by B. R. GOWANI
The Emperor loves his people, that is, people with the same skin tone as his. He loves those with the same skin tone more so, if they support him unquestionably. He has been worried for some time about his people becoming a minority, which, most probably will occur in 2044.
The Emperor hates clothes and prefers to be in a natural state. Every time he disrobes himself, his close knights, warriors, nobles, advisors, and spokespeople put him back in clothes. This has become a routine since he announced that he would be the next emperor. Nothing has changed since his coronation.
The Emperor is very clever; to stop the minorities from becoming a new majority, he has broadened the appropriate scope where people who have been living in this country for a long time can now be weeded and thrown out of the country.
The Emperor disrobed himself by announcing that undocumented people from bordering country would have to leave, then the Emperor’s foreign minister quickly re-clothed the Emperor by assuring the bordering country:
“There will be no—repeat, no—mass deportations.”
It was repetition of DHS minister’s assurance of a day earlier:
“We are not going out and doing mass deportations.” “There will be no mass roundups.”
But then the Emperor’s natural instincts forced him to unclothe himself:
“It’s a military operation.”
The White Palace spokesman could only find a nylon fig-leaf to cover the Emperor’s naturalness:
“Military” [was used as an] “adjective.”
The Emperor discarded his apparel:
“You look at what’s happening last night in … [an European country. An European country], who would believe this?”
The White Palace’s central deputy press minster quickly covered the Emperor, again.
It’s an everyday routine. There are days when it happens several times.
How long will this last? It will last till the Emperor lasts because he has no other option except displaying his nakedness. He had promised moons and stars to his people but has no resources to provide those and so entertains them with such spectacles.
It reminds me of a Hindu king in the land of the Indus, who had in a similar fashion made dozens of promises to his people to grab the kingdom. He grabbed the kingdom but hasn’t delivered anything substantial up until now. To keep people busy in tons of worries, he demonetized currency bills of 500 and 1,000 without any plans or consultations. The hard core followers have refused to see the king’s cunningness plus idiocy despite suffering misery and hardship.
B. R. Gowani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
by BILL QUIGLEY
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arresting a man PHOTO/Charles Reed/ICE/AP/Think Progress
Resistance to unjust government action is the duty of all people who care about human rights.
As Dr. King reminded us in his letter from a Birmingham jail, “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
It is now clear that Latinos and Muslims are Trump’s first target for government actions. The orders just released put ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and US Customs and Border Protection on steroids. These new policies also will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ , as well as Black and Muslim communities.
Here are ten recent examples of how people are directly resisting.
One. Blocking vehicles of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A coalition of undocumented immigrants, faith leaders and other allies blocked a bus in San Francisco which was full of people scheduled for deportation. Other buses were blocked in Arizona and Texas. People blocked streets outside of ICE facilities in Los Angeles.
Two. People have engaged in civil disobedience inside border highway checkpoints to deter immigration checks. People have called neighbors to warn them that ICE is in the neighborhood and held up signs on highways that ICE is checking cars ahead.
Three. Cities refusing to cooperate with immigration enforcement and targeting. Hundreds of local governments have policies limiting cooperation with immigration enforcement.
Four. Colleges and universities declining to cooperate with immigration authorities and declare themselves sanctuary campuses. Dozens of schools have declared themselves sanctuary campuses and over a hundred more are considering some form of resistance to immigration enforcement.
Five. Churches sheltering and protecting immigrants scheduled for deportation in their sanctuary. Over a dozen churches are already doing this with hundreds more considering sanctuary. The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles declared itself a Sanctuary Diocese in December 2016 and pledged to defend immigrants, and others targeted for their status.
Six. Detained people demanding investigation into illegal actions. Over 400 detained immigrants in Broward County Florida wrote and publicized a letter to government officials challenging the legality and conditions of their confinement.
Seven. Divesting from stocks of private prisons. Private prison companies CCA and GEO have pushed for building more prisons for immigrants and have profited accordingly. Columbia University became the first university to divest from companies which operate private prisons.
