Dean Obeidallah

Dean Obeidallah

Dean Obeidallah is a former lawyer turned political comedian and commentator. Dean has appeared on numerous TV shows including CNN, Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" Special, Current TV's "The Young Turks," ABC's "The View," MSNBC's "Up With Chris Hayes," NBC's "Rock Center," and ABC's "Nightline." Dean has written articles for CNN.comThe Huffington Post, BBC Radio and written jokes which have appeared on NBC's "Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update" segment and CBS' "The Late, Late Show." He is also co-director of the soon to be released "The Muslims Are Coming!" Twitter: @deanofcomedy

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Everyday Evil: The Sentencing of Ariel Castro

06 August 2013 Published in Blog

By Seema Iyer, Esq.

August 6, 2013 

For most people, hearing the words Ariel Castro uttered at his sentencing evoked horror, disbelief and confusion – for me, it was just another day at the office. 

The pure evil that is Castro exists everywhere but only those of us in the criminal justice and mental health fields get the up close and personal privilege of witnessing it on a daily basis.  When the sentencing began with a brief apology by Castro I was startled that he was going off-script (I am referring to standard psycho script).  But after the prosecution presented their case, with Ms. Knight displaying indomitable grace, Castro got back to his duplicitous task at hand.  Intermingling the gratuitous “sorry” with descriptions of a harmonious utopia that was his home life, was sickening even for my anesthetized soul. 

Castro included in his revolting diatribe the requisites – “it was consensual”; “I am not a monster” and the always popular “I am addicted to porn”.  What folks could not understand is why the Judge didn’t just shut him up.  He couldn’t.  Unfortunately, the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure allowed Castro to spew his venom ad nauseam. 

When he threw in, “I am not a violent person…… I simply kept them there without them being able to leave” it was akin to a twisted comedian’s punchline.  And then overwhelming fear hit me that this plea may not go through.  According to Ohio’s Rules of Criminal Procedure a “plea of guilty is a complete admission of the defendant's guilt.”  Consider that a hard and fast rule in all federal and state cases.  Castro was verbally denying many elements of the crimes.  For instance, consent is a direct contradiction to force, an element of the rape counts he pled guilty to.  And claiming not to be violent was not only a departure from reality, but legally inconsistent with a plea of guilty to the counts of aggravated murder and assault. 

The Judge could have refused to take the plea; however, because there was an executed plea agreement, OVERWHELMING evidence (much of it was highlighted at the sentencing) and a waiver of right to appeal, the Judge accepted the plea and went forward with sentencing. Forgive my digression but noteworthy is that a waiver of appeal does not waive all constitutional and statutory rights.  Do not fret – Castro has NO chance of appeal.  The record was clear; he entered a ‘knowing, intelligent, voluntary’ guilty plea as required by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution.

Is that incompatible with Castro, as some experts claim, being a psychopath?  According to Dr. Gregory Saathoff, a forensic psychiatrist who testified at the sentencing, Castro had no "mental illness whatsoever".  And here is the divide.  Those suffering from mental illness with the inability to appreciate the criminality of their conduct – those who cannot tell ‘right from wrong’ - are excused under the law with the Insanity Defense.  Then there are others who suffer from mental or personality disorders who commit crimes, understand exactly what they are doing and do so in a way to avoid detection.  They are among us in great numbers.  Specifically, 9.1% (1 in 11) of the general population meet the criteria for a personality disorder according to a study published in Biological Psychiatry (2007).

So there are psychopaths everywhere???  Not exactly.  According to Dr. Jessica Pearson, a Clinical Psychologist specializing in Forensics, “although the psychopath can share the behavioral characteristics of the antisocial personality (i.e. violating social norms, being impulsive and deceitful), where the psychopath differs is in his interpersonal and emotional experience.  They lack empathy for others and often manipulate, use and deceive others for their own personal gain. A psychopath may feel no remorse or guilt for the most heinous crimes, often blaming his victim or providing some distorted self-serving justification for his behavior.”  Sound familiar? 

