Smear Merchants of Twitter

Pointing out the obvious, social media has become a powerful tool for effortlessly spreading information.  Unfortunately, it has also become a powerful tool for spreading disinformation and misinformation.  The comment sections of media websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are filled with what seems like an infinite stream of information – some of it truthful and helpful, some of it contested and heated, and some of it straight dishonest and hurtful.

There are also a wide variety of people spreading the information.  From the average person sharing information with their family and friends, to journalists sharing a news story, to government agencies, to corporations sharing information on their products, etc, etc.  The people I would like to focus on in this article are what I like to call, smear merchants.

There are plenty of investigative journalists who have tried to uncover the web of smear merchants.  For example: George Monibot has written numerous articles that uncovered how Monsanto, and their PR firm, used two fake accounts to falsely discredit findings by a scientist on their GMO corn.  This example of smear mongering shows how powerful interests used anonymity and deceit to protect their interests.

The example of smear merchants I would like to use here is on a more local level, and one that can be witnessed on a daily basis in the Twitter hashtag – #copolitics and #coleg.  These two hashtags are frequently used by Colorado politicians, media, citizens, and interests groups regarding Colorado’s political happenings.

If you spend a few days reading these hashtags you will quickly see the people who are open and transparent (i.e., this is who I am, and this is who I work for).  But you will also see many accounts who use anonymity to spread disinformation.  Who are these people?  Who do they work for?  Or are they just citizens who are afraid to post under their real names?

I can understand the last question.  I used to post under an anonymous name because, well, quite honestly, social media can be a vicious little world, and I felt I was protecting myself by being anonymous.  Whether you agree or disagree with politicians, or activists, or whomever, there is something to say about the courageousness of a person who publicly and transparently says, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, and this is what I am fighting for.”

However, there is no possible way I could concretely answer who the anonymous smear merchants are, or who they might work for.  But what I can do is show you great example of them trying to spread misinformation and disinformation.  The examples are from the Twitter-sphere the day after the tragedy of the Bailey shooting that took the lives of one Bailey police officer, Nate Carrigan, and the occupy activist, Martin Wirth.

I knew right away that I would be seeing the right-wing smear merchants in #copolitics trying to politicize this tragedy as soon as I heard the news.  It started off with this benign, and truthful, tweet.  Wirth was a far-left activist who engaged in extremist tactics.  However, and as you will see below, he does not seem to fit neatly into a binary partisan category.

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The next tweet came from a local rightwing blog called, Colorado Peak Politics.  The article stated something that just is not true, and reveals how little they know of Occupy Denver and its activists – including Martin Wirth.  So I replied with this tweet:

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The first response came from an anonymous Republican smear merchant.  If you read through this guys twitter feed you’ll see that his entire agenda, sun up to sun down, is to smear the Democrats.  Critiquing the other party is all fine and well.  However, the problem arises when the critiques are plain dishonesty.  Thus, the term smear merchant is deserved.

Here is the response I got from the anonymous Republican smear merchant:

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First, his “We are totally clueless” suggests that “Mr. T” is not just an individual  “grassroots activist” who is working alone, as many of the rightwing anonymous trolls in #copolitics like to suggest.  Maybe he’s a contributor of CO Peak Politics, I dunno.

Second, “Mr. T” pulled these two pictures from Wirth’s Facebook account in an attempt to “prove” that Wirth is a supporter of President Obama and the Democrats, and thus the violent act of Wirth was supposedly the result of the rhetoric of Democrats (remember, “Words Matter” as CO Peak Politics stated.)  In other words, he thinks this response to me is game, set, and match.

Well, it’s not.  This false assertion is predicated on him hoping that nobody else bothers to look through Wirth’s Facebook page.  Furthermore, it reveals that he is either being completely dishonest or is incredibly dumb.  Other interactions with him lead me to believe that it is a bit of both.

So, let’s look more closely at the two pictures that “Mr. T” used to try and prove me wrong and continue on with his false claim that Wirth and Occupy Denver “support Democrats.”

