Archive for September, 2012

Jim Crow is alive and well

David sent me an e-mail this morning.

Hey, Dad, have you seen this Sarah Silverman thing on YouTube?  Funnier than hell.

So I watched it.  It’s about the voter ID laws that have been put in place in a bunch of states to put a stop to the most terrible thing that has ever happened to this country…voter fraud.

In search of a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, states that have a predominantly pinkish cast have embraced voter ID laws as a way of ensuring that folks who might otherwise vote for a black guy are prevented from voting…period.

Law abiding patriots have seized on the need to have fair and square elections by reducing the number of crooks who, at the risk of incarceration, race to the polls by the busload, impersonate dead people, and cast their votes for black guys.  What’s in it for them, you say.  Hmmmm.

But the problem must be dealt with severely and order restored.  The nation’s very honor is at risk.  Fraud abounds.  Pro Publica reports that  A New York Times analysis from 2007 identified 120 cases filed by the Justice Department over five years.   An analysis by News21, a national investigative reporting project, identified  10 voter impersonation cases out of 2,068 alleged election fraud cases since 2000…or one out of every 15 million prospective voters.  In Pennsylvania where the problem is epidemic and where laws have been enacted to inoculate the population, there have been the incalculable total of zero cases of voter fraud.

 In July, Texas Attorney General Doug Abbott pointed to the alleged fifty cases of voter fraud prosecuted by his office, waived the Lone Star State’s flag, promised he would stamp fraudulent voting, and said “It’s time for politics to be put aside and allow the Texas voter ID law to be put into effect just like similar laws exist across the country. There is no valid proof that the law disproportionately affects minorities.”  

Scolding Mr. Abbott for his lapse of veracity, in August a three judge panel in the U.S. District Court unanimously struck down the Texas law.  The court said the law would hurt turnout among minority voters and impose “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” by charging those voters who lack proper documentation fees to obtain election ID cards.  That ruling came down two days after another three judge panel in the same court struck down the latest Texas redistricting because it intentionally discriminated against minority voters.

Harkening back to the days of Jim Crow, the newest voter ID laws promulgated in all but one red state are a fresh attempt to breathe life into an almost but not quite forgotten time when poll taxes were the weapon of choice to keep blacks and other undesirables from casting their vote.  But not everyone is saying ho-hum, that’s life, and then leaving it to the other guy to deal with this blatant attempt to disenfranchise voters.

 Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project, said black women showed in 2008 they can turn out in record numbers. But in 2010, “we sat home and while we were sitting at home, there were others that were plotting and what they decided to do was to change the rules of the game.”

Deidre Reese, coordinator of the Columbus-based Ohio Unity Coalition, an affiliate of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation was militant… “We are not going to give back one single inch. We have fought too long and too hard.”

What’s the big deal?  Those voter dis-enfranchisers can’t possibly be that successful.  It probably will only impact a few votes.  Surely justice will prevail.

 Well, here’s a thought.  The 2000 presidential election was decided by one vote.  By one Supreme Court vote, The Great Decider was seated in the Oval Office.  By one vote he sent us to war, turned surpluses into deficits and nearly destroyed this country’s financial system.

So go ahead, watch Sarah Silverman.  Really funny.  Really scary.

My Mother-in-Law

My mother-in-law was a Jewish Republican.  I’m not sure how she ever achieved that highly unusual status since in her day those political animals were about as rare as the Cubs winning the World Series.

Marge was a staunch Nixon supporter who excused everything he did…until Watergate.  When that sordid, pathetic story came into the light she retreated from vocal support to stony silence.  I’m sure she was embarrassed, disappointed and shocked that the President of the United States was actually a crook.  She never again mentioned his name.

Marge’s daughter, my Sweetie, often says “I wonder if my mother would vote for Romney.”  I’m certain that she’d like to think not, but deep down she knows that Marge probably would.  Until yesterday.

