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July 08, 2005

Comments

Kav

Thanks JD. The political point scoring from both sides of the ailse seriously annoyed me yesterday. I am sorry to say that with a few exceptions most of it seemed to come from the USA with equal blame on both sides of the liberal/conservative line.

But you guys have been fighting about the war on terror for so long that I think it is very difficult to lay it down. Plus it is an incredible, emotionally charged issue.

The problem is that it seemed to devolve from a discussion of how and why the war should be fought into accusations of this and that, and shouting and smearing.

I have my own thoughts on who carries the blame for starting this but now is neither the time nor place. Now I think is the time to reclaim the debate of how and why and stop attacking anyone who disagrees with you. Unfortunately the voices that I can hear growing are the 'with us or against us' voices, which leave little room for debate and discussion. This fight is too important to allow schoolyard politics to get in the way, it always has been but we are conditioned to think in other terms.

shinobi

Wurd JD. I'm tired too. I've been having similar feelings for a while now. I think it would be really nice if there could be some kind of discussion about things without partisan rhetoric getting in the way.
But whenever anything happens both sides deflect blame to someone else. But in the end it doesn't matter whose fault it is, it matters how we are going to fix it.

I think it would be nice if we could have a discussion, a real one, about how to combat terrorism. Because regardless of whether we support or oppose Iraq/Guantanamo or any of the other actions being taken against terrorism, it seems as though they aren't really working. Maybe it is time to try some different tactics.

Chum

Trying to keep up with happenings in politics can be quite frustrating in this polarized environment, but in Blogland it is posts like this one that get me back in the fray with a new vigor.

JD started out lamenting about the need for the contrasting sides of each issue to give it a break in a time more suited for respect and condolences. Certainly a noble thought, but one that ignores the reality of a moment’s hesitation gives advantage to those that will turn any event into a rallying cry for their cause. As I read on, it became apparent that JD just couldn’t help himself in slipping in many of the talking points used by the Radio Heads that first brought him to a stark, albeit fleeting realization that pre-dispositions will always trump an innate need for understanding.

Here are some statements that led me to this conclusion:

Ultimately, the numbers do not matter to me. 37, 370, 3700 - Each number simply represents an innocent civilian that has had their life, and the lives of their loved ones, forever altered because some Islamic terrorist hates western civilization.

The numbers do matter. One is too many. Considering it is unknown who carried out the attack it is not only inflammatory to name an “Islamist terrorist” as the culprit, but to think that they did it because he “hates western civilization” is part of the reason things have gotten to where they are. If this secret group that mysteriously came forward were responsible, they said why they did it, and it had nothing to do with social differences. Remember too that the Madrid bombings were blamed on radical Islam and that turned out to not be the case.

After spending the afternoon in my car, listening to the local talk radio shows, a little Rush, a little Boortz, a little Glen Beck, and some Hannity, by the time I got back to the office, I was practically convinced that anybody that did not vote for President Bush was a member of Al-Qaeda. Then, I get on the internet at work, and meander over to O-Dub, Atrios, Kos, Media Maters, et al. and learn that mad homicidal terrorist bombings in London are President Bush's fault.

This is nothing more than the exoneration game versus the blame game. The right says “we told you so” to the liberals while the left says Bush’s policies caused the attack. Only those responsible know why they acted, so this is nothing more than posturing on both sides.

How can we be so myopic to think that this is centered around us, when we know that the terrorists despise all that free societies around the globe stand for? I guess we are supposed to believe that were it not for Iraq, these terrorists would still be going about their peaceful existence as lowly farmers, toiling in the fields for a days wages. I guess we are supposed to believe that were it not for liberals, that we would have already been able to identify, capture, and kill every known and potential terrorist on the planet, and as such, tragedies like this would no longer have occurred.

Again, your assertion of fact that terrorists simply hate free societies is more than patent stereotyping, it’s dangerous jingoism because it incites a false rallying cry when the root causes may be philosophical, cultural, and even political. The 9/11 terrorists weren’t dirt farmers. It’s unlikely those responsible in London are uneducated and poor. Karl Rove’s comment about liberal reactions to 9/11 had a meaningful aside to it. If you do not understand your enemy you will likely never defeat them. Keeping it simple (freedom haters) is great for starting an endless war, but not helpful in trying to win one.


