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And Yet…

I’ve articulated some of my thoughts on the election, yet I see I have left some important stuff out.

For one thing, although I’ve been mildly disgusted by this presidential campaign, I’m actually less disgusted by the two major candidates than in any race I can remember. Some friends have expressed dismay that they can support neither McCain nor Obama. I’m like, welcome to my world. That’s how I’ve felt my whole life. Yet I actually feel less like that on this go-round.

Another thing: Despite all my reservations and qualifications and hedges and misgivings, I really want to see Obama win. I think an Obama victory would be much better for the nation than a McCain victory. In fact, I’d love to see an Obama landslide. I think that would be great.

And it’s not just opposition to McCain. I genuinely want to see Obama in the White House. There are many reasons, but I’ll mention just a couple: the war, and race.

The war in Iraq is still a huge issue in my mind, despite being eclipsed by the economy. It’s amazing to me that we have a major candidate on the ballot who opposed the war. An Obama victory would symbolize a repudiation of Bush’s doctrine of preemptive aggression.

Then there’s the race issue. We’d like to pretend we’re living in a post-racial era, but race still matters. Race is intricately bound up with class. Take race and class together, and you’ve got an issue that not only matters, but matters hugely. If we’re such an egalitarian country, how come every president we’ve had has been white and male? Obviously we haven’t quite reached the high ideals to which we aspire.

I’m not so naïve as to suppose that an Obama victory would correct that in some magical fashion. In fact, I can envision the opposite. The talking point will go like this: “There’s a black man in the white house, so stop whining about inequality.” I don’t nourish any fantasies that a black president would make our racial problems disappear.

And yet I’m reminded of something E.J. said many months ago:

…there’s been a lot of talk about facing our race problem and “talking about it,” but I get the sense everyone’s waiting for their invitation to a nice roundtable summit, one afternoon at the Convention Center, where we can engage in a dialogue about our feelings. That ain’t gonna cut it.

E.J. was speaking about post-Katrina New Orleans in particular, but those words come back to me every time there’s a racial flare-up on the national scene, like the Don Imus debacle or whatever. We need to have dialog on these issues. But it never really happens. If Obama is elected, we’ll be having some dialog all right, and it will keep coming as long as he’s in office. It won’t always be pretty. It will get downright ugly sometimes, I’m sure. And I’m not sure where it will lead — there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. I think it will be therapeutic, but therapy is not without risks.

So, yes, I hope Obama wins over McCain. No question.

Of course I’d love to see a victory by someone who more closely approximates my values. But here’s an interesting little factoid from

The Green Party candidate, former representative Cynthia McKinney, has raised $177,000 so far this year, a sum Barack Obama raises every hour.

Kind of puts things in an interesting perspective.

Then there’s the question of voting. But that’s another thing entirely.

Published inPolitix


  1. David David

    Well, even if Louisiana goes to McCain, a vote for Obama in Louisiana is not wasted. Several thoughts:

    The margin of victory in the popular vote speaks loudly, perhaps loudest, to the nature of any kind of repudiation of the Bush regime. It also speaks to the future viability of their political tactics.

    Right now, there are thousands of people in places like Florida and Ohio who have stood in line for hours to vote for Obama, and there’s a good chance many of their votes won’t be counted. I cast my vote in solidarity with them.

    In thirty years, do you want to say I could have voted for Barack Obama, the first black President, destined to be a great, revolutionary one, but didn’t? That instead, you voted for someone who’s a footnote?

    OK, I’m done with the Democratic pitch.

  2. David David

    And by the way, it’s an absolute disgrace that Louisiana could go to McCain after Katrina, though I realize it has no small part to do with changed demographics of the state after the storm. Still, if the state is dumb enough to reward the party that left them to die, then the state is, effectively, asking for continued neglect from the federal government.

  3. celcus celcus

    “I’m actually less disgusted by the two major candidates than in any race I can remember.”

    I kind of feel the same way, but I think this one is a no braner.

    And on a functional level I don’t ever want anyone or any party to get a landslide or a so called “mandate”.

  4. Sean Sean

    Without an opposition to a two party debate this nonsense will never end. We would not be funding a war or spending billions on bailouts without the complicity of both parties. I can’t support Obama’s record on FISA, Patriot Act, Wall Street Bailout, Increased spending in Iraq, offshore drilling, NAFTA, etc.

