the artificial minimums we’ve tried to set for them). We’ve tried to control this impulse through the force of law, by creating an incredibly strict visa system that only allows a tiny trickle of people into the country each year – and most of those, by design, are highly skilled professionals (actually referred to legally as “aliens with extraordinary abilities,” which sounds more like E.T. than Mr. Gomez next door).

The problem is that economics behaves much more like a natural force such as gravity than like a legal and social construct we can manage. When there is a strong supply (of workers) and a strong demand (of open positions), the two are naturally destined to find their way to one another past all the barriers we try to erect. It’s like trying to build a dam across the top of Niagara Falls. The force of the river’s current and the downward pull of gravity are so strong that it takes massive resources (stone, steel, concrete) to make a dam that can actually hold back the flow. And all that water has to go somewhere, so it will keep pooling and then finding ways around. The “steel” of our resolve simply isn’t strong enough to hold back that kind of force. There are both economic and moral reasons why that is the case.

Economically, despite the beliefs of many to the contrary, we derive overall benefit from the presence of immigrants. Adding more workers to an economic system strengthens it. There is a fallacy that America only has a certain number of jobs, and that once those jobs are filled, adding more workers will just increase unemployment. This leads to the complaint that “they are stealing our jobs.” But this ignores the fact that adding people to your system also creates new jobs, because new workers need new goods and services. If all of America’s illegal immigrants suddenly vanished – even apart from the upheaval of a mass deportation, if they suddenly just ceased to exist – millions of American citizens might suddenly find that they, too, were no longer needed in the workforce, because their employer’s customer base had suddenly shrunk. Economists recognize this as “contracting the economy” and it is a very bad thing, the kind of thing that leads to recessions and depressions. It would likely take a long time to regain any kind of equilibrium.

Also contrary to popular opinion, illegal immigrants pay into the tax system in a variety of ways. Most of them rent apartments or houses from a landlord, and their rent in turn allows the landlord to pay property tax on the property. If they disappeared, thousands of landlords would likely be unable to pay their taxes. Immigrants in states with sales tax pay taxes on all their purchases just like everyone else. And a good number of immigrants even pay social security and income taxes, if they have obtained employment with a fake social security number – they are paying in and probably will never be able to draw out when they retire, so they are helping to prop up the system for citizens.

Of course illegal immigrants also represent costs to school systems and hospitals. (They may represent some cost to government welfare systems, too, but less than is commonly supposed – it’s not so easy to get that kind of public assistance fraudulently, and illegal immigrants prefer to fly under the radar as much as possible and not take that kind of risk.) It’s really an open question whether illegal immigrants ultimately represent more of a cost or a benefit to the tax system. But conspiracy theorists might suggest that the reason nobody in government seems to really want to change the status quo is because they see us as benefiting in some way from having this class of under-the-table taxpayers who are not entitled to the benefits of citizens.

Morally, we are equally unwilling to enforce our laws as written. Even the most vocal “deport-them-all” activists sometimes change their tune when they are confronted with the possibility of actually turning in a real person, with a real story, whose life might be ruined by a word to the authorities. Many solve this moral discomfort with a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” approach. They know their lawn crew, or the person selling them tacos on a street corner, or the kid who participates in the youth club where they volunteer, MIGHT be an illegal immigrant. They very much don’t want to know for sure, because this alleviates the guilt they feel for not turning them in, and the guilt they would feel if they did turn them in. As a nation, we are not moral monsters. We feel sympathy, however unwillingly, for underdogs who have been dealt a rough hand in life and are just trying to get by. “There but for the grace of God go I” echoes in the back of our consciousness. We rail against faceless masses and generalities, but we take pity on individuals. We are romantics who want to see lovers united and children rejoined to their parents. If this were not so, most illegal immigrants could have been “outed” and deported long ago. They are not invisible. We choose to turn a blind eye, for the good of our own souls. So the “dam” of our law leaks like a sieve. This relieves the pressure and keeps the whole thing from collapsing entirely, but it means that we have very poor control. Concerns about security are legitimate; we have no idea who is coming through the holes.

