“YOU read it and decide if it was a "quid pro quo" conversation, worthy of bringing down a U.S. President.

It is a reference to the transcript of a call from the U.S. president to the Ukrainian president. It dominates the news on this 26th day of September, 2019. It contains the raw material that may lead to impeachment—such is the talk of the day.

“YOU read it and decide if it was a "quid pro quo" conversation, worthy of bringing down a U.S. President,” comes the challenge from someone (not me) with an opinion. 

Some do. Some don’t.

I think the key point to take away from this is that, not only can people not agree on what to do in light of the facts, but they cannot even agree on what the facts are.

Pew Research puts it this way: 

“Nearly eight-in-ten Americans say that when it comes to important issues facing the country, most Republican and Democratic voters not only disagree over plans and policies, but also cannot agree on basic facts.

The Bible puts it this way:

But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal,  having no natural affection, not open to any agreement,slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness,  betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,  having an appearance of godliness but provingfalse to its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

The same circumstance of being at loggerheads over basic reality is seen in any number of  areas today—in what is science and what is not, and how much it should be relied upon, for example. It is seen in disputes over the basic mores of human nature—of what makes people tick—is another example. It argues poorly for those who think humans are going to ultimately triumph with their “critical thinking.” They can’t even agree on what reality is.

However, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not from us,” says 2 Corinthians 4:7.

The “treasure” is the Christian ministry, irrelevant for this discussion. But the “earthen vessels” are us, so that the “earthen” quality that would sabotage the ministry were it not for reliance upon God also sabotages human ability to solve and even to properly assess problems. 

This is so even when we are at our sharpest, and yet we are seldom at our sharpest. Generally we are distracted with 100 distractions—some having to do with responsibilities of life and some having to do with where we go when we are not grappling with the responsibilities of life. Few on break use their mental powers to evaluate the problems of the day. They watch TV instead. During commercials, they find something on Twitter that agrees with what the already think and they retweet it.

There is nothing easier than to mislead “earthen vessels.” There is nothing more foolish than the “earthen vessels” thinking that they can overcome their “earthenness” or triumph irrespective of God.

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Pew Ranks Jehovah's Witnesses by Politics

There is a PEW chart that maps religious denominations (in the US) by their political leanings. A vertical line represents the average, and each denomination is represented by a bar, portions of which fall upon the Democratic (blue) and Republican (red, also known as GOP, for ‘Grand Old Party’) side of the line. The most Republican is the LDS Church (Mormons), falling 70% on the Republican side. The most Democratic is the African Methodist Episcopal Church, falling 92% on the Democratic side. Where do Jehovah’s Witnesses fall? Surprising to some, they are not in the middle. 7% of them lean Republican and 18% lean Democratic. Given that Witnesses say they are “no part of the world,” one would expect an even split.

Of course, 7% and 18% add up only to 25, not 100. This brings us to a third measurement of the chart: the numbers who report no leaning whatsoever. Here the figure is exactly what one would expect: 75% for Jehovah’s Witnesses. No other group comes close. The next largest group of ‘no leanings’ is Hindu, with 26%. Mormons, mentioned previously, are 11% non-leaning; African Methodist Episcopalians are 4%.

It is no surprise that Jehovah’s Witnesses, by far, lead the pack with a 75% ‘non-leaning’ rating, but why isn’t it 100%? I suspect it is three factors at work. 1) People self-identify for the survey. Those who report themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses for the survey are not necessarily the same as the Witness organization itself would report; they will include many Witnesses who are not ‘active,’ as well as some who are not Witnesses at all but find themselves drawn to what they stand for. 2) Most Witnesses have very slight engagement with political doings. They focus on ‘God’s kingdom,’ and they see that in concrete terms—as a real government, and not merely a motivation of the heart, something that is the pattern elsewhere. They’ll take in what news they do take in small doses from the media, and the media is overwhemingly Democratic. 3) In the case of the current President, they say “He is bombastic, whereas I try to be polite.”

