Saturday, November 22, 2003

Tom Daschle 

Tom Daschle was on "On Point" this week. The first part of the interview had Tom Daschle talking about the failed energy bill, which is pumped full of pork. He talked at some length about how the bill would annul 20 lawsuits across the country stemming from MTBE, a toxic oil additive that polluted water supplies. The bill was drafted in secret meetings between Dick Cheney and energy industry lobbyists. The bill was 1200 pages long and included arbitrary "energy" policies, like using national taxpayer funds to build a mall and a hooters restaurant in Louisiana. Really.

It failed, but no thanks to Tom: He voted for it because it had some stuff about corn in it. From that point on, the rest of the show consists of angry callers rightfully chastising Daschle for his ineptitude as a Democratic leader. One caller asks, "With Democrats like you, who needs Republicans?" and Daschle just doesn't respond.

Buzzflash has an article citing even more reasons that Tom Daschle should drive you crazy. It also cites analysis of why Daschle is an awful leader- South Dakota is pro-Bush, even more Pro-Bush than Mississippi, and he's got to appeal to those constituents to stay in power. Well, great: Let's get John Kerry as our senate leader then, or Barbara Boxer.

People wonder out loud why Democrats aren't winning seats, why they're taking a beating. They are, and the rational liberal agenda (as opposed to the irrational liberal agenda) is going down with it. While it's easy to blame Fox news or Republican spin, the fact of the matter is, if we had actual Democratic candidates standing up for themselves, we'd have some semblance of balance back in politics.

Good News and Bad News 

"We continue to disrupt Al Qaeda's activities and capture more of their leaders, but the attacks are escalating," a senior counterterrorism official in Europe said. "This is a very bad sign. There are fewer leaders but more followers."

That's from a ridiculous New York Times article where it seems every paragraph contradicts itself. There's more:

Good News: "Al Qaeda [is] less capable than before of striking at American embassies, military targets and landmarks that were the hallmarks of its campaign before the Sept. 11 attacks."

Bad News: "the United States reiterated its concern about Al Qaeda's "continued desire to plot or plan terrorist attacks with an emphasis on U.S. interests abroad," federal officials said. The State Department issued a new global terror warning Friday, saying that it saw "increasing indications" that Al Qaeda is planning to strike American interests abroad. It also said that it could not rule out another Qaeda attack within the United States, one "more devastating" than the Sept. 11 attacks.

Good News: "Al Qaeda is more or less brain dead. I don't think they are extremely efficient at planning and coordinating new attacks."

Bad News: " Despite that cause for optimism, the intelligence officials said they are troubled by evidence suggesting that more young militant men are becoming terrorists than ever before." and: "They said there is deep concern here and in Europe that the United States and its allies are facing more — not fewer — terrorist foes than before."

Good News: (I guess?) The Istanbul bombings don't look like Al Qaeda.

Bad News: The Istanbul bombings look like Al Qaeda.

Rumsfeld has a quote taken from his errant "long hard slog" memo: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrasas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

Bad News: "These people have found a new motivation with the aggression of the United States against the brethren in an Arab country," one official said.

Bad News: "The spontaneous groups that are sprouting up from the northern African community based in Europe, and going down the path of jihad, are what I'm most worried about. They are inspired by bin Laden, but this is not Al Qaeda. They are not there yet — they are not necessarily even ready to launch attacks — but these groups are raising the next generation of terrorists."

Sounds like "Operation Bomb'em Till They Love Us" isn't working out the way Bush planned. Who would have thought a strategy as solid as that could possibly backfire? I mean, look how much love and affection Osama Bin Laden got from America when he killed our people for no justifiable reason.

Friday, November 21, 2003

A Law Against Edward Said 

HR 3077, the "International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003" bill was passed in the house this month, which- according to this article- is intended to create "an advisory board that has the final word on curricula taught at Title VI institutions, course materials assigned in class, and even the faculty who are hired in institutions that accept Title VI funding. [...] the board will also ensure that programs receiving Title VI funding encourage students to enter careers in government, including those related to national-security, by requiring that recruiters from U.S. government agencies be given regular access to students. And just like the unjust and detrimental Solomon Amendment, HR 3077 suppresses the free-speech rights of academic institutions as it threatens to remove Title VI funding from any center that engages in or abets a boycott of national security scholarships."

