Monthly Archives: September 2012

That Inconvenient First Amendment

Eric Posner, a University of Chicago law professor, and son of Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, one of President Reagan’s less wise judicial appointments, writing in Slate thinks that perhaps it is time that Americans stop making a fetish of freedom of speech as embodied in the First Amendment.  Christopher Johnson, a Protestant who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have designated him Defender of the Faith, gives Posner a fisking to remember:

University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner thinks that this country really needs to dial down its obsession with free speech:

The universal response in the United States to the uproar over the anti-Muslim video is that the Muslim world will just have to get used to freedom of expression. President Obama said so himself in a speech at the United Nations today, which included both a strong defense of the First Amendment and (“in the alternative,” as lawyers say) and a plea that the United States is helpless anyway when it comes to controlling information. In a world linked by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, countless videos attacking people’s religions, produced by provocateurs, rabble-rousers, and lunatics, will spread to every corner of the world, as fast as the Internet can blast them, and beyond the power of governments to stop them. Muslims need to grow a thick skin, the thinking goes, as believers in the West have done over the centuries. Perhaps they will even learn what it means to live in a free society, and adopt something like the First Amendment in their own countries.

Maybe that’s right.  But actually, America needs to get with the international program.

But there is another possible response. This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order. Our own history suggests that they might have a point.

Look at it this way.  At least the trains will run on time and everyone will be able to read the “No Food Today” signs.  Posner points out that it was the left which first turned the First Amendment into an weapon.

The First Amendment earned its sacred status only in the 1960s, and then only among liberals and the left, who cheered when the courts ruled that government could not suppress the speech of dissenters, critics, scandalous artistic types, and even pornographers. Conservatives objected that these rulings helped America’s enemies while undermining public order and morality at home, but their complaints fell on deaf ears.

Shogi, the Japanese version of chess, has a unique characteristic.  Because of the way the pieces are shaped, no piece is ever completely out of the game.  Any of your pieces that I happen to take can be turned around and employed by my army.

A totem that is sacred to one religion can become an object of devotion in another, even as the two theologies vest it with different meanings. That is what happened with the First Amendment. In the last few decades, conservatives have discovered in its uncompromising text— “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech”—support for their own causes. These include unregulated campaign speech, unregulated commercial speech, and limited government. Most of all, conservatives have invoked the First Amendment to oppose efforts to make everyone, in universities and elsewhere, speak “civilly” about women and minorities. I’m talking of course about the “political correctness” movement beginning in the 1980s, which often merged into attempts to enforce a leftist position on race relations and gender politics.

Posner wants Americans to remember two things.  The First Amendment is strictly an American idea whose inspiration is not shared by anybody else in the world and which cannot force people stop thinking bad thoughts.

We have to remember that our First Amendment values are not universal; they emerged contingently from our own political history, a set of cobbled-together compromises among political and ideological factions responding to localized events. As often happens, what starts out as a grudging political settlement has become, when challenged from abroad, a dogmatic principle to be imposed universally. Suddenly, the disparagement of other people and their beliefs is not an unfortunate fact but a positive good. It contributes to the “marketplace of ideas,” as though we would seriously admit that Nazis or terrorist fanatics might turn out to be right after all. Salman Rushdie recently claimed that bad ideas, “like vampires … die in the sunlight” rather than persist in a glamorized underground existence. But bad ideas never die: They are zombies, not vampires. Bad ideas like fascism, Communism, and white supremacy have roamed the countryside of many an open society.

In the past, American “values” have made this country look bad to the rest of the world.

Americans have not always been so paralyzed by constitutional symbolism. During the Cold War, the U.S. foreign policy establishment urged civil rights reform in order to counter Soviet propagandists’ gleeful reports that Americans fire-hosed black protesters and state police arrested African diplomats who violated Jim Crow laws. Rather than tell the rest of the world to respect states’ rights—an ideal as sacred in its day as free speech is now—the national government assured foreigners that it sought to correct a serious but deeply entrenched problem. It is useful if discomfiting to consider that many people around the world may see America’s official indifference to Muslim (or any religious) sensibilities as similar to its indifference to racial discrimination before the civil rights era.

