Free Speech or NOT? Free speech on both the political right and the political left

woman-taped-mouth-thoughts-freedom-of-speech-expressionThis past Thursday I attended a meeting for a new Veterans group that had recently formed in our town.  There were three people at a table in front of the group (two men and a woman) and about 20 or so people in chairs facing the table.  The two men whom I assumed were leaders mentioned that the key-note speakers, someone from the Arizona Posse and someone from the Pinal Country Sheriffs department may or may not make the meeting.  Apparently there had been a few recent killings in area and both groups were lending support to the Casa Grande Police department.  The woman in front was the spouse of one of the men leading the group.  She was also the club secretary.

One of the leaders outlined the various apparel that was for sale to raise funds for the group as well as sell some tickets for a fifty-fifty raffle.  Eventually, we all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and then an invocation from one of the two male leaders who was apparently a pastor at a local church.


After this the group leader on the right started a spiel about how “THEY” were not allowing history to be taught anymore in the schools.  He had brought a bunch of old books that looked like they came from an antique store, and he went on about how these books had the “real” history in them.  But THEY had removed the true history from current textbooks so that THEY could hide the truth from us about what had really happened.  He ended with two pleas.

  1. Those of us who wanted the truth most not be afraid to stand up and speak out.
  2. We must heal the divide in the country and reduce partisanship.

I could not agree more with his first plea but the second one struck me as strongly hypocritical since all of his speech was a right-wing polemic against what he perceived as a liberal bias in schools and the media.

Now I have to tell you, it was all I could do not to walk out of this meeting.  Retired Arizona veterans are not known for their liberal orientation.  I looked around to see if anyone was as disgusted with the speech just given as I was but no one seemed overly concerned.  I kept my mouth shut and decided to see what the next speaker, the leader who was also a pastor had to say.

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He was even more right-wing than the first speaker.  He went on and on about Political Correctness ruining America and again the ambiguous “THEY” who are out to destroy freedom and democracy.  I was getting more and more annoyed.  I looked around to see if I would have any support in the group if things escalated and decided that I would not.  I thought about speaking out.  Fear governed my emotions.  I kept reminding myself that “The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority and the test of courage comes when we are in the minority.”  I was no doubt in the minority.  Would I be a craven coward?

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The pastor started to quote Nietzsche with “Those who forget the past will continue to make mistakes.”  I lost it right there.  Wrong person and butchered quote.  Courage did not play a role in what happened next.  I stood up and said “You are wrong.  Nietzsche did not say this.  George Santayana said it and it should go “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Other people have of course said a similar thought, but I do not remember Nietzsche having said this.  Furthermore, my bias against Nietzsche raised my ire even higher than with the first speaker.

I then gave the following diatribe to the assembled group.  I said “First of all there are two things wrong with your speeches.  The first is your belief that some absolute truth to history exists and that all schools must do is teach this truth.”  The one guy waving the Bible earlier led me to think that he must believe that all truth came from the Bible.

Silence reigned in the room, and I plowed on.  “History is full of perspectives and some facts.  Think of the five blind men trying to describe an elephant.  Well history is a thousand times more complicated than an elephant and there are not just five perspectives on history but millions.  If you tried to put all these perspectives and a few facts in one large history book, it would probably weigh a million tons.”

“The second thing wrong is your idea about eliminating partisanship.  That idea itself would be a good thing, but you do not eliminate it by insisting that your view of reality is the only view or the right view.  You are causing partisanship when like one of the blind men insisting that he is right, you insist that your perspective is right and others who have a different perspective are stupid, wrong and unpatriotic.  You eliminate partisanship by respecting the perspectives of all people.”  Thus ended my rant.

I sat down to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

I wished.

The room was dead silent.  I felt like a fish out of water and soon to be gutted and fried.  I sat down and the meeting went on.  We discussed other ideas for the group to support to have a more social group for veterans.  The meeting ended with the group secretary calling out the winners for the fifty-fifty tickets and a few winners for some free tickets that we had all been given. The meeting lasted for about 1 hour and fifteen minutes and then people dispersed.

right wing extremistsNow in America today, we have five political perspectives arranged along a continuum.  On the extreme right, we have the “extreme conservatives” as they may think of themselves.  However, they are fascists and anti-democratic in symbols, outlook and beliefs.  On the extreme left we have a smaller group who might think of themselves as progressives or socialists but in the minds of many on the right they are “card carrying communists.”  Indeed, some of the extreme left-wing do fit this perspective.  Slightly to the right of center we have the true conservatives and slightly to the left of center the true liberals.  In the middle we have people who support some social programs but are fiscally conservative.  We also have people in the middle who support some government but are against too much government.

left wing extremistsOne characteristic of both the extreme right and the extreme left is the inability to see perspectives different than their own.   To the extremists, the world is black and white.  Good and bad.  Each extreme entirely rejects the perspectives of the other extreme.  Each extreme feels that they are not allowed to speak but that the other extreme is.  Newspapers and zealots take sides with the extremists and promote narratives designed to appeal to the extreme views exposed by each side.  The ability to condone or support multiple perspectives becomes more and more difficult as a greater and greater polarization ensues.   People bemoan the death of compromise but each side ladens itself with oaths and pledges guaranteed to insure that they will not try to see the world from the other side.

liberals against free speech

imagesThe result is a form of warfare between each side.  The middle groups become more and more polarized as they find that they must take sides to survive.  Liberals talk about the importance of listening to understand what the other side says and thinks as though this will solve the problem.  It will not.  Unless someone listens with an OPEN MIND, no amount of listening will make a difference.  I was once approached by an employee who asked me to speak to his boss on his behalf.  I asked him why he did not do it himself.  I pointed out that his boss had “an open door policy.”  The employee looked at me and replied: “Open door but closed mind.”

liberal intoleranceOur schools have failed us because they teach right answers and not right questions.  They teach closed minds and not open minds.  We have a generation who are now increasingly anti-education.  We have a war against our schools by people who do not believe that schools exist to teach right thinking but only right answers.  Liberal schools are boycotting right-wing fanatics and not allowing them to speak.  Fox News prints daily rants against schools portraying the worst aspects of what once was a liberal education.  The right wing increasingly wants a technocratic education which will result in a job that pays well.  Any focus on mindfulness, morality, ethics, and integrity plays little or no role in the education system desired by the right.  Those on the left believe that public education should be for the masses but ignore the needs of many rural and poor people to get a job that pays a living wage.