    Obama believes that the way Canada or European countries provide health services is “extreme.” This is a core issue for most people, considering the cost and fear of losing health coverage. Maybe investing 65 billion in tax dollars a year for a profit-based system will fix it, but I have severe reservations about this. Too bad there wasn’t a closer discussion of Obama’s issues.

    I’m glad people can get so excited and creative about politics. I hope in the future it will be more about substance.

  5. Kent Kent

    David said: The margin of victory in the popular vote speaks loudly, perhaps loudest, to the nature of any kind of repudiation of the Bush regime. It also speaks to the future viability of their political tactics.

    Perhaps, but Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, and then claimed he had a “mandate.” Talk about foreshadowing his presidency! Why didn’t people see it coming? A stronger repudiation may be 60 democrats in the senate.

    Sean says: can’t support Obama’s record on FISA, Patriot Act, Wall Street Bailout, Increased spending in Iraq, offshore drilling, NAFTA, etc.

    On most of these, I couldn’t agree more. Yet Obama represents many positive things. Should he be elected, his presidency will have a lasting impact on people’s lives through his positive effect on race issues. And there’s a chance that the country may once again begin to respect intelligence and education, and stop viewing these things as a weakness. That really would make things better! He has the chance to be a great president.

    But the sad reality is that we have the most moderate person from each party. And although these two share little in common, my disappointment that we will not have the much needed universal health care runs deep.

    Obama’s most endearing trait is that he instinctively begins each discussion with the words “What we can agree on is …” He’s a born moderate, and a gifted compromiser by nature. But Sean’s observations are the unhealthy outcome of that moderation.

    Health care is a fundamental human right, but we’re still so far from recognizing it in this country.

  6. David David

    Kent, you have a valid point. I would just say there’s a difference between a President, especially one with dictatorial inclinations, claiming to have a mandate, and another President actually having a mandate.

  7. Sean Sean

    @David I understand your hope, and Bart’s for a landslide victory. However, there are large number of people who will be voting against their conscience for either Obama or McCain because they feel 3rd party candidates don’t have a shot. If our vote expresses the intent of the people, then a landslide for Obama would indicate he does not need to change his policies in any way. Although Obama seems to support a one viewpoint in his speeches the reality is that he has turned around on a number of issues. I mentioned FISA and Patriot Act reauthorization as a couple examples of him voting the opposite of what he’s said in speeches.

    Voters that vote for a 3rd party candidate are casting their vote for a longer term commitment to change. Without their votes a momentum will never build for future elections, and we will never be faced with an alternative candidate or a debate with more than 2 candidates on stage.

    In the case of individuals who feel they could NEVER vote Republican (or vice-versa), they will simply never have more than 1 Presidential option for the rest of their lives. In Louisiana, the Democratic nominee was selected before anyone here walked into a voting booth. If I live a healthy life, I’ll see maybe 10 or 11 more presidential elections. I can’t accept that I won’t, and if I have a kid they won’t, ever be able to choose their president. 1 option is not enough for most people, and some people are fighting for that right, despite the ridicule.

    When I read in the Washington Post Obama had selected an ex Fannie Mae exec as 1 of 3 advisors to help him select his running mate, and when he back-tracked his stance on NAFTA and a voted for a number of policies the majority of the public were opposed to… that’s how he lost my vote. His speech in Israel sounded far from a movement towards conflict resolution. So I feel if I voted for Obama policies I disagree with, then I will also be complicit in the horrible decisions the Democrats have made, and continue to make.

    I hear too many people start their sentence with “If it wasn’t for Bush…” I think if it wasn’t for people being so fed up with Bush, there might be more public discourse over these things and consider what roles the Democrats have played on national and international decisions that have shipped our jobs oversees, bankrupted us, and destroyed our wetland barriers. If we can’t hold congress accountable; if we can’t hold Bush accountable even with a Dem led congress; if we have no choice in our president, then where does that leave us as voters? It just leaves us with hope that the right candidate will be chosen for us. Some believe that person is Obama, and I respect that. We employ our government, and I think we need more control than what we have currently.

  8. David David


    If you look at B’s previous post, Debatable, you’ll find some comments I made about the fact of a two-party system. Essentially, it’s an inevitable part of a winner-take-all system.