It says in another part of the First Amendment that the US government is supposed to be indifferent to the sensibilities of all religions.  That’s what we were always told whenever some governmental entity allowed the display of the Cross or the Ten Commandments anyway.  So it’s unclear why the United States government should care one way or the other about the feelings of Muslims.

But according to Eric Posner, they apparently should care deeply whenever Islamic feelings are hurt.  Not only that, this American law professor thinks that the fact that Washington was unable to legally force Google to take that film down is a scandal.

The final irony is that while the White House did no more than timidly plead with Google to check if the anti-Muslim video violates its policies (appeasement! shout the critics), Google itself approached the controversy in the spirit of prudence. The company declined to remove the video from YouTube because the video did not attack a group (Muslims) but only attacked a religion (Islam). Yet it also cut off access to the video in countries such as Libya and Egypt where it caused violence or violated domestic law. This may have been a sensible middle ground, or perhaps Google should have done more. What is peculiar it that while reasonable people can disagree about whether a government should be able to curtail speech in order to safeguard its relations with foreign countries, the Google compromise is not one that the U.S. government could have directed. That’s because the First Amendment protects verbal attacks on groups as well as speech that causes violence (except direct incitement: the old cry of “Fire!” in a crowded theater). And so combining the liberal view that government should not interfere with political discourse, and the conservative view that government should not interfere with commerce, we end up with the bizarre principle that U.S. foreign policy interests cannot justify any restrictions on speech whatsoever. Instead, only the profit-maximizing interests of a private American corporation can. Try explaining that to the protesters in Cairo or Islamabad.

I’ve got a better idea, Professor.  Try explaining to the protestors in Cairo and Islamabad that ANYTHING that happens inside this country is none of their damned business.

The mendacity and dishonesty of this piece is easily ascertained by asking yourself a simple question.  If some form of artistic expression had insulted Jesus or villified Christianity, would Posner still have written it?

If some museum displays an egregiously blasphemous painting of Jesus or Mary, if a particularly blasphemous movie was made, if another TV show or play debuted which ridiculed Christians or if Bill Maher opened his pie hole, would Posner think it regrettable that the US government was unable to legally prevent these things from happening?

Of course  he wouldn’t.  The question wouldn’t even come up.  And the reason why the question wouldn’t come up is simple.  Christians don’t kill people and destroy property when they are insulted and villified or their Lord is blasphemed.

A faculty sinecure at the University of Chicago Law School would seem to suggest a certain level of intelligence.  So it’s hard for me to figure out why Eric Posner thinks that restricting American rights simply to avoid offending Muslims is a good idea. Continue reading

Stupid Meme: Libertarianism & “Gay Marriage”

One of the more annoying memes I am often confronted with is the automatic assumption that libertarians must be for “gay marriage.”I can understand why some people automatically assume such things in good faith, but I can also tell when the leftist media is attempting to exploit an apparent rift between libertarians and conservatives on the right. Whenever I read somewhere that there may be tension between different wings of the American right on an issue such as “gay marriage”, it is almost never a conservative or a libertarian writing it.

Is it consistent with libertarianism to be an uncritical and loud advocate of “gay marriage”? In my view, the answer is no. In fact, it is more consistent with libertarianism, at least in the current political climate and given the way the issue is currently framed, to be opposed to the “marriage equality” movement. The word “equality” ought to be the first indication to a libertarian that something may be amiss, since egalitarian movements are often statist, sometimes outright totalitarian movements that seek to achieve an ideal of equality by sheer force. Communism is the most obvious example, but what feminist and certain racial groups have achieved on college campuses is only a microcosm of what they would like to see in society at large: free speech utterly silenced, opposing views ostracized, careers denied or ruined over the utterance of a heterodox opinion (just view the archives of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for countless examples). To some extent this already does happen in society at large, but only selectively – for now.

