Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Americans Aligned With Progressive Ideas

The Results Are In:

Americans Are Now More Closely Aligned With Progressive Ideas Than at Any Time in Memory

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet:

On issue after substantive issue, significant majorities of Americans favor progressive solutions to the nation's problems and reject the right's worldview. That's true whether the issue at hand is taxes, war and peace, the role of government in the economy, health care, and on and on.

Yet the idea that America is a "center-right" nation persists; Republican and conservative activists repeat the assertion ad nauseum -- as it's in their interest to do -- and most of the political press corps swallows it whole.

The idea is like a zombie -- you can bludgeon it, burn it or get Dick Cheney to shoot it in the face, but it keeps coming -- it will not die.

The persistence of the center-right narrative, even in the face of piles of evidence suggesting it's little more than a myth, has very real consequences on our political discourse.

Aside from coloring the way the media covers -- and the public views -- the vital issues of the day, it impacts progressive activists, who even when they have the wind at their backs often feel the need to move slowly, cautiously and in ways that will minimize direct confrontation with the conservative movement. [...]

This week, a new report released by the Campaign for America's Future and the media watchdog group MediaMatters attempts to finally bury the idea that the U.S. leans rightward. It takes a comprehensive look at the political landscape in which we live and a look forward at America's shifting demographic profile -- all of which reveal a citizenry that is anything but center-right and will only continue to trend in a more progressive direction, leaving modern conservatism increasingly isolated in its ideas.

The study gathered public-opinion data from a number of respected, nonpartisan polling outfits, findings from the (huge) National Election Study series and official statistics on ethnicity and gender to make the case. Among the findings:

  • On what may be the key difference between liberals and conservatives today -- the role of government -- more than twice as many people agree with the statement, "there are more things government should be doing" than believe the Reaganite adage, "the less government, the better."

  • In 1994, more than half of Americans said, "government regulation of business usually does more harm than good" and fewer than 4 out of 10 thought "government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest." That's been flipped on its head during the 15 years since -- today, fewer than 4 in 10 believe regulation causes more harm than good.

  • A majority (55-70 percent, depending on how the question is worded) believes it's the government's responsibility to provide health care to all Americans; fewer than a third of those responding to a CBS/New York Times poll thought health insurance should be "left only to private enterprise."

  • Almost 2 out of 3 Americans believe the taxes they pay are fair, and that the very wealthy pay too little in taxes; almost 7 in 10 believe corporations don't pay their fair share of taxes.

During a conference call with reporters, Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America's future, acknowledged that until 15 to 20 years ago, a center-right coalition of conservatives and political moderates did represent a majority of the electorate, but noted that the views of moderates and independents have grown much more closely aligned with those of more progressive voters, and the result is a center-left mandate for the new administration and Democratic-controlled Congress.

What's more, the country's changing demographics suggest that America will continue to be a center-left country in the coming decades.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Game On

Coin toss: Heads, Obama wins. Tails, GOP loses.

The Most Dangerous Game

William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t:

Needless to say, it's on.

Before the nomination of Judge Sotomayor, lots of people were expecting President Obama to replace Justice Souter with someone virtually identical to Justice Souter: moderate, even-tempered, contemplative, and above all else, inoffensive to as much of the galaxy of interested interest groups as could be managed. Instead, Mr. Obama nominated someone moderate, even-tempered, contemplative, profoundly experienced, and above all else, guaranteed to hyperactivate a certain segment of those interested interests while putting the Republican Party in an almost inescapable bind. [...]

The Republican right-wing's campaign of resistance settled into a predictable pattern almost immediately after the announcement. While those voicing opposition to Judge Sotomayor claimed to be surprised and disappointed that Obama chose such a "controversial" nominee, the truth is they've been suiting up for weeks to fight whomever finally got the nod. Their attacks were triggered automatically and would have come no matter what; if Mr. Obama had nominated Jesus of Nazareth to replace Justice Souter, the GOP would now be denouncing Him for favoring a socialist welfare state because He gave away loaves and fishes and circumvented the insurance industry when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

A fair portion of the arguments against Judge Sotomayor, therefore, have been pro forma, along all the old, well-traveled lines. The fact that Mr. Obama nominated a Hispanic woman to the bench, however, has inspired a particularly shrill reaction from the segment of right-wing interested interests that are somehow genetically hard-wired to freak out whenever someone besides a white male gets a gig in government.

It was a canny political move on Mr. Obama's part to nominate an indisputably qualified minority woman to the high court, because in doing so, he has once again scrambled the GOP's eggs. As the Times editorial noted, Judge Sotomayor brings all the qualifications one would expect and demand of a Supreme Court justice to the table, and her qualifications are further enhanced by her rich personal history. She is an excellent nominee, and Senate Republicans - already weakened by consecutive electoral defeats and lavishly despised by a majority of Americans - stand demonstrably incapable of thwarting Obama's choice, and run the risk of further damaging their prospects if they try. [...]

The problem for the GOP is they may have to fight Sotomayor even if it means political suicide. The raving messiahs of the GOP base like Limbaugh are already up in arms over a cavalcade of anti-Obama issues and fighting a range war against so-called "moderates" within the party. Now, they're demanding that Senate Republicans fight to the knife to defeat Judge Sotomayor's nomination. If Limbaugh and his fellow rabble-rousers whip enough GOP base voters into a froth, the Republican Party will be stuck between a rock and a hard place: fail to fight and incite the base, or decide to fight and wind up giving mortal offense to a large swath of Hispanic voters in America.