I am tired of reading about how "Bush lied", while ignoring the intelligence from agencies all over the world that came to the same conclusions. I am tired of reading about how this is a war for oil.

Only a true believer could make this statement in light of what is now known about the lead up to the war. I don’t intend on getting into an Averroes type debate about the definition of a lie, but it is clear that a war was going to happen and it mattered little if it started based on misinformation. Only the insiders know the part oil paid in the decision to go to war, so to summarily dismiss it in light of the strategic importance it is to play in our future energy needs requires a comfortable closed mindedness.

I am tired of reading that there were no terrorists in Iraq prior to the toppling of Saddam.
I am tired of hearing about how Saddam and 9/11 were not connected, when the point was that he had a history of sponsoring and/or allowing safe harbor for Al-Qaeda within his borders.

You may be reading too many Stephen Hayes books, but to say Saddam Hussein had any connection to fundamentalists is flat out wrong. There is nothing to support this, and to say otherwise is just more grasping at straws to justify an unjust pre-emptive war. When pressed, even Bush had to admit that there were no ties.

I am tired of people thinking that the war against terrorism will be won once Osama has been captured or killed.

Who ever said this? Many on the left think it would have done much more to help avoid what happened in London than attacking Iraq might have. Osama bin Laden running free demonstrates the weakness of Bush’s plan to turn the Middle East on its head to reduce terrorism, when in fact it has been dramatically increasing.

I am tired of this "if you supported the war, then you should go enlist, you chickenhawk" argument, which is being incredibly generous to call it an argument.

It’s not an argument, it is a challenge. Fighting for something you believe in is the ultimate test of conviction. Anyone can talk the talk.

I often wonder that if we had to enter World War II in today's political climate, would we have had the spine to see it through ? I am not so sure I even know where I stand on the War on Terror anymore.

It’s hyperbole to compare what Nazi Germany was able to accomplish with what Islamic fundamentalism could ever achieve. Big problems require big responses. Measured problems required measured responses. Bush took a big response to a measured problem which turned pretty much the rest of the world off to his actions.

I find it truly sad that on a day that we should be doing everything in our power to stand strongly and resolutely at the side of one of our dearest allies, it seems our political public finds it appropriate to try to score some political points

In believing that you are a sincere and passionate person you set out to avoid making any “political points”, but ideology got in the way. Your belief system, right or wrong, is quite different from mine. I find it troubling that the right seeks solutions from the left when they pretty much use them as an opportunity to rally the base and knock down straw men. This makes the left reactionary and reluctant to offer solutions that will likely fall on deaf ears anyways. That is happens when complete control is held – you get the credit or the blame. So far it has been more of the latter than the form

Ryan Somma

Thanks for a great post JD. I found it very even-handed and considerate to both sides for its criticism of both sides. : )

I really had to keep myself in check after the event and only stick to reading the pure facts of the matter. The only personal responses I let myself read was Tony Blair's and the BBC's coverage of the victims.

But what I really wanted to do was run to the pundits, like the ones you named. I wanted to see how they were exploiting the tragedy to split America up, but it felt dirty. So I resisted the impulse to immerse myself in "shadenfreude(sp)."

I'm glad you were disgusted by the response, and that I did not need have my worst expectations fullfilled by exposing myself to their rants. Your summation is exactly what I feared, and it leaves me wondering about all of those people who's first reaction to the news was, "What should I think about this?" and turned to Limbaugh or Franken to find out.

Sphaeron

Indeed.

I ran to a few of my favorite places (here, for example) to see what was being said. I also headed to a few of the off kilter places mentioned above to see what the screwballs were saying. Plenty of closedmindeness indeed. I couldn't take much of it myself.. and really.. there's isn't a whole lot of new discussion to be had anyway. "Yep, terrorists are bad." In a nutshell, after probably a couple hours to pondering myself.. That's all I've in a nutshell that's all I've come up with.

It seems like Chum was a little peeved at what he perceives to be plenty of cheap shots on the left from JD. I'll admit, as a liberal-leaning person I felt the same way.. not peeved.. but just a little uncomfortable as what was really a very measured posting--but more of a toned-down "you frickin liberals" statement. However, as Ryan pointed out, there are plenty of shots at all (both) forms of rhetoric in that post. It's just human nature to notice and be bothered by the ones that are towards your side of the playing field. Extreme open-mindedness isn't a one way street, and sometimes I find that aspect to be elusive, even in myself.

