The most significant failing of American foreign policy during the Cold War was the pervasive unwillingness to establish a limit to the value of anti-communism. There was no conception that the returns of anti-communist policy was, at some point, not worth the cost. That is why, to make a very long story short, the U.S. supported one vile dictatorship after another for four decades – choices that we are paying for in the most visceral terms to this day.

Among the worst regimes we supported (and suffice it to say the contenders for that title are many) was the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. It had it all – brutality, corruption, repression, and above all the cockiness to not even try to hide its crimes. If you were alive in 1983 you remember that Marcos had the opposition leader, Benigno Aquino, assassinated the moment he stepped off a plane at the country's major airport. Just walked up to him, shot him in the back of the head in the full view of anyone who cared to look, and walked away.
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That's ballsy. Your average dictator arrests him and does it in a dark jail cell.
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Only someone fully confident that nothing he does will ever have consequences would do it this way.

People were pretty horrified all around the world, and even the Pentagon started to get a little queasy about being associated with the regime. But – and I will never forget the first time I read this many years after it happened – Ronald Reagan made an admission in a press conference that was, if nothing else, startlingly and unusually honest. Referring to the two massive U.S. military facilities our country maintained with the blessing of Mr. Marcos – Subic Bay Naval Station and Clark Air Force Base, both cornerstones of the global reach of American military power into Asia – Reagan said, instead of defending Marcos's actions, "I can't think of anything more important than those bases."

And that was the problem. When literally nothing is more important than achieving your goal, you are inevitably going to do some pretty reprehensible things to achieve it. There has to be a line. A limit. Some point at which you say, OK, we are paying in prestige, dignity, and human decency more than the goal of presenting a strong military face to Global Communism is worth. Maybe we could put the bases somewhere else. Maybe we could stop backing this guy and find someone equally amenable but considerably less awful.

During the Cold War, that almost never happened. American policy under leaders of both parties and of different generations was, "No cost is too high if we can convince ourselves that it is fighting communism." And that is why it was, in so many ways, horrible policy. That is why we are embroiled in wars and conflicts that are, in direct and indirect ways, consequences of the repressive regimes we propped up.

I'm going somewhere with this. The history lesson is just a bonus.

It is trendy for people, myself certainly included, to feel hopeless about the future of American politics right now. It is equally trendy for commentators to predict "the beginning of the end" of the current group of people in power. Time will tell where that turning point truly is. But I believe that the decision made two weeks ago in the White House, in the Senate, and in the Republican National Committee to reverse course and endorse Roy Moore was a mistake that in the long run will turn out to be very significant for the right. By failing to make what was a very easy play – disown Moore and claim some sort of moral high ground – they signaled that literally nothing is more important to them than maintaining power. Nothing. There is no "bridge too far." And if you will support a pedophile if you think it will help you pass some legislation, then why should anyone believe that collaborating with a foreign power to influence an election is beyond possibility?

Why, for that matter, should anything be considered beyond possibility?
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Moore was insane and a borderline joke candidate even before the 14 year old girls stuff came out. He had a strong challenge in the primary. The national GOP was not happy about his candidacy. Rather than following through with what, in whatever they have that passes for a soul, they knew was the right thing to do, they instead convinced themselves that Triggering Libtards was a more important goal than basic human decency.

I'm not a huge fan of arguments based on moral authority. The argument that gay marriage is wrong because "it's immoral," for example, is sophomoric and unpersuasive.
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But if you have no line you're willing to draw based on morality, you will pay the price in the long run for the terrible decisions you make as a result. If you can't say what is beyond the pale for you or your party, it raises the very strong possibility that nothing is.

This should have been a slam dunk for the GOP. Disown the guy, throw him under the bus, and say "Look, one Senate seat that will be on the ballot again in 24 months is not worth embracing this piece of shit." Then boast about how you're willing to draw the line somewhere and bask in the rewards. Instead, they doubled down on a question that was already lingering from their decision to embrace Trump – what, if anything, won't these people do to get what they want?

History is littered with examples of what happens when the answer is "Nothing." Over time, none of them work out especially well.

