Daily Archives: May 21, 2010

See, admire, eat

You wan some hippo with that rat?

Chinese zoo displays animals and serves them up too. In a sign, perhaps, that times might be changing in the Ancient Kingdom, it’s not just occidentals who are objecting.

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Rand Paul and the Commerce Clause

Paul’s in a no-win situation here: the use of the Commerce clause to impose a national minimum wage and, later, the Equal Accommodations Act was of dubious constitutionality, but in law school, the issue was (fiercely) debated only after we students had spent hours reading case law and legal treatises. In today’s television culture, you have five seconds to state your case and it comes out as “he’s against civil rights”.

I posted on this subject a couple of weeks ago but here’s a more articulate discussion from the Wall Street Journal.

Read the whole thing (search Google news if you aren’t a WSJ subscriber and you’ll get around the paywall) but here’s an excerpt:

In tea-party circles, Mr. Paul’s views are not unusual. They fit into a “Constitutionalist” view under which the federal government has no right to dictate the behavior of private enterprises. On the stump, especially among tea-party supporters, Mr. Paul says “big government” didn’t start with President Obama, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society of the 1960s or the advance of central governance sparked by World War II and the economic boom that followed.

He traces it to 1937, when the Supreme Court, under heated pressure from President Franklin Roosevelt, upheld a state minimum-wage law on a 5-4 vote, ushering in the legal justification for government intervention in private markets.

Until the case, West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, the Supreme Court had sharply limited government action that impinged on the private sector, infuriating Mr. Roosevelt so much that he threatened to expand the court and stack it with his own appointees.

“It didn’t start last year. I think it started back in 1936 or 1937, and I point really to a couple of key constitutional cases… that all had to do with the commerce clause,” Mr. Paul said in an interview before Tuesday’s election, in which he defeated a Republican establishment candidate, hand-picked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.).

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Funniest headline of the day

In victory for Obama, court bars detainees’ challenges

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that three men who have been detained by the United States military for years without trial in Afghanistan have no right to challenge their imprisonment in American courts. The ruling was a broad victory for the Obama administration in its efforts to hold terrorism suspects overseas for indefinite periods without judicial oversight.

Readers with a long memory will recall that a previous president, one George W. Bush, was likened to Hitler for his treatment of terrorists. This new policy, of course, is much more enlightened and thus subject to no criticism.

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Katie catches venomous bullet ants

Kat Fountain and new friends

She would never do it, but I say, ship them to Pakistan!

When I was too young to know any better, I used to wander around my mother’s garden [what am I, chopped liver? Ed] and collect bees in jars. This was my source of entertainment for several summers in a row. I always let them go, of course, and can’t recall ever being stung. Of course… I once invited to my friend to join me on one of my trapping excursions and she was immediately stung by a struggling honey bee. It wasn’t her fault, she was an amateur. So when my friend Frank asked me to collect some bullet ants from the forest so he could study the venom it brought me skipping down memory lane. Lucky for him, we share the same insect permit so taking them to Lima will not be a problem.

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Paki Major, rich caterer arrested in Times square bombing plot

No surprise that a Pakistani army officer was involved in plotting to kill us, but check out the American – educated caterer – can we please stop claiming that it’s poverty and despair that drives these killers? They hate us, and want to destroy us, period. Let us reciprocate.

Mr. Khan graduated from the University of Houston in 2000, having majored in computer science, and then returned to Pakistan to work in the family’s catering business, his father said. Since graduating, he had not returned to the United States and he was married three years ago, his father said.

Rana Ashraf Khan described his son as religious, but “definitely not an extremist.” Asked if his son had negative feelings toward the United States, he said: “To be honest, yes. But that is common.”

“I am shocked,” he said of the accusation that his son was connected to the Times Square bombing, saying that his son had organized 900 catering events in the last six months, some for as many as 2,000 guests. The father said his son and his son’s wife lived with him in the family home in a comfortable section of Islamabad.

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Not much of a getaway vehicle

Shoplifter flees police in wheelchair, apprehended two stores down.