Even Marge had her limits.  Although sometimes abrupt and opinionated, she was kind and generous. She came from a lower-income background born to immigrant parents escaping from pogroms.   I’d bet that Marge’s parents never paid income taxes and probably were the beneficiaries of some form of  government largess.  Taking advantage of opportunities, Marge and Leo built a successful business, treated their employees well and supported those less fortunate than them.  And still she called herself a Republican.

I flicked on the TV this morning and saw “Will latest gaffe be an election game changer?” crawling along the bottom of the CNN news screen.  Mitt Romney had surgically divided this country into two camps.  One half of the population included him and those red-blooded Americans who paid their taxes.  The other half consisted entirely of the freeloaders who didn’t pay income taxes.  And there was no point, Mitt said, in reaching out to those freeloaders since they were dependent on big government to take care of them cradle to grave.  And he was not.

Speaking in mid-May at a $50,000 a person fund-raiser in San Diego, he said they are “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them. Those people pay no income tax, and so our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

David Brooks, one of the two NY Times token Republican columnists, had these words to offer today about Mr. Romney’s comments.  It suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits…It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America…It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture…It suggests that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation…As a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy…It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.

Yesterday was Rosh Hashonah.  We and about a hundred other Jews spent the morning at Temple and were treated by Rabbi Mike to a description of what it means to be Jewish.  No surprise since it’s the same in just about every other religion.  Specifically, it is our responsibility to make this a better world. To repair it by service to society.  To help the fallen.  To strengthen the weak. To make their lives better even at the expense of our own.  It’s not critical that we alone save the world.  But it is commanded that we do what we can here on earth.

At every Temple service we remember the departed.  We stand and say the Kaddish.  We silently think of those who have gone before us.  Our parents, grandparents, children and friends.  The next time I say Kaddish I will think of Marge.  And the next time Sweetie asks me do you think she would vote for him, I’ll know the answer.

What would President Romney do?

—A president would be sure of the facts before broadcasting his story.

—A president would strongly condemn the murder of innocents.

—A president would avoid language that further incites violence against his citizens.

—A president would assure other nations that he does not condone the repellent actions of bigots, racists  and troublemakers.

—A president would insist on the cooperation of other nations to control violence against our citizens.

—A president would inform those nations of the consequences of their inaction.

—A president would  instill the confidence of the nation in his judgment.

—A president would calm the nation and the world.

—A president would not seek political gain at the expense of doing the right thing.

Some folks, like that self-proclaimed foreign policy guru Paul Ryan, don’t think that my formula for handling things like riots precipitated by morons whose sole objective is to create a riot, is a fitting prescription for a president.

Speaking in De Pere, Wisconsin, the Bernard Baruch of the 21st century said…“It is very important that a president speak with a singular voice representing our principles and our values.  If you show weakness, if you show moral equivocation, then foreign policy adventurism among our adversaries will increase.”  He promised that a Romney administration would lead with “peace through strength.”  He might have added the watchword of his faith…shoot first, think later.

It reminded me of Ryan’s running mate, the ever ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Mitt Romney.  The Washington Post chronicled the Mitter’s all too frequent politics comes first approach to crises.  The Post said…there have been too many cheap shots and miscues that have only called attention to Mr. Romney’s inexperience in foreign affairs.  The Post included Mitt’s knee jerk attacks on the administration while in the midst of delicate negotiations over the fate of the Chinese human rights lawyer, and his blatantly political accusation that Obama sympathizes with rioters.

The Post continued by labeling his jeering at Russia as “unbecoming a great power “ and his threats of a trade war with China as “both unconvincing and unproductive.”  The paper concluded  with  “He appealed to the worst in the American people when he failed to stand up for religious tolerance by condemning the bigoted anti-Muslim movie trailer that incited riots this week, even as he rightly condemned the violence itself.”