The GOP has been courting Hispanic voters, with varying degrees of success, for many years now; Hispanic voters are the fastest-growing electoral bloc in the country, and the GOP covets their support in no small part because their survival as a viable party depends on it. If Senate Republicans go after Sotomayor, they run a great risk of alienating an entire generation of Hispanic voters, which simply eviscerates GOP hopes for a recovery at the polls going forward. But if Senate Republicans don't fight the Sotomayor nomination, they run a great risk of further alienating and infuriating the leading voices of an already deranged base, an event that could lead to open revolution within the party and be just as damaging in the long run. [...]

It's going to be a hot summer no matter what. Get ready, and enjoy the show.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

GOP Wing-Nutting It On Sotomayor

Reading Between the Lines: Obama Warns GOP That the Right Fights Sotomayor Confirmation at Their Own Peril

At no point in the press conference organized to officially unveil Sotomayor as the nominee was the newly-controversial word "empathy" uttered. In fact, Obama was sure to emphasize as important qualities for a Supreme Court justice a "recognition of the limits of the judicial role," and "respect for precedent" in their role to "interpret -- not make -- law."

No, the message was more of a dare to the right wing than a defense of Sotomayor. As in, "Do you really want this to be the sword you fall on?"

SCOTUS: Get Yer RNC Talking Points Here
Oh my. So much for the super secret wingnutty wurlitzer blast faxer-iffic strategery. The RNC has sprung an unintentional media leak out the wazoo.

Conservatives Blast Obama’s Hispanic SCOTUS Nominee As ‘Not The Smartest’ And An ‘Intellectual Lightweight’

Rove: Attending top schools doesn’t mean that Sotomayor is smart, but it proves that Bush is.

Sessions Goes Off-Message, Admits That Supreme Court Justices Write The Constitution

Gee, what a surprise: The right-wing talking points on Sotomayor are misleading distortions
Again, Media Matters has the goods:
The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2005) notes that federal appellate courts do in fact have a "policy making" role...
Sonia, Maria, Harriet....Whatever.
"Liberal judicial activist."

"Legislating from the bench."

"Far left."

"Hispanic chick lady..." Uh, wha????

There are your run-of-the-mill talking points that you know you're going to hear from the right no matter who the nominee is--yesterday The Hill even got the full list of them when that well-oiled political machine that is Michael Steele's RNC accidentally sent their talking points not just to their jabberers, but to the media they jabber on.

The Sotomayor nomination and the limits of language
Nowhere in this labeling frenzy was there any analysis of Sotomayor's legal decisions -- other, of course, than that as a wise Latina woman the judge naturally detests white male firefighters; just a dulling, deafening repetition of reductionist simplicity -- liberal, liberal, leftist, leftist, radical-radical activist. [...]

While the American Left has been developmentally deficient in thunderous slogans and bumper-sticker intellectuality, the American Right has excelled at them. Its first modern major success was "liberal media," an efficient assault on two political birds with one deceptive stone. And with that success, the right then saw what it took as the unlimited possibilities of make-believe language.

Scraping The Bottom of Barrel
So far the criticisms of Sonia Sotomayor are much more revealing about her conservative critics than they are about her.

GOPers already going overboard with ugly (and ridiculous) attacks on Sotomayor
The Republicans just can't help themselves. They can't control their most base instincts. It's instinctive: Must throw every every nasty and racist (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) attack at Sotomayor without regard to the political consequences. This really is who they are.

Sotomayor on the Bench
A couple of weeks ago, Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUS Blog pointed out that the debate over Sotomayor's qualifications seemed to ignore the single most important source of information about her legal thinking: the opinions she's written while serving as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. While fools like Jeffrey Rosen love to focus on gossip, innuendo and b.s., the rest of us are fortunate to have a detailed, extensive, and public trove of data to analyze. Even better, Goldstein's crew has pulled together summaries of what they consider Sotomayor's most important civil decisions. A sampler...

Flashback: Seven GOP Senators Backed Sotomayor For Judge
Seven Republicans currently in the Senate voted for the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor in 1998 as U.S. Circuit Court judge, suggesting that Republican ranks could be divided over whether to confirm her to the Supreme Court.

According to the roll call, the seven Republicans who backed Sotomayor at the time are Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, Robert Bennett, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, and Judd Gregg. [...]

If some of these Senators continue to back Sotomayor, it could divide the GOP caucus and kill any efforts by the GOP to filibuster the nominee.

Who Wants Judges With Empathy?

Hypocrisy watch: Under Bush, Senator Grassley and his GOP colleagues demanded an "up or down vote"

Fact Check - In Their Own Words: The Majority's Prerogative
In 2005, many Republican Senators went so far as to claim the filibuster of judicial nominees was unconstitutional. Now four years later, with President Obama's first Supreme Court appointment looming, will they remain consistent in their position or commit one of the most blatant acts of hypocrisy in the 220-year history of the United States Senate?

In Praise of the Nuclear Option
Just like the Judicial Confirmation Network, many prominent Republicans argued -- not so long ago -- that filibusters of judicial nominees was unconstitutional. They threatened to go nuclear. They praised presidential discretion. Media Matters Action Network has compiled video and transcripts of some of their remarks. [...]

On the "Democracy or Hypocrisy" question, I doubt there's any uncertainty at all as to the actual outcome. They'll try to filibuster; they'll need to satiate their base and their baser instincts.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Tribute

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Congress Passes Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act

On May 19, 2009 the Senate passed the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2009:


Title: To amend the Truth in Lending Act to establish fair and transparent practices relating to the extension of credit under an open end consumer credit plan, and for other purposes.

Roll Call 194:

YEAs 90 — NAYs 5 — Not Voting 4

Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights On Way to President
This afternoon, the House passed the final version of the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights (H.R. 627) by a vote of 361-64 – leveling the playing field between card issuers and cardholders by applying common-sense regulations that would ban retroactive interest rate hikes on existing balances, double-cycle billing, and due-date gimmicks.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You'd think that for millions of dollars in no-bid contracts they'd at least do a great job

Well, apparently not.

