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Having Enough Sense to Come in Out of the Rain

Reading about Rhode Island’s obligatory branch of the “March for Science,” I couldn’t help but think of this scene from the classic philosophical work, Big Trouble in Little China.

A brave man (or a left-wing ideologue) may like the feel of nature on his face, but there’s something humorous about the idea of people with saturated political signs standing in the rain for an hour and a half listening to speeches about the importance of learning the lessons of science.  Jacqueline Tempera’s credulous reporting for the Providence Journal only adds to the humor:

After about an hour and a half of speeches, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott from the Rhode Island Department of Health ended the program with a strong message.

“This is more than bad policy,” she said. “This is a profound environmental injustice that will have the biggest impact on our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.”

Before the reader can even get to wondering whether Tempera believes “strong message” is an objective phrase or is just cheering on her political allies, the absolute absence of context for the “strong statement” — from a state employee making an overtly political statement — captures the event to perfection.

What is “more than bad policy”?  We don’t know, and one suspects the Puddle-Jumpers for Science don’t either.

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Dealing with Disruptive (aka Opportunity-Creating) Technology

This passage from Matthew Rees’s Wall Street Journal review of Move Fast and Break Things by Jonathan Taplin is worth highlighting:

It may be hard to get stirred up about the interests of celebrity millionaires like Ms. Swift and Sir Paul, but the broader concern is legitimate: how to reward those who create content—music, film, even mere words—in an era when technology can distribute it at virtually no cost. In “Move Fast and Break Things,” Jonathan Taplin argues that today’s technology behemoths are decimating content industries and eroding the broader culture. …

[Taplin] devotes more space to a more mundane concern: money. Consider music revenues. Last year, in the U.S., they were $7.7 billion, down from $19.8 billion in 2000. In 2015, music creators earned more from the sale of vinyl records than they did from music streams on YouTube and other platforms. “How can it be,” Mr. Taplin asks, “that the arrival of digital networks composed of billions of music fans has not been a boon to musicians?”

In essence, this is the complaint of gatekeepers.  Note the assumptions embedded in the phrasing of the question: “how to reward those who create content?”  Are they rewarded, or do they earn their money?  And either way, who gets to decide what is worth rewarding?  Taplin complains that “the economics of ‘more’ [may be] drowning us in a sea of mediocrity.”  Well, it’s up to the non-mediocre to prove it, and it’s also up to those who want to support their preferred content to find ways to do so.

This is all on the content creators and those who make a career of helping them to find an angle, as well as their fans.  They have to prove that they’re worth the consolidation of society’s entertainment resources.

One can see in Taplin’s perspective the same mentality that leads to high taxes and big government: this insinuation that particular interests should find ways to use government to spread the costs of doing things they want done, but for which they don’t want the responsibility of paying.

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State House Report with John DePetro, No. 5: Branding Raimondo & Free Tuition

For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, the topics were my column on the “free tuition” plan, Raimondo’s free branding help from the Providence Journal, and more on the PawSox scheme.
Click full post link for audio.

I’ll be on again Tuesday, April 18, at 2:00 p.m.

(Note: Graphic parody of the Providence Journal‘s free promotional work for Governor Raimondo.)

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Wait, Who Runs the Intelligence Committee?

I don’t have much of note to say about this, but it struck me as odd.  This is the Providence Journal’s presentation of a Bloomberg article by Steven T. Dennis, Chris Strohm and Billy House.  Here’s the headline and lede:

Investigators: Details needed before Flynn gets immunity
Rep. Adam Schiff says he’ll discuss Flynn’s offer with Senate Intelligence Committee, Justice Department

Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the committee, but the article doesn’t even mention Republican Devin Nunes of California, who is the chairman of the committee.  Doesn’t that seem odd?

