Archive for category Joe Biden

The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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What Foreign Policy Debate?

Afghan poll
Washington Post/ABC Poll

The problem with tonight’s presidential foreign policy debate is that both major political parties are committed to the almost the exact same foreign policy. Despite the fact most Americans are against it.

E-mail from RootsAction:

Even the New York Times has reversed its position of over 11 years and editorialized for withdrawal from Afghanistan now.

The crowd at the Republican National Convention cheered for immediate withdrawal when Clint Eastwood and Senator Rand Paul proposed it.

The U.K. and other allies are speeding up their withdrawal plans.

A strong majority of Americans has favored withdrawal in polls for years now.

And who’s left favoring two more years of war, followed by 10 more years of lower-level war?

These guys: Obama, Romney, Biden, and Ryan.

Tell them to give up on endless war in Afghanistan.

The military-industrial complex shouldn’t get to have two candidates for president.

UPDATE: What Jill Stein would say if she were allowed to debate tonight:

“We support a Green New Deal, which will put everyone back to work, at the same time that it puts a halt to climate change and it makes wars for oil obsolete.”

I’d be surprised if we hear the term “climate change” tonight from either Romney or Obama.

UPDATE: Suddenly Centrist Romney Repeatedly Praises Obama’s Foreign Policy In Debate

NYT: “Mr. Romney’s problem is that he does not actually have any real ideas on foreign policy beyond what President Obama has already done, or plans to do.”

UPDATE: Presidential debate on foreign policy: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney engage in titanic struggle to locate major differences between each other

Obama boasts of the massive amount of military spending under his presidency. Romney then says he wants to spend more. It is inconceivable that anyone would suggest that spending almost more than all other countries on the planet combined is excessive. That is the election in a nutshell.

…A primary reason this debate is so awful is because DC media people like Bob Scheiffer have zero interest in challenging any policy that is embraced by both parties, and since most foreign policies are embraced by both parties, he has no interest in challenging most of the issues that are relevant: drones, sanctions, Israel, etc.

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VP Biden: ‘Take Responsibility’

That’s my take-away from tonight’s vice-presidential debate. Vice President Biden kept asking Congressman Ryan to take responsibility for the nation’s well-being, something the Republicans in Congress have conspicuously refused to do. Their plan has been to sabotage the economy and try to blame the Obama administration.

VP Biden nailed Ryan on his faux concern for the middle class:

Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy. Show me a policy where you take responsibility.

And by the way, they talk about this Great Recession as if it fell out of the sky, like, oh my goodness, where did it come from? It came from this man voting to put two wars in a credit card, to at the same time put a prescription drug benefit on the credit card, a trillion- dollar tax cut for a — very wealthy. I was there. I voted against him. I said, no, we can’t afford that. And now all of a sudden these guys are so seized with a concern about the debt that they created —

Biden went after Ryan on his party’s obsession with tax cuts for the rich.

“Instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us not to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we’re going to level the playing field,” the vice president said.

“It’s about time they took responsibility,” he added.

Now that Ryan is running in a national election, he won’t say what plans he and Willard (“Mitt”) Romney have. He won’t give details or accept any responsibility for tax policy, the budget, national security or foreign policy. In contrast, VP Biden kept emphasizing that President Obama has taken responsibility and made some hard decisions that turned out pretty well.

In all, Biden used the word “responsibility” 13 times. Rep. Ryan used it once, in his closing statement – “We will take responsibility,” Ryan said defensively. But he was referring to a hypothetical future, not now.

Moderator Martha Raddatz deserves credit for excellent follow-up questions, especially on foreign policy. Also for ignoring the rule against addressing Ryan as “congressman.” But she said, “Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke.” That’s false.

More info:
Transcript: Biden-Ryan Vice Presidential Debate
At The Vice Presidential Debate: Ryan Told 24 Myths In 40 Minutes
Biden says Romney revealed true self with ’47 percent’ remarks
ThinkProgress Liveblogs The Vice Presidential Debate

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Free Bradley Manning!