The closest counterpart to psychopathy is antisocial personality disorder.  Numerous overlapping traits between these conditions is why we must be concerned with who are neighbors, co-workers and friends are.  A recent 2013 study by neuroscientists at the University of Chicago and University of New Mexico found that psychopaths make up only 1% of the general population but 20 - 30 % of the U.S. prison population.  Similarly a study published in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry in 2010 reported that antisocial personality disorder was present in 35.3% of the prison.

Here is the take-away from the reluctant 15 minutes of fame that television gave Mr. Castro.  We can no longer be naive in believing that evil is an aberration.  We do not need to be fearful, just careful.  And aware.  A little insight into what is going on beyond your closed doors may just prevent the next Castro into becoming the next monster.


Seema Iyer is an attorney in New York City with her own practice that specializes in Criminal Defense, Civil Rights and Constitutional Law. Seema is also a Legal Contributor at Arise News and frequent guest on MSNBC. Follow her on Twitter @seemaiyeresq

Anthony Weiner and Other Democrats in Sex Scandals Don’t Mention God

25 July 2013 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

July 25, 2013

(The Daily Beast) Not only is there a stark political divide between Democratic and Republican politicians on policy issues but also on sex scandals. What’s the difference, you ask? Simple: God.

No, I’m not saying Republican politicians claim that God told them to do it. Apparently, God only tells Republicans to run for president, not to cheat on their wives—at least not yet.  

But when politicians get caught in these scandals—truly one of the only activities that unites elected officials from both parties—Democrats tend to talk about “therapy” and letting down constituents, while Republicans talk about the big guy upstairs.

One need look no further than South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford and New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, a.k.a. Carlos Danger. And for those who fault the Democrat for using that alias when he was having racy online chats with women after he resigned from Congress in 2011, when you have a name like Weiner, Carlos Danger is actually a step up.

This week Weiner addressed the new revelations at a hastily called press conference. The New York City mayoral candidate didn’t invoke God or any other supernatural force but spoke of more earthbound issues, such as asking for forgiveness from his wife and “asking New Yorkers to also give me another chance.” His wife, Huma Abedin, then spoke of all the therapy that helped them cope with the stress of enduring her husband’s scandal(s).

To continue reading this article please click HERE to visit The Daily

Jason Patric Gives Sperm Its Day in Court

23 July 2013 Published in Blog

By Seema Iyer, Esq.

July 23, 2013

Hollywood star Jason Patric is leading the fight to give sperm donors’ increased parental rights. Perhaps, if he just did it the old-fashioned way he wouldn’t have emerged as the trailblazer of sperm; nor would he be claiming to be the parent he already is in life, but not in law.

Jason Patric is in a heated custody battle with ex-girlfriend Danielle Schreiber over their son Gus, 3, who was technically conceived via sperm donation. In February 2013 Schreiber won the parentage case in Los Angeles Family Court; Patric has appealed. Here’s the "He said, She said": Schreiber asserts the couple agreed that she would raise the child by herself, that Patric did not want to be a father and further, that his biological fatherhood was to be kept secret at Patric's behest. She adds that Patric did not see Gus during much of the year after he was born.

Patric gives a differing account.  He says the couple decided to have a child but after the relationship ended, Schreiber took the child away. That he didn’t merely donate sperm; the couple had pursued fertility treatments together and tried for years to have a child.

Patric is now hoping a California state bill he inspired will pass. This bill, SB 115, would permit any sperm donor to sue for parentage but only if he “receives the child into his home AND openly holds out the child as his natural child”. That could give the sperm donor parentage which in turn satisfies the precursor to sue for custody.  California, home to the largest sperm bank in the country, is in an uproar at the possibility of thousands of donors now trying to be Daddy Dearest. Hold on gentleman......not so fast.

The "receiving" and "holding out" requirements dictate that the mother facilitate the donor into the child's life. So that scenario is far less likely to occur in the case of the anonymous donor. In the case of the known donor the mother still has a degree of control to allow the donor into the child's life. Also noteworthy is the legal standard Courts look to when deciding a variety of issues relating to children - what is "in the best interests of the child” - that is the threshold. Aside from the "receiving" and "holding out" elements that could possibly enter the family law vernacular in California, the 'best interests of the child' is the prevailing rule in every state.