Just plugging the holes is not the answer. That does not address the pressure that caused the holes in the first place. Demolishing the dam isn’t the answer either. We need to have a good handle on who is entering our country. The same cement that is inadequate to build a dam may be adequate to build a channel that directs the water’s flow. In real terms, this means developing a work visa system that lets economics, rather than politics, dictate how many people may enter the country each year. For security, everyone who receives such a visa should have background screening, and should provide a DNA sample and fingerprints to be stored in a database. They should be required to keep Immigration apprised of their physical address at all times. The work visa should not entitle them to any benefits programs such as SNAP (food stamps) or social security benefits, at least not until they have become working taxpayers and entered a pathway to citizenship. Perhaps the work visa should come with a price that they (or their friends and relatives) must pay in order to cover the cost of what public services they do receive (such as education and health care) before they become taxpayers. The visa would grant them a certain amount of time (perhaps six months) to find a job. If they do not find a job, or otherwise become supported by someone who has a job, within that amount of time, then they must leave the country. In fact, most people who can’t receive public benefits and can’t find a job within six months would leave on their own anyway. The requirements for a physical address and biometric trackers would make it easier to track down and deport any visa over-stayers who did not leave voluntarily.

This system would let the economy decide how many immigrants we “need.” It would also put American workers on more of a level playing field with immigrants. Right now, immigrants are popular as employees because they can be made to work for significantly less than minimum wage. Their inability to complain to authorities makes it safe to exploit them. If they have legal status and can complain to authorities, then they are no more desirable to unscrupulous employers than American citizens are.

I believe that if we implement this kind of a visa system, we should also open it to illegal immigrants who are currently living here. We can solve the question of “front of the line” or “back of the line” by eliminating the line. We need to devote resources to processing visa applications and simplify the whole archaic process so that there is no backlog or waiting list. Issue work visas to those who are here and those who want to come here, and connect them to a path to citizenship.

“Amnesty” became a dirty word in politics because of the way in which it was implemented in decades past. Granting wholesale amnesty to existing illegal immigrants without reforming the visa system or securing the border undoubtedly was unfair to those who did not immigrate illegally and just kicked the can down the road in terms of creating future illegal immigrant problems. That is why we MUST tackle all three problems at once in a way that creates equity. When a fair and realistic immigration system is in place, this will channel most of the economic and moral pressure into a flow that we can monitor and control. Those who refuse to comply with the new system will generally be the “bad apples” who have something to hide. For example, those who refuse to provide their fingerprints and DNA are most likely the ones who are worried about what might turn up in the records of unsolved crime. But they will have lost the shield of public sympathy. People lose sympathy very quickly when it becomes clear that you’re hiding from a criminal past. This will make it much more likely that someone will turn them in so that they can be arrested and punished for their crimes.

Similarly, the illegal flow across the border will become much easier to stop once the volume drops off. Human smuggling across the border is big business. The smuggling “coyotes” make thousands or millions of dollars each year off the desperation of families who have no other way to be reunited with their relatives. If they are given a legal path to reunification, then a lot of coyotes are likely to go out of business. The ones who remain will be primarily smuggling the “bad apples” or people who are being exploited (sexual or slave labor human trafficking). Once again, public opinion will be strongly on the side of law enforcement in detecting and stopping this activity. And the lower volume should mean that the existing border control resources have some hope of keeping up with it, as opposed to being completely outnumbered and overwhelmed.

Hopefully I’ve made it clear why I believe that there is a synergy from tackling all the problems at once rather than going at them piecemeal, and why I believe this is the only hope for a real solution to our immigration problems. I believe it CAN be done, if we are all willing to lay aside our entrenched positions and ideologies, and actually listen to one another. In today’s political climate, that is asking a lot, but it’s the only way we will ever make any progress.

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Why I Believe Donald Trump Is More Dangerous to Conservativism than Clinton or Sanders

Clinton Trump

As the 2016 Presidential primary season unfolds, there has been plenty of hand-wringing among those of a Conservative-Constitutional-Libertarian slant about the sudden and unexpected popularity of Donald Trump. There is no question he has taken the Republican party by storm, or that there is a real threat that he will secure the nomination.