Eight. Lawyers have volunteered to defend people facing deportation. People with lawyers are much less likely to be deported yet only 37 percent of people facing deportation have an attorney and of those already in jail the percentage drops to 14 percent. Los Angeles has created its own fund to provide legal aid to those facing deportations. Other groups like the American Bar Association recruit and train volunteer lawyers to help. Know Your Rights sessions are also very helpful. Here are CAIR Know Your Rights materials for Muslims. Here are Know Your Rights materials for immigrants from the National Immigration Law Center.
Eleven. Social self-defense. Jeremy Brecher pointed out that decades ago communities in Poland organized themselves into loose voluntary networks called Committees for Social Self-Defense to resist unjust government targeting. This opens resistance in many new forms in addition to the ones identified above including: setting up text networks for allies to come to the scene of ICE deportation raids, to document and hopefully stop the raids; identifying and picketing homes of particularly aggressive ICE leaders; providing medical, legal and financial assistance to help shelter people on the run from authorities; and boycotting businesses and politicians that cooperate with ICE.
Resist! For more information on how, check out some of the many organizations already resisting targeting and deportations. Mijente offers creative ideas and examples for action to expand the idea of sanctuary to protect all residents from criminalization and deportation. National Day Laborer Network has many resources for communities seeking to stop deportations. Central to the campus sanctuary movement is MovementCosecha. The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild provides resources for lawyers. Faith communities looking into this should connect with the Sanctuary Movement. Puente Arizona is a great example of grassroots organizing in local communities.
Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at email@example.com
by MICHAEL KULIKOWSKI
A fresco in the Catacombs of Santa Priscilla in Rome that shows a female figure with her hands outstretched has been put forward as evidence of women priests in the early Church PHOTO/Max Rossi/Reuters/Corbis/BBC
How an obscure oriental cult in a corner of Roman Palestine grew to become the dominant religion of the Western world
The Roman empire became Christian during the fourth century CE. At the century’s start, Christians were – at most – a substantial minority of the population. By its end, Christians (or nominal Christians) indisputably constituted a majority in the empire. Tellingly, at the beginning of the century, the imperial government launched the only sustained and concerted effort to suppress Christianity in ancient history – and yet by the century’s end, the emperors themselves were Christians, Christianity enjoyed exclusive support from the state and was, in principle, the only religion the state permitted.
Apart from the small and ethnically circumscribed exception of the Jews, the ancient world had never known an exclusivist faith, so the rapid success of early Christianity is a historical anomaly. Moreover, because some form of Christianity is a foundational part of so many peoples’ lives and identities, the Christianisation of the Roman empire feels perennially relevant – something that is ‘about us’ in a way a lot of ancient history simply is not. Of course, this apparent relevance also obscures as much as it reveals, especially just how strange Rome’s Christianisation really was.
That a world religion should have emerged from an oriental cult in a tiny and peculiar corner of Roman Palestine is nothing short of extraordinary. Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, though an eccentric one, and here the concern is not what the historical Jesus did or did not believe. We know that he was executed for disturbing the Roman peace during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, and that some of his followers then decided that Jesus was not merely another regular prophet, common in the region. Rather, he was the son of the one true god, and he had died to bring salvation to those who would follow him.
Jesus’s disciples began to preach the virtues of their wonderworker. Quite a few people believed them, including Saul of Tarsus, who took the message on the road, changing his name to Paul as a token of his conversion. Paul ignored the hardscrabble villages of the Galilee region, looking instead to the cities full of Greeks and Greek-speaking Jews all around the eastern Mediterranean littoral. He travelled to the Levant, Asia Minor and mainland Greece, where he delivered his famous address to the Corinthians.
Some scholars now believe that Paul might have gone to Spain, not just talked about wanting to go. What matters is not whether Paul went there, or if he really was executed at Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero, but rather the person of Paul himself. When he was arrested as a threat to public order, his Jewish enemies having complained to the Romans, Paul needed only two words to change the balance of power – cives sum, ‘I am a citizen’ – a Roman citizen. The fact that he was a Roman citizen meant that, unlike Jesus, he could neither be handed over to the Jewish authorities for judgment nor summarily executed by an angry Roman governor. A Roman citizen could appeal to the emperor’s justice, and that is what Paul did.