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Demmerkrats crown Blumenthal

Harvard Swim team Captain (oops! Not!) Dick Blumenthal runs for Senate

A contemptuous act. The Dick’s only opponent, Merrick Albert, was forbidden to address the convention and withdrew from the contest. They may call themselves Democrats, but they aren’t interested in democracy.

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D.C. Cops escort union protestors into private Maryland neighborhood so they can protest

It’s coming down to class warfare: unions against the rest of us.

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Jack Weinstein – my kind of judge

This 88-year-old federal judge (father of local real estate developer Seth Weinstein, who redid the Showboat into the Delamere Hotel, among many, many projects) has handed down a lot of decisions I disagree with but by God, he is principled and determined and unafraid of taking a stand when he thinks the law is unfair. I’m just sorry he’s 88, because we probably can’t count on him standing up for his principles for that much longer.

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Live blogging from the Demmerkrat Convention in Hartford.

(Sgt.) Ick Blumenthal edges out Frankie Fudrucker in race to Convention Center

We’re “here”, and what fun! We’ll be channeling Fudrucker mentally, ninety-miles-away, and reporting on a virtual reality basis from Hartford. So far, the big news is that Sgt. Blumenthal is dismissing still more stories of his posing as a war veteran. “That is so yesterday”, he says, and means it literally.

Update: Blumenthal’s dredged up the real captain of Harvard’s Swim team, Peter Alter:

2010/05/21 at 12:14 pm

But Waterbury native Peter Alter, who was [emphasis added] the captain of the Harvard swim team in 1968, the year after Blumenthal graduated, told the Courant this morning that Blumenthal was on the team.

He was a freestyler and “was actually a pretty good one,” said Alter, now a lawyer in Glastonbury who still on occasion talks to Blumenthal.

Alter said he talked to Blumenthal a few years ago, when both of them were at a function. The two men joked about the inaccurate references to Blumenthal being the team captain. The attorney general told Alter “he had no idea where it came from.”

“He said he had tried to figure out where it had started and that he had never claimed to have been the captain,” Alter said.

Funny how Sgt. Ick never corrected all these inaccuracies in stories that “somehow” got it wrong. I stand by my own friend, who heard this nonsense from the son of a bitch for fifteen years, but regardless: Blumenthal claims to have never read the articles that gave him credit for serving in Viet Nam or captaining the Harvard swim team – this preening egotist read every single word – in fact, he stripped naked and rolled around in the newsprint – and never thought to call the reporter to correct either lie. He “had no idea where it came from”. I do.

UPDATE II, 2: 59

Blumenthal drops trou in Convention Center parking lot, says he’s sorry.

UPDATE: Slate has nothing nice to say about Sgt. Ick.

Today, Blumenthal rebutted the Times story. Let’s look at the rules he has enforced on others over the last year or so and see how his rebuttals compare.

1. Beware those who exploit veterans. Last year, Blumenthal denounced “exploitive, poorly managed or even fraudulent fundraisers” who raise money in the name of veterans. He warned the public to donate only “to well-known organizations with a history of helping veterans.”

Today, to dispel the allegations against him, Blumenthal stood in front of veterans at a press conference and boasted: “They’ve heard me again and again and again stand up for justice and fairness to our veterans.”

2. Blurring is lying. Last fall, Blumenthal launched an investigation of food companies that put a “Smart Choices” logo on their products. He called the labels “potentially misleading” and decried marketing gimmicks that “blur or block the truth.” Though the labels made no explicit claims, he protested that they “misguided” the public and sowed “confusion.” He pledged to teach companies, through his investigation, that “labeling must be completely truthful and accurate without hype or spin.” And he depicted the industry in the harshest terms: “Big Food has been feeding big lies to consumers about nutritional value.”

Today, Blumenthal said he merely “misspoke” about his service, using the wrong preposition in a small and “unintentional” oversight.

