I LOVE April!

IMG_8755I have said for years that April and October are my two favorite months of the year. They just bring so much of what I love.

Sure I love Christmas and the whole Christmas season.

Snowy Renton Street

Snowy Renton Street

The parties and the love shared between people is like no other time. The busyness doesn’t bother me. It energizes me. But December doesn’t make my top list because of the weather. In the Puget Sound, where I live, temperatures in the 30s and 40s and a near constant drizzle or grey cloudy days are the norm. No. I want sun shine. Even if its cold, I want sun shine. So, sorry December you don’t make it.

July and August are very high on my list. It’s frequently sunny. I often enjoy BBQ parties with friends. Sunset at Birch Bay, WA And the baseball season is entering its second half, with pennant races looming. The good weather makes outdoor activities that I love more frequently possible. I love fishing. I love camping. I love driving in my convertible with the top down. It’s all good. But in terms of sports…baseball is the only thing going. I love baseball. But there is no college sports. NFL football is only in training camp and exhibition games that no longer interest me like they did when I was a kid. And basketball is fortunately only limited to the women’s game, which I only tacitly pay attention to. Sorry, all you Storm fans. I’m just not there. And sorry Sounders and MLS fans. I don’t hate Soccer like some who complain of its boring low scoring matches. But they have so many, boring low scoring matches. And I still don’t understand what games count, what trophies count, and how you can play in a tournament in the middle of a season that is completely unrelated to the league in which you play. So, July and August are close, very close. But they fall just a tiny bit short.

Green Bay Packers v Seattle SeahawksOctober is great because the weather at the start of the month is still pretty decent. We have FOOTBALL! Both college and NFL football are well underway, promising fun and excitement every weekend. And Major League baseball is conducting its playoffs and World Series with nearly daily intrigue. I can still go fishing. And, while I don’t do it much anymore…I can go hunting and enjoy a weekend with my dog. October also is the start of the NBA season. Since the Oklahoma Raiders stole my beloved Sonics from Seattle, the start of the NBA season means considerably less to me. In fact, it means almost nothing. I am still a bitter Sonics fan. But…I do love October.

And then…there is April. April is the first month since October or even September some years, when you can expect daily temperatures near 60-degrees. ! YEA! Warmth! I’m a fair weather fisherman, so April see’s me out on my canoe on local lakes.

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

And in terms of spectator sports for the sports nuts like me? It’s a plethora of enjoyment, a cacophony of choices, a riches of experiences. It all starts with the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball championship. And in years like this when a local team, Gonzaga, is playing deep into the March Madness tournament it’s even better. Baseball’s opening day dawns in the first week with every year promising championship dreams…even when those dreams are irreconcilably impossible. I seldom watch golf or play it. But The Master’s this week and every year is not so much golf as it is an event and tradition and history. It’s often high drama. And for others, as I’ve already mentioned this doesn’t really apply to me…much…their is the soccer season underway with the Sounders here in Seattle and there is the start of the marathon NBA playoffs, the only major sport that takes two months to finish the season after having finished the season. Seahawks logo Lastly, us NFL and Seahawks lovers are given the gift of the NFL Draft in April, with the promise of new stars coming to your team to help take you to the promised land by filling the wholes you perceive your team has.

And I haven’t even mentioned the blooming of flowers and their scents and colors, and the return of leaves to the trees and birds and little animals scurrying about after a winter in hibernation. Life begins again in April. I LOVE IT!

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My Incredible Morning Run

IMG_8755In my on going efforts for fitness, health, and continued youth I woke this morning, dressed in my sweat suite, grabbed my cell phone and ear plug headphones and embarked on a morning run. After I was done I realized what an extraordinary start to my day I experienced.

It was a cold March morning with temperatures in the upper 30s. As I left my Renton home through my garage I zipped up my jacket all the way to my neck. I plugged my headphone buds into my ears, plugged the cord into my phone, and turned on the music. I like up-beat music as I run, and classic rock is my up-beat music of choice. Journey was the first band I enjoyed.