Plenty of pundits have analyzed the reasons for this phenomenon – angry “middle America,” xenophobia, racism, the poor economy, fear of terrorism. Your own ideology will probably influence your analysis. But regardless of the reasons, the effect is very real.

Conservatives have watched in dismay as Trump’s rallies and speeches grow ever more rowdy, enthusiastic, rude, and sinister. There’s a game circulating on social media: “Who Said It: Donald Trump or White Supremacist from ‘American History X’?”

Trump supporters have openly praised one of America’s greatest shames, the Japanese internment camps during World War II, as a model for dealing with modern-day Middle Eastern and Latin American immigrants. Trump’s own words seem to indicate that he would give serious consideration to equally draconian measures. Meanwhile, his past words and actions offer little comfort that he would uphold conservative social values or libertarian economic policies; in fact, his record is quite the reverse.

This raises the question: if Trump is indeed the Republican nominee, should conservatives hold their noses and vote for him to avoid a Clinton or Sanders presidency, or should they vote for a third-party candidate in protest, no matter how minute the chance of victory?

Indeed, it is a familiar dilemma to voters who have, in the past, reluctantly lent their general election support to centrist candidates such as McCain and Romney, after the defeat of their candidates of choice in the primary. I can count myself in that number. But I believe this election is different.

It is not that the dangers of bad governance from the left have decreased. If anything, they are greater than ever after eight years of Obama presidency. Positions and policies that were once unthinkable have suddenly, seemingly overnight, become normative, even enshrined as core American values. Another four or eight years of indoctrination from the White House’s bully pulpit are likely to push the country another order of magnitude away from its origins and toward its destruction, even if Congress and the Supreme Court are able to mitigate some of the actual damage from the stream of executive orders – a hope that is looking increasingly doubtful.

But I see the potential for an even greater disaster in a Trump presidency. The best hope (politically speaking) under a Democratic President would be that the country would come to such a pass of economic and social collapse that the eyes of the people might be opened to the failure of socialism, and they might turn to the other side for rescue. But Trump, operating under the designation “right-wing” while implementing failing anti-conservative policies and potential genocide, has the potential to destroy even the idea of conservativism from the face of American politics. By the time he is done, there might be no banner left around which to rally.

The result I fear most can best be illustrated by considering the results of the American Civil War on the states-rights movement. In the beginning, there was absolutely no intrinsic connection between the states-rights issue – the idea that states reserved to themselves powers not explicitly granted to the federal government – and the issue of slavery. Logically, if some of the circumstances of history had been tweaked and the balance of power had fallen differently, it could have been the anti-slavery Northern states that advocated for states’ rights (and ultimately secession) while the slave-holding South advocated strong federal power.

But with the secession of the Confederacy and their ultimate defeat in the Civil War, followed by a hundred years of civil rights’ struggle between federal and state governments, the two issues became inextricably linked in the public mind. Now this connection is so axiomatic and reflexive that the display of the Confederate flag is automatically assumed to be a statement of deep racism and hatred, even when the person or organization displaying it identifies it as a symbol of states’ rights. And advocates for states’ rights may find that, whenever they engage in the marketplace of ideas, a whole slew of assumptions about their overall ideology and racial attitudes precede them.

That, I fear, is what Trump will do to the Republican Party. Imagine four years in which Trump and his supporters are given free rein to implement the policies they think best. Imagine the humanitarian and economic disaster that will result if internment camps are built along the southern border to hold twelve million illegal immigrants – and if the labor and purchasing power of those individuals is suddenly removed from the American economy, drastically shrinking it overnight. Imagine the understandable bitterness that would linger among the surviving children and grandchildren of those internment (concentration?) camp inmates for generations. Imagine even legal immigrants – Hispanic and Muslim – receiving the sort of treatment that Jews received in the first four years of Hitler’s reign in Germany – vilified as the cause of the nation’s problems, harassed, persecuted, prosecuted, assets seized… maybe eventually rounded up and exterminated. You think that could never happen here? If so, you have not studied history, human nature, or the alarming signs of our own times.

