Archive for Political Science Fiction

From the Manila folder

The Philippines hold a general election every six years, on the second Monday of May, and it looks like this one might be expensive:

Our cook announced the going rate to vote for the mayor is 2000 pesos … ditto for president.

Either I misunderstood her, or there has been inflation, since the going rate is traditionally 500 pesos (10 dollars).

Elections in America, of course, are different: instead of bestowing small sums on the many, we confer huge riches upon the few.

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One step toward Utopia

On the face of it, this would seem to be a swell plan:

I think that every citizen should have a once-in-a-lifetime option to have the bureaucrat of his/her choice fired, whipped through the streets naked, and forbidden to hold public employment ever again. This in terrorem effect would significantly reduce government misbehavior. Sure, there will be the occasional injustice, but think of the overall social benefit.

What will happen, after the first couple of incidents: the bureaucracy will close ranks and conduct all its future business under assumed names. Richard Windsor can show them how it’s done.

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I suspect something up his sleeve

Does anyone see a motive for this?

A Congressional resolution to recognize magic as a national treasure was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday.

The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), with six additional Republicans also attaching their names to it.

The problem, the resolution says, is that magic gets no respect. It has “not been properly recognized as a great American art form, nor has it been accorded the institutional status on a national level commensurate with its value and importance.”

Yet, magic is an art, the resolution insists, going on to cite a number of prominent magicians, including, eight times, David Copperfield.

Let’s see if we can come up with the Top Ten Reasons Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) is pushing for official recognition of magic:

  1. Someone turned him into Newt Gingrich
  2. There must be some way to make Donald Trump disappear
  3. Houdini’s escape-artist expertise inspires weary Congressmen hoping to get out of yet another boring hearing
  4. Mistakenly thinks David Copperfield is the coach of the Orlando Magic
  5. Princess Celestia has asked for funding for a second year of Magic Kindergarten
  6. Wants a tax deduction for his collection of Doug Henning memorabilia
  7. Magic Johnson, if you know what I mean
  8. If the government can’t guess which way the economy will go, at least it can guess what card you picked
  9. Just once, we ought to levitate Chuck Schumer
  10. The only way to beat Hillary is to saw her in half

(Via Fark.)

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A smoke-free smoke-filled room

But what if … what if … no candidate has secured a majority of delegates before the convention?

Big freaking deal, says Bill Quick:

[T]oday’s panty-wetters act as if a brokered convention is both unique and horrible. In 1968 I worked on the RFK campaign. I was in San Diego when he was killed in LA. He’d just won California, but had not clinched the nomination. The battle cry of his victory speech was “On to Chicago!” Where there would be a contested, “brokered” convention. Nobody, myself included, thought this was strange at all.

It was just part of the process.

Go back further, to 1924. Had television been in its infancy in that year, the Democratic convention might have constituted crib death: John W. Davis, never one of the front-runners during the campaign, was finally selected on the 103rd ballot. (The GOP had no such issues; Calvin Coolidge, who became President upon the death of Warren G. Harding the year before, didn’t even bother to campaign, perhaps another reason why he’s so highly regarded today.) Davis wound up carrying only 12 states, all in the South; a third-party candidacy that year managed to win one state, Wisconsin, home of Progressive Robert M. La Follette, who’d bolted from the Democratic ranks rather than support some terrible person like Davis.

Aside: Coolidge’s Vice President, Charles Gates Dawes, wrote (in 1911) a hit record (in 1951):

This is not, incidentally, what earned Dawes a share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925. Then again, the standards were higher back then.

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The new Democratic base

Well, there are the Sanders fans, of course, but it’s hard to imagine them as a majority of the party, let alone of the electorate. Then again, who else is there?

The rest are divided between disaffected Dems drawn to vote for Trump because their notion of an ideal president is Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, and Hillary supporters who are certain that (1) Hillary is the nominee, finally, this time, and that (2) if the Republicans actually nominate a Republican for president this year, Hillary will be in cuffs before her concession speech ends.

I suppose they have to tell themselves that kind of thing if they insist on supporting someone who, were she less, um, connected, would already be wearing orange jumpsuits on a regular basis.

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The tinnest of tin ears

In the best of times, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is not exactly overflowing with clues, and we’re a hell of a long way from the best of times. Yesterday, though, they stepped in it big time:

You’d think someone would have known this: Duckworth lost both of her legs in Iraq.

NRSC pulled the tweet after a few minutes, but the damage was done; screenshots, like so much of the Internet, are forever.