Meanwhile the rich liberals go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other Ivy League colleges.  Colleges that people like me could never have afforded and that would never have let pass their shiny doors.  Many people have asked me why I did not go to college after high school.  This always brings a laugh to my throat.  Two months out of high school, I went to the only “college” that I could afford.  I joined the US Military from 1964 to 1968 as a E-1.  I left four years later as an E-4 and an Aircraft Control and Warning Radar technician.  I also earned a certificate for an Honorable Discharge.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
― George Orwell

Free Speech or NOT?


From a theoretical perspective, I am opposed to Free Speech.  The very idea is absurd.  Nothing in the world is free.  Everything has a price that you pay.  Furthermore, the idea of upholding the right of anyone to say anything at anytime is absurd.  It is bizarre beyond fathoming.  Where does this ridiculous idea come from?  Some idealist version of Democracy or some unrealistic idea that everything works out in the long run if we only allow “truth” to finally poke its way though the deluge of lies and misinformation that permeates modern society.

From a pragmatic perspective, I am 100 percent in favor of Free Speech.  It is one of those rare examples where the alternatives are even worse than the present bias towards Free Speech.  If we started to arrest people for lying or because we did not like what they had to say, we would have to build more prisons than we have space for in the entire world.  We already have rates of incarceration which are abominable.  If we start locking up liberals who we disagree with or racists who we disagree with solely based on what they say, we might as well give up any discussion in the public space.

From an idealistic viewpoint, I am all in on Free Speech.  We cannot start muzzling people and expect to find the information or thoughts that we need to make progress in the world.  The best discussions come about from a wide range of viewpoints that are uncensored.  Better to know the enemy than for the enemy to remain hidden.  Only from a weltanschauung of perspectives can we tread our way to a reality that transcends mediocrity and complacency.

From a realistic perspective, I see many dangers in Free Speech.  From inciting riots to allowing people to die because of distorted information and intentional malignancy, there is a great danger in allowing people to say what they want and when they want to.  The “Big Lie” and many other marketing ploys from selling cigarettes to downplaying the health hazards of alcohol, have resulted in millions of deaths.  Is Free Speech more important than human life?

There are several pathways to Free Speech that are important when we debate the pros and cons of Free Speech in American society.  I would like to list each of these pathways and then make some comments about each.

  1. Free Speech in media, books, curriculums
  2. Free Speech on both the political right and the political left
  3. Free Speech in academia
  4. Free Speech in the public arena
  5. Free Speed on the Internet

Free Speech in media, books, curriculums

There could be no more blatant example of the hypocrisy concerning the 1st Amendment than regards books, media, and curriculums.  Let’s diverge for just a second to review the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


This “right” to Free Speech has not stopped Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott from restricting books in public schools, canceling curriculums and limiting the right of teachers to speak out on racism or sexism in history.  Nor has it stopped the “rights” of others all over America from trying to censor the thoughts, facts and data that characterize much of US History.

  • From July 2021 to June 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles.
  • The 1,648 titles are by 1,261 different authors, 290 illustrators, and 18 translators, impacting the literary, scholarly, and creative work of 1,553 people altogether.
  • Bans occurred in 138 school districts in 32 states. These districts represent 5,049 schools with a combined enrollment of nearly 4 million students. — Banned in the USA

But censorship did not start with DeSantis or Abbott.  It has a very long history in America.  This despite the First Amendment.  About as many people seem to pay attention to the First Amendment today as they do to the Ten Commandments.  Imagine for a second if everyone obeyed the Ten Commandments.   No murders.  No robberies.  No adulteries.  No rapes.

I remember growing up and wondering why so many scenes from movies seemed to me rather unrealistic.  It took me a while to realize that many movies scenes were banned or censored in the USA.  As far back as 1897, a statute of the State of Maine prohibited the exhibition of prizefight films.  As the film industry developed, so did censorship as the government tried to control the content of what the public could see or hear.

“In the 1950s many books and genres were banned from the public.  Educational literature was targeted specifically because many people wanted to stop the teaching of evolutionary theories due to religious reasons.  Books, such as the Wizard of Oz and other fantasy books, were banned due to the fear that they would corrupt the minds of children and teens.  For this reason comic books were also banned.” — Censorship in the 1950s


I still remember hiding my comic books under my textbooks when I was ten years old in the fifth grade at Mount St. Francis School.  I loved comic books and every time I was caught reading one, I would get my knuckles whacked with a ruler.  My assailant (teacher/Nun) would castigate me with the rejoinder that comic books would warp my brain and make me stupid.  Sixty years later and I am still waiting for my brain to decay.  It may already be happening, but I fear it is the result of old age rather than reading comic books.  I finally stopped buying comics when they became too expensive.  Easier to get them from the library today.

If we are talking about censorship of media, we should not leave out “pornographic” films and songs. 

“Chicago enacted the first censorship ordinance in the United States in 1907, authorizing its police chief to screen all films to determine whether they should be permitted on screens.  Detroit followed with its own ordinance the same year. When upheld in a court challenge in 1909, other cities followed and Pennsylvania became the first to enact statewide censorship of movies in 1911 (though it did not fund the effort until 1914).  It was soon followed by Ohio (1914), Kansas (1915), Maryland (1916), New York (1921) and, finally, Virginia (1922).  Eventually, at least one hundred cities across the nation empowered local censorship boards.” –Wikipedia

61A5VaThL7LHere are two more recent examples of “titillating sex” that would never have passed the censors in the fifties.  The first is from a song called “Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summers from the middle seventies.  Time magazine called it “a marathon of 22 orgasms.”  Many singers like Beyonce and Madonna have mimicked Donna Summers in more recent songs and videos.  Can you imagine if Donna Summers had a video made today to go along with this song?  You can see her perform it on stage in 1976 on YouTube:

My movie example is from a PG movie, that means Parental Guidance.  This is far from the R or X rating that movies could be given but the scenes or suggestions that can be slipped in demonstrate the imagination and creativity of movie producers.  The film Twilight opened in 2008 as PG-13.  It slipped in a suggested sex scene between the vampire Edward and his lover Bella.  The scene is not overtly sexual as some more recent scenes might be, but it leaves little to the imagination.