Now try to imagine what would be left of the Republican Party when the nation wakes from its madness, in four years or eight or twelve, as Germany ultimately did after World War II. The name “Republican” would be more or less synonymous with the name “Nazi.” Germany has dealt with its pain and shame by outlawing every sign and symbol that could recall the Nazi party. I would venture to guess that few people apart from political historians could name any political goal or accomplishment of the Nazis beyond the horrifying destruction they left in their wake, because that entirely swallowed up the rest of their platform.

The power of association in the human brain is such that I am afraid that a Trump presidency would ultimately create a link, however spurious or illogical, between mass genocide and conservative ideals such as the sanctity of life, freedom of speech and conscience, limited government power, free market economics, and separation of powers. With the Republican Party in ashes, a new party would have to rise up and gather the tattered fragments of the banner to try to weave them into something new. But they would face a far more difficult battle than today’s conservatives, as they would have to constantly try to dissociate themselves from the horrors of the past.

And that, in my opinion, is a far greater danger to America than anything the Democrats might inflict upon us.


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Canadian-Americans Volunteering with Youth Hockey… Does That Count?

Funding Opportunity: International Diaspora Engagement Alliance Announcement

Amount: $800,000

Your Share: $0.006

Number of Taxpayers Who Could Be Excused for 1 Year If This Were Cut: 95

BureauSpeak Description: The Department of State?s Office of Global Partnership Initiative (S/GPI) is pleased to announce an open competition for assistance awards through this Request for Proposals (RFP) from for-profit social enterprises and non-profit/non-governmental organizations interested in submitting proposals to manage an innovative public-private partnership platform on diaspora engagement. Pending availability of funds, S/GPI and USAID have approximately $800,000 available in the current fiscal year to award a grant or cooperative agreement in this field, with a period of performance of approximately 24 months. Launched by Secretary Clinton at the 2011 Global Diaspora Forum, the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA) platform is an innovative public-private partnership initiated by S/GPI and USAID to engage diaspora communities, the private sector, foundations, civil society organizations, and public institutions in a collaborative process in order to make diaspora engagement initiatives effective, scalable, and sustainable. IdEA harnesses the global connections of diaspora communities to promote sustainable development in their countries of heritage. IdEA?s mission is to promote and support diaspora-centered initiatives that enable diaspora members to give back to their countries of origin or ancestry. Current activities organized around trade and investment, volunteerism, philanthropy, and innovation include:Convening partners at IdEA meetings and conferences, including the annual Global Diaspora Forum; Mobilizing resources for diaspora organizations, including connecting members to diaspora business plan competitions such as the African Diaspora Marketplace and the Caribbean Idea Marketplace which are implemented by IdEA partners; Developing capacity of nascent and mature diaspora communities through technical assistance and training for IdEA membership; and, Implementing projects designed with partners. More information is available on IdEA?s website: http://www.diasporaalliance.org.

Translation: “Diaspora” used to refer to Jewish people scattered across Europe and various other parts of the world, but apparently in this context it’s being used to refer to people who haven’t yet lost track of their ancestry from a nation other than the one where they now live. So now it looks like we’re taking a new approach to meddling… er, helping other nations; instead of getting directly involved, we’re paying various agencies to come up with Projects involving Hyphenated Americans that somehow ripple out to their countries of origin. Hmm, if I can prove I’m part of the Scottish Diaspora, can I get money to travel to Scotland to sell tartan kilts…?

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Your Love of the Halflings’ Leaf Has Clearly Slowed Your Mind

Funding Opportunity: BLM WY Herbarium Specimen Scanning

Amount: $150,000

Your Share: $0.001

Number of Taxpayers Who Could Be Excused for 1 Year If This Were Cut: 18

BureauSpeak Description: Scan high definition digital images of BLM and CESU partner herbarium specimens, collected and preserved over the last several decades, and then make available to anyone via the Rocky Mountain Herbarium online database.

Translation: Just what are these herbs and why are 18 of us paying all our taxes for a year to put them online? Do they really have anything so rare you can’t already find it in Professor Google’s collection? Unless they’ve got a good specimen of Old Toby from the Southfarthing, most of us would rather have our money back to buy actual herbs for our spice cabinets.