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Not approved by Mayor Mare

Someone following Ted Cruz around before the Iowa caucuses filed this report:

I’ve just jumped from a hay bale to the upper rung of a bleacher seat — it’s the only way I can see Cruz, surrounded by fans, cameras and boom mics. Now I’m looking down, and the Texan with slicked-back hair, a rugged outdoorsman’s jacket and hiking shoes is talking about ponies. “What’s your favorite My Little Pony?” Cruz asks his tiny supporter, a little girl who is wearing a Rainbow Dash beanie. “Twilight,” she says.

“I have two daughters, and they love Twilight,” Cruz says, before adding, with a grin: “My favorite, though, is Applejack. I just think she’s funny.”

You know, sugarcube, that Rarity isn’t going to play so well in Des Moines, or however the buck they pronounce it.

I missed that piece when it first came out, but local political whiz Peter J. Rudy was happy to toss it in my general direction. Of course, I was ready:

Of course, this only extends so far: it wouldn’t matter, for instance, if Mike Huckabee not only could identify all three Dazzlings by name but also knew all the major plot points of My Little Dashie.

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The levers we pulled

The State Election Board has released preliminary precinct-level counts for Tuesday’s primary, and, well, I’m not above grubbing up a spreadsheet to look at my local numbers.

Democrats: Sanders 271; Clinton 227; others 11.

Republicans: Rubio 163; Trump 112; Cruz 102; Carson 19; Kasich 17; others 6.

Which is a total of 509 Democrats and 419 Republicans.

Countywide totals:

Democrats: Clinton 34,255; Sanders 32,368; others 1,716.

Republicans: Rubio 29,030; Cruz 26,912; Trump 22,117; Carson 4,992; Kasich 4,007; others 1,351.

Should anyone care, he who garnered the fewest votes was Lindsey Graham, with 49.

Note: Democratic totals may include independents invited to participate.

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Meanwhile down at the precinct

Thinking that this might be close to a record year for turnout, given the sheer nastiness of the campaign so far, I decided to close up shop early and beat the after-work crowd. Arriving at 3:50, I noticed a small lake where I used to park: there had been about 0.4 inch of rain last night. Not a problem.

When I reached the line, there were five in front of me: two Democrats, two Republicans, and one slightly baffled Independent, who could receive a Democratic ballot but who apparently was hoping to get one for the GOP. And there was a youngster on the way out the door, wearing a grey Trump T-shirt.

Nine minutes to take care of business and cast ballot #656. I was really expecting more like #800, but then I was earlier than I usually am for these things. The polls will remain open until 7 pm.

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Marks to be made

Today I get to fill out a ballot, and this is what’s been going through my head while I contemplate the matter.

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Not a major market

Most of this is completely inarguable:

Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

Donald Trump isn’t buying TV ads in Super Tuesday states prior to the big day. Doesn’t need to. He’s got all the coverage he needs, and has since June.

New Hampshire TV stations got rich from Jeb Bush and his SuperPac friends.

Well, one New Hampshire TV station: WMUR-TV Manchester, the only actual Big Four network station in the entire state. (It’s ABC, if you care, and why would you?) Everything else is low-power, PBS, or aimed at the Boston market. Still, I’m sure Hearst Television, owner of WMUR, was happy to cash those checks from the Jeb! machine.

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Quote of the week

Do political pitches seem dumber than before, this time around? Maybe — just maybe — it’s not the politicians that are dumber, but the electorate:

I read Cyril Kornbluth’s Marching Morons stories years ago; I know what it means when “performance” cars have to play engine sounds through the stereo system to keep the driver happy. The vapid uselessness of popular culture mounts steadily and in more ways than one. We’re well past the Age Of The Common Man and entering the age of the Illiterate Techno-Peasant With A Grudge. Better buckle in; it’s going to be bumpy. Care for a nice glass of lead-laced water for the ride?

Etan Cohen, co-writer with Mike Judge on Idiocracy, said last week that he never expected the film would wind up as a documentary. Of course, President Camacho, taking office in January 2017, can be expected to address this failure of prognostication.

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I know, right?

The Democratic Party’s Twitter account circulated this image following last night’s Republican debate:

Donald Trumpified emoji

(I got this from Dawn Summers.)

Addendum: Added a link to the original tweet.

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More secret than the ballot

Just about everyone in the state has had this experience in the last few days:

I got no fewer than six “Unknown Caller” or “Private Caller” calls last night. I am assuming, as our primaries are March 1, that they were either representatives of one of the candidates making a “Hey, can I count on your support?” call or a pollster.