What remains astounding is the LA Court ruling that Patric did not have the right to sue for custody because he was not a parent under the law, he was viewed as merely a sperm donor.  Despite the fact that Schreiber and Patric dated an aggregate of 10 years, that Patric has acted in a manner commensurate to being a parent, or that Baby Gus calls Patric "Dada", Patric is not Gus' father.  Is that in the best interests of this child?

Historically Courts favor recognizing both a mother and a father if both parents are healthy, loving and productive people.  Courts also look to 'consistency'.  For Patric that first year of Gus' life, where he was allegedly absent due to his own volition, gives pause that he will remain a willing, participative fixture in the child's life.  However, if Patric and Schreiber conceived Gus au naturale, Schreiber's claim that Patric was akin to an anonymous donor would be far less credible putting her other accusations into question as well.

Through a multitude of complex issues a reluctant leader has arisen.  And this is a good thing folks.  In California there is finally a chance for biological and non-biological fathers to have equality in access to parental rights.  SB 115 sailed through the Senate in April but its harsh criticism has sparked concern it will be passed by the Assembly where a hearing is set for August.  So when all eyes are on Sacramento later this summer for a potential new state law with national implications, let’s not forget that little boy in the back.  His name is Gus and he is still waiting to hear who is daddy is.


Seema Iyer is an attorney in New York City with her own practice that specializes in Criminal Defense, Civil Rights and Constitutional Law. Seema is also a Legal Contributor at Arise News and frequent guest on MSNBC. Follow her on Twitter @seemaiyeresq



Edward Snowden, want my advice?

07 July 2013 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

July 5, 2013

(CNN) -- Edward Snowden, you need help! And I'm here for you. I enjoy offering people suggestions -- which you may even be aware of if you read my e-mails when you were working at the NSA.

I don't know where you thought you'd end up after disclosing classified documents detailing our government's surveillance program, but I doubt you thought you'd be roaming the halls of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport checking out the wide range of restaurants there-- the Russian cuisine at "Mama Rashas;" maybe the Burger King or the restaurant in Terminal D called, "Hippopotamus" -- which, I think you'll agree, is a horrible name for a place that serves food.

It must drive you crazy to know that the airport even offers a fear-of-flying treatment center for people afraid to fly while you are still begging for just a seat in coach. I know you grow bored browsing for hours at the duty-free shop, wishing you had a plane ticket so you could at least buy tax-free caviar or vodka.

So Edward, I want to propose some creative suggestions that you may find helpful

1. If you can't get out of airport, pitch a reality show about being stuck there. It could be an international version of "Project Runway" -- how to get on one. How hard could it be to get a Kardashian to sign on?

2. At this writing, you have applied for asylum in -- depending on whom you ask -- 21 countries. WikiLeaks claimed Friday that you have applied to six additional unidentified countries, and the Venezuelan president said that he was ready to take you,according to reports. Bolivia appears to be following suit. That would be a break, because with some of these other nations you clearly have no shot. It's not unlike when I was graduating high school with mediocre grades and applied to Harvard. Barring a clerical error, I was not getting in and I'd say it's the same for you. So say goodbye to countries like Germany, Italy, and Spain.

To continue reading please click HERE to visit

Monday Morning Quarterbacking the Supreme Court

01 July 2013 Published in Blog

 By Seema Iyer, Esq.

July 1, 2013

DOMA lost. Love won. Holy matrimony – it’s been one hell of a Supreme Court post-season!

The last month has certainly felt like a January. Every week with playoff games (decision days) that left us with some crushing defeats (Shelby v. Holder), hollow victories (Fisher v. University of TX), an out of pocket play that rewrote history (Hollingsworth v. Perry) and the mother of all games between the undefeated champions, the United States of America, and the underdogs, Windsor – a Superbowl for the books.

In full post-rainbow parade hangover haze, no analogy here folks; there were actually several parades yesterday (think Edith Windsor as the Gay Pride version of Peyton Manning)….. here are your SCOTUS Superbowl 2013 highlights:

A struggling offense led the Supremes to punt Fisher v. University of TX back to the 5th Circuit Court which will likely punt down to the lower district Court. The reasoning, in this affirmative action case, was that the lower court didn’t apply the correct formula, the strict scrutiny test. The test is whether the University demonstrated that there was no other way to achieve diversity unless they use race as a factor in admissions.