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NO Child Left Behind

Funding Opportunity: Reading Enhancement for Advancing Development (READ) activity

Amount: $15,400,000

Your Share: $0.11

Number of Taxpayers Who Could Be Excused for 1 Year If This Were Cut: 1,827

BureauSpeak Description: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bangladesh is issuing this Request for Applications (RFA) for a four year Cooperative Agreement entitled “USAID’s Reading Enhancement for Advancing Development (READ) activity in Bangladesh. This activity will support improved early grade reading skills in selected low performing districts in Bangladesh. The primary objective of the activity is: Improved reading skills in early grade students, as measured by an increase in oral reading fluency. The activity is comprised of four related intermediate results (IRs): IR 1: Increased Use of Evidence-based, interactive reading instruction IR 2: Improved Use of Early Grade Reading Assessment IR 3: Expanded provision and use of supplementary reading materials IR 4: Increased Community Support of Early Grade Literacy

Translation: Having successfully conquered the problem of illiteracy in our own country, ensuring that No Child is Left Behind in our school system and that all of them are able to read at grade level, we’re now turning the tax funds of 1,827 Americans that are no longer needed in our education system to help our less fortunate neighbors on the other side of the world. Oh, wait…

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Teach New Jersey to Conserve Words


Amount: $159,300

Your Share: $0.001

Number of Taxpayers Who Could Be Excused for 1 Year If This Were Cut: 19

BureauSpeak Description: DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AGENCY: Natural Resources Conservation Service, Commodity Credit Corporation ACTION: NOTICE Conservation Innovation Grants Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Announcement for Program Funding Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 10.912 SUMMARY: The New Jersey State Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS-NJ), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture, is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Applications are accepted from all 50 States, Caribbean Area (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), and the Pacific Islands Area (Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) for projects located entirely within New Jersey. NRCS-NJ anticipates that the amount available for support of this program in FY 2013 will be approximately $159,300. Applications are requested from eligible governmental or non-governmental organizations or individuals for competitive consideration of grant awards for projects between 1 and 3 years in duration. Funds will be awarded through a two-phase competitive grants process that will include (1) a pre-proposal process and (2) a full proposal process. The full proposal process will only be open to applicants whose pre-proposal applications are selected by NRCS-NJ. Both phases are described in this announcement, but only pre-proposals are being solicited at this time. This notice identifies the objectives, eligibility criteria, and application instructions for CIG projects. Applications will be screened for completeness and compliance with the provisions of this notice. Incomplete applications will be eliminated from competition, and notification of elimination will be mailed to the applicant. NRCS will request a full proposal package only from those applicants selected in the pre-proposal phase. DATES: Applications for the pre-proposal phase must be received at the NRCS-NJ State Office by 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on April 29, 2013. Notification of selected pre-proposal applications will be announced by May 22, 2013. Selected applicants will then be required to submit a full proposal package to the NRCS-NJ State Office by 4 p.m. EST on June 28, 2013. ADDRESSES: Applications sent via hand-delivery, express mail, overnight courier service or regular mail must be sent to the following address: Natural Resources Conservation Service, Conservation Innovation Grants Program, 220 Davidson Avenue 4th Floor Somerset NJ 08873. Applications sent electronically must be sent to Gregory.Westfall@nj.usda.gov For more information contact: Greg Westfall New Jersey CIG Program Manager 220 Davidson Avenue 4th Floor Somerset NJ 08873 Phone: (732) 537-6054 Fax: (732) 537-6095 E-mail: Gregory.Westfall@nj.usda.gov SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION I.    FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION A.    Legislative Authority The Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program was authorized as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) [16 U.S.C. 3839aa-8] under Section 2509 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-246). The Secretary of Agriculture delegated the authority for the administration of EQIP and CIG to the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), who is Vice President of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). EQIP is funded and administered by NRCS under the authorities of the CCC. B.            Overview The purpose of CIG is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies, while leveraging the Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection in conjunction with agricultural production. CIG projects are expected to lead to the transfer of conservation technologies, management systems, and innovative approaches into NRCS policy, technical manuals, guides, and references, or to the private sector. CIG does not fund research projects. Projects intended to test hypotheses do not qualify for a CIG grant. CIG is used to apply or demonstrate previously proven technology. It is a vehicle to stimulate development and adoption of conservation approaches or technologies that have been studied sufficiently to indicate a high likelihood of success, and that are a candidate for eventual technology transfer or institutionalization. CIG promotes sharing of skills, knowledge, technologies, and facilities among communities, governments, and other institutions to ensure that scientific and technological developments are accessible to a wider range of users. CIG funds projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations. A two-phase evaluation process will be utilized for applications submitted under this notice. The first phase requires the applicant to submit a pre-proposal. Applications will