This was all based on testimony from Stanley Kurtz, who is quoted in that testimony as saying that "the core premise of post-colonial theory is that it is immoral for a scholar to put his knowledge of foreign languages and cultures at the service of American power." Indeed. I'll admit there's an anti-military bias in the Ivy League, with schools not allowing for ROTC on campus and the like, but I don't know if teachers are spotting their lesson plans with precepts on the immorality of the American Government. Is someone mistaking analysis and critique for unpatriotic America-bashing? Is it really impossible to tell Aunt Mildred that I appreciate her smoking outside, please, without some neoconservative telling me I hate my Aunt Mildred?

From a press release favorable to the bill: "The International Studies in Higher Education Act creates a new International Education Advisory Board in consultation with homeland security agencies for all Title VI programs to increase accountability by providing advice, counsel, and recommendations to Congress on international education issues for higher education." What a great idea!

What's scary about this bill is that the American Council of Education had to send an opinion to the House, where it has to argue that the ideas of Edward Said, a professor at Colombia (and author of "Orientalism"), "reached its apex decades ago and has been waning ever since" with regard to Middle Eastern Studies, and that it rarely gets assigned. Edward Said wrote books submitting that Middle Eastern instability was the result of American Imperialism. The propping up of dictators like Saddam Hussein and our support of the Taliban, for example, as a result of our (western) notions of what is best for foreigners. I'm no Middle Eastern expert, but I would say that since most of "our" (ie, the west's) problems in the Middle East were Saddam Hussein and Iran, and since both of those problems came to power through American Intervention, it's, you know, a pretty safe bet that most of our problems in the Middle East are a result of American Imperialism. (Edward Said also wrote that "the goal of the intellectual is to speak truth to power." He died last month.)

You can argue what you want about Said, who was a harsh critic of Israel (he was Palestinian, so you can imagine) and seems to have lied or exaggerated about a lot of his academic training. I don't particularly like everything about the guy, but his central thesis that we view foreign cultures through a myopic distortion of "foreign" is spot on. But regardless- why are teachers testifying against any idea at the behest of Congress? We should not advocate any threats to any ideas that come up in this country short of those advocating violence. Especially if they only develop as a means to pacify the New American Nationalists. Why not write to your elected officials and ask them what the hell is going on? It's interesting to note one of Said's more paranoid conclusions in Orientalism: "Anything said about Islam by a professional scholar is within the sphere of influence of corporations and the government." Seems like the government wants to bring that one step closer to truth.

A new blog, Anarchy Xero, is up for the new blog showcase, talking about the death toll in Iraq.

Over at the League of Liberals blog, an anonymous (surprise!) comment to my last entry re: the Collusion Memos: "Your commentary is entertaining and reminds me why we keep sending troops to save your you can speak out and show yourself to be the ass that you are." Nix points for originality on that one, kiddo. How many times have I heard conservatives tell liberals that "they" (identify with authority, do we?) are sending troops somewhere to "defend (said liberals) right to be an asshole"? Here we thought it was about WMD's. Well, thanks for saving my ass, Sgt. Anonymous Guestbook Writer, but I don't know what Miguel Estrada has to do with the war. Oh, and maybe the President hasn't heard your new battle plan, but I could have sworn we aren't "sending" any more troops to Iraq, in spite of (or because of) the fact that "your" exit strategy has resulted in more deaths than the war itself.

The Collusion Memos: So What?  

Huck's Blog asks about an issue which is pretty important, and is going to be a huge salvo in the Republican attack on Democrats: "The Collusion Memos." These are Internal Democratic National Committee memos in which the Democrats allegedly show that they were against Miguel Estrada's nomination because he was a "Latino" and that Democrats wanted his nomination process moved as far away as possible from 9/11.