Continue reading

Household Incomes In Decline Under Obama; Democrats in Denial

 

Feeling a little bit poorer?   Well, a lot of our fellow Americans are.  Last month median household income dropped 1.1%, an ominous sign that the Obama Riches to Rags policies are continuing to have an impact:

In another sign that the economic recovery under President Obama is not producing gains for average Americans, median household incomes fell 1.1% in August to $50,678, according to a report released Tuesday by Sentier Research.

Since the economic recovery started in June 2009, household incomes are down 5.7%, the Sentier data show, and they are down more than 8% since Obama took office.

“Even though we are technically in an economic recovery, real median annual household income is having a difficult time maintaining its present level, much less recovering,” said Sentier co-founder and former Census Bureau official Gordon Green.

Earlier this month, the Census Bureau released its annual report showing that the number of people in poverty was nearly 3 million higher in 2011 than in 2009, an increase of 6%. Continue reading

Angel of the Trenches

Joao Baptista DeValles was born in 1879 in Saint Miquel in the Azores.  At the age of 2 his family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts.  His first name anglicized to John, he quickly proved himself a brilliant student, eventually being fluent in six languages.  Ordained a priest in 1906 he served at Falls River at Espirito Santo Church, founding the first Portuguese language parochial school in the United States while he was there.  He later served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in New Bedford and was pastor at Saint John the Baptist Church, also in New Bedford.

After the entry of the US into World War I, he joined the Army as a chaplain, serving with the 104th regiment, a Massachusetts National Guard outfit, part of the Yankee (26th) Division, made up of National Guard units from New England.  The Yankee Division arrived in France in September 1917, the second American division to arrive “Over There”.

The 104th was a hard fighting outfit, serving in all of the major campaigns of the American Expeditionary Force.  For heroic fighting at Bois Brule in April, 1918 the French government awarded the regiment a collective Croix de Guerre, an unprecedented honor for an American military unit.  There were quite a few very brave men in the 104th, and among the bravest of the brave was Chaplain DeValles.  For his heroism in rescuing wounded, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor in the United States Army.  Here is the text of the citation:

104th Infantry Regiment, 26th Division, A.E.F. Date of Action: April 10 – 13, 1918 Citation: The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to John B. De Valles, Chaplain, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Apremont, Toul sector, France, April 10 to 13, 1918. Chaplain De Valles repeatedly exposed himself to heavy artillery and machine-gun fire in order to assist in the removal of the wounded from exposed points in advance of the lines. He worked for long periods of time with stretcher bearers in carrying wounded men to safety. Chaplain De Valles previously rendered gallant service in the Chemin des Dames sector, March 11, 1918, by remaining with a group of wounded during a heavy enemy bombardment. General Orders No. No. 35, W.D., 1920 Continue reading

Madonna (Not The Madonna) Endorses “Black Muslim” in the White House

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Nuclear bomb content warning for the above video.  Madonna, the bad actress not the Mother of God, endorses the “black muslim” in the White House.  With friends like Madonna, surely Obama does not need enemies!

Update:  Madonna is now claiming that her incoherent stream of consciousness endorsement was meant to be “ironic” when she referred to Obama as being a “black Muslim”.  Sure.  I doubt if Madonna would recognize irony if irony tossed caution to the wind and decided to announce his presence by biting her on her aging rump.

