Saturday, September 07, 2013

But What Do We Mean By Consensus?

Guest essay by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
Politicians pay for science, but scientists should not be politicians. Consensus is a political concept. Unwisely deployed, it can be damagingly anti-scientific. A reply to Naomi Oreskes (Nature, 4 September 2013).

Subject terms: Philosophy of science, consensus, climate change

The celebrated mathematician, astronomer and philosopher of science Abu Ali Ibn al-Haytham, or Alhazen, is justly celebrated as the founder of the scientific method. His image appears on Iraqi banknotes and on the postage stamps of half a dozen nations of the ummah wahida.

Al-Haytham, unlike Naomi Oreskes,[1] did not consider that consensus had any role in science. He wrote that “the seeker after truth” does not put his trust in any mere consensus, however venerable: instead, he submits what he has learned from it to reason and demonstration. Science is not a fashion statement, a political party or a belief system.

The objective of science, as of religion, is truth. Religion attains to the truth by accepting the Words of Messiahs or of Prophets and pondering these things in its heart[2]. Science attains to the truth by accepting no word as revealed and no hypothesis as tenable until it has been subjected to falsification by observation, measurement and the application of previously-established theory to the results.

The Royal Society’s dog-Latin motto, Nullius in verba, roughly translates as “We take no one’s word for it”. The Society says, “It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.”[3] No room for consensus there.


T.H. Huxley, FRS, who defeated Bishop Wilberforce in the debate over evolution at the Oxford Museum of Natural History in 1860, put it this way: “The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties: blind faith the one unpardonable sin.”[4] Richard Feynman agreed: “Science,” he said, “is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”[5]

Karl Popper[6] formalized the scientific method as an iterative algorithm starting with a general problem. To address it, a scientist proposes a falsifiable hypothesis. During the error-elimination phase that follows, others demonstrate it, disprove it or, more often do neither, whereupon it gains some credibility not because a consensus of experts endorses it but because it has survived falsification. Head-counts, however expert the heads, play no part in science.

The post-modernist notion that science proceeds by the barnacle-like accretion of expert consensus on the hulk of a hypothesis is a conflation of two of the dozen sophistical fallacies excoriated by Aristotle[7] 2350 years ago as the commonest in human discourse. The medieval schoolmen later labelled them the fallacies of argument ad populum (consensus) and ad verecundiam (appeal to reputation).

Science has become a monopsony. Only one paying customer – the State – calls the tune, and expects its suppliers to sing from the same hymn-sheet. Governments, by definition and temperament interventionist, are disinclined to pay for inconvenient truths. They want results justifying further intervention, so they buy consensus.

The Hamelin problem is compounded by a little-regarded consequence of nearly all academics’ dependency upon the public treasury. Those whom the State feeds and houses will tend to support the interventionist faction, and may thus give a spurious legitimacy to a political consensus by parading it as scientific when it is not.

Too often what is really a political consensus will be loosely defined with care, allowing its adherents to pretend that widespread scientific endorsement of an uncontentious version implies support for a stronger but unsupported version.

Consider climate change. The uncontentious version of the climate consensus is that greenhouse gases cause warming. Oft-replicated experiment establishes that the quantum resonance that interaction with near-infrared radiation induces in a greenhouse-gas molecule, such as carbon dioxide, emits heat directly, as though a tiny radiator had been turned on. Thus, adding greenhouse gases to the air will cause some warming. Where – as here – the experimental result is undisputed because it is indisputable, there is no need to plead consensus.

The standard version of climate consensus, however, is stronger. It is that at least half the global warming since 1950 was anthropogenic.[8],[9] Supporters of the uncontentions version need not necessarily support this stronger version.

Though IPCC (2013) has arbitrarily elevated its level of confidence in the stronger version of consensus from 90% to 95%, Cook et al. (2013),[10] analyzing the abstracts of 11,944 papers on global climate change published between 1991 and 2012, marked only 64 abstracts as having explicitly endorsed it. Further examination[11] shows just 43 abstracts, or 0.3% of the sample, endorsing it.

No survey has tested endorsement of the still stronger catastrophist version that unless most CO2 emissions stop by 2050 there is a 10% probability[12],[13] that the world will end by 2100. The number of scientists endorsing this version of consensus may well be vanishingly different from zero.