Growing up with the censorship that has been imposed on films, books, songs, and other media in the USA, I am continually astounded by the hypocrisy that surrounds the First Amendment.  It is one thing to label something to inform people that something might be offensive.  It is quite another to outright ban things.  Where does the First Amendment concerning these media begin and end?  For that we need to look at the politics of censorship.

Since this blog is getting “too” long, I am going to self-censor and divide it into four more sections.  In my next blog or section, I am going to cover the politics of censorship.



Sex, Politics and War

I should have written something new in honor of International Women’s Day but I did not think far enough ahead. I wrote this piece about 1 1/2 years ago and I talk about the war on Women’s Reproductive Rights and Gender choices for all people. I think given the politics going on in the USA, that this blog is still appropriate. It is not upbeat and celebratory. Women have come a long way in the USA since the signing of the constitution but there is a long way for them to go to obtain the rights and respect that men get. As long as the rates of Domestic Violence and Rape are as high as they are in the USA, women cannot live the lives that they deserve. IMHO.

Aging Capriciously

sex-and-power978-0-8223-6367-5_prThere is a war on sex by politicians.  There has always been a war on sex by politicians.  It is the longest running war in the history of the world.  It is not a gender war but a political war.  The goal of political warfare is to alter an opponent’s opinions and actions in favor of the state’s interests without utilizing military power.  Such warfare has been waged by the state against sex since the dawn of humanity.

In the USA, we have had political wars on race, drugs, poverty, crime, and terror.  None of these wars were officially declared as military wars.  Each of these wars were unofficially declared by the US government.   Not one of these wars has ever officially ended.  The war on sex has never been acknowledged either officially or unofficially.  It has never ended either.


This fourth and final part in my series of articles…

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Why am I reading this? 

sandovalTom Sandoval addressed the jaw-dropping drama that he and longtime girlfriend Ariana Madix called it quits over infidelity.

The “Vanderpump Rules” star made a conscious effort to remain silent after news broke he and co-star Raquel Leviss were having a “full-on affair” — but decided to finally speak out Friday night.  —- ‘Hated’ Tom Sandoval addresses Ariana Madix split amid cheating claims by Nika Shakhnazarova, March 4, 2023 | 4:58am

Before I saw this headline on my Google consolidated news channel, I must confess that I had never heard of Tom Sandoval, Raquel Leviss or Ariana Madix.  Over the years, I have “jealously” noted that major movie stars (For example, Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley) with drop dead gorgeous girlfriends or wives always seem to cheat on them with equally beautiful drop dead gorgeous girlfriends who are no doubt dating other famous movie stars.


Now for “common” guys like me, having a girlfriend like Ariana Madix would be like “let’s say” owning a Ferrari.  Not a chance in a lifetime that I ever will but it is still something to dream about.  By the way, to my female readers, I am sorry that I cannot write a blog that might sum up some of your fantasies, but it is beyond my writing skills to put myself in your shoes.  The only thing that I might say is that perhaps many women would like to write a blog about a guy that does not cheat on them.  If so, I would suggest that you do not look for inspiration in Hollywood.  The saying that a man’s penis and his brain cannot both operate at the same time seems largely true for much of “mankind.


So, I saw this headline this morning and immediately wondered if Tom was leaving a decrepit homely looking girlfriend for better waters or if my imagined “Law of Cheating” held true.  Was his new illicit girlfriend just as beautiful but no more beautiful than his old girlfriend?  I had to test my hypothesis, so I Googled pictures of both.  You can make your own mind up by scanning the pictures I have posted of each woman.  I think my “Hollywood Law of Cheating” is still valid.  But this is not really the issue.

The real issue is why a seemingly intelligent man like me (I hope somewhat intelligent anyway) would even care about Sandoval and his exploits.  I know we call some of these headlines click-bait and I keep telling myself to ignore them.  After all, I really don’t care about British Royalty, the Kardashians, Zombie TV shows or the trysts of Hollywood actors and actresses.  I have a hard enough time trying to avoid the latest news dealing with crooked politicians, greedy real estate developers and lying lawyers to last me the rest of my life.  Short though that might now be.

I have an idea that might help us to avoid these clickbait useless stories.  We need a schema for categories of news stories.  Such a schema would help us to prioritize what we could or should read and when.  Might I suggest the following as a start:

Category One:  Local news that might directly impact your safety or wellbeing or the safety or wellbeing of your loved ones.

Category Two:  Local news that might impact you or your family either socially or economically.

Category Three:  National news that impacts you or your family in any meaningful tangible way.

Category Four:  International news that you might be able to do something positive about in terms of aid or humanitarian assistance.

Category Five:  News about subjects you are interested in like science or history.

Category Six:  Social, Economic or Political news that you cannot change or do anything about.

Category Seven:  News about sports or entertainment

Category Eight:  News that includes gossip about other people whom you have never met and or likely to never meet.  This includes British Royalty, the Kardashians, and most movie stars.

The way you use these categories is as follows.  Just like you have a meal with a balanced diet of carbs, fats, proteins, and nutrients, you would select your daily diet of news based on a balanced news diet.  For example:

Monday:  Two helpings from Category 1.  One helping from Category 2.  One helping from Category 3.  One helping from Category Seven.

Tuesday:  Two helpings from Category 2.  Two helpings from Category 3.  Two helpings from Category 5.  One helping from Category Eight.

You get the idea?  A balanced diet of news with some allowance for “junk food.”  Junk food being anything in Categories Six, Seven or Eight.  Such a diet would help many Americans focus on what is important.  You can start by cutting out my list of categories and keeping this list close by your TV or favorite news source.