I alluded to this chart for a return visit with a man who described himself as a black nationalist. He had ventured the opinion that Jehovah’s Witnesses knew their Bibles better than anybody else out there, but he was suspicious of their being Trump supporters. I showed him how, if anything, they were Obama supporters, but then went on the develop the greater picture of their neutrality. His pre-existing view points to the frustration of one of our sisters, who said that as a Bible-believing woman, she is commonly expected to be Republican, which these days means a Trump supporter, and she has to keep pointing out that it is not the case with her.

The best way to be truly neutral is to be ignorant of politics, and many Witnesses immerse themselves in ‘kingdom interests’ to that degree. Some deliberately flee from hearing anything political so as to achieve that end of complete neutrality. But for those who are not so inclined, the following is a primer of American politics, as neutral as I know how to present it. We are people, after all, and can be counted upon to develop opinions on whatever we are exposed to. However, those with opinions know enough not to bring them into the congregation, where they can only disrupt the peace, to no end. All human governments will drop the ball. Usually, it is a bowling ball. As people contemplate the vulnerability of their right and left toes, thus their politics is decided. Witnesses endeavor to steer clear of what divides, and so keep whatever opinions they may develop to themselves.

The left is generally globalist. That part appeals to Witnesses, except that it is ‘government by man,’ and that part does not. The right is generally ‘my country first,’ which does not appeal to Witnesses, except that it is more likely to uphold traditional moral values, which does. The news media overwhelmingly (over 90%) votes democratic, and thus cannot be depended upon to be impartial in what it covers. ‘Left,’ or ‘liberal,’ is not synonymous with ‘Democrat’—rather, it is a large subset of it. ‘Right,’ or ‘conservative,’ is not synonymous with Republican—rather, it is a large subset of it.

Regardless of who is doing the reporting, they all tell it through their own eyes. The right ever portrays itself as “moderate“ and refers to the other side as the “far left.” The left does exactly the opposite, and the right becomes the “far right.” Why is it that the media is overwhelmingly liberal? A local woman reveals it in a promo for her news outlet, saying that the goal of a journalist is to “find truth’ and “shout it from the rooftops.” When you do that, “change happens,” and “that’s amazing!” with a glow in her eye that is close to orgasmic. Long gone is the reporter who stands in a spot where I cannot be because Mrs. Harley is making me do some fool maintenance project around the house and tells me what is going on over there. People become journalists because they want to bring about change, the goal of liberals. Conservatives—the name itself says it—think the present course is basically okay, and any change they favor is gradual and within the system. Thus, journalists are almost always Democrats.

The current American president shatters the mold of communication by using a new avenue of it. In itself, I am not so sure what is wrong with a leader that tweets. Always the complaint of the people is that “government is not transparent.” I can think of no better cure for that than tweeting, going over the heads of the reporters and directly to the people, to tell what the leader is doing. I think that reporters object to it for just that reason—it cuts them out of the loop. They also don’t like it because of the wild lack of decorum. They are used to leaders, and themselves, being spoken of in hushed tones approaching awe. But few outside their own group think that the politicians are deserving of such awe, so I’m not sure that puncturing a balloon is such a bad thing. The Bible does observe that being deferential to those in power is a good thing, however, which defers back to to the traditionalists in communication.

It's not the easiest thing to stay truly neutral—the goal of Witnesses. Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body, Australian-born, spoke to the challenge of staying truly neutral while struggling in the back of one’s head with the thought: “I hope that idiot doesn’t get into power.” One wonders just what idiot he had in mind. And a circuit overseer—speaking on his own, I assure you—addressed a group of pioneers as to how imperative it was to stay neutral, and told them: “Now, we all know that Trump is crazy, but…” Whereupon, one pioneer sister looked at another and said: “I know that my father is a good man. And he voted for Trump.” No, it is not so easy as it looks.

