Kristi Noem and support for small business

Kristi Noem, famous or notorious (depending on your perspective regarding governor-ordered masks and shutdown) for saying that people who didn’t want to get COVID-19 should stay home and not rely on the government, a bandana, or a 3-cent paper surgical mask to protect them from a respiratory virus, is being talked about as someone who might enter national politics.

A recent CATO analysis of the small business environment in the 50 states has Ms. Noem’s South Dakota at #2 for business freedom:

Note that New Jersey, which if it were its own country would have the world’s highest COVID-19 death rate (ranking), is almost dead last! Also, states that you might expect to be free, e.g., Montana, aren’t. It is interesting to look at correlations with how easy it is to make money via pregnancy and child support. Georgia, where the government wants you to set up a business, has a soft cap on child support profits (so does South Dakota). Connecticut, on the other hand, is the nation’s most difficult state in which to start a business, but is a paradise for alimony plaintiffs and also offers unlimited child support.

Readers: Now that the Republican Party draws its support primarily from those who operate small business (everyone else is on the government gravy train either through welfare at the low end and crony capitalism at the high end), is Kristi Noem a likely future presidential candidate?

Related:

  • states ranked by COVID-19-tagged death rate (unfortunately not adjusted for percentage of population over 65), in which we see #Science-following Maskachusetts right near the top and give-the-finger-to-the-virus South Dakota at around #10.
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Massachusetts Democrat: the government arresting the political opposition is a step forward for the U.S.

I’ve been mostly in a news vacuum for the past couple of weeks (family trip to D.C. (grandma), Atlanta (aquarium, zoo, botanical garden, World of Coca Cola), Jupiter, Florida (beach, mini golf), and Asheville (Biltmore mansion)). I returned to my labors at the local flight school today and a Massachusetts Democrat related his elation regarding the F.B.I. search and seizure of Rudy Giuliani’s office and computer gear (see “F.B.I. Searches Giuliani’s Home and Office, Seizing Phones and Computers”).

Typically when we read about a government that arrests the political opposition we don’t see that as a positive step for a country, but this guy didn’t see any downside to an affiliate of the former president being prosecuted by the current one.

On the plus side, nobody can take away our big flags (from Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina):

And another photo for scale:

Related:

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Bitcoin has plenty of runway if we look back to the 1960s and 70s and the Great Society

When the U.S. was founded, minimum voting age was 21. A man might start work at age 13 or 14 and therefore a voter would be someone who’d worked for 8 years and who would experience higher taxes and a bigger government as a requirement to work longer hours. Since 1972, however, the 26th Amendment has ensured that 18-year-olds can vote and an 18-year-old may not begin working full time for 10 years (or ever, if he/she/ze/they has figured out that welfare yields a similar spending power). The majority of voters either work for the government or don’t work at all (too young, too old, in “means-tested” living (not “welfare” since it is only housing, health insurance, food, and smartphone that are received rather than cash), collecting alimony or child support from a defendant worker, married to a worker). So the big surprise is that this majority hasn’t voted itself a vastly larger government to be paid for by private sector suckers who will have to work longer hours.

(Imagine how different our government would be if, except for the disabled, 8 years of full-time work history was a requirement to vote!)

There have been three major episodes in U.S. history when the voters hungry for more government benefits prevailed over the beasts of burden (folks for whom the main consequence of bigger government will be longer hours). One was in 1930s (FDR and the New Deal). One was in the 1960s (Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, though arguably started by JFK). One was in November 2020. If we think that Episode 3 will be a lot like Episode 2, it is worth reading Great Society: A New History a 2019 book by Wall Street Journal reporter turned economic historian Amity Shlaes. I’m just digging into this, but the author seems to have anticipated our current situation (Episode 3). She looks at what happened to last the time that the U.S. decided to “go big” on addressing inequality. The economic and stock market stagnated while the dollar fell and gold surged. If Shlaes is right, every Federal spending initiative is great news for Bitcoin investors.

Some excerpts:

As Stalin was said to have joked, America was the only country in the world that could afford communism.