Now that I have helped you to think about the important things in your life, I am going to go back to reading about Tom Sandoval, whoever he is.

By the way, I would not trade my spouse Karen for all the glamorous movie stars in the world.  Happiness lies not in what we can buy or what is skin deep but in character and personality.  I can not imagine growing old with anyone else by my side than Karen.

Quandaries of My Existence

Quandaries of My Existence

images (1)I am having one of those days; when the questions of life that I have never been able to answer just seem overwhelming.  I once looked forward to the day that I would know almost everything or at least know a great deal more than I did.  Sadly, that day has retreated further and further from my grasp.  Each day that I live, I find more questions that I cannot answer.  So today, I am listing some of these in the hopes that you (my reader) may have found some of the answers that have eluded me.  Please feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments section or send me an email with your answer.  Any solutions will be greatly appreciated.  For those of you who have never read my blog before, I am a 76 year old White guy who lives in the USA.  I love lobster, liquor, reading, music, travel and making it difficult for racists, xenophobes, Trumpers, and other bigots to dominate current narratives.


Here then are my major quandaries:

  • I grew up always feeling like I was old. I never felt like a child.  Now I am told that I am old, but I do not feel old.  How can I never be young or old?
  • Years ago, I thought that I was smart and that I knew a great deal about the world. Many years have gone by.  I have studied and read much.  I have attended years of education and completed many programs.  How come today, I do not feel like I know much at all? 
  • The older I get, the less that I understand people.  I had people all figured out years ago.  Today, I can’t even figure my self out.
  • It was said that if you are not a socialist when you are young, you do not have a heart and if you are not a conservative when you are old, you do not have a brain. Well, something must be wrong with me, because I still believe in the merits of socialism.
  • I never wanted to be young. I have always been more comfortable around older people.  Trouble is I never wanted to be old either.  I truly wonder if there is any age that I would be happy at?    
  • I have never discovered the meaning of existence, a buried treasure, or the secrets to success. I have looked high and low.  Seems like I would have found something by now.
  • My father used to say if “If you are so smart, why aren’t you rich.” I still don’t know the answer to his question.  My father thought he was smart, but he died poor as well.  I guess, “Like father like son.” 
  • Money never mattered very much to me. I wonder what my life would have been like if money had been my holy grail instead of time.  I always admired the grasshopper in the story with the ants.  I could never save for a rainy day as much more followed the precept to “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I might die.” 
  • What if I could live my life again. Knowing what I know now. Would I have a better life if I could live it over again?  Somehow, I doubt it.  This conclusion puzzles me.  Maybe its like the time paradox thing.  You can’t go back in the past and change the future. 


  • My greatest heroes were always thinkers rather than doers. I think Hofstede’s book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” should be for thinkers like the Communist Manifesto was for the proletariat.  “Rise up Intellectuals and overthrow the morons of the world!”  God knows there are enough of them.
  • Why did none of the officers on the Star Ship Enterprise have seat belts? Every other episode they are in a photon battle with Klingons or Romulans and they are tossed hither and zither all over the deck.  Four hundred years in the future and they still do not have seat belts?  This show was a harbinger of our future.  God Forbid It! 
  • I have made many friends and lost many friends.  Friends seem like ships in the night.  Why do they come and go?  Am I the one that changes, or do they?  I read Aristotle’s books on friendship years ago hoping that they would help.  Did he leave out some important information?
  • Was Socrates really the smartest person in ancient Greece?  Seems like the Delphic oracle would have been, but she was not counted because she was a woman. 
  • How do so many mediocre writers sell so many books?  People who find a blasé character that is some dumb action figure and repeat the story over and over again with a slightly different title.  The hoi polloi buy hundreds of these books making the authors rich and making us listen to them on endless talk shows. 
  • If I die and there is a heaven and I go to it, will I have to listen to God lecture all day long?  I have never liked long lectures and I have been told that we must listen to God in heaven.  I suppose I could take him or her for a few minutes but all day?
  • If I go to heaven, will I have any chores to do?  Lots of other questions on the sexual side about heaven but I don’t want this blog to get an X RATING so I will leave them to your imagination.
  • Life’s not fair. Parents told me that when I was five or so.  Now that I am wiser, I still have never given up expecting it to be.  Is there anyone out there who really expects life to be “unfair?” 
  • Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise! BULLSHIT!  PS:  Maybe it works for women. 
  • The early bird catches the worm. Great if you like worms.  Just a few examples of some of the useless sayings we hear as we grow up.  This leads me to my three rules for aphorisms. 
  • Three rules that I have learned from aphorisms, 1st For every up there is a down. 2nd For every pro there is a con.  3rd For every rule there is an exception.  But if there are exceptions for every rule, then that means that these three rules are all false.  How confusing! 
  • Do not go gently into the night, rage, rage and drag your feet when they come to take you to the nursing home. It probably won’t do you any good, so you will need a backup plan.  In a future blog, I will give you a plan for avoiding getting dragged off to a nursing home.  If I can come up with one.
  • Whoever said that death and taxes were the only eternals was a big schmuck. If I started a list of “eternals” it would go on for many pages.  Taxes get a bad rap.  You want roads? You pay taxes.  You want police protection?  You pay taxes.  You want education for your kids?  You pay taxes.  So why are so many people complaining about taxes?  Maybe they should pay for these things out of their weekly checks and see how they feel about that.

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That’s it folks.  I am sure that with more time devoted to it, I could add endlessly to my list of quandaries.  Each day brings more and more of them.  I would love to hear your Quandaries of Existence.  Please feel free to add as many as you like in my comments section.  Perhaps other readers will have solutions to your quandaries.  If there are any Socrates, Marilyn Vos Savants or Solomons out there please give us the benefit of your wisdom.  😊





Requiem for America:  Our Battle with Fate

I wrote this six years ago on the day of Trump’s inauguration. I was re-reading it and wondering if those that disagreed with me at the time have ever had a change of thought? My question still stands “Will a dream for a better America arise from the ashes of despair?” Or will we see an even worse cadre of political prospects in 2024 than Trump was. People just as regressive but even more cunning like Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, Glenn Youngkin and Greg Abbott.