Regardless, I think Chum had some good points--I'm wondering how provoked they really were, though.

Nussmier

I think it was a good post. I have found myself a lot lately saying how much I hate partisan politics and how I think in the end if things don't change it will lead to some serious serious problems. I do however agree with what Sphaeron said. I feel like you said don't politicize the even and then I felt like you did. As Sphaeron said maybe it is just me being touchy...

Chum

Actually I was not even a little peeved at what JD wrote. It just struck me that in even a concillatory attempt to be put aside ideological differences thy still surfaced.

It's more than just having more than one set of facts out there. Once a view is ascribed to it is near impossible to get past what is held s a self evident truth, with the word self standing out.

I saw Bill O'Reilly's opening last night and he blamed the fundamentalists and the liberal elitists, when actually he has become a world class elitist himself. He knows so many things that we who disagree just don't get that he feels he must constantly denigrate us. I've heard what he spouts over and over and even through repetition I still don't buy into the whole freedom hating evoldoer canard.

I agree with what some of what JD says, especially about Saudi Arabia. But Bush is in bed with these people. He chooses to dismantle Iraq to test out his "plant a democracy and it will grow" theory, when he could have started with a friendly country lime SA and see where it went from there.

I've heard a lot of "let's get em" from the right. Who are they? Where can we find them? If those who attacked London was a Europe group do we start bombing the Muslim area of London where the attacks occurred? Nuke an Arabian city like I've heard from the far right? Dismatle Iran and Syria?

Our options are somewhat limited from what I can tell. Our battlefields are somewhat limited to Afghanistan and Iraq as things now stand. Their theatre of operation is anywhere in the world whenever they choose. A different tack is necessary, but staying the course is the plan.

The trouble with Bush and Blair is that they got their wish with Iraq and lost their credibility in the process. I don't see any way they can put that genie back in the bottle.

Shinobi

I think Chum was right to point out the things that he did. They bothered me as well, but I think the point that JD was making was more important than whether or not he has a bias that shows in his writing.

Maybe we all (As in everyone in the world) need to work on making up our own minds based on facts instead of basing them on the opinions of others. Too bad all enlightenment has to be filtered through the tarnished lens of the media.

Kav

I liked JD's post. I would note that I disagreed with him on a few of his points, some of which Chum pointed out, but overall the thrust and tone of the post was welcome. I think it was just coloured from JD's own natural leanings.

Chum, I'd also like to make a response to part of your comment. First of all:
Remember too that the Madrid bombings were blamed on radical Islam and that turned out to not be the case.
Unless I drastically misremember you have this completely wrong. The Spanish government attempted to blame ETA and stuck to that story in the face of mounting evidence that it was indeed radical Islamist terrorists. By the time they switched they had loast the trust of the people and consequently lost the election.

Additionally can I cordially request that we all leave the 'true believer' rhetoric at the door. I am tired of it, you can easily make your point without it and all it is is patronising and inflammatory.

Having said that I miss Averroes.

JD

Chum,

It should come as no surprise to you that I am more conservative than yourself, or for that matter, most of the others on here. Did not intend to score political points, and if it came across that way, sorry. My point was that I was disgusted with all of the jabbering heads, regardless of party, which made me realize how distasteful this entire political process has become for me. In a train of thought form of writing, I may have allowed my ideology to creep in, but I will never claim to be unbiased.

First off, they are not anybody's talking points, they were my random thoughts and impressions after a long day of listening and reading various reactions.

I guess you misunderstood when I was referring to the numbers. I meant that any number greater than zero was too many. As far as the rest of that goes, I feel it is a safe assumption that this was an action taken by an Islamic terrorist. Maybe the IRA thought this would be a good time to start lobbing bombs in London again, but every indicator leads one to an educated guess that this was a terrorist action, especially since a group affiliated with Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for it. Inflammatory, more than likely. Correct, even more probably so. Do they hate western civilization? They say so, and they declared war on same, so who am I to argue with their stated views.

