Thursday, July 31, 2014

Another Reason Why They Are Called Dumbos/Morons...

In the midst of the xenophobic hue and cry to deport the "narco-terrorists" carrying teddy bears comes a the clear voice of reason. We ignore our demographic destiny at our own peril. Every deportation of a defenseless child on the border is another nail in the national coffin. This blog calls the xenophobes "Dumbos" and "Morons" because they are stupid and don't know demography from a hole in the ground (or the hole in their hindquarters). The comic opera plays on and we will be the losers. If this is (fair & balanced) geopolitical population analysis, so be it.

[x TNR]
Here's One Reason We Need Immigrants
By Zach McDade

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The politics of immigration can be a bit unpredictable. A case in point is the way some prominent conservatives are talking about the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America. Most right-wingers, along with the leadership of the Republican Party, are talking about nothing except tightening up border security and sending these juveniles back as quickly as possible. But a few have taken a different position: At least with respect to the kids, they are saying, we should invite them to stay.

Hugh Hewitt, the conservative radio host and longtime champion of “securing the border,” made this case earlier this month in an op-ed for Politico magazine. “Right now the country ought to act to end the humanitarian crisis of tens of thousands of what are, in effect, orphans and strangers in our land,” Hewitt wrote. “The very young among them should find ‘forever families’ right here, right now. They should become Americans.” On Sunday, during an appearance on Fox News, conservative columnist George Will said essentially the same thing. “My view is that we have to say to the children, 'Welcome to America. You're going to go to school and get a job and become Americans,'” Will said. “The idea that we can't assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous."

The policy implications of immigration are complex, as any expert will tell you. But there’s one reason to think that Hewitt and Will are onto something. It’s a demographic fact that gets surprisingly little attention—the fact that, if not for immigrants and their children, the U.S. child population would be shrinking.

There are more than 17 million children with at least one immigrant parent in the U.S. They represent over a quarter of the 70 million people under 18 years old. Their proportion will grow over time, as the number of children born to non-immigrant parents declines—in both relative and absolute terms.

This matters, because today’s young people make up tomorrow’s productive workforce, generating economic activity and supporting retirees. We already face a declining young-to-old population ratio, putting huge strain on Social Security and other safety net programs. The children of immigrants will provide a crucial and growing buffer against this demographic shift.

Rather than embrace this fact, though, our current immigration system is actually quite harmful to children, often separating them from their parents and harming, rather than nourishing, their development. Ω

[Zach McDade is a Research Associate at The Urban Institute. He collaborates with the Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities staff to produce empirical and descriptive reports about D.C./region housing, community vitality and development, health and happiness of residents. McDade received a BA (economics and political science from Macalester College.]

Copyright © 2014 The New Republic

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Today's World Maps Are Provided By The Tinkerbell Map Company

Welcome to Geopolitical Vocabulary 101 with Professor Carlin Romano; today's lesson revolves around Revanchism and Irredentism and all of the fun occurring around the world — e.g. Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq, sub-Saharan Africa, yada yada yada. Drawing boundaries on maps may have been a delight to cartographers, but the folly of imposing arbitrary boundaries on disparate peoples is our current nightmare. If this is (fair & balanced) airy-fairy analytic political philosophy, so be it.

[x Cronk Review]
Revanchism And Its Costs
By Carlin Romano

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With 298 innocent victims shot out of the sky by Vladimir Putin’s agents of revanchism and irredentism—yes, the ugly political-science terms drip blood as well as academic tone—the time has come to think hard about what those words mean.

Neither revanchism nor irredentism has attracted the incisive philosophical scrutiny one might expect this past half year despite endless media attention to Putin’s seizure of Crimea and brutal sub rosa invasion of eastern Ukraine, ISIL's demolishing of the boundary between Iraq and Syria, and other blunt acts of disdain toward established territorial lines. "Revanchism" and "irredentism" pop up in passing in such coverage, but usually only as quick, erudite, and unexplained descriptions of, for example, Putin's general strategy to alter territorial lines he dislikes and to reclaim Russian speakers outside the Russian Federation as Russian citizens.

Aesthetic homeliness provides one surface explanation for why the terms draw little examination. We're hardly sure how to pronounce them, let alone analyze them. Indeed, it's a longstanding cultural truth that a conceptual word's ugliness provides one incentive to steer clear of its content. When philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce grew irritated by later writers reformulating his theory of "pragmatism," the maverick thinker announced that he'd henceforth call his approach "pragmaticism," a word he deemed "ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers." Peirce got his wish. Few scholars or thieves bother with his coinage.

"Revanchism" and "irredentism" give pragmaticism a run for its money in the verbal atrocity department. But the reasons we've been avoiding their inner workings run deeper. What, then, do the two words mean, and why the deep aversion to analyzing them on the part of op-ed writers, political leaders, and pundits?

"Revanchism," from the French word revanche, or revenge, arose in the late 19th century as a description of aggressive political desire to regain territory, possibly by force, lost to another state. Its immediate trigger was France’s goal, partly driven by Georges Ernest Boulanger, the so-called Général Revanche, to regain Alsace-Lorraine, lost in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. France regained the territory after World War I in the Treaty of Versailles (score one for revanchism). As in earlier and later instances, linguistic, ethnic, and historic factors (e.g., earlier possession) fueled the revanchist agenda.

"Irredentism," from the notion of Italia irredenta ("unredeemed Italy"), is a political corollary of revanchism that may or may not accompany it. This peculiar strain of nationalism holds that people outside of a particular state belong to the human family of that state, and should or must be brought back into it by taking the territory where they reside, thus "redeeming" them. The original example, like "revanchism," also comes from 19th-century Europe—the Italian attitude toward foreign rule over territories containing ethnic Italians, such as today’s Trento and Trieste.