Aging Capriciously


Many of you have no doubt heard the tone poem by Carl Orff titled Carmina Burana.  One of the famous parts of this musical piece is taken from a poem called “O Fortuna.”  It is a Medieval Latin poem written early in the 13th century.  I started thinking about it today as Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.  I have never much believed in fate, preferring to think that we are masters of our own destiny and fate be dammed.  But as the inexorable reality of the inauguration kept intruding on my existence, I was forced back to the conclusion that perhaps fortune does rule the world.  (To listen click here O Fortuna)

Like the moon you are changeable,
ever waxing and waning;
hateful life first oppresses and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty and power it melts them like…

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OMG!  It’s Chat GPT

chat-gpt-open-ai-bot-illustration-266167606 111

Oh, when will they ever learn?  Oh, when will they ever learn?

For hundreds of years now, we have had technological change.  And for hundreds of years humans have been fighting it.  Trying to reverse change and put Pandora’s evils back in the box.  But that is where we go wrong.  We see things that we do not understand and we label them as “evil.”

Humanity began maybe a million years ago.  The first humans were hunters and gatherers.  10,000 or so years ago humans learned the art of agriculture.  The Age of Agriculture lasted until the advent of machines and industrial technology.  The Industrial Age began in the middle 18th Century.  It lasted until the mid-20th Century.  The next age to come was the Information/Computer Age.  This age began about 1950 and by my reckoning lasted until about the middle 1980’s.

What I want to call the Age of the Internet began with browsers, world wide web and social media platforms in the middle 1980’s.  The Age of the Internet lasted from about 1985 to 2020.  A few years ago, computers became so powerful that no chess player or mathematician could stand against a computer.  Computers can now outdraw, outfire and outshoot any human being.  We have programs that can draw as good as most humans and write as good as most humans.  We have now entered the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligences is defined as “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”Oxford Dictionary Online

As with all new technologies, from fire, to steam engines to airplanes to computers, the detractors are out in force.  These are the people who cannot accept new technology.  They see any changes as evil and want to put them back into the box.  The lines are being drawn as to whether we will move forward or backwards with Artificial Intelligence.  But there is no going backwards.  You can never put the demons back into the box.

Oh, when will they ever learn?  Oh, when will they ever learn?

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A new Artificial Intelligence (AI) program called Chat GPT writes so well that one of the most sacred cows of education is being threatened.  Students do not have to plagiarize anymore; they can simply ask Chat GPT to do an essay or address a theme for them and it will come up with some unbelievable results.  I tried the program myself the other day and obtained some very remarkable results.  I asked it the following questions:  Chat GPT’s replies follow each of my questions.


“What are the secrets to a happy life?”

Chat GPT: 

As an AI language model, I can provide some insights on what research and studies suggest can lead to a happier life. Here are some of the most commonly cited secrets to a happy life:

  • Cultivate positive relationships: Strong social connections and healthy relationships with family, friends, and community can bring joy, meaning, and purpose to life.
  • Practice gratitude: Focusing on the good things in your life and being thankful for them can improve your overall well-being.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy: Pursue hobbies, interests, and activities that make you happy and give you a sense of accomplishment.
  • Take care of your physical health: Regular exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep can boost your energy, reduce stress, and improve your mood.
  • Develop a positive mindset: Cultivate a positive attitude and learn to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones.
  • Set goals and work towards them: Having a sense of purpose and working towards meaningful goals can increase happiness and satisfaction.
  • Be kind and help others: Acts of kindness towards others can boost your own happiness and well-being.

Keep in mind that everyone’s definition of happiness is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, incorporating these secrets into your life can help increase your overall well-being and lead to a happier life.



“How do I get better at playing a musical instrument?”

Chat GPT:

Getting better at playing a musical instrument takes practice, dedication, and patience. Here are some tips to help you improve:

  • Set achievable goals: Decide on specific goals you want to achieve and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. This can help you stay motivated and see progress over time.
  • Practice regularly: Consistent practice is key to improving your skills. Aim to practice every day or several times a week, even if it’s just for a short period of time.
  • Focus on technique: Make sure you have a solid foundation of technique and work on improving it regularly. Pay attention to your posture, hand and finger placement, and other technical aspects of playing.
  • Listen and learn: Listen to recordings of skilled musicians playing your instrument and try to emulate their techniques and style. Attend live performances or watch videos of performances online to gain inspiration and insights.
  • Seek feedback: Get feedback from experienced musicians or teachers who can help you identify areas for improvement and provide guidance on how to address them.
  • Experiment with different styles: Try playing different genres of music to broaden your skills and keep things interesting.
  • Stay motivated: Keep your passion for music alive by reminding yourself why you enjoy playing your instrument and setting new challenges for yourself.

Remember, improving your skills on a musical instrument takes time and effort, but with dedication and practice, you can make progress and achieve your goals.



“Who was the greatest philosopher who ever lived?”

As an AI language model, I cannot provide a subjective opinion on who the greatest philosopher who ever lived was, as the answer may vary depending on personal beliefs, cultural background, and philosophical preferences. Additionally, different philosophers have made important contributions to various branches of philosophy, including ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and aesthetics.

Some of the most influential philosophers throughout history include Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and many others. Each philosopher has contributed to the field of philosophy in their unique way, and their ideas have shaped and influenced the development of Western and Eastern philosophy.

It is important to recognize that philosophy is a diverse field, and different philosophers have made significant contributions to our understanding of the world and our place in it. Ultimately, the choice of who the greatest philosopher ever lived is subjective and dependent on individual interpretation and perspective.

The replies to each of my questions were generated in less than two minutes for each one and probably closer to one minute.  I don’t know what you think about each of these answers, but I was very impressed.  I would probably say that they were just as good as I could have done if not better.  We now have the power to perhaps make every living human being a genius in the sense that the questions one asks are more important than the answers.

