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Logic of Kerry criticisms

Election 2004 John Kerry 2004

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#1 Delvo

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 08:16 PM

The two main criticisms I hear about Kerry are that he flip-flops and that he's extremely liberal, just about the most liberal Federal politician there is. I usually don't worry about supposed contradictions like this because it generally turns out that they come from two different people, but in this case I've sometimes heard one person make both statements.

How does one flip-flop and yet be one of the most liberal (or conservative or whatever) senators? If one's flips are liberal, one's flops would be something other than liberal, would they not?

Is it supposed to be that his voting is liberal and his words don't match his votes? Is it supposed to be that he votes inconsistently when it doesn't matter (votes on minor issues, premilinary quasi-votes leading up to the real main votes, votes on whether to include extras in a bill versus on the whole final bill) and liberally when it does? Is it that he flip-flops for the public but sticks to the left when at work in the Senate? Is it that he believes in his liberal flips and doesn't believe in the unliberal flops? (I'd also include the option that his positions are all liberal even when they contradict, but there aren't enough cases of liberal positions contradicting other liberal positions to create many flip-flops from that alone... however, maybe if his flips are ultra-leftist and his flops are more mildly liberal or occasionally moderate at most, then the math would work...)

This is another example of Republican and conservative ineptitude at this politics stuff even when they have good opportunities; either one of these two cases wouldn't be hard to make, and you could even do both at once if you separate them ("he's a left-winger this way and a flip-flopper that way"), but to just leave them both out there allows them to bump into each other, and you cant bet I'm not the only potential voter who's noticed and gotten annoyed by the appearance of contradiction...

#2 Rhea

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 03:07 PM

The whole flip-flop thing is a crock. But now that the Republicans have chosen that as their watchword, they use it even when it's inappropriate.

One of the examples (out of many) of rampant Republicano propaganda about Kerry is the whole business about how he voted 10 times to cut defense spending - he actually only voted one time against against an ENTIRE appropriations package that happened to include defense spending and which, incidentally, Cheney also voted against.

I'll see if I can find a link to the Time Magazine article I read - I was sitting in the doctor's office when I read it, so I don't remember which issue.

Edited to add: Forget it! I'd have to pay to access it.  :suspect:

I can give you a good "for instance" - saying that Kerry was for the war in Iraq and flip-flopped now that he opposes it. Most of the Senate voted for the war because they were given faulty information and intelligence on which to base their votes - as it became clear that we are making a mess of it and that the information on which their votes were based was flawed, a number of Senators have changed their minds. That's not flip-flopping - that's Senators who are just as pissed off as many of the rest of us that they were lied to.

Edited to change b*llsh*t to propaganda per mod request :p~

Edited by Rhea, 28 April 2004 - 12:14 PM.

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#3 GiGi

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 03:36 PM

I am personally really sick of the use of the word "liberal" as if this were the McCarthy era and it is the equivalent of the wor "commie."  It has no place in an intelligent debate, therefore I have nothing to say here.

For the record I would feel the same if the word in question were "right-winger" or "red-neck" as well.
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#4 Delvo

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 06:00 PM

Well, after having watched the flip-flop thing in particular to try to figure out why they say that, I have figured it out. It's a way of pointing out Kerry's lies without using the word "lies". The idea isn't that he really changes his mind about things; it's that he's consistent in what he believes but unwilling to stand for it, so he tries to make himself seem not to believe what he believes.

I can understand why they would want to point this out without using the word "lie", but, when that really is your point, you might as well just say it. Anything else just makes it look like you're squirming and playing word games with the truth yourself, especially when it sets up an apparent contradiction with the other main criticism of the same person... like I said, incompetent politics.

Edited by Delvo, 28 April 2004 - 06:00 AM.


#5 prolog

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 09:23 AM

GiGi, on Apr 22 2004, 08:34 PM, said:

I am personally really sick of the use of the word "liberal" as if this were the McCarthy era and it is the equivalent of the wor "commie."  It has no place in an intelligent debate, therefore I have nothing to say here.
It has every place in an intelligent debate, but only if the person using can outline the basic tenets of classical liberalism.

