Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Is the oil spill becoming Obama’s “Katrina”?

Yes, yes,  I know the comparison isn’t perfect – loss of life and property, etc. – but I’m speaking of it in a political sense and not making a direct comparison.  What the administration essentially ignored and then became reluctantly involved in has now mushroomed into a major political (and environmental) problem for them.

Certainly, just as President Bush wasn’t responsible for the hurricane that hit New Orleans, President Obama isn’t responsible for the oil spill (Bush is – okay, I couldn’t resist).  The response to the disasters is what they are both graded upon.  Whether true or not, the federal response to Katrina was painted in the press as slow and lacking in urgency.  I can’t imagine, given this has been going on for 36 days or so, and the seeming lackadaisical attitude demonstrated until recently that the federal response to this has been much better in that regard.  In fact, some may claim it is worse.

People everywhere are really beginning to notice – out in flyover land and among his own party’s politicians.

Right now, all hope is of a quick resolution is centered on this attempted “top kill” procedure which, if it works, will fill the drill hole with mud and finally cement within 12 to 48 hours.  I, for one, hope like hell it works.  As one of BP’s techs said, we could know it won’t work within a few hours.  So the longer we go the better the chances are for success.  But that doesn’t end the problem for the administration.  It still is faced with a huge cleanup of what has already been pumped out of the well in the preceding days.

However, if the top kill doesn’t work, then we’re probably looking at August before a relief well will be able to take the pressure off this well and allow it to be capped.  Contemplating the damage that will do – politically as well as environmentally – is mind boggling.

That brings us to Senator Ben Nelson of Florida, who today suggested that if the top kill fails, Obama needs to just shove BP out of the way and take over the operation:

“If this thing is not fixed today, I think the president doesn’t have any choice and he better go in, completely take over, perhaps with the military in charge, not because the military can do this, but the military has the apparatus, the organization by which it can bring together the civilian agencies of government and to get this thing done,” Nelson said Wednesday morning during an appearance on CNN.

Of course doing that would remove BP as the main fall guy (which they are and should be) and Obama isn’t about to do that.  But practically, if Nelson had listened yesterday to a White House press conference in which Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen was asked that same question, he’d have known better:

Yesterday may have been a day to remember in the White House Briefing Room on the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, because of a straightforward answer by the man in charge of the federal spill response, that it’s not time for the feds to take charge from the oil company.

“To push BP out of the way would raise a question; to replace them with what?” said Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen.

That, basically, is the problem the Obama Administration faces.  They have the authority, but neither the equipment or the expertice to “push BP out of the way”.  Of course no one expects the Ben Nelson’s of this world to do their homework (or realize that the Coast Guard is an armed service that is running the federal response).

In the meantime, it’s not just Republicans complaining of the poor response.  Even James Carville has had his fill.

The “political stupidity is unbelievable,” Democratic strategist James Carville said on “Good Morning America” today. “The president doesn’t get down here in the middle of this. … I have no idea of why they didn’t seize this thing. I have no idea of why their attitude was so hands off …”

Uh, it’s a leadership thing, Mr. Carville. I think Frank J summed that problem up best today:

“Plug the damn hole!” That what Obama told people the other day. Because that’s what a leader does. He yells stuff and then stuff gets done. He’s seen it on TV.

GETTING STUFF DONE PLAN

STEP 1: Yell what you want done.
STEP 2: ???
STEP 3: Things get done.

I’m not sure step 2 is actually important.

I wonder why Obama hasn’t used this power before. Like everyone wants the economy to produce more jobs, so I don’t why Obama hasn’t stared the economy in the eye and said, “Create some damn jobs!” I guess he was do busy working on his damn health care.

Anyway, a lot of people thought Obama should be doing something about the oil leak, so this is him doing something. I don’t really get that though; I thought by now we learned that if we have something really important going on, keep him away from it.

~McQ

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Your future under ObamaCare? Just look to RomneyCare

The future of US medicine under ObamaCare is already on display in Massachusetts.