The two key questions in the climate debate are how much warming we shall cause and whether mitigating it today would cost less than adapting to its net-adverse consequences the day after tomorrow. There is no consensus answer to the first. The consensus answer to the second may surprise.

Answering the “how-much-warming” question is difficult. Models overemphasize radiative transports, undervalue non-radiative transports such as evaporation and tropical afternoon convection, and largely neglect the powerfully homoeostatic effect of the great heat-sinks – ocean and space – that bound the atmosphere.

Absolute global temperatures have varied by only ±1% in 420,000 years[14]. Will thermometers be able to detect the consequences of our altering 1/3000 of the atmospheric mix by 2100?

Uncontroversially, direct radiative warming at CO2 doubling will be the product of the instantaneous or Planck parameter[15] 0.31 K W–1 m2 and the CO2 radiative forcing[16] 5.35 ln 2: i.e., ~1.2 K. Models near-triple this value by temperature feedback amplification. Yet no feedback can be measured directly or determined theoretically. Feedbacks may even be net-negative.[17],[18]

Another uncertainty is introduced by the amplification equation in the models, which was designed for electronic circuits, where it has a physical meaning. In the climate, as the singularity at a loop gain of 1 approaches, it has none. In a circuit, feedbacks driving voltage to the positive rail flick it to the negative rail as the loop gain exceeds 1. In the climate there is no such physical mechanism.

The chaoticity of the climate object is an additional, insuperable uncertainty.[19],[20] The IPCC admits this: “In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system and, therefore, that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”[21]

The atmosphere, like any object that behaves chaotically, is highly sensitive to initial conditions. The available data will always be inadequate to allow reliable prediction – especially by probability distribution in model ensembles – of the chaos-driven bifurcations that make climate climate.

Given these real uncertainties, the IPCC’s claim of 95% consensus as to the relative contributions of Man and Nature to the 0.7 K global warming since 1950 is surely hubris. Nemesis is already at hand. Empirically, the models are not doing well. The first IPCC Assessment Report predicted global warming at 0.2-0.5 Cº/decade by now. Yet the observed trend on the HadCRUt4 data[22] since 1990, at little more than 0.1 Cº/decade, is below the IPCC’s least estimate.

Taking the mean of all five global-temperature datasets, there has been no global warming for almost 13 years, even though CO2 concentration increases should have caused at least 0.2 Cº warming since December 2000.

Given the Earth’s failure to warm as predicted, and the absence of support for the IPCC’s version of the climate consensus, its 95% confidence in the anthropogenic fraction of the 0.7 Cº warming since 1950 seems aprioristic.
No global warming for 12 years 8 months. Data sources: GISS, HadCRUt4, NCDC, RSS and UAH.
So to the economic question. Posit ad argumentum that the IPCC’s central estimate of 2.8 Cº warming from 2000-2100 is true, and that Stern[23] was right to say the cost of failing to prevent 2-3 Cº warming this century is ~1.5% of GDP. Then, even at a zero inter-temporal discount rate, the cost of abating this decade’s predicted warming of 0.17 Cº[24] by CO2-mitigation schemes whose unit mitigation cost is equivalent to that of, say, Australia’s carbon tax will be 50 times the cost of later adaptation.

How so? Australia emits just 1.2%[25],[26] of global anthropogenic CO2. No more than 5% of Australia’s emissions can now be cut this decade, so no more than 0.06% of global emissions will be abated by 2020. Then CO2 concentration will fall from the now-predicted 410 μatm[27] to 409.988 μatm. In turn, predicted temperature will fall, but only by 0.00005 Cº, or 1/1000 of the minimum detectable global temperature change. This is mainstream, consensus IPCC climatology.