#6 Rov Judicata

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 09:29 AM

prolog, on Apr 28 2004, 07:21 AM, said:

GiGi, on Apr 22 2004, 08:34 PM, said:

I am personally really sick of the use of the word "liberal" as if this were the McCarthy era and it is the equivalent of the wor "commie."  It has no place in an intelligent debate, therefore I have nothing to say here.
It has every place in an intelligent debate, but only if the person using can outline the basic tenets of classical liberalism.
Well, that's problematic. The way that 'liberal' is used in American politics has very little to do with the classical definition of the word. Indeed, I've seen it argued that it would be more proper to call the republicans liberal, in the classic sense of the word. As one for instance, it's pretty clear that Republicans are more sympathetic to neoliberal economic assumptions.

The bottom line is, though, that I try to avoid using the word liberal. It simply means too many different things to be useful.

GiGi-- Well, the reason it's used is as a form of political othering. Since so few Americans self-identify as liberal, it's simply smart politics to give him that label. It forces Kerry into the awkward question of dancing when asked, "Are you a liberal?". It doesn't make much sense, but it is good politics.

Edited by Javert Rovinski, 28 April 2004 - 09:30 AM.

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#7 prolog

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 09:39 AM

And to put in my own two cents:

If someone votes against some sort of military spending package in what, 1984?  Almost *twenty* years later, he votes to authorize force in Iraq.

So what?

Is that a flip-flop?

No, it isn't.  Aristotle, in writing one of the most famous works of philosophy ever known (the Nichomachean Ethics), wrote that in attempting to find the mean between excess and defect to which our actions should aim, people should act on perceptions (knowledge):

"to what degree and how seriously a man must err to be blamed is not easy to define on principle. For in fact no object of perception is easy to define; and such questions of degree depend on particular circumstances, and the decision lies with perception." (Nichomachean Ethics, II.ix.8)

In plainer terms, "circumstances influence actions".  Objective thinkers don't formulate their world-view at eighteen and then stick with it for the rest of their life.  They allow circumstances to provide evidence such they they may make a rational decision.

For example, say that I am told x, and given excellent evidence that x is true.  In the absence of knowledge about not-x, why should I not believe x?  And similarly, if in the future I learn that what I was told about x was misleading, and untrue, why shouldn't I believe not-x?  That's not a "flipflop", as is such a popular term now; that's acting on best knowledge.  Bush and co. may not be proud, but Aristotle might be.  I know who I'd rather side with.

(edit: it's early, and my grammar's awful)
(second edit: spelling, too)

Edited by prolog, 28 April 2004 - 10:22 AM.


#8 prolog

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 09:41 AM

Javert Rovinski, on Apr 28 2004, 02:27 PM, said:

prolog, on Apr 28 2004, 07:21 AM, said:

GiGi, on Apr 22 2004, 08:34 PM, said:

I am personally really sick of the use of the word "liberal" as if this were the McCarthy era and it is the equivalent of the wor "commie."  It has no place in an intelligent debate, therefore I have nothing to say here.
It has every place in an intelligent debate, but only if the person using can outline the basic tenets of classical liberalism.
Well, that's problematic. The way that 'liberal' is used in American politics has very little to do with the classical definition of the word. Indeed, I've seen it argued that it would be more proper to call the republicans liberal, in the classic sense of the word. As one for instance, it's pretty clear that Republicans are more sympathetic to neoliberal economic assumptions.

The bottom line is, though, that I try to avoid using the word liberal. It simply means too many different things to be useful.

GiGi-- Well, the reason it's used is as a form of political othering. Since so few Americans self-identify as liberal, it's simply smart politics to give him that label. It forces Kerry into the awkward question of dancing when asked, "Are you a liberal?". It doesn't make much sense, but it is good politics.
You're right, Rov - it's excellent politics.  That said, it's scummy, and further dilutes a perfectly good word used by many generations of political philosophers.  That's really too bad.

#9 GiGi

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 10:00 AM

Well put Rov and Prolog, I am in agreement with both of you.
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#10 Delvo

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 10:56 AM

prolog, on Apr 28 2004, 08:37 AM, said:

And to put in my own two cents:

If someone votes against some sort of military spending package in what, 1984?  Almost *twenty* years later, he votes to authorize force in Iraq.

So what?

Is that a flip-flop?
Nobody's claimed that it was. When they talk about flip-flopping, they use other examples, not that one. That one is used for making a different case.