64 thoughts on “BEDROCK”

  • Richard Lachmann says:

    I hope you are right about how endorsing Moore will affect the Republicans, but the US paid almost no price for supporting vile dictators during the Cold War. US defeats, above all Vietnam, were military losses.The US didn't lose allies for the war crime sit committed there or anywhere else.

  • Beautifully, stingingly said. And what did they hope to get for this alliance with trash? A tax cut for donors, who threatened to withhold future donations. As if a) that would be "final," and the donors wouldn't come crawling back in a year, if not months, having nowhere else to go and no other halfway respectable party to buy; and b) all-in on the obviously worst administration, and president, in history, already an embarrassment and soon to be an historic disgrace.

  • Clickbait Ed! No bed. No Rock! All I got for my troubles is a good teardown of the rot that is the modern repug party.

  • I think the next Alabama election is closer to 35 months away, not 24, but your point stands. I’m not sure if McConnell was cynically planning to get him in to push him out, or if he was just going to let him squat and vote for all the horrendous shit that republicans value. Either way, the endorsement was a cynical move. And considering that they haven’t put anything in the way of trump, I would bet they were gonna let him stay. But for the “soul” of the Republican Party, they should’ve endorsed a write-in campaign. It probably wouldn’t have worked, considering how many true believers Alabama seems to have (see, eg, last night’s election results), but it would’ve saved them from some of the stink they’re currently emitting.

    I like to think that the defeat of Moore could reverse a couple of tax votes in the Senate, but I doubt it will. Moore was an exceptionally bad candidate, but he grudgingly got republican rank and file support. The tax bill is also terrible, but in the end, McConnell/Ryan need a legislative “victory.”

  • This is a political party that doesn't accept or trust in math as it is taught and practiced worldwide.
    They believe they have their own math – the "right" math, they say.
    And their base always believes it, and too often, our debased MSM doesn't question or correct their claims and point out to the public how glaringly wrong it is. .

    This is a political party that doesn't accept or trust in science as it is taught and practiced worldwide.
    They believe they have their own science – the "right" science, which they interpret from the Bible.
    And their base always believes them, and too often, our debased MSM presents their completely unscientific (and often rddiculous) claims seriously, instead of pointing out how ignorant their version is.

    This is a political party that doesn't accept or trust in morality as it is taught and followed worldwide across many different religions.
    They believe they have their own morality – often in contradiction to their prior stance(s) -on what they said was begore – it's a situational kindof morality that's bent to accomodate their political political needs at that particular moment. And too often, our MSM doesn't point out the blstant hypoctisy.

    I could go on…

    But, in short, they have no bedrock philosophy at all – except a philosophy of 'Do or say whatever will piss-off the Libtards and/or lead to a win.'

    This time, they lost.

    But I fear that even after backing Moore and losing, they still haven't yet hit the bottom of their 'well of depravity.'

    FSM help us all.

  • It was telling that the Alabama bible-thumpers twisted themselves into pretzels to justify molesting girls, conveniently believing the female sex is destined by god to serve old men.

    Diddling boys, however, seems to be where the outrage line gets drawn.

    Hell if I know what that means.

  • I don't think this is the bottom for the GOP, actually. They are gearing up to defend literal traitors and espionage agents over the next few weeks, and they will do it without a hint of remorse or self awareness. One child sex predator is pretty bad, but the Louie Gohmerts and the Steve Kings and the rest are going to go to the floor for actual traitors who worked out a quid pro quo with a hostile foriegn government just so they could hang on another round and stick it to the Libtards. I am not so sure they are going to lose, either.

  • @Richard — All the post-9/11 flag-waving has made this taboo to say out loud (even for a conscientious critic like Ed), but I wonder if he meant the increased number of terrorist attacks we've seen over the last couple of decades. Yes, they tragically target innocent people, but they're far from surprising as a response to the Kissingerian fucks who've spent the last half-century frog-marching Lady Liberty around the globe in war drag.

  • The Cold War bit caught my attention for two related reasons.

    1. The US had a choice in the postwar era: to be pro-democracy or to be anti-communist. It resoundingly chose the latter, although it strained mightily to pretend they were the same thing. That was such a massive mistake it's hard, as you point out, to even begin calculating the cost.