Paul was a Christian, perhaps indeed the first Christian, but he was also a Roman. That was new. Even if the occasional Jew gained Roman citizenship, Jews weren’t Romans. As a religion, Judaism was ethnic, which gave Jews some privileged exemptions unavailable to any other Roman subjects, but it also meant they were perpetually aliens. In contrast, Christianity was not ethnic. Although Christian leaders were intent on separating themselves physically and ideologically from the Jewish communities out of which they’d grown, they also accepted newcomers to their congregations without regard for ethnic origin or social class. In the socially stratified world of antiquity, the egalitarianism of Christianity was unusual and, to many, appealing.
Aeon for more
by AIJAZ AHMAD
Senator Elizabeth Warren. She was barred from saying anything more on the Senate floor about Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions after she quoted from an old letter from Martin Luther King Jr’s wife about Sessions. PHOTO/J. Scott Applewhite/AP
President Donald Trump came to occupy the White House about two weeks ago. He has so far ruled by presidential decrees and a punctual predawn blitz on Twitter that is meant to insult and intimidate. It is already clear, though, that the core of his incoming administration is so far to the Right—an authoritarian, militarist, irrationalist, distinctly pathological Right —that a question may be plausibly posed: are we witnessing the emergence of a pre-fascist state in the most powerful country in the world—the very pulsating heart of empire? This is no longer a spurious question. Scholars of great acumen and sobriety, such as Richard Falk and Noam Chomsky, have raised this question quite explicitly.
We shall return to the question. It is best to start with what we know so far, concretely, about the emerging power centres and policy orientations in the new administration.
Pack of hounds
Almost the most remarkable thing about key members of his Cabinet, especially the highly prominent generals, is that it is impossible to say which of them is the most dangerous. Since almost the beginning of the presidential campaign, Trump has conducted himself in such a manner, with full media collusion, of course, that attention has been fixed entirely on him, his outrageous behaviour and utterances, his shifting policy positions, his chameleon-like political personae—anti-establishment friend of the poor and the working class; woman-hating racist and bigoted billionaire—that he was able to conceal his true cohorts and covert agenda almost entirely. He was clearly an untrustworthy demagogue. Beyond that, it was unclear what he would do when in power. The ones who were often paraded in the media as the likely key members of his Cabinet—Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, John Bolton et al—were all swiftly set aside as, post-election, he proceeded to pack his real Cabinet with billionaires and ideologically driven military generals. Even the neo-Nazi Steve Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs luminary who had emerged as the CEO of the Trump campaign, was not much in the limelight as the harbinger of a dangerous future until Trump appointed him as his Chief Strategist at the White House and then elevated him, egregiously, to the core committee of the National Security Council (NSC). Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law with a real estate empire of his own and with no qualification for the position, has also emerged as the President’s closest adviser and the other chief strategist in his administration with an office and a staff inside the White House. Shades of dynastic ambitions but also perhaps much worse!
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by ELLEN HENDRIKSEN
If you had to guess the organ that has undue influence on your emotions, your mood, even your choices, what would you guess? The brain? Sure, but what else? The heart—that mythological seat of the soul? Not quite. The stomach? You’re getting warmer. Would you believe it’s the large and small intestine, collectively known as the gut? More specifically, it’s the trillions of bacteria—the microbiota—that live in your gut. Each of us carries up to four and a half pounds of bacteria around in our guts at any given time. More than 100 trillion microbes live down there. That’s as many cells as make up the rest of your body.
Now, this crowd is mostly good guys, and they do important work, to the extent that some scientists advocate classifying these collective microbiota as its own organ. Aside from helping digest our food, they protect us from disease, neutralize some of the toxic by-products of the digestive process, and make it harder for bad bacteria to set up shop. In short, your gut does way more than just digest everything from Cheetos to camembert.
But it turns out gut bacteria may also affect how we feel. Who knew the next frontier in mental well-being would lead right to the toilet? With that lovely image in mind, here are 3 big ways our microbiota are connected to our mental health.