I really hate associating myself with Michael Moore or Bradley Manning with an insignificant post, because I’m not anywhere near worthy, but:

From Michael Moore:

A Man in Tunisia, a Movement on Wall Street, and the Soldier Who Ignited the Fuse

Protesters chant slogans against the political party of former President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on January 21, 2011. The city was where Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit seller, had a confrontation with a municipal inspector that eventually led to his self-immolation in front of the governor’s office in protest. The act fatally burned Bouazizi and is said to have sparked the protests that toppled President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali’s government.

It’s Saturday night and I didn’t want the day to end before I sent out this note to you.

One year ago on December 17th, Mohamed Bouazizi, a man who had a simple produce stand in Tunisia, set himself on fire to protest his government’s repression. His singular sacrifice ignited a revolution that toppled Tunisia’s dictator and launched revolts in regimes across the Middle East.

Three months ago on December 17th, Occupy Wall Street began with a takeover of New York’s Zuccotti Park. This movement against the greed of corporate America and its banks — and the money that now controls most of our democratic institutions — has quickly spread to hundreds of towns and cities across America. The majority of Americans now agree that a nation where 400 billionaires have more wealth than 160 million Americans combined is not the country they want America to be. The 99% are rising up against the 1% — and now there is no turning back.

Twenty-four years ago on December 17th, U.S. Army Spc. Bradley Manning was born. He has now spent 570 days in a military prison without a trial — simply because he allegedly blew the whistle on the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. He exposed what the Pentagon and the Bush administration did in creating this evil and he did so by allegedly leaking documents and footage to Wikileaks. Many of these documents dealt not only with Iraq but with how we prop up dictators around the world and how our corporations exploit the poor on this planet. (There were even cables with crazy stuff on them, like one detailing Bush’s State Department trying to stop a government minister in another country from holding a screening of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.’)

The Wikileaks trove was a fascinating look into how the United States conducts its business — and clearly those who don’t want the world to know how we do things in places like, say, Tunisia, were not happy with Bradley Manning.

Mohamed Bouazizi was being treated poorly by government officials because all he wanted to do was set up a cart and sell fruit and vegetables on the street. But local police kept harassing him and trying to stop him. He, like most Tunisians, knew how corrupt their government was. But when Wikileaks published cables from the U.S. ambassador in Tunis confirming the corruption — cables that were published just a week or so before Mohamed set himself on fire — well, that was it for the Tunisian people, and all hell broke loose.

People across the world devoured the information Bradley Manning revealed, and it was used by movements in Egypt, Spain, and eventually Occupy Wall Street to bolster what we already thought was true. Except here were the goods — the evidence that was needed to prove it all true. And then a democracy movement spread around the globe so fast and so deep — and in just a year’s time! When anyone asks me, “Who started Occupy Wall Street?” sometimes I say “Goldman Sachs” or “Chase” but mostly I just say, “Bradley Manning.” It was his courageous action that was the tipping point — and it was not surprising when the dictator of Tunisia censored all news of the Wikileaks documents Manning had allegedly supplied. But the internet took Manning’s gift and spread it throughout Tunisia, a young man set himself on fire and the Arab Spring that led eventually to Zuccotti Park has a young, gay soldier in the United States Army to thank.

And that is why I want to honor Bradley Manning on this, his 24th birthday, and ask the millions of you reading this to join with me in demanding his immediate release. He does not deserve the un-American treatment, including cruel solitary confinement, he’s received in over eighteen months of imprisonment. If anything, this young man deserves a friggin’ medal. He did what great Americans have always done — he took a bold stand against injustice and he did it without stopping for a minute to consider the consequences for himself.

The Pentagon and the national security apparatus are hell-bent on setting an example with Bradley Manning. But we as Americans have a right to know what is being done in our name and with our tax dollars. If the government tries to cover up its malfeasance, then it is the duty of each and every one of us, should the situation arise, to drag the truth, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the light of day.

The American flag was lowered in Iraq this past Thursday as our war on them officially came to an end. If anyone should be on trial or in the brig right now, it should be those men who lied to the nation in order to start this war — and in doing so sent nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to their deaths.

But it is not Bush or Rumsfeld or Cheney or Wolfowitz who sit in prison tonight. It is the hero who exposed them. It is Bradley Manning who has lost his freedom and that, in turn, becomes just one more crime being committed in our name.