At 51 years of age with arthritis in my hips and a slightly torn right labrum loosening up for anything physical takes a little more time than it used to. The darkness of pre-6am enveloped me as I awkwardly began running out of my driveway. The first few hundred yards of my runs see me looking quite geeky as I shake off the cobwebs of a nights sleep and free-up my muscles and joints. I’m flapping around like a fish out of water, and my legs are rotating as a wheel with no lug nuts.

After the first song had played Led Zeppelin was in my ears and head. Good Times, Bad Times. I wasn’t feeling great. My hips were growling at me and the cold was nipping at my ungloved fingertips.

I then looked up from the sometimes dangerous cracked sidewalk and saw a beautiful full moon through the Douglas Firs setting in the west. It shown through the trees and was hallowed by a cloudy mist. It was my beacon lighting my dark path on my journey. It inspired me. Between looking down to watch for missteps on the uneven sidewalk I would look up at the glowing orb. Sometimes I had to search for it as it ducked behind a tree or apartment building. Cars whizzed by at 40 mph when I finally grunted my way to a main road with a smooth level sidewalk, the moon still glowing in the west, descending over the Olympic Mountains.

I run a route that’s about 3.5 miles. It takes me about 30-35 minutes. I’m not fast, just steady. As I rounded the Fairwood shopping center I began the journey home. That would take me east. No longer fighting to keep running or feeling stiff from old age and a thorough nights sleep I am quickening my pace. And a funny thing happened. Dawn had broken.

Rush, Seal, and Pink Floyd sang in my ears as the sidewalk became more easily visible in the growing light. As more hills, and the start of a side-ache begin to challenge me I begin reciting the Hail Mary, over, and over, and over again asking the Mother of Jesus to bless me in my efforts and carry me through.

The final 2-300 yards to my home is the steepest hill on my route and a real struggle as I’ve already run over 3-miles. But not this morning. My eastward trajectory and up hill slant had me peering into a glorious sunrise. Pink skies and some blue clouds inspired me to sprint. It was a beautiful morning.

Sunday, daylight savings time begins. So my next run will be in what is now the 5am hour. It’ll be dark, and I won’t see a darkness and a full moon followed by a beautiful sunrise in the east. I realized and asked myself how often, in the Pacific Northwest, will I run on a clear sky morning, with a full moon, and clear starlit skies followed by sunlit blue, and biting and exhilarating cold all during the same 30 minute run.

Is it pessimistic to say I may never experience this glorious combination again? There are only 12 full moons each year, the number of clear skies in Seattle are notably few, I only run 2-3 days per week and because of my age and my arthritis that amount is going to decrease as time moves on.

My morning run was extraordinary, special, inspiring, fun, and possibly one-of-a-kind.

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The Redskins name and my Sammamish Totems

Sammamish Logo

The Seattle Times newspaper announced today that it would join the ever-growing list of publications that will ban use of the name Redskins in future paper and online articles. The news comes one day after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled the name Redskins can no longer enjoy trademark protection because “€œbased on the evidence properly before us … these (trademark) registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.”.

In the Times article it is pointed out that my high school, Sammamish High School in Bellevue, Washington, is one of many schools and organizations that has a name/mascot derived from Native American culture. Sammamish is “The Totems”. And the article points out that in addition to banning the racial slur Redskins from popular culture, that other sports teams and or schools are being encouraged to ban ALL nicknames derived from Native American culture.  This would include Chiefs, Warriors, Braves, Indians and on and on.

redskins-logo

I’ll admit, somewhat sheepishly, that I honestly never thought of my high school’s nickname as being Native American. Clearly it is. I just never thought about it. Even though the subject of removing the name Redskins and other less offensive Native American nicknames has been in the news for years, I never made the connection. Interestingly (for me) the Time’s article also points out one of the lone remaining school sports names in Washington that carry’s with it some racial over tones toward Native Americans (or any other ethnic group, I guess) is my Dad’s high school alma mater The Bellingham High School Red Raiders. While keeping the nickname the Bellingham School District years ago removed any logo or symbolism associated with Native Americans from its High School, choosing instead on displaying a Hawk in depicting Red Raiders.

