Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Quack Is Back

I'd thought that we'd seen the last of the homeopathic quack, Jennifer Stella, back in the 2012 session of the Vermont General Assembly. But apparently she's concerned that there may again be a move this year to finally remove the dangerous exposure to unvaccinated kids in our schools by the legislature, finally killing the "philosophical exemption" to vaccinations. This despite the fact that it's clear that the session is to be taken up by more pressing matters, at least for this term of the biennium.

True to the extremist nature of her agenda, I found that she has posted misleading material at Rob Williams anti-Semitic hate blog called the Second Vermont Republic (as a rule, I no longer link to Williams' hate site) from a similarly committed anti-vaxxer by the name of Bob Sears. Essentially, such anti-vaxxers believe that despite the proof and the science their poorly acquired doubts trump reason because "Freedom!", your child or immunocompromised relation or grandparent be damned.

Stella has incorporated Sears' misleading material into an essay that she addressed to Governor Shumlin. I'll tackle some of the deception via a dissection of Sears' essay from a piece published last Friday at Scienceblogs (there's that pesky "science" that doubters like Stella and Sears so rue) called "Blowing the Antivaccine Dog Whistle Again."

Here's a taste:
"There’s a term I coined reading Dr. Bob (Sears') nonsense: The antivaccine dog whistle. In politics, a “dog whistle” refers to terminology that sounds benign to most people but in reality tells those holding objectionable viewpoints that the speaker is sympathetic to them (or even one of them). In other words, most people can’t “hear” the message, and only those for whom it’s intended can “hear” it, recognizing for what it is. Let’s just put it this way. Dr. Bob is very good at antivaccine dog whistling. (So is Rand Paul.) Now, in a “point-counterpoint” pair of editorials, Dr. Bob does it again. Now, don’t get me started on the idiocy of false balance that presenting point-counterpoint editorials represents about a scientific topic like vaccination. Unfortunately, lately false balance has been rising from the grave again. (Apparently, like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, it never dies.) Dr. Bob’s editorial is entitled Mandatory vaccination is not the answer to measles and it starts out with some serious dog whistling right out of the box:"
"Measles. It used to be just a disease. Now it’s become a banner under which politicians gather to threaten one of our most sacred rights – the right to give informed consent for medical treatment."

"Whether you are for vaccines, against them, or neutral, allow me to ask this question: Is vaccination a medical treatment which should fall under the protection of informed consent, or does the government have the right to force them on every American?"
"See what I mean? Right out of the box, Dr. Bob is trying to reframe the debate over a bill being considered in the California legislature that would eliminate non-medical exemptions to school vaccine mandates. I realize that often the editorial writer doesn’t pick the title (usually the editor does), but the very title “mandatory vaccination” helps Dr. Bob frame the issue not as one of public health but rather personal freedom, just as Rand Paul did. Notice how obviously but nonetheless rather cleverly he does it, with a little rhetorical prestidigitation in which he’s saying, “You know, what’s important is not whether you’re for vaccines or antivaccines or “neutral” (whatever that means in this context), it’s that the government can’t take away our FREEDOM!"
In addition to the measles anti-vaccine dog whistling, Stella has engaged in guilt by loose association attacks on legislative opponents of her philosophical scam. We can expect to see more of these if, by chance, legislation is actually introduced and begins to move forward. It's how she rolls.