3. Fudging is cheating. Two months ago, Blumenthal announced “a crackdown on companies that illegally misclassify employees as independent contractors.” This wasn’t a debatable distinction, he argued: It was an outrage and a crime. “Misclassification is cheating—plain and simple,” he preached. “I will fight to stop companies from falsely claiming their employees are independent contractors. …”

Today, Blumenthal proudly declared, “I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”

4. Failure to state the truth clearly is trickery. Last summer, Blumenthal won a $50,000 fine against a company that collected goods for charity. He blasted it for “prominently displaying charitable and service organization logos on its boxes while failing to state clearly that it keeps most of the proceeds.” He called the firm an “imposter” and condemned its behavior as “reprehensible trickery.”

In another case, Blumenthal sued a charity telemarketer for “failing to clearly and conspicuously state its name and its paid solicitor status.” He argued that the firm had “listed its true name and solicitor status in barely legible print on the back of its mailing, effectively concealing its identity and purpose.”

Today Blumenthal brushed away his inaccurate remarks about Vietnam as “a few occasions” compared with “hundreds” (including this one) in which he had told the truth.

5. Good faith is no defense. In March, a court agreed with Blumenthal that R.J. Reynolds had run misleading ads about a new tobacco product. The court concluded:

At bottom, although Reynolds’ marketing of the Eclipse cigarette was ultimately misleading and deceptive because the support relied on was scientifically and medically insufficient, there was no “bad intent” and in fact a deliberate, indeed considerable effort to develop and sell a tobacco product which might potentially do some good for some smokers, and more likely than not do no additional, or different harm.

Did Blumenthal cut the company any slack for its good intentions and efforts? Not a bit. “The court rightly found RJR’s ads deceptive and disingenuous, falsely stating that Eclipse is safer than other cigarettes,” he charged. “I will continue fighting Big Tobacco’s snake oil sales strategies that mislead consumers about the dangers of smoking. We will seek strong and significant sanctions against RJR in the upcoming penalty phase.”

Now, in defense of his statements about Vietnam, Blumenthal argues, “My intention has always been to be completely clear and accurate.”

6. No misrepresentation is too small to prosecute. Last fall, Blumenthal threatened legal action against a hotel and a musical performance company for calling their tribute show “An Evening With the Platters.” He said it was “unclear” whether the company owned the rights to the Platters’ name. After the hotel backed down and renamed its show “A Tribute to the Platters,” Blumenthal declared victory but warned, “I will continue fighting to enforce Connecticut’s truth-in-music law.”

Today, Blumenthal accused his critics of nitpicking his record and missing the big picture.

7. You’re responsible for monitoring things written by others that serve your interests. For more than a year, Blumenthal has hounded Craigslist to “scrub” and “rid” its site of porn and sex ads posted by users. Brushing aside the company’s pleas that it can’t police everything, he has subpoenaed documents and instructed the company to “immediately hire staff to screen for” offensive ads and images. Two weeks ago, he demanded: “Describe in detail the manual review process craigslist has created to screen posts in the adult services section, including … the number of individuals assigned to review postings and the name of any company craigslist has or will contract with to perform this function.”

Today, when Blumenthal was asked why he had failed to correct erroneous reports that he had served in Vietnam, he replied: “I can’t be held responsible for all the mistakes in all the articles—thousands of them—that are written about me.”

8. Claims of virtue deserve investigation. In February, Blumenthal urged Connecticut authorities to “investigate the validity of claims by electric suppliers and generators about their reliance on renewable energy sources.” Some companies, he observed, claimed to exceed (not just meet) the state’s renewable-energy requirements, “and they advertise these claims in order to lure environmentally conscious consumers.” While offering no evidence of deception, Blumenthal called on regulators to “investigate when companies claim to exceed these standards.”

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This is how civilization ends

In Baghdad, a writer’s home is destroyed.

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Maybe David Brooks gets it after all

He’s not my favorite columnist but when my liberal ol’ Ma points it out as making sense, I listen, and read.

But Ben worked hard and graduated with decent grades and then studied at East Stroudsburg University and the University of Phoenix.

