Beware the Plutocrat

Spring elections, for the most part, are low-keyed events and they should be. These races are largely local and should come down to shoe leather campaigning and not floods of expensive direct mail. But now, thanks to Citizens United, money is flowing into several of these races in Milwaukee form a single source and a bad precedent is being set. We firmly believe that these municipal and county races should be very much about issues around filling potholes, keeping up the quality of our schools and maintaining fair and efficient courts. This is why we are taking a stand against County Executive Chris Abele’s massive infusion of cash into selected races.
First, we do not want to impune any legitimate candidates who may have inadvertently gotten caught up in this. To the best of our knowledge, however, none of them has spoken out against Leadership Mke, Abele's PAC that is spending more than $500,0000 in their support. Here is what we do know:
  • Chris Abele asked someone to run against Theo Lipscomb.  He told the woman that she would not have to worry about finances. She shared these details the day after she received the call.  She turned him down.
  • Another person shared that she has received two calls where the caller claimed to be conducting a survey funded by and on behalf of the County Board of Supervisors. "When I told him that I intend to vote for Lipscomb he launched into a long list of Lipscomb's faults.  According to this guy, Lipscomb is self-serving, costing us money, cutting care and services, etc.  His opponent, of course, he described as stellar."

If these kinds of tactics scare you as much as they scare us, join us tomorrow, March 28, 2018, to let Leadership Mke and Chris Abele know that we stand against his attempt to buy himself a County Board that will be his rubber stamp.  In a Democracy, dissent is vital.  We have seen all too graphically what happens when one party buys itself both the Executive and Legislative Branches of Government.  Don't let Milwaukee County go the way of Madison and Washington. Let's show them what Democracy Looks Likes.

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We're Making Waves

Before anything else we must apologize to The League of Women Voters for misrepresenting their position.  Please read the full statement here.

Last week saw another red district turn blue with Connor Lamb's election in Pennsylvania. His win would not have happened if a lot of people had not worked very hard. We can only do this if everyone out there works. We have momentum but that alone is not enough. There is a rule of thumb in campaigning that it takes five touches to be certain someone will vote and touches are interactive, not static.  An ad doesn't count. A Facebook post does not count. A touch is a conversation, a personal connection.  If we want to make sure that Rebecca Dallet wins on April 3, we have to put in some time. Please, help us make sure that Rebecca Dallet is elected to the State Supreme Court.  Here are the things that you can do:

  • Call five friends.  Talk to them about Dallet and ask them to call five more people. If you don't feel like you know enough, that is easily remedied. 
  • We are making calls and writing postcards. Sign up to help with that effort.
  • Make sure everyone you know is registered to vote.  If someone isn't, help them register here.
  • On April 3, become really obnoxious about making sure that everyone votes. We Dems have a horrible voting record for anything other than the Presidential election. We must change that.

Save the Date for Our Next Event, Sunday, April 29

Focus on Immigration

“What then is the American, this new man? I could point out to you a man whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations….The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles…. This is an American.”  Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur (1770, approx.)

Find out how to affect the national conversation about immigration and immigrants who depend on receiving the same opportunities offered to our forefathers. Join us on Sunday, April 29th at 4:30 for a night focusing on the past and present of immigration in the United States.

  • Hear knowledgeable speakers – Professor Rachel Duff (History Department, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee); Ms. Kelly Fortier (Immigration Lawyer), and a representative from Voces de la Frontera.
  • Bring and share an ethnic finger food (savory or sweet) as we contemplate how much poorer life would be without the different cultures that comprise the United States.
  • Connect your personal immigration story with the national crisis to see where we have been, where we might go, and how immigration affects us all.
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We Apologize to League of Women Voters

The March 13th edition of the Grassroots North Shore (GRNS) Newsletter included an item titled DID YOU KNOW? The material was to inform readers about the referendum question on the April 3rd ballot that seeks the removal of the State Treasurer position. The article used educational material regarding the Referendum that was developed by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin (LWV WI) that was intended for use in the voter and candidate guides prepared by local Leagues. It was not clear to us that this information was meant for limited use.   Also, the article was structured in such a way that the distinction between the LWV WI's language and that of GRNS was not clear and easily could have led readers to misinterpret the position of LWV WI. On Saturday, January 20, 2018, The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin’s Board of Directors voted to not take a position: LWV WI is not advocating for or against this referendum. The writer apologizes to the League for the inappropriate use of their material and any confusion the article may have caused regarding their stance on the referendum. An apology is also extended to the Newsletter's readers and to the membership of GRNS. Pat Slutske



Did you know?


