QUOTES OF THE DAY

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Posted on 24th November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

“Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions; they want to be led, and they wish to remain free: as they cannot destroy either one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large that holds the end of his chain.

By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large. This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.”

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

“Another tendency, which is extremely natural to democratic nations and extremely dangerous, is that which leads them to despise and undervalue the rights of private persons. The attachment which men feel to a right, and the respect which they display for it, is generally proportioned to its importance, or to the length of time during which they have enjoyed it. The rights of private persons amongst democratic nations are commonly of small importance, of recent growth, and extremely precarious; the consequence is that they are often sacrificed without regret, and almost always violated without remorse.”

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Defeat of USA FREEDOM Act is a Victory for Freedom

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Posted on 23rd November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

It will not shock readers to hear that quite often legislation on Capitol Hill is not as advertised. When Congress wants to do something particularly objectionable, they tend give it a fine-sounding name. The PATRIOT Act is perhaps the best-known example. The legislation had been drafted well before 9/11 but was going nowhere. Then the 9/11 attacks gave it a new lease on life. Politicians exploited the surge in patriotism following the attack to reintroduce the bill and call it the PATRIOT Act. To oppose it at that time was, by design, to seem unpatriotic.

At the time, 62 Democrats voted against the Act. On the Republican side there were only three no votes: former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), former Rep. Butch Otter (R-ID), and myself.

The abuses of the Constitution in the PATRIOT Act do not need to be fully recounted here, but Presidents Bush and Obama both claimed authority based on it to gut the Fourth Amendment. The PATRIOT Act ushered in the era of warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of our Internet behavior, watering down of probable cause, and much more. After the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know how the NSA viewed constitutional restraints on surveillance of American people during the PATRIOT Act period.

After several re-authorizations of the PATRIOT Act, including some cosmetic reforms, Congress last October unveiled the USA FREEDOM Act. This was advertised as the first wholesale PATRIOT Act Reform bill. In fact, the House version was watered down to the point of meaninglessness and the Senate version was not much better. The final straw was the bill’s extension of key elements of the PATRIOT Act until 2017.

Fortunately, last week the USA FREEDOM Act was blocked from further consideration in the US Senate. The procedural vote was significant and important, but it caused some confusion as well. While some well-meaning pro-privacy groups endorsed the FREEDOM Act as a first step to reform, some anti-liberty neoconservatives opposed the legislation because even its anemic reforms were unacceptable. The truth is, Americans should not accept one more extension of the PATRIOT Act and should not endorse its continued dismemberment of our constitutional liberties. If that means some Senators vote with anti-liberty colleagues to kill the extension, we should still consider it a victory.

As the PATRIOT Act first faced a sunset in 2005, I had this to say in the debate over whether it should be re-authorized:

“When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the emotional aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a sunset provision was inserted in the bill that causes certain sections to expire at the end of 2005. But this begs the question: If these provisions are critical tools in the fight against terrorism, why revoke them after five years? Conversely, if these provisions violate civil liberties, why is it acceptable to suspend the Constitution for any amount of time?”

Reform is often meant to preserve, not repeal bad legislation. When the public is strongly opposed to a particular policy you will almost never hear politicians say “let’s repeal the law.” It is always a pledge to reform the policy or law. The USA FREEDOM Act was no different.

With the failure of the FREEDOM Act to move ahead in the Senate last week, several of the most egregious sections of the PATRIOT Act are set to sunset next June absent a new authorization. Congress will no doubt be under great pressure to extend these measures. We must do our very best to make sure they are unsuccessful!

LIQUIDITY DOES NOT CREATE SOLVENCY

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Posted on 23rd November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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The actions of central bankers around the globe which have been driving stock prices higher are not a sign of control. They are signs of desperation. They are losing control. Their academic theories have failed. Their bosses insist they turn it up to eleven. Something is going to blow. You can feel it. John Hussman knows what will happen. Do you?