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Notice the date on these Facebook posts.  They are both from November of 2012.  So Wirth shows that he supported President Obama and the Democrats in 2012.

However, the interesting thing here is that “Mr. T” had to dig through four years of Wirth’s post to pull these pictures.  This is no small task, as I will show below.  What of Wirth’s political positions for the past four years?  And were there any shifts in his political stance since 2012?  Yes, in fact, there was a massive shift in his stance.

If you go to Wirth’s Facebook page you will notice that he posted stuff on his political views almost daily.  And if you read through these posts you will quickly discover that Wirth no longer supports the Democrats and President Obama.  In fact, you’ll see he vehemently despises them and castigated them on nearly a daily basis.  Ironically, he seems to despise the Democrats just as much as “Mr. T” and his Republican cohorts in #copolitics.

Let me show you some examples:

Here he is calling Democrats as “successful parasites” and that they are “far deadlier” of the two Party “parasites.”

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Here is he explaining why “liberals are worse than conservatives.”

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Here he is calling President Obama a “mass murderer.”

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Here he is stating why he “refuse[s] to vote Democrat.”

 

 

Here he is explaining that he will “vote Republican” and for Trump over a Democrat, specifically Hillary, because of their “murderous immorality”

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Here he is dissing liberal gun grabbers as hypocrites.  (Wirth was a pro-gun advocate)

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There are plenty more Facebook posts like this… but I hope you get the point by now: the Republican smear merchants were 100% wrong to claim that Wirth, Occupy Denver, and the “Democrat Party are in alignment,” as Mr. Viser falsely tried to assert (see below).

 

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Furthermore, Wirth’s posts concretely show that his horrible act of violence was in no way influenced by the rhetoric of Democrats.  Again, what it shows is that CO Peak Politics and the rightwing smear merchants are absolutely clueless about the driving ideologies of Occupy Denver activists and Wirth.

Does this sound like the rhetoric of “gun-grabbing” Democrats?

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Or, does this sound like full on support for the policies and rhetoric of the Democrats?

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What many right-wingers fail to understand (or blind themselves to in an attempt to smear “the other”) in their “critiques” of leftwing activism is that it is not one monolithic bloc of people with a centralized command and control center.

Anybody who has spent any amount of time within the leftwing activists circles, or who has studied leftwing activism, as I have, quickly sees that leftwing activism is composed of loose-knit groups of activists with various different types of leftist ideologies, pursuing various agendas.  If you tried to state that all of these various leftist ideologies lead back to Karl Marx… you would be wrong.

This important reality and understanding of leftwing activism obliterates the simplistic black and white rightwing narrative that “there is no daylight between the Democrat Party and leftwing activism.”  This false narrative, and lack of distinction, makes it much easier for the smear merchants to push the “progressives are all the same and President Obama, the Marxist, is their leader.”

Furthermore, one wonders how “Mr. T” was able to dig through FOUR YEARS of Wirth’s Facebook page and not manage to see the plethora of Wirth’s posts that contradict his attempted smear-mongering.  I mean, partisans have a tendency to dumb themselves down to be “rah rah cheerleaders” for their party.  But is he really that dumb?  Or was he just hoping that nobody else would bother to research Wirth’s Facebook page to see that “Mr. T” was, in fact, spreading disinformation?

Either way, this kind of idiocy, or dishonesty, is why this country is drowning in a sea of misinformation and disinformation.

 

*** UPDATE – 5/16  ***

Just to show that the above example is not one isolated case, I’d like to add one more example of the smear merchants at work.  The past week the GOP smear merchants have been pushing a crazy message written by a gun control supporter who wrote an inflammatory and threatening message to a gun rights advocate.  By all means, the threatening message should be seen as an example of a person who is obviously messed up in the head.  However, the GOP smear merchants want to take it a step further and blame all Democrats and gun control advocates for the acts of one individual (quite similar to what they did above with the Wirth example).