So my questions are these: 

1. Should the NFL’s Washington football team change its name from Redskins?

2. Should ALL nicknames with Native American connotations be banned/removed?

3. Am I alone in not giving any thought toward my own school’s nickname…along these lines?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office admits in its report that only 30% of Native Americans surveyed find the term Redskins offensive. And survey’s of the team’s fans throughout the D.C. area strongly approve of owner Daniel Snyder’s stance to “NEVER change the name”.

My position is not unlike my thoughts about my own Totem’s nickname from my high school days. I’m rather indifferent. I see how the term Redskins can be offensive (who can’t?). But I also feel…INTENT has to play a big part in how a word is used. Nobody in their right mind believes Snyder or anyone associated with the Washington Redskins intends to offend anyone. It’s as if simply writing or saying the “n-word” is offensive; which it is…to a lot of people. I respect that. But I’m going to write it here, now. Nigger. Am I a racist? In the context of how I am using it I would openly and strongly call you an idiot for accusing me of being so. And my African-American wife, children, and friends would defend me; I’m sure. Still the word is offensive because of how it has historically been used, and the frequency with which its been used. The same can be said of the word Redskins. Though nobody with any scruples would use the word in any other way but as a reference to the football team. And such has been the case for decades. You can’t say that about the N-word.

Nonetheless, the tide to remove the name Redskins from the NFL football team is certainly unmistakable; and I predict it will be done in the next 2-3 years. Chalk up another one for political correctness. Still, it’s not something I don’t understand or would strongly argue.

However, to the politically correct wimps who would remove all nicknames, like my Totems, from schools and sports teams I would say, GROW UP. As I already pointed out, INTENT, must be taken into consideration when choosing to be offended otherwise you can find offense in way too many things in this world. The nursery level idiom “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, comes to mind. I could point out all the other nicknames of some racial derivation…like a lot of people arguing this point do…but I won’t. Because it’s a waste of time.

If someone offends you and does so intentionally or unthinkingly, do something about it. Say something. But if their Intent is non-offensive keep that in mind. When I was young and going to school studying broadcasting I created an audio character with an English accent named “Bueno Mike”. It was a character I used for product commercials. And it was intended to be funny. Bueno Mike was supposed to be an English explorer in the vein of “Stanley and Livingston”. I decided Bueno Mike needed an assistant and innocently came up with a new character I called “Sambo”. This was in 1985. My then-girlfriend, and future wife, was incensed. I had no ill-intent. I was thinking of the restaurant named Sambo’s, and the young Indian character who spun a tiger around a tree and turned him into butter. But my girlfriend couldn’t believe I would use a name so offensive. I admitted I didn’t know that it was offensive to African-Americans. But after she calmed down and explained it to me I didn’t hesitate to ditch the plan and not use the derogatory name. But I have to admit my girlfriends strong first reaction put me on the defensive and I was a little upset. Only through a calmer approach was my mind changed.

What do you think? I’m really interested in hearing from my fellow Sammamish Alums to my 3 earlier questions.

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Seahawks Will Win the Super Bowl

On September 6, 2013 I wrote the blog Seahawks will win the Super Bowl if…
As you can see…I have removed the “if”. 

The Author in 2013 age 49

At the start of the NFL season I predicted in my blog that Seattle would finish 12-4 or 13-3. Nailed that one.

I also said if they get home field advantage in the playoffs they would go to the Super Bowl. Well, with Sunday’s win of the St Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field the Hawks have indeed secured home field advantage through the playoffs. Win two games on their home turf and nirvana is upon us.

Seattle goes into the playoffs with five other NFC teams who are all fully capable of going to the Super Bowl and beating whoever the AFC representative is. And the AFC representative will undoubtedly be Denver unless Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots pull a minor upset. The Broncos are a good team, and their quarterback Peyton Manning is THE best. But they’re vulnerable to a tough defensive team like Seattle, San Francisco, or Carolina.