More from Scienceblogs on the Stella/Sears' junk science:
"The issue thus reframed, Dr. Bob launches into a list of the horrors of vaccination and the joy of measles. OK, I’m exaggerating, but not by a heck of a lot. It’s the same stuff Dr. Bob’s been spewing all along since the measles outbreaks began, antivaccine tropes about how the measles isn’t that bad and how vaccines are “dangerous,” all in the form of bullet points. For example:"
About 2,000 severe reactions are reported to the CDC each year which result in prolonged hospitalization, permanent disability, or death. Most reactions aren’t even reported, so the true number may be even higher. Yet, because they can’t be proven, the medical community denies that they can happen. Over $3 billion have been paid out to victims of vaccine reactions. Not $3 million. Not $30 million. Not even $300 million. But $3 billion. Are we paying that much money to victims of pretend reactions? I think not.
"Dr. Bob should change that last sentence from “I think not” to “I don’t think,” as in “I don’t think,” a general statement of Dr. Bob’s intellectual prowess with respect to vaccines. I’m guessing that 2,000 severe reactions a year is probably referring to the > (VAERS) database, which, as regular readers here know, is an open database to which anyone can report any “reaction” to vaccination, whether it’s actually related to a vaccine or not. VAERS is not authoritative, and the adverse events are not generally verified. Indeed, as has been reported before, one pro-vaccine blogger, Dr. Jim Laidler, reported that the influenza vaccine turned him into the Incredible Hulk. True, the VAERS staff did contact this blogger and ask him about it, but, as he noted, if he had refused to remove the entry, it would still be there. Another pro-vaccine blogger, Kevin Leitch, verified that VAERS lets you enter basically anything by reporting that a vaccine had turned his daughter into Wonder Woman. That’s why VAERS is the antivaccinationist’s favorite database, and I like to refer to dubious correlations reported from VAERS as dumpster diving. Not surprisingly, antivaccine lawyers have made the database almost worthless as a source of information over the incidence of adverse events due to vaccines by encouraging their clients to enter all sorts of reports, in particular reports claiming that vaccines caused autism. Most recently, the Toronto Star completely misinterpreted how VAERS data should and shouldn’t be used in its utterly botched story falsely linking all sorts of horrific reactions to Gardasil. Then Dr. Bob lists a bunch of bullet points, all consisting of tired antivaccine misinformation that was old when Dr. Bob was in medical school, including (my favorite) the claim that measles isn’t dangerous, a claim rebuked by medical science. For instance:
It has killed no one. It can kill about 1 person in every 1000 cases. Will someone die of measles in the United States in the years to come? Maybe. But it hasn’t killed anyone in the past 15 years or more. The last time measles hit us hard was 25 years ago. Not last year, not this year, yet. It’s measles, people. It’s not the plague. It’s not polio. It’s not Ebola. It’s measles. If the plague hits, let’s force everyone to vaccinate. But measles? Measles? We need something a lot more dangerous than that if we are going to rob each and every patient of the sacred right of informed consent.
"So, measles is no big whoop, even though it can kill one out of a thousand children who get it. Of course, Dr. Bob neglects to note other, more common, complications of the measles that can be very serious, such as pneumonia (which he at least mentioned in his earlier rants) and he very much failed to mention how about one in four victims of this year’s measles outbreak have had to be hospitalized."

"But notice the overall construction of Dr. Bob’s argument. To him, measles isn’t serious (which he explicitly states multiple times) and the vaccine is dangerous (which he implies with his listing of “severe complications” of vaccination in general); so to him it follows that “forcing” vaccination is an unacceptable affront to freedom"
Stella and her partner in the crime of disinformation, Dorian Yates, have been on a media push that includes misstating vaccine statistics, following the Bob Sears model for screwing with the facts. I just have to wonder why she thinks posting her crap at a well known anti-Semitic hate blog like Williams' is going to do her much good except with the bigoted misogynist, homophobe and racist demographic. But perhaps it's expecting too much in the way of rational thought from a quack.

The entire piece at Scienceblogs is well worth the read and I recommend it.

More, undoubtedly, to come.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cascadia? Nuts!

Years ago secession guru, anti-Semite and a co-founder of the Second Vermont Republic, Kirkpatrick Sale, made the surprising admission that a good many of the secessionist organizations listed at his Middlebury Institute (much to Middlebury VT's chagrin) were little more than websites comprised of only a few or one member. While he described his own group as an "umbrella" organization, it too was little more than a website maintained by another anti-Semite like Sale called Carol Moore.

Sure, the now dead baas of SVR, the Dixie singin' Thomas Naylor was also a member of MI but that was pretty much it. The MI organized and sponsored a couple or three poorly attended (primarily by racists from the League of the South, the Alaska Independence Party and the Hawaiian independence movement) conferences, mostly in the Deep South, that were little more than gatherings of the same small group of committed racists and anti-Semitic secesher assholes - Michael Hill, Donald Livingston, Rob Williams, Naylor, Sale, the Dexters, ad nauseum. Stunts, really, designed to get some AP and FOX News coverage and accomplished little more. Except for the overtly racist LoS, they've stopped even doing that. All the "big plans" - Town Meeting articles, constitutional conventions, candidates standing for elective office - have come to naught, as well as to an end.