#11 Delvo

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 11:00 AM

I'm tired of this nonsense about "liberal" being such a horrible mean nasty name, or meaning too many different things. It means only wanting to solve problems with government-funded programs and high taxes. There's no mystery about it. Yes, there is disagreement on the policies themselves, so non-liberals are bound to point out a liberal opponent's liberalism. So what? Isn't political debate SUPPOSED to be about the actual issues? If liberals don't like being described according to their own political positions, the problem is theirs, not the fault of a perfectly succinct and usable word that is NOT used as they keep dragging out the tired complaint that it is. "Conservative" would be the same way, and you don't see conservatives whining about what a cruel word it is, because it's just calling them what they are. The only problem on that side is simple the fact that it's more often turned into something else like "ultra-conservative" or "right wing" (when was the last time you heard "left wing" or ultra-liberal"?), not the basic word itself.

#12 Uncle Sid

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 11:21 AM

Well, it is true that the term 'liberal' has meant something completely different in the past than what it does now.  About the only thing you can say, at this point is that 'liberal' means means 'not conservative' and even that could be a stretch.  

There are some things today that we consider to be 'conservative' which would have been quite 'liberal' even as little as a few decades ago.  

That said, the terms can be descriptive, but you have to narrowly define the parameters of your discussion before using them.  Frequently, this is not done well enough, and it leads to an often confusing use of the terms.

It's like the Nazis (National Socialists) and the Soviets (Communist Socialists), they were both socialists, but they hated each other's guts.  Thus, calling one side or another "socialists" wouldn't have really been very useful, except in comparing them to truly non-socialist groups.

Edited by Uncle Sid, 28 April 2004 - 11:24 AM.

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#13 prolog

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 11:48 AM

Delvo, on Apr 28 2004, 03:54 PM, said:

prolog, on Apr 28 2004, 08:37 AM, said:

And to put in my own two cents:

If someone votes against some sort of military spending package in what, 1984?  Almost *twenty* years later, he votes to authorize force in Iraq.

So what?

Is that a flip-flop?
Nobody's claimed that it was. When they talk about flip-flopping, they use other examples, not that one. That one is used for making a different case.
Actually, I've heard that one come up more than once.  What are the other ones he uses?

#14 prolog

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 12:05 PM

Delvo, on Apr 28 2004, 03:58 PM, said:

I'm tired of this nonsense about "liberal" being such a horrible mean nasty name, or meaning too many different things. It means only wanting to solve problems with government-funded programs and high taxes. There's no mystery about it. Yes, there is disagreement on the policies themselves, so non-liberals are bound to point out a liberal opponent's liberalism. So what? Isn't political debate SUPPOSED to be about the actual issues? If liberals don't like being described according to their own political positions, the problem is theirs, not the fault of a perfectly succinct and usable word that is NOT used as they keep dragging out the tired complaint that it is. "Conservative" would be the same way, and you don't see conservatives whining about what a cruel word it is, because it's just calling them what they are. The only problem on that side is simple the fact that it's more often turned into something else like "ultra-conservative" or "right wing" (when was the last time you heard "left wing" or ultra-liberal"?), not the basic word itself.
Succinct?  You have to be kidding me.  As Uncle Sid pointed out, the word seems to mean "not conservative" in the U.S (that's his definition).  There's also your definition of "It means only wanting to solve problems with government-funded programs and high taxes."  Others take it to mean giving people the freedom to succeed or screw up on their own, without government interference; a devotion to free-market capitalism (classical liberalism).

So as you can see, it doesnt mean "only" one thing, and it's a very sticky word, and people play on that stickyness.  That is why people don't want to be described by it - because people don't really understand what it means, and take it as some sort of horrible insult.

Don't believe me?  This is well-established in politics.  Consider the 1950 Florida senate race.  George Smathers accused his rival, Claude Pepper, of having gone to college and openly "matriculated"; he also accused Pepper's sister of being a "thespian".

Smathers won the election.

And actually, Delvo, I hear the term "left-wing" all the time.  Here in Canada it's often applied to the NDP by various parties - including NDP supporters themselves (though to be fair, the modern NDP is really just centre-left, whereas the NDP that came from the old CCF was, in fact, radical).

#15 Delvo

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 12:12 PM

prolog, on Apr 28 2004, 11:03 AM, said:

Others take it to mean giving people the freedom to succeed or screw up on their own, without government interference; a devotion to free-market capitalism (classical liberalism).
What it once meant at some point in the past is irrelevant. And bringing it up now, when its actual meaning is quite different, is nothing but one of those smokescreens used by liberals who don't want attention to be paid to their own actual policies.