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At the Cincinnati William H Taft Home

Cincinnati one hundred years ago was a low-lying bowl of pollution. Doctors told William Howard Taft’s parents to move high on the perimeter hills for the sake of his mother’s lungs, but she died soon after anyway. Driving past those hills one hundred years later in the course of our Cincinnati visit, we spotted the sign pointing up to his childhood home on Mount Auburn, now a National Historic Registry site with park rangers who do not go outside without donning their distinctive ranger hats.




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Taft, the 27th president, is not a well-known president, and one can commiserate with the rangers for the misfortune of not having been assigned a more famous person. Still, I ventured as a consolation, they probably do not have to unspin the apocryphal stories of self-styled experts who ‘know’ this or that bit of nonsense about Washington or Lincoln. They don’t, the guide acknowledged, but the reality is worse: self-styled experts don’t bother with Taft, leaving only the genuine experts, some of whom enjoy playing ‘stump the ranger.’ Our ranger confessed that she didn’t like that game.

Don’t tell Cincinnatians that their president was a nobody. Being mid-westerners not inclined to be overly full of themselves, they will concede that he did not exactly hit a grand slam in the game of fame. However, Cincinnati is Taft town, with multiple roads and institutions bearing the surname. William comes from a civics-minded family, and several generations right down to the present have served in political office. One grandson is featured below beside his unusually modest car for a Yale educated graduate. But politicians have been known to be ever-conscious that they are in the public eye, and perhaps his Ford Maverick is an attempt to reel in the suckers with this bit of proof that he, like them, is but a regular guy.

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Upon reflection, you may discover even before the locals do that William might have become a heavy hitter had not his former mentor and friend returned from shooting elephants in Africa to turn adversary and run against him, splitting the Republican ticket with his newly formed ‘Bull Moose’ party. Had it not been for that, Taft would have won a second term in 1912 and Woodrow Wilson would not have become president. Since Taft was staunchly anti-war, perhaps the U.S. would not have entered the Great War, later rechristened World War I when there proved to be a sequel.

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William Taft is unique in that he is the only person to have headed two branches of government. Eight years after his presidency he was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by then-President Harding. Continuing to work after the presidency has not happened during my lifetime, but our guide pointed out that the monitory rewards of the job were not that great at the time, still reflecting the ideals that persons in government would serve for a relatively short time before returning to private life. It is the same reason that Martin Van Buren, whose home I also visited, is listed in a post-Presidency census as farmer in his New York State community.

Word association being what it is, one wonders if Taft does not subconsciously suffer in the public eye due to his name rhyming with graft. If anyone will blow that ‘science’ out of the water, he will. Consistently we read of an impeccable character. For example, an interpretive poster on display at the home reads: “Campaign financing was an issue because of the fear that big corporations were corrupting politics for their own ends. Taft personally turned down questionable campaign contributions. Roosevelt, somewhat less fastidious, wrote to him “I have always said you would be the greatest President, bar only Washington and Lincoln, and I feel mighty inclined to strike out the exceptions. My affection and respect for you are increased by your attitude about contributions. But really I think you are oversensitive” in this matter, and the rift between the two men, once BFFs, began when Taft began to regard with suspicion some of Roosevelt’s Big Business friends.

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Anti-corruption ran in the family. Despite his father Alphonso’s being in the doghouse locally, he was appointed to a position on Ulysses Grant’s cabinet, since he was “as honest as the day is long.” The ‘doghouse’ came because, as Justice of the Cincinnati District Court, he ruled against inclusion of the King James Bible in public school curriculum. He was forever labeled irreligious, but his concern was, ‘What of the Catholics and Jews who used different texts?’ He didn’t want to elevate one branch of religion at the expense others. Our ranger guide said he probably would not have had a problem with the curriculum otherwise. It was a decision he remained ever proud of.

One of Alphonso’s law students, a black man, George Washington Williams, went on to become an Ohio politician, historian and diplomat, and had high words of praise for Alphonso as he seconded his nomination for governor in 1879: “Judge Taft, the only white man in the cabinet of any President during the last eighteen years who had the manhood, the temerity and humanity to exact the powers of the Constitution of the United States to protect the black man in the re-exercise of his constitutional rights.”

