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A desperate Trump goes to war with gays



I don’t know if it was the furor of last week, or simply the cumulative weight of six unrelenting months of Trump scandals, but clearly, we’ve reached a point where it’s not just Democrats waiting for the end game on this dreadful presidency, it’s Republicans.

And not just in the Congress, where their fed-up-ness is palpable. My sense of GOPers in general is that one by one they’re slipping away. I saw a guy on CNN whom they described as an “average” Trump voter say that, while he still roots for Trump to create jobs, he’s lost all “trust” [his word] in him (his wife nodded in agreement). From there, it’s just a step or two for them to figure out that, Hey, it’s not like Trump’s the only one who can invite Tim Cook to the White House. Once that couple reaches their tipping point, it’s goodbye, Charlie. No more loyalty to the Trump family.

I must say I’ve been pleased with the national reaction to the transgender ban. I was up in Seattle staying with family when my niece told me, early one morning when I’d awakened, how Trump had tweeted that from now on trans people will not be welcomed in the U.S. armed forces. To say I was stunned is an understatement. My jaw dropped halfway to my chest. I’d been waiting for Trump to make a hostile move towards the LGBTQ community. He’d already spoken to Falwell’s Liberty University, and made nice with the likes of Franklin Graham, and then he had that embarrassing laying on of hands by some Pentacostals. (He probably took a hot shower immediately afterwards. Trump is a notorious germaphobe who once said he hates to even shake hands with people.) But he hadn’t made an overt attack on gays—until last week. Why then?

Obviously, to appeal to his base, or at least that truncated part that still supports him—namely, the Christian homophobes. But who or what put that idea into his head? Among all the other problems he faces, why now? Well, look no further than Ann Coulter, who was brought in by Bannon for a little chat with Trump before the trans slur.

There are lots of homophobes in America, sadly, but few are meaner and more disreputable than Coulter, a tumor of the far right. She accuses gay people of wanting to “destroy marriage” when in fact gay people want to preserve it by getting married themselves. And honestly, I could quote from her tweets for the next hour on all the awful, disgusting things she’s said about gay people. (She herself doesn’t appear to have a sex life.) I’m sure she told Trump something like, “Mr. President, you’re losing this RussiaGate battle, and the only way out is to double down on your evangelical support by attacking gay people.” And that is exactly what Trump—who once lied that gay people have no better friend than he–did.

I’m not really worried about gay rights being taken away: the cat’s out of the bag (or is it the horse is out of the barn? I’m no good at these animal metaphors), and not even Trump and his Christians are going to change that. The religious right is just going to have to live with gay rights, and damn them if they don’t like it. But I do find it tedious that we still have to defend gays every time some yahoo like Trump says something disparaging.

Yet, as I said, I’m pleased with the reaction to Trump’s hysterical trans tweet. The Navy announced it’s doing nothing to enforce the ban until it gets clearance from higher-ups. Meanwhile, the “generals” Trump lied about talking to are starting to weigh in, and they don’t sound any too pleased with enforcing a policy they know is wrong, divisive and harmful to military efficacy. Trump’s other lie—that we can’t afford healthcare for trans folk in the military—crumbled as soon as it was revealed that the Pentagon spends $40 million a year on Viagra, compared to $8 million on trans medical care. I guess in Trumpworld it’s more important for a straight male soldier to get an erection than for a trans Farsi interpreter or anti-hacker to hold her job.

And so here we go into the end game. Trump is desperately afraid of losing his job, of getting fired by his boss, the American people. “You’re fired!” is his nightmare. He’s grasping at straws, but it won’t do any good. It’s going to be fun watching him and his Republican Party melt down. I expect the revanchists on the far right are going to get more savage the worse things get for them. That will be fun, too. It’s always nice to see your enemies crater.

What Rand Paul has in common with Hitler’s Vice Chancellor



Franz von Papen gave the world Hitler the monster. He was the powerful German politician and war hero who persuaded Hindenberg, Germany’s president in 1933, to appoint Hitler as Chancellor. A grateful Hitler made von Papen his Vice Chancellor, and later appointed him to several diplomatic posts.