Recently the San Francisco Chronicle ran a piece titled "Cascadia Secession Apparently Not As Easy As It Sounds" on the Left Coast secesher group Cascadia Now! After a word salad interview of seemingly one of its few members, Brandon Letsinger, the Chronicle lays bare the phoniness of the group. (Note: The group claims thousands of members but offers no proof, much as Naylor once claimed that more than 60,000 Vermont voters supported secession but when the time came to vote far less than 1% of Vermont's registered voters supported the secesher gubernatorial candidate, a number comparable to the average of spoilt ballots in an election.)

Then the Chronicle's Caille Millner got down to it:
"When it came to the question of how this republic might come about, however, Letsinger was more circumspect. He thinks politics are “irrelevant, negative, and toxic.” Cascadia, he emphasized, is about “an identity” to connect the region’s 15 million people."

"To this end, Cascadia Now! has a soccer team (they want to play Quebec), a poetry festival, and a Scouting Association. They have their own beer, “Cascadian dark ale,” made with hops from the region."

"The crowd seemed pleased. Cascadia sounded like great fun until the next speaker, Joshua Clover, took the podium."

"Clover is a 52-year-old UC Davis literature professor who specializes in political economy. He came prepared with his own PowerPoint slides; he wanted to tell the crowd about the history of secession movements in the 20th century. (I told you Kadist was sly.)"

"Cheerfully, Clover talked about how previous breakaway movements around the world had led to battles, purges, invasions and sieges."

"As the bodies stacked up, I could feel the energy in the room shift into discomfort."

"What had happened to the hops? Where had the positive identity gone?"

"As for freedom from the shackles of the empire, well, Clover didn’t think Cascadia would have that, either — not in today’s global market. 'It’s unclear what regionalism could mean unless a place is prepared to, say, make its own refrigerators.'"

"Right now, Clover said in a buoyant voice, all of the world’s refrigerators are made in China."

"Clover wasn’t done yet. He layered a demographic map of the United States over that of Cascadia. Look at the dots, he urged us. Cascadia is 'a peculiarly non-diverse region with the exception of some native peoples for whom previous secessions have proven deadly.'"

"Cascadia, he said, represented 'demographic anti-blackness.'"

"It took the audience a few moments to come up with questions after Clover sat down."

"But his gimlet-eyed view of Cascadia’s Happy Valley had an unexpected benefit: Some audience members discovered that they had a few doubts about this whole secession thing."

"An audience member asked Letsinger about the steps that Cascadia had taken to reach out to the region’s indigenous people. Letsinger said that they had engaged in outreach, and that some of the tribes had “similar values” about environmentalism and activism. Cascadia’s values, he added, were attractive enough that others would come to them."

"But the question persisted, and Letsinger got annoyed: 'I’ve heard this, the idea that this movement is not diverse enough so you need to reach out to these people. We see that as a colonization of our values.'"

"The idea that a suggestion to reach out to historically oppressed people would cause the Cascadia movement such suffering! It was so dazzling, so bizarre, that I almost missed the next question."

"'Cascadia seems more like a brand, like a shared narrative fantasy,' said an audience member. She wanted to know, essentially, what the plan was to make the idea more concrete."

"Unfortunately, making Cascadia concrete would require, well, politics. Letsinger wanted to keep talking about bioregionalism, about creating a brand that was “open source,” about how Cascadia Now! makes all of its own merchandise."

"I felt the evening’s vision of freedom and positivity ebbing quickly away, and I felt so bad for Letsinger that I didn’t even ask him to explain his statement about colonization. Instead I asked him about how Cascadia could avoid the violence that had plagued so many other breakaway movements throughout time."

"'It’s a good question,' he said, and admitted that violence would be a breaking point for him personally."