In a recent book the author had itemized the kinds of reform America needed. Laws that backed up organized labor so it might represent a greater portion of the American workforce, including black Americans or immigrants from Mexico. Higher minimum wages—the current levels were a cruel joke. Minimum wages that covered more workers, even those who did not work in an office or full-time. A dramatic change in the training of bigoted policemen in the big cities. A reinvigoration of the poor so that they became a force in political life. America was a country made of classes, the author thought; it just didn’t know it. The money was simply in the wrong hands. The writer wanted a tax system that captured the elusive wealth of the superrich. The moment had come to level incomes in a systematic fashion. Poverty was the obvious lunch theme. Just days before, the president had tapped the author’s host to lead a new campaign against poverty. In his State of the Union address, the president had told the country he wanted not only to alleviate suffering but to actually “cure poverty.” No American leader had ever taken on poverty in this way before.

The focus of the author’s book was the cycle of poverty in one region, Appalachia. The man had also seen poverty in the city where he grew up, St. Louis. In St. Louis the poverty was in part caused by government plans gone wrong, as in the case of the bulldozing of streets people loved in the name of moving them into public housing slums they didn’t love. America, the author thought, should invest billions to abolish poverty. It was incredible that America knew so much about poverty and had done so little. The state governments could not do this work. State governments were beholden to retrograde conservative legislatures. For systemic change, the author had come to believe, there was “no place to look except toward the federal government.”

Still, as he sat in the makeshift offices, the author kept returning to what he saw as the problem behind the problem, American capitalism. He and his friend took to concluding their memos with a half-serious line: “Of course, there is no real solution to the problem of poverty until we abolish the capitalist system.”3 At one point the author stopped censoring himself and wrote a few lines of what he actually felt: “that the abolition of poverty would require a basic change in how resources are allocated.” The boss actually took this bold call for redistribution to the president, who, the boss reported, proved remarkably friendly. The boss said that the president, a Roosevelt fan, told him that if serious economic redistribution was necessary to realize the long-delayed completion of the New Deal, then redistribution might be worth it.

The president being pitched on what today we might call transferism was Lyndon Johnson and the year was 1964. The author was Michael Harrington, whom Wikipedia describes as a “democratic socialist.”

The economic boom that had preceded JFK’s election gave Americans the confidence that anything was affordable. (I’ve seen this among quite a few folks in my parents’ social circle. Born in the 1930s, they don’t agree with Margaret Thatcher that it is possible to run out of other people’s money. They imagine the U.S. to be so wealthy that no spending proposal could ever exceed Americans’ ability to pay.)

Most Americans shared something else with Harrington: confidence. In the 1930s, the New Deal had failed to reduce unemployment. The prolonged periods of joblessness were what had made the Depression “Great.” But the memory of the New Deal failure had faded just enough that younger people liked the sound of the term. And memories of more recent success fueled Americans’ current ambition. Many men were veterans. They had been among the victorious forces that rolled across Europe and occupied Japan at the end of World War II. Compared with overcoming a Great Depression, or conquering Europe and Japan, eliminating poverty or racial discrimination had to be easy. American society was already so good. To take it to great would be a mere “mopping up action,” as Norman Podhoretz, who had served in Europe, would put it.

First came a campaign, led by President John F. Kennedy, to rehabilitate troubled youth. Soon after, President Johnson led the passage of series of federal civil rights laws. Around the same time came Johnson’s War on Poverty. Next were Johnson’s national housing drive and his health care drive. Richard Nixon followed up with a guaranteed-income campaign and an environmental drive.

When government accomplishes little, how do you persuade the public that enormous achievements are occurring?

Ambitious reforms needed time to succeed. It would be a shame if a project aborted because early results didn’t look good. So, for display purposes, presidents emphasized inputs, not outputs. Congress, too, as the Hoover Institution’s John Cogan has put it, “measured success by labels and dollars attached to legislation”—not by results. The political success of a project mattered more than empirical success. Occasionally, the effort got a new name. The “New Frontier” of Kennedy became Johnson’s “Great Society,” which became the “Great Nation,” and then the “Just and Abundant Society” of Richard Nixon.