Perhaps secretly embracing  the riots in the Middle East as a welcome respite from being roundly criticized for failing to offer up his tax returns or, for that matter, anything else of substance to public scrutiny, the Mitt began to prepare a methodical, high-minded approach to the upcoming debates with the President.  In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopolous, he revealed the secret weapon that he will use in dealing with Mr. Obama…“I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true,” Romney said. “I’ve looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it’s difficult to say, ‘Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?”

Oh, that Mitt.  What a guy.  Confronting Obama with the schoolyard liar, liar, pants are on fire approach will give him the cover he needs when falsely disputing any facts offered by Mr. Obama during the debates.  It will also let him focus on the things he knows best, like foreign policy and, uh…

Mitt continued regaling George…” I believe that when the final decisions are being made by the American people, they’re going to ask themselves, “Who do I have confidence in to keep America safe? And who do I believe can get our economy doing what it needs to do?”  No shit.

Pressed on his plan to continue the Bush tax cuts while balancing the budget by closing as yet unspecified loopholes, our aspiring tax expert pointed to several studies including one by Harvard’s Martin Feldstein.  But Stephanopolous noted that Feldstein’s study said balancing was only possible if tax deductions for home mortgage interest, charitable deductions and state/local taxes were eliminated for everyone earning at least $100,000.  Romney sheepishly admitted that he actually hadn’t read the Feldstein report that he and his Pancho Sanza  traveling companion prominently cite on the campaign trail.  Big surprise.

Even reliable Republican pundits seemed on the verge of tears.  George Will lamented “If the Republican Party cannot win in this environment, it has to get out of politics and find another business.” Laura Ingraham said “If you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party, shut it down.”  Good idea.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal offered…”The GOP candidate might try explaining his policies.  Just a thought.”   As a fresh start in that direction, I give Mitt permission to use the list at the top of this blog.

Smirker in Chief

One unforgettable morning eleven years ago, I turned on the TV near my rowing machine and was confronted with burning buildings and the greatest calamity to befall our nation since Pearl Harbor.  I stood in front of the TV and didn’t know what to do except stare at the unbelievable devastation.

Eleven years later plus a day, I was again staring at the TV getting ready to cajole my much older bones to rise to the occasion when I saw Hillary Clinton talking about another attack on our citizens.  Her words were well-chosen as she sought to memorialize those who died this time in Benghazi and to seek some calm  after another turbulent event half a world away.

After watching the emerging story of the events in Libya, I was treated to a press conference featuring that foreign relations guru, Mitt Romney.  Quickly offering his condolences to the families of the murdered embassy officials, Mitt launched into a denunciation of the comments from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the Obama administration and anyone else remotely resembling a Democrat.  The Romney campaign had earlier offered this statement from Mitt…

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn the attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.


Even Republican senators knew better.  A joint statement on Fox News by John McCain, Lindsay Graham and which-way-is-the-wind-blowing Joe Lieberman took no political punches at the administration.

Mitt’s press conference doubled down and  bordered on an immediate declaration of nuclear war on those yet-to-be identified perpetrators of the attack on the Benghazi embassy, and offered a denunciation of Obama’s failure to draw and quarter the framers of a message delivered by the Cairo staff.  How dare Mr. Obama, he said, be so willing to support the audacity of the Cairo staff that both condemned the Benghazi attack and denounced the asinine video that may have incited the attackers.  No matter that the Cairo embassy was trying to quell a protest outside its own gates by being what ambassadors are paid to do…be ambassadorial.

Ever willing to seize the low ground, the Mitt decided that it was more important to embrace diversity to make political points rather than to encourage solidarity and unity.  His prepared remarks led to a series of questions posed by his traveling press corps.  As the reporters bore down and focused on what he would do differently and whether his remarks were intended to simply purchase political capital, his once firm facial expression degenerated into a smirk signifying his discomfort with the questions and an unwillingness to offer specifics.  A face becoming all too familiar.

The more I watched and listened, the more I was reminded of that other “shoot first and ask questions later” proponent.  The smirky man from Texas who didn’t let the absence of facts deter him.  The one who took us to Iraq, lost more than 4,000 of our soldiers and facilitated the annihilation of thousands of Iraqis.  The one that even Republicans shun.