Connection #1: Your gut-mind relationship goes two ways. We already know that feeling anxious affects our guts. Anxiety make us run to the bathroom, makes us queasy, and generally makes our guts feel like stressed-out Boy Scouts were practicing for their knot-tying merit badge in there. Likewise, when you’re depressed, everything stops in its tracks, resulting in constipation. But while it’s intuitive that anxiety and depression affect the gut, turns out the gut may also affect anxiety and depression.
Quick and Dirty Tips for more
by ROBERT CRAWFORD
Ezra Pound photographed in 1913 by Alvin Langdon Coburn PHOTO/Wikipedia
The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound by Daniel Swift. Harvill Secker 299pp £25
Among the bombings that marked the beginning of 2017, one took place on New Year’s Day at the CasaPound bookshop in Florence, an outpost of the Italian neo-fascist or ‘alt-right’ CasaPound movement, which takes its name and inspiration from the American poet Ezra Pound. As Daniel Swift points out in the ‘CasaPound’ chapter of The Bughouse, in December 2011 ‘a CasaPound supporter went on a shooting spree in a market in Florence and killed two Senegalese traders and wounded three more’. He also notes links between Pound and the American neo-fascist and white supremacist John Kasper, suspected of orchestrating the bombing of a high school. On trial in Florida, Kasper, a disciple of Pound who visited the poet regularly, ‘held a copy of Mein Kampf in one hand’.
Swift’s book does not draw connections between Pound and American ‘alt-right’ campaigners of our own day, but it might be easy to do so. An article on the ‘alt-right’ website Radix, dated 31 December 2016, begins, ‘The United States is a sick place. In 1958, famous poet Ezra Pound once noted that “America is an insane asylum,” and those words seem truer today than they did back then.’ The writer of the article appears to be a supporter of Donald Trump.
Examining some of Pound’s late prose writings, Swift concludes that ‘Pound never calls for violence, but preaches brutality in code.’ His book concentrates on the period, between 1945 and 1958, when Pound was incarcerated in the huge Washington mental hospital of St Elizabeths – which Pound nicknamed ‘the bughouse’ – after his legal team had successfully argued that he could not be tried for treason because he was insane. Before joining about seven thousand other inmates at St Elizabeths, Pound had been detained in Guantanamo-like conditions in a prison camp near Pisa controlled by US forces. The crime he was accused of was making, throughout the Second World War, radio broadcasts for Mussolini in an attempt to convince Americans of, among other things, the rightness of the Fascist cause. For Pound, America’s modern political leaders had abandoned true American values; he considered Hitler to be a martyr, Churchill a supporter of ‘kikes’ and Mussolini a great ‘Boss’.
Pound was lucky not to be executed as a traitor. The defence of insanity saved him but also condemned him. From the asylum he submitted for publication his Pisan Cantos, which was soon awarded one of America’s most prestigious literary awards, the Bollingen Prize. This is a reminder, if one were needed, that he continued to be regarded as one of the 20th century’s leading English-language poets. He had, after all, been at the heart of the Imagist movement; he had also produced, in Cathay (1915), perhaps the greatest volume of verse translations in English and, Swift asserts, ‘arguably the book which invents modernist poetry’; his friend T S Eliot had described him as il miglior fabbro (‘the greater craftsman’) after Pound helped edit The Waste Land; his ongoing Cantos, an epic of Coleridgean and Ossianic ambition, ranked among the most provocative achievements in the poetry of the Anglophone avant-garde. At the heart of Swift’s book is the issue of how Pound could be at once Fascist, madman and great poet.
Literary Review for more
by HAMID DABASHI
President Donald Trump PHOTO/Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Are nations entirely helpless in the face of blatant warmongering targeting their homeland? What can ordinary people do, independent of the state that is ruling them, to prevent, or at least make it difficult, for US militarism, now under the command of a mentally unstable “commander-in-chief”, first to demonise before starting to bomb them?
For those of us who still actively remember the preparatory stage of the United States-led invasion, destruction, and occupation of first Afghanistan in 2001 and then Iraq in 2003, we know how demonising entire nations was and remains the indispensable first step before starting to bomb a country.