Pasta or chicken?

As in, what meal would you like on your flight back to the United States?

That's what Eric Peters was told would be his choice if he questioned the shoddy electrical wiring he found in buildings wired by Houston-based KBR, Inc., on bases in Iraq. Peters, licensed as a master electrician in nine states, worked for KBR in Iraq from February to April of this year.

Peters, along with Jim Childs, a former project manager in Iraq for the Army Corps of Engineers, and Charles Smith, the former head of the Army Field Support Command, testified today at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing regarding tens of millions of dollars in government bonus money paid to KBR, a contractor whose faulty work is said to have led to the electrocutions of American soldiers

Of course as we know, KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root) is a subsidiary of Halliburton, and we well know how Halliburton got all those no-bid contracts.

But to hear that they may have (despite all that money) cut corners on costs and that because of it some American servicemembers may have died needlessly is terrible, and I hope this gets fully investigated.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Obama is right-- it's time for Israel to help create a Palestinian state

We are hearing a lot about President Obama's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, a rabid right winger who was forced out of power in a corruption scandal some years ago (in Israel even Richard Nixon would have been allowed to run again after taking some time off) has pledged to (among other things) expand West Bank settlements, destroy Hamas and take a hard line against Palestinians. One thing he has scrupulously avoided saying is 'two state solution,' even though his predecessors (most notably Yitzhak Rabin) firmly committed towards pursuing the creation of a Palestinian state.

Let's hope that behind the scenes President Obama (who wants to see a fully independent Palestinian state up and running before he leaves the White House) wins the argument that he is surely having with Bibi.

And I am saying this as someone who has consistently defended the right of Israel to defend itself when attacked (as long time readers of this blog will attest to.) It is certainly true that Israel has fought seven wars in its sixty years, and it is no secret that there are some in the middle east (including some Palestinians) who are implacably set on its destruction and the destruction of its citizens, and who will never be anything else. There are those in Israel who have feared, with some justification, that an independent Palestinian state would simply function as a base from which terrorists and armies could launch attacks against Israel. Nevertheless the best chance that Israel has to survive is to support the independence of Palestine (more on that below.)

The paranoid view that a lot of Israelis (especially those who support Netanyahu) have is best expressed in a column in Ha'aretz by Yehuda ben-Meir:

The sad truth is that the State of Israel will face a confrontation with the Obama administration, irrespective of the public outcome of the meeting between the U.S. president and Israel's prime minister....

It isn't pleasant, but anyone reading between the lines is beginning to understand that the Obama administration is becoming increasingly like the Carter administration. For 30 years, Israel has not had to deal with as difficult - sometimes even hostile - a U.S. administration as the Carter one. I can personally attest to the brutal style and blatant threats that characterized the relationship between Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin. Indeed, Carter is someone whose beginnings can be seen in the way he has ended up.

OK, rebutting that will lead to why Israel must negotiate seriously and with the goal of an independent Palestinian state.

First off, let's even suppose that what Meir is claiming about Jimmy Carter were true. The fact is, Carter secured (however he did it) a lasting peace between Egypt and Israel. Egypt, with a much larger population base and army than Israel could ever hope to put in the field, was always Israel's most dangerous enemy. Fortunately for the Israelis the Egyptians fought poorly in each of the four wars between the two nations, but to assume that your opponent will always perform as poorly as they have in the past is foolish. In exchange for returning the occupied Sinai peninsula back to Egypt, Israel secured its first lasting peace with one of its neighbors. It is hard to argue that continuing to fight periodic wars with Egypt would have served Israeli interests at all. Having peace along its southwestern border has served Israel pretty well. Jordan later followed Egypt's lead, giving Israel peace along most of its eastern border as well. So his point about Carter is irrelevant-- what Carter did has been a real benefit to Israel. If he had to drag Begin kicking and screaming to the negotiating table, well then that's one of the best things Carter ever did-- and it's one of the best things that anyone ever did for Israel.

Second, let's consider the consequence of the fact that the Bush administration gave Israel carte blanche for eight years to do as it pleased. It would be almost impossible to argue that the last eight years have improved Israeli security. Israel has fought two wars against non-state organizations, Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas just this past December and January, and both of them are still alive and kicking after surviving several weeks of Israeli assaults, and both have shown their ability to launch thousands of rockets deep inside Israel. Israel has not weakened Hezbollah at all and while they arguably weakened Hamas militarily they did nothing to weaken Hamas' hold on the Gaza strip.

In fact, the only real gain that Israel has made in improving their security is a consequence of something that they had no control over, the death of Yassir Arafat. In 2001 as Bush took office you may recall they were fighting a new 'intifada' in the West Bank. This began shortly after Arafat walked away from a Clinton negotiated peace deal with Ehud Barak that came tantalizingly close to fruition. A Palestinian friend of mine told me that the reason was because most Palestinians thought Arafat was a joke who had robbed the Palestinians of billions of dollars (and after he died it was found that what the people thought was true, and that in fact Arafat had accumulated a fortune in banks around the world-- money that could have only come from the Palestinian treasury since he had little other income.) As my friend told me, "Arafat has the authority to say 'yes'" In other words Palestinians would only support him as far as he was willing to condone whatever they did anyway. So having no ability to control his own 'supporters' the Israelis were justified in their concern that any agreement they reached with Yassir Arafat would probably be violated, whether by his own choice or because what his choice was didn't matter.

In contrast, current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has proven that he can adequately police the West Bank. During both the Hezbollah and Hamas wars it is noteworthy that there were no rockets fired from the west bank into Israel nor were there attacks there on Jewish settlers (though both Hezbollah and Hamas urged west bank Palestinians to rise up in support of their cause.) By keeping the west bank calm and quiet even during a war in which Israel was being attacked, Abbas has shown that he is exactly the partner that Israel needs for negotiations-- someone who can be trusted to keep and enforce his side of the agreement.