We hear a lot about the various $2 trillion spending plans, but we never see a New York Times article on what Americans actually got from the preceding $2 trillion spending program. (exception?)

How did the dreams of the 1960s play out?

… by 1971, for the first time, federal spending on what we now call entitlements—benefits for the aged, the poor, and the unemployed, along with other social programs—outpaced spending on defense.

In 1966, the [Dow Jones Industrial Average] moved tantalizingly close to the 1,000 line, a landmark. Soon after, however, the index stalled, and stayed stuck below the 1,000 line, year in, year out. By the end of the decade, inflation, always present, was expanding to alarming levels. The same period brought another alarm, this time from abroad. Foreign governments started to turn more of their dollars in for gold from the United States’ coffers. The U.S. papers went into denial, quoting a Yale professor, Robert Triffin, who argued that the withdrawals were the result of crossed incentives in the international monetary arrangement, a technical, rectifiable flaw. What came to be known as the Triffin dilemma provided a convenient explanation for the mysterious outflows.

The 1971 run on American gold also, however, reflected foreigners’ insight. Outsiders knew a tipping point when they saw one. America had moved closer to Michael Harrington’s socialism than even Harrington understood. The United States had locked itself into social spending promises that might never be outgrown. Today, interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies serves as a measure of markets’ and individuals’ distrust of the U.S. dollar. In those days there was no Bitcoin, but gold played a similar role. The dollar was the common stock of America, and foreigners used gold to short it.

The disastrous performance of the U.S. economy in the following years proved the foreigners’ 1971 wager correct. To pay for its Great Society commitments, the U.S. government in the next decade found itself forced to set taxes so high that it further suppressed the commercialization of innovation.

Eventually the market bounces back, right?

The Dow flirted with the 1,000 level throughout the decade, but did not cross the line definitively until 1982, an astonishingly long period to stagnate, nearly a generation.

You just had to wait from 1966 to 1982 to sell a stock for more than you’d paid… in nominal dollars. Shlaes fails to point out that you’d need $3 in June 1982 to have the same spending power as $1 in 1966. On an inflation-adjusted basis (chart), the DJIA didn’t exceed its 1966 high until 1996, i.e., 30 years later.

What about all the great stuff that happened in the 1960s? Going to war in Vietnam was a terrible decision, of course, but continuing Eisenhower’s work in desegregation wasn’t, surely. The author says “Well…”:

The early civil rights laws, as important as they were, set a precedent for federal supremacy over states to an extent some of the Constitution’s authors would have likened to tyranny. The later civil rights laws, with their emphasis on group rights, pitted Americans against one another. Both Johnson and Nixon conducted domestic policy as if they were domestic commanders in chief.

Already I can see some stuff that seems wrong or at least not supported.

For today, the contest between capitalism and socialism is on again. Markets do promise strong growth; we do live in a creative society, the most creative in the world, creative enough to lift the nation to new heights. Yet new, progressive proposals bearing a strong resemblance to those of Michael Harrington’s and his peers’, from redistribution via taxation to student debt relief to a universal guaranteed income, are sought yet again. Once again, many Americans rate socialism as the generous philosophy. But the results of our socialism were not generous. May this book serve as a cautionary tale of lovable people who, despite themselves, hurt those they loved. Nothing is new. It is just forgotten.

How does the author know that the U.S. is “the most creative in the world”? Why isn’t it equally plausible that our wealth was built on stealing a huge chunk of land from the Native Americans rather than on some sort of unique creativity? If it was the land that made us comparatively rich, combined with the wars and Communism consuming our competitors in the 20th century, then we aren’t guaranteed to get richer going forward. Taking the long view, it is the Chinese and Europeans who have

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Will lockdowns protect us from jihad? (they can’t hate our freedom anymore)

George W. Bush, September 20, 2011 explained the motivations of those who had waged jihad against the U.S.:

Americans are asking “Why do they hate us?”

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

Depending on the state, Americans no longer have the right to assemble (see the multi-year emergency unfold in 66+ governor’s orders here in Maskachusetts, for example). Americans who want to hold a job certainly don’t have freedom of speech and they’d better not disagree with the hashtag campaign du jour (e.g., #StopAsianHate) nor with diversity and inclusion efforts. We are informed by our media that citizens of Georgia no longer have the freedom to vote.