But here’s my thought: If they’re gonna call people, they should have the intestinal fortitude to code their caller ID so it turns up the name of the candidate’s campaign or says POLITICAL POLL or some such. Don’t hide behind “Unknown Caller” and hope you can TRICK people into picking up. Let people know and let them honestly decide whether they want to listen to a pre-recorded message or be asked their preferences.

My rule is not to pick up for callers that don’t list who they are, except in VERY rare cases when it’s someone I know calling from a cheap cell phone where the company doesn’t provide caller ID numbers. But you’d think a political party could shell out the bucks to be identified.

And no, none of them left messages. So maybe it wasn’t a pre-recorded “get out the vote” call, maybe it was some scammer.

These days, that’s what you’d call a distinction without a difference.

And while I’m on the subject, allow me to say that I really don’t give that much of a damn how my friends and neighbors are planning to vote: I don’t need their guidance, nor do they need mine. Besides, there’s not a whole hell of a lot I could do about it if I were concerned: even if they’re all voting for Smith, I can still vote for Jones — but only once.

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Minions of the Ninny State

Robert Stacy McCain, in the same patented style that got him suspended from Twitter yesterday:

Dear God, the education system is turning kids into spineless cowards. My paratrooper son spends his days jumping out of C-130s and marching for miles with 70 pounds of gear on his back, but Rutgers students “broke down crying” and were “scared to walk around campus” because Milo [Yiannopoulos] gave a speech? Are there any sane students at Rutgers? Are there no responsible adults in the administration or faculty?

I admit to going on one crying jag in college. I am mortified anew every time I think of it. The fact that this generation isn’t mortified by such things does not make me feel better about turning over an entire society to them; hell, I’m not sure I want them running a taco truck.

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Eight of nine

Warren Meyer on a side effect of the post-Scalia vacuum:

[T]he very fact a Supreme Court nomination is so politically radioactive is a sign of a basic governmental failure in and of itself. The libertarian argument is that by giving the government so much power to intervene in so many ways that creates winners and losers by legislative diktat, we have raised the stakes of minute points of law to previously unimaginable levels. In a world where the government is not empowered to micro-manage our lives, a Supreme Court nomination would be as interesting as naming the postmaster general.

Speaking of which, can anyone actually name the Postmaster General? I couldn’t. (It’s Megan Brennan, appointed last year by the USPS Board of Governors. Thirty years ago she was a letter carrier in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.)

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The bad-news Rs

No coffee for the GOP:

The people who find a way to pick the worst option among the many good ones are always the ones complaining about their bad luck. The classic example is the salesman that is not good at his job and never has a deal just fall in his lap, like the guys who are closing deals every day. The bad salesman swears he is just unlucky.

The Stupid Party makes this point regularly and we now have a great example of why the stupid are unlucky. For decades they have been hosing their voters, mostly because they can’t run a competent political party. Some portion of what they do is just a grift. They tell the voters one thing and then take a bribe to do the opposite. That’s just corruption.

Most of the GOP’s problems, however, are the result of incompetence. When presented with three options, all good, they find a fourth that is self-defeating. The political ineptitude is so breathtaking that many of their voters have concluded it must be deliberate. No one can be this dumb this often by accident. It’s why they have a revolt brewing in their primary.

One aspect of that revolt is the question of whether this candidate or that is sufficiently “electable.” I’m not convinced any of them are electable until one of them is actually, you know, elected. And regardless of the positioning of the Jaws of Victory, the GOP can find a way to snatch defeat therefrom.

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No bargain

Walt Hickey has one of the funnier statistics from the Iowa clusterfark:

Jeb Bush and his super PAC spent $14.1 million in Iowa and obtained 2.8 percent of the vote. That’s about $2,800 per vote. Jeb Bush is that friend you have who is totally a Hufflepuff but believes he can buy his way into Gryffindor.

Bush ran sixth, and collected one actual delegate to take to the convention in Cleveland. The wisest shopper of the bunch, apparently, was Donald Trump. Compared to Jeb’s spending:

That’s about 18 times as much money as first-place winner Ted Cruz spent for each vote he received. It’s also 34 times as much as silver medalist Donald Trump spent, and 10 times the amount spent by third-place winner Marco Rubio.

“Third-place winner”? Must be someone from off-planet editing these things.

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He’s earned your vote

Even Glenn Reynolds says so.

Vote for Rick Astley

And a coda:

This is Rick Astley’s last single to date, released in 2010, which he cowrote with Andrew Frampton. (Astley’s 50th birthday is Saturday the 6th.)