The alternative is endless war. The Palestinian issue isn't going anywhere as long as there is no Palestinian state. The broad agreement is already in place, via the Oslo accords and general consensus that the borders will likely follow the 1967 cease fire lines.

And in a turn about, it is now the Palestinians who have a leader who can be trusted, and the Israelis who (as one Israeli politician once said about the Palestinians) are taking the opportunity to miss an opportunity.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shiny Object, Bubble Bauble; Torture Distraction, Babble


More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Congress’s Torture Bubble
JUST four members of Congress were notified in 2002 when the Central Intelligence Agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” program was first approved and carried out, according to documents released by the agency last week. They were Senators Bob Graham and Richard Shelby and Representatives Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi, then the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees — the so-called “Gang of Four.” Each was briefed orally and it was understood that they were not to speak about the program with anyone, including their colleagues on the committees.

It’s logical to ask, so what if it was only four members? If they objected to the program, why didn’t they take steps to change it or stop it? Maybe they should have tried. But as a practical matter, there was very little, if anything, the Gang of Four could have done to affect the Bush administration’s decision on the enhanced interrogation techniques program. To stop it, they needed the whole Congress.

Sheldon Whitehouse: Iraq Justification Raises the Prospect of Criminal Prosecution for Torture
Sheldon Whitehouse while being asked about the torture bombshell that Lawrence Wilkerson dropped on Dick Cheney says that if what Wilkerson asserts is true and the Bush administration went outside of the OLC's legal justification for the torture, it raises the prospect for criminal prosecutions.

Whitehouse Judiciary Committee Hearing Round-up
"There's so many points here that it's hard to pick them all apart. There's the point that it's wrong. There's the point that it's ineffective. There's the point that it's illegal. There's the point that in order to get there they had to disrupt and wreck a lot of American democratic process in order to get there. And then there's the final part which is . . . my focus on the lying, which is that there is a huge sales and spin campaign going on to misrepresent what took place....

"We accomplished three things today. We showed that the factual predicates in the OLC memos about what had happened were false. We showed that administration lawyers who got a look at the OLC opinions were horrified and tried to push back, and instead of engaging in a debate to see if they were right or wrong they were just squelched and shut down. And we showed that by the standards against which attorneys should be judged for malfeasance experts agree that the OLC opinions don't cut the mustard and that they qualify for sanction."

One more important point on the briefing process.
In this exchange between Dick Durbin and Philip Zelikow, Zelikow makes clear how the briefing process is supposed to work. [...]

Now, when Durbin asks Zelikow directly whether Congress got that before the fact briefing in this case, Zelikow claims ignorance.

Human Experimentation is a War Crime!
Let's set aside for a moment the issue of torture. For in his testimony, FBI Agent Soufan has raised the issue of experimentation on a prisoner.

Now let's look at a list of requirements for experimentation on prisoners, taken from:

THE NUREMBERG CODE [from Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10. Nuremberg, October 1946-April 1949. Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O, 1949-1953.]

Cheney's Role Deepens
Former NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem reports that the vice president’s office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner who was suspected of knowing about a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam.

Here's an actual news story: Cheney used torture to prove non-existent Al Qaeda/Iraq link
Dick Cheney wanted to go to war against Iraq. He lied about it. Bush lied about it. But, we're supposed to believe that they never lied to Congress about torture. Right. That may work with D.C.'s traditional media, but not anyone who actually remembers 2002.

There is an even more disturbing aspect to this story. It may be too much for the traditional media to handle. We're learning that Cheney used torture to "prove" the links between al Qaeda and Iraq -- because nothing else was finding the information he wanted.

Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff Larry Wilkerson explained his findings at The Washington Note.

Because it works, that's why
It has been a mind-bending task to suss out the Busheviks' rules for Justifying Torture. As a nation, we are dizzy to the point of distraction from the effort. But a few principles seem clear.

  1. We didn’t do it - Because it would be wrong ...

  2. Whatever we might have done, —and we’re not saying we did--was legal ...

  3. It wasn’t torture. We had these outlines, see, and we were always inside them, because they were drawn to include where we were. We call the area out there beyond where we were, torture. We can’t tell you exactly, what lies in those outer areas except to say if we did tell you, then we would have a standard independent of what we did, which would threaten principle #2, above. Besides, then our enemies would know, too, and then it wouldn’t be effective, which brings us to:

  4. We did it because it worked. It was effective. What, you’d rather be dead? You think if you were dead you’d have any moral scruples? We’d do anything that works.

  5. If it worked, it was right. And if it was right, how it be torture? Therefore, (since the contrapositive of a true if/then statement is always true) if it was not right, it wouldn’t have worked. So we didn’t torture. Because we only did things that worked.

  6. Look! Nancy Pelosi!

Pelosi, Graham and the CIA's Lies
All of the briefing materials should be declassified and released so that we can finally put to rest the game of what Democrat knew what when. Pelosi's, Graham's, and Rockefeller's stories remain consistent--remarkably so considering that they were never briefed at the same time. The Democrats in Congress were not responsible for conceiving of or implementing the Bush torture regime.

Graham: CIA was 'loose with the facts' about interrogation briefings
"We established that three out of four of these alleged briefings never took place," he said.

Florida's Graham Backs Pelosi On CIA Briefings
"Several weeks ago, when this issue started to bubble up, I called the CIA and asked for the dates in which I had been briefed," Graham tells Robert Siegel. "They gave me four: two in April of '02, two in September."

Graham says he consulted his logs "and determined that on three of the four dates there was no briefing held."

He adds: "On one date, Sept. 27, '02, there was a briefing held and, according to my notes, it was on the topic of detainee interrogation."