The top four health insurers there just posted first-quarter losses of more than $150 million. Most of them blamed the state’s decision to keep premiums at last year’s levels for individual and small-business policies, when they’d proposed double-digit hikes to match the soaring costs they’ve seen under the state’s universal-coverage law.

The companies have gone to court to challenge the state’s action — it apparently had no basis for its ruling beyond the political needs of Gov. Deval Patrick. If they win, Bay State health premiums will continue their rapid rise; if they lose, they’ll eventually have to stop doing business in Massachusetts — and the state will be that much closer to a “single payer” system of socialized medicine.

The Massachusetts “health reform” disease means more than just bureaucrats setting prices. It also includes rising government spending and taxes; politicians demonizing doctors, hospitals and insurers — and patients getting lectured that the restrictions of managed care are good medicine.

It’s what’s in store for all of America. The Bay State’s structure provided the base for ObamaCare. “Basically, it’s the same thing,” says MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who was a health adviser to GOP Gov. Mitt Romney and President Obama.

Of course, speaking of audacity, it was Mitt Romney who signed MassCare into law.

That said, anyone who can’t see the parallels either isn’t playing with a full deck or is being willfully blind. Just analyze what is happening in MA and it becomes obvious what our future holds under ObamaCare:

RomneyCare offered no real means to control and ultimately reduce costs. Its backers made airy promises of redirecting monies from state-sponsored charity care to insurance premiums, claiming that an insured population would be healthier and save money. In fact, the state has begged Washington year after year for money to plug the system’s gaps. In the program’s first three years, the feds will have spent $21.2 billion — $3,000 per Massachusetts resident.

Actually, ObamaCare’s cost-control promises are even more fantastic — from supposed slashing of Medicare payment rates to politically impossible “Cadillac” taxes. The only real cost control in either plan will be the brute force of government.

Speaking of the “supposed slashing of Medicare payment rates”, forget it. Keith Hennessey has caught them red-handed trying to slide the “doc fix” through under the radar. It increases Medicare payments for doctors for 18 months at a cost of $63 billion. It also raises taxes – mostly on businesses and certain kind of partnership income called “carried interest” – and extends unemployment benefits again, at a cost of another $47 billion we don’t have.

The bill is H.R. 4213, The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010. Don’t you just love the Orwellian names they give these things?

CBO gives us the net budgetary effects of the bill over the 11-year period 2010-2020:

* $40 B net tax increase;
* $174 B spending increase;
* $134 B deficit increase.

PAYGO? Bwwaaahahaha.

Health care disaster looms, financial disaster looms, and those presently in Congress still don’t seem to get it, of if they do, they just don’t give a damn.

This is your America today.

~McQ

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Audacity, thy name is Mexico

When it comes to illegal immigration, I continue to wonder who is in charge of our policy.

Yesterday, under increased pressure to enforce the federal immigration laws of the United States, President Obama ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to the border.

Then, as now, the troop deployment was fueled by heightened concerns about lawlessness — then it was illegal immigration, now it is drug traffickers — as well as political maneuvering in Washington to lay the groundwork for an effort to change immigration policy. But the issue remains bitterly contentious, with increasing pressure on Obama and lawmakers from both Latino supporters and conservative activists

.

Of course, this comes after giving Mexico’s hypocrite-in-chief, Filepe Calderon, a platform to defame and denigrate Arizona’s effort to stop the flood of predominantly Mexican illegals from pouring over the border.

In the wake of Obama’s decision concerning the deployment of the troops (which I’m sure, given Obama’s earlier joint comments on the subject, came as a surprise to Calderon), the Mexican Embassy in Washington DC issued a statement which said, in part:

Regarding the Administration’s decision to send 1,200 National Guard servicemen to the US Southern border, the Government of Mexico trusts that this decision will help to channel additional US resources to enhance efforts to prevent the illegal flows of weapons and bulk cash into Mexico, which provide organized crime with its firepower and its ability to corrupt.

Additionally, the Government of Mexico expects that National Guard personnel will strengthen US operations in the fight against transnational organized crime that operates on both sides of our common border and that it will not, in accordance to its legal obligations, conduct activities directly linked to the enforcement of immigration laws.