So why the punt? Because the lower court didn’t find enough facts to support a decision either way. The good news is that SCOTUS did not overturn prior cases (Grutter v. Bollinger, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke) that upheld affirmative action in college admissions. Bottom line, diversity in education remains a compelling state interest and affirmative action lives to fight another day.

Next up, a rivalry as storied as the Giants and the Cowboys. Shelby v. Holder reconsidered the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, specifically Section 5 and pit Southern conservatives against the NAACP. Section 5 gives the feds the right to “preclear” any proposed changes to voting procedure, practice or location. The Act only applies to certain states and municipalities, mostly, but not exclusively, in the South. Its purpose was to get rid of discrimination at the polls. Think back to Jim Crow South when qualified black voters were turned away for not passing literacy tests.

So what did the Supremes do? In the most unpredicted move since Tim Tebow signed with the Jets, SCOTUS doesn’t rule on Section 5 at all. Instead they rule that Section 4, the formula that decides which jurisdictions are subject to Section 5, is unconstitutional. When Section 4 falls it knocks down Section 5; our safeguard that protects voting equality has been tackled.

By the time final decision day of the term rolls around my tailgating ritual is tight. Beginning with a few dozen cups of coffee, I pre-game with Amy Howe heads the show giving color commentary better than Terry Bradshaw and Jimmy Johnson combined. Rapid fire analysis and projections on which way what Justice will go from inside the high Court. Kickoff is 10am; the offensive line, CJ Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia on the right and the defensive line, Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer, Ginsburg on the left of the line of scrimmage…….we wait…….hoping for one of the Supremes to go offsides. The one to watch is Kennedy, a la Michael Vick, will he pass right or run the ball left?

At 10:02am the decision in U.S. v. Windsor is out. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been ruled unconstitutional. A touchdown right out of the gate! Same-sex marriages will be entitled to the same federal benefits that heterosexual marriages have; however, this only pertains to states where same-sex marriage is legal.  

If a same-sex couple gets married in a state where the union is legal, then move to a state where it is not, what happens to their benefits? That question remains unresolved and the Supreme Court did not rule on whether there is a federal constitutional right to gay marriage. Clearly a reminder that we are still in the first quarter of the game.

The other big play of the day was Hollingsworth v. Perry which considered Proposition 8, an initiative that would withdraw California’s right to gay marriage. The Court, in fascinating only-for-us-law-geeks language, found that the party who brought the case did so improperly. So, the ruling from the lower court stands. No Prop 8. Fire up the Cher playlist and let the wedding bells resume.

By 11:35AM the game is over. Time to pack up the foam finger and wash off the face-paint. An historic triumph brings hope for next season. Will the champions hold onto their title? Expect more bench-gripping action in the fall…….on the field and in the Court.


Seema Iyer is an attorney in New York City with her own practice that specializes in Criminal Defense, Civil Rights and Constitutional Law. Seema is also a Legal Contributor at Arise News and frequent guest on MSNBC. Follow her on Twitter @seemaiyeresq


‘Rumsfeld’s Rules’ Review: Good Rules, Shame He Didn’t Follow Them

19 May 2013 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

May 19, 2013

(The Daily Beast) The Donald is back with a new book. Not Donald Trump, but the original cantankerous, ill-tempered Donald, who possibly has uttered the expression “You’re fired” with more glee than Trump. I’m speaking of Donald Rumsfeld—the man who served in several positions in the federal government, the most recent his “star turn” as secretary of defense under President George W. Bush.

Rumsfeld new book is titled Rumsfeld’s Rules, and it promises you “leadership lessons in business, politics, war, and life.” It’s sort of like Game of Thronesmeets The Secret.

In Rules, Rumsfeld offers numerous lessons to succeed in these various fields. But the No. 1 lesson I have gleaned from his book is: ignore your past and instead re-create yourself so you sound amazing. Rumsfeld has done just that by offering us rules to live by that paint him as a thoughtful, considerate person who is cross between Steve Jobs and Gandhi.