The cost of this minuscule abatement over ten years will be $162 billion[28], equivalent to $3.2 quadrillion/Cº. Abating just the worldwide mean warming of 0.17 Cº predicted for this decade would cost $540 trillion, or $77,000/head worldwide, or 80% of ten years’ global GDP[29]. No surprise, then, that in the economic literature the near-unanimous consensus is that mitigation will cost more than adaptation[30],[31]. The premium vastly exceeds the cost of the risk insured. The cost of immediate mitigation typically exceeds by 1-2 orders of magnitude that of eventual adaptation.[32]

Accordingly, Oreskes’ statement that “Political leaders who deny the human role in climate change should be compared with the hierarchy of the Catholic church, who dismissed Galileo’s arguments for heliocentrism for fear of their social implications” is not only scientifically inappropriate but historically inapt: for no political leaders “deny the human role in climate change”, though some may legitimately doubt its magnitude or significance; and none impose any such opinion upon their citizens.

It is the true-believers in the New Religion of Thermageddon who have demanded that their opponents be put on trial for “treason” (Robert Kennedy), and for “high crimes against humanity” (James Hansen, NASA)[33]. The penalties for treason and for crimes against humanity are not the house arrest to which Galilei was sentenced, but death. Insistence upon consensus has often bred the most brutal kind of intolerance.

The true lesson of l’affaire Galilei, then, is that the governing class, then the high priests of Rome, now the acquiescent archdruids of academe and their paymaster the State, should not intolerantly abuse their power, then of theology, now of monopsony reinforcing peer-pressure rebranded as consensus, by interfering in scientists’ freedom to be what al-Haytham had beautifully called them: seekers after truth.

Reposted from What's Up With That. You can read the whole thing - including comments, footnotes, and illustrations - over there.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Fight Fire With Fire - David Horowitz

Last week this very important speech was given by David Horowitz at the Americans for Prosperity - Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando, Florida. I reprint the transcript here in its entirety. Bolds are mine, italics and the original post can be read at the link to Front Page at the bottom of this post.
I’m pleased to be here. I want to thank Tim Phillips for inviting me to this gathering, and the Koch brothers for organizing it. Most of you probably know that I grew up in a Communist family and had a misspent youth as a Marxist leader of the New Left in the 1960s. In later years, when I reflected on the damage our “revolution” had inflicted on our country, I would ask myself “Where was the ruling class? Why didn’t they defend the System from these modern day Luddites and America haters? Why didn’t they expel us from the schools we tried to shut down? Why did they give us platforms to advance our agendas? What were they thinking?”

As the years progressed, and the radicals first infiltrated and then took over the Democrat Party, I found myself asking, “Where is the ruling class? Why don’t they see the threat this radicalized party is posing to their interests and the country’s? Why isn’t the ruling class mobilizing its resources to oppose an assault that is threatening the free market system and the very foundations of our democracy?

And then, last year, I was invited to this event, and here you are. Except that I no longer believe there is a ruling class or that you are one. America is — as it has always been — a pluralistic society with competing centers of power. Moreover, as Jacob Laksin and I have shown in our book The New Leviathan the preponderance of political wealth is on the left, and has been put in the service of parties and causes that are anti-capitalist. As Jacob and I showed, progressive foundations engaged in political activities are more than 10 times wealthier than their conservative counterparts, and are able to deploy resources for political ends that are greater by far than even that.

Historically the movers of radical transformations have always been drawn from the ranks of the upper classes. The French Revolution was initiated by French aristocrats; Karl Marx was funded and promoted by a capitalist factory owner. And the Obama socialists who today threaten our way of life are swimming in wealth up to their eyeballs. The purpose of these observations is first to underscore how important you as creators of wealth are to the battle facing us; and second, how much catching up you have to do in order for us to prevail.

If the last five unhappy years have should have taught us anything it is these two things:

First, elections have consequences. The left’s last two electoral triumphs have already had a devastating impact on our nation and its future. America is now a great power in steep decline, a by-stander in world events, where once it shaped them. Our president is set on a course that actively encourages our enemies, weakens our friends and diminishes our military strength. At home his policies have impelled us towards national bankruptcy and constitutional disorder. And worse. Until the IRS and NSA scandals and Obamacare revealed the power that the Obama radicals are acquiring, I myself did not realize how close we were to the prospect of losing our democracy and actually becoming a totalitarian state. If you control all that information about individual lives and you have all that power over their finances and health, you can destroy any opposition and you do not need a secret police to enforce your will.