The web site that leaked these memos states: "These memos repeatedly make clear that a small collection of extreme left groups -- abortion groups, race organizations, labor unions and leftist groups specifically focused on judges -- are driving the Democrats' agenda and decisions." First off, let's look at that, because it apparently considers "extreme left" groups to be groups like NARAL, the SEIU, NAACP and the AFL-CIO, organizations with huge public support. NARAL fights for womens/abortion rights, which over half the country believes in, the SEIU is the Service Employees International Union (If you're read coverage of Howard Dean's endorsement, you already know this is a hugely influential group within the democratic party- and represents nothing more "extreme" than health care workers and janitors) the NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People- and I find it ironic that the Right not only attacks the simplified argument that Dems are blocking Estrada based on race, but then also asserts that the NAACP is to the "extreme left".

Now, understand that, sadly, polling and strategy are 75% of politics. (The other 20% is Money, and 5% is ideals- which is really just about how you spend that money.)* Democrats wanted to have timing on their side for overturning the nomination of Miguel Estrada because Bush was trying to force him through right after 9/11. Why is that earth shattering news? Isn't the actual news that Bush was trying to use 9/11 to push a controversial nominee through the court? But there's also a lot of stuff ripe for spinning against Democrats in the memo- for example, citing that Miguel Estrada's nomination is "dangerous" because he is a "Latino"- if you stop there. The actual quote says that Miguel Estrada is dangerous because he is a "Latino and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court nomination." Now, what I am going to say sounds like "well what they really meant was," but hear me out.

Politically speaking, this makes total sense. The problem isn't that Miguel Estrada is a Latino- the problem is, he is an Latino arch conservative who would put Democrats in the awkward political situation of someday trying to block a Latino nominee to the Supreme Court- a Latino who just also happens to be a hardline conservative. I'm not just spinning this out of my ass, either. It's on the next page, in the very next memo, where Democrats describe working with the SEIU (which they cite as having great contacts within the Latino media) to "develop a strategy for dealing with Conservative Latino Circuit Court nominees that are hostile to Constitutional and Civil Rights." Yes, race should not matter in any nomination- a bad nomination is a bad nomination, and to look at his race as a liability is pretty stupid. But race is alive in politics, and I believe Democrats were afraid that Bush would use race to promote Estrada with Hispanic (read: typically Democratic) public support. So, both parties were playing the race card. Welcome to politics.

So, there you go, a primer on what it means. I'd like a world where ideals were 75% of politics, but we don't live in that world. That said, Democrats taking policy initiatives from Unions, Womens Groups, and Minority Groups is not really quite so bad as the people influencing Bush's administration. Exxon Mobil wrote a memo advocating the removal of an environmentalist out of the UN in 2002. And, lo and behold, out he went! Or when energy industry lobbyists asked the Bush Admin to change environmental policy so that clean-air upgrades wouldn't be necessary? It happens on both sides of the aisle. It's politics, and you know what they say about making sausages...

* = Not Actual Statistical Data.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

What It Boils Down To 

Shock and Awe has a really worthwhile reading of the official newsletter for the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. The whole blog is really well done and always well written, so if you want a change of pace from my blog, you can go there. The NFRA takes a typically rational conservative stand on gay marriage when the writer announces, "To me, the problem with this ruling is that it denies the history of human existence..." Here we thought it was just about loving whoever you want- turns out it's actually a new round of liberal hyper-nihilism. But God, it really is about falling in love, and falling in love with who you want. That's all it is. The simplicity of the left's goal is overwhelmingly naive and simple, but the resistance to the left's goal is overwhelmingly angry, and here's where I am going to sound like a total California Leftist Hippie: I don't want anger to win over love. There's just no fucking reason anyone should want that.

Dolphin Controversy 

Apparently, the most controversial thing I've written in this blog concerns dolphins. Something about that is comforting. But if anyone wants to take further issue with the inaccuracy of my dolphin comments, let me say that I have already issued a correction.

And let me also just say: I love the dolphins logo. It's my favorite guy in the whole football thing. Who doesn't love a helmet clad dolphin bursting with joy? And now, look at all the things I have learned about him! I have learned that he is not a fish, and that he cannot breath when completely under water. Smug is not the word for my dolphin-inspired emotions, friends: Boundless love, that is the two words.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Bigger Threat To American Values: Liberals or Homosexuals? You Decide.  