That history has now assumed an added urgency. Donald Trump needs a war and all the indications point to Iran as what seems like the easiest target in his crosshairs. He will never pick a fight with China, or Russia, or even North Korea. Like all bullies, he picks a fight he thinks (falsely) he can easily win.
A war with Iran will “justify” his Muslim ban, drum up his xenophobic base, distract people from his terrifying domestic atrocities, create a state of emergency in which no resistance is tolerated, critical thinking and civic opposition will be equated with treason, Muslim registry and even internment will not be too off their marks.
In what follows, I enumerate 10 things Iranians, as a people, can do to preempt a war on their country. Although I will be specific to Iran – for I think it is the most obvious target of Trump’s warmongering – the same ideas can be extended to any other potential target of US militarism, which predates and will outlast Trump.
Reclaim the nation
First and foremost reclaim the term “Iran” for the nation and away from “the state” that rules over it.
In the current diplomatic and journalistic parlance, “Iran” summons both the “nation” and the “state” that claims it together. This is a false coupling.
As a signifier, “Iran” belongs to the Iranian people. The state, the current or any other, is an appendix to it.
Like all other states around it, “the Islamic Republic” is today integral to a geopolitics of the region with almost all their soft and hard powers active in each other’s territories.
From Turkey to Iran to Saudi Arabia – at the head of an eleven Arab nation coalition – are militarily engaged outside their own borders.
Turkish, Iranian, and Arab nations are trapped inside their states and have little to no control over their diplomatic and military operations.
States seek to survive their hostilities, while nations pay the unfathomable price of suffering their leaders’ decisions. Reclaim the name of the country and do not allow it abused as the first political move towards a military attack.
Second, denounce those treacherous forces among the expat opposition – now led by the cultic People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), and Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former Shah – that demand “regime change” in Iran.
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by MARGARET KIMBERLEY
Humanity is in desperate need of individuals and organizations to speak up for their right to live free from the threat of state violence. Instead we have a human rights industrial complex which speaks for the powerful and tells lies in order to justify their aggressions. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are at the top of this infamous list. They have a pattern and practice of giving cover for regime change schemes hatched by the United States, NATO partners and gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia.
Amnesty International recently released a report “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison Syria” which claimed that the Syrian government executed between 5,000 and 13,000 people over a five-year period. The report is based on anonymous sources outside of Syria, hearsay, and the dubious use of satellite photos reminiscent of Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations in 2003. There is plenty of hyperbolic language like “slaughterhouse” and “extermination” but scant evidence of the serious charges being made.
Human Rights Watch joined the fray just days later, with claims that the Syrian government used chlorine gas against civilians fleeing Aleppo. Once again, the claims had little evidence, just mud thrown against a wall in the hope that some of it will stick. It is the al Nusra front which attacked the Aleppo refugees as they struggled to get within the Syrian army lines. One day there is a report on execution, another day chemical weapons, barrel bombs the next day and so on. These phony organizations never mention that the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria was brought about by western intervention and its head chopping jihadist allies.
The Syrian war isn’t over, but that government and its allies are winning and they will determine the future of that nation. It is Russia, Turkey and Iran who are convening peace talks between Syria and the opposition and that is why the effort to discredit them goes on.
Beginning in 2011 the United States used a tried and true method of getting support for imperialism. A foreign leader is accused of being a tyrant who terrorizes his nation. The claims silence critics, get buy in from corporate media and cynical politicians and ultimately lead to death at the hands of the so-called saviors. There are 9 million Syrian refugees precisely because of collusion between the west and its gulf monarchy allies. The suffering of the civilian population is the fault of these parties and it is only the determination of the Syrians and help from their allies which prevented it from going the way of Libya.
Black Agenda Report for more
by MATTHEW STEVENSON
PHOTO/Jake Cunningham/CC by 2.0
Although Donald Trump has only been in office for a few weeks, it is hard to go anywhere and not hear that he is the worst ever American president. Neither Richard Nixon nor Warren Harding, or even the thirty days of William Henry Harrison’s pneumonia, are believed to rank in his bottom-feeding percentile. But if Donald is that bad, it may go down as his greatest achievement.