Patent stereotyping and dangerous jingoism? Since I do not feel like arguing, I will just agree with you. Why not? Are they freedom haters? Given the information available, it does not appear that western civilization and values are high on their list of things that they are fond of. I think western civilization ranks second only to their hatred of Israel.

You will note that I did not say Saddam and 9/11 were connected. But since Saddam who ruled his country with an iron fist allowed an Al Qaede affiliate, Ansar Al Islam to operate unfettered in the north, my simplistic mind thought that might constitute a tie to terrorism, a tie to Al Qaede even. The terrorist training camps at Salman Pak were another instance that seem to be fairly convincing evidence that Saddam was willing to allow terrorists to train right under his nose, unless the terrorists were using the airplane fuselage to practice their skills as air stewards. The fact that Saddam was offering payments to the families of Palestinian homicide bombers seems to be another apparent direct tie to terrorism. The fact that Zarqawi and Abu Nidal fled to Iraq upon being injured makes one wonder why they sought medical treatment in Iraq, of all places. I am not familiar with Stephen Hayes, but will look up his literature. Thanks for pointing out that name to me.

Chum, frankly, what is now known has no relevance to the decision being made at a particular point in time in history. What is known today might show that the decision was wrong, but being wrong and lying are not the same. I agree, given what we know now, it appears that intelligence agencies all over the world were wrong about Iraq.

A challenge, whatever you wish to call it. It is still a childish and patently unserious argument. Since I am a veteran of the first Gulf War, I will not continue to address this pseudo-argument with you. Apparently, since I have done so, I am allowed to speak to these matters.

You will note that I did not compare the actions of Nazi German to Islamic Fundamentalism, but you well know that. I was talking about the politically charged atmosphere that exists today. Would we have been able to stomach the hundreds of thousands of deaths that occurred? We lost more right honorable soldiers on the first day of WW2 than we have in Iraq.

On Bill O'Shut the Hell Up, we can agree. As it relates to the Saudi's, President Bush is not unique in his relationship with the royal family. I suspect that every American President since Henry Ford started rolling Model A's off the line has had a soft spot for the Saudi's.

JD

Kav,

I am going to be visiting over there in early September. Previously, I had been planning on meeting my brothers in Prague, but I got an email from one last night, and he thought we should spend our tourist dollars in a more deserving spot. So, London it is.

Shinobi,

We had been agreeing too much recently. I was beginning to think that one or both of us had come down with something.

Ryan,

Glad that I could help you out by suffering through the crap, and then reporting back to you. I remain, your faithful servant ... lol.

Sphaeron,

You make a fabulous point in that the things an individual agrees with tend to not make as much of an impression as those ideas that they do not agree with. I know when I am reading a newspaper article, if it comes across as even handed, or something I agree with, it does not make much of an impression, but if I read an article that seems biased or slanted against my beliefs, my blood pressure goes through the roof. You just did a better job with words explaining a phenomenon that we all experience.

JD

Chum,

There are many things you said that I do agree with, I just ran out of time. Suffice it to say I share your concerns about who and where we will have to fight these savages.

By the way, the screed that Oliver Willis put up this morning is a grade A perfect example of everything that is wrong with political discourse today.

G-Do

Bah! The punditry will try to score off anything, it's how they make money.

I'll try to be more sympathetic. The tendency of pundits to try to score off anything is not entirely their fault; it is a dehumanizing aspect of the business of punditing.

Consider! You are a pundit. You build a small audience by selling an attractive and exciting story about how the world works (a meta-narrative, as it were, like liberalism or conservatism or gangster culture or Christian reconstructionism or any of those other engrossing stories about the "real world" that normal people get obsessed with). And unless you are very talented, you don't build your story out of whole cloth; you borrow elements from other stories and also from the real world. You populate your story with real people, cast as caricatures of themselves (your audience won't know the difference, who here has actually ever met a Clinton? or a Bush?) for good or ill.

To keep your story fresh, every other day, you update it with current events; please note that what you are doing is not reporting the current events, themselves, but rather current events in light of the story. Then one day, something big happens. You don't quite know how to fit it into the story you've concocted; you are tempted to not report on it at all. But the manager comes down on you, the audience writes to ask you about why you haven't covered Big Event yet, you've got to put food on the table - well, you see where this is going. You end up selling your soul a little bit each day, for the rest of your miserable life.

Anyway, the lesson is, fuck stories.

