Saturday, November 27, 2004
When talking Palestinian politics, remember not to mix up your Barghoutis:
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A Palestinian democracy activist who has campaigned for non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation said on Saturday he would run for president to succeed Yasser Arafat. Mustafa Barghouthi, a physician educated in Russia and the United States, will challenge frontrunner Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas, the new head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was chosen by the dominant Fatah movement to run in the Jan. 9 poll. Barghouthi shares a family name with jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi but is not closely related. Marwan Barghouthi dropped his potential bid for the presidency that Fatah leaders had feared could split the group.
The non-jailed Mr. Barghouti faces long odds, though, as he seems to be borrowing from the John Kerry playbook:
"Enough is enough. We have been dragged into so many tunnels without hope. I think everything will depend on the vote of the young people ... I think there is a huge demand for change.
I wonder how Arabs would respond to P. Diddy's VOTE OR DIE campaign...
Thursday, November 18, 2004

A case for less government

I know this is normally James Taranto's gig, but I couldn't help laughing at this headline:

US may have found new case of mad cow disease: official

I've always thought that some of our officials are a little nuts. . .

Sunday, November 14, 2004

New Hampshire It Ain't

Now that Arafat has bid us his final "Thank you, bye-bye!", it appears that the Palestinians are just about ready to hold elections.

How do we know? Because their primary season has started. It happens to coincide with hunting season.

You must be shot accurately when mourning General Arafat! Be quiet!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Buh-bye

Three days after I wish him a long life, Arafat finally does the decent thing and kicks the damn bucket.

Well, I can't have everything.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Guilty pleasures

OK, I admit it: part of the reason I voted for Bush was to see the outrage from Europe. Europe did not disappoint.

The groaning about the outcome of the US election is deafening... Four more years with [Bush]! You Americans, what have you done to us? More brusqueness, more going it alone, more wars? The groaning is deafening.
That's the editor-in-chief of one of Germany's two public TV channels. German unemployment rate is 10.5% -- twice that of the U.S. Muslims next door are slaughtering Dutch movie producers for not singing praises to Islam. And what causes the Germans to caterwaul? Four more years of Bush's "brusqueness"! Waaaaa-aaaaa-aaaaah!
Monday, November 08, 2004

Linking to an incoherent rant by Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore asks:

What's round on sides and high in the middle?

That would be you, Mikey. Why do you ask?

Here is where you'll always find them...

Ann Althouse points us to the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Update: Where are my manners?! I didn't even give proper credit to the creators of this image: Docweasel of the eponymous web site, and Ed Hopper. Shame on me.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Dear Mr. Kinsley...

You don't have to apologize. This isn't the principal's office. No one is asking you to abase yourself, or reject your core values. In fact, all anyone really asks is that you pay those alleged core values more than just lip service.

You refer to yourself as a "liberal." That word has meaning, and is not merely a stand-in for "left-winger." Liberals are supposed to be inclusive, and given that the word has the same root as liberty, somewhat permissive and willing to live and let live. Are you certain that you've been living up to this label? Or have you, in fact, been -- as you insist you have not -- "arrogant and elitist"?

Let's look at your crie-du-coeur in some detail. This paragraph, specifically:

. . .It's true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose abortion and where gay relationships have full civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values -- as deplorable as I'm sure they are -- don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same gender, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

See, Mr. Kinsley, this is what we're talking about. First off, your tone is condescending, and that's not appreciated. But more importantly, your description of conflicting issues is facile, showing either a lack of awareness or a lack of appreciation for the position of those you oppose.

(A little aside. I, personally, don't have strong opinions on either abortion or gay marriage. My vote to re-elect President Bush was purely for foreign-policy reasons, where I'm afraid the Left Wing hasn't had a useful idea since Woodrow Wilson, and maybe not even then. I also think this whole "values" topic is a huge misdirection. Your Slate colleague Paul Freedman can back me up on this. But I digress.)