Not that I can blame Rumsfeld. Who would write a book highlighting their negative qualities or failings when offering suggestions for others to emulate?

Lets put it this way. If Jodi Arias wrote a book one day offering dating tips, I’m sure it would be filled with suggestions like “be a good listener,” “treat your partner as you want to be treated,” etc. It’s highly doubtful she would recommend you stab the person you are in a relationship with 29 times and then shoot them in the head.

To continue reading this article please click HERE to go to The Daily Beast.

Can We Forgive Paula Deen?

29 June 2013 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

June 29, 2013

(CNN) -- Once a racist, always a racist? Will bigots always be bigots?

Or can people truly evolve over time for the better? And if they do, should we applaud their metamorphosis and welcome them back?

The easy answer -- as we are seeing with Paula Deen -- is to quickly label the person a racist for past insensitive remarks and cast her out to the fringes of society. But that's not the best answer for our nation.

I say this as a person who been called racist slurs on numerous occasions. I'm of Arab heritage. I have an inbox full of e-mails from people calling me things like "sand n----" or telling me "Go back to where you are from." (Which, I should note, is New Jersey).

I'm also a Muslim, and I don't even want to describe here the litany of hate-filled insults that have been directed at our community and myself. The worst part is that these slurs don't come just from ignorant bigots who can easily be dismissed, but often by elected officials and even religious leaders.

But I will say this -- if a person who had called me a "sand n----" later expressed remorse and sincerely explained that they now understand it was hateful and wrong, I wouldn't respond with: "Too bad, you're a bigot for life."

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't invite them over for dinner, either. However, I would cautiously applaud their change of heart and hope to see it evidenced by not just an apology, but by deeds as well.

And I would do this not just because they did the right thing by me, but also because they did the right thing by our society. They were evolving for the better and this in turn makes us a better nation.

To continue reading this article please click HERE to visit 

Silence is the New Guilty

20 June 2013 Published in Blog

By Seema Iyer, Esq.

June 20, 2013

This week the Supreme Court ruled that anything you DON’T say WILL be held against you. 


Haven’t we been hearing “You have the right to remain silent” blah, blah, blah, from the days of Starsky & Hutch and in every single incarnation of Law & Order since?

That right to remain silent, and every other right, that has become the fabric of cops and robbers vernacular refers to Miranda warnings.  The case the Supreme Court reviewed,Salinas v. Texas, refers to what happens before Miranda, prior to arrest. 

Mr. Genovevo Salinas was a suspect in two murders.  The police went to his home where Mr. Salinas gave over his shotgun for ballistics testing, certainly before consulting with an attorney.  Then he accompanied the police to the station to “take photographs and to clear him as [a] suspect” (why oh why Geno didn’t you bring a lawyer?).  Mr. Salinas gets to the station and he is brought to an “interview room” (you say interview, I say interrogation , nevertheless 1-800-LAWYER anyone?). 

At this point, the police are questioning Mr. Salinas yet he is “free to leave” which is legalese for, you are not under arrest and the police haven’t read you Miranda warnings. Personally, I cannot comprehend that anyone thinks they can just strut out of a room full of cops after handing over a shotgun that may be connected to two murders…… but maybe that’s just me.  The parties in Salinas did not contest this issue.

So the police are asking Mr. Salinas questions.  About murder.  Two murders to be precise.  Mr. Salinas, who we can now say for certain does not own a television, is in blissful ignorance answering questions until he is asked whether the shotgun from his home would match the shells recovered at the crime scene.  Uh-oh.  Now Mr. Salinas is silent.

At Mr. Salinas’ trial the prosecutor, referring to testimony that came out at trial, told the jury during his closing argument that an innocent person would not have remained silent; an innocent person would have declared as such and would not have stood silent during police questioning.  The prosecutor tied that silence to what we in the legal game call ‘consciousness of guilt’ – which basically means exactly how it sounds.  Mr. Salinas was convicted. 

According to the ruling, what exactly was Mr. Salinas supposed to do?  He should have responded to that question about shotguns with this catchy little phrase – “I invoke my 5thamendment privilege”.  Well, that certainly rolls off the tongue.