That said, it’s worth noting that the inclinations of central banks toward quantitative easing and interest rate suppression are increasingly taking on a tone of desperation in the face of accelerating economic weakness in Japan, Europe and China. While the stated objective is to increase inflation, low inflation isn’t really the economic problem – low growth, intolerable debt burdens, and misallocated capital are at the core of global challenges here. Unfortunately, QE only misallocates capital toward more speculation and low-quality debt (primarily junk and leveraged loan issuance), without much impact on real growth. China’s move was prompted in part by a surge in bad loans to the highest level in nearly a decade. The largest European banks now have gross-leverage ratios as high as 30-to-1 (during the credit crisis, one could order the sequence of defaults accurately using this metric, with Bear Stearns, Lehman, and Fannie Mae right at the top). But liquidity does not create solvency, and with credit spreads widening, the growing desperation of monetary authorities is more a negative signal than a positive one.

This is much like what we saw in 2007-2008: when concerns about default are rising, default-free, low-interest rate money is not considered to be an inferior asset, and as a result, its increased availability does not provoke risk-seeking behavior. If we observe narrowing credit spreads and stronger uniformity in market internals, we will be able to infer a shift toward risk-seeking (and in turn, a greater likelihood that monetary easing will provoke further speculation). That won’t make stocks any cheaper, and downside risk will still need to be managed, but our immediate concerns would be less dire. At present, current market conditions and the lessons of history encourage us to be aware that very untidy market outcomes could unfold in very short order.

The upshot is this. Quantitative easing only “works” to the extent that default-free, low interest liquidity is viewed as an inferior holding. When investor psychology shifts toward increasing risk aversion – which we can reasonably measure through the uniformity or dispersion of market internals, the variation of credit spreads between risky and safe debt, and investor sponsorship as reflected in price-volume behavior – default-free, low-interest liquidity is no longer considered inferior. It’s actually desirable, so creating more of the stuff is not supportive to stock prices. We observed exactly that during the 2000-2002 and 2007-2009 plunges, which took the S&P 500 down by half in each episode, even as the Fed was easing persistently and aggressively. A shift toward increasing internal dispersion and widening credit spreads leaves risky, overvalued, overbought, overbullish markets extremely vulnerable to air-pockets, free-falls, and crashes.

Read all of John Hussman’s Weekly Commentary

The Second American Revolution

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Posted on 23rd November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

Guest Post by Fred Reed

 

An Utterly Objective Analysys

The Revolution of 2019 began, curiously enough, in fall of 2019 when Mary Lou Johnson, the nine-year-old daughter of a ranching family outside of Casper, Wyoming, came home from her sex-ed class at Martin Luther King Elementary with a banana, a packet of condoms, and a book called Sally Has Two Mommies. Her mother Janey Lou, a political reactionary, took one look and began screaming. “Goddamit! Goddamit! I’m not going to take it anymore!”

She grabbed the shotgun, a nice Remington 870 loaded with double-ought buck, and headed for the school.

Historians would debate just what led the surrounding population spontaneously to join her. Much of it seemed to have something to do with the schools. One father reported that he snapped when his daughter came home during Harriet Tubman Week, and he asked her about Robert E. Lee.

“Who?”

Another father, objecting to students who wore low-hanging pants, said, “It’s supposed to be a school, not a frigging proctology workshop.” A common concern was that in a fifth-grade class on Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgendered Rights, the teacher had criticized Primate Privilege, saying that animals had rights too. She then gave the class a pamphlet called Mommy Says Moo. Wyoming was cattle country. Local wives were wroth. They thought it an invitation to infidelity.

There then followed the now-infamous Near Death March, in which the entire faculty of the school was run across the Montana line by infuriated citizens wielding cattle prods. These, dubbed the Poor Man’s Taser, were then turned against anyone associated with the federal government. “The bastards won’t leave us alone. I’m gonna tase’m where the sun don’t shine. They’ll sail back to Washington in one hop like a damn electrified bull frog.”