The William Taft home, high upon the hill in North Cincinnati, doubled in space soon after the boy Taft, his siblings and parents moved in; eight rooms for six people proved too tight for an upper middle class family. The addition results in an odd interior design of a stairwell running straight up to the second floor meeting an inline one running straight down. The house was sold in time to one owner after another as the area declined, and the latter owner converted it into apartments. When the National Historic Society bought it back, they managed to strip several layers of wallpaper to uncover the original, which was in bad shape, but from it an exact replica could be made.

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Can an honest man be truly happy in politics? “Taft was ambitious, but it almost seems that he ran for the Presidency to satisfy his supporters rather than himself,” says an interpretive poster at his old home. William’s mother had forecast that, “the malice of the politicians would make you miserable,” and he himself confessed to his wife, ‘politics, when I am at it, makes me sick.’ It is little wonder that after the presidency, he himself dove into the world of the Supreme Court, where he could referee and straighten out some of the messes that his former cohorts made.

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Touring the Martin Van Buren Home

“I Martin Van Buren, of the town of Kinderhook, county of Columbia, state of New York, once governor of the state, more recently president of the United States, but for the last and happiest years, farmer of my native town…” Thus begins the will of Martin Van Buren and I thought well of the man for having his priorities straight.


I confess I didn’t know much about Martin Van Buren till a recent tour of his home in upstate New York, near the Hudson. More or less, I had assigned him to the list of ‘duds’ who were presidents from Andrew Jackson up to Abraham Lincoln. Upon my excepting Van Buren, the guide let my observation about duds stand, with the observation that no president served more than one term during those years, since “the challenges leading up to Civil War were thought to be unaddressed by those presidents.” It is not for a National Park Service Department of the Interior tour guide to suggests that former chiefs-in-state were turkeys, and I was content to not be dismissed altogether. As it was, Van Buren lost his run for a second term to a turkey, because a depression allowed his enemies to characterize him, a tavern owner’s son educated in a one-room schoolhouse, as the aristocratic high-rolling “Martin Van Ruin,” but the turkey lived only 30 days before succumbing to pneumonia, which is, in fairness, a little too soon to definitively label him a turkey, but his Vice President successor (whose identity escapes me—someone else will have to get on it) was a fellow who was never imagined for the Presidency and is more aptly considered a genuine turkey.


The opening film they show you at the visitor center of the Van Buren home is among the most compact language-wise that I have seen, with every line conveying a solid and interesting fact. He was the eighth president of the United States, and the first to be actually born in the country. He was the founder of the first political party, which in time became the Democratic Party. Until then, it was until then expected that men would come and go as independent gentlemen and would settle their differences unbuttressed by political ‘party.’ In fact, some of them settled their differences through duel, a favorite technique of Andrew Jackson, whom Van Buren served as Vice President before running for the chief office himself. Aaron Burr famously plugged Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and the guide confirmed as probably true what I had heard—that Hamilton loathed the idea of taking a man’s life and so fired into the air, a strategy not employed by his rival.


The house has a curiously cobbled feel to it, notwithstanding what my cousin (the one who restores original Mustangs) matter-of-factly observed, that there are only so many ways in which you can add rooms to a house. The house did indeed undergo major expansion under the direction of a Van Buren son, and the by-that-time former president writes that he is amused to see what his heir will do with it. Perhaps the feature most ‘clunky’ is the major dining room, which accommodates 18 chairs, and more closely resembles a widened hallway, with no windows, with exterior lighting only on one end and sometimes on the other if the door is opened. There is a chandelier overhead and the guide explained that she would normally have activated it, but an employee had accidentally taken the remote home recently and it had not yet returned. This led me to do my bit for history and suggest that Van Buren likely never allowed use of the remote to prevent just that catastrophe. The cobbled look dissipates once you go to the top floor, where massive bedrooms surround a spacious common area. One room had strewn on the floor toys of the era, which added to the impression that Van Buren did indeed many enjoy his latter enjoyable days in his large home, surrounded with children and grandchildren.