Winston Smith

JD, I’d really like to get your take on http://www.thepoorman.net/2005/07/10/tomorrows-powerline-today/>this.

Hubris

Winston, I’ll give you my impression: L-A-M-E. It seemed to me that Hume was describing his first reaction upon seeing the futures market after the attacks, not that he felt no sense of tragedy or concern after he learned the attacks happened.

Media Matters was on quite a roll that day, since they also misrepresented another Fox dude, claiming that he said that the attack itself worked to our advantage when he was clearly saying that the fact that leaders were together and close by at the time of the attacks worked to our advantage.

I found it ironic that Atrios and Oliver Willis attacked Hume for his supposed insensitivity, when it is fairly obvious that they themselves spent the day after the attacks with their pants around their ankles, gently massaging throbbing erections as they scanned Fox News for any opening for attack.

Similarly, bloggers on the right seemed to spend their time looking for any sign of leftists having a reaction that could be twisted into the worst meaning possible (believe it or not, I spent time on Friday defending Eric Alterman).

I think this is the kind of crap JD was talking about.

Winston Smith

Hubris, much as I respect your judgment, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, since I found Hume’s musings repulsive.
As to the other Fox story, Kilmeade and Varney’s comments don’t even make any sense unless you accept their unstated premise: dopey world leaders who are fucking around with nonsense like (“believe it or not”) global warning and aid to Africa oughta smarten up and—like George Bush, I guess—make some truculent noises or invade somebody. Many don’t accept that premise. I’m one. In fact between the IRA, the Basques, the Red Brigades, their proximity to the Mideast and their substantial Islamic and Arab populations, they’ve long been http://crookedtimber.org/2003/07/10/war-on-terror-the-ripple-effect/> acutely aware of their vulnerabilities. Implying Europeans aren’t or haven’t been serious about their own security and monitoring jihadist threats is patronizing, insulting, parochial and supplies yet another reason to regard us as insufferable jackasses.

Hubris

...since I found Hume’s musings repulsive.

If you believe that Hume is not only totally lacking humanity, but so severely mentally retarded as to reveal that absolute lack of compassion on the air, then yes, we will have to disagree.

As to the other Fox story, Kilmeade and Varney’s comments don’t even make any sense unless you accept their unstated premise: dopey world leaders who are fucking around with nonsense like (“believe it or not”) global warning and aid to Africa oughta smarten up and—like George Bush, I guess—make some truculent noises or invade somebody.

Please point me to the part where Kilmeade separated Bush from the other world leaders. Maybe I missed it.

Implying Europeans aren’t or haven’t been serious about their own security and monitoring jihadist threats is patronizing, insulting, parochial and supplies yet another reason to regard us as insufferable jackasses.

Again, show me where Kilmeade isolated the Europeans.

Even if he did and I'm not aware of it, for the Europeans to judge us based on the utterances of one blow-dried news anchor would be, I daresay, strangely patronizing and parochial.

Curtis Erhart

By the way, did anyone read that Washington Post article on how the French are far tougher on Terrorism than we are? Here it is if you haven't:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A17082-2004Nov1?language=printer

This kind of thing I think is the direction I would like us to go in (albeit not quite as far perhaps) rather than trying to politically remake other countries. It seems to be more effective and leaves us less open to comitting condemnable acts ourselves. Granted that it is impossible to confront radical Islam without comitting some condemnable acts, but the fewer the better, obviously.

Hubris

Curtis, good to see you.

Winston, sorry that my last comment was snarky. We're in an area of opinion where I don't think we'll convince each other or prove each other wrong. Agree to disagree is fine by me.

Winston Smith

You weren't snarky. In fact, you're always completely fact-based, rational and respectful of others. It's quite irritating, really.

Hubris

Thanks Winston.

UNITY!

Curtis Erhart

My two cents on Hume.

When you see that futures are down, and you know they're down because 50+ people were blown up on a train, "hmmm...time to buy" is a dick-ish thing to say.

Having said that, trying to portray Hume as scurrying to the financial reports immediately upon hearing the news of the attacks, looking for ways to personally profit is very unfair.

Can Ms. Latihfa sing now?