In his “Memoirs,” von Papen describes his ultra-reactionary politics. He hated Germany’s Federal government, believing that power should be reserved to the states. He believed in individual “discipline and obedience,” which made him “conservative by nature.” He detested Marxism, which was a “struggle to overturn the capitalist system.” He was dedicated to the Catholic Church.

He was particularly incensed by the Weimar Republic’s turn towards socialism, which he defined as “the State [being] the ultimate factor in all our affairs…and the final repository of authority.” By von Papen’s reckoning, the “masses,” that vast collection of Germans, had no business turning to government for any rights. If they suffered, they should find “comfort in the teachings of the Church.” He was especially against “national insurance schemes,” a position he held “throughout my life.” Had von Papen lived in America today, he would have been a member of the tea party.

Last summer, Rand Paul said on Fox “News” that repealing Obamacare is not “about actuarial tables and insurance…this is about freedom…it’s about whether the individual knows best or government knows best.” For Rand Paul, the least government is the best government. For good measure, in his remarks he just had to get in a few insults of President Obama. “Are we too stupid that President Obama ha[d] to tell us what kind of insurance? Does he think Americans are too dumb to make their own decisions?” For Paul, letting the government have a hand in providing healthcare to Americans is “giv[ing] up our freedom.”

Both von Papen and Paul share the belief that human beings should depend on themselves for the things they need. Von Papen, in “Memoirs,” wrote vividly of the Germany he grew up in: a rural heartland, in which religion, family, the military and hard work were the central pillars of life. Paul, too, reveres those simpler values. If Americans want healthcare insurance, they can turn to their families, their churches, or various charities for help. But they should expect nothing from the government: not healthcare, not Social Security, nothing at all, except for a strong military to protect them.

The reason why Rand Paul is so fantastically incorrect in his political thinking is that America is no longer a rural heartland of farms, churches and closely-knit white Christian families. Paul’s version of libertarianism is peculiarly ill-suited for our modern nation, which is so diverse. There are things only government can do, besides national defense, and one of those is to get into the healthcare business. Until we rid healthcare of private insurance companies, for-profit hospitals and greedy pharmaceutical companies, adequate healthcare is simply going to be too expensive for the vast majority of Americans to afford. But if we get rid of the capitalism factor in healthcare, the only thing that can take its place is government.

National health insurance seems to work in every civilized country in the world. America is an outlier, and one of the reasons is arch-conservatives like Rand Paul, who insist on unrestricted capitalism, which means letting corporations gouge people as much as they can. I find it hard to believe that Rand Paul, himself a doctor, actually believes the nonsense he spouts. I suspect he’s feeding us the line that his wealthiest donors want him to. Because of Citizens United and its allowance of dark money, we can’t know where Rand Paul’s campaign funds come from. The Center for Responsive Politics has assembled this list of his top contributors; the Koch Brothers are right up there, but I’m sure their money, and the money of their friends like the DeVos family, is flowing to Rand Paul in ways we’ll never know. The aim of these billionaires is to keep as much of their money as they can, to maintain their power, to crush whatever socialistic incursions they perceive into their capitalistic monopolies, and to persuade Americans to vote for people like Rand Paul, who is so inimical to the interests of working-class folks.

Von Papen’s career didn’t end well: he was tried at Nuremberg. He was acquitted, although it was a close thing: the British and American judges declared him not guilty of war crimes, while the Russian and French judges found him guilty. Under the rules, he was set free—but not before the Court said he had committed “political immoralities.”

Rand Paul has committed political immoralities, too. He has not stood in front of a tribunal—yet. Perhaps someday he shall.

Dems in “I told you so” mode as Trump’s sickness becomes apparent



“I told you so” is a natural human response when you know you were right about something, and someone else didn’t believe you. We members of the anti-Trump Resistance are in full-fledged “I told you so” mode these days, as all but the most unconscious of Republicans are starting to realize what a disaster this orange-haired monster is.