    2. The most hardline anti-Communists were not, ironically, fanatical believers in the free market. A true capitalist would understand the strength, resilience, and overall attractiveness of capitalism and have confidence that after starving themselves for a few years the Commies would come around. No, the Reagans and Goldwaters of the world were TERRIFIED that Communism might actually be better than capitalism, and so it couldn't even be allowed to compete: it had to be killed.

    These two strands come together most glaringly in the greatest American crime of the 20th century: the Vietnam War. We killed hundreds of thousands of people and spent untold billions of dollars trying to stamp out Communism by propping up an undemocratic dictator and, when that didn't work, trying to kill every Communist in the whole region. That failed, and brought shame on our nation, and Saigon fell…and then within two decades they were working in factories sewing our Nikes anyway. History is full of bitter ironies but that one is too much to take.

  • @Ed, HoosierPoli, I know y'all have the PhDs (respect!), but I've come to the conclusion that anti-communism was as much a figleaf for neo-colonialism and resource grabs as the War On (Of) Terror is today. It was also an excellent excuse to keep military industry humming after the War was over in 1945. It's not like there were a lot of Communists running around in 1898 when the USA took control of the Philippines.

  • Robert Savage says:

    Thank you for this. The list of horrible people we have supported over the years due to our red menace phobia is long indeed. McConnel, Ryan and company are nakedly exposed in their zeal to acquire and maintain control over all three branches of federal government. The fact that Trump, a man that believes in nothing but power, is now head of the party demonstrates the abysmal depths they will go. Thankfully Trump is as incompetent as his party is corrupt.

  • Just a quick reminder that Democrats have by and large abetted this kind of foreign policy since its inception. Democrats have routinely and consistently supported imperial adventurism and military/covert intervention in South America, Cuba, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Truman, JFK, LBJ, Clinton and Obama and scores of Democratic senators and congresspeople were all pretty happy to support imperialism of different flavors.


    There is absolutely no doubt that anti-communism strongly intersected with and was used as an excuse for neo-colonialism. Take for example Operation PB/SUCCESS, where the CIA overthrew a democratically-elected socialist government in Guatemala in 1954 at the behest of… the United Fruit Company. The company was afraid that President Jacobo Árbenz would redistribute their banana plantations to poor farmers. Corporate interest and imperial interest went hand in hand.

  • If a view is opposed to yours, Ed, you use a shallow tactic by calling it "trendy." No, it is not fashion that leads some of us to conclude that America's best days are behind her, that we flirted with equalitarian democracy but it's looking more and more that we're headed toward full-fledged plutocracy. Corporations own the government, citizens are kept mostly ignorant and confused or drugged by distractions and their tax bills are going to go higher and higher in return for less and less. Countries initially inspired by the American model–is this true?—have gotten far closer to governments that serve people than we have, and now we're headed in exactly the wrong direction from our ideal, in a downward spiral. You know the statistics–on education, incarceration, health care, poverty. In this, the "richest country on earth."
    But we of the apocalyptic frame of mind would love like hell to be wrong, and the fact that you're upbeat enough to imply at all that there's an American future is reason for celebration. That we could come back from this mess, the dismantling of almost every government agency and the great tax scam currently headed toward approval.
    I'd love to hear your reasons for believing that we can dig ourselves out of his pit, because we're in pretty deep, so far as I can see. It must be more than a need to justify your profession.

  • @Reilly

    Pretty sure that slavishly supporting Saudi Arabia (net exporter of Wahhabism and other forms of extremist Islam that fuel orgs like Al-Q and IS) has something to do with it.

    Also pretty sure that installing and supporting a variety of "secular" dictators (Saddam, Assad were US ciphers before it became convenient to oppose them) in the ME, who are then opposed primarily by radical islamists also has something to do with it.

  • Just remember the words we learned from Watergate- “follow the money”

    The line you won’t cross doesn’t exist until you’ve got your money

  • Just a reminder that the dude lost by 1%.

    One percent!

    Apparently the only thing that's going to keep the republicans from winning is if all their candidates are reprehensible enough to get five percent of their voters to stay home on election day.

    It's gonna be a long road, mang.

  • anotherbozo: That's why, even with the slimy Russian support, I am sympathetic to CalExit.

    As a Californian, why tie ourselves to the likes of Iowa, Oklahoma or (49% for Moore) Alabama?