The National Review Online's blog is seriously hilarious. They are so outraged over the Massachusetts court decision that they are totally stretching the limits of rationality to come up with arguments against it, and totally willing to self-destruct in order to let it happen. Here's another good couple of questions that they received in response to their other argument against gay marriage, which is, "what if prisoners wanted to marry their cell mates?":

"Your comment about cell-mates marrying got me thinking. Under the traditional restrictions, a man cannot marry his daughter, or, a fortiori, his son, and so if he leaves them a very large inheritance, it is taxed, although what he leaves his wife is not taxed. But under a general license to 'marry' another man, a man could marry his son, and thus pass his property to the son tax-free.

"This is a loophole that would have to be closed, if estate taxes are going to continue, and the obvious way to close it would be to eliminate the special consideration given to inheritance by a spouse. This would be an unwelcome surprise to some proponents of 'gay marriage.'

Wait, I swear there is a more "obvious" way to prevent gays from marrying their own sons in order to skip the estate/inheritance taxes. It would go a little something like, "Don't marry your own son, for christ's sakes". Isn't that against the law anyway? I mean, who are these homosexuals the NRO think they're talking about? Why do people always equate sexual choice with absolute moral depravity? But there's more:

"Marriage, with the special privileges that have grown up around it, is a potential source of advantages to the unscrupulous. The remedy is going to be, I suppose, to reduce or eliminate the privileges. Having achieved marriage, the homosexuals may find that it isn't worth having any more..."

So this is great- since two people want to be happy, and you don't want them to be, why don't we just destroy the source of everyone's happiness? Good strategy!

I also don't understand this argument: "For most of its history, the Supreme Court held that traditional marriage forms a family unit which is the fundamental building block of free society. The forms of self-government could not survive without it, so any weakening of the marriage privilege undermines free government."

So, as far as I can tell, Gay men and women who don't marry are not going to be a part of any "family unit" anyway until they are allowed to marry. Plus, doesn't gay marriage allow for a much wider pool of individuals to adopt all of those kids that will be left over once Republicans ban abortion? How exactly does expanding the rights to marriage "weaken" marriage? Unless, of course, you've already argued (as above) that we should limit the benefits of marriage until gays don't want to get married anymore.

Democratic Gay Rights Round Up 

Considering Massachusetts' ruling that "the right to marry means little if it does not include the right to marry the person of one's choice," many people say this will be at the forefront of the race for the White House in 2004. Right now, Dick Gephardt has managed to lose some amount of good will I have towards the guy.

His daughter, Chrissy, who campaigns for Gephardt from time to time- and is by all means a really smart, interesting person, from what I've seen on interviews and CSPAN, is a lesbian. Which means you would imagine Dick Gephardt would be all about it. But he isn't. When he was asked about the ruling and his daughters support for gay marriage, "Gephardt smiled and told reporters, 'Chrissy and I agree on 99% of the issues, but this is not one of them.'" Asshole.

Wesley Clark, however, is definitely getting points, being the first front-runner to come out in favor of the position (aside from Dean- who practically already wrote it in Vermont) by saying "as someone who supports the legal rights of all Americans regardless of sexual orientation, I appreciate today's decision." Yes folks, that's a resounding positive response in this election.

There's Kucinich, too: "This is a basic issue of civil rights. The Democratic party should be behind civil rights for everyone, including gays. This is not something to compromise on or to take halfway steps on or to make political calculations about. This is a question of people's basic civil rights."

But then why, why does Kucinich keeps launching his claws into Dean and Clark instead of, say, Gephardt or Lieberman, the cultural conservatives of the group? Those comments seem particularly fitting for both of them. If Lieberman can make Dick Cheney look progressive on some issues, why is he a Democrat?

Queer Eye for the State House 

You may have heard that a Massachusetts supreme court has pretty much ruled that there is nothing unconstitutional about gay marriage. So, Governor Mitt Romney is now saying maybe they'll put one in the state constitution. Which, when you think about it, would make for a pretty awkward constitution, wouldn't it? Isn't it usually proof that something weird is going on when constitutions are being rewritten in order to prevent people from having certain freedoms?