Though the man had once been President, the 1850 census listed his occupation as farmer. There was some sort of a survey form one could fill out at tours’ end, supposedly for some special occasion, but possibly routine. I don’t bother with that sort of nonsense when it is business, since most often they are trying to ascertain just how little service they can get away with until customers scream or, worse, bolt. This one I filled out gladly, however, and dropped it in the mail. I gave it high marks.

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Live From the Locker Room

After Trump was caught saying the bad words, he dismissed it as locker-room talk. Reporters were not so easily duped and launched an investigation:

....

“Good evening. We’re broadcasting live from the locker room tonight to reveal to America just what goes on in this previously obscure culture that has so suddenly thrust itself upon the national stage. We’ll interview some players in this intriguing venue. Ah, here’s comes a jock now. “Hey! Yo! Whazzup? We’d like to ask you some questions.”

“Why, good evening sirs, madam. You must be members of the news media. Welcome to our humble locker room. It’s not much, but please make yourself at home. There are refreshments in the adjacent room.”

“Charlie, it’s as we thought. They’re not crude at all here. They are quite refined and sensitive to gender rights. They are just…”

“HEY, YA WANNA GET YOUR CRAP OUTTA HERE?! I CAN’T GET TO MY @%!# LOCKER!”

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Who Called it First

Jehovah's Witnesses probably came up in 2.5 hours, but only briefly. @Dr_Ariel_Cohen: religious freedom is "burning, but not paramount importance to Trump & Co, given critical geopolitical issues.

I called it first here: http://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/…/ill-take-it-fake-news-or-…

Somewhat increasing odds of Witnesses arising briefly as topic of discussion is that pre-campaign Jerod Kushner bought the Watchtower buildings and said extraordinaryly nice things of them, such as with them "a handshake deal means something"

It was originally on the Witness website. They took it down when Trump began running for President in earnest, probably so that no one would think they were poltiical. But it is picked up here on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfp1a7k3N7s

Summit

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I'll Take it, Fake News or Not

Fake news is everywhere, and some of it surfaced about the Russian ban: ‘Church members of Russia have united! They have launched massive protests against the government in behalf of the Witnesses! President Trump rebuked Russia and invited its entire Witness population to the United States! He visited a Kingdom Hall to worship with them!’ All of it is fake news. It didn’t happen.1

Is “the news” another one of those biblical hills that melt in the last days? Is it now a thing that people of bygone days could depend upon but now need to call in Sherlock Holmes to decipher whether or not it is genuine? Is ‘reading the news’ now the information equivalent of playing Russian Roulette?

Given this apparent new normal, I will take the Trump story, fake news though it is. No, he did not speak out in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the story plants the clear notion that he should have. Most fake news about Jehovah’s Witnesses is derogatory. It is the ‘every kind of evil’ falsely said against them. It’s about time something went our way. Now it is only a matter of time before some poor body of elders must deal with NBC or somebody attempting to set up shop in their foyer so that they can broadcast “Live from the Kingdom Hall.”

From: 'Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia'

The above becomes relevant because today Presidents Trump and Putin meet for summit, and the New York Times tells of an exiled Jehovah's Witness who proposes Trump ask Putin a simple question: "Why are Russians who pay their taxes, follow the law and embrace the Christian values promoted by the Kremlin being forced to flee their country?" 

A simple [and single] question. To propose Trump do this is exactly the non-confrontational style of Jehovah's Witnesses, and is proof in itself that they are not extremist. Moreover, because the goal is so modest, it is not impossible that it could happen. Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is not everywhere, but where it is, it is draconian, with police dressed in riot gear breaking down doors to arrest them.

Meanwhile (and irrelevant), I did a google search of "New York Times Jehovah's Witnesses." The second hit is an article from 1958, telling of (I think) the largest Christian assembly in history.

 

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I Mean, Bernie Sanders is so 'Been There, Done That'

As the whole-wide-world international version of Newsweek ran the cover of the persecution of religious minorities in Russia, with Jehovah's Witnesses the foremost target, the American cover was of Bernie Sanders.