Every day is worse than the preceding one. He is incapable of governing.. What’s worse, the entire country—no, the entire world is seeing how insane he is. When Senator Jack Reed was caught on a “hot mike” the other day whispering to Senator Susan Collins, “I think he’s crazy,” and Collins, a Republican, replied, “I’m worried,” they were simply emblematic of the dawning realization throughout Washington that the President of the United States is mentally ill. When I heard that, my only question was, “What took you so long?” Some of us saw Trump’s paranoia, narcissism, and other clinical abnormalities well before the election. Now, as the scales fall from their eyes, everybody is seeing them

Have you noticed, though, how reticent the media are to talk about a mentally deranged Trump? There’s a reason for that. Back in the 1964 election (yes, I remember it well), there was overt speculation that Barry Goldwater was insane. The media got a lot of criticism for that, and maybe it’s well that they did, so they stopped calling politicians mentally ill, even when most of them thought one was—Nixon, for example, who was widely viewed by reporters as crazy as a loon. That reticence was called “The Goldwater Rule.”

But then Trump came along. A few days ago, the prestigious American Psychoanalytic Association notified its 3,500 members that they are now allowed to “use their knowledge responsibly” in interviews, which means that, for the first time, all those psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, therapists and social workers [will be able] to diagnose Donald Trump” if asked to do so on television, radio, print, blogs, or any other medium. That means you can expect Trump’s mental health to become a very hot topic of national conversation, starting soon.

Mika Brzezinski already got the ball rolling on national television when, following Trump’s assault on her, she said on Morning Joe, “It’s possible that he is mentally ill…At the very least he’s not well.” While it may take Republicans a little more time to come ‘round to the conclusion that Trump is mentally sick (many Republicans are “not well” also, which makes rational thinking impossible for them), Daily Kos reports that “It’s slowly dawning on Republicans that Trump just might be the worst president ever.” That’s good news: it means that even people who have trouble processing reality eventually stumble into the truth. From my point of view, I don’t care if Republicans think Donald Trump is mentally sick, or if they simply think he’s the worst president ever. It works the same either way: his base starts to erode, craven Republicans like Ryan and McConnell start to sense it’s okay to be against a dangerous president, and then we’re in the home stretch towards impeachment, or Article 25, or whatever form the eventual denouement takes.



Teaching kids about good and evil in American politics



I’m up in Seattle with family, including my young niece, Jackie, and nephews Joey and Jamie, all under the age of 12. They’re bright, curious and aware kids, and we (their mom and dad and I) tried to explain to them why yesterday was such a dark, evil day in America’s history.

I refer, of course, to the Senate’s craven, malicious vote for a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare. While it’s true that, as I write this on Tuesday evening, we have no idea what this tea party Congress wants to do with the Affordable Care Act, this much we know: this was not an attack against Obamacare so much as an attack against Obama. I firmly believe History will record it as the violent lashing-out of a mentally ill political party in the final throes of derangement.

The pathological liar now occupying the Oval Office—temporarily, I expect—lost little time celebrating his “victory.”

He’s not very good at governing, but one thing he knows how to do, after a lifetime of practice, is insult the many people he perceives as his enemies. “I applaud the Senate for taking a giant step to end the Obamacare nightmare,” he tweeted, later in the same paragraph referring to “the Obamacare disaster.” That this is meant as a personal insult to the 44th president is clear; ever since Obama skewered him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in May, 2011 (“Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened at Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”), Trump has hated on Barack Obama and promised himself revenge. Do you remember that night? Obama so poised, so charming, so funny, and Trump’s dark, scowling face, incendiary with fury; it looked like smoke was coming out of his ears. I believe that was the moment Trump, a good hater, elevated Obama to the top of his “Must Destroy” list. Yesterday was the culmination, so far, of that diabolical vow.

Not that it will work. Obama, the most personally secure and emotionally mature of men, will laugh it off, confident in his belief that History will vindicate him, and repudiate Trump. Still, for those of us who revered Obama, and believe in his liberal vision for America, and in the moral arc of America, Tuesday was a sad day. It represented a very ugly detour: the end of Weimar Germany and the rise of Hitler’s nazi regime is the closest parallel we have in modern times.

The hardest thing to explain to young Jackie, Joey and Jamie—who, of course, have so little context in which to interpret these times—is that their natural inclination to believe that, in any dispute, there is good and bad on both sides, is, in this case, inapplicable. They understand that World War II was a fight between Good and Evil. They struggle to understand that today’s struggle between the Republican and Democratic parties is similarly one between the forces of light and progress (Democrats) and hatred and regression (Republicans). Their Dad, Pete, was a lifelong Republican, but he told me that, after watching Trump’s first six months and reading Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money,” he’s changed his mind and, at the age of 45, is re-registering as a Democrat.