CS Lewis on Prayer and Evolution

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The things you find on Youtube!  The above is taken from the only surviving audio reel from CS Lewis’  BBC broadcasts that eventually appeared in print as Mere Christianity in 1952.  This talk was broadcast on March 21, 1944.  Here is a transcript of what Lewis said: Continue reading

Third Party Love & Hate

A couple of posts at Breitbart’s “Big Government” site have resulted in thousands of comments  and intense debate between libertarians and conservatives, and between libertarians themselves over the merits of supporting a third-party/independent alternative to Mitt Romney. Having been involved in third-party politics myself at one point in my life, I am sympathetic to the cause. But given the stakes this November, I’ve decided to hold my nose and vote for Romney, as I’ve already posted here at TAC.

I must say, however, in response Kurt Schlichter (the author of the aforelinked pieces) that I regard this as a highly personal choice, and not one that I am willing to guilt others into making. On many of the issues that matter to me and other Ron Paul supporters, Romney is absolutely abysmal and nearly indistinguishable from Obama, whether we are talking about civil liberties, constitutional protection of the lives of American citizens (even the bad ones), foreign policy, monetary policy, and a host of related issues. Those who prioritize such issues cannot be expected to give Romney their vote. There was also the disgraceful treatment of Ron Paul and his delegates by the GOP at the RNC this year. Schlichter would have us basically forget all about it.

With that said, however, when Ron Paul stopped actively campaigning for the GOP nomination, his candidacy in effect came to an end. There certainly is something bizarre about a pledge to vote for a man who by the looks of things would like to settle into a well-deserved, hard-earned retirement from public life. I always suspected that Paul didn’t really want to be president. Some see this as a positive trait, and it can be in certain contexts, but men also need leaders. If that makes me sound fascistic, so be it. Human nature is what it is.

So people who accept the reality that Paul is unable or unwilling to capture the nomination and the Presidency are then faced with other options. I’ve explained my choice, but many others are considering Gary Johnson, and Schlichter is addressing them as well (as well as Virgil Goode, the Constitution Party candidate’s supporters). Aside from the fact that Johnson is pro-choice and therefore unsupportable for Catholics, I don’t begrudge anyone the right to support either of these men as an alternative to Romney.

Continue reading

2012 is not 2008

 

Susquehanna Polling released a poll showing Obama with a two point lead over Romney in Pennsylvania.  Today on their blog they have a fascinating post explaining their methodology and why the makeup of the electorate is likely to be quite different from 2008:

Recently two polls conducted by our firm showing President Obama narrowly leading Mitt Romney by 1 point (48% to 47%, sponsored by the Republican State Committee of Penna.), and a second released by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on Sunday, September 23 showing Obama leading Romney by 2 points (47%-45%).  Both margins conflict with other surveys conducted recently including one by the Philadelphia Inquirer (Obama +11) and Muhlenberg College (Obama +9).  Following are answers to questions about our survey methodology as well as our basis for predicting a close election.

Our vote model for gauging the number of interviews conducted with voters of different demographic groups (things like party affiliation, racial background and age range, etc.) is a blend of turnout models from both the 2008 and 2004 presidential elections, but leans more towards 2004 VTO and is predicated on the belief that turnout this November will not be anywhere near ’08 levels when 5.9 million votes were cast.

First, our ratio of interviews conducted with Republicans and Democrats in our recent polls (49D – 43R) gives Democrats a 6-point advantage based on the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans in actual registration.  However, this ratio is slightly more Republican based on both national and state polling showing that Republicans are more likely to vote than Democrats this year given high intensity among Republicans who strongly disapprove of the President’s job performance.  Nonetheless, this +6 Democratic advantage is only one point less Democrat than the 7-point advantage these same exit polls gave Democrats in the 2008 presidential election.  Besides, simply conducting more surveys with Democratic voters (as some have suggested) doesn’t necessarily translate into more votes for President Obama when you consider that Mitt Romney is winning Democratic-leaning counties in Western Pennsylvania by ten or more percentage points.  Nonetheless, it is entirely appropriate to sample Republicans one or two points higher than in 2008 if you believe as we do that voter turnout this November will have little resemblance to the last presidential election.