Careful with that revisionism, Eugene

This is one of the reasons why contemporary satirists simply can’t keep up anymore:

Student leaders at the University of Oregon debated removing a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. from its student center, arguing that the quote was not inclusive enough for modern understandings of diversity.

Oregon’s Erb Memorial Union, which is currently under renovation, had the following famous King quote on the wall: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream…”

But as renovation continues, the Oregon Student Union seriously considered replacing that quote. “The quote is not going to change,” reports student paper Oregon Daily Emerald, “but that decision was not made without some hard thought by the Student Union Board.”

It may have been hard, but it sure as hell wasn’t thought.

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My, Texas, how you’ve changed

I mean, really:

CBS News infographic for Texas GOP primary with illustration of South Carolina

Then again, both Texas and South Carolina have cities named Greenville. Maybe that’s it. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

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Bring out the leg irons

I have no reason to think Hillary Clinton will actually end up in jail. That said, the merest possibility has to be considered:

Even if she avoids prosecution, the steady drip of bad news seems to be dragging her campaign down to the point where even a clown like Bernie Sanders can beat her. I feel pretty confident that the Democratic Party will not let Sanders win the nomination by default. They will find someone respectable to try to salvage some dignity. Bernie Sanders makes Jeremy Corbyn look like a sober realist so he cannot be allowed to win.

Thinking about it further, I can’t think of a plausible alternative. Joe Biden is the only guy who comes close to being respectable. Fake Indian is not giving up her safe Senate seat to run. There’s no one in the Senate that is famous enough to make it work, unless someone is willing to run just to help the party avoid embarrassment.

That leaves governors and there are a few who could be thrown to the wolves as they are nearing the end of their careers. Mark Dayton from Minnesota comes to mind. He hates Americans and has nothing else going on. Jerry Brown would be entertaining, but he’s basically Bernie Sanders with an interesting life.

I just hope nobody thinks of Terry McAuliffe.

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Squirmish expedience

Not everyone is delighted to see Sarah Palin, of all people, endorsing Donald Trump, of all people:

Palin is standing in Ames, Iowa to put her support behind someone who cannot be trusted to protect the unborn, who has twice traded in his wives for younger models (literally), who claims to be for the “little guy” but who has been all-too-willing to use government as a hired thug to line his own pocket, and who spent years making significant donations to Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.

I miss the Sarah Palin I thought I knew. I miss the tough-talking governor who energized the 2008 ticket. I miss the tea party champion. I miss the brave woman who didn’t just talk the talk, but walked the walk on the pro-life issue, no matter how nasty the attacks on her and her family. I don’t know where this Sarah Palin went, but she wasn’t in Iowa today.

This, of course, assumes that (1) Palin blew it and (2) Trump doesn’t have a chance anyway. Not sure about (1), but I’m pretty sure (2) does not apply.

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Only so much variation

Jason Toon’s sales pitches for are even snarkier than the ones he used to write for Woot, but they disappear after the product goes off sale at midnight Eastern. This is the last half of the piece he wrote for the Tuesday deal, two pairs of Boom Swap headphones:

[T]he Boom Swap headphones offer you a reasonable variety of customization options, so you can’t do any real damage. On-ear or over-ear cups. Alternate headband pads and ear caps, in a limited palette of mostly sympathetic shades: black/blue, white/black/green, and for the truly outré, mint/orange/black.

Even if you mix and match the parts from multiple pairs in different colors, your customized look will stay well within the bounds of societal consensus as to what headphones should be.

A narrow, tightly controlled range of choices that prevent changes of any real consequence: if it’s good enough for our political system, it’s good enough for our headphones.

Ow. That’s gonna leave multi-colored marks.


One among many

Eric S. Raymond joins the National Rifle Association, and explains why:

I joined because the state-worshiping thugs on the other side are doubling down, and they still own most of the media and the machinery of the Federal government. After decades of pretending that they only wanted soi-disant “common-sense” legislation aimed at specific problems around the edges of gun policy, the Democratic Party is now openly talking of outright gun confiscation. The usual suspects in the national press are obediently amplifying their propaganda.

Some things you do for substantive effect — giving money to the SAF so Alan Gura can win another case is like that. Some things you do less for effect than as as a signal of pushback intended to create political momentum and demoralize the other side; joining the NRA is like that.

Gura, you may remember, argued Heller v. DC before the Supreme Court, largely without NRA support. And Raymond’s surely right about that “pushback” business: you can yack all day about the Second Amendment Foundation on, say, Twitter, and never draw a dissenting word; but the moment you mention the NRA, the rotating blades are struck by fecal matter.