The second thing we have learned is something that everyone knows but no one wants to admit: well-designed character attacks can have a crucial impact on electoral outcomes; well-designed character attacks overpower well-crafted messages.

In the last election, Romney had a good message and an obvious one: Obama’s economic recovery has been a sorry failure; 23 million people still are jobless; many more are underemployed; if you want jobs and economic opportunities, support the job creators and innovators and deregulators.

But a critical majority of the voting public never heard Romney’s message. The reason? A $200 million smear campaign successfully portrayed him as a heartless job destroyer, a mouthpiece for the selfish rich, someone whose words you can’t trust.

What was the answer of Obama’s opponents to this killer attack? They didn’t have one. There was no $200 million campaign dedicated to destroying Obama’s credibility and undermining his message. Obama’s opponents didn’t have a message discrediting his character and neutralizing his attacks.

Would it have been difficult to do this? Obama is arguably the most brazen and compulsive liar ever to occupy the White House. He is an absentee executive — invisible at the budget negotiations in Washington and the withdrawal negotiations in Iraq, missing in crisis after crisis. While Egypt and Syria burns, he golfs. His endless dithering and misguided interventions in support of the Muslim Brotherhood have set the entire region aflame. Meanwhile, he and his wife carry on like French royalty, lavishing tens of millions of taxpayer funds on their family and dog while tens of millions of Americans suffer historic levels of deprivation because of the policies Obama put in place.

How is it possible that his opponents have not buried him under his own disasters? How did two successive presidential candidates, McCain and Romney characterize this selfish, malicious, leader — selling hope while delivering misery — as a “good man,” and someone who only lacked experience for the job? How about a moral conscience?
The answer is obvious to everyone but no one will say it out loud.

No one will confront Obama the way he deserves to be confronted because he is black. Actually he is half black, raised by whites and one Indonesian but no matter, since racist liberals have made the color of one’s skin decisive. It is because Obama is a minority that no one will hold him to a common standard; or confront him with what he has actually done. Any political consultant will tell you that you can’t. This is how race conscious and race-prejudiced our country has become.

This is why Republicans lose elections. Because what is true of Obama is true of the Democratic Party and the socialists generally. They present themselves as the party of minorities, whom they use as human shields whenever they are attacked, portraying their critics as indecent and racist. If we can’t hold Obama accountable, how can we hold any Democrat, any liberal or any socialist accountable? Because this is how they fight, and will do so until a counter-strategy is put in place.

My purpose in coming here today is to outline such a strategy, one that will take down the socialists at election time, and between election times, and defend the market-based democracy we all hold dear. Defend it when we are attacked as racist, insensitive and unfair. Which is how they will always attack us.

Their campaign narrative goes like this: We are the defenders of the underdog, and the champions of equality and fairness. If you attack us you attack minorities, women, children, and the poor. If you oppose us you are racists; you are the people who supported segregation and lynching. Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s Secretary of Health Education and Welfare, has actually said this about opponents of Obamacare, glossing over the fact that segregation, like slavery, was a Democratic Party platform.

To begin to devise a counter-strategy, to expose their hypocrisy and impugn their character and neutralize their attacks, you have to ask yourself this question: How is it that Democrats liberals and socialists can pose as defenders of the poor?

Obama has created more poor people than all the presidents since World War II put together. Today, forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps and 100 million on government handouts. In Democrat monopolies like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Washingon DC and a dozen other major urban blight areas, liberal socialists have damaged and destroyed the lives of more African Americans than all the Republicans since the creation of the Republic. Yet every four years – and in between – they are able to persuade voters that they are defenders of minorities and the poor.

How do they do it? Not by actually helping minorities and the poor, but by attacking the rich. They portray rich people as the enemies of minorities and the poor who refuse to pay their fare share. They demonize wealth. That is what allows them to pretend they are friends of the poor.

Conservatives often fail to appreciate the cynical basis of the  attacks on them. Conservatives are earnest – too earnest. They aim their messages at the head instead of the heart. They appeal to reason instead of the emotions. That’s why they lose. Democrat socialists don’t actually hate rich people or believe they are oppressors of the poor. In fact Democrat socialists want to be rich. In fact they are rich. Just ask George Soros, Jon Corzine, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emmanuel, Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton and the White House couple. They want to be filthy rich. As far as socialists are concerned rich people are ok — if they support the socialist agendas. It’s cynicism on steroids. It’s all about power. It’s a strategy to win. Attack the rich to show you are friends of the poor. And politically it works.