I mean, Bernie Sanders is so 'been there done that.' This country is insane over politics.

I thought I had taken the following out of 'No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash' when I revised it to remove much of what was political, but instead I recalled that I had merely modified it, liking it for the family reference:

"It is steering the supertanker for four-to-eight years through rough seas and around treacherous shoals that will not matter in the long run. It polarized families. I saw it in my own extended family. One cousin I hadn’t seen in years began to extol the virtues of Trump. “Well, let me tell you about your Mr. Trump,” another cousin whom I also hadn’t seen in years cranked up. Everyone else cleared the room. The exodus was considerable, for I come from a dairy farm family where the kitchen table might easily be twelve feet in length, and it will figure into this book in later pages. Years after everyone left their agrarian roots, we would still refer to such reunions as ‘going down to the farm.’"

The insanity over politics only intensifies and it peaks in the routine reports that 'Trump falsely stated" or "Trump charged without evidence." Now, there have been (and are) countless liars, villains, scoundrels, and neer-do-wells throughout history, but I have never heard a, for example, "Putin falsely stated," "Kim falsely stated," "Benedict Arnold falsely stated," or even "Hitler falsely stated." No matter what sort of drivel or poppycock anyone serves up, media just repeats it without pre-screening. I get it, already. They hate him.

It is almost like inviting guests into your home and they proceed to hash out their battles right in your living room. It gets so old. When Trump tweets that North Korea has launched its missills, people of good sense will run for the hills. People of the media will run to their keyboards to point out that the idiot can't even spell the word right.Newsweek cover WNMF

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Hyphens are a Tool of the Lazy Devil

The ebook is written but that does not mean it cannot, being an ebook, be tweaked after date of delivery. Other than for matters of publication, I will do this very sparingly, for it seems that more would be 'cheating.' I did find a way of explaining neutrality that i like, however, and I managed to insert it:

"All human governments will drop the ball and usually it is a bowling ball; this fact explains why many of Jehovah’s Witnesses become Jehovah’s Witnesses in the first place. Thereafter, were they individually to contemplate their own toes, they might conclude that those on their right or left foot appear most vulnerable. But they strive not to bring such matters into the congregation and thus disturb its peace, opting instead to focus on the fact that human governments of all stripes drop the ball but God’s kingdom does not."

Speaking of punctuation, I am coming to grips with the fact that I am inconsistent in their use. One must not blow it off as nothing (as I am initially inclined to do) but one must face the fact that there are plenty of people who care about such things

Sometimes I use double quotes, sometimes single. Sometimes put titles in apostrophies, sometimes not. Dashes I regard as the tool of the lazy devil, who can't quite figure out the precise relationship of two adjacent phrases and so simply flings a dash at the mess to get on with life. I'll go back in and fix it all. It will take a while.

I will try to get it as close to exact as I can before pitching it to journalists, newsmakers and such. Some of them are real sticklers.

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Candidate Cat is Probably Lying Through His Furry Face

I think it is very important for voters to realize that when Candidate Cat advocates food control for dogs, he is being disingenuous at best, and lying through his furry face at worst. Food rights for dogs has long established that optimal results in satisfaction and productivity are achieved at two meals per day per dog, but Candidate Cat uses the data of dogs who binge-eat to skew the overall data. It is important to note that such data must be placed into the category of statistical outlier with no practical application. If fact, recent research points to the likelihood that two meals a day are actually insufficient, and that three or even more meals per day per dog would result in happier returns.

Candidate Cat, on the campaign trail, tends to speak figuratively, in ways that his advisors would no doubt like to reign him in on. He floats an off the cuff remark that one meal per day per dog is the policy he would like to pursue and his advisors quickly reassure the public that he is still committed to a two meal per day per dog policy. In reality, this tactic serves to distract the voter from his true agenda, which is patterned after his true desire – I am assured by insiders who do not wish to be identified - that there be no meals for dogs at all – per day, per dog, or per anything. He purrs a good game, but the public is catching on to him and I predict he will not succeed.

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