Because, you know, if it is aimed a the enforcement of immigration laws, and you are successful in securing the border and enforcing your laws, Mexico might actually have to do something to address the problems that see our citizens seeking work in another country.

Can’t wait to hear our reply, can you?

~McQ

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Private pay shrinks, government payouts soar

Read this carefully:

Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds.

At the same time, government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.

What is being said here is not that government provided benefits are now more than private paychecks.  Instead it is pointing to a trend brought on by the recession.  It gives a bit of lie to those who are claiming that all is well and we’re well on the road to recovery.  Those “government provided benefits” include unemployment benefits as well as other emergency benefits.

What does that mean?  Well it should be fairly obvious:

The trend is not sustainable, says economist Donald Grimes. Reason: The federal government depends on private wages to generate income taxes to pay for its ever-more-expensive programs. Government-generated income is taxed at lower rates or not at all, he says. “This is really important,” Grimes says.

Yes it really is. It is much like the problems we face with Social Security – we have too few workers paying for too many retirees. Well, this trend faces exactly the same sort of problem. We have too few taxpayers paying for too many unemployed. So that means going more into debt to pay extended benefits.

And that includes the states as well. To this point, 32 states have borrowed $37.8 billion from the federal government (and you know where the fed got the money) to pay unemployment benefits.

Here are the numbers:

• Private wages. A record-low 41.9% of the nation’s personal income came from private wages and salaries in the first quarter, down from 44.6% when the recession began in December 2007.

•Government benefits. Individuals got 17.9% of their income from government programs in the first quarter, up from 14.2% when the recession started. Programs for the elderly, the poor and the unemployed all grew in cost and importance. An additional 9.8% of personal income was paid as wages to government employees.

Now, having gone through all of that, what is the next sentence in the USA Today article?

The shift in income shows that the federal government’s stimulus efforts have been effective, says Paul Van de Water, an economist at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“It’s the system working as it should,” Van de Water says. Government is stimulating growth and helping people in need, he says. As the economy recovers, private wages will rebound, he says.

I’m sorry, but what in the hell is this man talking about? Unless “stimulus” has been redefined since I woke up this morning, the “stimulus” he’s talking about hasn’t “stimulated” anything but unemployment benefit payments. How does one claim, with 9.9% unemployment (U6 at 17.1%) and private wages at their lowest point in “US history”, that the “stimulus” has worked?

I think, instead, this proves you can find an economist somewhere to say pretty much whatever you want, and this one wants to parrot the liberal line. My understanding is the purpose of the “stimulus” was to “stimulate” growth in the private sector. And that simply hasn’t happened.

One economist does seem to understand what this all means:

Economist David Henderson of the conservative Hoover Institution says a shift from private wages to government benefits saps the economy of dynamism. “People are paid for being rather than for producing,” he says.

And we know many of them are riding the payments out as long as they can, now having adapted their lifestyle to the benefits they receive.

Where I come from, that doesn’t count as “stimulus”. That counts as unsustainable economic trouble.

~McQ

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Korea heats up

South Korea has determined it’s ship, the Cheonan, was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine.  46 South Korean sailors died.  In most people’s minds, that was an overt act of war.

Yesterday, NoKo severed all ties with South Korea.  Of course, technically, they’re still in a state of war, but this is a significant step in the wrong direction.  Said NoKo:

“The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea… formally declares that from now on it will put into force the resolute measures to totally freeze the inter-Korean relations, totally abrogate the agreement on non-aggression between the North and the South and completely halt the inter-Korean cooperation,” KCNA reported.

That certainly ratchets up the tensions between the two countries. It makes you wonder, as if anyone could figure him out, what the Elvis-loving tin pot dictator of NoKo is up too.  As mentioned, these are significant steps in the direction of war, and you have to be wondering what is going on internally in NoKo to drive this sort of provocation.