    I wish we weren’t in a winner-take-all system. I wish the head of state was chosen by his/her ability to form a coalition government comprised of a diversity of parties.

    But even that preferable system would be subject to the same criticisms you raise about our present system. That is, in a representative democracy no elected official is going to perfectly reflect the concerns of your conscience, let alone the consciences of their entire constituency. Perhaps, that’s why politics is always greeted with such cynicism.

    I agree entirely with your feelings about holding elected officials accountable. Right now, a lot of lousy Republican members of Congress are about to get shit-canned.

    I agree, too, that the Democrats have been lousy at holding Bush accountable. Apropos of that, I supported Cindy Sheehan’s campaign against Nancy Pelosi. I supported Sheehan for several reasons:
    1. Pelosi has failed to confront the Bush Administration.
    2. Sheehan has the name recognition to mount a credible campaign.
    3. The race is in one of the most liberal districts in the US, where Sheehan’s positions should be appreciated.
    4. Toppling the Speaker of the House should be a major boot in the ass for Congressional Democrats.

    So I sent Sheehan $200. I emailed her campaign, asking for ways I can help remotely–phone banking, internet contact, etc–as I have done for Obama a lot. I never heard anything. To this day, I haven’t heard from anyone taking me up on my offer, and her campaign is going nowhere. Like most third-party candidates, Sheehan has failed to mount a serious campaign. And the first job a would-be elected official has is to mount a serious campaign. Frankly, I’d like my $200 back.

  9. Sean Sean

    David we seem to been in agreement on a number of things. I went back and read your comment from debatable. Although, I think I’d prefer supporting the (state by state) popular vote bill, then followed by backing ranked choice voting. Although difficult (with governor vetos etc), I think this would be easier to attain than a multi-party coalition selecting leadership.

  10. Clearly we won’t be going to a parliamentary system any time soon. The basic structure of our government would be very hard to change. In fact a co-worker recently opined that he does not envisage ever seeing the Constitution amended again. But one of the most galling deficiencies of our current system of electing the president might also be the easiest to correct. I believe there’s no constitutional mandate for electors being awarded on a winner-takes-all basis. In fact some states (Maine for example) use proportional representation. Obviously the powerful party in any given state has a vested interest in maintaining winner-takes-all, but a high-minded appeal to democratic principles and a well-coordinated campaign might help overturn this.

  11. Garvey Garvey

    What’s hilarious about the Obamites is the notion that BHO’s poop doesn’t stink. Look no further than the illegal use of state computers by his surrogates to dig up dirt on “Joe the Plumber”, and you’ll see the Clintons and Cheney all over again.

    You’ve been duped into believing Barack will fly in on his magical chariot, powered by dandelions and puppy breath. He is offering more of the same. same poop, different pile.

    Long live the dual axis!

  12. David David


    You’re right. States are free to award the electors in any manner they see fit.

    There has been a movement to use that to create a work-around to have the president be popularly elected. It works like this. States would amend their constitution to award the electors to the winner of the popular vote; the amendment would only go into effect when states with a total of 270 electors (the sum needed to win) have made the same amendment. I think it would be a big improvement.

  13. Garvey Garvey

    Changing to popular election subverts the original structure and intent of the founders. Go read the Federalist Papers, David. You may even enjoy them. It’s fun to read original documents instead of Kos all the time.

  14. Garvey Garvey

    Sorry, David, that last clause was an unnecessary swipe. I stick by the recommendation to read the Federalist Papers, though. Then you can see the Founders’ reasons for not having direct popular elections. Once you know and comprehend these reasons, you will at least understand what you are proposing to change–the costs and the benefits. I think there is a lot of ignorance out there about our country, its history, and its founding, esp. from proponents of movements like the one you mention.

  15. Sean Sean

    The National Popular Vote bill does not change the method in the Constitution of electing president by state electors. It does counter Hamilton’s perception (in Federalist No. 68) that a few intellectuals deciding who will be president on behalf of a state is needed to eliminate corruption, make the proper decision, and prevent social unrest.