Here is James Viser’s tweet (and this same message in the tweet has been echoing in the halls of Twitter from the cabal of little GOP parrots).

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How are the actions of one individual the responsibility of all?  Did all of the gun control advocates (which to James is basically all of the “statists” Democrats) get together and help this lone individual pen this threatening message?  Are there a plethora of other threatening messages like this from other gun control advocates?  In other words, does this message seem to be a common thing among the messages coming from the gun control advocates?

The irony of the first question is that Mr. Viser is supposed to be a part of the “party of personal responsibility.”  But here he is shifting the personal responsibility of the lone person with a threatening message onto all gun control advocates.

Mr. Viser is essentially trying to falsely state, “They are all like this!”   

Then when a person pushes back against Mr. Viser’s attempt to smear all gun control advocates for the lone actions of one person, he pulls this move.

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The tweeter (Willard M) is pointing out how Mr. Viser (albeit in a snarky way) is wrong to “conflate one unhinged asshole” with an entire group of people.  Instead of seeing how it is wrong to conflate an entire group with the action of one individual, Mr. Viser throws out the “I’m being attacked.”  No, Mr. Viser, you are being called out for falsely trying to conflate the lone actions of one person onto millions of other people.

It is a variation of the same ole schtick as the Wirth example above: Obliterate any important distinctions, which then makes it much easier for smear merchants, like Mr. Viser, to push their false narrative.

And if somebody calls the smear merchants out on their bullshit… play the “Poor me, I’m being attacked by the vicious Left!”

 

UPDATE II – 5/25

 

So these GOP smear merchants are just getting comically sadder by the day.

Here is a tweet from this morning (5/25/16) by Mr. T.

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As stated above regarding Wirth, and can be easily viewed by simply reading through the various Occupy websites, this comment is patently false.  But, here is Mr T., once again, peddling the same disinformation.

But here is where the comical farce goes off the charts.  12 hours later!  Mr T. throws out this tweet about Wirth:

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So……. what is it, Mr. T?  Is Wirth, an Occupy activist, just a “Leftist Democrat” or is he a Bernie toting, Socialist?

Well… again… trying to understand Wirth’s political position only requires reading through his Facebook posts – like the post below — which shows that Wirth wasn’t actually a Bernie Sanders supporter, as Mr T, again!, falsely tries to push above… my god, this guy is just getting so fucking pathetic with his attempted smear mongering.  Perhaps he should just drop this schtick and move along to the numerous other things that Democrats can rightly be accused for.

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Anonymous GOP Trolls are Horrible People

The other day I replied to a tweet about an article on a state Senate Republican who believed that people on Medicaid were just a bunch of moochers.

Here is that tweet:

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The responses I received from the anonymous right-wing trolls on Twitter is now the reason why I am writing this blog.  But before I get into their personal attacks, I would like to write a bit about my personal story to show why their pathetic attacks are ass-sumptious and unfounded.

I went back to college later in life.  Before this I was “living the dream” up in the mountains of Colorado.  I put living the dream in quotations because it is kind of an inside joke for those who have tried to make it up in the mountains.  For most, making it in the mountains generally requires working multiple jobs to survive.

“Living in poverty with a view” was another phrase that often could be heard from the people trying to maintain the mountain lifestyle.  My life’s mantra throughout my 20s was “work to live.”  Thus I worked what felt like every job under the sun as I pursued my dream of becoming a professional athlete.

Not once did I ask for a hand out while I worked my tail off to accomplish my athletic goals.  Well, unless you count the one time I called my dad to ask for some money after I had broken my leg skiing.  But even with this situation I had managed to get a part time office job and used my savings to pay the rent and electricity.  I had no car at the time, so I would walk six blocks on snowy sidewalks with my crutches and a full leg cast to get to work.  Oh, and yes, I had health insurance.