I take this as a positive sign. Even Pete has seen the corrupt, morally vicious core of the Republican Party. This has been a big step for him. I only hope and pray that there are millions of Petes out there who have been revolted by this shameful degradation of a political party that gave us Lincoln and now has offered us a heaping, stinking platter of Trump. As for Jackie, Joey and Jamie, I hope and pray I’ve had some influence on them, and that when they’re able to vote, the last thing they’ll ever do is cast their ballot for anyone who has an “R” after their name.

Whose America is it, anyway?

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I was driving on I-5 through far northern California and southern Oregon over the weekend, changing the station on my car radio for something to listen to on that lonely stretch through the mountain passes. Found some decent rock out of Medford and Salem, but otherwise, pretty much all Christian radio and rightwing shock jock stuff; this is, after all, alt.right country, sometimes called by its secession-minded residents the State of Jefferson.

The Christian station had a preacher man telling “girls”—not women or ladies, but “girls”—what to look for in a potential husband. Pretty demeaning, I thought, but then, I’m not a born-again Christian “girl” out husband-shopping. He had his top ten list, of which number one—I kid you not—was “Look for a man comfortable with and capable of being the spiritual leader of the household.”

Wow. I did not know evangelicals were still big on that male dominion thing. With all due respect to Christians, what century is this, anyway? I mean, those Bible verses about the man being the authority in the marriage were written, when? Three thousand years ago, when women were chattel, polygamy the norm, slavery was legal, and it was permissible to kill a man if he did not anoint his sheep on the Sabbath. We’ve come a long way since then, thankfully: women now have equal rights. But not, apparently, for evangelicals.

On talk radio I came across Savage Nation, Michael Savage’s anger-porn program, where they were talking about the O.J. Simpson parole. That was pretty interesting—I mean, who doesn’t have an opinion one way or the other?—until some caller chimed in with (I paraphrase, but not by much), “I’m glad that with OJ we have REAL news to talk about, instead of all that fake Russia stuff.”

Another “wow.” So O.J. Simpson is “real news,” while RussiaGate isn’t. Okay. Jeff Sessions, the Attorney-General of the United States, repeatedly lying about his meetings with Russians. Donald Trump, Jr., changing his story how many times? Michael Flynn and Manafort, the consiglieres. Jared with unexplained ties to Russia, and not reporting untold millions in income. The Russians meddling in our elections, infiltrating actual voting machines; national security secrets shared by this president with Putin’s henchmen. And Trump himself? The spider at the center of the web, possibly committing treason, at the very least obstructing justice—an impeachable offense. All this would seem, to normally intelligent Americans, to be pretty consequential, but not to rightwing evangelicals, for whom O.J. Simpson is more important to the Republic’s continuation than a clear threat to its demise.

Finally, in this dump of rightwing talk radio, I came across none other than the disgraced Newt Gingrich, talking about RussiaGate. Here was his take, quote: “This resistance isn’t against Trump, it’s against the will of the American people.” Reality check: The Resistance is against Trump. I can speak authoritatively, because I’m a member of The Resistance and have been since Sept. 5, 2016, when I changed the topic of this blog from wine to Trump. So you can believe me when I say The Resistance is concerned with one thing, and one thing only: this insane, unbalanced, mendacious and dangerous POTUS. As for the will of the American people, two points: (a) Hillary got three million more votes than Trump, and (b) by a majority in the polls, the American people don’t trust this president. They know he’s a liar. I mean, American history doesn’t end on Election Day. It’s not like we have to keep what we bought, even though it’s clearly broken; we can return it and demand our money back. We Americans adjust our thinking all the time, based on facts. And after what we’ve seen the last six months, most Americans are sick and tired of Trump and want him gone.