The uprising, which had started locally with Janey Lou’s shotgun, began to spread both geographically and in its content. Apparently people were fed up with a lot of things. Nobody in government had noticed.

It is now agreed that the catastrophic events which followed occurred in part because Washington, which was celebrating American-African History Week, simply did not recognize the depth of resentment in the country. The city traditionally was inward-looking. Few knew exactly where Wyoming was. Their sources of information were chiefly talking heads talking to each other about each other.

By unfortunate happenstance, the Supreme Court had just issued its landmark decision that public display of the Bible contravened the constitutional prohibition of the establishment of religion. Mere possession, the justices said, would not be sufficient to trip the prohibition and lead to prosecution, but “a reasonable reticence in display” should be practiced. It was agreed that the Holy Book could be carried in a sealed bag with a child-proof lock. That this happened during Moslem Heritage Week further fueled ire among the intolerant.

The Court’s ruling had ripple effects unforeseen in the capital, as most things were. When the rebellion metastasized to Rosa Parks County (formerly Jackson County), Virginia, forty miles outside of Richmond, they were shocked. The provoking incident occurred in Sojourner Truth High School in a rural and not very Reconstructed county.

Specificallly, Johnny Loggins, in the tenth grade, had been issued a condom and, in the back of his African Civilization class, was discovered to be praying for a chance to use it. This also constituted an establishment of religion. He was arrested by several of the thirty-five police patrolling the corridors and remanded for psychiatric evaluation.

Runors flew, fanning the flames. The Democrats, having elected the first black president and then Hillary, the first woman, were said to be looking for a transvestite for 2024. In respect to 2032, the ominous word “trans-phylum” floated about. The people of Casper feared they might have a President who said “Arf,” or perhaps had tentacles.

The insurrection went viral thanks to the internet. Incident followed incident. In Brooklyn on Sixth Avenue, seven teens between the ages of 21 and 28 beat to death a 95-year old white veteran in a wheel chair, shouting “Kill Whitey!” and “That’s for Travon!” and “White dude bleed a lot.” The chief of police undertook a thorough investigation. He reported that there was no evidence of racial motivation. Jesse Jackson said it was unfortunate, but white men in wheel chairs needed to learn not to attack black teenagers.

After an enraged mob of R-Cubed—the movement was now calling itself Rural, Retrograde, and Right, the Three Rs—had surrounded Columbia Teachers College and burned it, Washington recognized that things were getting out of hand. Reporters asked why the arsonists had, well, arsoned Columbia. An irate woman screamed:

“My kid is fifteen, can’t read, and doesn’t know who Thomas Jefferson was but he’s had three different classes on safe anal sex. I didn’t raise him to be an analphabetic butt-plug. Excuse me. I need to find a professor.” She left, brandishing her ball-bat.

Her assertion was not entirely implausible. A recent poll by the New York Times had showed that 87% of college freshmen, or freshpersons, couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean on a map of California, and fully 54% didn’t know what “Ocean” meant. (“Didn’t she sing with Grody Kate and the G-Spots?” asked one female junior.) Others couldn’t identify Jesus Christ, Mother Theresa, or George Washington, but were “sure or almost sure” that they were racists.

Washington was soon surrounded by R-Cubed insurgents, many of whom proved to be well-armed and with military experience. They soon revealed their true colors as homophobes. Rampaging, they burned gay bars such as Moby Dick and The White Swallow, shouting, “We don’t care where you stick it, but we don’t want to hear about it.” Much squealing and a mass exodus followed.

Surprisingly, it was Maxwell Birnbaum, inevitably know as “Ol’ Burn and Bomb,” who led the hous- to-house fighting. He was not a soldier, or ex-soldier, but a classics professor from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. As the Three R’s fought their way through Arlington in the Virginia suburbs of Washington and reached Key Bridge, key to the city itself, Birnbaum told a reporter, “Twenty-five hundred years of European civilization, and we’re going to give it up to people whose Mothers Say Moo? Like hell we are. Did trilobites scuttle the Cambrian seas to bring us Clitler? Hillary, I mean. If they had known, they would have stopped reproducing. I won’t stand for it.”