Seattle’s road to the New Jersey Super Bowl could be made easier if they are lucky enough to avoid playing San Francisco or Carolina. Playing both of them, which is a possibility, will be particularly tough. The Seahawks January 11th Division round game will be the lowest seeded survivor of the Wild Card weekend games; either San Francisco, New Orleans, or Green Bay. The Saints and the Packers don’t concern me. Neither has the defense necessary to stop a Seattle offense that moves the ball and scores pretty well when not facing a big strong front seven like the 49ers, Panthers, Buccaneers, and Rams.

The NFC wildcard games feature the 49ers in Green Bay versus the Packers, and the Saints traveling to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.  I’m fairly confident S.F. will beat G.B. which would send Jim Harbaugh and his Bay area miscreants to Seattle IF the Eagles take advantage of their home field advantage and beat the road-weak Saints. New Orleans and the Saints are simply not the same team on the road as they are in the Superdome. AdvoCare National Spokesperson Drew Brees will have to turn around this trend if they’re going to “win” a trip to the hell hole that is CenturyLink Field.

I expect Seattle to be playing their greatest rival in their first playoff game. Too bad how the NFL playoffs are set up. Because if this happens the two best teams in the league will meet in a Division round game and not even a Conference Championship. Seahawks logo

The Seahawks can feel confident in playing the 49ers in Seattle since they have thoroughly throttled S.F. in the Clink the past two years, and Seattle’s two losses in the Bay area have both been close. My concern is that a team as solid as the Niners are bound to figure it out at some point, right? I hope not.

The news yesterday that wide receiver Percy Harvin will practice this week is GREAT news for the 12th Man. Harvin is so talented that his presence on the field can tilt the whole field for the Seahawks. Six weeks ago Harvin played his only game of the season against Minnesota. But it was so obvious that the Vikings adjusted their defense for Harvin when he was in on those 16 offensive plays; Harvin becomes a weapon even if only as a decoy. But if fully healthy he’ll be more than that. Harvin in the game makes a Seahawk win that much more assured.

Carolina beating Philadelphia is near certain. My prediction anyway. A successful prediction would send Carolina all the way across country to Seattle. Playing in Seattle is tough enough. Doing so in January when you’re a warm weather team, and doing so when you have to flying across country is no easy task. The Seahawks have beaten the Panthers narrowly in Carolina each of the past two seasons. Doing so at the Clink will be easier. Seattle will be going to the Super Bowl for the second time in their history.

New England beat Denver in the Mile High City November 24th. So they can do it again. But I don’t think they will. The Patriots had Rob Gronkowski at that time. The All Pro tight end is now gone for the season and won’t be there as Tom Brady’s favorite target. The Patriots can win. But I think the Broncos will.

Super Bowl XLVIII will be the first out-door cold weather Super Bowl in its history. It might snow. It will almost certainly be cold; freezing cold. I can’t imagine a more welcoming situation for Marshawn Lynch and the Hawks grunts on the defensive line. Manning is defensive about the claim that he doesn’t play well in cold weather. Too bad. He doesn’t. No quarterback does…at least most of the time. A ground and pound defensive, cold game favors the team with the number one defense in the league and the game’s most violent runner.

February 3rd will be a non-work day in the Northwest for most everyone. Because Seahawk fans will still be celebrating their 28-24 win over Denver.

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NFL Can Solve Concussion Problem But Isn’t

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.

Now that the NFL concussion problem has gotten the attention of PBS’ Frontline tv news documentary program newsletterplease

its time for this multi-billion-dollar per year business to do the simple and necessary steps required to reduce dangerous head injuries to its players. They need to do so now before their neglect on this subject becomes a financial and legal liability that will eventually lead to the elimination of the game we love.

In “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” Frontline showed that the biggest sports league in the world has knowingly sent too many players into retirement with what appear to be permanent brain injuries.

//www.youtube.com/embed/

As I wrote in a June 2012 blog “NFL Concussion Problem is Solvable” one of the steps the NFL could take right now, this year is to put padding on the outside of the hard-shell helmets their players wear. It’s been done before by at least two players in the 1990s.

Buffalo Bill Mark Kelso padded his helmet.

Buffalo Bill Mark Kelso padded his helmet.

Buffalo’s Mark Kelso was no bench-warming back-up player. He wore his padded helmet while forging a 7 year NFL career and playing in four Super Bowls.