Let's start with abortion first. It's a difficult topic, because it deals with the nature of human life itself. I doubt, Mr. Kinsley, that you'd be OK with the practice of taking newborn babies and euthanizing them, for whatever reason. That's because you appreciate that those are small, defenseless human beings, and every instinct of every decent person revolts against even the thought of causing them deliberate harm. But surely you must understand that there is nothing about passing through the birth canal that magically bestows life upon a sack of flesh? Surely if a baby is a human being just after exiting the birth canal, it is also a human being just before? An hour before? A day before? But then, if that's true, what about a week before? A month? Three months? Six months? What's the cutoff time, the point of no return where what was previously a disposable clump of cells becomes a person -- tiny, defenseless, but nonetheless entitled to a chance at life?

The simple fact is, we don't know. It's not really possible for us to know. As human beings, we can appreciate and deal with ambiguity -- but as a law-bound society, we have to set down rules with hard cutoff times. And therein lies the problem: we can't all agree on where to set the cutoff time. All we know is that it's somewhere after conception, and before birth. Within that interval, opinions differ. But a substantial portion of the population believes -- really, truly believes -- that the instant after conception, when a unique package of genes is put together, that is a new human life, and destroying it is as wrong as hurting a week-old infant. You and I may not share this belief, Mr. Kinsley. But these people believe it -- as fervently and wholeheartedly as you and I believe that, for example, it is not right for human beings to enslave each other. You can't just dismiss this, and say to them, "Hey, no one is making you have an abortion, so mind your own business!" any more than anyone could say to you, "Hey, Kinsley, no one is asking you to buy slaves, so get off my damn plantation!"

These people aren't trying to stop abortion because they enjoy protesting and telling people how to behave. They are trying to stop it because they think it is fundamentally, inherently wrong and anti-human. Yet you refuse to even think about what they are saying, dismissing them as meddlesome rubes. If that's not "elitist," what is? You can disagree with them -- I do -- but surely it's not too much to ask that you fully understand their viewpoint? Because if you did, you'd quickly realize that they do, in fact, view having to violate their beliefs over a decades-old Supreme Court decision to be an "imposition." And while I don't support them, I can't really say I blame them.

Your stance on gay marriage is no more impressive. First, it's worth pointing out that even in liberal Oregon, not to mention several other "blue" states, the bans on gay marriage passed easily, nearly 2-to-1. Turns out that quite a few people, even those in your own party, are not yet ready to accept that a lifelong partnership between two men or two women is equivalent to one between a man and a woman.

Read that again, Mr. Kinsley -- they are not ready to accept this. It's not that they hate gay people. It's not that they want to keep them apart. Well, surely some do, but overall, I doubt whether even the Biblest of the Bible-belt states would have passed resolutions banning, say, cohabitation. Civil unions seem to enjoy pretty widespread support. But with marriage, you're demanding more than that. You're insisting that everyone accept your premise that gay unions are exactly equivalent to male-female marriages. You're not just asking people to stay out of others' business. You are not even asking them to accept a different lifestyle. You are telling people what to think, and how to feel, insisting that everyone from Amherst to Anaheim accept as gospel -- literally, as unquestionable gospel -- the word of a couple of Massachusetts judges about the fundamental makeup of our society. And when you tell people how to think, and demand that they treat judges as kings -- well, please don't take it the wrong way that the people tell you to go get bent. Our nation's founders fought a bloody war and put in this wonderful democratic system to prevent exactly that kind of rule-by-fiat.

You claim that those on "your side of the divide" don't believe that your values are "immutable," that you are "crippled," as it were, "by reason and open-mindedness." How is it, then, that you could be so closed-minded as to fail to understand the principles of your opponents? And if you think that "your side" is immune to thinking its precepts "immutable and beyond argument," walk down the street in Manhattan or San Francisco with a Bush/Cheney shirt on. Your colleague Richard Rushfield can tell you about his experience.

I don't agree with left-wingers on a lot of topics, Mr. Kinsley, just as I disagree with right-wingers on some topics. But what I try to do is understand and respect people's reasons for holding the beliefs they do. It's not too much to ask that you try doing the same. Heaven knows that right-wingers get the benefit of left-wing opinion on a continuous basis, from newspapers, college lectures, Doonesbury cartoons -- now there's even Eminem's video. Maybe it wouldn't hurt for the Left to start listening -- really listening -- to their less-liberal compatriots, and if you don't agree with them, at least try to recognize that they do, in fact, have a point. Then maybe you wouldn't feel so oppressed.