Over the past several years our current state administration has quietly been stripping away the duties of the State Treasurer. Now, following a familiar playbook, they are saying that the position of Treasurer no longer has enough official duties to warrant its existence, and, therefore, should be eliminated. The end result would be to further concentrate power and give top members of the Walker administration even more control. To that end, they have put a Referendum Question on the April 3rd ballot.

 The League of Women Voters provides the following information regarding that referendum.

Wisconsin Constitutional Amendment - Elimination of state treasurer

What it will say on the ballot

At the April 3 Spring Election, all Wisconsin voters will be asked to vote on the question:

Elimination of state treasurer. Shall sections 1 and 3 of article VI and sections 7 and 8 of article X of the constitution be amended, and section 17 of article XIV of the constitution be created, to eliminate the office of state treasurer from the constitution and to replace the state treasurer with lieutenant governor as a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands?

What the state treasurer does

The state treasurer is a partisan office. The current duties prescribed by WI law include signing certain checks and financial instruments and helping publicize the state's unclaimed property program (the program is managed and advertised by the Department of Revenue). Per the constitution, the treasurer serves along with the attorney general and secretary of state on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.

The Board manages the state's remaining trust lands (more than 77,000 acres of forest), manages trust funds (more than $1 billion) primarily for the benefit of public education, and maintains the state's archive of 19th-century land survey and land sales records.

What this referendum vote would do

This amendment would complete the transfer of financial duties from an independent elected official to agencies under the control of the governor. Supporters of the amendment contend that there are no remaining responsibilities that justify a separate office. Opponents are concerned about the consolidation of power in the executive branch.

Two successive legislatures voted to put this question to voters (as required by the Wisconsin Constitution). The decision made by voters on April 3rd is binding.

What a Yes or No vote means

"Yes" vote means the voter agrees that the constitutional position of state treasurer should be abolished.

"No" vote means the voter wants to retain the constitutional position of state treasurer.

Show the administration we know what they are up to: vote NO.

On March 24, 2018, the students from the Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland Florida are staging a march in Washington, D.C.:  they call it a March for Our Lives.  Students from across the country will be massing to stage similar events in support of that effort.  Here in Wisconsin, they will be gathering in Madison, and then marching fifty (50) miles to Paul Ryans home in Janesville.  To learn more, go to their


Many thanks to Pat Slutske for this week's content

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What you can do to get ready for the upcoming election

On April 3, we will go to the polls again.  There seems to a fly in the election ointment.  I was speaking to a friend who regularly works the polls at Webster Middle School. He noted that when working the February Primary there were around 200 fewer names on the roster than during the previous election. Yes, people move and people die, but 200 from a single location? Before we do anything else we must protect our access to the ballot.  To do that go to  Make sure you are listed.  You can also get an absentee ballot if you want.  Let's be honest, though, our readership may not be the demographic that is targeted. So, share this information with your friends and on social media. We cannot allow our Democracy to be hacked.

Next, you can help elect Judges who respect the people of our community. Others prefer to protect the NRA and we have seen all too graphically where that leads.

This coming Sunday Grassroots North Shore will be holding an event, Rescuing Wisconsin. 

Five “knights in shining armor,” willing to take the time, money, and effort required to run for office will be at the Grassroots North Shore Candidate Forum on Sunday from 4:30 to 6:15, on March 11th (at North Shore Presbyterian Church in Shorewood).