Well, I guess the stretch of “Jefferson” I drove through isn’t really “America.” If the “civil war” that Alex Jones and his teabag friends are calling for actually erupts, this might be the site of a famous battleground, like Gettysburg, where Blue State meets Red State in bloody confrontation. Clearly, people like these Jefferson staters believe that Trump is the honest, moral friend of the workingman, ha ha. Clearly, they don’t care if Russia meddles in our elections or even if Putin is able to manipulate their outcomes. Perhaps they don’t give a damn who owns America. I find that appalling, but my study of these rightwing evangelicals suggests that they are not like me, not like the Americans I’ve grown up with, and certainly not like my parents’ “Greatest Generation,” which would have repudiated Trump and all he stands for, since it is what they fought against. I take great pride in being an American, but Trump’s America is not mine.


Will Trump’s base tolerate firing Mueller?



So now Trump is threatening Mueller with some sort of undefined consequences if Mueller, as special prosecutor, dares to investigate the Trump family’s finances.

I doubt if even the president’s most fervid supporters think that Donald J. Trump has been honest and above-board in his business affairs. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. We may not know the details—the specific transactions, the quid pro quos, who got what in exchange for what, which banks were involved, if laws were broken or shortcuts taken, if bribes were paid, if lines were crossed, if America’s interests were sold out—but it’s pretty obvious that Trump, the businessman, and/or his underlings has probably been in more secret meetings with shady characters than any mafia boss ever was. If not, why is he so paranoid about Mueller?

One of my favorite games—an obsession, really, albeit a frustrating one—is to try and put myself into the head of the typical Trump supporter and see what makes them tick. It’s hard, because these people are almost like a different species. I can put myself into my dog, Gus’s, head. I can look a cow in the eye and sense its humanity; I’ve watched spiders on my balcony spinning their webs, and I swear I get a sense of what it’s like to be a spider. But those red state, nationalistic, Christian “patriots”? Like I said, it’s awfully hard.

I don’t doubt that, in their own minds, they’re good people. Hard-working, patriotic, family-oriented, God-fearing, charitable. Of course, all those descriptors could just as easily apply to Democrats, or Independents, or atheists (well, maybe not the “God-fearing” part), or Communists, or Wiccans, or anybody else; they’re not the exclusive province of Republicans, although too many Republicans believe they are. Where I get stuck is in trying to square the circle of how these Republicans can stomach Donald J. Trump when he contradicts, in the most vulgar way, everything they claim to believe in.

Like his business practices. The same typical Republican I envision has probably had many bad run-ins with greedy bastards, like mean landlords, heartless bosses, bureaucratic despots and others who seem to go out of their way to make life miserable for everybody else. Indeed, this is a large part of the tea party’s appeal: it is a stick in the eye of all those petty dictators who, given a little power, abuse it. Chief among these dictators are businessmen who stomp on little people. Everybody hates them, Republicans and Democrats alike. Everybody knows that the rich don’t care about anyone but themselves. Everybody knows that the laws are stacked against regular people and heavily in favor of the rich, who own congressmen and Senators and can buy judges. And those poor, disenfranchised white folks in the Rust Belt know this more than most; they see the corruption, the influence-peddling, the way the rich get away with murder while the working stiff is crushed into the dust.

If there’s a poster child for this kind of rich bastard, it’s Donald J. Trump. That laid-off, middle-aged, white Rust Belt guy knows it. I don’t care if he’ll admit it or not, he knows that Donald J. Trump is a really bad character, an awful role model for his kids, the worst example of how America creates and protects this class of robber barons. Donald J. Trump is the kind of guy the ex-steelworker has loathed all his adult life—the kind of guy he’s dreamed about throwing a beer into his face. Trump with his bimbos and mistresses, his jets, his mansions, who doesn’t pay his bills to lowly vendors, who bullies women, who intimidates anyone brazen enough to question his bullying with the threat of lawsuits, a guy who as far as anyone knows never had a religious thought in his life until he realized he needed the evangelicals politically. Nature never created a more loathed antagonist for the ex-steelworker than Donald J. Trump.

And yet—I return again and again to the paradox. The ex-steelworker wears his MAGA cap every day, reads Breitbart, learns about the day’s events from Limbaugh and Alex Jones, and tells everyone who will listen that Donald J. Trump is the greatest thing that ever happened to Christian working class people. I keep thinking, He knows that’s nonsense. He has to. Nobody could be that stupid. But the solid 80% of Republicans who still support Trump is proof that, Yes, people can be that stupid. Or stubborn. Or misinformed. Or drunk. Or blinded by fury, and superstition, and hopelessness. Or a combination of all the above. Watching those poll numbers that show Trump’s support continuing strong among the GOP, I feel more and more like I’m living in a Loony Tunes cartoon. Or a madhouse. Surely, I tell myself, this can’t go on much longer. Surely, there has to be an end-game, and sooner rather than later. Surely the U.S.A. cannot continue along this insane path. Surely these Republicans will awaken from their coma and see the world afresh, with clear eyes. Surely it must happen.