Article by way of Bill Quick.

Dear Democrats...

Now that you've survived your very own Thermopylae, please spare us all the whining that your message didn't get out.

Your message got out. Boy, did it ever get out! Your message was less-than-subtle subtext in at least two high-budget, very well-marketed movies. It was the content of two very un-subtle, un-artful, devoid of talent propaganda flicks -- movies that would have embarrassed the most incompetent Sovinformburo hack, but ones that you lionized, showered with undeserved awards, put on every movie screen you could find, poured out on DVDs, and even dropped onto pay-per-view the day before the election. You had a running propaganda vehicle on NBC, a household name shilling for you at CBS, and the country's largest newspapers were all but extensions of your campaign headquarters.

You didn't lose because your message didn't get out -- you lost because it did get out. Your true nature became just a bit too obvious to a few people too many. For decades, you've been trying to build the reputation of inclusiveness and idealism, and many believed it. What conclusion, then, could they reach when, at your Convention, you lionize a guy who mocks Americans as "possibly the dumbest people on the planet," "known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe"? Do you really believe this? Or did you not think we were watching? When they heard the same man say that everyone who ever voted Republican gets "up at six in the morning trying to figure out which minority group they're going to screw today," did you think no one was paying attention? When your most rousing speaker was Al Sharpton, blathering on about foreign policy and "reparations," what effect did you expect?

You patronized America with thinly disguised propaganda. You insulted us with bad movies, asinine books, and a new radio network apparently staffed by people whose meds have run out. You whined about "censorship" every time someone criticized your opinions, apparently unaware of the irony. Every time one of your loonier ideas was said to be bad for the country and good for its enemies, you screamed at the top of your lungs that people were "questioning your patriotism." You railed about "the new McCarthyism," even as you casually threw out terms like "un-American" at your opponents. For people who consider themselves our intellectual superiors, you sure don't strike us as very bright. Pompous, entitled, condescending -- sure. Self-righteous -- absolutely. But not very bright at all.

And the thing is, you're still doing it. Losing the election has caused many of you not to look inwards and ask why your ideas were rejected. Instead, you lashed out, piling further scorn onto the hoi polloi who dared to disagree with your "progressive" [sic] view of the world. Ponder the irony: you rail against America "arrogantly" dismissing the rest of the world, even as you arrogantly deride over half your own countrymen. You whine about our alleged "intolerance" towards Muslim nations, who have indisputably created and harbored a culture of terrorism, honor killings, beheadings, and repression -- even as you yourself openly deride those awful, nasty Evangelicals, whose only "crime" has been to disagree with you on who should run the country. You twist yourself in knots to insist that the opinions of Iran, Syria, and Lybia must be given consideration because they are part of "our human family," yet write off more than half the people who live next door, or else "threaten" to leave, since apparently you just can't handle living with the those that don't share your views. You'll have to forgive us if we find your talk of "tolerance" and "inclusiveness" just a little unpersuasive. You may not be racist, but your bigotry runs deep.

So please, no more of this talk of getting out your message, or trying to pull a fast one by wrapping your message in talk of "values." America got your message the first time, but in all honesty, America was just not interested in being Southern Canada, or pandering to your inferiority complexes vis-a-vis Europe et al. So if you want a chance at election again, consider finding some new positions and a new message.

Make sure this isn't it.

Long Live Arafat

Now that Arafat has turned into a vegetable and is not just heartless and gutless but liverless, I would like to do something I never thought I'd do: wish this dirtbag a long life. May he lie there, useless, friendless, and with his "family" and "advisors" circling like vultures, for as long as possible. I hope that every second that separates him from death feels as painful as having a bucket of nails embedded in his flesh; after his history of vicious terrorism, the scumbucket deserves nothing less. My own beliefs don't include a hell, but this will do nicely. To your long life, you worthless meatbag. To your very, very, very long life.