What I am trying to say here is that I have been paying my way in this world since I left my parents house when I was 18 years old.  As I reached my thirties I began to shift my focus from being a professional athlete to trying to find a way to make a decent living in the mountains.  I worked at an e-commerce store part time and became a carpenter.  I was working over 50 hours a week, and one hour a week removing splinters from my hands.  However, during this stint of back breaking work I never managed to get anywhere close to creating long-term financial stability.  Furthermore, I realized that there was no way I wanted to continue destroying my body for the sake of carpentry.  Thus I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to get a college degree.

I went to community college for two years and then transferred into the University of Colorado to finish my undergrad.  It was during my second year of school that President Obama and the Democrats were pushing the ACA through.  I was vehemently against the ACA, and I wrote about why here.

However, after the ACA went into law, I went to the state’s health exchange website to sign up for insurance so that I wouldn’t get a yearly IRS fine.  At this time, I was a full time student, working a low wage part time job (remember, the reason I can’t get a higher wage job is because I didn’t have a college degree), and working part time at an unpaid internship (you know, the wage theft con that supposedly leads to bigger and better things?)  My student loans helped subsidize the rest of my living expenses.  Thus because of these factors I only made a little over $13,000 that year, which then qualified me for Medicaid.  So I took the help, signed up and avoided the IRS fine.  I’ve only been to the doctor a few times for minor illnesses, so I barely even used it.  Nonetheless, Medicaid has briefly helped me.

I graduated last spring, and decided to continue on with graduate work.  I really want(ed) to become a political science professor.  This goal is now becoming past tense because I am not willing to go six figures into student loan debt to become a professor.  I am in the process of dropping out of graduate school and will see where my undergrad degree can take me in life. I have my sights set on working my way into the golf industry, I already work at a golf course in Denver and part time as an Uber driver.  Thus I will be going into the private health insurance exchange soon.

So now that you know a bit about my story on how I temporarily ended up on Medicaid I would like to get into the personal attacks I experienced from the right-wing anonymous trolls.

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First, as I already stated above, I’ve worked paycheck to paycheck since I was 18 years old and haven’t depended on a single government handout.  In other words, I have contributed to society just as much as others.  Second, I am not a liberal.  Third, taxpayers did not buy my degree.  I did!  And I will be paying off the enormous amount of student loans, with interest, for probably the rest of my life.

On to the next idiotic personal attack:

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And next:

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And next:

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So, let’s get into these idiotic comments: Am I to not enjoy any leisure whatsoever in life while I go to school full time and work part time, just because I qualified for Medicaid?  Furthermore, how fucking creepy are these people to dig into my account and use it to attack my personal life.  And apparently these morons think that golfing is an expensive sport.  I guess they’ve never heard of PUBLIC golf courses, buying used gear, and GolfNow deals on cheap tee times.  Plus, it’s free for me because I work at a golf course.  They would understand that if they had simply asked questions about my situation, rather than being ass-sumptious assholes.  But such is the idiocy that rolls out of the Twitter accounts of these horrible anonymous GOP people.

And here is the last idiotic tweet (there were plenty more, to which I happily and aggressively pushed back on my Twitter account):

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Yeah, I’m really stoked to be going so deeply into student loan debt just so that I can be on Medicaid.  And, yeah, I just want to be a “perma Student” so that I can avoid adulthood.  Those last two sentences were sarcasm, ICYMI.  This comment from this horrible person is just so fucking idiotic that I almost don’t know where to begin.

I can’t honestly say what motivates them to be such horrible and ass-sumptious people, but I can say that I think my story threatens their moronic, black and white, worldview.  In other words, the vast majority of people on Colorado Medicaid are not lazy “moochers.”  Furthermore, stating that I’m clueless for putting myself into this situation is another example of how disconnected Republicans are on the higher education situation, to which I wrote about here.

And, ironically, these moronic anonymous GOP trolls probably wonder why so few of the younger generations vote for their candidates.  Well, why would anybody vote for the assholes who ass-sumptiously castigate others as “moochers” as they sink deeply into student debt in an attempt to improve their lot in life, or work full time low wage jobs to support a family?