That wasn’t easy either. Ben would like to have majored in history, but he needed a skill so he studied hotel management. Others spent their college years partying, but Ben worked hard. After graduation, he got a job with a hotel chain. A few years later, he got a different job and then a different one.

He didn’t have lifetime security or a fabulous salary, but Ben worked. He filled in for the night manager, hired staff and cleaned up the breakfast area when that needed doing.

In other words, in school, he labored when others didn’t. At work, he sacrificed when others didn’t. He bought a house he could afford when others didn’t.

This wasn’t a robotic suburban life. It was a satisfying, moral way of living. Ben lived according to an ethos of what you might call “earned success.” Arthur Brooks has a good description of this ethos in his new book “The Battle.” As Brooks (no relation) observes, the key to happiness is not being rich; it’s doing something arduous and creating something of value and then being able to reflect on the fruits of your labor.

For Ben, right and wrong is contained in the relationship between effort and reward. If people do not work but get rewarded, that’s wrong. If people work and do not get rewarded, that’s wrong. But Ben believed that America is fundamentally a just society. He loved his country because people who work hard can usually overcome whatever unfairness is thrust in their way.

But when Ben looked at Washington, he saw a political system that undermined the relationship between effort and reward. People in Washington spent money they didn’t have. They just borrowed it from the Chinese. People in Washington taxed those with responsible homes to bail out people who’d bought homes they couldn’t afford.

People in Congress were caught up in a spoils system in which money was taken from those who worked and given to those with connections. Money was taken from those who produced and used to bail out the reckless, who were supposedly too big to fail.

This was an affront to the core values of Ben’s life.

Once there was a group in the political center that would have understood Ben’s outrage. Moderates like Abraham Lincoln believed in the free labor ideology. Their entire governing system was built around encouraging labor and rewarding labor.

But these days, the political center is a feckless shell. It has no governing philosophy. Its paragons seem from the outside opportunistic, like Arlen Specter, or caught in some wishy-washy middle, like Blanche Lincoln. The right and left have organized, but the center hasn’t bothered to. The right and left have media outlets and think tanks, but the centrists are content to complain about polarization and go home. By their genteel passivity, moderates have ceded power to the extremes.

So when Ben looked around for leaders who might understand his outrage, he only found them among the ideological hard-liners. In Arkansas, he saw a MoveOn candidate, Bill Halter, crusading against the bailouts and the spoils culture. On the right, he saw the Tea Party candidate Rand Paul crusading against runaway spending and debt.

Ben wasn’t naturally an extremist sort of guy. He didn’t live his life for politics or go in for the over-the-top stuff he heard on talk radio. But he did have some sense that the American work ethic was being threatened by debt and decadence.

It was going to take spit and vinegar to turn things around. So he voted for one of the outsiders. This is not time for a tinkerer, he figured. It’s time for a demolition man.

In a few years’ time, Ben is going to be disappointed again. He’s going to find that the outsiders he sent to Washington just screamed at each other at ever higher decibels. He’s going to find that he and voters like him unwittingly created a political culture in which compromise is impermissible, in which institutions are decimated by lone-wolf narcissists who have no interest in or talent for crafting legislation. Nothing will get done.

In a few years’ time, Ben is going to look for something else. It will be interesting to see if, by that time, any moderates have had the foresight and energy to revive and define the free labor tradition — a tradition that uses government to encourage work, to reward work, and to uphold the values at the core of Ben’s life.

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Chicago politics

How is this different from what Blagojevich  tried in Illinois?  Obummer offered Sestak Secretary of the Navy position if he’d drop challenge to Arlen Specter.

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Big market comeback? I doubt it.

BusinessInsider says the market’s back I don’t believe you guys down there on Wall Street are going to go home long this weekend, so I’m betting (figuratively) that the Dow crashes this afternoon.

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You say you want a revolution

Cos Cobber sends along an Op-Ed piece from Mort Zuckerman, of all liberals!