"He wanted a model more like Scotland, where the voters had had a choice. But the voters in Scotland voted not to secede, and that election had a degree of seriousness that I hadn’t gotten from this discussion. I walked out of Kadist with new questions, like:"

"Does Cascadia really want to secede? Or do they just want a good beer?"

Caille Millner is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @caillemillner
Oddly enough, early SVR member and longtime syncophant, Peter Buknatski a.k.a. "Petey Sweety," was a registered at the Vermont Secretary of State's website as an owner of Second Vermont Republic Beer, Ale and Brewing or some such nonsense which has likewise come to naught. Little wonder then that Williams got some serious wood over the alcoholic aspect to the article in his own post at his hate blog (Note: I do not link to Williams' hate site; it's easily found if you have to.)

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Snake Oil, Vermont Secesher Style

Some of you may remember the imbecile who ran as the failed Vermont secession gubernatorial candidate of the Second Vermont Republic back in 2010, Dennis Steele (more than 99% of Vermonters voted for someone other than Steele). Being the sharp political strategist (not) that he was, he used imagery in his campaign honoring the admitted murderer Che Guevara.

Well, he's back as a distributor of an addictive product, nicotine laced e-cigarettes whose marketing has been roundly condemned by the Vermont Health Department . And he wants a state subsidy for his nicotine peddling. Here's what he had to say to WCAX:
"In my opinion they (the state) should subsidize what we are doing or just leave us alone (by not taxing e-cigarettes like tobacco products) and let us help people get off the analog or combustible cigarettes (emphasis mine).
Yet at his NEK Vapor website Steele emphatically states in his FAQs:
Will I be able to quit smoking using the e-cig?

"The electronic cigarette is an alternative to smoking and is not a smoking cessation device. Some people have quit smoking using the electronic cigarette but we make no such claims as to effectiveness for that purpose and e-cigs are not sold for that purpose."
Really? Which is it, Dennis? Talking out of both sides of your mouth is a common failing of most secessionists. If it's bad for Vermonters - secession, imagery of an admitted murderer (which he continued to distribute after his campaign said he was dropping the Che crap), or an addictive nicotine product - Steele's right there to peddle it to you.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Second Vermont Republic Ally Celebrates the Sesquicentennial of a Murder for Presidents Week

Longtime Second Vermont Republic ally, advisor and friend at the neo-Confederate hate group called the League of the South, by way of its president and champion of the Southern War of Treason, Michael Hill, has issued this proclamation at its website:
Honoring John Wilkes Booth

"The League of the South looks to the present and future. However, from time to time we do look back at our past.

This 14th of April will mark the 150th anniversary of John Wilkes Booth’s execution of the tyrant Abraham Lincoln. The League will, in some form or fashion, celebrate this event. We remember Booth’s diary entry: “Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment.” A century and a half after the fact, The League of the South thanks Mr. Booth for his service to the South and to humanity."

"Stay tuned . . ."
"Michael Hill"
I know I should probably give up trying to get him to do it but I'm going to ask Rob Williams, the last remaining Vermont secesher, one more time to renounce and denounce the League of the South and once and for all end SVR's ties to the racist hate group.

UPDATE: 11:00 PM, 2.17.15
Almost six and a half hours after I put the above post up, Green Mountain Daily's Jack McCullough added his voice to the call for SVR to put some daylight between themselves and the racist hate group, the League of the South. It's likely, though, that all we'll get from Rob Williams will be one of his trite aphorisms or homemade secesh bromides.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

In and Out - Part IV

Two weeks ago when I reported that Greg Guma's doomed to failure campaign for the office of mayor of Burlington (the usual result of Guma's several campaigns for public office) was on again I noted that Guma was setting out with a negative campaign style. That was hardly surprising given that Guma is a Vermont secession flack and dabbles in Vermont secesher historical revisionism. Secessionists and their allies are notoriously negative in their endeavors, laying on lots of hate to make their point. Proving so, Guma began his campaign by calling an opponent a "Republicrat," a pejorative from the Burlington political scene of the 80s. Vermont secessionists are promoting Guma's campaign as an "INSURGENCY" at their hate site (no link will be provided to the hate site).