South Korea and the US will be holding some naval exercises off the coast to emphasize their unified position and status as allies, but other than that, there’s not much that can be done but wait and see what Kim Il Jung has up his sleeve.  In the meantime, this is about all SoKo has available to it:

South Korea has also said it will drop propaganda leaflets into the North to tell people about the sinking, as well as setting up giant electronic billboards to flash messages.

I’m not sure how it intends to drop leaflets, but the giant electronic billboards will only be seen by those NoKo trucks in every morning to work the model farms that can be observed from the DMZ.  South Korea is also resuming propaganda broadcasts to the North and using loudspeakers on the DMZ. 

It has also said it will take its case to the UN Security Council where China has a veto.  Any action (not that long time observers would expect much more than a strongly worded resolution) therefore is dependent on convincing the Chinese to go along with whatever the rest have planned.

Analysts say China’s attitude is key, because it holds a veto in the Security Council and has in the past been reluctant to impose tough measures on Pyongyang.

So – State Department – you mission  is to get China to the table and on the team.  Additionally, seeing that NoKo seems to be on a path to some sort of military action, whatever is decided should be aimed at lessening tensions, not heightening them.  It would be nice if you remembered we have 28,000 American troops there, and their fondest desire is not to be involved in the third simultaneous US war.  And trust me, if NoKo decides “to hell with it” and launches across the South Korean border, we’re not talking about casualty counts trickling in – we’re looking at a flood.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-05-25

N. Rosenkrantz proposes an entirely new framework for Constitutional jurisprudence. It's groundbreaking and fantastic. http://bit.ly/d1ZBqR #

White House investigation of Sestak allegations shows no White House wrongdoing. Nothing to see here. Move along. http://bit.ly/bUTH4R #

Radley Balko discusses the Detroit SWAT raid that got a 7 year-old girl killed by the police. In the wrong apartment. http://bit.ly/9nYMAu #

It's back to the Cold War on the Korean peninsula. With US troops there, let's hope it stays a cold war. http://bit.ly/9LSB3T #

With the Dow down 200 points at the moment, the 10-year T-note yield is down to 3.1%. But the economy is recovering, right? #

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Donkey, symbol of Democratic Party, blown up in Gaza

Hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?

And yes a donkey did get blown up in Gaza and no, it wasn’t the doing of the Republicans (well, not that we know of). They’d most likely have blown themselves up.

Anyway:

A small Syrian-backed terrorist group in Gaza said its activists blew up a donkey cart laden with explosives close to the border with Israel on Tuesday, killing the animal but causing no human casualties.

Abu Ghassan, spokesman for the terrorist group, said more than 200 kilograms of dynamite were heaped on the animal-drawn cart. He added that the explosives were detonated 60 meters from the concrete security barrier that separates the territory from Israel.

Is anyone else noticing how inept most of these terror attempts are becoming?  The Christmas Day bomber burns his own crotch out but fails to blow up the airplane he’s on.  The Times Square bomber fails in his attempt to explode a propane bomb in the city as planned.

And now we have the donkey bombers.  200 kg’s of explosives, laboriously smuggled into Gaza, rigged for explosion and they kill … a donkey.

They ought to stick with what they do best, for heaven sake – like torching UN run summer camps for children. They seem to be quite good at that. Maybe it’s the lack of armed opposition they find invigorating. Or terrifying children. Who knows?

The one thing I do know is threatening and terrifying children and blowing up donkeys will not be a topic of conversation among the useful idiots at the next “Free Palestine” meeting on a campus near you soon.

~McQ

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Fighting words (update)

As most of you know, I also blog over at BlackFive.net under the name “McQ”. It’s my “military outlet” and I love both the opportunity and the access to the milblog community it affords me. One of the things most encouraging about that particular blog venue is the community it entails. People with skin in the game – through service or being related to someone who has or is serving or members of support groups (Soldier’s Angels or the USO) who serve the troops.