be evaluated by NRCS-NJ staff under the bulleted topics identified by the applicant (see section I.D). Applications will be screened for completeness and compliance with the provisions of this notice. Incomplete applications will be eliminated from competition, and notification of elimination will be mailed to the applicant. NRCS-NJ will accept applications for single or multi-year projects, not to exceed 3 years, submitted by from eligible entities including federally recognized Indian tribes, State and local units of government, and non-governmental organizations and individuals. Applications are accepted from all 50 States, the Caribbean Area (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), and the Pacific Islands Area (Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) for projects located entirely within New Jersey. NRCS-NJ will only request a full proposal package from those applicants selected in the pre-proposal process. Complete applications received by applicable deadlines will be evaluated by a technical peer review panel based on the Criteria for Application Evaluation identified in the application instructions in section VI.B. Full proposal applications will be forwarded to a technical peer review panel. The peer review panel will make recommendations for project approval to the NRCS-NJ State Conservationist who will make the final selections. C.           Innovative Conservation Projects or Activities For the purposes of CIG, the proposed innovative project or activity must encompass the development, field testing, evaluation, implementation, and monitoring of: •    Conservation adoption approaches or incentive systems; or •            Promising conservation technologies, practices, systems, procedures, or approaches; or •     Environmental soundness with goals of environmental protection and natural resource enhancement. To be given priority consideration, the innovative project or activity should: • Make use of a proven technology or a technology that has been studied sufficiently to indicate a high probability for success; •        Demonstrate and verify environmental (soil, water, air, plants, energy, and animal) effectiveness, utility, affordability, and usability of conservation technology in the field; •     Adapt conservation technologies, practices, systems, procedures, approaches, and incentive systems to improve performance and encourage adoption; •        Introduce conservation systems, approaches, and procedures from another geographic area or agricultural sector; •            Adapt conservation technology, management, or incentive systems to improve performance; and •        Demonstrate transferability of knowledge. D.    New Jersey Competition For FY 2013, NRCS-NJ will consider offering CIG in the following areas: Pre-proposals that demonstrate the use of innovative technologies and/or approaches to address at least one bulleted topic listed below will be considered. Pre-proposals must identify the most appropriate bulleted topic the innovation/technology is addressing. While NRCS-NJ is interested in receiving proposals for each bulleted topic below, special interest is placed on receiving proposals that address topics identified as a “Priority Need.” Additional topics (not listed below) may be considered at the State Conservationist’s discretion. If an additional topic is proposed for the State Conservationist’s consideration, it must be identified as such in the pre-proposal. Program Outreach • Technology transfer to individuals and entities including, but not limited to, Beginning Farmers or Ranchers, Socially Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers, Limited Resource Farmers or Ranchers, Indian tribes, Land Grant Colleges and Universities, or Community-Based Organizations. •            Demonstration of new or novel technology that can easily and inexpensively be adopted by small-scale producers in order to address their natural resource concerns. •            Demonstration of new or novel technologies that lead to significant management efficiencies in farm resource management from a systems perspective, including technologies that lead to demonstrated benefits to multiple ecosystem services. •    Projects that assess resource conditions and land capabilities for traditionally underserved groups and communities. •        Projects that emphasize program outreach to underserved producers or landowners. •    Projects that enhance opportunities to work with universities and other institutions to develop technical training for Beginning Farmers or Ranchers, Limited Resource Farmers or Ranchers, Socially Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers, and Indian tribes or entities servicing those landowners. Nutrient Management •            Priority Need: Demonstrate and quantify the optimal combinations of nutrient source, application rate, placement, and application timing (4 Rs), as measured by impact on nutrient use efficiency and yield for one or more of the following: corn, soybeans, wheat, vegetables, and/or hay/pasture. Demonstrations are encouraged that show how these optimal combinations change for one or more of the following comparisons: irrigated vs. non-irrigated management, tillage vs. reduced tillage systems, manure-amended vs. non manure-amended systems, and/or organic vs. conventional production systems. • Priority Need: Demonstrate and quantify the effectiveness of bundling conservation measures to avoid, control, and trap nutrient losses from the field. •       Priority Need: Demonstrate and quantify the effectiveness of methods to capture dissolved phosphorus from field runoff and subsurface drainage. •     Priority Need: Demonstrate the applicability and utility of in-season nitrogen management tools for determining additional nutrient needs for a range of soils, climates and/or cropping systems. Energy Conservation •   Priority Need: Evaluate and demonstrate renewable energy systems (e.g., hydropower, solar, and/or wind) that displace fossil fuel energy and meet on-farm energy needs, while increasing energy efficiency and/or reducing environmental contaminants (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, particulate matter). • Priority Need: Develop and demonstrate innovative planning and decision aids to assess potential impacts of small on-farm renewable energy systems on wildlife and wildlife habitats and that can be used to identify appropriate sites to avoid or minimize potential adverse impacts. •      Develop and/or demonstrate innovative implementation systems to achieve greater use