I grant you that Trump has the potential to be great on the worst-ever scale. It is no small accomplishment that his national security adviser did not last three weeks on the job and was run out of town for pillow talking with the Soviets. (I was reminded of the last scene in No Way Out, when Kevin Costner starts speaking Russian.)
Domestically, Trump has a lot to offer with his denigration of women, minorities, immigrants, and Muslims. That said, his racist attitude only puts him in a league with Woodrow Wilson (fond of the n-word) and Teddy Roosevelt (who liked to brag that his government had hired fewer Negroes than did William McKinley). Further out on the spectrum are the twelve slave-owning American presidents (from Washington to Grant), who will be tough to bring down.
As someone ethically challenged, Trump brings a lot to the table. He’s worked Atlantic City casinos and fondled Miss Universe contestants. Both avenues show promise. And before assuming office, Trump put his labyrinthine business interests (including, presumably, dividend checks from sheikdoms) into a revokable trust and staffed it with his inflatable-doll sons.
But the jury might be out for a while if it has to decide whether Trump University or Trump Steaks (“Believe me — I understand steaks, it’s my favorite food!”) are as bad as Grant’s dallying with Credit Mobilier, Harding’s drain from Teapot Dome, or the Clinton Foundation.
* * *
In terms of international affairs, and ignorance thereof, I grant you that Trump could—as they say at the Olympics—“go podium,” especially if he keeps finding the likes of Michael Flynn to advise him on national security or continues to think of foreign relations as a variation on Caribbean hotel development (E pluribus condominium).
Keep in mind that making a hot mess of American foreign policy is something presidents do well. Most left the world in worse shape than they found it.
—Washington set the gold standard early, getting rolled by the British with the Jay Treaty, but then Jefferson punted on the same impressment issue, leaving it to James Madison (a brave man, by the way) to fight a war with England.
—Both James Polk, with his invasion of Mexico, and William McKinley, in his liberation of Cuba, wanted to make the world safe for American imperialism, although often their instrument of war was massacre.
—With the Treaty of Versailles, the pious Woodrow Wilson condemned Europe to another world war. (Referring to Wilson’s Fourteen Points, French President Georges Clemenceau whispered: “God only needed ten.”)
—Then there are all those presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to Nixon who decided that American blood and treasure were best consigned to a rat hole in Indochina, the example of which allowed later presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to play dominoes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
So for Trump to be among the worst in foreign affairs, he will have to be very bad.
Getting embroiled in a Russian blackmail scandal would help, for sure, but somehow those rumored Moscow sex tapes—with Russian hookers in a former Obama presidential suite—sound more like KGB revenge porn than another shadow over Blooming Grove.
* * *
Sexually speaking, with two messy divorces and a triple-double in groping, Trump clearly merits consideration as a world-class predator, certainly someone who could hold his own with Bill Clinton as a fondler or Lyndon Johnson, who liked to say: “I’ve had more pussy by accident than Kennedy had by design.”
Still, I am not sure how Trump would fare in an extramarital playoff with, say, John F. Kennedy (who on most days needed to be with a woman who was not his wife) or Warren Harding, who while president had a love-child stashed away on the Jersey Shore and made love to Nan Britton on the floor of a White House closet.
For now, despite his blatant sexism, Trump probably belongs in a womanizing category somewhere between Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland.
Before becoming president Wilson had a torrid affair with a Mrs. Mary Peck, who he had met in Bermuda, and while running for office in 1912, Wilson’s henchmen were dispatched to buy up a huge collection of love letters.
Trump might, however, find more common cause with fellow New Yorker Grover Cleveland, who was prone to dalliances, some of which involved unwelcome aggression.
According to a new biography, when living in Buffalo, Grover had his way forcefully with 38-year-old Maria Halpin, who became pregnant and delivered the baby that Cleveland might well have fathered.
Although Cleveland’s moniker was “Grover the Good,” he responded to Halpin’s demands for child support by having the baby put in an orphanage and committing the mother to a lunatic asylum, which in presidential history is up there with Hillary Clinton slut-shaming some of Bill’s conquests.
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