How can we who believe in individual rights and free markets fight this? How can we neutralize the slanders and show that we are the real defenders of minorities, the poor, the little guy, working Americans, the middle class? How can we turn the tables on them?

It’s not rocket science. You can counter their attacks by turning their guns around. You can neutralize them by fighting fire with fire.

In the real world, Democrat socialists have made the lives of poor Americans worse, much worse. You need to shove this fact in their faces every time you speak. Here is the reality: In every inner city of size in America, the selfish exploiters of the poor are liberals – what I am calling democrat socialists; they are the ones who fatten themselves off the votes of minorities and the poor while blocking their opportunities for a better life, and throwing them crumbs in return.

Detroit is a city democrat socialists have run as a political monopoly for 52 years.  For twenty of those Detroit’s Democrat mayor, Coleman Young, was also a member of the Communist Party.

In 1961 when their rule began, Detroit had the highest per capita income in the United States; Today, it is the poorest large city in all fifty states.

In 1960 Detroit was the fourth largest city in America with nearly 2 million inhabitants. Today two-thirds of Detroit’s population is gone. This human flight was the direct result of the government’s attacks on wealth and private companies, and on white people. It was a direct result of the rampant corruption among its political rulers and their draconian restrictions on what private individuals and entrepreneurs could do.
The city currently owes $14 billion in long-term debt, primarily driven by unfunded government union pension and retirement healthcare obligations.

Today Detroit’s median household income is $28,000 – slightly more than half  the median income of the state of Michigan or the United States.

Nearly half of Detroit’s population is either unemployed or no longer looking for work. Its poverty level is 36 percent or more than twice that of the state level.  Over a third of its inhabitants are on food stamps. Three out of every four of its children are born out of wedlock. A third of its school children don’t graduate and nearly half of those who do are functionally illiterate.

In one generation the democrat socialists reduced America’s number one industrial city to the level of a third world nation.

Did I mention that eighty-two percent of Detroit’s population is African American.
This is a social atrocity committed by liberals and democrat socialists against African Americans. If we spoke like they do, we would have no compunction about calling this the most appalling racist atrocity against African Americans since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts.

Now consider this: This historic assault on Detroit’s African American population was absent from all the speeches and all the political ads of all the actors supporting free market solutions in the 2012 elections. The word “Detroit” wasn’t mentioned.
This atrocity is not just being committed in Detroit. The government of every major inner city in America has been 100% controlled by democrat socialists for the last fifty years. Everything that is wrong with America’s inner cities that policy can affect liberals, Democrats and socialists are responsible for. They have their boot heels on the necks of poor black and Hispanic families. But we are all too polite to mention it.

Some Republicans have complained that Democrats win because they hand out goodies to minorities and the poor. Yes, they do. But the goodies they hand out are chump change compared to what they’ve destroyed for all Americans and especially for the poor. Would you rather live on food stamps and handouts or be able to pay for what you need and want? I don’t think there are many Americans who would have trouble making that choice.

So here’s the strategy, remembering that the best defense is a good offense: Attack the Democrat socialists for their wars against minorities and the poor. Expose their empty promises and question their character and undermine their message by portraying them as hypocrites who cannot be trusted. In attacking them as enemies of minorities and the poor we show that we care what happens to minorities and the poor. We put them on the defensive, and we neutralize their malicious and unfair attacks.

There is one more lesson to be learned from the last election: By well-placed attacks, we can change the story line of the national debate to our advantage.

Republicans planned to make the 2012 election about Obamacare, because there was a Republican landslide in 2010 around that issue. But two things happened on the way to the election that changed the subject. First, Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate so the details of Ryan’s plan to fix everything – including Medicare – became targets that were used to neutralize and divert the Republican attack.

Second, and far more importantly, a movement called Occupy Wall Street went on a rampage in American cities attacking the so-called 1% and the allegedly unfair distribution of wealth. Occupy Wall Street was a criminal mob supported by Obama and Pelosi, orchestrated and financed by the socialist government unions. Overnight, this changed the national debate from Obamacare to “fairness.” It cast anyone opposing more taxes and a selfish defender of the rich, and put Republicans on the defensive.