Graham says the CIA was initially reticent when he told the agency what he had found in his notes.

"They said, 'We will check and call back,'" Graham recalled. "When they finally did a few days later, they indicated that I was correct. Their information was in error. There was no briefing on the first three of four dates."

CIA Admits That Info About Torture Briefings For Dems May Not Be Accurate

The CIA vs. Sen. Bob Graham: how to keep score at home
More relevant in this case, Graham also has a specific reputation for keeping detailed daily records of people he met and things they said. He's sometimes been mocked for this compulsive practice, but he's never been doubted about the completeness or accuracy of what he compiles. (In the fine print of those records would be an indication that I had interviewed him about Iraq war policy while he was in the Senate and recently spent time with him when he was on this side of the world.)

So if he says he never got the briefing, he didn't. And if the CIA or anyone acting on its behalf challenges him, they are stupid and incompetent as well as being untrustworthy. This doesn't prove that the accounts of briefing Pelosi are also inaccurate. But it shifts the burden of proof.

Jane Harman's letter to the CIA counsel
Jane Harman's letter to the CIA counsel was about the CIA telling Congress they were going to destroy the Zubaydeh video tapes.

She wrote a letter to the CIA, warning them NOT to destroy the tapes.

They destroyed the tapes.

How's that for a cold-water splash-in-the-face?

Prisoner Abuse Photos Emerge Despite Obama's Bid to Block Them
The inevitable result of trying to suppress information is that the truth will out, regardless. In this case, an Australian network that obtained images of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan has published them.

On the Photos
I briefly had myself convinced that this is a complicated issue, but it really isn’t. There ought to be an overwhelming presumption that the American people have the right to see the facts about what our government is doing in our name, with our money. There has to be some secrecy in the name of national security—it’s good that we don’t publish our nuclear codes or the details of the presidential security detail—but the notion that vague invocations of national interest or policy expediency should be permitted to sweep things under the rug is repugnant.

Today is the day the MSM picks up the torture-Iraq War link.
The MSM is now talking about Dick Cheney using torture to establish fabricated links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq in order to justify a war against Iraq to the American people. Right before Hardball started today, David Shuster primed the subject...

Chris Matthews was in a relatively no-bullshit mode today and raised the question with Representative Clyburn...

Later in the program he has Michael Isikoff and Robert Windrem on. And they establish the link between Cheney's torture and justifying the war in Iraq...

David Waldman On The Iraq-Torture Link
Congress Matter’s David Waldman [aka Kagro X], also a Daily Kos contributing editor, discusses the Iraq-torture link on View the full segment here.

Journamalism: Iraq, Torture, and Pelosi
Here's the juiciest investigative story you can imagine, if you were actually into important, juicy investigative stories.

What's the traditional media so predictably and depressingly decided to focus with laserlike misdirection upon? The distraction the CIA dangled in front of them.
Let’s briefly recap. Three senior Democrats — Pelosi, Bob Graham, and Jay Rockefeller — have all publicly claimed that the CIA didn’t brief them about the use of torture in the manner the agency has claimed. Meanwhile, the CIA itself has conceded that its own accounting may not be accurate. [snip]

This is not only about Pelosi. It is a dispute. One side is claiming one thing, and the other is claiming the opposite. Simple fairness demands that equal levels of skepticism are applied to people on both sides of this argument. And that isn’t happening. There’s no way around it.

And they are all conveniently missing yet another point, or as Josh says, are gettin' played by the CIA:
The whole point of this storm about Pelosi is that her critics want her to be embarrassed and stop supporting a Truth Commission or any sort of examination of what happened. But she's not. She still says there should be an investigation. Her critics still want the book closed. That says it all. She'll have to stand or fall with the results of an actual investigation. Her opponents on this are simply risible hypocrites.

That says it all. Pelosi says get the truth out there. So let's start trying to figure out what the truth is. And that means not following the CIA's breadcrumb trail off into the weeds about who was told what when. It means asking whether the Dick Cheney ordered torture so he could get the lies to take us into Iraq.

Now that's a story.

Torture and the "shiny object"
The Bush administration authorized torture in order to extract false confessions linking Iraq to al Qaeda and create a pretext to invade a sovereign nation that neither had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, nor was an "imminent threat".

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Pelosi is the latest shiny object distraction – how she is "under fire" and is disagreeing with the CIA about what she may or may not have been briefed about. And in time, the truth must come out about this.

However, nothing – absolutely NOTHING – should divert the direction and main point of the conversation. Torture is not a partisan issue. Torture is not something that can be debated. Torture is illegal. And torturing people in order to get a false confession and invade another country (especially when very many other excuses were given for such invasion) is more than illegal.

And this was all done by the Bush administration with the knowledge and approval by Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and (according to Cheney), Bush himself.

This is finally starting to get out there as a story – not just that torture occurred, not just that it occurred with the knowledge and intent of the upper echelon of the Bush administration, but that it was done in order to create support for a bogus war for which no justification existed, and to take advantage of a scared American public who was just attacked.

THIS is the story. THIS is where the focus needs to be. And when it starts to stray, it MUST be brought back to this one simple, powerful and disgusting point.

Everything else is a shiny object distraction meant to blur the lines, meant to create doubt and meant to shift the blame.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Phony attack on Speaker Pelosi should be confronted

There are times when attacks by the Republican attack machine have their basis in reality, when some Democrat did something (s)he should not have done and the attack dogs sense blood in the water and go after it like ravenous sharks. Well, I guess I can't complain too much when that happens because I've been urging Democrats for years to play hardball politics the same way, and lately we've been a lot better at it. When that happens then you can blame the attack dogs, but you also have to blame the idiot that got caught with his or her pants down (whether figuratively or literally).