Meanwhile, the conservatives over at the National Review online have two brilliant questions which are apparently designed to dissuade us from supporting the ruling:

1. If "gay marriage" is legalized, will prisoners be able to marry their cell mates? If not, why not?
My answer: They can. Why not? But then they'd have to be separated. Boy, that was hard.

2. In many jurisdictions, a marriage can be annulled if it has not been consummated. What, exactly, constitutes "consummation" of a gay marriage?
My answer: Anal Sex, Fellatio, or Cunnilingus. Happy you asked about that one?

But while Bush isn't happy about it, Veep Dick Cheney- whose daughter is a lesbian- is already on the record from a while back:

"The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody. We don’t get to choose, and shouldn’t be able to choose and say, 'You get to live free, but you don’t.' And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It’s really no one else’s business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.
I think the fact of the matter, of course, is that matter is regulated by the states. I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that’s appropriate. I don’t think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area."

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The Crossing of Far Crocodiles From The Seas of their Families 

Atrios points out this, which appeared in a news story from an AP reporter:

Democrats piled on with criticism of the administration for failing to make Iraq's reconstruction more of an international collaboration. "I think it's fair to say that the situation continues to worsen," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said on "Fox News Sunday."

The voice in the recording resembled Saddam's, but was huskier and the speaker seemed tired. "The evil ones now find themselves in crisis, and this is God's will for them," said Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat.

The only solution for Iraq, the speaker said, was for "the zealous Iraqi sons, who ran its affairs and brought it out of backwardness . . . to return . . . to run its affairs anew," he said, referring to the Baath leadership.

When people say the Democrats are moving too far off of the mainstream, I guess they mean it. (Obviously this was a mistake- "the speaker" is Saddam Hussein's new tape, not Tom Daschle, and the AP has corrected it). But there's a lot to be said for an infusion of Saddam's oratory style into American politics. What if Daschle had started adopting the phrase "the evil ones" to refer to the Bush administration? How might have Saddam's speech writers dealt the State of the Union? Here's what it might look like, a cut up of Saddam Hussein with some GW Bush State of the Union, William S Burroughs style:

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished citizens and fellow citizens: Every year, by law and by custom, we meet here to consider the state of the union. This year, we gather in this chamber deeply aware of decisive days that lie ahead. From the bright light of dawn, from the ray of sun which has risen after a long absence, from its horizon, from the lids of the eyes which were wounded by heavy tears for people, dear for all of us, who can no more be seen, but who can become visible with the new sun, and from the horizon which God has ordained to be vast, with a new birth and life in whose skies exist green birds and a strong newborn which God has decided to be faithful to its nation, from all this your march toward a new America.

You and I serve our country in a time of great consequence. During this session of Congress, we have the duty to reform domestic programs vital to our country; we have the opportunity to save millions of lives abroad from a terrible disease. We will work for a prosperity that is broadly shared, and we will answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people. A strong, believing and healthy America was born. But the birth, as all other births which came before it in the horizon of humanity and in our nation, was not able to render ineffectual the croak of ravens, nor the hissing of snakes or the crossing of far crocodiles from the seas of their family in order to help the beasts of earth in their attack against the sun, in a desperate hope to obscure its light which radiated from America or to shed the blood of its people in a fake hope and out of an imagination that the generous blood shed on the soil of America could hinder the plants and trees from becoming green, from blossoming and from carrying with its fragrance pollens which might tempt the appetite of butterflies, (applause) and thus be able to carry with the news of new faith and resolution, with the dew and tears, a pollen to every tree whose branches and leaves become dry or ceased to give fruits now that the water ceased to reach its roots and was confident that no one could take care of its fruits and guard its plants, trees and growth. In all these days of promise and days of reckoning, we can be confident. In a whirlwind of change and hope and peril, our faith is sure, our resolve is firm, and our union is strong.

But with this, there was Satan and his companion, the lizards of this time, who spit out their fire on the healthy body. This country has many challenges. We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations. (Applause.) We will confront them with focus and clarity and courage.