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A One-Two-Three for Fundamental Corruption of the Rule of Law

One problem with President Donald Trump is that he’s like a flashy object in a pile of stuff.  Other things may be more significant, but he draws attention. On PowerLine, John Hinderaker connects some dots for one of those things:

So it appears that what happened here is that Democratic Party activists in the Department of Homeland Security either created a bogus document or dug up a poorly-researched draft document that had never been issued, and fed it to Democratic Party activists at the Associated Press. The Democratic Party activists at the AP published a story based on the anonymous document, which two Democratic Party activists on the [judiciary] bench used as a pretext for orders enjoining the president’s travel order.

This is how an ideological and partisan group constructs narratives, with a one-two-three from insider bureaucrats to judges who overstep their offices to undermine the elected president.  This stuff is inimical to a free society and the rule of law no matter which political side does it.

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Did Russia Learn from the Pros?

This Wall Street Journal article by Joe Parkinson and Georgi Kantchev shows more than the willingness of Russia to meddle in foreign elections:

In the run-up to presidential elections in Bulgaria last year, the country’s opposition Socialist Party received a secret strategy document proposing a road map to victory at the ballot box, according to five current or former Bulgarian officials.

Among its recommendations: plant fake news and promote exaggerated polling data.

The source of the roughly 30-page dossier, intercepted by Bulgaria’s security service, was a think tank connected to the Kremlin, according to the officials. It was delivered by a former Russian spy on a U.S. sanctions list, three of them said.

Investigators should peruse the internal documents of the national Democrat Party and correspondence of mainstream media’s JournoList.  They might find that the Russians are also guilty of plagiarism, because the tactics described above look awfully familiar.

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Reversing a Deadly Cultural Cliché

Betsy McKay raises a central puzzle for America in a Wall Street Journal article about death rates among white adults:

The increase in mortality rate for working-class whites can’t be explained by declining income prospects alone. Blacks and Hispanics face many of the same income struggles but have experienced declines in mortality over the same period, the two economists argued, though their findings reveal more recent troubles for blacks, with gains stagnating the past couple of years amid an increase in drug overdoses and stalling progress against heart disease.

“This doesn’t seem to be about current income,” Ms. Case said in a call with reporters. “It seems to be about accumulating despair.”

It’s about demoralization.  This trend results from the combination of economic hardship, the elites’ undermining of traditional family structures, and, as a final assault, the handling in the popular culture of white men as always the ultimate source of evil.  Dysfunctional families are easier to survive when there’s money in the equation, and cultural opprobrium is easier to laugh off when you’re advantaged.

To some extent, the problem is the inertia of cultural clichés.  It takes a while for the message that circumstances have changed to filter throughout those who make decisions throughout our institutions, arts, and media (often requiring the change of entire generations at the helm).  And the Left pushed this particular cliché unreasonably hard, because they liked the pose and the political upside.

In the meantime, our society will continue to fail in its role of uplifting its disadvantaged members.

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Making an Honest Broker Out of Public Radio

Its being Monday morning, I couldn’t quite manage the double entendre with the title to this post, but Ian Donnis’s weekly TGIF column for Rhode Island Public Radio had another point worth highlighting:

Rhode Island Public Radio gets 93 percent of its funding from people and organizations in Rhode Island. So you don’t need to worry about us going anywhere if President Trump is successful in eliminating funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Here’s part of a comment on the subject by our esteemed general manager, Torey Malatia: “Were it to suddenly disappear, the $200,000 CPB grant to RIPR would need to be replaced.  We would do this by encouraging our community to help support us. We would hope that more listeners would become donors and sustainers, or would increase their gifts. We have a broad base of community support, and if every listener helped a little more, we could offset the grant. It will be work, but it can be done. In our view, though, the loss of CPB funding hurts our culture overall. Many local radio stations in very small markets rely of the annual CPB grant heavily, representing in some cases 25%-35% of their annual budgets. Losing this funding may severely damage these smaller stations. And since local public television stations receive three-quarters of the targeted congressional funds, small public television stations may become insolvent.”