    Possible other methods of Louisiana selecting our 9 electors that I think would be also constitutional and much more fair than the winner-take-all:
    1. Proportional Representation via Single Transferable Voting. This is a method of selecting multi-seat offices (in this case electors) using a ranked choice ballot.
    2. Allocating electoral votes by district. (ie Main & Nebraska) A problem of this is the gerrymandering of our districts, but it’s fair to say that the electoral votes in the winner take all do not represent each district fairly.

  16. Garvey Garvey

    The NPV is bad b/c federalism forces candidates to campaign everywhere. Otherwise, the will of the coastal metropolises would dictate that folks campaign only there. With the NPV, the electors of state would go the national pop vote winner, even though the candidate may have actually lost that state? Sounds dumb. Might as well run up the vote total in CA, FL, NY, TX, PA, OH, and one or two others and screw everybody else.

  17. David David


    I appreciate your last comment. I apologize if it bothered you when I suggested you could be a right-wing closet case. Your Barney Frank comment caught me at an irritable moment; I’ve concluded we have widely different perspectives. I don’t read the Daily Kos, but if I did, I wouldn’t mind if someone pointed that out.

    To the substance of the discussion:

    The Federalist Papers are not the nation’s governing document. The Constitution is. I care little about the founders’ original intent; most of the founders were slave-owners.

    As I said, under the Constitution as written, states are free to award their electors any way they choose. During the 2000 recount, the GOP-led Florida legislature was getting ready to pass legislation to award Florida’s electors to Bush had Gore won the recount (ie, had the recount been completed).

    Under the Electoral College right now, a vote in Wyoming is worth 3.35… times the worth of a vote in Florida toward electing the President. That’s pretty undemocratic. If a popular vote favored one type of region over another, that would be because that’s where most of the people are.

  18. Garvey Garvey

    “I care little about the founders’ original intent; most of the founders were slave-owners.”

    And that precisely states what is wrong with the American left. It wants to remake the USA in its own image, regardless of reason. And the only rationale even offered is a textbook ad hominem attack on the founders. Wizzeak.

  19. Garvey, I believe David was observing that because the so-called Founding Fathers were practitioners of something now regarded as self-evidently evil, that they should not be uncritically revered. I would kind of expect you to agree with that sentiment.

  20. Kent Kent

    But I suspect David is saying more, and that is where Garvey disagrees. I agree with David, if I rightly interpret him.

    The Founding Fathers were working to make a timeless document within the limits imposed by their own political milieu. One perspective would be that the intent of the Founders was so deep and foresighted that the *specifics* of their intent is timeless. Another viewpoint, which I find more prescient, is that they recognized that times would change, and that they created a document with the flexibility to adopt to future change. In this latter viewpoint, the Constitution is a legal document, open to modern interpretations the Founders could not have presaged and may not have agreed with, but nonetheless, which follows from a sound legal reading of the Constitution and in the context of the present. What they left out of the document becomes important as is what they included. The intent of the Founders is not to be ignored, but neither should our interpretations in the present milieu be placed in the straightjacket of determining their intent. To do so is to belittle the immensity of their achievement.

    I am certainly not an authority on Constitutional Law, and I welcome corrections by those who are. But I think the authors of the Federalist Papers were as interested in influencing the ratification vote as they were influencing future interpretations of the Constitution. In particular, the authors were attempting to progress a political agenda, and silence criticism, both distinctly objectives rooted in their time.

    David states: And that precisely states what is wrong with the American left. It wants to remake the USA in its own image, regardless of reason. And the only rationale even offered is a textbook ad hominem attack on the founders.

    I should state further, I do not believe one can fairly call this an attack on the Founding Fathers. “Liberals” have reasons for their beliefs as well. What progress do we make discussing issues if we attack each other in the process?

    Garvey. I find your entries to this blog particularly interesting, as you are clearly a smart, informed, opinionated, and knowledgeable person. And because your opinions do not commonly agree with my own, you have the best chance of influencing my thinking in your responses. But I don’t fully understand the anger I hear in your responses. As people who celebrate democracy, even if it is imperfect, I hope we both celebrate differing opinions.

  21. Kent Kent

    Oops! I quoted Garvey, but unintentionally cited this as David’s quote. My apologies to both Garvey and David, who will not appreciate the quote being given to the incorrect person, I suspect.