Steve Wallace in his "Cone helmet"

Steve Wallace in his “Cone helmet”

San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Steve Wallace wore a foam cap. He was good enough to play in a Pro Bowl. Why don’t players protect themselves by wearing these easily manufactured foam caps on their hard-shell helmets? Because they can. Players can choose to do this on their own without the league stepping in. They don’t because too many of them think they make you look bad, or geeky, nerdy, or uncool. It’s such a sad statement in our society the clothing appearance is more important than the risk of life long medical disability.

The next question is why doesn’t the NFL require the foam padding on the outside of the helmets? It’s a mystery. Though you can guess it has something to do with style, appearance, aesthetics.

There is still more they can do. During the last off-season the NFL announced that it would require its players to start wearing padding in the football pants, in particular, over their knees. This is a huge step. Just think of how many times we’ve seen a player knocked senseless while blocking or tackling and inadvertently being kicked in the head by another players knee. It happens all the time. Common sense would presume that a pad on the knee and a thin pad on the players helmet would do a lot less neurological damage than a hard knee smashing into a head covered by a hard-shell helmet. The problem is the NFL delayed this change, the mandatory padding, until 2014. It’s hard to imagine why; especially when at the time of the announced change more than 2000 thousand former players had joined in a class action lawsuit against the NFL claiming damages from head trauma during their playing years continued to plague them into retirement.  The lawsuit was settled in August 2013 for $765-million and a guarantee of lifetime medical insurance coverage.

NFL Referees have increasingly thrown flags for helmet hits. The league has also increased the frequency and amount of fines it assesses players every week for those same helmet hits. And I applaud such action.

I am not among the foolish whiners who claim their taking away what we love best about this vicious game, the big hard hits. For the past 20-30 years players have not tackled properly. They fly at the ball carriers, usually with their head down, and essentially “push” them as hard as they can hoping the guy with the ball falls down. (I know I’m simplifying…bear with me) But watch the old, I mean 1960s-old NFL Films highlight reels of Tommy Nobis, Dick Butkis, Chuck Bednarick, Ray Nitschke, Deacon Jones. These Hall of Famers and all others at that time didn’t lower their heads and run into the ball carrier. They kept their heads up to see. They collided with the runner and they wrapped their arms around, and lifted and drove backwards with their legs. This is how I was taught how to tackle at Bellevue, Washington’s Olde Jr High, and then Sammamish High School in 1976-1982. In watching those old highlight films I challenge you to tell me they didn’t hit and tackle hard, and that those hits were exciting. They were savage and brutal. They were great. A perfectly executed hit-wrap-lift-and drive tackle is still more exciting to me then some head collision.

Teaching how to tackle properly again and added padding on the outside of helmets and over the players knees can only help. And it better. Because in our litigious society increasing evidence of repeated concussion trauma and its life time effects on the players will only lead to the inevitable legislative control and eventual loss of the great game of football.

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What I’d Would Tell the 16 Year Old Me

Some time ago I had a strange conversation between myself now and the 16-year-old me from 1980. August 1981 - 17 Years old, 181 lbs.

This farcical conversation was wide sweeping and dealt with the changes in the world that include the introduction of the home computer, cell phones, cable television and 24 hour news and sports programing, and the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used by anyone anywhere in the time since 1980 when such a good revelation would come as a bit of a surprise.

We talked about our mutual love of sports and the pain and joy it has wrought like the fact that my local Seattle teams have never won a single championship in the 34 years since the Sonics won the 1979 NBA title, and the fact that the Sonics no longer exist.

Sonics game, probably 1978

Sonics game, probably 1978 (Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives)

But the most important part of our conversation had to do with my advice to him as he gazed into an unknown future.