So, to emphasize, RIPR doesn’t need the government money, and Rhode Island can afford to let the left-wing radio audience pay for left-wing radio.  There’s no reason whatsoever that all Rhode Islanders should be forced to contribute, and certainly no reason a more-conservative-than-Rhode-Island country ought to pay for it.

That reasoning applies, as well, to the smaller stations that Malatia cites as justification for keeping the grant alive.*  If there’s no market for left-wing radio in a particular area, the federal government shouldn’t be the mechanism for ensuring that it gets its space on the dial nonetheless, anymore than the federal government should ensure that there’s a right-wing station in markets where there’s no audience for conservatives.

* The initial version of this post erroneously attributed the citation to Donnis rather than Malatia.

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The Union’s Shocking Admission… Which Nobody Will Notice

Confessions of my naive idealism are becoming a theme for me, perhaps, but I still find casual admissions such as the following, from Ian Donnis’s weekly TGIF column on RIPR, partly shocking and partly comforting:

The National Education Association Rhode Island, a influential force in state politics, is likely to support Governor Raimondo for re-election next year. NEARI Executive Director Robert A. Walsh Jr. acknowledges that retired teachers are among those still fuming about the pension overhaul spearheaded by then-Treasurer Raimondo in 2011. Yet Walsh, speaking on RI Public Radio’s Bonus Q&A this week, offered this explanation for why the incumbent Democrat is likely to get NEARI’s support in 2018: “I think that the election of Donald Trump significantly changed the game in this state. It is imperative that the Democrats retain control of the governorship …. My approach to this is a very pragmatic one. You’ve heard me advertise for alternative candidates to the lieutenant governor — ‘come on down, we’ll help you run against Dan McKee [see #4].’ I am not advertising for alternative candidates to Gina Raimondo. We must retain the governorship and we must retain our Democrats elected in the Senate and in the United States Congress. And the Republicans are going to drop money in this state and go after us as a package, so it’s imperative that the team stays in place.”

Here’s one of your state’s two teachers unions: part of the Democrat “team.”  There is no line between the party and the labor union that takes taxpayer dollars and shuffles them back into political activism.

In a healthier society with a greater appreciation for the founding principles of the United States, this would be a scandal — the sort of thing that would be uncovered through an undercover investigative report.  Instead, it’s proclaimed proudly on a publicly subsidized radio station, and nobody in the state but an outré blogger will bat an eye.

I’ve said it before, but it merits repeating: Rhode Island isn’t fully a representative democracy anymore.

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Approval of the Cognoscente Versus Approval of the People

It seems to me that politicians (particularly those on the right) should take data points like this, from Austin Yack on NRO, as justification for further experimentation going against the common wisdom of their Washington–New York social set:

The Republican-majority Congress also polled well. Americans trust Republicans to legislate on issues pertaining to the economy, jobs, immigration, energy, and health care — and, astonishingly, these responses were recorded during the days in which the Congressional Budget Office found that 24 million people will be uninsured by 2026 under the Republican-majority Congress’s health-care plan. Forty-six percent of registered voters approved of the health-care plan; 35 percent disapproved, and 19 percent had no opinion.

Perhaps people are learning that the news media hypes stories from a point of view benefiting a particular political party, not the country, and perhaps people understand that when a country (like a person) has let itself go, getting back on track involves some discomfort.

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Dismissing Factual Claims About the Atmosphere Isn’t Science

Jeff Jacoby has a great column in the Boston Globe about the reasonableness of doubt about extreme climate change claims:

Yet for all the hyperventilating, Pruitt’s answer to the question he was asked — whether carbon dioxide is the climate’s “primary control knob” — was entirely sound. “We don’t know that yet,” he said. We don’t. CO2 is certainly a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, but hardly the primary one: Water vapor accounts for about 95 percent of greenhouse gases. By contrast, carbon dioxide is only a trace component in the atmosphere: about 400 ppm (parts per million), or 0.04 percent. Moreover, its warming impact decreases sharply after the first 20 or 30 ppm. Adding more CO2 molecules to the atmosphere is like painting over a red wall with white paint — the first coat does most of the work of concealing the red. A second coat of paint has much less of an effect, while adding a third or fourth coat has almost no impact at all.