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Four-wheel realignment

The Z Man attempts an explanation of what the holy hell is going on here:

The great reordering that is under way is due to the collapse of the raison d’être of the American ruling class. What animated politics in America for the last several generations has been the interplay between Progressives and the defenders of the status quo, played out in the shadow of the Cold War.

The Left collapsed as an intellectual movement when the Cold War ended, but the Right collapsed as a pragmatic alternative. You can’t have one without the other. In a single generation, the Left has adopted the economics of the Right and the Right has adopted the politics of the Left. Neither side has a reason to exist outside of naked greed.

Then again, greed is as powerful a motivator as, well, power. And it’s not like parties or factions are glued to the space they’re presently occupying. For now, though, the political discourse is basically “We’re great and you suck,” despite a total absence of detectable greatness anywhere in the spectrum.


Get out the vote/off my lawn

So true, so very, very true:

Lawn signs are one of the few campaign tactics deployed by candidates for every level of government in the United States. Inexpensive and relatively easy to deploy, lawn signs are a tactic available to even the most obscure and underfunded candidate for a downballot office. Indeed, the efflorescence of roadside lawn signs is often one of the few outward manifestations of a low-salience election.

These signs are illegalAnd that’s true even when, as is the case here in the Big Breezy, placing those signs anywhere other than someone’s actual lawn is forbidden by ordinance: the median on the east end of the Northwest Distressway collects these by the hundreds. I have noticed that winners are marginally quicker about clearing them off than losers are, but the ideal — that they vanish into thin air thirty seconds after the polls close — is not going to be reached in my lifetime.

And how much effect do these things have, anyway?

  • We conduct the first four randomized field trials of lawn signs.
  • On average, lawn signs increase vote share by 1.7 percentage points.
  • The effects of lawn signs spill over into adjacent precincts.

And a lot of downballot elections are closer than 1.7 percent; I remember one City Council vote here that was won by a single vote.

One of the researchers speaks out:

Alex Coppock, one of the co-authors of the study, told POLITICO the effects they found were in persuading voters to choose a certain candidate, not on turnout.

“We were surprised by these findings, because the conventional wisdom is that lawn signs don’t do much — they’re supposed to be a waste of money and time. Many campaign consultants think that signs ‘preach to the choir’ and not much else,” Coppock said.

“The effect is small in terms of percentage points, though the implication is that thousands of voters would have voted for someone else if not for the signs,” Coppock said. “My guess is that part of the reason that the effect is small is because any campaign tactic — signs, ads, mailers, calls, etc — only move people around at the margin. In many ways, it would be strange if the effect were bigger. Imagine a world in which the presence or absence of lawn signs could swing an election by 10 points.”

Truth be told, I think that as the electorate continues to fragment, that very world may be upon us before we know it.

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O go, O go, Emanuel

Meanwhile in Chicago:

A protest and march is planned for Christmas Eve, aiming to disrupt shopping on Michigan Avenue while calling for changes at City Hall.

Protesters are urging people to shop elsewhere as they try to get Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attention and ultimately force him to resign. Protesters held a “die-in” Tuesday night outside [Emanuel’s] office … then they left City Hall and marched downtown.

Dave Schuler thinks this will not work:

Does Mayor Emanuel really care about the retailers? Are the retailers in a position to press him to resign?

If they really wanted to get rid of Rahm, they’d start demonstrating against Hillary Clinton. He’d be gone in 60 seconds.

Well, 90, anyway.


A clipping from the future

Or maybe the past. Who can be sure?

Out of only 40 women in the Senate, only two were female

Maybe I’ll just leave it alone and tiptoe away.

(From Bad Newspaper via the Presurfer.)

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Quote of the week

Political theater in its purest form:

If you are trying to understand the bewildering state of American governance, it would help you to step back and try to see the whole forest, instead of focusing on the individual trees.

The answer is simple. What you are looking at is not a political struggle, it is entertainment. If you think of professional “wrestling”, or “rassling”, instead of a genuine sport, you are spot on the money. You have your “baby faces” and your “heels”, and a “baby face” can turn on a dime and become a “heel”, and a “heel” can see the light and become a “baby face” whenever the situation calls for it. You just have to understand the story arc.

After the match, the contestants retire to the same locker room, and ride on the same airliner to the next match, and eat at the same lunch counter at the same time, and, need I say it? … the paychecks are all signed by the same promoter. It is not a sport, it is entertainment.

Except for the minor detail that it’s long since ceased to be entertaining.

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