and quantify benefits of energy audits that address cropland, buildings, and equipment. Soil Health •            Priority Need: Demonstrate soil quality management in intensive production schemes including investigation of cost effective ways to add organic matter and control erosion in production systems that make extensive use of plastic mulch and seasonal high tunnels. •            Demonstrate and quantify the impacts of cover crops, crop rotations, tillage and/or soil amendments on soil chemical, physical, and/or biological properties and their relationships with nutrient cycling, soil water availability, and plant growth. •            Demonstrate and quantify the rate of increase in available soil water holding capacity as a function of soil properties (e.g., particle size, mineralogy), management practices (e.g., tillage, amendments, cover crop or crop residue inputs), and/or climate. •            Projects that assess resource conditions and land capabilities for traditionally underserved groups and communities. •  Inventory of urban lands (community gardens) that meet eligibility requirements of our programs. • Development of optimal species mixes, seeding rates and seeding methods (e.g., inter-seeding, inter-cropping, frost-seeding) to enhance cover crop establishment/survival and increase soil organic matter. •            Demonstrate of economic and hydrologic benefits for application of leaves or leaf compost to vegetables or ornamental crops. •    Demonstrate and quantify the impacts of cover crop presence, species mix, and management (e.g., termination growth stage, tillage practice) on soil water content and subsequent crop yield across a range of climates and cropping systems. • Demonstrate and quantify impacts of soil health promoting practices (e.g., no-tillage, cover crops, crop rotations) on yield, yield variability, and economics of crop production across a range of soils, cropping systems, and climates. •      Demonstrate and quantify the impacts of Soil Health Management Systems (e.g., cover crops, reduced tillage) on key soil health attributes (e.g., available water holding capacity, disease suppression, nutrient cycling) and determine the extent to which the rates of change are influenced by climate, organic input chemical composition/placement, and soil properties (e.g., particle size, mineralogy). This should be conducted across a range of inherent soil properties, cropping systems, and climates to develop a Decision Support Tool that promotes selection and design of the components of a Soil Health Management System. Wildlife •    Priority Need: Develop planning and decision aids to assess and maximize wildlife habitat value on land used to grow biofuel crops. •            Demonstrate new techniques and/or technologies for monitoring and evaluating wildlife habitat both on site and via remote sensing. •         Develop regional, crop-specific guidance providing the vegetative species, landforms, and necessary acreage to support appropriate populations of managed and wild pollinators per unit area of pollinated crops (i.e., describe the components of the landscape). •      Priority Need: Evaluate and monitor NRCS-assisted wetland restoration outcomes • Develop planning and decision aids to assess and maximize wildlife habitat value on land used to grow biofuel crops. •   Develop and demonstrate innovative planning and decision aids to assess potential impacts of small on-farm renewable energy systems on wildlife and wildlife habitats and that can be used to identify appropriate sites to avoid or minimize potential adverse impacts. •  Priority Need: Assessment of wildlife habitat in solar panel fields (pollinators, bird nesting, amphibians, fence impacts, mowing regimes). •  Create a pollinator “app” for Pollinator Habitat Assessment Form and Guide •           Demonstrate and quantify the impacts of grazing as a habitat management tool •      Priority Need: Evaluate impacts of invasive plants on sites with recent forestry activity regionally or within the entire state. Economics •          Develop a tool for measuring economic returns of conservation for landowners. The tool should be useful for analyzing and demonstrating the financial costs and potential returns of alternative conservation practices, taking into account such factors as land characteristics and production potential. The tool should adhere to the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association standards for estimating farm costs and returns, including estimating opportunity costs for operator labor and management, be easy to use and understand, and provide transparent calculations. • Develop a tool for analyzing the economics of growing conservation plants focused on limited resource farmers to answer questions on what is the market and how much to grow. CIG Projects Assessment • Conduct an assessment of completed CIG projects on a given topic to identify and recommend those projects that should be adopted and the most fruitful and appropriate techniques for technology transfer and adoption. FUNDING AVAILABILITY A.   New Jersey Competition NRCS-NJ anticipates that the amount available for support of this program in FY 2013 will be approximately $159,300. CIG will fund single and multi-year projects, not to exceed 3 years (anticipated project start date of September 1, 2013). Funds will be awarded through a nationwide competitive grants process. The maximum award amount for any project will not exceed $75,000. in FY 2013. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION CIG applicants must be a federally recognized Indian tribe, State or local unit of government, non-governmental organization, or an individual. A.    Matching Funds Selected applicants may receive CIG grants of up to 50 percent of their total project cost. CIG recipients must match the USDA funds awarded on dollar-for-dollar basis from non-Federal sources with cash and in-kind contributions. Of the applicant’s required match (50%), a minimum of 25 percent of the total project cost must come from cash sources; the remaining 25 percent may come from in-kind contributions (such as equipment or project personnel). Matching funds must be secured at time of application. Applications should include written verification of commitments of matching support (including both cash and in-kind contributions) from third parties. Additional information about matching funds can be found at the following link: 2 CFR 215. B.           EQIP Payment Limitation and Duplicate Payments Section 1240G of the Food Security Act of 19