As for his burial arrangements, I suggest a Semtex vest in a car in downtown Ramallah. The burial can then be left to his devoted followers.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Red Herrings of the Week: Gay Marriage and Other "Moral Issues"

A new notion is coming into the fore, as the Left, assisted by a still-compliant media, attempt to explain the thorough shellacking the Democrats received on Tuesday: it's all those Evangelicals and Catholics, who came out of their lairs so they could support George W. Bush over "moral issues." This is shorthand for: Kerry had it sewn up, Bush was a war-mongering chimp, but Karl Rove dug out all the latter-day fag-hatin' Cotton Mathers in the Bible Belt, who came out in droves to make sure gays couldn't get married. The Christian Right is happy to go along with this notion, hoping to claim more influence.

There is only one problem with this: it makes no sense, and is not supported by the data.

Let's get the easy ones out of the way first. Two states were considered "swing" going into this election, and crucial to Bush: Ohio and Florida. Florida did not have a no-gay-marriage amendment on the ballot.

Ohio did. It passed easily, with 3,249,157 votes -- 62%. Yet George W. Bush only got 2,796,147 votes -- 51%. Even assuming every single Bush voter also voted to prohibit gay marriage, that leaves over 400,000 Kerry voters who did the same. Even in Oregon -- where Kerry won by 65,000 votes -- the ban on gay marriage was adopted by a margin of 236,607 votes, giving it a 57% majority, the smallest of the 11 states where it was an issue. And why wouldn't someone against gay marriage vote for Kerry? It's not as if Kerry's position on the subject was any different from Bush's.

The rest of the states -- Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma -- were all either safely pro-Bush, or else lost to Kerry. Some "wedge issue"!

Besides, you have to wonder where these "moral values" people have been. One would think that if anyone got the "moral values" crowd out to the polls, it would be Bill Clinton -- a pot-smoking womanizer with a thoroughly emancipated career wife, whose first term was famous for gays-in-the-military, Gennifer Flowers, and "I did not inhale." Yet Clinton got his second term with 49% of the popular vote, and I just can't see a whole lot of hardcore Christian Right types choosing Ross Perot. For Pete's sake, Clinton got 44% of the vote in Mississippi and about the same in Alabama, and you don't get much more "moral values" than those states. Kerry only got 39% and 37% percent there (respectively), and whatever his faults, it's hard to see him being more objectionable to the Christian Right than Clinton.

The notion of the election being tipped by the Christian Right is likewise unsupported by the exit polls. Bush only gained 3 percentage points with Protestants -- a group of which "the Christian Right" is a small part -- to get 59% of their vote. With 54% of the voters identifying themselves as Protestant, that's about 1.5% of the vote -- not enough to explain Bush's victory. Gaining another 5 percentage points with the 27% who are Catholic brings in another 1.35% -- just barely enough, assuming absolutely every one of them was voting strictly on "moral values." And were they?

In a word, no. Of those believers who attended church at least weekly, Bush only picked up 1% of the vote over 2000. Not enough, even if we assume that everyone who goes to church on Sunday is a Bible thumper whose only concern is to keep gay marriage out of their state.

(A side note about exit polls: yes, it's important not to place too much faith in them. But I still think these data are valid. These are full samples from all the voters, not just those showing up in the morning, so it's unlikely that their sampling is wildly skewed. Moreover, the usual margin or error for these things is around 3-4% -- too large to pick a winner in a 49-51 election, but certainly acceptable to test whether Bush's voters are all religious nuts.)

So, if it wasn't God and gays, what was it? The same ol' boring, oft-repeated topics: Iraq, terrorism, and the economy.

The latter first, because I think it's the most interesting. For all the complaining the Kerry campaign did on the economy, it seems that the U.S. is doing pretty well. 32% of voters said that their family's financial situation is better today than four years ago, compared to only 28% who said it's worse. Of those who said their family was better off, a whopping 80% voted for Bush -- a 44 percentage point improvement over 2000. The same proportion of those worse off voted against Bush, but there were fewer of them. The remaining 39% whose financial situation didn't change, split their votes just about evenly: 49% Bush, 50% Kerry, 1% Nader.

The other big one was Iraq. 51% of voters approved of the invasion, and 45% disapproved -- just about the same as the candidates' final percentages. Interestingly enough, 52% of voters thought that the war in Iraq was going badly, vs 44% who thought it was going well, but, at least for some people, that wasn't enough to choose Kerry.