  22. Garvey Garvey

    Kent, I appreciate the post. Interesting stuff. I like that the Bill of Rights was stated in the negative, listing what the govt cannot do. I dislike the idea of “positive liberty,” which is where progressivism aims to take us: a listing of so-called rights that the govt will grant us (home, health care, etc.). I fear such a state. Lincoln was right when he said that we are the last, best hope on earth. But our slouching towards an ever-widening state is an abomination. Everyone goes into St. Vitus dancing about the Patriot Act, that security costs us liberty. But get past the slippery slopes of the Orwellian aspects of it, and think about that last bit: security costs us liberty. Yes. It. Does. Social security does. Govt-guaranteed security from illness does. Etc. Live free or die isn’t just a worn-out slogan: we are giving in to a tyranny of spirit by degrees.

    Look, this isn’t about taxes. If you could set up some kind of lavish social welfare state, a European-style thing, without costing me a single dime more than what I already pay, I would not want it. No! This is the worst kind of loss of liberty! It goes to first principles. It encourages reliance on the state, which I think should be resisted with every fiber of my being.

    Anyway, every four years, people trot out arguments to abolish the electoral college…or to switch to direct natl. pop. vote, etc. People want to tinker with the nation b/c the election didn’t turn out the way the like. That’s not really a reason.

    As B put it, I do not think that the founders should be uncritically revered. But their arguments, and their reasons for setting up a federal republic, should be argued against, not their personal character (i.e., defn. of ad hominem).

  23. Kent Kent

    Lots to think about in your post, Garvey, and in this thread. I doubt I have another post left in me after this one. But I’ll comment with respect to one thing you said, quoted below.

    “Anyway, every four years, people trot out arguments to abolish the electoral college…or to switch to direct natl. pop. vote, etc. People want to tinker with the nation b/c the election didn’t turn out the way they like. That’s not really a reason.”

    Your observation above, I think, is absolutely true. But, although I have no problem ascribing this motivation to a large population, I am loathe to ascribe this self-serving motive to any particular person, without a great deal more evidence of the source for their opinions.

  24. David David

    B is correct about my slave owner comment. It was the intent of those men to own slaves, a practice that had profound policy implications at the time, and one that is now obviously an abomination.

    The concern with the original intent of the founders is simply a way to frame debate that is conservative of existing power structures in our society. So here’s some quick problems with “original intent:”

    There’s nothing in the Constitution that requires we guess the founders’ original intent.

    Again, this contrived “standard” isn’t applied when interpreting other laws. We read laws and interpret them.

    Practically, it’s impossible to determine the intent of the dozens of men who drafted the Constitution who have been dead for two centuries about 21st century issues. What does the Rhode Island delegation think about harvesting stem cells for Parkinsons treatment? Please.

    Concern about “original intent” is brought up as an objection to relevant, contemporary interpretation of the Constitution. But guessing founders’ intent–and we’re largely guessing–involves interpretation, too.

    Philosophically, it shackles our society to 18th century thinking. The Constitution was drafted 70 years before publication of On Origin of Species, a century before the work of Freud, and over 160 years before the discovery of DNA. It was written at a time before we’d even begun to develop our modern concept of who we are in nature and psychology. This original intent idea denies the possibility of advancement and evolution of human consciousness.

    So, for me, the ubiquitousness of the “original intent” argument is a complete canard.

    But I will point out, nothing about the national popular vote discussed above is outside the original plan of the Electoral College. I want a national popular vote, because I believe the choice of President should reflect the will of the people and that every voter’s vote should count equally. Call me radical.

  25. Sean Sean

    I agree slavery points out how things have changed and people are obviously fallible, however it may not be entirely helpful to a discussion of Article 2 of the Constitution.

    The argument on electing the president gets seriously muddled based on assumptions of the past without much of an attempt to point out historical context. For those beholden to the Founding Fathers, historical context needs to be discussed in order to find compromise or common agreement.

    I’m not a history expert, and I may’ve spoken too much, but I want to point out some of the things that lead me to MY conclusions. I’m willing to read further and change my opinion, so by all means let me know where/if I am wrong.

    In terms of intent, wasn’t Hamilton’s reasoning (in the Federalist Papers) driven by basically the three things I mentioned earlier? 1. eliminate corruption, 2. make the proper decision, and 3. prevent social unrest.

    Federalist Papers #68

    The motives in that document point directly to a distrust in the people to make the right decision. Also, the implication is that a few intellectuals won’t have corrupted decisions (specifically from foreign nations).