* Rebecca Dallet, Candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court

* Andy Lamb, running against Jim Ott, Assembly District 23

* Chris Rahlf, taking on Rob Brooks, Assembly District 60

* Emily Siegrest, challenging Daniel Knodl, Assembly District 24 and

* Josh Kaul, running against Brad Schimel, Attorney General

Of these only Rebecca Dallet will be on the April 3 ballot.  Come meet Judge Dallet and, if you like what you hear as much as we do, help get her elected. We have three actions planned in her support:

  • We will be making calls from both the GRNS office on five separate dates.  You can also sign up to make calls from a member's home in Whitefish Bay.
  • Sign up for one of Ozaukee County's days of action and talk to voters.
  • We will have postcards (stamp included) for you to send to friends in support of Judge Dallet.

In addition, we will have three stellar candidates who are running for the State Assembly and Josh Kaul for Attorney General. 

So, if you haven't RSVPed yet, do so NOW.

See you all this Sunday.

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Thank you to Pat Slutske for today's opener:

In his book, On Democracy, political theorist Robert A Dahl provides a great deal of information about the prerequisites, characteristics, and benefits of democracy. Among his five prerequisites for a democratic process are voters with enlightened understanding. Recent elections have revealed, if not produced, a phenomenon referred to as the low information voter. A person who may vote, but who is generally poorly informed and/or misinformed about politics; who has little interest or understanding of political affairs; who rarely watches the news; and who can't name major political figures or national events yet vote anyway on this limited knowledge basis. (Dahl, Robert A., On Democracy, Yale University Press, 1998.)

Despite their glaring lack of knowledge or interest, they are the people who could be heavily tapped into in coming elections. Making them into voters committed to a candidate can be accomplished in several ways: wow them, woo them, manipulate them, or educate (enlighten) them. To wow a low information voter, simply provide them with a charismatic, cool or celebrity candidate - they will be drawn to these superficial characteristics and become loyal adherents. To woo them, drop them some crumbs about how the candidate is in support of what they hold dear – like, let’s say, social issues. And while wooing is to an extent a form of manipulation, it is subtle. Overt manipulation involves using catch words and phrases, symbols, or, if you will, dog whistles, to capture their attention so that the rest of the message is internalized without being given any thought. This is how information not based in fact becomes gospel.

But note that Dahl considers enlightened voters as a requirement for democracy. People who have been able to access factual information from a myriad of sources and through the use of their own rational and logical thought processes are able to make an enlightened decision. However, when government is conducted behind closed doors and the only information available comes from wowing, wooing, and manipulation, along with sound bites and campaign rhetoric, the education and enlightenment of a voter can be difficult. And, for the record, this is not by accident.

On close inspection, many of the changes that have transpired over the past several decades put the foundations of democracy at risk. And when these changes are organized along a time-line, the chronology and sequencing appear to indicate that they are not random occurrences, but rather a methodical, strategic plan to erode, degrade, and eliminate democracy. Current examples of efforts to eliminate enlightened voters are the WI Legislative assaults on the WI Government Accountability Bureau, The WI Legislative Audit Bureau and WI Open Records laws. These aggressive actions against agencies and laws that help the cause of enlightenment, can be categorized as brazen and destructive attacks on democracy.

Is democracy on the ropes? Not yet! But it is being pummeled from many directions. It is our duty, as enlightened citizens who do see and understand the insidious objectives behind these actions, to stand up and be heard. Tell our legislators we know what they are doing. Write letters to editors of publications, both local and national, decrying these moves to take away our democracy. Share this information with others to help them become enlightened.

Please keep an eye out for doings at Grassroots North Shore:

  • On Feb. 28th we will be hosting Rep. Jonathan Brostoff who will be presenting  MythBusting FoxconnThe Foxconn plant is coming to Racine County? Our governor is promising thousands of jobs and a major boost to our state's economy. 
    Or will it? Join State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff as he covers these promises and the reality of this deal, and what if could mean to our future. You will come away from this event able to discuss the impact of this deal.

  • Starting on March 10, we will be hosting phone banking and postcard writing events in support of  Rebecca Dallet.  Please sign up. This is what we do. This is what we are good at. She will go after criminals even when those committing the crimes are big business or our own elected officials.
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It started with outrage but that is not where it is staying

Most of us know about five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although that may describe some, it does not work to change anything. We need something else after anger, something constructive and that is where elections come in.  Who can save us?  We can save ourselves by electing those who will work for us.