On terrorism, 54% of the electorate thought the U.S. is safer, while 41% thought us "less safe." This also roughly mirrors the vote percentage. (On a side note, I can hardly imagine how we could be "less safe" than when 19 Arabs can get into the country illegally, take flight lessons without raising alarms, walk onto four airliners despite being on a watch list, and alter the Manhattan skyline. Does 41% of the electorate really think safety comes from being popular at the UN? Or is it just that many people never thought about terrorism before?)

Overall, it seems that the voters' choices came down simply to how well Bush has been doing his job, with Approve at 53% and Disapprove at 46% -- again, matching the election returns almost exactly. It appears that the difference comes from the "somewhat approve" camp, 15% of whom apparently thought Bush was doing a decent job, but either wanted a change or thought Kerry could do better.

And there it is, folks -- the true motivators behind Bush's win were Iraq, terrorism, and the economy, not necessarily in that order. Why all this talk of "moral values," then?

Because the press is bad at math. They looked at these polls, and saw that 22% of the voters said "Moral values" was the most important issue to them, and 80% of those voted for Bush. But even assuming that they answered honestly and accurately, that would be less than 18% of all voters chose Bush for this reason. (And questions like these are guaranteed to get a lot of bad answers. Quick, name the single most important issue for you when you voted!) Nor does "moral values" signify -- as many commentators suggest -- some kind of commitment to Biblical scripture. Sure, those who consider his "religious values" important chose Bush overwhelmingly -- but they were only 8% of the electorate, bringing him 7.2%. He got an equal number, though, of people who chose him because they wanted someone "honest/trustworthy" (7.7%) and twice that number chose him for being a "strong leader" (17.8%) and taking "a clear stand on the issues" (13.4%).

In other words, Bush got re-elected because the country thinks he says what he does and does what he says, and because it approves of both. The Republicans can only hope that the Democrats, convinced of yet another Rovian plot and spurred on by their media echo chamber, start on another wild goose chase, unable to distinguish between religion and morality. Which is ironic, considering how often they accuse Republicans of the same thing.

Update: Paul Freedman of Slate has more supporting data.

Why I voted for George W. Bush

This started out as a comment on another blog, but as its length grew, I thought it would be better off here.

Personally, I had no trouble supporting George W. Bush for President. I did it because I know what he is doing and I'm pretty sure I know what he is going to do. And both of those are things I want. No, not the farm subsidies or the atrocious Medicare drug plan. I'm talking about foreign policy here. In a nutshell, I'm glad the President ignored the UN and global opinion when he felt it was right to do so. I do not respect the UN and do not want it to have even a miniscule say in the conduct of this nation, ever. I am not interested in having a President who, when weighing an action, ponders how it will be received in the Belgian street. With his talk of "global tests" and "rebuilding alliances," John Kerry made it clear -- as clear as he could make anything -- that if elected, his constituency would include Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Tehran, Khartoum, Nairobi -- you name it. Sorry, unacceptable. Nobody in those cities, certainly not anyone with an opinion that matters, has my interests at heart. This doesn't mean that their opinion should always be disregarded -- but disregarding it should never be unacceptable to a leader I vote for. I am not a "global citizen," whatever that is. I am a U.S. citizen. As far as any official elected in this country is concerned, my opinion and those of my fellow citizens are absolutely the only ones that matter.

More specifically, I am glad Bush has made war on Arab and Muslim strongmen, ensuring that they will not gain any more power in a vital and volatile region. Going after terrorists is a part of this, since terrorism is the most direct way that radical Muslims and secular dictators from that part of the world attack my civilization. (That some are secular and some are religious nuts, and that they don't all love each other, is beside the point. They cooperate quite a bit: witness secular Sunni Arab Syria's cooperation with Shi'ite Persians in Iran to support Hizbollah.) It's also important to attack the bigger threats from that region directly -- and Saddam was certainly such a threat. I admit it: I honestly thought he had WMD in place. It made sense that he would, and not that he secretly made them "disappear" then risk an American invasion on general principle. Had Bush not invaded Iraq, I would have voted him out of office on sheer negligence. But even in the absence of WMD, I view the removal of the Hussein regime, strategically, to be well-worth the cost in blood and treasure.