But there are also times when the attacks have no basis in reality, and are contrived and patched together as an attempt to invent a scandal and go after someone just so they can paint something on that person no matter how phony the attack is.

And so it is today that I am posting in defense of Speaker Pelosi. I might add that I've known who Nancy Pelosi was and known the Speaker to be a defender of human rights for many years before others even heard of her. Many years ago I signed an online petition on behalf of a Chinese dissident. About a year or two after that I and about fifty or a hundred other people who did not know each other received a series of mysterious emails from someone named, 'runner' tied to the approaching tenth anniversary of Tianenmen Square. Pelosi was one of those, as her congressional email address stuck out like a sore thumb in the list of apparently unrelated emails. Someone finally figured out that we had all signed the same petition. Needless to say since then I've known who Nancy Pelosi is and I'm proud to stand with her in support of human rights.

The right is jumping all over a story that says that the Speaker (then minority leader) was briefed on waterboarding in 2002 and again in 2003 and did not object to it.

That is false however.

To begin with, at the time of the 2002 briefing on interrogation tactics waterboarding had been used on one Al-Qaeda prisoner and Pelosi and others were told specifically that it HAD NOT AND WOULD NOT be used. That's not just Pelosi's recollection , as she pointed out in remarks made yesterday but also the recollection of former Florida Senator Bob Graham who was also at the meeting. As for the 2003 briefing Pelosi pointed out that she was not present to raise an objection when others were told that it had been used as a tactic. The record bears that out:

Despite Boehner's comments, CIA records show Pelosi attended only one briefing — the one in the fall of 2002 where she says she was told that waterboarding had not been used. A chart released by the CIA detailing its briefings for lawmakers is vague on what transpired at that session. It says Pelosi and the top Intelligence Committee Republican, then-Rep. Porter J. Goss of Florida, were given a "description of the particular (enhanced interrogation techniques) that had been employed," without further details.

Remember that she claims (as does at least one other person who was present at the briefing) that she was told that waterboarding was not used at all in 2002. If the Speaker can be faulted at all it might be for not attending every single briefing but the truth is that Congress is a very busy place (especially for its leaders) so missing a briefing is hardly unusual.

More to the point though is the implication that because the Speaker never raised an objection (even if she had been there to raise one) that means she supported or at least condoned the tactic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nancy Pelosi has consistently demanded that our intelligence officers comply with universally accepted (and agreed to by treaty) standards on the treatment of prisoners. She had never, repeat never accepted, condoned or failed to speak out against waterboarding or any other form of torture when she was given an opportunity to do so.

The purpose of this attack on the Speaker is to try and create, after the fact, some kind of defense for the indefensible. Now that it is time to really find out who authorized what and who told who what and when, the guilty parties are trying to smear their guilt around and all over those who have always been outspoken against what they are doing. Bending and twisting the facts or creating new ones are a desperate play by the right and it is important for those of us who want to see Congress get to the bottom of this to stand up now and defend the Speaker against these scurrilous attacks.

As I said at the outset, there are the attacks that seed themselves, by someone leaving a door open for the wolves. And then there are the attacks that are purely manufactured and this is one of those.

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The Biggest Crime

"Why is Bush's monumental crime ignored and the far lesser crime of torture yelled about from the roof tops?"

Torture? But There Is A Far, Far More Egregious Crime

Phil Vargas:
As important as the U.S. torture issue is, there is a far greater crime that needs to be strongly addressed: How George W. Bush and his cronies took our country into an extremely destructive and costly war on the basis of outright lies. The resulting harm is vast and incalculable for our country and for Iraq. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people including women and children have been killed, and millions of lives have been seriously disrupted and destroyed in a country that presented absolutely no threat to us. And killing and maiming in Iraq still goes on daily, all as a result of Bush's war!

And as well, thousands of American soldiers have given their lives and/or have been seriously wounded as a result of Bush's lies, for they genuinely believed that they were fighting for their country against a confirmed enemy, viz. Iraq's [alleged] involvement in the 9/11 attacks!

The case of such a monumental crime, probably the worst crime ever committed by a U.S. President, is amply substantiated by Vincent Bugliosi in his powerful book The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. And the evidence of Bush's war lies is incontrovertible and beyond a reasonable doubt. Why, why is that horrific crime ignored by the media and all those pushing so hard for justice regarding the torture criminality, and the much bigger crime ignored? Nobody even mentions it but in passing, it seems. Why, why?

May 14, 2009

Iraq Coalition Casualty Count 4,294

Operation Enduring Freedom + 683

U. S. troop deaths, to date: 4,977

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Swiftboaters Attack Healthcare Reform

Swiftboaters Are Back, This Time To Block Healthcare Reform

BuzzFlash Analysis:

As the standard joke goes, we have some good news, and some bad news. The good news is that healthcare "industry leaders" told President Obama today they can find ways to slow the growth of healthcare costs by 1.5% or $2 trillion over 10 years. [...]

The bad news is, "industry leaders" also have launched an ad campaign designed to torpedo comprehensive reform by turning public opinion against it. These ads have been paid for by healthcare industrialist Rick Scott and his misnamed group, "Conservatives for Patients' Rights."

The Rachel Maddow Show
Mum on healthcare

May 11: President Obama spoke about healthcare reform and his plans for changing the system. The Republican response, well, um, there actually wasn’t a real Republican response. Who is voicing the anti-reform movement? Rachel Maddow is joined by former DNC chairman Howard Dean.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Sunday In May

"Now the bright morning-star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long."
~John Milton
Song on a May Morning, 1660

"Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair
and let us huddle together as darkness takes over
We are at home amidst the birds and the trees,
for we are children of nature."
~Susan Polis Shutz

A Quiet Moment

When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing?