Who Can Save Wisconsin? How Do We Help Them?

Republican leadership continues to threaten Wisconsin’s air and water, education system, the individual’s civil rights, and even the ability to travel in a safe, convenient transportation system. Citizens wonder how long we can progress on this path, and who will arise to wrest control of state government back from an authoritarian, backward-looking administration.

Five “knights in shining armor,” willing to take and spend the time, money, and effort required to run for office will be at the Grassroots North Shore Candidate Forum on Sunday from 4:30 to 6:15, on March 11th (at North Shore Presbyterian Church in Shorewood).

* Tim Burns or Rebecca Dallet for the Wisconsin Supreme Court

* Andy Lamb and Liz Leblanc Sumner, both running against Jim Ott,

   Assembly District 23

* Chris Rahlf, taking on Rob Brooks, Assembly District 60

* Emily Siegrest, challenging Daniel Knodl, Assembly District 24 and

* Josh Kaul, running against Brad Schimel, Attorney General

Although they are signing up to be our standard bearers and representatives in the true sense of the word, they cannot do it without us. We need to show up for them, as we hope they will show up for us. Take this opportunity to support, question, and listen to our candidates.

Sign up for this event.


Oh, and don't forget to VOTE on FEB. 20TH for Supreme Court Judge.  I know that for many of us it is the only thing on this Primary Ballot. It is, never-the-less, vital.  Right now, our Judiciary is the only thing protecting us. Please, don't let it slip further out of our control.

You may have noticed a distinct change in our newsletter.  Our vice-chair, Nancy Kaplan, has had a small stroke.  She will be in rehab for the next two weeks and then home for the hard work of brain retraining.  The good news is that her cognitive abilities are at 100%. The bad news is that her right hand and left eye are still somewhat impaired. Until she can rejoin us, we will soldier on. If you would like to send her well wishes she is at Jewish Home & Care Center, 1414 N Prospect Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202.  You can also send her an email at

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It's like playing whack-a-mole

The good news: it looks like we are winning the fight for fair maps.

The bad news: The Republican Legislature has not given up finding ways to subvert the will of the people. It feels like an unending game of Wack-a-mole.

On April 3rd, Wisconsin voters will have a question on their ballot asking if they want to eliminate the Office of State Treasurer from our state constitution and transfer the office’s duties to the governor’s administration.

This is a sneaky attempt at yet another power grab. We urge you to VOTE NO. Here are a few reasons why:

  • This position was meant by our state’s founders to be the legislature’s fiscal watchdog. Without it, we’d lose critical checks and balances needed to stop unchecked power.
  • If passed, this amendment gives the governor and lieutenant governor unprecedented ability to “repurpose” funds away from the permanent school funds that support public education.
  • It would also give the governor and lieutenant governor new and stronger control over thousands of acres of public lands and would remove even more critical checks and balances that have helped preserve our environment since our founding in 1848.
  • If the office is removed, Wisconsin risks all budgeting, contracting, payments, and accounting being consolidated under the direction of the governor. There would be no separation of duties or checks on power.
  • Risking the integrity of our financial reporting means risking $23 billion in federal funds -- almost 30% of our state budget.
  • Passing this would make Wisconsin the only state in the country without a constitutional financial officer.
  • The authors of our constitution created this position for a good reason. Eliminating the office compromises a fair and transparent process.

What can you do? A lot.