Long ago, I learned that the essence of critical thinking is asking critical questions.  I have never met a teacher who did not think that critical thinking was the most important skill a student could learn.  Unfortunately for our students, schools are being run by politicians who believe that tests are critical for student learning.  Every public school in the country must kowtow to ignorant politicians who measure learning by test scores.  In addition, we have a primitive education system that treats all students the same and moves them all through a system of grades and courses with the goal of creating some uniform outcome.  It has never happened, and it never will.  Modern education curriculums should be tailored to the skills and goals of each individual student.

Oh, when will they ever learn?  Oh, when will they ever learn?

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We are now at another major crossroads in history.  We can learn to use the best of AI to help humanity achieve its goals and objectives or we can engage in fruitless fights to stem the development of AI and to prohibit people from using it. There is no doubt that technology can have both positive and negative elements.  However, we cannot address the negative elements of AI by ignoring the technology and or by pretending that it does not exist.   We are in the 21st Century.  Isn’t it about time that we learn from the past?

Empathy:  Do We Really Need It?

what is empathy

Before we begin to answer the question raised in the title, we need to define empathy.  I will ignore what the dictionary says in favor of my own definition.  My definition of empathy is “A feeling that somehow gets shared between two (or more people) and that helps each person feel closer to the other person.”  Years ago, when my first wife and I went to marriage counseling, she told the counselor, that I was the only person she knew who did not have any feelings.  For years, she had wondered about it but she finally concluded that I did not have any.  I cannot fault her for this.  I believed that Spock on Star Trek, was too emotional.  After all, he did have a human mother.

Forty-six years have gone by since that fateful counseling session and I have learned a lot more about empathy.  But to say that I am a master or even a journeyman in empathy would be an exaggeration.  Learning empathy is not as simple as that.  It is compounded by the fact that I see three types of empathy (This is my typology).  There is neg-empathy, neutral empathy, and positive empathy.  Most of my days are spent in neutral empathy.  I have had many occasions of neg-empathy.  Once in a great while, I get struck by lightning and have a glimpse of positive empathy.  They have become more frequent as I have aged but not frequent enough. (The opening picture above shows three types of empathy that psychology textbooks use.)  Again, I favor my own three types.

compassion versus empathy


Neg-empathy is a complete disregard for how another person feels.  Sometimes it is intentional but most often it is inadvertent.  Culturally many of us are brought up to exhibit neg-entropy.  Here is one example:

A good friend is running with me on a mountain trail in Casa Grande.  He stumbles, falls, and twists his ankle.  I ask him if it is ok and can he still run.  He replies that it hurts quite a bit, to which I reply “Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  I think I heard that line from John Wayne or Vince Lombardi.  Many men and maybe women in some cultures are brought up to disregard pain and to ignore suffering.  “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, so should you.”  “The only thing you have to fear, is fear itself.”

Personally, I love a lot of these macho aphorisms.  My father used to tell me them all the time.  Like when I once came home battered and bruised from a fight that I had won with an older kid, and my father said.  “Next time you win a fight, look like you won it.”

People who are suffering from depression are often the victims of neg-entropy.  In trying to help them with lines like “Tomorrows another day” or “You worry too much,” we make things worse for them.  At best, we do not ameliorate or disperse any of their depression.

Neg-empathy does not make anyone feel better.  Comments from neg-empathy do nothing to share a sense of common concern or camaraderie.  At best, they are not helpful and at worse, they may just be mean spirited and cruel.

Neutral Empathy:

sympathyI started running in 1975 after being a very good bicyclist for many years.  I ran in freezing rain, below zero wind-chills and blistering heat.  I even went out one time and ran with a tornado coming through the neighborhood.  Like the U.S. Mail, nothing could stop me.  Over the years, I met many people who would tell me “I used to run but my knees went out and I had to give it up.”  I had enough sense not to tell them what I was really thinking so I usually said nothing or just a “too bad.”  What I was really thinking was “If you really wanted to you could still be running.” The latter comment would be an example of neg-empathy.  My silence was an example of neutral empathy.  I did not make any connection to the feelings that the other person had, nor did I much want to.  I could not identify with them since I ran “no matter what.”  I was better than they were.

Last year in April of 2022, I broke my finger in a fall while running on a mountain trail in Casa Grande.  I continued running and did not find out that my finger was broke until I had an Xray about two months or so later.  The finger throbbed and looked funny for much of this time.  This still did not stop my running.  The advice from many people was that it was just swollen, and the swelling would go down.

One of my favorite run days of the year is January 1.  It is a day that while many are making promises to exercise or lose weight, I go up and do a long hour run in the mountains. This year, January 1, 2023, I put my running gear on and drove to the mountain trailhead.  The closer I came to the trailhead, the more apprehension I felt.  I began to dread running on the mountain trails today.  What used to seem like fun was replaced with a scary feeling.  “When will I break my leg” kept going through my mind?

I finally decided not to run anymore (at least on these trails).  From now on I would hike the trails.  Since January, I have made about three hikes each week.  On each of my hikes, I have suffered from missing the challenges of trail running, feeling like a coward who quit, and just plain thinking of myself as a loser.

Today, I was experiencing the same feelings when suddenly, I realized that I would now be the one to have an excuse for not running any more.  My thoughts went to the numerous times I had encountered others with an excuse for not running.  What would I say to the people I met on the trail.  Should I apologize for not running?  Would they recognize me as the guy who had been running these trails for 12 years?  I did not want sympathy, but I was embarrassed before even meeting anyone else on the trail.

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I realized that I had never given anyone positive empathy for having to give up their running.  My keeping quiet was just an example of neutral empathy.  No support, no compassion, no closeness, no connection with how the other person was feeling.  Forty years after my counseling sessions, and the best I was doing was negative empathy.

Positive Empathy:

My shoulder hurts now from lifting too many weights yesterday.  With Karen gone East to visit her children, I have been doubling down on my exercise schedule.  I figured I could catch up and maybe even get ahead for the several days that I missed last month.  This idea of “catching up” is stupid.  It is fruitless and a waste of time.  Furthermore, it is much more likely to result in injury than sticking to a “normal” schedule.  So now my shoulder is painful and I have no one around to show me any empathy.  Karen would be running some cream or oil in my shoulder or giving me a massage or just telling me that she was worried about me, and that I should take it easy.  Karen is my main source of positive empathy.