  • @Brian M

    CalExit is a geopolitical joke. Where are you guys going to be with rising sea levels on one side, and a hostile, completely right-wing government on the other? If CA leaves, the US de facto plunges into a full-bore fascism while CA gets swallowed up by water.

    Also, this is more of that classic Fuck You Got Mine attitude that we all love so much. You got fucked by capitalism while we prospered (more or less accidentally)? Not our problem!

  • @jcdenton; you forget that California is not just 15 miles wide; the vast majority of the state is far from any current coastline, so when the oceans rise up, much of it will still be perfectly dry.

  • @Katydid

    San Fran, LA, San Diego and San Jose are all coastal cities that contain the majority of CA's 32 million denizens. Do you think trying to stave off that level of destruction is going to go well, especially when you're isolated?

    You're also going to be subject to the same desertification effects (forest fires, drought) that Texas and other southern state will.

    Climate change literally requires a global response. Trying to become a separate state and making sure that climate change will pretty much never be addressed by a now-fascist government in the US is a dead end for the planet (much less CA itself).

  • But I would point out that even the phrase "coastal cities" ignore the actual geographical distribution of population in the very large metropolitan areas. ALL of the Bay Area will not flood. I have seen the ABAG maps, and it will be terrible, but…

  • But there will be no REAL global response. Posturing of "liberal" politicians aside. SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE are not going to "agree" to real climate change. Only hope, pitiful as it may be, is massive geotechnical interventionism, and I am not holding much hope for that.

  • I'm unconvinced that there will be any price for this, as I am there would have been a reward for ditching him. These things seem utterly tribal now.

  • Not sure anyone is surprised at McConnell's fuckery. See, Merrick Garland. That, and the Republicans can only win when they cheat. So they always, ALWAYS cheat.

  • @jcdenton; whoa there, cowboy! Just making a point and bringing in some face. Sacramento is about 90 miles from the coast now; likely they won't be underwater until humanity is gone. You've got the whole Oroville/Vacaville/Maryville/Susanville area, roughly 150 miles from the coast, with mountains in between. The folks around Mt. Lassen are a couple of hundred miles from the coast, again with mountains in the way. Then you've got the heights of Chico, Paradise, Paradise Pines…agricultural areas very high above sea level.

    Pretending California's population all live 10 miles or less from the coast is just foolish.

    Also, I don't live in California.

  • "In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,172 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya."

    Trump is dropping more.

    As creepy old T. Jefferson said:"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."

  • Thanks, Katydid! Even the Bay Area itself has plenty of upland areas. (Although it is a mistake to speak of the Oroville/Vacaville/Maryville/Susanville "area". These are communities hundreds of miles apart in completely different landscapes. And Chico is not "the heights". It's valley floor/orchard/rice country.

    OK OK. Geography Pedant Hat is not only "off" my balding head but has been thrown into a raging dumpster fire ignited by the Tangerine Menace and his agents!

  • "but the US paid almost no price for supporting vile dictators during the Cold War."

    As only one possible example, an enormous part of our problems in the Middle East spring from our overthrow of the Iranian government and installing the Shah.

  • "Pretending California's population all live 10 miles or less from the coast is just foolish."

    This is so, but if you look at the population of California that lives at very low elevations, even hundreds of miles from the sea, you've got problems. Sacramento, for instance is indeed far from the Pavific, but it's at 30 feet above sea level, with a major river valley running to the Bay.

  • 30 feet above sealevel is significantly higher than most coastal communities ANYWHERE, but especially in the U.S. South and Southwest. While San Diego drowns it will have company in Miami, Naw'lins, Galveston…

  • @BrianM: driving from Mill Valley through Vacaville to Sacramento and on to Oroville and then Susanville, yes they are far apart, but not hundreds of miles. It's about 4 hours from Sacramento through Chico to Paradise. Chico is 197 feet above sea level and Paradise is 1,778 feet above sea level. Paradise Pines is 2,444 above sea level. That's a lot of feet above sea level.

  • @Katydid
    @Brian M

    That wasn't meant to come off in a rancorous fashion. I certainly seemed to have overestimated how close CA was to the water level, although at least LA is worried about losing coastline, infrastructure and tourism (

    I am however frustrated that some CA residents believe they will be better off stuck between climate change and a straight-up fascist government than trying to actually fix the union. It's basically the same capitalist, middle-class attitude of climbing the ladder (again, often due to luck) and then burning it to make sure no one else can climb up after.