Broadly conceived, irredentist issues endure throughout the world. The Wikipedia article on "Irredentism," for instance, lists among the many countries engaged in hot to lukewarm irredentist disputes the following: Afghanistan and Pakistan; Argentina and Britain; Bolivia and Chile; China and Taiwan; China and Japan; India and Pakistan; Albania and Greece; Armenia and Azerbaijan; Britain and Spain; Portugal and Spain; Spain and Morocco; Japan and Russia; and Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Most important for analytic purposes are the criteria that revanchism and irredentism share. Both reject the principle that current national borders, regardless of their origins, deserve respect simply because respecting them insures international stability among sovereign states. Both contend that specific criteria of justified possession of territory outweigh the "stability" justification of current borders. Both sometimes hold that armed force is justified to correct unjustified borders.

The motivation to avoid probing revanchism and irredentism, one thus suspects, goes far beyond aesthetics. Rather, opiners, pundits, polemicists, and statesmen steer clear of the two subjects because they hide behind them a conceptual imbroglio that reveals the whole map of the world to be a holy mess of conquest, massacre, imperialism, and other nasty embarrassments to democracy and justice. The situation leaves the status of recognized states, philosophically speaking, cynical to its core, self-contradictory all over the place, and best not discussed in polite, diplomatic, or analytical circles.

Accordingly, widespread reticence on the deeper problems of revanchism and irredentism has been the case even though, to take one example, Putin, from the moment Ukraine’s sovereign status entered into play after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, has regularly sounded both themes. He declared Crimea an integral and historic part of Russia. He described the eastern parts of Ukraine as "New Russia," a 19th-century coinage that signaled his belief that they belong in the Russian Federation. In crystalline irredentist terms, he asserted the right of Russia to intervene in Ukraine, and perhaps other states in his "near abroad"—e.g., Moldova, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia—to protect Russians whom, contrary to modern Soviet and then Russian Federation practice, he suddenly defined as speakers of Russian. (Traditional Russian Federation policy, like that of the Soviet Union, stresses the diversity of ethnic groups and languages that make up the state.)

Internet wags wondered whether Putin might extend the "Putin Doctrine" to Russian-Jewish immigrants in Israel, Africans who’ve studied at Russian universities, or even the well-known émigré community in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. He hardly needed to mention—and didn’t—that Kiev itself might end up in play, since all acknowledge it as the place where "Rus" began. Putin’s recent drawing in of his official military claws—i.e., those fighters popularly known as soldiers who actually wear Russian uniforms—didn't last very long and hasn’t been accompanied by any renunciation of those claims.

The West’s response, jurisprudentially and otherwise, has remained fairly consistent between the United States and Europe, even if their attitude toward harsher financial sanctions hasn’t. Both have accused Russia of violating the sovereignty of a neighboring state and acting illegally under international law in annexing Crimea and covertly sponsoring referenda and revolution in eastern Ukraine. (Further charges, of course, including criminal ones, may follow the shootdown of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.) Why did Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Erbil, the unofficial capital of Iraqi "Kurdistan," urge Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani not to declare an independent Kurdistan? Why did he announce that the policy of the United States "is to support the territorial integrity of Iraq"? The answer is clear—that old stability argument, which helps hide the conceptual imbroglio behind the "R" word.

Where should scholars come in? Here, as too often, they’ve contributed only silence to the public debate, leaving unrevealed the philosophical superficiality, dishonesty, and cynicism of the Russia-Western tit for tat. Yet scholars can boast of a great deal of serious thinking about sovereignty, the justification of territorial claims, the status of unrecognized states, and the regrettable origins of many international boundaries, contested and uncontested. In one of her stinging rebukes in April to Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power remarked that "borders are not suggestions."

But what are they? Scholars offer something worthwhile here. A quick, highly limited look at work about these matters in four disciplines—history, law, political science, and philosophy—reveals material that should be forced upon statesmen, diplomats, and pundits. The work shows that:

  • A large number of the world’s borders among sovereign nations came into existence through force and conquest, sometimes followed by treaties, which were sometimes actually observed. Think the United States, the Southwest, and Mexico, circa 1848, when the United States gained possession of all or part of what became 10 states. Think Russia and Kaliningrad. Think China and Tibet. One could go on all day.
  • The territorial history of some places—such as Eastern Europe—is so complicated and unstable that one needs the patience of a saint—or a very great area scholar—to wade through, absorb, and understand it.
  • Some of the legal doctrines responsible for world borders—such as the Roman-law principle of uti possidetis—which says, more or less, that possession equals legitimate possession for the time being—hardly offer moral inspiration.
  • The principle of self-determination of peoples, that noble notion famously articulated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918—which some believe can resolve the world’s mess in the direction of justice—is itself a conceptual and legal mess.

Ponder, then, a few examples of germane work from four disciplines, and the lessons they provide.

Timothy Snyder’s The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Y2003), confronts us with the tangled history of Central and Eastern Europe. Did you mention the Ukrainian people? Those folks who began to think of themselves as a unified group in the 19th century? One doesn’t have to be Newt Gingrich, who sparked a furor during the last presidential campaign when he called Palestinians an "invented people," to understand that all peoples and nations, are, in a manner of speaking, invented.

As Snyder, the Yale historian, gently puts it at the outset of his book, "contested places are known by different names to different people at different times," despite the reality that the national histories of the four places he puts under the microscope "usually begin with the medieval period, and trace the purportedly continuous development of the nation to the present." Kiev used to be Polish, and Poles, Russians, Belarussians, and Lithuanians all claimed Vilnius. The southwestern-Ukrainian town (today) of Kolomyia was, at different times, Soviet Russian, German, Polish, Austrian, and—for almost all of that time—mainly Jewish. Does anybody (besides Snyder) remember Austrian Galicia and Russian Volhynia in the late 18th century, those regions of Western Ukraine once more Polish and Austrian than "Ukrainian"?