This paragraph reminds me of the time I spent my half hour lunch break from construction sitting in my van on a snowy day arguing back and forth with a PolitiFact journalist about his bogus rating for Republican Congressional Candidate John Loughlin related to global warming.  I forget the specifics, but key was the notion that 94% of greenhouse gases are natural, most of it water vapor.  It’s a notion I first encountered in this 2007 Anchor Rising post by Monique (which she raised as a reminder for years afterwards, as you can see by searching “6%” here).

The reporter took much the same rhetorical approach as those who’ve attacked Pruitt and (I’m sure) Jacoby: dismissal, mockery, and scorn.  As fun as DMS may be, it isn’t science, and it shouldn’t be a basis for public policy that affects people across the globe.

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Yes, Let’s Keep the Rule of Law

Andrew McCarthy has been taking the lead in noting the basic principle behind some of President Trump’s immigration policy:

On Tuesday, John Kelly, President Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security, published a six-page, single-spaced memorandum detailing new guidance on immigration enforcement. Thereupon, I spent about 1,500 words summarizing the guidance in a column at National Review. Brevity being the soul of wit, both the memo and my description of it could have been reduced to a single, easy-to-remember sentence:

Henceforth, the United States shall be governed by the laws of the United States.

That it was necessary for Secretary Kelly to say more than this — and, sadly, that such alarm has greeted a memo that merely announces the return of the rule of law in immigration enforcement — owes to the Obama administration abuses of three legal doctrines: prosecutorial discretion, preemption, and separation of powers (specifically, the executive usurpation of legislative power).

The erosion of the rule of law in the United States (and, of course, in Rhode Island) is a topic on which I’ve written a great deal in recent years.  Note the political dynamic, though:  The Left (encompassing the mainstream media, universities, various supposed good-government groups, and others) is willing to look the other way when the rule of law erodes in ways they like under progressive government, but then they’ll howl if the Right reaffirms the rules and scream if they can so much as insinuate that conservatives are promoting some similar erosion that doesn’t serve the progressive ideology.

Let’s hope the eternal record of the Internet (1) stays free and (2) gives the people an edge against the ideologues by helping us remember what has been said and done in the past.

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Psst… Lack of Mandate Is Not Lack of Choice

The Trump administration’s change of course on the issue of transgender bathrooms (and similar facilities) — sending the question back to state governments — was excellent for illustrating the narrative-driven bias in the news.  The best expression that I’ve seen came from the Newport Daily News, which ran a front-page headline last Thursday proclaiming that “Transgender students lose bathroom choice.”

The McClatchy news service article beneath the headline, however, immediately tells a different story:

The Trump administration Wednesday told public school districts across the nation that they no longer have to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

In the progressive lexicon, when the federal government doesn’t force a position that progressives support, it is automatically forcing the opposite position.  In the terms of the headline, transgender students didn’t lose anything by this decision; rather, states gained a choice.

And what happened?  At least in Rhode Island (which should be the central concern of the Newport Daily News), Education Commissioner Ken Wagner immediately issued a statement to say:

The rescinding of this federal guidance does not change our policy – there is no room for discrimination in our schools, and we will continue to protect all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, from any type of bias.

Of course, what he says isn’t exactly true.  Students who aren’t comfortable sharing bathrooms with those of a different sex are “all students,” but the system is explicitly biased against accommodating them.  If they should be so bold as to express their discomfort, the state government suggests, “administrators and counseling staff” should get involved to change their beliefs.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the state of Rhode Island is perfectly able to continue setting its policy, and several school districts have made a point of proclaiming their agreement.

For some, though, that’s never sufficient.  They are incensed by the notion that people hundreds or thousands of miles away might be able to agree among themselves to disagree with the progressives of Rhode Island.  Our freedom is only ever to agree with the Left.