#16 prolog

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 12:23 PM

Delvo, on Apr 28 2004, 05:10 PM, said:

prolog, on Apr 28 2004, 11:03 AM, said:

Others take it to mean giving people the freedom to succeed or screw up on their own, without government interference; a devotion to free-market capitalism (classical liberalism).
What it once meant at some point in the past is irrelevant. And bringing it up now, when its actual meaning is quite different, is nothing but one of those smokescreens used by liberals who don't want attention to be paid to their own actual policies.
Ha!  An Ad Hominem!  Beautiful!

The fact is, Delvo, words can have multiple meanings, and "liberal" is one of these words.  You think those definitions aren't used?  That's BS.  If you read any academic literature in political philosophy or political science, I can assure you that the definition of "liberal" used will likely not be yours.  And though I can't speak for Europe, I know for certain that in Canada, "liberal" has no venom to it (unless it's "Liberal", in which case there's a lot right now - but that's a political party).  I guess I should be thankful of that.  Repeat after me: the U.S. is not the world.

#17 Delvo

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 12:55 PM

prolog, on Apr 28 2004, 11:21 AM, said:

Ha!  An Ad Hominem!  Beautiful!
Trying to get me to change the definition to "people who make wild false ad hominem accusations like ^^that one^^ all the time"?

Quote

I know for certain that in Canada, "liberal" has no venom to it
Ditto about the USA. That's the whole point. Some American liberals just say it does.

Quote

Repeat after me: the U.S. is not the world.
Well, that has nothing to do with anything we've been talking about, and is quite obvious, so its only apparent purpose would seem to be to imply that I'm too stupid to have already known something so obvious. But no, it must be something else; there's no way you could possibly be doing anything ad hominem here, right? :sarcasm:

Edited by Delvo, 28 April 2004 - 12:58 PM.


#18 Rhea

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 01:02 PM

prolog, on Apr 28 2004, 08:46 AM, said:

Delvo, on Apr 28 2004, 03:54 PM, said:

prolog, on Apr 28 2004, 08:37 AM, said:

And to put in my own two cents:

If someone votes against some sort of military spending package in what, 1984?  Almost *twenty* years later, he votes to authorize force in Iraq.

So what?

Is that a flip-flop?
Nobody's claimed that it was. When they talk about flip-flopping, they use other examples, not that one. That one is used for making a different case.
Actually, I've heard that one come up more than once.  What are the other ones he uses?
I would like another example, as well. I hear a lot about flip flops, but that's generally the only example given.
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When I don’t understand, I have an unbearable itch to know why. - RAH


Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.  - RAH

#19 prolog

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 01:15 PM

Quote

Trying to get me to change the definition to "people who make wild false ad hominem accusations like ^^that one^^ all the time"?

Do you know what an ad hominem is?  It's when, instead of actually debating, you attempt to attack the person with whom you're debating.  Like, I don't know:

"And bringing it up now, when its actual meaning is quite different, is nothing but one of those smokescreens used by liberals who don't want attention to be paid to their own actual policies"

Well, I guess we'd better not have any discussions trying to get at the truth of things, then!  Oops!  My bad.  I guess I'm just a liberal who doesn't want attention to be paid to my own actual policies.  Time to go home.  I'll take my ball, please.

Quote

Well, that has nothing to do with anything we've been talking about, and is quite obvious, so its only apparent purpose would seem to be to imply that I'm too stupid to have already known something so obvious. But no, it must be something else; there's no way you could possibly be doing anything ad hominem here, right? :sarcasm:

There is something else.  It has everything to do with what we're talking about.

Are we talking about the definition of "liberal"?  Yes.

Am I trying to convince you that there are other usages of the word besides the one you use?  Yes.

Is giving you examples of other places in which the term is used useful for trying to convince you that there are other usages of it?  Yes.

Let me quote a previous quote of yours:

"It means only wanting to solve problems with government-funded programs and high taxes. There's no mystery about it."

In this, you clearly state that there's "no mystery" about the definition of the term, and give your definition.  It would appear that you believe that the only modern definition is yours, given your statement that, "What it once meant at some point in the past is irrelevant.", as well as, "And bringing it up now, when its actual meaning is quite different...".  You're clearly arguing for a single definition of the word, given "its actual meaning" (singular).

I admit that "repeat after me" was condescending.  Sorry.  But my point remains: different areas of the world use different definitions of the word.  Thus, my comment to you that "The U.S. is not the world" is not an Ad Hominem, since it illustrates my example that different parts of the world have different definitions.

Christ.