“So what have we learned? What can you tell me?”, the 16-year-old me asked. 
“You want to know what I’d do differently?” I responded.
“No.” he said wisely. “I figure what you’ve learned will answer that question. I just want to know what you’ve found out; how you’ve grown.”
“First” I said, “I’ve learned to happily accept friendship wherever it’s offered and never worry too much if the person offering the friendship is the coolest, or the best looking, or even the most fun. Friendship is a treasure under any circumstance.”
He asked, “Are you saying I’m a bad guy because I’m not friends with everyone?”
“No. But you are unfulfilled because you have turned away from possible friendships for any number of reasons ranging from not thinking someone was cool enough, or pretty enough, or they were too cool or too pretty and you somehow didn’t think you could measure up.” I answered. “Friendships color your world, your life. And you can have more of them.”
Secondly I said, “I’ve learned to move past disappointments. I’ve learned they are inevitable and that if you embrace them too hard they become part of you. If you let them go they’re only part of the past.”
“Anything else?” he asked.
The Author in 2013 age 49 I told him, “I’ve learned to do what makes me happy.” I said, ”Time between where you are at age 16 and where I am in 2013 at age 49 has been a short period of time. And now I know that the time between now and the day I die, whenever that may be, will be even shorter. The time we have is fleeting and valuable. Spending it being angry, worrying about money, or stagnant with immobilization caused by fear or procrastination is a waste of time and a detriment to your happiness.”
“All that seems so simple.” he said.
I closed our encounter by telling the sixteen year old me, “It is simple. And it’s hard.” 

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If You Voted For Obama Be Embarrassed! And Not Because of the Shutdown.

Washington DC - Capitol Hill: United States Ca...

So the Federal Government is shut down. Based on my previous writings and the headline to this blog I bet you think I’m going to blame President Obama. If so you really haven’t read my previous posts very closely. You don’t know me at all.

Though I don’t completely blame the President for the shutdown I am, nonetheless, enraged by his arrogance and perpetual politicking rather than leading. What’s got my ire up is the Chicago Wonderkind again doing all that he can to make Americans uncomfortable in order to gain political points. He did it when the Sequester hit last Spring too. It’s cheap and it demonstrates in BIG BOLD LETTERS that he doesn’t really care about the American people, only his ideology and at this point, I believe, his legacy.

As seen in this video barricades were erected around the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. and other open-air memorials throughout our Capital. It’s important for you to know, if you didn’t, that these barriers never previously existed. The government is shutdown because it, ostensibly, has run out of money. But it somehow finds money to erect barricades to our nations most precious monuments that at times other than the shutdown are open to the public at all hours of the day and night, 365 days-a-year?

Additionally, the Administration has ordered a stoppage of all military recreational events including the traditional match between military academies Air Force vs Navy. Again, look beyond the Obama people’s claim that this is being done to save money. But the game this Saturday at the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland is an NCAA football game. It’s undoubtedly sold out, always is, and actually generates revenue for the military academies and the Federal Government.

Just like he did with the Sequester the President is having a temper tantrum and is making certain that we the American people suffer as much public discomfort as can be. So he is canceling as many events, or programs that reach the most people that he can. It’s his view that doing so will not reflect poorly on him or other Democrats; but rather it will reflect poorly on Republicans who he continues to blame for the government shut down. A shut down brought on because two of the three legislative branches of the Federal government led by Democrats couldn’t come to agreement with the one legislative body led by Republicans. But it’s up to you, the readers of this blog, to recognize what is really happening. Obama is hurting you in order to hurt Republicans. I so desperately want a President who works to make difficult times easier for us, rather than more uncomfortable. Isn’t that what leaders do?

The shut down is an embarrassment for our government. But it’s your fault, Republicans and Democrats, voters. Voters this is your fault. You re-elected the same leaders who have been in place for at least 6 years.

English: Nancy Pelosi photo portrait as Speake...

Nancy Pelosi controls the Democrats in the U.S. House and has since 2002.

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

John Boehner has the GOP since 2007.  Harry Reid is Senate Democratic leader going back to 2005. And Mitch McConnell has been Senate GOP leader since 2007. And then there’s the President. In office since January 2009. Nearly 5 years of the exact same leaders that have been incapable of passing a budget since 2009 (a year when Democrats controlled all three legislative bodies). How could you have expected any different? So keep your disgust to yourself on the subject of the budget wrangling.

Instead share your disgust with mine over a President going out of his way to hurt you. Has that ever happened before in American history? I think not.

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