The rest is well known. Congress in its entirely was slaughtered, and hung upside-down from lamp posts though, unlike Mussolini, they were not emasculated. It was pretty much agreed that they had taken care of this themselves long ago.

Peace returned. Janey Lou put away the shotgun, and made lunch.

TRUE VALUE

14 comments

Posted on 23rd November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

Another Hardscrabble Farmer comment deserving of a post. The idiot who ridiculed him was none other than our dear departed Reverse Engineer.

 

A few weeks back I made mention of a meal I had made that was sourced entirely from the bounty of our land and work. Someone who read it divided the cost by the purchase price of our property and concluded that that single meal cost several thousand dollars to eat as opposed to his 80 cent can of chili. He had made a sound financial decision, I was a fool. If that meal had been the only thing we ever got from our decision to buy this place and become farmers it would have been a foolish purchase indeed. Of course that was a ridiculous analysis of our cost benefit, but he had a point.

Had I ever really looked at the value of what we had decided to do in purely economic terms and was it worth it. As I commented above not everything we do in life can be boiled down to a monetary equation, that there are some investments we make that aren’t denominated in federal reserve notes yet which still bring value to our lives. Not one person responded to that comment and I decided I had been mistaken to leave out the accounting aspect.

Yesterday we took a break from splitting food to go look at a small stand of pine and mixed hardwood hat we had filed an intent to cut on. The piece is oddly shaped with some wet, marshy areas but it makes up the eastern boundary to the property and because of the age and size of the pines on it- over sixty years and close to one hundred feet- it has cast a shadow on a much larger piece of grazing land as well as affect the ph of the soil. We had tagged all the oaks we were leaving as well as the sugar maples and tried to get a count on the board feet the stand contained.

It was nice walk since the ground had frozen and it gave us an opportunity to really get a feeling for how the cut would expand the adjoining pasture. We’d install new fence afterwards, of course, and maybe rebuild a section of rock wall along the neighbors land, but that was work for another time after the timbering was done. The land was on a grade and fell several hundred feet from the northern end to the southern most point. The total acreage was only two and half or three acres at most, but the age of the trees added dimension and gave us enough board feet to equal a stand twice that size.

I mention these things because there is a valuation to them. I have come to a point in my life where I think far less in terms of dollars and cents and more in terms of future yields and fertility. However, after a couple of days of reflection based on some comments I read I thought it might be a worthwhile exercise to try and figure out the dollar amounts connected to this sliver of land and it’s future outputs. The cost of the land was tied up in the original purchase which included the house and buildings. Dividing from the total purchase price by acre would skew the numbers, that and the fact that this particular piece was not prime land, but marginal at best. We had made a purchase of an adjoining parcel a couple of years ago that was similar, so I will rely on that figure for my cost basis.

Let’s say that the approximate value at current rates would be around $2,000. I estimate that we will harvest approximately 25,000 board feet of pine at a current price of $1,800 per one thousand board foot. Our cost for cutting, clearing and trucking are approximately 75 cents a board foot. The town must be paid a tax based on stumpage- in other words for every tree cut whether it is top quality or rotten- leaving us with a total income on the pine of $20,000. From that I subtract 10% for wear and tear on our tools and equipment, gas and oil for the chainsaws, etc. and we are left with $18,000. We’ll harvest approximately 20 cords of firewood @ $300 per cord for an additional $5,400 (minus 10% for expenses noted above). When completed the number of remaining sugar maples with give us an additional 125- 150 taps with a production rate of one gallon per tap, annually. Syrup currently retails for $60 per gallon, $40 in bulk sales so we’ll use an average of $50 per gallon. There are an additional 100-150 taps potentially on that line based on the number of seedling and saplings.