And he hasn't even gotten to the part on health care.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Our Sons, Our Daughters, Our Oxycontin, Our Dolphins 

"Some activists are trying to use the capture, serious injury, and/or death of female enlisted soldiers in a support unit ambushed in Iraq as an excuse to promote radical feminist objectives, such as the inclusion of uniformed women in Special Forces helicopters, submarines, and many land combat units."

That's from "Americans for the Military", a website circulating a petition to make sure women can't serve in combat roles in the military. It's all organized by the "Center for Military Readiness", an "independent, non-partisan 501(c)(3) educational organization". Why? Because "the armed forces have been hampered by Clinton-era social engineering policies." Sounds bipartisan to me!

From US News and World Report: "It's a question every parent with a daughter in military service, or considering it, has mulled since Pfc. Jessica Lynch, bloodied and possibly raped, was rescued: What the heck were she and other female soldiers doing in the line of fire? The answer is simple, though little publicized: Rules changed in the Clinton years to get women closer to the front. "This is exactly what we warned would happen years ago," says Elaine Donnelly, head of the Center for Military Readiness, a group devoted to limiting female combat exposure. "We need brave women in the military," she says, "but no one's daughter should have to suffer an ordeal" like 19-year-old Lynch's."

I like how this is phrased so that anyone arguing for women being able to have the same opportunities as men is suddenly in favor of violence against women. If individual women aren't up to snuff for these positions, then let's not put them in those positions. But to remove women from the front lines en masse based solely on general stereotypes about performance ability is just an abuse of statistics instead of addressing any kind of reality. Was anyone really asking "what the heck were she and other female soldiers doing in the line of fire?" Because when I saw that, I was pretty sure they were there because they were soldiers. Oh, and what's with "no one's daughter"? How condescending is that? "Sorry, we know you want to go on the front lines, soldier, but it might make your dad uneasy."

Rush Limbaugh is back on the air, ready and willing to distract a hundred thousand well meaning liberals from actually working for social progress. Listen up, fellow left wing America-haters: Rush is on painkillers, so it means his political views are nonsense, but Aaron Sorkin was on crack and that's "irrelevant"? Rush's ideas are ridiculous because he's a careerist blowhard, not because he has a problem with painkillers. He's ridiculous for so many more reasons besides this one human weakness, and no one should pretend drug addiction isn't a medical problem (as opposed to a legal problem) just because it makes the argument for getting Rush off the air a lot more convenient.

Lastly: Someone pointed out to me that a dolphin isn't a fish. You can imagine my embarrassment when I realized it's true, a dolphin is a marine mammal, according to The Dolphin Institute. I feel like I totally knew that.

Weekly Dolphin/Economist Round Up  

"If Bush said the earth was flat, the mainstream media would have stories with the headline: "Shape of the Earth ? Views Differ." Then they'd quote some Democrats saying that it was round." - Paul Krugman, economist for the New York Times, in an interview on AlterNet.

Who exactly picks logos for sports teams, and what are the guiding principles? Because it seems like maybe a helmet-clad dolphin bursting with joy doesn't strike much fear into the hearts of the opposing team. It also doesn't make a lot of sense, because if there is any animal in the world that would be bad at football, a really big fish is probably it. Cowboys, Vikings and Patriots all have arms, not to mention the ability to breathe even when they're not completely submerged in the sea?

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Political Hate Speech- Nationalized Health Care is Just What Osama Wanted 

The Republican National Committee- which is the only group of people that can be even more ridiculous than the Democratic National Committee- is encouraging Republican Rank and File to use the term "Political Hate Speech" every chance it gets in reference to criticisms of the President:

"Highlight the party of political hate speech ... The presidential candidates have now called President Bush a 'miserable failure,' a 'liar,' compared him to a 'gang leader' and to Saddam Hussein himself. Americans instinctively know that anyone who's willing to demean the presidency in order to gain it is not worthy of having it entrusted to him."

Republicans certainly lead by example, considering how forgiving they were of Bill Clinton's sexual misconduct and resulting legal problems. When that happened, they honored and respected the President and his office. They certainly never went so far as to call him "a miserable failure". That is tough talk, and Democrats better stop talking trash about this country- and its court-and-god appointed president- or they may be tried for sedition. Isn't running for President a direct criticism of this country and all that it stands for? Especially when we have troops in the field!

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