Yes, I qualified for Medicaid because I chose to support myself through my college education on part time work/student loans. Will I always be a “moocher” who qualifies for Medicaid?  Nope.  Am I really just going to school to be a “perma student” to avoid adulthood?  No, that’s an incredibly pathetic insult.  I’m going to school because I am dealing with a world that requires a higher degree to get somewhere better in life.  I will also slowly and methodically pay off the massive amount of student loan debt that I am in.  And as I now enter into the private work force with a higher degree, and eventually a bigger salary, my Medicaid benefit will end.

However,  I am thankful that Colorado medicaid helped me temporarily while I worked to better my life.  And I will gladly pay it forward to other people in our society with my future increased tax payments.

And to those who castigate my road to an attempted better life and career while temporarily getting help from government: go fuck yourself.  The GOP party is disintegrating in front of our eyes because of these kinds of incredibly moronic & disconnected viewpoints on the vast majority of American lives.  Good riddance!

Yours truly,

Mark Olson

 

UPDATE on 5/1:  I am about to get hired by a great company, with a good starting salary and great benefits.  I will soon no longer be a Medicaid recipient, thus proving why people like Senator Wood’s stereotype of Medicaid recipients, and the horrible anonymous trolls who support her, are often wrong.

 

The Disconnected Republicans on Student Debt and Tuition

Disconnected

 

Saying that Republicans are disconnected regarding the problematic issue of student debt and high tuition costs might be too kind, or maybe it could be considered as painting with a broad brush stroke.  I’ve watched most of the Republican presidential debates and haven’t heard any discussion about the problem.  And once in awhile I hear comments from Republicans who claim the problem of high tuition costs is the result of bloated administration costs, or because student aid and federal loans are increasing tuition costs.

So do most Republicans believe that student debt and high tuition costs are really not that big of a problem?

I decided to write this blog for a few reasons.  The first is because, well, I’m a graduate student – and soon to be dropping out because of high tuition costs and student loan debt.  Thus I’d like to share my personal experience of the problem, and many of my classmate’s experiences.

The second reason is because I’ve had enough of listening to an older generation of Republicans who think the students who are talking about the problems of high tuition costs and student debt are “would-be socialists” who are simply “whining” about their situation.  I give you exhibit A, just in case you think I am making this up.

Exhibit A:

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In a crude way, the above comment would likely get a big “fuck you, asshole” from a few students.  However, that would only mimic the childish comment above.  So instead I’ll calmly and rationally explain why people like Mr. Turnquist are wrong-headed for saying these types of ridiculous things.

Calling anybody who raises the issue of student debt and high tuition costs as “would-be socialists” is, well, red-baiting, and is a pathetic attempt to undermine people who are raising a very legitimate problem.  But, more importantly, this kind of comment from the older generations of “libertarians” and Republicans show how incredibly disconnected they are from the issue.  Let me explain why.

I remember sitting in the Colorado state capitol last year listening to Republican Senator Tim Neville explain why capping interest on student loans “wasn’t the job of government,” and how when he was a kid he paid his way through college.  I had researched the problems of higher tuition costs for a project of mine, so I would have loved to counter his rather simplistic explanation for why he was against helping students.  But, that really wouldn’t have mattered because every single bill that Democrats bring to the floor regarding helping students this past few years has been blocked by the Republicans – even the bills that get an overwhelming majority of citizen and expert support during committee hearings.

For starters, Senator Neville and anybody who went to college in the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s, went to school during a time when the state and federal governments heavily funded public education, thus making it cheap.  Republican arguments, like the one above from Paul Campos, will tell you that government actually funds public education at a higher rate than before.  This is somewhat correct; however, what the argument doesn’t mention is that the amount of funding per pupil has actually decreased.