This figure will not generate an income for 15 years, but it is part of the calculation. The remaining oaks each produce enough mast to feed the pigs in the Fall. Calculating the feed rate of mast is next to impossible, but let us assume that out of our total herd size annually, one pig is produced from the nourishment provided in that stand. A single harvested hog will net us $250. This figure is an annuity. When completely harvested and seeded and returned to pasture the total free land will produce approximately 300 bales of hay with one cut, 450 if we get two for an annual average production of 375 bales. The price per bale is currently $4-$5. Less costs in baling (50%) we have a total annual income of just over$2,000. Since we do not sell our hay but use it to feed our livestock based on annual consumption of hay per animal, the hay produced is enough to feed a steer to harvest. Live, on the hoof prices are currently $2.25 per pound. Hanging weight if slaughtered goes for $4.50 per pound and yields 65% of live weight.We harvest at 2 years an under for an average live weight of half a ton. Our average beef income on that single piece of newly cleared land will average $2,500 per year.

You may have noticed that the one figure I do not include is my labor. I do this for several reasons, first because we do not hire labor on our farm, we do it ourselves because we want to and because we love it. If I were living my old life I would have paid someone to let me do what I do now. I no longer belong to a gym and pay dues because I get all the fitness training I need doing what I do and am in better shape than I was when I did belong to a gym. I get all my meals right here and they are both nutritive and delicious. I have a quality of life that exceeds my wildest expectations and that I couldn’t imagine putting a price on, but if I did it would exceed a $20 an hour pay rate. With the exception of two injuries in the past 6 years (broken wrist, distal bicep rupture) I have not been to see a doctor nor have I taken any medication. I don’t know what the savings in health insurance/health care has been, but based on my last plan it is a minimum of 20-30K. So labor, as far as I’m concerned, is a wash.

The cost of the land- the ‘investment” for economic folks- was $2,000. The net return on the one year harvest- will be over $20,000. The annualized returns of the product of that effort- the maple syrup, the beef and pork production sustained by the organic matter of that clearing effort- will be $9,000, in perpetuity.

There are plenty of factors that could affect the annual returns in either direction- if we get a cow calf as opposed to a bull calf she will produce between 10-20 calves during her life greatly expanding our returns on beef. Same for the pigs. If we have a sow who throws two litters per year of 10 piglets we quadruple the return on pork. Of course things could also go the other way if there is a drought (we live on the side of a mountain with numerous springs, streams, wells and cisterns) or if we have severe fluctuations in commodities prices.

If we had taken our lifetime savings and placed them into a 401K rather than our homestead we would still have to live with the risks of the market. We’d still be paying for energy. We still be buying food, paying our mortgage, health insurance and deductibles, water bills, vacations and distractions, health club, etc. I can’t even begin to figure in the benefits this lifestyle has brought my children and our marriage. I spend the majority of my life in the company of the people I love and care for the most, I get to share with them not only the skills and experiences of self reliance, but the health benefits and intellectual stimulation of living in tune with nature and the seasons. By carefully balancing our income with our improvements we can keep our tax burden at a manageable level where as successful consumers it was onerous. We also enjoy some of the finest meals on a daily basis and deep sleep unencumbered by anxiety and the restlessness that attends a sedentary lifestyle.

There is a hidden economy in our world that is ours for the taking. It requires hard work, physically demanding labor and long term planning based on timelines much further apart than paydays. There are fewer opportunities for consumer goods and vacations, we do not clothe ourselves in the latest fashions ( I spent the better part of our Friday date night sewing patches on my overalls while my wife and I talked and enjoyed a glass of wine by candlelight) and we haven’t got any of the I-gadgetry that has been at the center of everyone’s lives these days. What we do have is a life based on the pillars of family, industry and an accord with Nature.

To me there is no more sound investment than that.

FAR FROM ANY ROAD

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Posted on 23rd November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Rogue President

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Posted on 23rd November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Guest Post by Patrick J. Buchanan

 

Rogue President

Asserting a legal and constitutional authority he himself said he did not have, President Obama is going rogue, issuing an executive amnesty to 4 to 5 million illegal aliens.