For a little history, Greg Guma's first press conference on Friday, Feb. 6 was a flop. Described by Seven Day's Alicia Freese as "sparsely attended," Guma's presser elicited no public interest. Stung by this perhaps, Guma launched his first video ad that he admits is "reminiscent" of an attack style. Using wildly out of scale graphics to represent potential development on Burlington's waterfront, Guma's ad uses an ominous sounding, "in-a-world" style narration, including a target placed over the present mayor's face followed by a gunshot. You can read more about the ad here and see the target on Mayor Weinberger's face here. As a result of the outcry from the public, Guma has deleted his Palinesque target and gunshot, the only acknowledgement of which may be this vaguely worded, "(The ad) has been edited to comply with campaign regulations" on his campaign website.

Perhaps criticism of Guma's ad was best said by Burlington City Council president Joan Shannon in an email to the press that labeled Guma's ad claims as "absurd and inaccurate," adding,
"I urge Greg Guma to stop airing the ad immediately, so we can go back to the kind of honest, fair, civil debate that Burlingtonians expect from their politicians. Debating the issues and visions for Burlington is an appropriate debate to engage in. Putting a target on anyone’s head followed by the sound of a shot is something we all should be speaking up against, no matter our views on the mayor or development."
Here, here.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

He-e's Ba-ack!

Second Vermont Republic honcho and the self-described "Very Foreign Minister" of the secessionist movement, Dennis Morrisseau, has been keeping a very low profile for months. Yesterday he popped up at the Vermont State House to protest the General Assembly even having a hearing on proposed gun control legislation. Morrisseau went so far as to threaten the removal from office of any legislator who dared to support such legislation.
"Anyone voting ‘yes’ for that bill, according to opponents, will pay for it with their political lives. On the Statehouse lawn, an orange, 10-foot-tall sign greeted people arriving at the hearing Tuesday with a message: “We will vote you all out.”

“And it means everybody – all of you,” Dennis Morrisseau said, waiting in line outside the House chamber before the hearing. “These bills need to disappear.”

You see, in Morrisseau's world of crazy the only thing that counts is his point of view - no discussion.

This isn't Morrisseau's first or even second time to the "vote'em all out" rodeo. In 2009, 2010 and 2012 he secretly conspired with secesher candidates to replace all of Vermont's senators. He called his plan "The 30." He never recruited more than a half dozen half-hearted candidates. He's also repeatedly claimed to have a plan to "Fire Congress." He's failed at that too. You can read some of his crazy about all of that here. Morrisseau has proposed capping the number of children that brown people can have in Vermont to two; he's given free one way (out of town) tickets to Burlington homeless people in the 1980's; he proposes capping income and assets in Vermont; he proposes replacing teachers with older students.

You can read much, much more about Morrisseau's desire to be the "Very Foreign Minister" of SVR here.

But what should be a concern to legislators and the security staff at the Vermont State House is Morriisseau's history of advocating for "hit lists" of people he hates. I wrote at length about that here. Here's just a small sample of what Denny had to say then:
"I have suggested here and elsewhere that we should begin to post the perps’ names and physical addresse on a permanent electronic board somewhere, so that nature can begin taking it’s course. [On the thoery(sic) that a few such take downs would have some chance of stopping what is coming if we do not act.]"

"I include “international financiers” and certain Likudniks and media moguls on my personal list."

To me, a nationwide assault on the entire sitting Congress en masse, and known to all, pitched to all as the only possible peaceful revolutiong(sic), does have a shot if presented right that might allow us to regain the power of we the people. Thus it could defeat what I agree is a massive and evil zionist design. And it would save decent people of all cultures……"
d m, w pawlet, vt By: dennis morrisseau . February 12, 2012 . 5:35 pm
Morrisseau has been wildly unsuccessful in all of his various elective runs during the past four decades and was 100% unsuccessful in replacing any of the members of Vermont's Senate in 2010 and 2012, his candidates finishing in the single or less percentile but he has been a threatening presence and State House security would be wise to take note of his visit.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

In and Out - Part III

Vermont secession flack Greg Guma is back again. His on again, off again plan to run for Burlington's mayoral job is now back on with a quiet last minute signature roundup for inclusion on the ballot. That's not as hard a job as it might sound; one need only stand with a clipboard in front of the Post Office and the one hundred and fifty signatures will probably be had in a few hours. Hell, I've signed nominating petitions for people I thought hadn't a prayer to win since I believe even a loser deserves a grab for the brass ring.