  1. Take the pledge to share this information with five people and ask them to share it with five more people who will . . . you get where this is going.
  2. Join us for a session where will help you construct a letter to the editor to share with media outlets. Honestly, it is not as intimidating as it sounds.  We have talking points to share with you and a list of outlets where you can send your letter. RSVP 

Mark your calendar and rsvp for Grassroots North Shore's next event:

Rescuing Wisconsin, March 11, 2018 at 4:30pm - 6:30pm

Listen, Question, Support our Wisconsin Candidates

 Speakers include:

* Tim Burns or Rebecca Dallet (whichever wins Supreme Court primary)

* Andy Lamb (running against Jim Ott, Assembly District 23)

* Chris Rahlf (taking on Rob Brooks, Assembly District 60

* Emily Siegrest (challenging Daniel Knodl, Assembly District 24)

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Cautiously Optomistic

Last Tuesday was a good day for Progressives in Wisconson. We saw national headlines like ABC's "Democrat's upset in Wisconsin race sparks hope elsewhere". In the 58th Assembly District West Bend's Democrat Dennis Degenhardt won 43 percent of the vote; in 2016, Hillary Clinton won just 28 percent of the vote there, and no Democrat even bothered to contest the Assembly seat. Of special note are the results in the city of West Bend where we participated in canvassing.  in 2017 Clinton got only 24.83%. This time around the Dem, Degenhardt, got 51% of the vote last week. That is an increase of over 26 points. CANVASSING WORKS!

The big win, however, was the upset in Wisconsin’s 10th Senate District, where Democrat Patty Schachtner, a medical examiner, beat Republican Adam Jarchow, a member of the State Assembly, by nine points. New York Magazine summarized it:


The rural district’s voting history did not suggest an easy win for Democrats. For the last 17 years, the seat was held by Republican state senator Sheila Harsdorf, who stepped down in November to serve as Governor Scott Walker’s agriculture secretary. In the 2016 election, Harsdorf won by 26 points and Donald Trump won by 17 points; Romney easily took the district in 2012, though Wisconsin went to Obama.

Both sides poured large sums of money into the race: Americans for Prosperity spent at least $50,000 on ads for Jarchow, and together Greater Wisconsin and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee spent around $40,000 on Schachtner.

When asked whether she thought resistance to President Trump helped her win, Schachtner dodged the question.

“I’m just worried about western Wisconsin right now,” she said. “Right now, in western Wisconsin, Wisconsin values is what keeps us going.”


The most important analysis came from Scott Wittkopf at his Progressive Values Blog where he analyzes Patty Schachtner, the candidate, and the campaign.

While Patty’s opponent was focused on an historically successful, conservative message of less taxes, greater personal liberty, and less government in people’s lives (based on authoritarian values of self-interest); the Schachtner campaign did something different from most other Democratic campaigns – she didn’t attack Scott Walker or Donald Trump, or try to connect her opponent to Walker/Trump via an attack strategy. Instead, she communicated her strength – her empathy – a moral responsibility to care for others as yourself (think of The Golden Rule). And what that would mean to the people in Western Wisconsin on important issues.

The first sentence on the home page of her campaign website evokes the progressive frame of empathy:

While our current elected officials have been busy playing politics, Patty has been busy helping people.

She then tells you why that’s important to people’s lives in Western Wisconsin (her constituents to whom she is responsible):

Whether through her work as St. Croix County’s medical examiner addressing the addiction epidemic and mental health crisis, supporting local schools on her school board, or helping community non-profits, Patty is always looking for ways to improve people’s lives.

The message is obvious: We must present what we are for. If we want to win we must be more than not them. We must communicate a clear vision of a positive future that we are ready to implement.

So just a quick reminder: there will be a primary election on February 20, a general election on April 3, another primary on August 14, and the general election on November 6. We're counting on you to vote in each and every one of these. But more than that, we need you to do what you can to help inform other voters and to get out the vote.

Come to the Grassroots North Shore annual winter dinner and meeting on Sunday, January 28, from 5-7pm at North Shore Presbyterian Church to meet three very promising candidates for Congress: Randy Bryce (running against Paul Ryan in the 1st congressional district), Tom Palzewicz (running against Jim Sensenbrenner in the 5th congressional district), and Dan Kohl (running against Glenn Grothman in the 6th congressional district). They'll each give a brief speech and will spend some time chatting with attendees. So don't miss this chance to meet these candidates. RSVP on our website or on Facebook.