  • Speaking as a Cascadian what is the value in remaining?

    Not that we, California and Cascadia, wanted to be a part of this mess to begin with. Bunch of rich bitches from New York City showed up one day and with the army at its beck and call declared us "states". Wasn't even a vote in the Oregon Territories.

    The Rocky Mountains make for a damn good wall. Ain't nothing east of them we need.

  • Respectfully, Calexit … might be fun in some alternate history sci-fi story (S.M. Stirling, Fallout) but here in this world it is kind of silly. Just look at how stupid and unfortunate the brexiters seem now, or how things turned out for the CSA?

    Why wank about that when we started with a perfectly enticing wank about how US foreign policy has been fueled by deeply disturbing choices and oceans of blood in service of 'anti-communism at any cost' mindset? Ed also makes a throughline from that to the GOP supporting Trump and Moore in a 'power at any cost' mindset "…they signaled that literally, nothing is more important to them than maintaining power. Nothing. There is no 'bridge too far.'"

    The GOP is shoving through some of the most destructive changes to the fundamental rules governing our society up to and including trying to dynamite the foundations of the social contract itself. They must see destroying what most of us remember and think of as America as being their route to permanent rule because if they only sought to endlessly reap outsized profits from graft and grift they wouldn't be pushing so hard to trigger a collapse, right? Or does the possibility of killing the golden goose simply not occur/not matter to the current crop of plutocratic vampire minions in the GOP? Maybe they just don't understand that the right wing moral principle of 'the strong SHOULD devour the weak' is metaphorical and it is counterproductive to literally kill/eat the weak.

    "Moore was insane and a borderline joke candidate even before the 14 year old girls stuff came out" I have thought this for years. The GOP keeps finding new lows and my capacity to still be surprised by this must be a liability. Nauseating dread fills each day as the depths of GOP depravity are revealed and makes me want to sink into cynical silence.

    What we have to do is oppose all of it. Formulate and focus the values of our political movement into something our candidates can use to publically repudiate the writhing unclean mass of right-wing insanity and to turn back the tide of dead-eyed zombies Mitch McConnel's string pullers have harnessed.

    It is like we are living in a giant H.P. Lovecraft story. A massive doomsday cult threatens to destroy civilization itself, maybe we should get off our asses and do something.

  • @jcdenton and others; you are absolutely right that climate change and rising seas will bring forth a huge change to the California coastline. My larger point is that California's population is not only on the coastline and that there are areas of high ground and/or areas hours from the coast where many people live.

    @Brian M: 197 feet above sea level is part of the "valley" compared to, say, the heights of Lassen, but it's not anywhere near sea level. And there are orchards there as well as rice.

    I guess I jumped all over this because I'm soooo very sick of the "California is horrible" and "the coasts are horrible!" rhetoric that's like a non-stop tooth drilling.

    To be fair, today on the coast is horrible; we've got ice pellets and freezing rain, which turns a 20-mile commute into a 3-hour affair.

  • 'Way more fun to read than this thread, even if it comes with a risk of grinding back fillings into metallic powder [remedy: vodka]

    Looking at the Trump presidency day by day shows no strategy or plan of any kind. It looks on paper exactly how it has felt to live through: one crisis after another, with little time for rest or reflection. It is a car that is constantly veering off the road, and we have to fight so hard to keep from going over the edge that it's not easy to remember where we've been.

  • I think if you read The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams, you will find that American support for blood-drenched monsters is not only from the Cold War era. We've been doing it forever, to support our "commercial interests." It isn't going to stop. We aren't going to leave Afghanistan voluntarily. We aren't going to stop supporting Mohammed bin Salman. We aren't going to stop supporting, with about $9 billion as year, the bloody repression of the Palestinians.

  • @TenBears, your prejudice and ignorance is showing:

    Not that we, California and Cascadia, wanted to be a part of this mess to begin with. Bunch of rich bitches from New York City showed up one day and with the army at its beck and call declared us "states". Wasn't even a vote in the Oregon Territories.