Guma has embraced the Vermont secessionist establishment by having his mayoral campaign announcement posted at Rob Williams' anti-Semitic hate blog this week (no, I don't link to Rob's hate site). In it Guma outlines his aginner, largely revanchist intent for Burlington's future.

It's apparent that Guma's decided to run a negative campaign from the start. He's already indulged in name calling by dredging up a slur from the 70s to call Mayor Miro Weinberger a Republicrat. He's constructed a "thumb-on-the-scale" unscientific poll about Weinberger. Despite having participated in the Progressive Party caucus in early December of 2014' Guma now "dismissed the suggestion that as another Progressive-minded candidate, he risked taking votes away from Goodkind (the winner). "I don't think those kinds of labels make as much sense as they used to ..." Right. Guma got one vote at the caucus, presumably his own, and now the results don't mean shit about his appeal to progressive voters. For further evidence of the sour campaign Guma intends run, one need look no further than his blog. Outrageously he equates the development plans for the Burlington College property to heinous crimes committed by priests against children; his over the top rhetoric suggests equivalency between a land deal and the rape of children by both priests and the institution of the Roman Catholic church:
"So, the "school without walls" and the cloistered catholic campus near the lake. How did they get entangled? The answer begins with secrets, the first about what went on in the church -- and on that property."

"In the end dozens of former residents came forward, and revealed a dark, sordid history of physical and sexual abuse by nuns, priests and staff. Like other parts of the church, the diocese ultimately found itself under attack and in serious financial trouble. By May 2010, it had paid almost $20 million to settle 26 lawsuits. More were to follow. Selling the land was urgent to help cover up to $30 million in legal settlements for the abused..."


"This land has seen more than enough secrets, loss and pain."
Such an disgracefully contrived connection makes a little more sense when you factor in Guma's reliance on an endorsement and help from failed political operative Matt Cropp:
"Matt Cropp, outreach coordinator of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center and an NPA (Neighborhood Planning Assembly) leader, writes, "By joining the race, he's bringing some vitally important issues to the conversation, such as reversing the de-funding and marginalization of the Neighborhood Planning Assemblies over the last decade, ensuring that the temptation to cut sweetheart deals with politically connected developers is tempered by a robust, transparent, and participatory review process, and devolving certain powers (such as the appointment of commissioners) from City Hall to Burlington's neighborhoods."
In return for such a ringing endorsement at a Cropp event, Guma promised to support giving the group $5,000 in walking around money should he become mayor (as if the decision to do so was to be his alone).

Here's what I've said earlier about Cropp the political apparatchik:
"I noted in his blog post that Guma seemed to rely most heavily on the counsel of Matt Cropp. That's a mistake that most Burlingtonians will get to breath a collective sigh of relief over. For those of you (and that's probably most of you) unfamiliar with Cropp, he's a political loser of the first order. Among, but certainly not all of Cropp's failures was his failed effort to gain a seat on the City Market board of directors; his failure to takeover a credit union's board; his failure to make a go of a provisional capital for his secessionist, so-called Second Vermont Republic in Hancock, VT in 2010; his failure to follow through on any of his promises made after his disastrous management of the 2010 secesher campaign of Connecticut native Dennis Steele's gubernatorial effort (99.24% of the voters gave their vote to someone other than Steele); and, perhaps most tragically, when Cropp was Thomas Naylor's secesher embed in the Burlington Occupy group, his group's advisory to the City of Burlington that they'd be assuming responsibility for the homeless in City Hall Park was followed within a day of their letter to the City by the suicide of one of the homeless (nice one there, Matt!)."

"Looks like everyone gets to dodge a bullet here. Imagine a Guma administration with a loser like Cropp in some position of importance. According to Guma, Cropp is now setting his sights on Burlington's neighborhoods. My advice to the residents of those neighborhoods - MOVE!!!"
Having watched secesher campaigns like these bumble along over the years my money's on a disappointing last place finish for Team Guma.

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