California is a horrible warning of how dreams can turn to dust. In most states, politicians face a contracting local economy and shortfalls in tax receipts. Naturally, they look to cut expenses but run into obstruction from politically powerful unions that represent state and local government employees, teachers and health-care workers who have themselves caused pension and health-care insurance costs to soar. It is not an accident that in framing the national stimulus program in 2009 Congress directed a stunning $275 billion of the $787 billion as grants to the states to support public-service employees in health care, education, etc.

The lopsided subsidies for pension and health costs are a large part of the fiscal crises at the state and local levels. The subsequent squeeze on education and infrastructure investment is undermining the very programs that have made it possible for our economy to grow.

Between New York and California, the projected deficits run about $40 billion—and that doesn’t account for projected billions of dollars in the operating deficits in the states’ mass transit systems or the multibillion-dollar unfunded liability in many of the state pension plans. New York would be badly hit because it is on the verge of being deprived of tax revenues by Washington’s increased regulations on the financial industry, especially the hugely profitable, multitrillion-dollar market in derivatives—an industry that is critical to the economy of New York state and the country.

City government was developed to serve its citizens. Today the citizenry is working in large part to serve the government. It is always hard to shrink government spending. It is particularly difficult when public-sector unions have such a unique lever of pressure.

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When a lawyer’s retainer solves problems

Gene Marconi, lawyer for the Connecticut Association of Realtors, offers great advice to agents but also, from experience, buyers and renters too. Marconi points out that, when it costs money to sue each other, people usually manage to settle their dispute short of the court house steps. That’s always been my advice.

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All Blumenthal, all the time

Minnesota Peg sends along this link to a WSJ editorial:

Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic Senatorial candidate from Connecticut, is in trouble this week for lying about having fought in Vietnam. The former Marine reservist admits he “misspoke” on several occasions about his military service and is otherwise unapologetic, but the revelation has thrown open a race that Mr. Blumenthal appeared to have in the bag.

Since Connecticut voters are suddenly focused on Mr. Blumenthal’s résumé, they might also like to learn more about his record in public life. Since 1991, Mr. Blumenthal has been the Nutmeg State’s Attorney General, earning a reputation for aggressive, politically tinged and high-profile prosecutions. He has accused hundreds of people and businesses of misrepresentation and fraud that is often less egregious than his own untruthful claims.

Mr. Blumenthal has made his crusading ways a large selling point in his bid to replace the retiring Chris Dodd. The state press generally goes along. He deflects criticism that his methods scare investors and jobs away from the state, and he even says that his prosecutions bring in revenue by coercing fines out of companies.

“To blame law enforcement for unemployment is beyond wrong, it’s silly and shouldn’t be given any credibility,” he said earlier this year. One of his Democratic opponents, Merrick Alpert, cracked in response that, “Lawsuits don’t create jobs, entrepreneurs create jobs.”

To understand the Blumenthal method, consider his case against Gina Kolb, formerly Gina Malapanis, and her small computer supplies company, Computers Plus Center Inc. In 2003, the Attorney General alleged that Computers Plus had failed to install proper “network interface cards” in the machines it supplied under a $17.2 million state contract, which was cancelled.

Mr. Blumenthal first filed a civil suit against Computers Plus for $1.7 million—announced, of course, at a press conference featuring himself. “No supplier should be permitted to shortchange or overcharge the state without severe consequences,” he said then. The following year, the state escalated with a criminal case and police arrested Mrs. Kolb at her home on seven first-degree larceny charges punishable by up to 20 years in jail. More toughly worded press releases followed from the prosecutor.

Mrs. Kolb refused to take a plea in the civil case. On the criminal charges, she took part in the state’s accelerated rehabilitation program. She didn’t admit guilt, and upon completion of the program her record was wiped clean in 2008. Mrs. Kolb countersued the state for violating her constitutional rights, abusing its power and ruining her business. This January, a jury agreed that Mr. Blumenthal made false claims about Mrs. Kolb and her business, awarding her $18 million. So much for Mr. Blumenthal making money for Connecticut taxpayers.