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GRNS: let's kick off 2018

There's a lot going on now that we have entered the new year. Two really important events I want to highlight:

  1. Our annual meeting and shared supper will take place on Sunday, January 28 from 5 pm. In addition to a brief business meeting to elect new leaders, we will hear from some notable candidates such as Tom Palzewicz (running for the 5th Congressional District against Jim Sensenbrenner), Dan Kohl (running for the 6th Congressional District against Glenn Grothman), and Randy Bryce (running in the 1st Congressional District against Paul Ryan) plus Robert Kraig from Citizen Action. We have a real shot at unseating some of these incumbents, but of course, it will take lots of people power to make it so. I hope you'll come out to this event to support the candidates and Grassroots North Shore.

  2. Grassroots North Shore is starting a book club GRNS is starting a book club to better understand the world we live in and to learn what actions we can take to make it better. At our first meeting, on Wednesday, January 24, from 6-8pm (with a second session tentatively planned for Saturday, February 3, from 9:30-11: 30 am), we will hold a two-hour discussion focused on the book, Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice, by Les Leopold.

Please sign up to attend the annual meeting/dinner and the first meeting of the book club.

On the crazy news front, there's already a surfeit of coverage. If you read any national news outlet or watch any prime time news broadcast, you don't need me to bring you up to speed. But there's a not-so-well covered concern about exactly how the news media are handling the bizarro stuff emanating from the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, D.C. In particular, how the media and the rest of us are responding to those abominable tweets.

George Lakoff, the renowned linguist and cognitive scientist (author of such seminal books as Metaphors We Live By), has an especially cogent piece on the problem. At the risk of trying your patience, I am including his entire tweet stream here. Feel free to scroll down to the EVENTS list below and skip the lecture!

Trump uses social media as a weapon to control the news cycle. It works like a charm. His tweets are tactical rather than substantive. They mostly fall into one of these four categories.


The tweets either get his framing established first, knowing that whoever frames first tends to win. Or when things look bad for him, he diverts attention or attacks the messenger. And when he wants to test public opinion, he puts out an outrageous trial balloon. Each tweet gets his message retweeted so he dominates social media. Reporters, social media influencers, and many others fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Every time. They retweet, share, and repeat his messages ad infinitum. This helps Trump tremendously.

They may think they’re negating or undermining him, but that’s not how human brains work. As a cognitive scientist, I can tell you: repeating his messages only helps him. First, it focuses all attention on Trump’s antics. This makes his nonsense seem like the most important thing in the world. It’s called the “focusing illusion” – and it’s a large part of why he got elected in the first place. It makes him larger than life. Second, constant repetition of his Trump’s messages embeds them deeply in the brains of millions of people. Whether it’s locking up his opponents or threatening nuclear war, he has the power to control tens of millions of brains via tweets. He focuses them on his chosen topics. Third, the constant attacks and outrage increase his credibility with his base. He can portray himself as a victim of the “establishment” – under constant attacks (which he provokes with tweets). He acts, his opponents only react. He is in heroic control.

I understand the desire to portray Trump as childish or deranged. But do you deal with a child or a deranged person by sinking to their level? Do you mock and scorn them, or trumpet their ridiculousness on the front page? No.

Imagine if we took a different approach to Trump’s social media antics. Imagine if we put them in a small, quiet corner of the newspaper. Imagine if they were only a minor throwaway item at the end of the newscast. Imagine greeting them with calm clarity, not instant outrage.

Imagine if we took back OUR power from this disgraceful man. Imagine if WE decided what was important, rather than dancing to Trump’s tune. Imagine if a tweet were just a tweet (or evidence in a criminal case), rather than the dictator of our reality.

We have the power stop him. But we must stop letting him control our media -- and our minds. It’s time to give Trump a Twitter Time Out. Let’s shrink him down to size. Let’s take this weapon out of his hands.

Think of Trump as a puppeteer, his tweets as the strings, and anyone who retweets/shares him as the puppet. Cut the damn strings!

TALK ABOUT THE TRUTH: Fram the real issue (e.g., Russia, foreign policy, business connections).

NOTE ATTEMPT TO DIVERT ATTENTION: Say that he's diverting attention. When claims are false, say why.

GO BACK TO THE REAL ISSUES: Don't spend too much time on diversions. Get right back to the issue at hand.
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