A great example of this decrease in government funding can be seen in this report by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.  This report clearly shows how when the state of Colorado decreased its funding by 32% over a five-year period that tuition rose nearly the same amount at public universities.  In other words, the five years of cuts to higher education funding by the state legislature translated to higher tuition costs for students.  Thus students needed to take out larger loans to help pay for higher tuition costs.

The other interesting thing that the report shows is how capital construction costs used to be funded by the state as well.  However, this funding was replaced by “student fees.”  These student fees are costs incurred by the students that are above and beyond the cost of tuition.  So not only are today’s students having to pay much more of their share of tuition costs than did the older generations, but they also have to help pay for capital construction costs. (**note how this funding for capital construction costs increased in 2014. This was because the Democrats were able to get SB14-001 passed.)

Thus, it is a terrible irony that Senator Neville and other Republicans suggest that government should not be involved in public higher education when, in fact, the very reason many of the older generations were able to pay their way through college was because, well, government was involved.

Furthermore, this “I paid my way through college when I was a kid” also overlooks the problem of the cost of housing and the minimum wage during these times.  The minimum wage in 1970 was $1.60 per hour, and today it is $7.25 per hour.  Thus minimum wage has increased about 353%.  This seems like a healthy increase.

However, you start to see the Republican disconnect when you look at the overall increase in the price of higher education and the cost of housing.  In other words, the math just doesn’t add up.

In 1970, the average tuition cost for a year was $1,287.  In 2007, the average tuition costs for one year had risen to $11,034.  This equates to a 994% increase in the cost of tuition for a four year degree!  In Colorado, this excludes the 32% rise in tuition over the eight years, so it is now over 1000% more expensive than in 1970.  On top of this, the median cost of a house in 1970 was $23,600.  And in 2011 (after the housing downturn) the median cost of a house is $240,100.  This is an increase of 917%.

One of my professors told me how he rented a studio across the street from DU campus when he was getting his PhD in the late 1990s for only $250.  A student today would be lucky to rent a studio for less than $900 in the same area.

The math is pretty easy to figure out that it is now impossible for today’s students to do as the older generation was able to do.  Today’s students can no longer work a minimum wage summer job, nor even a full time low wage job, to pay for tuition and housing costs.  Thus the only way for most of today’s students to pay for a very expensive higher education is through student loans.

Furthermore, the generations who are shackled with student loan debt are struggling to buy new homes, cars, and whatnot.  I have two close friends (one who makes $60,000 per year, and the other who makes $53,000 per year) and neither of them can afford to buy a home because, well, their monthly student loan payments are about the size of a mortgage.  Thus, economic growth in this country is being stifled by student debt.  This really isn’t rocket science.  It’s Economics 101 – which Republicans ironically claim that only they understand.

Suggesting that students are just “whining” about their situation and only want “free candy” shows how utterly disconnected Republicans are from the problems of student debt and higher tuition costs.  Worse, students are working their butts off to better their lives.  I can attest to this because I worked nearly full time to put my self through school.  Thus the last thing they, and I, need to hear as we accomplish this task is the insulting comments rumbling out of the Republican ranks.

What is the solution?  Well, for starters, society certainly needs to start an honest discussion about higher education.  And suggesting that students are just “whiny,” or “wanna-be socialists,” or “lazy kids looking for free candy” is not the way to start that discussion.  It actually stifles discussion.

These kinds of disconnected and insulting comments also show why the younger generations are flocking to support Senator Bernie Sanders.  Now maybe you don’t believe Bernie’s plans for a tuition free public education is feasible at this time, but at least Bernie has the courage to speak honestly about a very serious problem.

So maybe it is time for Republicans to head on down to college campus’ and get connected to students and actually listen to their real life experiences, rather than throwing out childish insults, and simplistic “government is the problem” arguments.

 

Yours truly,

Mark Olson

PS, I have no copy editor, nor do I swim in the donor pools who will give me money to shill for their interests.  Thus my perspective and any grammatical errors above are all mine.