He will order the U.S. government not to enforce the law against these 5 million, and declare that they are to be exempt from deportation and granted green cards.

Where did Obama get his 4-5 million figure, not 2-4 million, or 5-7 million? Nowhere in law, but plucked out of his own mind, as to what he can get away with. Barack Obama just felt it was about right.

Thus does our constitutional law professor-president “faithfully execute” the laws of the United States he has twice swore to uphold?

Our rogue president has crossed an historic line, and so has the republic. Future presidents will cite the “Obama precedent” when they declare they will henceforth not enforce this or that law, because of a prior commitment to some noisy constituency.

We have just taken a monumental step away from republicanism toward Caesarism. For this is rule by diktat, the rejection of which sparked the American Revolution.

The political, psychological and moral effects of Obama’s action will be dramatic. Sheriffs, border patrol, and immigration authorities, who have put their lives on the line to secure our broken borders, have been made to look like fools. Resentment and cynicism over Obama’s action will be deeply corrosive to all law enforcement.

Businessmen who obeyed the law and refused to hire illegals, hiring Americans and legal immigrants instead, and following U.S. and state law on taxes, wages and withholding, also look like fools today.

Obama’s action makes winners of the scofflaws and hustlers.

Bosses who hired illegals off the books will also receive de facto amnesty. La Raza is celebrating. But, make no mistake, a corrupt corporate crowd is also publicly relieved and privately elated.

Immigrants who waited in line for years to come to America, and those waiting still, have egg on their faces. Why, they are saying to themselves, were we so stupid as to obey U.S. laws, when it is the border-jumpers who are now on the way to residency and citizenship?

When the world hears of the Obama amnesty, millions more from Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East will be coming. And if they cannot get in legally, they will walk in, or fly in, and overstay their visas.

Why not? It works.

That this action will be as much a part of Obama’s legacy as Obamacare is certain. The unanswered question is how the Obama amnesty will be remembered by history.

His aides think that it will be seen as a second Emancipation Proclamation. Perhaps.

But with this amnesty Obama takes custody of and responsibility for the entire illegal population. He is the patron saint of illegal aliens. And for what they do, he will be held accountable, as was Jimmy Carter for the Marielitos Castro sent and Carter welcomed.

If the amnestied illegals contribute to the drug trade and violent crime, that will be Obama’s legacy to his country. If they turn up disproportionately on the welfare rolls, exploding state and federal deficits, that will be Obama’s legacy.

If this amnesty is followed by a new invasion across the border America cannot control, that, too, will be Obama’s gift to his countrymen.

One wonders. Will poor and working class blacks and whites, Hispanics and Asians, welcome this unleashed competition from the amnestied illegals, for jobs where the wages never seem to rise?

In the four decades before JFK, the nation had a pause in legal immigration. During that pause, the Germans, Irish, Italians, Jews, Poles, Greeks and Slav immigrants who had come in from 1890-1920, and their children and grandchildren, were fully assimilated. They had become not only U.S. citizens, but also identifiably American.

The Melting Pot had worked. We had become one nation and one people, almost all speaking the same language, and steeped in the same history, heroes, culture, literature and faiths.

Today, in 2014, after an influx of perhaps 50 million in 50 years, legal and illegal, no longer from Northwest Europe, or Europe at all, but Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, of every race, color, creed, culture and language we seem less a nation than some mammoth Mall of America. An economy, but not a country.

Running in 2008, Obama said he intended to become a “transformational president.” With this decision, he succeeds.

He has accelerated and ensured the remaking of America. Now when the wives and children of the illegals arrive, and their extended families apply for and receive visas, and bring their wives and children, we will become the Third World country of Obama’s dream, no more a Western nation.

But then the community organizer did not much like that old America.

SUNDAY FUNNIES

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Posted on 23rd November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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