The as yet unconfirmed creator of the video randomly condemning Islam for everything including the sinking of the Titanic and global warming, Sam Bacile, was aided and abetted by pastor Terry Jones, the same moron who previously graced the news in 2010 with his proclamation of “Burn A Koran Day.”

As the NY Times  reported later in the day…as an adviser to the campaign who worked in the George W. Bush administration said on Wednesday, Mr. Romney’s accusation that Mr. Obama had invited the attacks because he had weakened America looked like “he had forgotten the first rule in a crisis: don’t start talking before you understand what’s happening.”

So there you have it.  First, two imbeciles promote a vicious video falsely condemning all of Islam, and second you have a point-seeking presidential candidate condemning the President for recognizing and acknowledging the impact of that monstrous lie.  And smirking at the same time.

Night Two in Charlotte

David Brooks seemed a little out of sorts early last night at the PBS round table in Charlotte.

Continuing to beat the drum about the missing-in-action business moguls and the overabundance of politicians, policy wonks and just plain people, he seemed frustrated when I tuned in around 5pm.  “Where are the new policies, the proposed legislation, the magic fairy dust that will get us out of this mess…I don’t hear it.”

Assuming a grandfatherly role, frumpy Mark Shields seemed to want to ease the stress on David’s younger face.  But all he could think of was “David, you’ve been hearing it, you’re just not paying attention.”

Nancy Pelosi did her best to rally the troops, Barbara Mikulski led a female senatorial invasion, and Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood took to the lectern.  It seemed to be women’s night, again.  The crowd seemed especially subdued during  Ms. Richard’s speech until she mentioned her mother  Ann, former governor of Texas.  Maybe they remembered Ann’s famous line in her keynote address at the 1988 Democratic convention about workplace discrimination against womenIf you give us the chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.

Sister Simone Campbell “one of the nuns on the bus” blasted the Romney-Ryan budget and told us that her creed was based on being her brothers’ and her sisters’ keeper.  And that includes keeping people healthy and alive, or as she stridently put it “That’s my pro-life standard.” 

While I silently wondered when the guys would arrive, Sweetie watched the faces in the audience highlighted by the TV cameras and said “Why are they showing so many African-American faces?”  My first paranoid thought was that the TV director was a Republican but then I recovered from my racist delusion and said “It only seems that way since they were an endangered species in Tampa.”

David was finally rewarded for his patience.  Bill Butcher owner of Port City Brewing in Alexandria, Virginia said that even though Obama was making his own stuff in the White House basement that Bill would reward us with a free one for each Obama vote.

Austin Ligon, founder of multi-zillion dollar CarMax, said he didn’t do it alone. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Costco CEO, Jim Sinegal, in an obvious dig at Mitt and his Bain buddies said to build a business you’ve got to plant and grow, not reap and run.

Sandra Fluke, proclaimed a slut by the moral moron Rush Limbaugh, grabbed the spotlight.  She and other females were shut out of a House hearing that focused on contraception.  In the House of Representatives, access to birth control is being decided by people who will never use it. But here, instead of silencing me, you invite me.  Focusing like a laser beam on our choices in November, and in reference to Romney’s milk toast remarks about Limbaugh’s diatribe…Your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs…Who won’t stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party.

The first illegal immigrant to address a national convention, Benita Veliz, embraced the Dream Act and Obama’s decision to pave the way to citizenship for children brought here by their parents.  Like so many Americans of all races and backgrounds, I was brought here as a child. I’ve been here ever since. I graduated as a valedictorian of my high school class at the age of 16, and I went on to earn a double major at the age of 20. I know I have something to contribute to my economy and my country. I just feel as American as any of my friends or neighbors.

Showtime.  The man is here.  Pay attention, he said.  Listen up, he commanded.  And we did.  Bill had  lots to say and at times I thought the hook would, maybe should, come out.  But it was worth our time.  Pointing a skinny, crooked finger at us, he insisted that politics didn’t need to be a blood sport.  But he reminded us that the Republicans’ number one priority was to put Obama out of work, not to put Americans back to work.