And yet it doesn’t…

The Wall Street Journal as a non-recovering addict



Did you ever know a drug addict or alcoholic who hit bottom and swore they’d seen the light and would never do it again? Then you see them a day or two later, and they’re drunk or stoned and out of their minds, as if their previous promise had been a dream. It makes you realize: Addiction is a disease. You can never believe what an addict says, because they’re not in control.

That’s how I felt this week reading two lead editorials in the Wall Street Journal. Monday’s was called The Trumps and the Truth.” Tuesday’s was “The ObamaCare Republicans.” When I read Monday’s column, I thought, “At last Rupert Murdoch has grown a pair. He’s brave enough to admit he’s been wrong, wrong, wrong in failing to rebuke an insane president.” The extra-long editorial was scathing in its denunciation, not only of Trump but of his family and especially his “dunce” of a son, Donald Jr., for their fast-and-easy approach to truth. I’ve been wondering for a long time when rightwing Republicans would finally ditch the disaster of Trump. This editorial gave me heart.

Alas, 24 hours later my optimism was crushed, as I realized that addicts can’t change their stripes overnight. In “The ObamaCare Republicans,” the same editorial space that only a day before slammed Trump reverted to full-on Democrat bashing, in the form of an unprovoked, nasty attack on the Senate Republicans who handed Mitch McConnell the defeat of his political career. While most of us applaud the efforts of Collins, Capito, Portman, Moran, etc. to derail a bill so senseless and stupid that even Trump called the House version “mean,” the Wall Street Journal just couldn’t help itself from reverting to its old addiction of hating on Obama and Democrats, and resisting any bipartisan cooperation at all in Washington. The editorial contained the usual attacks on “liberals” and “the entitlement state,” more dire warnings about “single-payer health care,” and, for good measure, it even managed to get in a snide reference to “Bill Clinton’s impeachment,” as if that has anything to do with the current situation.

How is it possible to explain such a schizophrenic shift in a mere 24 hours? On Monday the paper seemed to have finally discovered sanity and patriotism, in realizing the bizarre, destructive and dangerous behavior of the President of the United States and his enablers. That was the Wall Street Journal’s sober day—a time of clear-eyed understanding and coming to grips with reality.

And yet a mere day later, here’s the Wall Street Journal rolling in the gutter, vomiting all over itself, stumbling glassy-eyed and reeking of booze, ranting with the delirium tremens of the tea party. Repeal ObamaCare! The Clintons! Liberals! Death panels! Nancy Pelosi! The only thing missing was Benghazi.

Rupert Murdoch, you see, just can’t help himself. A day after swearing off the bottle, he remembered he’d hidden a quart of cheap booze in the floorboards, and poured it down his, and his staff’s, throat. That’s an alcoholic for you: incorrigible. And it’s why you can’t trust a diehard Republican to come to his senses. The addiction to hatred has robbed them of those senses.

In the case of actual drug and alcohol addicts, there’s always treatment. They can go someplace and dry out, surrounded by helpful souls and a loving family to walk them through their recovery. In the case of recalcitrant Republicans, what is the treatment? Sadly, there is none. Nobody can help Rupert Murdoch and the hardliners at the Wall Street Journal, who can’t seem to go two days in a row without falling off the wagon and stumbling back into their comfort zone of fanatical embrace of a failing political ideology. Tea party-style conservatism was the temporary result of a bizarre cult the Wall Street Journal and its misshapen sibling, Fox “News,” helped create. We see it now dying, the victim of Donald J. Trump, whose specter it conjured well before he existed as a political force, and that it now has to own. There may be time for Murdoch to take the plunge and commit to sobriety, but he’s 86 years old, so that’s unlikely. He’ll probably have to die before we see his media outlets even begin to shift from sycophantic GOP codependency to real journalism.

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