Snyder indefatigably takes the reader back to the forgotten 16th-century "Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth," founded in 1569, and the endless shifts of sovereignty (up to recent times) that followed its dissolution. With the Treaty of Andrusovo, in 1667, the Dnieper River formed the border between the commonwealth and a "state" that used to be called "Muscovy." Snyder observes that "the absorption of eastern Ukraine" in 1667 "put into practice a transition from a limited geographic and political notion of Russia as the territory of Muscovy to an imperial idea of Russia as Great Russia (Muscovy), Little Russia (Ukraine), and white Russia (Belarus)," with the Russian empire coming into being only in 1721.

Should any of that matter today? Ukrainian nationalism, Snyder notes, really began only in the middle of the 19th century, fueled largely by people of Polish descent. He writes that the "possibility that Ukraine might be a nation separate from both Poland and Russia came late to Russians, and once conceived was categorically denied." Rather, in "the final quarter of the nineteenth century, the idea that Russia was a single nation, and that all East Slavs were Russians, became hegemonic."

And what of later twists? Even after suffering, centuries later, four years of both Soviet and Nazi occupation in World War II, writes Snyder, "Ukrainians and Poles ethnically cleansed each other for four more." He explains: "In the years following the revolutions of 1989, every imaginable cause of national conflict could be found among Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine: imperial disintegration; frontiers without historical legitimacy; provocative minorities; revanchist claims; fearful elites; newly democratic politics; memories of ethnic cleansing; and national myths of eternal conflict."

Amid heaps of historical detail, Snyder voices core truths of political theory largely absent from media commentary on either Russia’s actions toward Ukraine or ISIL’s destruction of the border between Syria and Iraq. "The centralized state," he notes, "is something of a fetish both of nationalists, who project it back into the past; and of social scientists, who properly emphasize its novelty and potential but sometimes exaggerate the success of state-builders. States, no less than nations, exist in time. State power is legitimate when people find it to be so. … States are destroyed as well as created."

History shows, in short, that Putin and ISIL are right about one thing: Many territorial borders can be considered mistakes, or line drawings that don’t reflect ethnic or linguistic realities. Why should one respect them except out of habit or a fetish for supposed stability, even when bad borders trigger more instability than revised ones might? There are answers to that question—liberal, democratic answers—but they need to be articulated when revanchism and irredentism are on the rise. Snyder's fastidious historical detail should make all of us more open-minded about which borders in trouble spots are best for living in a future, peaceful world, while we continue to stand strongly against Putin's policy of changing borders through violence, deception, and propaganda.

Just as history enlightens here, so does jurisprudence. Suzanne N. Lalonde’s Determining Boundaries in a Conflicted World: The Role of Uti Possidetis (2002), spotlights the Roman legal principle that became a modern rule of thumb about borders, with decidedly mixed results. In Roman law, uti possidetis (shorthand for "As you possess, so you may possess"), stated the principle that legal authority should leave current possessions in place between private parties until a dispute between them could be resolved—in short, it lifted to the level of principle a practical inclination to temporarily accept the status quo.

As Lalonde, a professor of international law at the University of Montreal, lucidly outlines, uti possidetis then strangely evolved, during the 18th century, into a principle between states, one declaring that the possessor of property at the end of a war or conflict may keep it unless the peace treaty says otherwise. With the liberation of various Latin American colonies from Spain and Portugal, the principle further mutated into the notion that former colonial borders should remain in place after decolonization—a pro-stability principle meant to forestall endless fratricidal warfare among new states. Uti possidetis, with a nod toward the Latin American precedent, then became the ruling principle during the 1960s era of African anti-imperialist liberation, leaving troubling, colonially imposed borders in place. Diplomats again invoked it after the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Like Snyder’s Central and Eastern Europe centuries ago, Lalonde’s Latin America is full of earlier shapes and versions of present-day countries, the ones we now call Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Paraguay, to name just a few. As in Snyder’s tale, Lalonde’s focal point is a place where force determines borders—where Mexico and Guatemala battle over Chiapas, where Bolivia loses its whole coastline, where Colombia and Venezuela clash over land for 50 years. Yet while reinforcing Snyder’s history lesson, Lalonde drives home a key jurisprudential point—that a legal principle sometimes takes hold, in a simplistic way, with no sophisticated philosophical justification, but just an aim in mind. In the case of uti possidetis, it’s peace and stability, regardless of tribal affiliations, ethnic alliances, language differences, geographical boundaries, and other arguably more important factors.

Drawing on history and jurisprudence, then, adds enormously useful texture to analyzing the issues of revanchism and irredentism. Add now the literature of political science and international relations. Mikulas Fabry, in his Recognizing States: International Society and the Establishment of New States Since 1776 (2010), expertly tracks the inconsistencies of the international community when it comes to recognizing or denying the legitimacy of a state, and the ill consequences that can ensue from either decision. As Fabry, an associate professor of international relations at Georgia Tech, points out, it was the 1992 recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the European Community and United States that triggered the war there.

Exploring key issues—such as whether international recognition of a state presupposes a state’s existence or creates it, and how the rejection of annexation by force has changed since the Congress of Vienna—Fabry discusses such varied cases as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eritrea, Croatia, Moldova, East Timor, Kosovo, Abkhazia, and Somaliland as he urges an integration of disciplinary perspectives on the matter.

Similarly, in Unrecognized States: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Modern International System (2011), Nina Caspersen, director of graduate research in the department of politics at the University of York, teaches us that the states of her title actually come with different wisps of statehood—borders may be "blurred, gradual, and fluid," and sovereignty "is neither always exclusive nor absolute." They thus should be understood that way, and perhaps recognized for vastly disparate reasons. Like Fabry, who traces the self-determination principle’s zigs and zags back 200 years, Caspersen offers an incisive look at the historic inconsistencies of the principle in international relations.