He clarified and rewrote the Republicans’  Obama mantra conceived in Tampa.  Simply…we left him a total mess, he didn’t clean it up fast enough, so put us back in.

He too gave us a choice.  Winner take all  versus shared responsibility.  You’re on your own versus let me help.

It was a stark contrast.  Instead of Republicans ignoring and disowning their party’s leader of eight years, the Democrats embraced theirs.  Instead of  obliterating  an eight year Republican history of chaos, failure and debt, the Democrats paraded a man who led, produced balanced budgets, embraced the needy, and captured the admiration of millions.

At the end of the evening at the PBS wrap-up, David looked like a tired, but calm, man.  A man who realized and maybe even embraced the obvious choice.

Night one in Charlotte

I half expected to see George Bush at the lectern on the first night of the Democrat’s party in Charlotte.

Having received neither an invitation to Tampa nor a single line in any of the speeches given by the Republican faithful, I figured George must have switched parties.

I had intended to tune in to the convention just to hear Michelle.  But I was drawn like a moth to the flame and switched on the Samsung about an hour into the proceedings.  Just in time to visit the PBS booth and hear the incisive Gwen Ifill and the inquisitive Judy Woodruff ask their token Republican, David Brooks, and the ever-frumpy Mark Shields about their impressions of the first day of the convention.

My on-again, off-again love affair with David was tested once more when he said “The only people who’ve been at the lectern are politicians and public servants.  Not a single business leader has been asked to speak.  That should leave little doubt in people’s minds about which party is the party of government.”

 Before David could take a breath, we segued to the convention floor and watched Tammy Duckworth clamber to the podium on two artificial legs she earned piloting a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq.  Tammy expressed her thanks for food stamps and education-supporting Pell Grants as factors that gave her a fair chance of success.

Ted Strickland, former governor of Ohio, talked about ordinary Joes and stridently insisted that government financial support for GM was what kept the auto industry alive in his state.

A now retired twenty year Goodyear employee, Lilly Ledbetter,  was paid less than her male colleagues doing the same job.  Losing her case in the Supreme Court because she had missed a 180 day statute of limitations, she pushed hard for eventual congressional passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

In what was perhaps the most moving moment at the convention, Stacey Lihn, mother of Zoe, a toddler with congenital heart disease praised the Affordable Care Act.  Without it, her daughter’s insurance would have limited out.  With it, Zoe can continue treatments, reminding us that no one should go broke because of illness.

And on it went.  Speaker after speaker talking about a fair chance, a leg up, help when it was most needed.  A stark contrast with the “you’re on your own” mantra featured in Tampa.

And I thought, David, you are absolutely right.  There are no entrepreneurs on the podium.  There are just people there.  People who need government in their lives.  A government that…

Helps the unfortunate

Provides educational opportunities to those who can’t afford it

Delivers healthcare as a right not a privilege

Implements financial reforms and regulations to protect those who can’t protect themselves

Relies less on war and more on seeking non-violent solutions

Provides food to those who would otherwise go hungry

Invests in companies that are the backbone of our economy and that provide jobs to the jobless

Protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority

Relies on women to know what’s best for their own bodies

Protects diversity in how or whether we worship, and disdains a one-size-fits all definition of morality

Insures workplace safety while simultaneously investing in roads, bridges, research and technology

The culmination of the evening was heralded by another government employee, Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio.  Mayor Castro got the biggest cheer of the evening when he credited government aid in his formative years.  “Without it, I’d be holding a mop instead of this microphone.”

The star of the evening, Michelle Obama revitalized her husband’s humanity.

We switched back to the PBS booth.  I swear I saw David’s eyes glisten.  And we both understood why George hadn’t been invited.

Just the facts

It started a few days ago.  That nagging feeling that nobody cares about the truth.  Or worse yet, simply insist that the truth is merely a fiction.