Compared to the political game that I keep mostly at home here, it’s a pretty mellow place. There are a few times when authors pop off about things which rankle them, but mostly it’s about our warriors, our veterans and what we can do as a group – a community – to make life better for them. Many excellent organizations have spun out of the BlackFive effort. The Warrior Legacy Foundation for one. Cooking for the Troops for another. This is all evident to anyone who knows the site and actually reads it regularly and knows its founder, Matt Burden.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when BlackFive came under what I can only call an unfounded and scurrilous attack by two blogging nobodies who couldn’t shine Matt Burden’s boots, much less fill them. One of the yahoos called, of all things, for an “intervention”.

What the hell is that? Obviously something the one author, a Harvard PhD with no skin in the military game, learned in those pussified but hallowed halls – or from watching too much Oprah.

Well, I ‘m ready for an intervention, right now. And yes, I will be going ad hominem in this post because when a group with whom I’m proud to be associated is characterized as “[t]hese erstwhile mullahs of the American Taliban”, I consider that ban to be by the boards and those to be fighting words. And they deserve every bit of what I plan on saying.

The impetus for this “intervention” was a post by one of the BF authors, Crush. He was obviously a bit miffed that day. The supposed offending part is as follows:

The IMF suggests our national debt will surpass 100% of our gross domestic product in 2015.

Also states that our debt began sharply increasing in 2006. Wasn’t that when our beloved Democrats took over both houses of Congress?

At some point we must begin to ask ourselves – what is treason? The federal government has done more damage to this country than if the Soviet Union had invaded during the Cold War. Now if we captured members of the Red Army, there would be military tribunals and they would be shot. I am NOT advocating such treatment for our elected officials. However, we should realize the gravity of the situation our nation finds itself thanks to their lust for power.

Is the destruction of our republic somehow more palatable if it is perpetrated by domestic enemies rather than foreign ones?

Anyone ready to go out and kill cops and blow up federal buildings? Yeah, me neither. That’s pretty normal fare in the political blogosphere. But this nancy-boy “Havad” grad shown standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier (obviously in port as other civilians are seen on deck as well) decides it is one of many calls to violence that have emanated from BF and is sure that BF is in some way is responsible for the violence that recently happened in Arkansas.  Seriously:

This weekend, as the nation mourns the loss of two dedicated law enforcement officers–shot at the hands of anti-government extremists (one suspect served in the Army Reserves), I want to take a minute to address certain milblogs and anti-government rhetoric.

We milbloggers have a responsibility to be good stewards of civic behavior. Anti-government rhetoric, “wink-wink” anti-government incitement and calls for violence must not find a place in America’s milblog community.

Please join me in calling out those milbloggers who traffic in anti-American rhetoric.

A) who the hell is “we”, assclown? The fact that this yahoo writes about the military doesn’t make him a milblogger anymore than Obama’s ability to read from a teleprompter makes him a great orator. It makes him precisely what he is – someone with no skin in the game who writes about the military, not a milblogger. But more importantly …

B) show me the “incitement to violence” in Crush’s post. Hint: A capitalized “NOT” is a key clue.

C) since when is dissent “anti-American”?

D) how dare he try to tie the death of two law enforcement officers to BlackFive by implication and then talk about “being good stewards of civic behavior”?

E) demonstrate, with examples, a pattern of “anti-government” rhetoric that any fair observer would consider to be an “incitement to violence” against said government from BlackFive.

Of course I expect no response to those challenges and will most likely get none.

But that’s not the half of it. He calls Burden out and calls him a coward (as he does Crush) because Matt doesn’t censor his authors (how “anti-American”). He makes claims that have no basis in fact (most of us call those “lies”) and he tars the whole of the authors there with inflammatory rhetoric like this:

And now, two law enforcement officers are dead. Egged on by the violent anti-government rhetoric sites like Blackfive spew every single day.

Blackfive’s anti-government rhetoric speaks for itself.

[...]

A lot of good veterans serve in law enforcement and in other non-elected governmental roles. Today, two are dead, two are wounded. And with sites like Blackfive.net helping, more and more law enforcement and government workers are going to die at the hands of guys misguided by net-based calls to anti-government violence.