Finally, with acknowledgment that history, law, and political science vigorously color in our conceptual maps, there is some useful perspective—some—to be taken from what we might call airy-fairy analytic political philosophy. That is the remarkably hermetic field where political theorists of an idealistic, largely ahistorical bent talk in a stilted academic style to one another about how our world ought to be—the intellectual realm where John Rawls is the modern Godlike figure, and the good will of all parties is largely assumed.

Here a key recent text is Cara Nine’s Global Justice and Territory (2012), honored not long ago by the American Philosophical Association’s Book Prize. Nine, a philosopher at University College Cork, in Ireland, can sound, like many political philosophers of this ilk, as if she’s operating in cloud-cuckoo land, oblivious to, or just not interested in, how states actually determine borders in the real world.

Expressing the worship of the abstract that marks her field, she desires a theory "that applies to each case of territorial rights regardless of the parties to the dispute (or even if there is no dispute)." Revealing the redistributionist, powerfully pro-"justice" preference also common to the field, she contends that "if territorial rights are the cause of persons not meeting their basic needs, then these territorial rights should change so that persons can secure access to the object of their basic needs." Indeed, she asks, "What gives us an exclusive right to the massive diamond mines within our borders? Wouldn’t the world be more just if those diamonds were shared with the world’s poorest?"

It’s difficult to imagine any real-world politician or statesman taking Nine’s mode of analysis seriously—not the way they would the complex sociological examples analyzed by Fabry and Caspersen. Nine, of course, might not mind. She makes plain that what she mainly cares about is engaging with theory and more theory: "cosmopolitan theory," "the theory of exclusive collective resource rights," "statist anti-cosmopolitan theories," and so on.

Yet one can’t help wishing that John Kerry and some of his peers, instead of setting frequent-flier records for hopping among nations, would take a week or two to just stay home and read a few relevant books, including hers. And that all political pundits, used to spitting up new columns or sound bites every three days about Ukraine or Iraq—wringing their hands about the catastrophe of Flight 17, or the abomination of ISIL driving the last Iraqi Christians from their ancestral homes—would do the same.

For Professor Nine, her high academicism aside, does put her finger on the emptiness at the root of our territorial maps, the lacuna in regard to justifying principles that leads us not to burrow too deeply into revanchism and irredentism. As she puts it, "If we don’t understand why territorial rights are justified in a general, principled form, then how do we know that they can be justified in any particular solution to a dispute?"

That indeed, is the question. It doesn’t seem as if the world has an answer. Ω

[Carlin Romano, critic at large for The Chronicle Review and a professor of philosophy and humanities at Ursinus College, is a Guggenheim Fellow and a distinguished visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Peking University. He is the author of America the Philosophical (22013). Romano received a B.A. at Princeton University, a M.Phil. at Yale University, and a J.D. at the Columbia University Law School.]

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Breaking A Mirror Is 7 Years Of Bad Luck... Not Using A Condom Is A Lifetime....

If only Joseph Ray Perry had visited a service station restroom and put a quarter in the vending machine slot before he had sex with Amelia Holt Perry. Voilà! No Goodhair (But No Brains)! Talk about a living ad for Family Planning! However, the Perrys did the deed in June 1949 and gave the world Goodhair (But No Brains) on March 4, 1950. If only Joe Perry had opened that Trojan packet back in 1949, the Youngs Rubber Company would have a had a great slogan: "Not a single Goodhair in the box!" If this is (fair & balanced) wishful prophylaxis, so be it.

[x New Yorker]
By Simon Rich

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I [was] born in factory. They put me in wrapper. They seal me in box. Three of us in box.

In early days, they move us around. From factory to warehouse. From warehouse to truck. From truck to store.

One day in store, boy human sees us on shelf. He grabs us, hides us under shirt. He rushes outside.

He goes to house, runs into bedroom, locks door. He tears open box and takes me out. He puts me in wallet.

I stay in wallet long, long time.

This is story of my life inside wallet.

The first friend I meet in wallet is Student I.D. Jordi Hirschfeld. He is card. He has been around longest, he says. He introduces me to other cards. I meet Learner Permit Jordi Hirschfeld, Blockbuster Video Jordi Hirschfeld, Jamba Juice Value Card, GameStop PowerUp Card Jordi Hirschfeld, Business Card Albert Hirschfeld, D.D.S., Scarsdale Comic Book Explosion Discount Card.

In middle of wallet, there live dollars. I am less close to them, because they are always coming and going. But they are mostly nice. I meet many Ones and Fives, some Tens, a few Twenties. One time, I meet Hundred. He stay for long time. Came from birthday card, he said. Birthday card from an old person.

I also meet photograph of girl human. Very beautiful. Eyes like Blockbuster Video. Blue, blue, blue.

When I first get to wallet, I am “new guy.” But time passes. I stay for so long, I become veteran. When I first arrive, Jamba Juice has just two stamps. Next thing I know, he has five stamps—then six, then seven. When he gets ten stamps, he is gone. One day, Learner Permit disappears. In his place, there is new guy, Driver License. I become worried. Things are changing very fast.

Soon after, I am taken out of wallet. It is night. I am scared. I do not know what is happening. Then I see girl human. She is one from photograph. She looks same in real life, except now she wears no shirt. She is smiling, but when she sees me she becomes angry. There is arguing. I go back inside wallet.

A few days later, picture of girl human is gone.

That summer, I meet two new friends. The first is Student I.D. New York University Jordi Hirschfeld. The second is MetroCard.

MetroCard is from New York City and he never lets you forget it. He has real “attitude.” He is yellow and black, with Cirque du Soleil advertisement on back.

When MetroCard meets GameStop PowerUp Card Jordi Hirschfeld, he looks at me and says, No wonder Jordi Hirschfeld not yet use you. I become confused. Use me for what?

That night, MetroCard tells me many strange things about myself. At first, I do not believe what he says. But he insists all is true. When I start to panic, he laughs. He says, What did you think you were for? I am too embarrassed to admit truth, which is that I thought I was balloon.