Second, our ratio of younger to older voters reflects turnout that is likely to be slightly higher with older voters given the lack of enthusiasm from younger voters.  In our surveys, 18-44 yr. olds make up 30% of all interviews and voters 45 years of age and older represent the remaining seventy percent.  For instance, according to 2008 exit polls voter turnout among 18-29 year olds peaked at 18%, but national and state polling proves interest among younger voters down sharply this year due to higher unemployment with younger voters and college graduates in particular.  So conducting approximately ten percent of surveys with 18-29 year olds is a reflection of this lower anticipated turnout among these less-enthusiastic voters.  Besides, the fact that Obama backers have suggested that over sampling older voters skews results in favor of Mitt Romney is a striking revelation in a state like Pennsylvania known for having the 5th largest population of senior citizens in the country. Continue reading

Debate Advice

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The first Presidential Debate is coming up on October 3.  It will focus on domestic policy.  Currently the race is tied up, contrary to many media polls dreaming of a 2008 Democrat D-7 turnout, with both candidates at the mid-Forties.  That is bad news for any incumbent.  What does Romney have to do in the debate to begin to take the lead?

1.  Showing up without horns and a tail.  The media currently is so laughably biased that you should gain at least a point by simply demonstrating that you are a fairly intelligent, articulate candidate.  One advantage to running against a stacked media is that when voters can see the candidate unfiltered it begins to penetrate through to a few undecided voters that they have been lied to by the media about the candidate not favored by the media.

2.  More of the same.  One of your main arguments should be that if you liked the last four years you should vote for Obama, because you are bound to get precisely the same policies from him in the next four years.

3.  Gas and food.  Gas prices and food prices have sky-rocketed under Obama.  Hit that hard, and then hit it hard again.

4.  Ignore the questions.  Rest assured that the questions will range from the asinine to the gotcha.  Ignore them.  Talk about what you want to talk about while paying mere lip service to answering the question.

5.  Jobs, Jobs and Jobs.  By the time you are finished make certain that the voters believe that your middle name is “Jobs”.  Promise to put America back to work.  Tie it in with stopping Obama’s job killing restrictions on energy production.  Don’t be shy about saying that Obama has virtually no private sector experience and that it shows, and that if Obama were the CEO of a company, that company would be in bankruptcy court. Continue reading

Cold Iron

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The thirteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here, here, here, here , here, here and here.     I have noted several times in this series that Kipling was not conventionally religious, yet many of his poems dealt with religious themes.  One of his lesser known poems, Cold Iron, written in 1910, I have always found personally very moving.

Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid –

 Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”

 “Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,

 “But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

 

So he made rebellion ‘gainst the King his liege,

 Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.

 “Nay!” said the cannoneer on the castle wall,

 “But Iron — Cold Iron — shall be master of you all!”

 

Woe for the Baron and his knights so strong,

 When the cruel cannon-balls laid ‘em all along;

 He was taken prisoner, he was cast in thrall,

 And Iron — Cold Iron — was master of it all!

 

Yet his King spake kindly (ah, how kind a Lord!)

 “What if I release thee now and give thee back thy sword?”

 “Nay!” said the Baron, “mock not at my fall,

 For Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all.”

 

“Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown –

 Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.”

 “As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small,

 For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

 

Yet his King made answer (few such Kings there be!)

 “Here is Bread and here is Wine — sit and sup with me.

 Eat and drink in Mary’s Name, the whiles I do recall

 How Iron — Cold Iron — can be master of men all!”

 

He took the Wine and blessed it. He blessed and brake the Bread.

 With His own Hands He served Them, and presently He said:

 “See! These Hands they pierced with nails, outside My city wall,

 Show Iron — Cold Iron — to be master of men all.”

 

“Wounds are for the desperate, blows are for the strong.

 Balm and oil for weary hearts all cut and bruised with wrong.

 I forgive thy treason — I redeem thy fall –

 For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

 

“Crowns are for the valiant — sceptres for the bold!