My friend Ralph sent me, for the second time, a regurgitated missive blasted to his friends in cyberspace intended to terrorize the mindless among us.  Warning us that Obamacare would tax the sale of our home, he ignored the actual law and chose to sensationalize and grossly overstate.  No matter that I had previously told him, accompanied by references and facts, that he was seriously off base.  Better to spread the falsehood in the sacred effort to rid us of Obama and that awful healthcare abomination so mindlessly upheld by that liberal pinko, Justice Roberts.

Jay Ambrose, a regular columnist in the Ventura Star, spent the better part of his Wednesday message telling us that fact checkers were predominantly leftists pushing the liberal point of view.  Better to ignore them.  Better to accept the lies than to trust anyone who might be armed with the truth.

In response to the twisted logic applied by Paul Ryan as he endeared himself to the Tampa convention goers, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse turned the challenge back on the fact checkers, saying they bring their own “thoughts and beliefs” to the process.  “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” Newhouse said.  Better to accept everything the candidate says.  After all, he’s cute and his mother loves him.

The long dead John Sununu arose, as he tends to do every four years, to defend the Romney ad that accuses Obama of gutting welfare reform by illegally granting waivers to states that ask for them. The TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted “a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.”  The plan does neither of those things.  Abetting this, some would say racist, claim that folks could avoid looking for work, stay home, drink beer, fart a lot and get checks for doing so, Sununu almost had a cerebral explosion defending his right to call Obama a liar.  Substantiating his claim to veracity, he invoked the names of Rick Santorum (there is no global warming and conception begins at the moment of erection) and Newt Gingrich (the earth is flat and I didn’t inhale when I was cheating on my wives.)

I thought I had escaped from this onslaught of slime to the sanctity of the Cinemark Theater in downtown Ventura to watch Robot and Frank (don’t bother, it’s still searching for a plot).  As part of the now ubiquitous pre-feature film advertising deluge, Glenn Beck’s face appeared on the screen inviting me to spend time with him while he made unbiased fun of himself, both political parties and the election.  The very same Glenn Beck who just recently promoted the lie that the Democratic convention will host a Muslim “Jumah” prayer service while rejecting a Catholic cardinal’s offer to lead a prayer.  Glenn has it almost right, except that the Muslim service is in a city park and is sponsored by a non-profit claiming no allegiance to either party.

Much as it hurts me, I admit that both parties own a significant share of fibs, distortions and big, fat lies.  It is informative, however, to gauge the relative veracity of both of them.  Simply put, who’s the biggest liar?  To that end, a Pulitzer (Commie bastard) winning organization, has a list of Pants on Fire awards for lies that haven’t even a Captain Crunch grain of truth.  Check it out.

Does it matter? Is anyone paying attention?  More importantly, are those undecided voters (aka wimps) swayed by the barrage and complexity of the falsehoods?   For to every lie there is also the claim of truth.  To those who think we need to do something about global warming, there are those who cite the doubts voiced by the miniscule minority who have their heads in their ass.  To those who say there is a growing and unfair disparity between the 1% and the 99%, there are those tricksters who say that jobs will trickle down from more tax cuts for the wealthy.  And to those who say trust us, there are those who remember George, Dick, Donald and Condoleeza.

The other night, Barrel 33 hosted my buddy Jim and I to happy hour martinis.  We come from opposites ends of the political spectrum yet find some way, maybe an even invigorating way, to argue politics.  Somewhere in the conversation, Jim said “I think I’ll just stick my head under the covers until the election is over.  It’s giving me a headache.”

I know that Jim won’t do that.  And neither should you.  Stay focused on the clear choice broadcast  by the parties.  You can be an America-firster dedicated to lower taxes, dramatically reduced support for those less fortunate, a larger military budget, decimated school budgets, growing intrusion of religion in our lives, and a one-size-fits-all definition of morality.  Or you can be the exact opposite.

And that’s a fact.



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