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We all need positive empathy for the pains and outrageous misfortunes that happen to us in life.  There are two problems that we may have in getting this positive empathy.

  1. Too many people like me who are not good at giving positive empathy.
  2. Not enough people in our lives to give us the empathy we all need on occasion.

What happens to people who live alone or who have few friends?  I don’t really have a good answer to this.  I realize that there are people who visit shut ins.  People who visit prisons.  I wonder if this is enough.  Some of the studies on happiness suggest that people are less happy than they were years ago.

“While happiness increased globally up until 2011, it has been falling ever since. But this trend masks large differences in happiness across countries, with clear winners and losers.” World Happiness Report


Some questions I have for you:

  • Is it possible to give ourselves empathy?
  • Can self-empathy replace empathy from other people?
  • What happens to people who never get any empathy?
  • Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing your comments or responses. 

The Tale of a Little Nine Year Old Girl Who Deserves to be Remembered


Here is a story that I heard on NPR this week.  It is a tale of a remarkable little girl.  A tale that deserves to be retold.  It goes like this.

In a small town (Population 9,027) located in northwestern Essex County, in the U.S. state of New Jersey, about 16 miles (26 km) west of New York City and 6 miles (9.7 km) north-west of Newark, a little White girl aged nine went out to work on a science project and to help her community.  She had learned that spotted lanternflies were a nuisance species and she decided to collect as many as she could and use them in a science exhibit to educate others about them.  Until this week, the most noteworthy thing about Caldwell was that it was the birthplace of Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.  He was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, was born in Caldwell on March 18, 1837.

As the little girl went from tree to tree collecting these bugs, a former council member and neighbor named Gordon Lawshe saw the little girl going from tree to tree and picking something off the trees.  He was not sure what she was doing but he decided to help her.  He put his jacket on and went out to see how he could assist her.

Wait a Minute!  Hold on there Persico.  You have got your facts all wrong.  That is not how the story goes!


Oh, that’s right.  I forgot.  It was not a little White girl; it was a little Black girl.  It was a former city council member named Gordon Lawshe.  However, he did not go out to help her.  Seeing a nine-year-old Black girl going from tree to tree terrified him.  He wasted no time calling the police on our little budding scientist.  You can probably guess Gordon’s skin color so I won’t bother telling you. 

After the police came and traumatized little Bobbi Wilson, they realized that she posed no threat to the community.  Fortunately, her mother had come out before they took Bobbi away in handcuffs. 

Now there are many in America who say that racism is dead.  They believe that Black people are always playing the “Race Card” when they talk about unfair treatment or systemic racism.  Just the other day, the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction (Tom Horne) said in an interview that there is NO MORE systemic racism in the USA.  This man is in charge of education in our state!

In 2008, the U.S. House of Representative issued a formal apology for slavery and Jim Crow laws. This was passed by a voice vote.  A rather imprecise method of voting which shields anyone from being identified with a particular stance.  A year later, the Senate advanced S. Con. Res. 26 of the 111th Congress, a concurrent resolution apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African Americans.  Republicans now seem bent on reversing this apology by making it harder for Blacks, other minorities, and poor people to vote.  While monetary reparations were given to Japanese Americans for their internment and mistreatment during WW II, any talk of reparations for slavery generates heated arguments.     

Today, the country is seething over the idea of addressing racism in the public schools.  It is feared that White Children will feel guilty.  Mention Critical Race Theory and you will get shut down quick in school districts all over the country.  Even worse is the onslaught on textbooks to sanitize them so that “negative” aspects of American history are omitted. 

But all of the above is very academic.  For little Black Bobbi Wilson, it probably will not mean much.  She would just like to be treated like any nine-year-old White girl with a penchant for science would be treated.  Fortunately, our story does not end with her near arrest.  National Public Radio published the following article about Bobbi on their website.   I have included some excerpts from the article as well as a link to the entire article.  It is very heartwarming and worth reading.  There are many good people in America and this helps us to remember that. 

Yale honors the work of a 9-year-old Black girl whose neighbor reported her to police – NPR, February 4, 2023

Nine-year-old Bobbi Wilson may be in the fourth grade, but last month the Yale School of Public Health held a ceremony honoring the budding scientist’s recent work.

The university entered Bobbi’s collection of 27 spotted lanternflies — an extremely invasive species that is harmful to trees and other plants — into the Peabody Museum of Natural History database.  Bobbi was also presented with the title of “donor scientist” during the Jan. 20 ceremony.

“We wanted to show her bravery and how inspiring she is, and we just want to make sure she continues to feel honored and loved by the Yale community,” Ijeoma Opara, an assistant professor at the school, said in a statement.

Weeks Earlier:

Former City Council member, Gordon Lawshe calls the police department to report:  “There’s a little Black woman walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees on Elizabeth and Florence,” Lawshe told the dispatcher, according to a call obtained by CNN.

“I don’t know what the hell she’s doing. Scares me, though,” Lawshe added.

Outside, Bobbi, a petite child who wears pink-framed glasses, was doing her bit to comply with the state’s Stomp it Out! campaign, which urges New Jersey residents to help eradicate the spotted lanternfly infestation.  She’d learned about it at school and made her own version of an insect repellent she’d seen on TikTok. Making her way from tree to tree, Bobbi would spray the bugs, pluck them from the tree and drop them into a plastic bottle.

Bobbi was still at it when an officer arrived, curious about what she was doing. Body camera footage shows officer Kevin O’Neill approach the child before her mother, Monique Joseph, intervenes.

“You know, you hear about racism; you kind of experience it in your peripheral.  If you’re lucky in your life.  It doesn’t come knocking on your door. That morning when it happened, my world stopped,” Bobbi’s mother said, according to the university.  She added: “The whole community, the science community, got together and said, ‘She’s one of us and we’re not going to let her lose her steam for STEM. We’re going to support the family, we’re going to support this girl.”