An immigrant from Moscow, now living in New England: “I never expected to see a day when Russians would have more freedom than Americans.” (She was referring, e.g., to the freedom to leave one’s house and walk around outdoors without wearing a mask or the freedom to host a dinner party for 12 in one’s home (both illegal in Massachusetts).)

Could there be an upside to this? A jihadi who hated Americans for our freedoms now has fewer reasons to hate us!

A memorable moment from 2003…

Source: The History Channel, which notes “the war in Iraq continued for several years thereafter” (and you thought that it was the British who excelled at understatement!).

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Clubhouse is a greenfield for whitesplaining

In the department of what’s old is new and what’s new is old, I’ve used Clubhouse a bit more. It is hard to explain how it is different from old-school talk radio other than not being limited by spectrum and therefore able to handle an infinite number of channels. However, the same could be said about Zello, an app from 2007 that supports public channels. Clubhouse has a Follow button so it is easy to get into the same channel as your friends. Maybe Zello never had that?

Here’s a conversation that I couldn’t resist joining (as an audience member), “Black Voices for Trump 2024”:

It was fascinating to hear how a substantial sized group of Black Americans process the messages being sent to them by the white elites with BLM signs on their lawns.

Some excerpts:

  • “If you’re Black in America and put your mind to it, you can be whatever you want to be.”
  • On how she talks to Black Democrat friends: “If Trump were impeached, how would it help your community?”
  • “Biden has been issuing executive orders at a furious rate. What has he done for the Black community?”
  • “Why are they trying to feminize all our men?”
  • “Once all of the illegal immigrants are naturalized, the Democrats will never talk to us again. We will be behind Hispanics and Asians and won’t be relevant.”
  • “Biden is cut from the same cloth as Strom Thurmond. Why would you vote for someone like that?”
  • “Obama set off five proxy wars in Africa”
  • “I’m finishing a PhD on the War on Drugs.”
  • To a white participant: “You will never know what it’s like to be Black and I will never know what it’s like to be white. We just have to find common ground.”
  • Woman: “I tell my white friends not to apologize to me for white supremacy because that makes me feel that they’re saying they are superior to me. I grew up in Alabama and my father had a third rate education, but he was able to raise us without my mother having to work and we never felt that there was something we couldn’t do.”
  • Woman from Texas: Trump stopped the revolving door of illegal immigrants who would get deported and come back a few days later. Despite this, the Black neighborhoods of Texas continue to be wiped out via population replacement with Hispanic migrants.

I posted these in real time to a Facebook post. In an aside, I noted “I am waiting for a platoon of white Democrats from San Francisco to set these folks straight regarding the proper way to be Black!” Right on cue…

  • White-looking guy named Arjun: “I’m a multi-Ethnic person.” [But if you saw his profile photo you would likely say that he is white.] He thanks the group for their respect and humanity. Says he comes from a different place politically. Disproves the idea that white liberals offer Blacks empty words by speaking for about 2 minutes and saying nothing.

A bit later….

  • Arjun is back. Talking about working at a farmer’s market in the Tenderloin and “genuinely perplexed” by the fact that only 10% of the customers at this farmer’s market are Black. “A true travesty”. He posits that maybe Black people don’t know how to cook.

(Arjun was right about one thing: when Trump haters showed up they were heard out in full, not interrupted, and responded to respectfully.)

The meeting continues…

  • 35-year-old:: “I didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. Everything Trump was doing once in office was creating opportunity for me. So I voted for him in 2020.”
  • Guy who went door to door in a white liberal neighborhood recounts all of the whites that told him that he shouldn’t be supporting Trump because he was Black. “Do you really need to know what Joe Biden’s policies are to vote Donald Trump out?” asked a white say-gooder. “Yes, ma’am, that’s what politics is about.”
  • “White women are getting all of the contracts, jobs, and minority preferences set aside for Black people to make up for Jim Crow.” (Nobody chimes in to point out how difficult it is to be a white woman in North America.)
  • LBJ’s welfare policies were a Trojan Horse because the welfare system’s incentives destroyed the two-parent Black family. We were rats in an experiment for the white liberals of the 1960s.
  • “Didn’t nobody rob my mom’s liquor store in the ‘hood because she had a cross around her neck and her right hand on a Glock.” (What would Mom think about Uncle Joe’s latest call for commonsense gun control?)