Translation:  Wow… what part of “summary” did they not understand? Somebody’s BureauSpeak Generator was operating on overdrive when they produced this six-page monument to verbosity. Your Tax Dollars is taking one for the team and wading through the morass to bring you the essential points: 1. You and 18 of your friends are paying for this. 2. You can apply for funding from anywhere, but your project has to be in New Jersey… ‘cause you know, those folks in Guam are really eager to clean up the Armpit of America. 3. Your project has to be innovative, but not too innovative; you have to have proof that it’s going to work, so basic research for the good of mankind is out. 4. Bonus points if your project gets Socially Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers on the environmental bandwagon (‘cause we’re pretty sure they are otherwise clueless about the environment). 5. Bonus points if your project tells farmers how to apply fertilizer to their crops, or keep fertilizer from running off their fields, or use windmills without chopping up birds, or get wildlife to live between rows of corn grown for ethanol and between solar panels—but it can’t be a research project, so you can’t tell us anything we don’t already know.

Here’s what’s not included in the flood of verbiage: Why New Jersey? Are farmers there simply more clueless about conservation than the folks in Oklahoma and Nebraska and Iowa? Is there a particular reason taxpayers in Oregon and Idaho and Hawaii are paying to support this program? We’d ask the question, but first we’d better teach them to conserve words, before the printed answer consumes all the trees in New Jersey.

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