    According to Wikipedia, Washington State was founded by a bunch of settlers from Tennessee and Missouri in 1846.

    Oregon became US territory after a dispute with the British in 1846 and started as a "whites only state" in 1859.

    Northern California was wrested from Mexico, also in 1846.

    New York was not involved in any of this.

  • @TenBears, okay, I get it, you're just filled with self-righteousness and mindlessly resenting random people. Got it.

    What I know about Oregon is that it's was started as an all-white state and still really, really white every summer vacation I drove through it to get to Vancouver.

    So, what do you know about New York that wasn't fed to you by other self-righteous and resentful people?

  • Katydid –

    And the Nez Perce were shipped off to Oklahoma, IIRC, altho the Paiutes were allotted some acreage near Burns, Ten Bear's home turf. Wikipedia describes the territory the Paiute controlled before white cattle ranchers showed up.

  • I would have to say that there's not a state in the U.S. where white people didn't fuck over native americans, poc and whoever else was "squatting" on their land.

    I have no idea how that ever gets made right. Based on current trends in the U.S. northwest, secession would prolly involve mostly white people making most of the decisions.

  • geoff – so you don't read previous comments, eh? Tsk.

    s'OK, the Rolling Stone is worth enjoying twice, containing some juicy little zingers as it does…

  • Demo writes and I agree:

    I would have to say that there's not a state in the U.S. where white people didn't fuck over native americans, poc and whoever else was "squatting" on their land.

    I have no idea how that ever gets made right. Based on current trends in the U.S. northwest, secession would prolly involve mostly white people making most of the decisions.

    However, I don't agree with Ten Bears that it was a bunch of people from New York who wreaked havoc on the Pacific Northwest.

  • @Katydid, re: sea level, it's not about how far you are from the sea, but elevation. Sacramento is lower than (most of) Manhattan Island.

  • Awww, geoff, Calexit is a fun mental exercise–unlike most of the south, California is a vast, vast state with a variety of resources, including agricultural and heavy industrial.

  • "I guess I jumped all over this because I'm soooo very sick of the "California is horrible" and "the coasts are horrible!" rhetoric that's like a non-stop tooth drilling."

    While I am a native of Indiana (Fort Wayne) and my hometown, in all its shabby sprawling glory is showing some pretty neat signs of revival, I have lived in California for 27 years and have no desire at all to move. I love the landscapes, while recognizing that this landscape can be a hazardous one.

    Because of personal failings, I don't own a house now, and as I approach retirement (hopefully), I worry that I may be forced to leave. Indiana is so cheap. Painfully cheap.

    But, I am thinking that even Deep Red Redding may still be better than returning to the Monsanto Soybean and Corn Plains of my youth, and even the Valley Red Voters cannot at this point elect anyone as toxic as Mike Pence to the Governor's office (and no, Arnold is not THAT bad!). Redding has mountains and the amazing river and 35 miles of bicycle paths, etc. etc.

    I am staying in California, I think.

  • @ Brian M:

    I grew up in Nebraska and have spent maybe a year there, in total, since 1974. I grew up in Omaha, a pleasant enough town and even with it's (largely unconcious) rampant racism, better than other spots I've lived and certainly better than much of its surrounding. If nothing else, Steve King (the KKKrazzeepantsKKKristianist RefuKKKliKKKlansman if from Iowa, not Nebraska.

    Otoh, I was just home for a HS reunion and not one person I saw there suggested we get together some other time. My family is still about 1/2-2/3 in the area, the rest are scattered to the winds. I have a ramshackle shitbox of a house in an area where property taxes are high, as a %age with relatively low assessments. I pay less in taxes than I do for water and sewer–and that's with a 75% disount (age & income related discounts)

  • No "edit" function, it sucks. and

    As I was saying, I get a significantly good deal on taxes and water & sewer. I don't seem to have (m)any friends left where I grew up (never had but a few anyway) and my family is conveniently located in nicer places to visit than Omaha or Upstate NY.

    Cali is scenically stunning, diverse and–from my perspective of being there a number of times–nowhere near as LIEBRUL as the ReiKKKwingers think it is. I love to visit but, like you, I think I may stay in a place where I pretty much know what to expect from my pols (not much) and from my neighbors (vile imprecations, few armed confrontations).

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