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Left-Wing Spying Versus Holding Conservatives Accountable

Kurt Schlichter’s style might be described as writing harshly and humorously what many conservatives are thinking quietly and reasonably. A recent column that begins with a comparison of Trump’s relationship with the news media to the, umm, love dynamic in Fifty Shades of Grey is no exception.  This point merits additional thought:

Then there’s the Russians/Flynn nonsense, a non-story that America non-cares about. Oh, there’s a real story there, but the press isn’t interested in that. Here’s the real story – the intelligence community under the Obama administration was obviously eavesdropping on Trump’s campaign in violation of practically every law ever written. Whether it was direct tapping of phones and emails, or illegally accessing the communications swooped up by the NSA in its nets, it’s clear that Obama’s people were spying on Obama’s political opponents. The transcript excerpts of Flynn’s phone call with the Russian diplomat leaked because it could be played off as targeting the Russian, though this was still an outrageous disclosure of American spying capabilities. What these criminals can’t do is release the communications between Americans that they possess because doing that confirms what we all know – that Obama’s people spied on his political opponents like his IRS persecuted them. The only question really is what did Obama know, and when did he know it – interestingly, on his way out the door, Obama made it easy to hide the source of the leaks by opening up access to the information across a bunch of agencies. There’s your story, a scandal that makes Watergate seem microscopic, and the mainstream media will not touch it because it would destroy the media’s political allies.

Conservatives suspect that the reason progressives become so irate when we win offices is that they believe we’ll do what they do.  We won’t, but more importantly (in a practical sense), we can’t.  As Glenn Reynolds periodically writes, if you want accountable, heavily scrutinized government, you have to elect “straight, white, male Republicans,” because the institutions tasked with the scrutiny have been overtaken by progressives and only really scrutinize politicians who fit that profile.

[9:42 a.m., 2/25/17. A quick postscript, in case it’s needed:  I’m suggesting that it’s a bad thing that politicians’ demographic profiles affect how thoroughly they’re scrutinized and what they get away with.  To wit, note how the news media is freshly invigorated to hold President Trump accountable and progressives across the nation are extolling the virtues of Constitutional separations of power and the federalist empowerment of states.  Such sentiments seemed to be anathema to them during the Obama presidency, so if one values the Constitution and federalism, then having a president like Trump is more likely to advance your principles.]

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Projo Catching Up on Illegal Immigrant Benefits; Information Still Partial

It’s always nice to see the Providence Journal catching up on topics that Anchor Rising covered long ago.  Here’s Monique Chartier writing in 2011:

When someone goes to the State of Rhode Island and applies for social services, one of the first pieces of information for which they are asked is a social security number. However, there are instances when the applicant/recipient may not have one (more on that in a sec). When that happens, the staff at the Dept of Human Services is permitted to enter a “666” by-pass number – a nine digit number that starts with 666.

Know how many people are receiving benefits under a 666 by-pass number?

3,388.

And here’s Katherine Gregg writing in the Providence Journal the other day:

The numbers: As of February 8, there were 3,419 people without Social Security numbers listed as receiving benefits by the new state computer system that tracks eligibility determinations and payments of publicly-subsidized benefits in Rhode island, from cash assistance to health care.They have been entered into the state computer system with the code “666” or “000” in lieu of a Social Security number.

That tiny increase brings to mind Monique’s 2011 question: “Are we to believe that there is a steady new batch of 3,300 applicants continuously coming into the system who need to use the by-pass number while waiting for a social security number or a copy of their card to arrive?”

Curious, indeed.  Gregg got the state to insist that “fewer than” 750 of the beneficiaries using the bypass numbers are illegal immigrants.  Per Monique’s earlier question, one wonders to what extent they are the same people receiving benefits six years ago, or whether there’s amazingly consistent churn.