It is around this time that we move. For more than two years, we had lived inside Velcro Batman. It is nice, comfy. One day, though, without warning, we are inside stiff brown leather. I am very upset—especially when I see that so many friends are gone.

No more GameStop PowerUp Card Jordi Hirschfeld. No more Blockbuster Video Jordi Hirschfeld. No more Scarsdale Comic Book Explosion Discount Card.

Only survivors are MetroCard, Driver License, Student I.D., myself, and a creepy new lady named Visa.

I am angry. What was wrong with Velcro Batman? It had many pockets and was warm. I miss my friends and I am lonely.

A few days later, I meet Film Forum Membership Jordan Hirschfeld.

At this point, I am in “panic mode.” What is “Film Forum”? Who is “Jordan Hirschfeld”?

Jordan Hirschfeld is same guy as Jordi Hirschfeld, MetroCard explains. He is just trying to “change his image.” I am confused. What is wrong with old image? That night, I poke my head out of wallet and look around pocket. It is dark, but I can see we have new neighbor. He says his name is Cigarettes Gauloises. He is very polite, but I get “weird vibe” from him.

It is about this time that I meet strip of notebook paper. On him is written, “”

Now we’re getting somewhere, MetroCard says. I have never been more frightened in my life.

That Saturday, five crisp Twenties show up. I assume they will stay long time, like most Twenties. But two hours later they are gone, replaced by receipt La Cucina.

MetroCard looks at receipt La Cucina and laughs. She better put out after that, he says. I am confused and worried.

Later on, I am minding my own business, when Jordi (sorry—“Jordan”) shoves his finger into me. I am terrified. What was that? I ask. MetroCard grins. He is checking to make sure you’re there, he says. For later.

My friends try to calm me down. One of the dollars, a One, tells me about the time he met Vending Machine Pepsi. He was stuffed in and out, in and out, so many times he almost died. I know he is trying to make me feel better, but I am, like, please stop talking about that.

Eventually, the moment comes. It is like other time. I am taken out of wallet and tossed on bed. It is very dark. I can make out shape of girl.

She picks me up and squints at me for a while. Then she turns on lamp.

I am confused. So is Jordan Hirschfeld.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

His face is like Jamba Juice Value Card. Red, red, red.

“I think,” she says, “that this might actually be expired.”

There is long silence. And then, all of a sudden, the humans are laughing! And then the girl is hitting Jordan with pillow! And he is hitting her back with pillow! And they are laughing, laughing, laughing.

The girl reaches into her bag.

“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’ve got one.”

Part of me kind of wants to watch what happens next. But I am quickly covered in pile of clothes.

When I wake up next day, Jordan is dangling me over trash can. I look down into pit. Inside are Cigarettes Gauloises and Film Forum Schedule. They are talking “philosophy.” I sigh. I do not really want to move in with them, but what can I do? I figure this is “end of the line” for me.

Suddenly, though, Jordan carries me away—to other side of room. I am placed inside shoebox under his bed.

At first, I am afraid, because it is dark, but as vision adjusts I see I am not alone. There is strip of notebook paper There is receipt La Cucina, on which is now written, “First Date.”

I spend long, long time in shoebox.

When I arrive, I am new guy. But as time passes I become veteran. I welcome many new friends: Birthday card Rachel. Happy Valentine’s Day Rachel. And many, many Post-it notes Rachel. I love you, Jordi. Rachel. Good morning, Jordi! Rachel. Everything in here is Rachel.

I do not know how things are in wallet these days. But I am glad to be in shoebox. I feel as if I have “made it.” I am happy. I am warm. I am safe. Ω

[Simon Rich is the younger son of Frank (The Butcher) Rich and Simon was the president of The Narvard Lampoon during his time leading to a BA from Harvard University. He has written five books (2 novels and 3 short story collections): Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations (2007), Free-Range Chickens (2009), Elliot Allagash: A Novel (2010), What in God's Name: A Novel (2012), and The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories (2013).]

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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Dickster May Eschew Necks, But He Still Sucks!

Tom Tomorrow imagines an interview with The Dickster on "Action McNews" and poor Biff (sans Wanda) drew the short straw or the black bean. The vampire craze hasn't missed The Dickster. He doesn't suck necks, but he sucks nonetheless. The Dickster is E-V-I-L and Tom Tomorrow captures that quality with the horns, pointy ears, and ruddy complexion. The Dickster has wife Lynnne and daughter Liz fluttering overhead on batwings. Obviously, daughter Mary Cheney, the apostate lesbian, is nowhere in sight. If there is a Hell, may The Dickster, Lynne, and Liz burn there through eternity. If this is a (fair & balanced) fond hope for one of the worst families in the land, so be it.

[x This Modern World]
The Interview
By Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

Tom Tomorrow/Dan Perkins

[Dan Perkins is an editorial cartoonist better known by the pen name "Tom Tomorrow". His weekly comic strip, "This Modern World," which comments on current events from a strong liberal perspective, appears regularly in approximately 150 papers across the U.S., as well as on Daily Kos. The strip debuted in 1990 in SF Weekly. Perkins, a long time resident of Brooklyn, New York, currently lives in Connecticut. He received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism in both 1998 and 2002. When he is not working on projects related to his comic strip, Perkins writes a daily political weblog, also entitled "This Modern World," which he began in December 2001. More recently, Dan Perkins, pen name Tom Tomorrow, was named the winner of the 2013 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning.]

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Meet Generalisimo Goodhair (But No Brains)

In this YouTube clip of "Machete," Robert Rodriguez's portrayal of the immigration "problem" comes at the 1:48 mark when one of Machete's violent group — Jessica Alba — cries: "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us."