Sometimes we need time to sort things out. Especially in the hurry-up world where information comes at us with blazing speed. A few peaceful moments now and then can help us to see more clearly, to put things in perspective. There is so much beauty around us, in the things we hurry past every day. Beauty that can, if we let it, spark our creativity, provide balance, give us strength and inspire us. It is important to have a time when we let down our defenses, just accepting and enjoying the beauty around us.

Stop every now and then. Just stop and enjoy. Take a deep breath. Relax and take in the abundance of life.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

WSJ Is Memory-impaired

They are blaming Obama for spending, after Bush's accomplishments: a crippled economy, two failed wars and environmental crisis?

How Is it that the Wall Street Journal Editors Have Absolutely No Memory of the Last 8 Years?

Stephen Pizzo, News for Real:
Here's a question to ponder this morning. It's one I've been pondering for some weeks now:
Is it worth your time and effort trying to engage in rational discussions with the increasingly nutty and frantic mouth-breathers on the political right? Or are were they all genetically wired at birth to become hybrids of Grandpa Simpson and Mr. Burns?
The only reason I mention this is that last night, as is my ritual, I settled in with the Wall Street Journal for my daily recon-mission into conservative "Neverland," -- a blame-free zone where the words, "Wow, we were sure wrong about that!" are never uttered.

I was doing fine, until I reached Neverland's dark heart, the WSJ Editorial Page -- a vortex of swirling nonsense where cocksure neo-cons rhetorically goose step in a tight clockwise circle -- much like that roiling red spot of hot gas on Venus that roils madly but never seems to move or change.

In yesterdays editorial the editors were wringing their hands over all things Obama, in particular his budget and related economic rescue spending. Here's how they ended that piece:
"Mr. Obama is more popular than his policies, and sooner or later the twain shall meet. For now, we are living in another era of unchecked liberal government. The reckoning will come when Americans discover how much it costs.”
That's when I spit my evening brandy out of my nose. I mean, really?! The sheer chutzpah of it staggers the mind of anyone not on heavy doses of anti-psychotic drugs.

Where does a sane person, one with a functioning memory, even begin?

First, these are the same people over at the WS Journal who supported the hyper-conservative GW Bush administration. You know, the guys who left us a world economy in near-depression, two unwon wars, and ice caps melting faster than Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter can change their spots.

So, if as the WSJ editors warn Mr. Obama faces an inevitable day of "reckoning" over his spending, shouldn't they first "reckon" with the trillions of dollars in debt their friends in the Bush administration left taxpayers holding? Shouldn't they first ask, "how much did Bush's policies cost us?" [...]

I won't belabor the point. But for the WSJ editors to posit that voters will soon be aghast at the cost of Obama's policies, couldn't go unnoticed. Because they sure didn't notice the ruinousness policies of the Bush administration when they could have, and when they should have.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Cantor Caves To Limbaugh

Cantor Caves: Republicans Will Be ‘Listening’ To Rush Limbaugh, Not The American Public

Amanda Terkel:

Last week, Republicans kicked off their National Council for a New America, an attempt to revive the image of the GOP. One of the leading participants, former governor Jeb Bush, said that it was time for Republicans to “listen first, to learn a little bit, to upgrade our message a little bit.” Similarly, on Sunday, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) told CNN that Republicans should be “listening to the people” [...]

Listening to all this talk about listening, Rush Limbaugh became incensed. He said that instead of taking cues from the American public, Republicans should fan out and spread their dogma through a “teaching tour.” This morning on MSNBC, Cantor backtracked and said that he agreed with Limbaugh:
SCARBOROUGH: So, let’s start with Rush Limbaugh, who seems to be mocking the idea of a listening tour. What do you say to Rush?

CANTOR: You know, Joe, really, this — this is not a listening tour. You know, think about what we saw a couple weeks ago on the TEA parties.
Cantor added that the National Council was actually an opportunity “to go out across this country to talk about our conservative principles and to appeal to as many elements in our society as we can.”

EXCLUSIVE AUDIO: Limbaugh Mocks Recession During Speech To Wealthy Right-Wing Donors

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Monday, May 04, 2009

One loose cannon deserves another

This is the kind of moment in which Rush Limbaugh makes it clear to all how big of a buffoon he is.

Republicans, led by Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney held a townhall meeting this week in northern Virginia, an area that has trended strongly towards Democrats, as part of a new effort to 'rebrand' the GOP. Not that they are really proposing any new policies, so it is just a repackaging tour for the same old crap but at least they are trying to put a different face on the party.

Rush Limbaugh went ballistic on them, accusing them of "hating" and "depising" Sarah Palin, which is why they didn't invite her.

Leaving aside the obvious fact that if they want to present a new face of the GOP then inviting last year's disaster is hardly the face they want, I wonder whether Rush's real pique is that they didn't invite him (I mean, he's the effective leader of the Republican party, and he didn't even warrant an invitation.) Palin just was the first name that came up when he was casting around for someone to yell at them for not inviting. "I'm angry because they didn't invite her" is code-speak for "I'm angry because they didn't invite me."

And the truth is, Palin showed herself to be something of a loose cannon both during last year's campaign and in the days and weeks afterward. Maybe Rush can relate to that.

In fact, the best line Limbaugh threw out there during his fit of apoplexy was this: He accused Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney of not inviting Palin because they have their own "Presidential perspirations."

Yes, you read that right. Now I'm sure that Mitt perspired a lot when he was running all over the country last year in his desperate bid to catch McCain, and Jeb Bush probably broke a sweat last year when he realized how hard it will be for him to climb out from under the ten ton weight of his brother's legacy of failure, but Limbaugh could have just mailed them each a can of Right Guard if he had a problem with that, instead of putting it on air.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

No matter what they call it, it is still torture.