U - N - I - T - Y

Peace

I am expecting a baby girl in two weeks. I mention this because I am more than a little out of touch these days as I am immersed in the world of tiny cute things (oh how adorable!!!) and certified lactation consultants (apparently, lactation is a requirement b/c I haven't found a male one yet). News of the London bombings reached me of course, but I didn't surf for reactions. I did catch Tony Blair's speech on the news. But I tuned just about everything else out. Pregnant women are always being nagged about maintaining serenity for the sake of their baby's health. Very shortly all my female relatives will descend on my house and, well, lord help me. I much prefer the rough and tumble world of traditionally male dominated global politics to the politics of the kitchen. If you think the talking heads are vicious and soul destroying try having a civilized discussion with someone who views the way a potato is peeled as a moral issue.

All that aside, this is just an idea I have been musing over for a while. I just want to see what others think. Granted I have the benefit of posting after more has been learned (supposedly!?) about the perpetrators of the London bombings.

There is this idea that suicide bombers and terrorists are poor. But actually it just isn't so. Keep in mind that poor is a relative term. (That's why Chris Rock's joke about Bill Gates slitting his throat if he woke up with Oprah's money is so damn funny.) So are terrorists poor compared to most Westerners? Maybe; that's debatable too. But all the available evidence indicates that terrorists are not poor relative to members of their own societies.

Okay, so why should we care? Here's where my musing take me: Attitudes about class are so deeply ingrained that our thinking becomes mired in a perspective that thwarts solutions to the very problems we are so desperate to solve. Crime and terrorism are prime examples of problems that are viewed thru a lens clouded with class bias.

This is not one of those namby-pamby-liberal-if-we-all-just-had-an -even-playing-field-it-would-be-an -utopia-for-all arguments. Keep an open mind. I'm not trying to advocate wealth redistribution, but rather that we try to look at terrorism without class bias.

I'm an economist and one of the things I love to do is collect economic statistics and compare those statistics with political views. One of the really interesting aspects of wealth is the issue of exposure. Money buys access not just to politicians, but to culture, education, and politics itself. Think about it. If you really are dirt poor and your every waking thought is consumed with survival, do you have any time for politics?

So how is it that terrorists are poor? I do not think they are. No. These are people who have access to politics, and not only that, they feel comfortable leaving their families in order to learn bombing techniques or to immerse themselves in a radical education or whatever. If you really felt your family's very survival was dependent on your labor, your family needed you to put meat on the table, would you be a soldier? Would you be engaged in politics? When it really is a life and death issue, politics don't even enter our thinking.

It is interesting to me that we continually link the evil of terrorism with poverty. Especially given that there is no more of a causal link between poverty and evil than there is between evil and wealth.

I actually think that terrorists have a large sense of entitlement; call it a belief in a divine right to certain kind of life. I don't think the truly poor ever develop that kind of entitlement attitude. Those kinds of feelings require a certain amount of affluence.

In my younger days I did a lot of volunteer work with "disadvantaged" youth. I was astounded with their lack of exposure to the broader world and the tunnel vision it created. There really was an almost innate class bias that virtually locked them into poverty.

But bias isn't unique to the poor; you actually find it in every class. Many different forms and shades. In wealthier groups, it tends to take the form of a sense of entitlement. For whatever reason most of us do not like to feel at once blessed and undeserving. So among the wealthy you tend to find a sense of entitlement to a wealthy lifestyle. I am blessed with money therefore I must be worthy of it. That person is less wealthy and therefore less deserving. It is no more real than the poverty bias. I am simplifying for the sake of argument. The biases are really more complex.

What is interesting to me is how the bias of our class upbringing limits our thinking. It is easier for me to see how problem solving is thwarted by the poverty bias. The kids I worked with often refused to consider various life options for a reason that basically boiled down to "people like me don't do that".

So I wonder how the biases that tend to come with affluence interfere with problem solving. And how do those biases cloud our thinking when it comes to terrorism?

I don't think terrorism is an issue of haves vs. have-nots. I think the problem is really more of a conflict between two groups of relative affluence fighting over limited resources (both tangible and intangible) with rather large senses of entitlement.

So I wonder what would happen if any of the parties to this conflict managed to think outside their bias. Could we come up with a solution everyone could live with?

Peace

But, G-Do, would you take the gig if you could get it?

G-Do

Get you behind me, Satan.

(I mean that very affectionately, BTW)

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