Since the ruling lawyers and professors across this country are scrambling to find alternatives to those exact words because....HELLO.....who talks like that?  The Court’s opinion doesn’t give any variations of that incantation.  Bottom line, if you want your silence protected you have to invoke the privilege.  Simply put, we do not have the right to NOT speak to the police.

When do we have this right against self-incrimination (ie, the right to not flush our future down the toilet) without expressly stating it?  And when will our silence not be held against us?  If you are on trial you have a right to not testify on your own behalf and you never have to say anything about the 5th amendment.  The only other instance when you do not have to expressly invoke the 5th amendment is when you are “in custody” and have been given Miranda warnings.  At that point if you stand mute, like a deer caught in headlights, you are good.  Those are the only two exceptions when you do not have to say, “I invoke my 5th amendment privilege”.

So stop wasting your time teaching your babies how to say ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy’.  Teach them more useful words like ‘5th Amendment’ and ‘privilege’.  And when the joyous day comes to send them off to college don’t forget to pack the most important item – your lawyer’s phone number.


Seema Iyer is an attorney in New York City with her own practice that specializes in Criminal Defense, Civil Rights and Constitutional Law. Seema is also a Legal Contributor at Arise News and frequent guest on MSNBC. Follow her on Twitter @seemaiyeresq

Bigger threat: Edward Snowden or NSA? CNN Podcast "The Big Three"

17 June 2013 Published in Blog

(CNN) -- What do you think of Edward Snowden? By leaking classified documents to the media and revealing that the National Security Agency has been monitoring our phone and Internet usage, is he a traitor or a hero? Could he simply be a narcissist looking to get famous? Or do you not care about either him or the NSA surveillance programs?

Chris Cuomo, co-host of the new CNN morning show, "New Day," joined us to discuss the top issues in this week's episode of "The Big Three" podcast. (Be sure to tune in to "New Day," which premieres on Monday June 17 at 6 a.m. ET.)

I must note that while I disagreed with Cuomo's view on Snowden, as a fellow graduate of Fordham Law School, his logic and comedy chops were impeccable. It's something we share and that distinguishes me from my co-hosts Margaret Hoover and John Avlon. (At least that's what I keep telling myself.)

Back to Edward Snowden. A poll this week found that 31% of Americans consider him a patriot while 23% view him as a traitor. But a whopping 46% say they don't know. Is it because these 46% simply aren't following the story or because they have accepted government surveillance as the price for security?

As Cuomo pointed out, Americans have "matured" since 9/11 over the issue of government surveillance. Consequently, he believes that many do accept increased monitoring if it means that we can prevent another 9/11 or Boston Marathon bombing.

But to me, "we the people" have a right to know when our government is spying on us, especially when officials like James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, denied such a program existed when asked about it under oath by Congress just a few months ago. How else can we hold our government accountable if we aren't informed of its actions?

You can listen to this week's episode of CNN's podcast "The Big Three" on or iTunes.

I'm Muslim, and I hate terrorism

25 April 2013 Published in Blog

(CNN) -- I'm an American-Muslim and I despise Islamic terrorists. In fact, despise is not even a strong enough word to convey my true feelings about those who kill innocent people in the name of Islam. I hate them with every fiber of my being.

I'm not going to tell you, "Islam is a religion of peace." Nor will I tell you that Islam is a religion of violence. What I will say is that Islam is a religion that, like Christianity and Judaism, is intended to bring you closer to God. And sadly we have seen people use the name of each of these Abrahamic faiths to wage and justify violence.

The unique problem for Muslims is that our faith is being increasingly defined by the actions of a tiny group of morally bankrupt terrorists. Just to be clear: The people who commit violence in the name of Islam are not Muslims, they are murderers. Their true religion is hatred and inhumanity.

The only people terrorists speak for are themselves and the others involved in their despicable plot. They do not represent me, my family or any other Muslim I know. And believe me, I know a lot of Muslims.

We hate these terrorists more than non-Muslims do. How can I say that? Because they harm innocent people in the name of our religion and consequently we suffer a backlash because of their acts. It can be anything from a spike in hate crimes to people viewing Muslims as less than fully American because of our faith. We are the ones called to answer for the sins of people we detest.

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