So all’s well that ends well right?  Well, not exactly.  There are thousands of little Black girls and little Black boys in America.  When will this end for them?  What will it take to end racism?  When will we stop judging people by the color of their skins and instead judge them by their character and morality? 

The Balloons are Coming!  The Balloons are Coming!


I was up in the Casa Grande mountains this morning where I do either a morning run or a morning hike.  Suddenly, I looked up and saw a large object overhead.  With further perusal, I realized that it was a balloon.  Now I have seen many balloons over the mountains in the past twelve years, but this one was different.  It was large and round like so many are but this one was painted with red, white and blue stripes like an American flag.  Why I wondered would anyone paint a balloon with red, white, and blue stripes?

Moon over mountain

I was well aware that a Chinese surveillance balloon had been spotted over Montana and today another one was spotted over South America.  It has been in the news for the last two days about every hour.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that if the Chinese wanted to fool us, what better way than to make a SPY balloon look like a hot air balloon with an American flag painted on it.  Who would suspect such a balloon.


As I continued to gaze at the balloon, I had the eerie feeling that I was being surveyed.  What if the Chinese were taking my picture?  What if they were scanning my body type and profile?  Could they send my picture back to Beijing?  The more I pondered these questions, the more terrified I became.  I realized it was time to get out of there and report my suspicions to the proper authorities.  Just as I started to leave, the balloon went hundreds, maybe thousands of feet in the air and headed to Picacho Peak.  It dawned on me that the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is just a few miles south of Picacho Peak.  What if the balloon was going to attack the base?  I had to get home quick.

As soon as I got home.  I went on my computer to find the number for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  I Googled “CIA phone number.”  All I could come up with was an address to contact them at:

To contact OIG, please send mail to the following address:

Office of Inspector General

Central Intelligence Agency

Washington, DC 20505

This would not do.  This was an emergency.  It was a matter of national security.  I tried again and found the following phone number for the CIA:  202–418–5000.

I dialed the number and was answered by a robot which said:

“You have reached the “Commodities Futures Trading Commission.”

Could this by a subtle ploy to hide the real identify of the CIA?  I decided that the number listed for the CIA must be wrong.  After numerous searches, (it took me about an hour) I found a number for Mr. William Burns, the Director of the CIA.  I can’t give you his number as it is classified, but I will describe my conversation with the CIA.

CIA:  Who do you wish to speak to?

John:  Hi, this is a national emergency.  I want to speak to the Director, Mr. Burns.

CIA:  Mr. Burns is busy now; would you like to speak to his secretary?

John:  No!  NO!  This is an emergency!  I just spotted another Chinese Surveillance balloon over the Casa Grande Mountains.

CIA:  Could you tell us where these mountains are?

John:  Everyone knows they are in Arizona.

CIA:  Can you hold please, while we find someone to talk to you?

John:  Please hurry, the balloon is headed towards an airbase.


 CIA:  Hello, I am the assistant to the assistant to the assistant for Mr. Burns, how can I help you?

John:  I just spotted a Chinese Surveillance balloon over Picacho Peak.  It is headed to the Air Force base in Tucson.

CIA:  How do you know the balloon is Chinese?

John:  Because it is designed to look like a hot air balloon and it is painted red, white and blue, with the American flag.

CIA:  This sounds serious.  We are recording this information.  Have you contacted anyone else about this?

John:  No!

CIA:  Good, then we want to advise you to say nothing to anyone else.  Are you planning any trips soon?

John:  Well, we have some Chinese friends in San Francisco who we were going to visit in April.

CIA:  My God!  You have Chinese friends?  How long have you known them?  Do you think that they could be spies for the Chinese government.

John:  We have known them for almost thirty years now.  I think they are in their late seventies and probably too old to be spies.

CIA:  They could be much younger and made up to look like old people.

John:  I doubt it.

CIA:  Look, there is a security risk here.  We advise you to terminate your vacation plans immediately with this family and do not mention anything about our conversation with them.  Can you give us their address?

John:  I would rather not.  I don’t’ think we should get them involved.

CIA:  Look, who is more important?  Your friends or your country?

John:  Can I have some time to think about it?

CIA:  Have you ever heard of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  This is the highest award for a patriotic American citizen, and you could be in the running for this award.

John:  Do I get any money with the medal?

CIA: That might be arranged.

John:  Ok, I will give you their names and addresses but you must promise that I will remain anonymous.

CIA: You have our word (Crosses his fingers behind his back while he says this).

John:  I have got to go now; I hear someone knocking at my door.

I hung up my phone and walked to my front door.  Opening the door, two tall White guys in suits with dark sunglasses were standing there.  I asked them “What can I do for you?”  The older of the two guys said “We are from the CIA, we are placing you in the witness protection program for your own good.  Get some clothes, we must leave immediately.”

“Can you wait a few minutes while I tell my wife”, I said.

“It is better if no one knows where you are going or why.  The less people who know the better.  This is an issue of national security.  Hurry, we don’t have much time.  By the way, do you have any papers or documents around that belong to you?”

“Well,” I replied, “I have several unpublished blogs that I started but did not finish.”

“Okay, we want those documents.  They are now classified TOP SECRET documents and belong to the US government.  Gather them up and let’s go.  We want you to put the following message on your voice mail in case anyone tries to call you.”


You have reached the voice mail of John Persico Jr.  I have gone away for a while.  I do not know when I will be back.  If you see any balloons in the sky or have knowledge of balloons that do not look like helium balloons, toy balloons, weather balloons, or hot air balloons, please leave the following details:

  • Where did you see the balloons?
  • What suspicious activities were these balloons up to?
  • Which direction where they headed?
  • What was your last contacts with any ethnic Chinese people?

mixxed ballooons


The Balloon has been shot down over the Atlantic Ocean. The Republican response to this crisis has been summarized by the Governor from Texas:

“The China balloon flying over the U.S. is a direct assault on our national sovereignty,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted on Friday. “Biden’s refusal to stop it is a dereliction of duty. From flying balloons to open borders, Biden has no regard for our national security and sovereignty.”

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