We don’t have the presidency, and we don’t have the union network or the national media to shift the debate to subjects that will give us that advantage. But we do have independent expenditure campaigns, and we do have the Tea Party grassroots to promote the message. And this is what the message should be:

They say we’re anti-woman because we don’t want to finance contraceptives for upper middle class academic women. Our answer to this attack should not be to argue about contraceptives, which will lose us a lot of single women votes. Our answer should be:

After 5 years of Obama rule there are 16 million women on food stamps. Two out of every five single mothers are on food stamps. Under Obamacare family health care costs are about to skyrocket. This is Obama’s war on women.

They say we’re anti-Hispanic. After 5 years of Obama rule, there 8 million Hispanics on food stamps, and 20 million Hispanics who are unemployed or no longer looking for work. This is Obama’s war on minorities.

They say we don’t care about blacks. Look at America’s inner cities. They are run by Democrats and socialists and have been for fifty years. This is their war on African Americans and the poor.

And so on. As I said, it’s not rocket science. It’s about turning the guns around. It’s about having the moral fiber to do so.

Finally, I don’t want to leave you with the idea that campaigns are won on negatives alone. The negatives I have proposed are designed to blunt the opposition attacks and put them on the defensive. But people need hope, and are looking for change. These are basic elements of any campaign message. In crafting the message the positive elements should be designed so that they also dramatize the negative: how the opposition hurts minorities, working Americans and the poor. In opposing parties that oppress these underdog classes we demonstrate that we care about what happens to them. It’s a simple equation. But our side doesn’t get it yet.

Here’s one example of how it could be done:

Let’s take the education dollar that taxpayers now give to the bureaucrats who don’t care about their children, and give it back to the taxpayers. Let’s voucherize all the school systems in the country from kindergarten to college. Conservatives are always talking about abolishing the Department of Education. This is not the way to go about it. Voters will be told that conservatives are against education.

Instead of calling for the abolition of the Department of Education call for a fundamental change in its mission. Take its $50 billion or so budget and require that the money be spent on a voucher program for all Americans – from kindergarten through college. Let’s put the education dollars in the hands of every poor and middle class person in America. And let’s launch this effort with a $100 million TV ad campaign to tell Americans how the liberal socialists in every major urban school system have destroyed the lives of poor, mainly black and Hispanic children, who can’t afford the private schools that liberal legislators send their own kids to.

Let’s put hope in the hands of people who can’t afford to send their kids to schools that will teach them. Let’s change the way the educational economy works, so that individuals are empowered – not government – so that competition is restored and standards are raised. Let’s take the second biggest part of the government economy and return it to the people. Let’s create a model of the kind of society we want — a free market society, a society based on individual achievement, not government defined collectives.

This is just one possible campaign. Even if this particular campaign doesn’t win the first or second time around it will eventually change the perceptions of everyone in politics. We will no longer be seen as the defenders of the rich; we will be seen as the defenders of minorities and the poor; and our opponents will be seen as their oppressors. If campaigns like this are conducted in the right way they will change not only the way conservatives frame their message; they will change the political landscape of the country and the prospects for our nation’s future.

Fight Fire With Fire | FrontPage Magazine


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a poll by the highly respected
a positive step
are speaking out
at-risk communities
best practices
broader implications
climate change
commonsense solutions
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cycle of poverty
cycle of violence
demand action
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emerging consensus
experts agree
fair share
fiscal stimulus
fully funded
give back
giving voice to
greater diversity
growing support for
gun violence
have issues
high capacity magazine
history shows
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in denial
inclusive environment
investing in our future
linked to
making a difference
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mean spirited
most vulnerable
mounting opposition to
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our nation's children
people of color (sometimes, colour)
poised to
poor and minorities
positive outcome
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raising awareness
reaching out
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root cause
sends a message
shared values
social justice
solidarity with
speaking truth to power
statistics show
sustainable, sustainability
the American People
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the failed ...
the larger question is
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vibrant community
voicing concern
war on ...
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