    From notes at Constitutional Convention, 1787…

    “The people are uninformed, and would be misled by a few designing men.”… “A popular election in this case is radically vicious. The ignorance of the people would put it in the power of some one set of men dispersed through the Union & acting in Concert to delude them into any appointment.”
    – Elbridge Gerry, MA

    So would he have the same harsh opinion today? I think the current system has encouraged ignorance (ex. lack of presidential debates with all candidates), and despite his fear of people making the wrong decision… That’s life. Better improve the system and educate people, because the candidates aren’t campaigning to the electors.

    “As to the Executive, it seemed to be admitted that no good one could be established on Republican principles.”
    – Alexander Hamilton, NY

    I can only guess by these republican principles, he is referring to a country not serving under a monarch, but rather a president elected by the people either partially or in whole.

    “I believe the British government forms the best model the world ever produced, and such has been its progress in the minds of the many, that this truth gradually gains ground. This government has for its object public strength and individual security. It is said with us to be unattainable.”
    – Alexander Hamilton, NY

    So am I wrong in thinking he wanted a Monarch, and that he only gave way because there was so much opposition to it?

    “As the electors would be chosen for the occasion, would meet at once, & proceed immediately to an appointment, there would be very little opportunity for cabal, or corruption. “… “The remaining mode was an election by the people or rather by the qualified part of them, at large: With all its imperfections he liked this best.”
    – James Madison, VA

    This note about Madison… Madison liked election by the people best? His concern was qualified voters. Other people were concerned the people would just elect the candidate from their home state. Or they just may not be qualified to vote.

    Here is the source I found the notes, if you know of a better link to the convention notes. If it appears wrong or there is a better link, please let me know:

    Garvey said “federalism forces candidates to campaign everywhere.” I have not read where the founders imply this. But I’d be interested to see it, because I’ve heard this argument many times. If that was the intent, which i don’t believe it was, then it failed. Candidates debate in battleground states because of the electoral college and states winner-take-all.

    Of course winner take all is NOT in the constitution, and changing state law is exactly what this discussion had brought up. I see that Bart, David, and myself show concern/opposition to this solution our states have chosen.

    I’d be curious if Garvey and Kent would agree that the state winner-take-all should be revised.

    If we are going to solve a dispute on “intent” I think it’s important to note that today our electors are serving out more of a formality of the constitution, serving their own political party/candiate, rather than acting as a decision making body as intended.

    Louisiana has a slate of 9 electors for each presidential candidate. So for each candidate 7 electors representing 7 districts, and 2 at large electors. Once the votes are tallied the candidate slate is chosen.

    These are not individuals based on merit decided by the population, but decided by the presidential candidates who pledge support to a candidate. It is a partisan decision, so that they will vote in line with what the party says to do. Essentially popular vote by the state choosing electors.

    1. This was not the Constitutional “original intent” of the electors, although it satisfies the requirement of the U.S Constitution
    2. Electors are acting as partisan pawns of the popular vote, not as decision makers
    3. Voting a slate of electors is not fair apportionment

    So is this a convincing enough argument that the “original intent” has already been turned on its head?

    So if we can’t agree on a national popular vote, why not agree on a proportional based system of allotting our state electors?

    I lean towards the Single Transferrable Voting system.

  26. Garvey Garvey

    What if someone could promise a 100% tax cut to the five most populous states, rack up 90% vote totals there, and thereby win the election? Is that really the will of *the people* or the will of *a majority*? Not exactly the same thing.

  27. […] despite his conservative authoritarian stance, because of other reasons, some of which I mentioned last week. I’d kind of like to be able to tell my daughter I voted for him. U. S. Senator 1 to be […]

  28. Kent Kent

    I have not expressed my opinion on the electoral college so far.

    The electoral vote discourages voting in states that lean strongly right or left.

    Sean has asked my opinion on “state winner-takes-all.” I’m not sure what this adds, but since Sean was “curious” … surely no one is surprised to learn, I support a popular vote.

  29. Garvey Garvey

    Wow, Sean. Just wow. Wish I had the stamina. I cede the field to you, b/c I just don’t have the time. But if we lived in the same city and could go have a beer, this is a talk I’d love to have. Peace.

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