[x YouTube/TeRockman Channel]
New Trailer — "Machete" [HD]

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar correctly defines the Dumbo/Moron shibboleth of "border security" as a myth. Poke a Dumbo/Moron and he/she spouts: "Secure the Border" as a condition for any consideration of immigration reform. The walking, talking anal orifices like Governor Goodhair (But No Brains) will spend millions monthly on a nonsensical "surge" at the border, but the sumbitch will deny millions of Texans any Medicaid assistance. F*ck him and the horse he rode in on. If this is (fair & balanced) hatred of political hypocrisy, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Why The Border Crisis Is A Myth
By Veronica Escobar

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To hear the national news media tell the story, you would think my city, El Paso, and others along the Texas-Mexico border were being overrun by children — tens of thousands of them, some with their mothers, arriving from Central America in recent months, exploiting an immigration loophole to avoid deportation and putting a fatal strain on border state resources.

There’s no denying the impact of this latest immigration wave or the need for more resources. But there’s no crisis. Local communities like mine have done an amazing job of assisting these migrants.

Rather, the myth of a “crisis” is being used by politicians to justify ever-tighter restrictions on immigration, play to anti-immigrant voters in the fall elections and ignore the reasons so many children are coming here in the first place.

In the last month, about 2,500 refugees have been brought to El Paso after crossing the border elsewhere. The community quickly came together to support the women and children and Annunciation House, the organization coordinating the effort.

Contrary to the heated pronouncements, this is nothing we haven’t seen before. Groups of refugees arrive by plane and are processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When they are released, Annunciation House takes them to a shelter where they get a shower, a place to sleep, meals and even health care — all provided by volunteers and private donations.

The families of the refugees also help, often paying for travel costs and taking them into their homes. The refugees then move on, to Florida, Georgia, New York or elsewhere.

While the numbers of refugees arriving in El Paso are a fraction of the number arriving in McAllen, in southern Texas, the chain of events is generally the same. Like El Paso, South Texas is not the permanent destination for these refugees. And the response from McAllen’s citizens has been generous, too.

The same can’t be said of our politicians. What we are hearing from Austin and Washington is an almost Pavlovian response to immigration concerns. My governor, Rick Perry, a Republican, announced this week that he was sending 1,000 National Guard soldiers, at a cost of $12 million a month, to bolster the border.

And despite President Obama’s efforts to work with Central American leaders to address the root causes of the migration, his recently announced request for $3.7 billion, supposedly to deal with these new migrants, contains yet more border security measures: Almost $40 million would go to drone surveillance, and nearly 30 percent of it is for transportation and detention.

In Texas, state legislators and the Department of Public Safety are planning to spend an additional $30 million over six months to create a “surge” of state law enforcement resources, an expenditure that some in our state’s Capitol would like to see made permanent.

The costs are significant. Every day we detain an undocumented child immigrant, it costs Immigration and Customs Enforcement — i.e., the taxpayer — $259 per person, significantly more than we spend to educate a child in a middle-class school district.

The irony is that this cash-intensive strategy comes from leaders who consistently underfund health care, transportation and education. And they ignore the crucial fact that children crossing our borders aren’t trying to sneak around law enforcement: They are running to law enforcement.

What is most alarming, however, is the attempt to erode rights and protections created by intelligent, humane legislation.

The debate is centered on the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a law signed by President George W. Bush to provide legal and humanitarian protections to unaccompanied migrant children from countries other than Mexico or Canada. The act passed with bipartisan support, yet the “crisis” is now being cited by some of the same legislators who supported the law as a reason to repeal or change it.

This effort to take away rights that were granted when there was significantly less anti-immigrant fervor isn’t just shortsighted and expensive, it’s un-American. We can debate the wisdom of providing greater protection to Central American children than to Mexican children, but there can be no doubt that giving safe haven to a child facing violence in a country that cannot protect its most vulnerable citizens is what a civilized country, with the resources we possess, should do.

Our border communities understand this. I hope the rest of the country, including our leaders in Austin and Washington, can follow our lead. Ω

[Veronica Escobar, a Democrat, is the county judge of El Paso County, TX since 2011. Escobar received a BA from the University of Texas at El Paso and an MA from New York University. In Texas, county judges may serve without a law degree.]

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Current House Bet Is That Speaker John Boner (R-OH) Has A Bigger Gaffe Than Yours

Eags just threw a flurry of punches at House Speaker John Boner (R-OH) and most of them scored. We have comic opera on the Texas border and now we have comic opera in the U.S. House of Representatives. Boner has dropped the first shoe and we must await the other shoe: articles of impeachment accusing President Barack H. Obama of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors...." This will be the equivalent of "Get a rope — there's an empty tree over there." Hide'n watch, the Dumbo/Teabaggers in the House are capable of sinking lower than a serpent's belly. It would be funny if it wasn't so stupid. If this is (fair & balanced) tragicomedy, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Ambulance Chaser In The House
By Timothy Egan

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You’re a member of Congress, and everyone hates you. You’re likely to be a lawyer — the leading profession for federal legislators — and most everyone hates lawyers, with a Pew survey finding that people rank them at the very bottom in contributing something to society. Is there anything you could do to generate more contempt?

Yes — sue somebody! The speaker of the House, John Boehner, has announced that Republicans in the House are likely to file suit against President Obama. They are doing this because he delayed parts of a law, the Affordable Care Act, that they have tried to repeal more than 50 times. If they win, business owners who have been given some breathing room from providing mandatory health care would have to quickly implement the very thing that Republicans say is a job-killing bullet to the economy.

It’s head-spinning, all of it. We’ve finally reached the point where the do-nothing, delay-everything, don’t-even-allow-a-vote-on-measures-a-majority-of-Americans-favor Congress has reached its logical position. They will not legislate. But they will litigate.

“Their big idea has been to sue me,” the president said earlier this month, unable to sustain a giggle. “That’s what they’re spending time on.”