For slightly under a decade before 9/11, America decided to take a break from history, as we turned inward and worried about gays in the military, presidential fellatio, dot-com valuations, and Y2K. It seems nuts now that in the late 1990s, the biggest target for the Justice Department was a freaking software company. Meantime, a bomb went off in the World Trade Center, two embassies were blown up in Africa, an Arab plot to bomb Los Angeles over the Millenium was discovered by dumb luck, another Arab plot to blow up eleven U.S. airliners was discovered because of more dumb luck, seventeen sailors did not come home from a routine call in a "friendly" port in Yemen, and the 9/11 plot was put in place and activated. All the while, the mastermind behind these attacks sat safely in a primitive hole, growing further and further convinced that the U.S. was a paper tiger that just needed a good kick to be brought to its knees. (And, really, who can blame him? He bombs American soil and an American warship, kills hundreds, and we don't even bother to send anyone after him. The mighty United States, world's preeminent military power, can't bear to see military casualties, so it shoots some missiles and makes empty speeches about "bringing" people "to justice.") Sorry, but that kind of "peace and prosperity" I can live without.

9/11 was not simply a terrorist incident in American history. 9/11 was a wake-up call: the world was still full of dangerous people. Some believe that those people need to be "understood" and given what they want, that given enough time and good will, everyone can agree to live and let live. I don't, because history is littered with the corpses of fools who believed this. I believe that there is a small but substantial number of people in this world that must be destroyed, or they will destroy us. Islamic radicals and Arab strongmen are definitely at the top of that list. I want them gone. Not placated, not courted, not appeased -- eliminated from existence. George W. Bush and his administration share that view. John Kerry does not. He appears to believe in following the myriad UN rules and hoping that "allies" such as France will support us, that being on our best behavior will bring us safety, and that the U.S. can be kept safe through the promises of other governments and "international law." Talk about your faith-based policies. Say what you will about religious fundamentalists, at least they aren't worshipping a long-discredited god.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Sweet

Last night was the Democrats' Waterloo.

But that's been discussed to death all over the blogosphere and the news outlets today. I'd like to cover a more important topic.

I didn't catch The Daily Show last night, so I watched yesterday's episode today. Two guests:

Fmr. Gov. William Weld (R, Mass), in studio - great sense of humor, deadpan, self-effacing.

Al Sharpton, by satellite from the Kerry/Edwards campaign HQ - leaden punchlines, cheap shots at Weld ("he can't send the state troopers after me anymore"), repeating the "we wuz robbed" line from Florida 2000, threatening to throw Bush out of the White House. A two-bit thug in a thousand-dollar suit.

I would have paid good money to see Sharpton's reaction when Bush cleaned up this election. That the Kerry campaign made him prominent during the convention and had him at their headquarters on Election Day -- that alone made the Democrats' humiliating and unmitigated defeat thoroughly deserved. They would do well to ponder just how close a relationship they need to have with the likes of Sharpton.

As would John Stewart.

Monday, November 01, 2004

It's been over a month since the last time I posted anything here on Thinking Meat, and for that, I suppose I should apologize. On top of being busy and lazy, I had nothing to say, and I refuse to post strictly for the sake of posting.

This will be quick. Tomorrow, I will vote. I will vote for George W. Bush. It's not a tough decision. Bush is a lousy communicator and has an uninspiring presence. True. But his opponent is, at core, a thoroughly deluded fool. Not only deluded, but arrogant. The man actually thinks he can bring France and Germany into Iraq by "explaining" to them "the stakes." Right. As if they don't know. What a vacuous, pompous buffoon. And, as I write this, there's a real chance it'll be President-elect Buffoon by this time next week.

...Anyway. I'm voting Bush, to no one's surprise. I'll cast my ballot in the morning, after which, all I have is hope. And, unfortunately, a good deal of worry. Don't get me wrong: I think Bush will win. But this one is going to be close.

Too close. Much too close. But that's a topic for another day.

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