I’m worried that guys who find community and strength in Blackfive.net’s stock-and-trade of anti-government rhetoric will act upon what they read…

I’ve read some excruciatingly asinine and groundless commentary in my life, but this is the pinnacle. In fact, it is damn close to libel.

I wonder – when confronted with those questions above – if he’d be fine with me calling him a coward if he doesn’t respond or I don’t find his responses acceptable to me?

He concludes with:

We, as milbloggers and patriots, can’t afford to ignore this talk. We can’t continue dismissing this unpatriotic behavior as insignificant exuberance.

It is time for veterans, service members, interested law enforcement officers, milbloggers and others to express their concern when they see anti-government, pro-violence behavior on milblogs.

If we–the responsible people–don’t do anything now, how will we feel when a vet in government service (or one of us, even) is killed by a vet who consumed too much of the stuff blackfive.net produces? Intervene. Join me.

Cheerleaders for uncivic behavior must be called on the carpet now, today, before somebody translates this misguided rhetoric into action.

Irresponsible. Childish. Misinformed. Absurd. Full of lies and false implication. It is impossible to succinctly characterize this fool’s rant. Scholarly and dispassionate, however, wouldn’t be words I’d choose to describe it in any way.

Have you ever seen someone stretch so hard to try and make a point? In fact, his rhetoric is nothing more that the usual frothing of the extreme left trying to make a case for a “violent right” complete with pictures of the destroyed Murrah building in Oklahoma City. What’s hilarious is this pinhead doesn’t even understand the unintentional irony of his concluding statement – after attacking Burden and Crush, calling them cowards, tarring the whole BF crew with the phrase “American Taliban”, claims of incitement to violence and attempting to link us all to the death of the two law enforcement officers in Arkansas, this dipwad talks about “uncivic behavior” and “misguided rhetoric”.

How many have chosen to join you in your intervention, Skippy?

To quote the only PhD I respect, Bugs Bunny – “what a maroon”.

The other who attacked the blog is named David Axe. His post isn’t worth much more than this: I spent four days with David Axe aboard the USS Kearsarge. My experience with him boils down to this – if there are two versions to a certain event – always, always, ALWAYS go with the other guy’s version.

Nuff said.

UPDATE: This Ain’t Hell takes a couple of swings as well.

~McQ

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Union pension bailout introduced in Congress

Apparently deaf to the people and under the political thumb of unions, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) has introduced legislation that would provide another $165 billion in bailouts for troubled union pension funds. In essence, the bill would use the existing Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp behind union pensions as well at an initial cost of $165 billion. In reality it would be an open ended bailout.

Of course the problem with the union pension funds is the unions have managed them and, even in the good times, managed them poorly:

As FOX Business Network’s Gerri Willis reported Monday, these pensions are in bad shape; as of 2006, well before the market dropped and recession began, only 6% of these funds were doing well.

Of course, bailing out these pension funds is the wrong thing to do for any numbers of reasons. First, of course, is the government has no business taking from taxpayers to prop up entities which have mismanaged their assets. In a free society, the “freedom to fail” is as much a part of that society as the freedom to succeed. We shouldn’t be in the business of trying to prevent bad consequences that result from bad or poor behavior and management (although the precedent has been set with the auto bailouts).

Secondly, this is an internal union problem – not a problem for the taxpayers. Union members should be dealing with management that has so badly managed their retirement assets, not the rest of us. Where was the membership when it became clear, much earlier than now, that this sort of problem existed and was getting worse?

It isn’t clear that this legislation will get anywhere (it shouldn’t), but it speaks to a mindset existent among politicians that is the target of many voters this year. The Casey’s of the Congress are who need to go. And I’d feel the same way if it was a GOP legislator trying to save some corporation from the results of its poor decisions.

The idea of government, via the taxpayers, is there to backstop every downturn resulting from poor private decisions and management is an idea which we need to forever banish from out thinking.

As an aside, President Obama has declared there would be no more bailouts. But this is a union we’re talking about here. Let’s see if he sticks by his guns or whether we ought to give his declaration as much credence as we would if he said he was never going to use a teleprompter again.

~McQ

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