To Boehner, the stunt, brought to you by the talk radio and Fox News wacko-sphere, is no laughing matter. He says the imperial president has governed by executive order, overstepping a Congress that will not govern by any order. Obama has issued 182 executive orders in his presidency, through the end of June. The tyrant.

The sainted Ronald Reagan issued 381 executive orders. The benign Dwight Eisenhower rolled out 484 of them. And Calvin Coolidge — Silent Cal, hero of young fogies in bow ties, asleep at the presidential wheel — signed more than 1,200 executive orders. Sue ’em all, retroactively.

So far, legal experts have reacted to Boehner’s potential lawsuit with the rhetorical equivalent of guffawing until their morning coffee runs out their noses. This might include Chief Justice John Roberts, who has sniffed at another political lawsuit because the plaintiffs lacked standing — that is, someone seeking “relief for an injury that affects him in a personal and individual way,” as Roberts wrote.

Earlier this week, a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush threw out a lawsuit by Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin against a health care provision, saying the Tea Party Republican had failed to show how he had been personally harmed by the law.

So, what Boehner needs is a plaintiff in a neck brace. Somebody fragile, and sympathetic-looking. He needs that person to be a member of Congress. And he needs that person to have suffered for lack of health insurance because of President Obama. The character played by Matthew McConaughey in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” an operator who practiced law out of a car, had better stuff to work with than this.

Another problem: Republicans have complained for decades about “activist judges” doing the work that legislators are supposed to do. Judges should be referees, not lawmakers or micro-managers. But here, Boehner would be asking a court to step in and require that President Obama’s signature law be managed a certain way.

Presidents routinely delay, modify or defer enforcement of certain laws. President George W. Bush decided — like some kind of monarch! — to waive penalty fees on seniors who missed a sign-up deadline for prescription drug coverage in 2006. He was ignoring a part of his own law. And what Wall Street-backed Republican is complaining about the many delays in implementing the Dodd-Frank Act?

That Bush appointee who threw out Senator Johnson’s claim, Judge William C. Griesbach, sent a warning shot in Boehner’s direction with his language. He wrote that “disputes between the executive and legislative branches over the extent of their respective powers are to be resolved through the political process, not by decisions issued by federal judges.”

The political process. You know — votes and things, lawmaking. That would require the House to do something. Ha! A bill to raise the minimum wage will not even come up for a vote. Immigration reform is dead for the year, Boehner said recently — no vote allowed. Even a fellow Republican, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, noted that if Boehner really wanted to do something to prevent the president from issuing more executive orders, he could, um, pass legislation.

Too late for that. After next week, it’s vacation — for all of August, and into September. That will be followed by another loooooong break, from the first week of October until Election Day in November. This will give Boehner’s nonperforming lawmakers plenty of time to ask a dispirited electorate to return them so they can sit on their hands for another two years.

The primaries this year have produced record-low turnout, because of voters who have gotten nothing from their politicians. We could sue them, with standing. Or we could do what they refuse to do — take a vote of real consequence. Ω

[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]

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Friday, July 25, 2014

The Incredible Shrinking SCOTUS

Before turning to the post o'the day, The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz had the final word on a border surge option for Governor Goodhair (But No Brains): send the Dallas Cowboys to the border! America's Team can tackle any kiddie jihadist who wades ashore in South Texas. One small problem — the Cowboys were last among NFL defenses last season.

Today, Jeff Greenfield offers a dismal assessment that a presidential appointment of a successor to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is unlikely to gain Senate confirmation. In fact, Greenfield takes us on a review of the recent history of Supreme Court nominations and is less than sanguine about a 9-member Court if Justice Ginsberg retires or succumbs to a recurrence of cancer. If this is (fair & balanced) doom-and-gloom, so be it.

[x The Daily Beast]
The Supreme Court's Coming Paralysis
By Jeff Greenfield

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It’s a question that’s roiled the liberal universe for years: Why won’t 81-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg resign from the Supreme Court and give President Obama the chance to pick her successor, in case the Senate turns Republican after the mid-terms?

Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, one of the left’s jurisprudential heroes, had a ready answer to that question when it was posed to him at the University of California Santa Barbara late last month. There is, he said, not a chance in hell that this Senate would confirm her successor, no matter who he or she might be—not the way the process works today. And therein lies a tale about just how drastically the “advise and consent” process has changed, and why the smart bet would be on a paralyzed process, and perhaps even a Court with fewer than nine Justices, no matter what happens in November.

Once upon a time, the Senate took that “advise and consent” phrase of the Constitution literally: They sometimes advised, but almost always consented, to a President’s choice. From 1894 to 1967, only one Supreme Court nominee was rejected. (It was 1930, and as the Great Depression deepened, Judge John Parker’s alleged anti-labor and anti-civil rights rulings were deemed disqualifying). There were other controversial picks—lawyer Louis Brandeis was assailed as a dangerous radical when President Wilson named him to the bench in 1913 (and there was more than a hint of anti-Semitism in the opposition); Alabama Senator Hugo Black had to go on national radio to explain his membership in the Ku Klux after FDR named him in 1937.

But it wasn’t until 1968 that a President found his Supreme Court pick blocked. When Lyndon Johnson sought to elevate Justice Abe Fortas to the Chief Justice post to replace Earl Warren, a coalition of Southern Democrats and Republicans, angered by his liberal votes on civil liberties, his continued political counseling of LBJ, and some dicey financial dealings, successfully filibustered the nomination. (Republicans also hoped to stall the nomination, hoping their nominee could capture the White House in November. That strategy not only worked, but those financial dealings were to force Fortas off the Court a year later).

At that point, the process took a sharply different turn—to outright rejection of a nominee. President Nixon’s choice of Judge Clement Haynesworth to replace Abe Fortas was soundly defeated, 55-45, by senators who believed—not entirely accurately—that Haynesworth had demonstrated anti-labor and pro-segregationist tenancies in his rulings, and that he had had a financial interest in one of the cases he helped decide.