May 2, 2009

Iraq Coalition Casualty Count 4,283

Operation Enduring Freedom + 682

U. S. troop deaths, to date: 4,965

Daily BuzzFlash Minute
Frank Rich hit the nail on the head again! Indeed detainees were tortured, indeed grunts following orders were prosecuted while those who ordered up torture got off scot free! But the most revealing info to come out is motive and how top officials ordered up torture in an effort to save their own rear ends! "Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: 'A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.' As higher-ups got more 'frustrated' at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, 'there was more and more pressure to resort to measures' that might produce that intelligence. In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration's ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee's memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) 'Downing Street memo,' in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.' A month after Bybee's memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on 'Meet the Press,' hyping both Saddam's W.M.D.s and the 'number of contacts over the years' between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk " We now know "what evil lurks in the hearts" of Repuglican men!!!!

Bush and His Minions Were Sharpshooting US Government Policies
The policies gone awry by the Bush regime were known years ago and noted by many people in leading newspapers . . . yet, nothing was done by the Bush GOP to stop them, instead they supported Bush -- ALL Republicans -- 100% of the time.

"Who built the moral cesspool into which this nation has sunk with its secret prisons and secret prisoners, legalized torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial or counsel?"

-- Floyd J. McKay, "Calling for Truth and Dignity in the Nation's Conduct," Seattle Times (November 16, 2005). [...]

All during the eight years of the Bush regime, they would shoot at their target and then draw the bull's eye (fix the evidence) to justify taking the first shot. This was done over and over again using the word terrorism and fear when initiating everything from the PATRIOT Act (the very name insults me even today), to listening in on private phone calls, (and, I said at the time that, understanding Bush's brain and personality, he would only be interested in politicians, Republican and Democrats and it seems I was right) to outing a CIA agent, for revenge, who tracked terrorists, to deregulation and privatization until we find ourselves, the US, behind the target, with all of the holes that nearly killed us.

The Bush GOP throughout many years of appointments due to loyalty has hurt this country in so many ways that it will take years to find out what this country has done and who did it in our name. I have to ask myself over and over again . . . how could someone like Bush, who was known to find fun in blowing up frogs with firecrackers as a youth, (a giant clue to violence against human beings) to failing what was expected of him in school, to going AWOL while serving in military, to claiming to be a cured alcoholic when he never went through any counseling or rehab, to the dirty tricks and revenge that he was known for . . . and yet, our illustrious Supreme Court saw him fit to put into the White House, while they confessed of breaking US law -- just this once -- (cough) these are the people we depend on to interpret US law . . . that five should be made responsible for their actions. And, what about all of the judges that Bush appointed? Not to forget the 3,000 appointments he made in US government and are they still there, and are they doing their job for the US citizens or for the Bush GOP? [...]

We have put our military through hell, and many lost their lives unnecessarily as well as those serving in our National Guard, who should never have been sent to Iraq. However, Bush number one also used our National Guard in Iraq. Many died in their sleep due to the harsh environment and their age, and women were dying for fear of being raped for going to the latrine at night, refused the needed water in that environment and also died in their sleep while serving under the Bush regime.

Let us never forget . . . all of those needless deaths due to a treasonous Bush GOP regime. [...]

There are still those who do not believe in accountability in US government, mostly government and the Bush GOP, I would suspect. We have to wonder why, because if Nixon had been made accountable, then Reagan and Bush made accountable for the Iran Contra affair, we would be celebrating a golden age today instead of finding ourselves flat on our backs in debt, death, and destruction brought on by Bush GOP sharpshooters and their greed for more money and power through the use of fake targets with their war against the world and their legislative war against US citizens.

Priest: The Post Doesn’t Call Waterboarding ‘Torture’ Because ‘The Bush Administration Would Dispute That’
Yesterday [April 30, 2009], during a chat with the Post’s Dana Priest, a questioner revisited the issue, specifically asking why the paper doesn’t call waterboarding “torture.” This time however, the questioner received a different (and somewhat shocking) answer. According to Priest, the Post doesn’t call waterboarding “torture” because the Bush administration doesn’t:
Q: If they are going to follow the analogy on reporting other criminal issues, why wouldn’t reporters use the term “alleged torture” or “accused of torture”? Waterboarding is torture, no one disputes it. To substitute “harsh interrogation techniques’ with regard to waterboarding is like saying “manslaughter” when the charge is “murder.”

PRIEST: Not true. The Bush administration would dispute that waterboarding is torture. That’s what the memos are all about. Torture is a crime. There is not a lot of case history to define torture.
Let’s be clear, as the questioner noted, waterboarding is torture and torture is a crime under U.S. law (as Priest acknowledged). Prominent Republicans and Democrats — from Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder — all agree. In fact, the United States “convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war” after World War II.

The Bush administration (even President Bush himself) admitted that it had authorized waterboarding on three terror suspect detainees, and the Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel memos released earlier this month confirm it.

U.S. actually did execute Japanese soldiers for waterboarding
We'll be waiting a long time, I expect, for all those right-wingers out there who claim waterboarding isn't torture to apologize to the world.

Bybee refuses to respond to Leahy’s testimony invitation.

Impeach Bybee
Bybee’s law clerks initially gave contradictory messages about how the judge would respond, but law clerk Keith Woffinden tried to clean up the confusion, telling the paper, “my impression is that there won’t be any further statements” beyond Bybee’s comments to the New York Times.

Blunt: “Just because we’re in a situation now where we vote no doesn’t mean we are the ‘party of no.’”
Blunt is claiming that they are being forced to vote no, but other Republican leaders have previously argued that consistently voting no is part of an obstructionist strategy. “What transpired . . . and will give us a shot in the arm going forward is that we are standing up on principle and just saying no,” said current House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA). NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) told House Republicans during a retreat that they needed “to get over the idea that they’re participating in legislation and ought to start thinking of themselves as ‘an insurgency’ instead.”

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