The AG has challenged the verdict, but the Kolb case fits a pattern that the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson calls “bullying, legally ill-founded ventures into litigation.” From his leading role in the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s to trying to repossess bonuses to AIG executives, Mr. Blumenthal has cultivated a reputation as the Eliot Spitzer of Connecticut. In 2007, the Competitive Enterprise Institute rated Mr. Blumenthal the worst state AG, beating Mr. Spitzer, which takes some doing.

He was the only AG to get failing grades in each of the four categories: using his office to “promote personal gain or enrich cronies or relatives”; “fabricating the law” by asking courts to “rewrite statutes or stretch constitutional norms”; bringing lawsuits “that usurp regulatory powers granted to the federal government or other state entities”; and “seeking to regulate conduct occurring wholly in other states.”

Which does not mean Mr. Blumenthal can’t show prosecutorial discretion when he wants to. Last year, he went on television to announce that he wouldn’t investigate Countrywide Financial’s sweetheart loans to Senator Dodd, nonetheless declaring without any probe that “there’s no evidence of wrongdoing on [Mr. Dodd's] part.”

Much like Mr. Spitzer’s cavorting with prostitutes while he was New York’s chief law enforcement officer, Mr. Blumenthal’s Vietnam fabrications reflect a larger problem with his public character. Rather than apologize for imagining a war record, the AG copped only to “a few misplaced words” that he said were “totally unintentional”—and he even held his news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.

Mr. Blumenthal’s Vietnam problem is all too typical of a sense of entitlement and impunity that has built up over many years of exercising vast power with little restraint. This is not the kind of character that will change Washington.

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Spanish “Green Jobs Program”, Obama’s model for U.S., a complete bust

Again – I have stopped believing that these guys are just stupid and am becoming convinced that they are determined to bring our country to ruin in order to impose a new order. I mean, they can’t be this clueless, right?

Spain admits failure of green jobs program.

As predicted was inevitable, today the Spanish newspaper La Gaceta runs with a full-page article fessing up to the truth about Spain’s “green jobs” boondoggle, which happens to be the one naively cited by President Obama no less than eight times as his model for the United States. It is now out there as a bust, a costly disaster that has come undone in Spain to the point that even the Socialists admit it, with the media now in full pursuit.

Breaking the Spanish government’s admission here at Pajamas Mediaprobably didn’t hurt their interest in finally reporting on the leaked admission. Obama’s obvious hope of rushing into place his “fundamental transformation” of America into something more like Europe’s social democracies — where even the most basic freedoms have been moved from individuals and families to the state — before the house of cards collapsed has suffered what we can only hope proves to be its fatal blow. At least on this front.

La Gaceta boldly exposes the failure of the Spanish renewable policy and how Obama has been following it. The headline screams: “Spain admits that the green economy as sold to Obama is a disaster.”

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I stopped going to movies when tickets hit ten bucks

$20 for Shrek? Back when I had a life, a night out at the movies was hugely expensive, between baby sitter, dinner and movie tickets. And when ninety per cent of the movies we saw were simply awful, a night at the movies became a thing of the past. Now they want twenty bucks per? Not from me, that’s for sure.

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The Dali Lama is a complete moron

“I’m a Marxist” he claims (while collecting $75 a head from idiot followers who paid to hear him).

He said some friends tell him not to mention that “still, I am Marxist” — because he believes the goal of many Western democracies is “only how to make profit,” creating economic inequalities that contribute to social ills.

But in practice, he added, Marxism as applied by authoritarian governments,[emphasis added] such as China’s, is oppressive, because it lacks an independent judiciary, a free press and human rights for his fellow Buddhists in Chinese-governed Tibet.

Funny how that “in practice” part hasn’t worked out so well, your holiness. Marxism, which can only be imposed by “authoritarian governments”, sent at least 120 million souls on their reincarnation ride in the last century, but you see no connection between the theory and the practice? Fat, giggling idiot.

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