Arjun can’t be in every room 24/7, so I think that means Clubhouse needs (nay, demands) an army of well-meaning white folks who can explain to these conservatives why they ain’t Black.

(Separately, one aspect of the room that was interesting was how much better informed and thoughtful regarding policy these folks were than my friends who are in the credentialed elite (tenured professors, management consultants, etc.). Where the credentialed elite expresses hatred for Trump either for personal reasons or because Trump does not give the credentialed elite sufficient respect, the Black conservatives were interested in the Trump administration’s policies, not in the personality of Trump-the-person.)

Related:

  • First impressions of Clubhouse?
  • Interview excerpts with Denzel Washington, who is in sync to some extent with the above folks.
  • A Massachusetts Democrat on hearing about the above room: “Reminds me of the old (old) joke: The Massachusetts republican party will be meeting in the phone booth at the corner of Tremont and Clarendon this afternoon at 3 sharp.” When I told that there are 2,300 followers of the Black Conservatives club on Clubhouse, that hundreds were connected to the discussion for the 2+ hours that I listened, and that dozens spoke… “Ok, I wish them all well. I suppose it challenges the idea that blacks (et al) all think in one stereotypical way.” (who had this all-think-same “idea” other than him?)
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Facebook division and the Two Middle Classes

Happy Presidents’ Day, a.k.a. George Washington’s Birthday, a.k.a., Happy Birthday to a slaveholder.

In addition to owning slaves and behaving in a traitorous fashion to the British Empire to which he’d sworn loyalty as a military officer, George Washington had a reputation as a unifier of disparate American interests. Could he have unified us today?

First, we should ask why middle class Americans aren’t already unified. If Americans generally vote their pocketbooks, how can people with similar levels of income split into passionately different political camps, as evidenced by their dramatic rhetoric on Facebook. A possible explanation from “The Two Middle Classes”:

Politicians across the Western world like to speak fondly of the “middle class” as if it is one large constituency with common interests and aspirations. But, as Karl Marx observed, the middle class has always been divided by sources of wealth and worldview. Today, it is split into two distinct, and often opposing, middle classes. First there is the yeomanry or the traditional middle class, which consists of small business owners, minor landowners, craftspeople, and artisans, or what we would define historically as the bourgeoisie, or the old French Third Estate, deeply embedded in the private economy. The other middle class, now in ascendency, is the clerisy, a group that makes its living largely in quasi-public institutions, notably universities, media, the non-profit world, and the upper bureaucracy.

Standing between the oligarchs, who now own as much as 50 percent of the world’s assets, and the growing population of propertyless serfs, the traditional middle class increasingly struggles for survival against those with the greatest access to capital and political power. The power of this modern-day equivalent of the Medieval aristocracy, what the French referred to as the Second Estate, seems likely to grow; a recent British parliamentary study projects that, by 2030, the top one percent will expand their share to two-thirds of the world’s wealth, with the biggest gains overwhelmingly concentrated in the top .01 percent. One of the upshots of this concentration of economic power is that entrepreneurship is now declining even in the capitalist hotbed of America.

In contrast, the clerisy has a far less adversarial relationship with the uber-rich, since they operate in large part outside the market system. Like the Catholic Church in Medieval times, this part of the middle class enjoys something of a symbiosis with the oligarchal elites, the main financiers of NGOs, and the universities, and dominates the media and culture industries that employ so many of them. They are often also beneficiaries of the regulatory state, either directly as high-level government employees, or as consultants, attorneys, or through non-profits.

It’s an interesting theory. One major flaw in the article is that he accepts the bogus idea that American serfs are “propertyless”. A resident of the U.S. who has never worked and who will never work nonetheless holds substantial wealth (i.e., “property”). She is entitled to 100+ years of housing, 100+ years of health care, 100+ years of food, and 80+ years of smartphone service. Any children she chooses to have will be entitled to a free education and also, if they do not choose to work, free housing, health care, food, and smartphone. That’s $millions in wealth for every American on welfare (about 70 million people on Medicaid, for example).