We shouldn’t forget, by the way, that the bypass numbers can’t be the complete count of illegal immigrants receiving benefits.  Consider this recent video of illegal immigrant activist Jose Vargas acknowledging that his grandfather bought him a Social Security Number.  One gets the impression that such things are common, given that Vargas raises the matter as evidence that illegal immigrants pay taxes.

In summary, we still don’t know how much Rhode Islanders are paying for illegal welfare benefits.

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Keeping Information from the Deplorables Constructs a False Reality

CBC Radio Canada News takes up a second-order aspect to a news story about a man who is alleged to have inappropriately touched several teenage girls at a water park in Canada:

When Edmonton police announced the charges on Wednesday, they urged any other complainants or witnesses to contact them. One more complainant and one more witness have since come forward, police spokesperson Scott Pattison said Thursday.

The man charged in the case was a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada in January 2016, a fact that was reported Wednesday by numerous news outlets, including CBC News.

The story was quickly picked up by alt-right websites and anti-immigration groups. It was shared widely on social media.

As CBC tweeted, “When a refugee faces criminal charges, should the public be told?” How can there be any other answer than “yes”?  As reaction to the story has proven, the detail is absolutely relevant to public discourse.  Sure, the new bogeymen on the “alt-right” will attempt to amplify any such stories to advance their own point of view.  But then, failing to report the detail is to aid and abet the “ctrl-left,” by maintaining talking points about how there’s no evidence of any problems with refugees.

The area across Northern America and Europe is sufficiently large that a unified decision among our media betters to withhold information they don’t find relevant in isolated cases could brush away hundreds of stories and present a false impression of reality to news consumers.  It would be Rotherham on a Western Civilizational scale.

A news media that doesn’t trust us to be sufficiently intelligent to absorb and process this information is just feeding us ideological propaganda because they think they’re better than us.  It’s that clear.

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A New Winner for Most Pro-Government-Spin Headline in the Providence Journal?

I’ve been meaning to nominate the headline that the Providence Journal used in its print edition for this article (from the Associated Press):

‘Obamacare’ sees high enrollment

To be fair, the Projo headline writer was taking his or her cue from and amplifying the spin of AP writers, Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar and Kevin S. Vineys who try to slip in the real story in the third paragraph:

Although initial enrollment is about 4 percent lower than last year, the sizable number of sign-ups illustrates the risk Republicans face as they begin moving to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and put in its place a yet-to-be-defined conservative approach.

You can’t get from a 4% drop in enrollment to a headline proclaiming “high enrollment” without being something more like propagandists than journalists.  If I were an objective journalist working for one of these organizations, I’d be furious with my coworkers for undermining our publication’s credibility.

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For the Part of the Country That Sees the Refugee Program as a Danger

Given that every tweet and extemporaneous comment from the Trump administration is being deemed newsworthy even by local papers, this — reported by Leo Hohmann on World Net Daily — would seem worthy of mention:

Doetsch retired about two months ago as a refugee coordinator. One of her assignments was at a United Nations refugee camp in Jordan, from which many of the Syrian refugees are flowing into the U.S. She did three tours of duty, in Cairo, Egypt, dealing with Middle East refugees; in Vienna, Austria, with mostly African refugees coming in through Malta; and in Cuba.

Her letter affirms two-and-a-half years of reporting by WND, which has reported that the “vetting” of refugees from broken countries such as Somalia, Syria and Sudan often consists largely of a personal interview with the refugee. These countries have no law enforcement data to vet against the personal story relayed to the U.S. government about the refugee’s background. Sometimes even their name and identity is fabricated and they have no documentation, such as a valid passport, or they have fraudulent documentation.

We really are dividing into a nation of two realities.  In the case at hand, one part of the country sees the refugee program as a clear vulnerability that has resulted in atrocities in other countries and (at the least) warning signs in the United States; the other part of the country sees it as a way to save good people from a terrible situation at little cost and no significant risk.

This state of affairs might change if the supposedly objective news organizations weren’t so slanted or, alternatively, if their slant were more honestly acknowledged and people felt it their duty to get both sides of every issue.

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