#20 Rov Judicata

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Posted 28 April 2004 - 01:20 PM

Rhea, on Apr 28 2004, 11:00 AM, said:

I would like another example, as well. I hear a lot about flip flops, but that's generally the only example given.
Here's one of my favourites; it's John Kerry talking about the '92 presidential primary on February 27, 1992:

Quote

Mr. President, I also rise today--and I want to say that I rise reluctantly, but I rise feeling driven by personal reasons of necessity--to express my very deep disappointment over yesterday's turn of events in the Democratic primary in Georgia.

I am saddened by the fact that Vietnam has yet again been inserted into the campaign, and that it has been inserted in what I feel to be the worst possible way. By that I mean that yesterday, during this presidential campaign, and even throughout recent times, Vietnam has been discussed and written about without an adequate statement of its full meaning.

What is ignored is the way in which our experience during that period reflected in part a positive affirmation of American values and history, not simply the more obvious negatives of loss and confusion.

What is missing is a recognition that there exists today a generation that has come into its own with powerful lessons learned, with a voice that has been grounded in experiences both of those who went to Vietnam and those who did not.

What is missing and what cries out to be said is that neither one group nor the other from that difficult period of time has cornered the market on virtue or rectitude or love of country.

What saddens me most is that Democrats, above all those who shared the agonies of that generation, should now be refighting the many conflicts of Vietnam in order to win the current political conflict of a presidential primary.

The race for the White House should be about leadership, and leadership requires that one help heal the wounds of Vietnam, not reopen them; that one help identify the positive things that we learned about ourselves and about our nation, not play to the divisions and differences of that crucible of our generation.

We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways. Someone who was deeply against the war in 1969 or 1970 may well have served their country with equal passion and patriotism by opposing the war as by fighting in it. Are we now, 20 years or 30 years later, to forget the difficulties of that time, of families that were literally torn apart, of brothers who ceased to talk to brothers, of fathers who disowned their sons, of people who felt compelled to leave the country and forget their own future and turn against the will of their own aspirations?

Are we now to descend, like latter-day Spiro Agnews, and play, as he did, to the worst instincts of divisiveness and reaction that still haunt America? Are we now going to create a new scarlet letter in the context of Vietnam?

Certainly, those who went to Vietnam suffered greatly. I have argued for years, since I returned myself in 1969, that they do deserve special affection and gratitude for service. And, indeed, I think everything I have tried to do since then has been to fight for their rights and recognition.

But while those who served are owed special recognition, that recognition should not come at the expense of others; nor does it require that others be victimized or criticized or said to have settled for a lesser standard. To divide our party or our country over this issue today, in 1992, simply does not do justice to what all of us went through during that tragic and turbulent time.

I would like to make a simple and straightforward appeal, an appeal from my heart, as well as from my head. To all those currently pursuing the presidency in both parties, I would plead that they simply look at America. We are a nation crying out for leadership, for someone who will bring us together and raise our sights. We are a nation looking for someone who will lift our spirits and give us confidence that together we can grow out of this recession and conquer the myriad of social ills we have at home.


We do not need more division. We certainly do not need something as complex and emotional as Vietnam reduced to simple campaign rhetoric. What has been said has been said, Mr. President, but I hope and pray we will put it behind us and go forward in a constructive spirit for the good of our party and the good of our country.

Kerry has used Vietnam so frequently and so loudly that it hardly seems necessary to cite examples; however, if you like, I can certainly dig a few up.

One of my other favourite examples concerns the Gulf War in 1990, where John Kerry sent two letters about his position to one constituent. Unfortunately, one was the 'for' letter and one was the 'against' letter:

Source: http://www.post-gaze...29roddycol1.asp

Now, granted, Kerry didn't send the letters himself, obviously… but somebody up the chain of command must have approved the two different versions, and I sincerely doubt that they made a new form letter without at least consulting him.

That being said, the 'liberal flip-flopper' reputation is overblown; it was just this year's script. You'll notice that Dean got the same treatment when he looked unstoppable. The difference is that Kerry seems pathologically incapable of helping himself. As a candidate, Kerry's true sins are failing to distinguish himself from the opposition and being reactive rather than proactive...

Edited by Javert Rovinski, 28 April 2004 - 01:24 PM.

St. Louis must be destroyed!

Me: "I have a job and five credit cards and am looking into signing a two year lease.  THAT MAKES ME OLD."
Josh: "I don't have a job, I have ONE credit card, I'm stuck in a lease and I'm 28! My mom's basement IS ONE BAD DECISION AWAY!"
~~ Josh, winning the argument.

"Congress . . . shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis[.]" ~1 U.S.C. § 1, selectively quoted for accuracy.



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