If a person with $2 million in cash buys an annuity with the $2 million, do we say that she has suffered a $2 million loss of wealth? If not, it is absurd to consider Americans on our various forms of welfare as being without wealth.

Or consider the retired stripper who turned into a family court entrepreneur by suing Hunter Biden for child support. She may have already spent every dime that she earned in the gentlemen’s clubs and every dime that she has gotten from Mr. Biden. But as long as she retains custody of the cash-yielding child, she is not without substantial wealth. (And anyone who reads “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage” can replicate her success!)

How to explain the current era of Peak Sanctimony?

Like their Medieval counterparts in the old First Estate, members of the contemporary clerisy insist that they are motivated not by self-interest but rather by pursuit of the common good. They constitute “the privileged stratum,” in the words of French left-wing analyst Christophe Guilluy, operating from an assumption of “moral superiority” that justifies their right to instruct others. This power is greatly enhanced by their control of culture, most media, the education systems—eight in 10 British professors are on the Left—and throughout the bureaucracy.

Readers: What do you think of this article? If we believe it, could a figure analogous to George Washington actually accomplish anything today in terms of unifying Americans who, in fact, do not have common interests? And who would that figure be? It couldn’t be someone from the military, since we no longer have military victories. What about a Great Scientist? Dr. Fauci perhaps?

Inside the Washington Monument (November 2019):

The view from the top, which I posted on Facebook with “Massive crowd for the Trump inauguration.” (#NotFunny?)

Speaking of Trump, if we wanted to include him in Presidents’ Day this year and going forward, which of his achievements should be highlighted?

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Can Democrats kick all Republicans off all House committees?

“Dem-led House, drawing a line, kicks Greene off committees” (AP):

A fiercely divided House tossed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene off both her committees Thursday, an unprecedented punishment that Democrats said she’d earned by spreading hateful and violent conspiracy theories.

Democrats hold the majority of seats in the House. Why not do this for all Republican representatives? Republicans are, by definition, people who have voluntarily affiliated with the party of insurrection, racism, sexism, and anti-LGBTQIA+. Why should they be treated differently than Marjorie Taylor Greene?

One advantage of this approach, from the Republicans’ point of view, is that they could take two years off. They’re not going to be influencing legislation, so why come into the Capitol every day to participate in a farcical process?

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Dr. Andrew Yang, PhD in Mansplaining?

From a male-identifying friend on Facebook:

Being a progressive does not mean simply giving people more money and stuff. It also means thinking in critical and integrative ways, connecting the social, economic and cultural. In fact, thinking this way can both save money and improve lives through providing meaning.
Here is Andrew Yang on maternal health: “One way I think we can help combat maternal and infant mortality in NYC–both of which are unconscionably high in much of the city–dramatically expand the use of doulas and midwives. Doulas are the truth. Women help women.”
Just one more reason why I support Andrew Yang, a deep, integral thinker, for Mayor of NYC.

Can this be true? Twitter says yes:

This is like a PhD thesis in mansplaining. Perhaps Dr. Yang also said “We’re pregnant” before his children were born.

(Director of Baby Production in our household corporation rated her doula “useless” and elected to fly solo (except for the full hospital team that was present) the next time we were pregnant.)

Related:

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Landfill all of the Trump-hatred books?

From our local public library’s new and featured books section:

And, upstairs in the children’s section:

Given the demographics of this Boston suburb, it may not be the right time to #Resist having working-class Black Americans pay higher taxes so that wealthy white families can have their student loans forgiven

Trump is gone, right? Will people still want to read books about Trump, books about resisting Trump, books about a former president’s elderly wife who was defeated by Trump, etc.? Once President Harris is in charge, is there still a market for a book about the shortcomings of “White Male America”?

What happens to Trump hatred once Trump himself escapes to Florida and/or, depending on how intensively he is hunted by Democrats and their attorney generals, beyond the borders of the U.S.?

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