 Thrones and powers for mighty men who dare to take and hold!”

 “Nay!” said the Baron, kneeling in his hall,

 “But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all!

 Iron out of Calvary is master of men all!” Continue reading

Distrust in Media Hits Record High

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I am shocked, shocked, to report that Gallup finds a steep decrease in faith in unpaid Obama press agents the media.

The record distrust in the media, based on a survey conducted Sept. 6-9, 2012, also means that negativity toward the media is at an all-time high for a presidential election year. This reflects the continuation of a pattern in which negativity increases every election year compared with the year prior. The current gap between negative and positive views — 20 percentage points — is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s. Trust in the media was much higher, and more positive than negative, in the years prior to 2004 — as high as 72% when Gallup asked this question three times in the 1970s.

This year’s decline in media trust is driven by independents and Republicans. The 31% and 26%, respectively, who express a great deal or fair amount of trust are record lows and are down significantly from last year. Republicans’ level of trust this year is similar to what they expressed in the fall of 2008, implying that they are especially critical of election coverage.

Independents are sharply more negative compared with 2008, suggesting the group that is most closely divided between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is quite dissatisfied with its ability to get fair and accurate news coverage of this election.

More broadly, Republicans continue to express the least trust in the media, while Democrats express the most. Independents’ trust fell below the majority level in 2004 and has continued to steadily decline.

What could possibly explain such a lack of confidence in the ink-stained wretches? Continue reading

September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues Notice of Emancipation Proclamation

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Something for the weekend.  Give us a Flag, the unofficial anthem of the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, written by a private serving in the 54th Massachusetts.

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Today is the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the notice by Lincoln of the Emancipation Proclamation, to take effect on January 1, 1863, Lincoln doing so after the Union victory at Antietam on September 17, 1862.  Reaction was, to say the least, mixed.  In the North the abolitionists were enraptured.  Most Northern opinion was favorable, although there was a substantial minority, embodied almost entirely in the Democrat party, that completely opposed this move.  Opinion in the Border States was resoundingly negative.  In the Confederacy the Confederate government denounced the proposed Emancipation Proclamation as a call for a race war.  Today, almost all Americans view the Emancipation Proclamation as a long overdue ending of slavery.  At the time it was very much a step into the unknown, and the consequences impossible to determine.  Lincoln had converted the War for the Union into a War for the Union and against Slavery.  It remained to be seen as to whether the War, whatever its objectives, could be won.  Here is the text of Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation: Continue reading

Keep Your Day Job

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As support for my belief that modern life is increasingly resembling a poorly written Monty Python skit, I point to the pro-abort members of the Michigan state legislature:

Pro-abortion legislators are protesting pro-life bills in the Michigan state legislature in an odd, eye-rolling fashion.

They gathered on the steps of the Michigan Capitol to perform a flash mob-style dance to a bastardized version of Carly Rae Jeppson’s “Call Me Maybe” with their own version, “It’s My Vagina, So Hands Off Baby.”

The ACLU of Michigan, in partnership with Planned Parenthood, staged the flash mob and rally on the Capitol lawn. The two pro-abortion groups emailed out an instructional video of the “Hands Off Dance” along with two others, “Can’t Say It” and the “Pelvic Exam.” Continue reading

By His Own Admission

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Well that was quick.  The Republicans didn’t waste any time in putting together this ad in response to Obama’s claim that you can’t change Washington from the inside.  Certainly he will not even try.  If the last four years have been your cup of tea, then I think that you should vote for Obama.  The next four years if he is re-elected will be more of the same, as the nation careens toward bankruptcy, the economy goes from bad to worse, the welfare state continues to swell, regulations oppress those who disagree with the policies of Obama and a feckless foreign policy leads into a general war in the Middle East bigger than any seen since World War II.  Reagan liked to say when he ran for re-election in 1984:  “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” From Reagan it was a promise.  From Obama it would be a threat.

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