Nixon’s second nominee, Federal District Judge Harrold Carswell, may well have been the single least qualified nominee ever, fusing judicial incompetence with a political history of embracing white supremacy. Carswell’s reputation drew a famous defense by Senator Roman Hruska, who argued, "Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.” (Hruskas’ choice of three Jewish Supreme Court justices was duly noted). Carswell’s nomination was rejected by a 51-45 vote.

In these two cases, something other than ideology was, at least ostensibly, at stake—qualifications or some kind of impropriety. That may be one explanation, perhaps, for the remarkably bipartisan nature of the votes. Nine Democrats voted for Hayneswroth; 17 Republicans voted against the nomination; 17 Democrats backed Carswell; 13 Republicans voted against him.

Not so in the case of Judge Robert Bork, whose background as a Yale law professor and federal judge made him clearly qualified on intellectual grounds. The case against Bork was, in the broadest sense of the word, “political”—that his views on privacy, civil rights, and other issues put him “outside the mainstream.” Senator Ted Kennedy unleashed one of the harsher assessments ever aimed at a high court nominee when he said: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government…” It was, to put it mildly, a reach. But the argument, along with Bork’s less than winning personality in the witness chair, led the newly Democratic Senate (with the help of six Republicans) to reject the nomination by a decisive 58-42 margin.

It was a faction of Senate Democrats that saved the nomination of Clarence Thomas in 1991. After the unprecedented charges and counter-charges—of sexual harassment, perjurious witnesses, and a nominee’s bitter accusation of “a high-tech lynching”—10 Democrats, from the still-significant moderate-conservative wing of the party, voted to confirm him.

The Clarence Thomas nomination was the last time a Senate controlled by one party approved the nomination made by the President of another party.

This might be considered highly significant, except that the Thomas nomination was the last time a President of one party offered up a nomination to a Senate controlled by the other party. By a quirk of the calendar, Bill Clinton faced two vacancies that opened up in 1993, when Democrats had a 57-seat majority; in the six years after Democrats lost the Senate in 1994, there were none. George W. Bush’s two nominations came when his party had 55 seats; there were no vacancies after Democrats won the Senate in 2006. Obama named Sotomayor and Kagan when his party had a near-super majority 60 votes; there have been none since the 2010 midterms sharply reduced the Democratic edge.

And while no President since George H.W. Bush has had to offer a nomination to an opposition controlled Senate, all recent Presidents have had the benefit of virtual unity in their own parties. Only two Republicans voted against Clarence Thomas: Vermont’s Jim Jeffords, who would bolt the GOP a decade later, and Oregon’s Bob Packwood, whose own entanglement with sexual harassment charges would force him out of the Senate four years later.

Since then, whether nominations have succeeded overwhelmingly (Ginsburg, Breyer) or with substantial opposition (Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan), only one member of the President’s party has ever voted thumbs down. (It was Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chaffee, now the state’s independent governor, who voted against Samuel Alito’s confirmation).

This might suggest that the future of any prospective Obama nomination will turn on who winds up controlling the Senate; except, of course, it doesn’t. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the “nuclear option” last November, which ruled the filibuster out of order with respect to lower federal court judges, he explicitly exempted the Supreme Court. That, of course, only explains what a Senate minority can do. It’s the current political climate that tells us what Senate Republicans, whether in the majority or minority, are likely to do.

The best way to see how different the terrain is today is to look back on past contentious nominations and ask why a determined minority did not filibuster them to death. The short answer comes from the last scene of Ibsen’s "Hedda Gabbler." After the protagonist shoots herself, a shocked Judge Brack exclaims: ‘Good God! But people don’t do such things!” Even during the intensely passionate debate over Clarence Thomas’ qualifications, behavior, and candor, it did not occur to his opponents to block his nomination; instead, it went to a vote, and a 52-48 majority—the narrowest margin ever for a nominee—confirmed him. When George W. Bush named Samuel Alito to replace the centrist Sandra Day O’Connor in 2005—a choice certain to shift the balance of the Court dramatically—only 25 of the 44 Democrats backed the filibuster.

Now ask yourself a question about today’s Senate: How many of the 45 Republicans now in the Senate would break with their party and vote to end a filibuster of an Obama Supreme Court appointment? How many would risk a Tea Party primary opponent, or a talk radio onslaught, and step away from a fight to stop Obama from putting a pro-choice, “living Constitution” Justice on the Court for the next generation?

And if that meant leaving the Court with only eight justices—or seven, should a second vacancy develop—the Republican minority would be more than happy to live with that. There’s nothing that requires the Congress to fill all nine positions on the Court. Indeed, the case for leaving a seat empty was made by a prominent academic liberal, after the contested 2000 election. Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman argued then that “when sitting justices retire or die, the Senate should refuse to confirm any nominations offered up by President Bush” until 2004, when the country could decide the legitimacy of Bush’s tenure. (As it happened, there were no vacancies in his first term, and Bush won a clear, if narrow, victory in 2004.) Given the zeal with which the Republican base argues that Obama is a lawless, Constitution-shredding chief executive, it is an easy step to argue that we should wait until a new chief executive is chosen in 2016.

If this analysis is correct, then what happens in November almost doesn’t matter. Yes, a Republican Senate takeover would give the GOP control of the Judiciary Committee, which means that all federal judicial nominations might die a slow but certain death. But even if the Democrats hold the Senate—even if, by some hard-to-imagine turns of events they kept their 55-seat majority—the likeliest outcome of any Supreme Court nomination is a filibuster and a vacancy or two that will endure until the country chooses a new President. Ω

[Jeff Greenfield is a TV journalist and author; he currently hosts PBS's "Need To Know" and also does political commentary on NBC Nightly News. Greenfield is the recipient of three Emmy Awards (1985, 1990, and 1992) for his reports. His most recent book is If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History (2013(. He received a BA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and an JD from the from Yale Law School.]

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