I know, I know, c’mon Mike — it’s the holiday season, there’s presents to buy and parties to go to! And yes, this really is one of my favorite weeks of the year. But in the spirit of the man whose birth will be celebrated next Sunday, please do something, anything, to help this young man who spends his birthday tonight behind bars. I say, enough. Let him go home and spend Christmas with his family. We’ve done enough violence to the world this decade while claiming to be a country that admires the Prince of Peace. The war is over. And a whole new movement has a lot to thank Bradley Manning for.

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VP Joe Biden Explains Marginal Income Tax to GOP

This is priceless, but they asked for it. A millionaire’s surtax is merely a tax on the first dollar after $1 million in income, and every dollar on top of that. That’s how marginal income tax rates work. Republicans don’t seem to get that, so our Vice President decided to explain it to them.

“If you make $1.1 million, and God-willing this passes, you would pay next year, $500 more in taxes,” Biden said.

Biden claimed the average income of people who earn more than $1 million a year is $3 million. The jobs bill would cost a person making that much money $10,000 in 2013 — exactly one-third of one-percent of his total income.

“I say to the American people: watch your senator,” Biden said. “Watch him or her choose: Are you going to put 400,000 school teachers back in classrooms; are you going to put 18,000 cops back on the street, and 7,000 firefighters back into firehouses? OR are you going to save people with average income over $1 million a one-half of one-percent increase in tax on every dollar they make over a million?”

Of course, this lesson will fall on deaf ears. The Tea-GOP is going Galt, telling companies not to hire anybody until there’s a Republican in the White House.

More info: As Wages Dropped For Most Americans, Number Of People Making More Than $1 Million A Year Rose 20 Percent

UPDATE: And in the Senate tonight, the Party of NO said… no. They filibustered again. So state and local government will cut another 400,000 employees. In the last election, when the Republicans said it was all about “jobs-jobs-jobs” they weren’t kidding– they just forgot to say that their plan was to eliminate jobs!

UPDATE: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was going to give us a lecture on income inequality today, but decided to cancel.

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Donald Trump Becomes Butt-Faced Mascot of Republican Party at White House Correspondents Dinner

It is bad to say Trump is Obama’s new “Butt Boy?”

I love the African Prince.

 

Seth Meyers coming.

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American Greatness Liberalism

Courtesy of EJ Dionne:

For Republicans, American power is rooted largely in military might and showing a tough and resolute face to the world. They would rely on tax cuts as the one and only spur to economic growth.

Obama, Biden and the Democrats, on the other hand, believe that American power depends ultimately on the American economy, and that government has an essential role to play in fostering the next generation of growth.[snip]

. . . Obama’s approach is not about old-fashioned Democratic spending. It’s about patriotism, competing successfully, investing to maintain American economic leadership. John F. Kennedy provided a slogan for such an effort 50 years ago: “Let’s get America moving again.”

Steve Benen:

To keep America on top, the government is going to have to make real investments and establish a new foundation for growth. Republicans are staunchly opposed to making those investments and don’t see the need for such a foundation.

So, let’s have the debate, and take it out of the left-right dynamic and put it the global-competition dynamic. Why not make it the centerpiece of the 2010 elections?

I’ve long believed it creates an opportunity for American Greatness Liberalism — progressive ideas, investments, and priorities needed to keep the U.S. on top for the long haul.

Obama/Biden have a plan to maintain American preeminence in the 21st century; Republicans don’t. Voters can decide whether to look forward or backward.

(Emphasis added)

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Before Piss Tests; There Was Woodstock!

A very large group of the worlds most pampered, mostly white, youth descended upon Max Yasgar’s ranch forty years ago to watch a mixture of races perform. Although originally, the concert was organized to make money for investors, it became obvious that there was no way they had the resources to gather tickets. The concert became free for lack of walls.

I imagine all participants who attended had the ability to return to their jobs, accepting their employers weren’t angry enough about the incident to take action.

Update:

You can download the directors cut of the movie in iTunes by going to the store and typing “Woodstock” in the search box at the top right. It really is a great document of a much different time. I saw it when I was 17 years old, but didn’t really understand what was going on. I enjoyed it much more with the retrospective time gives.

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Congress Should Repeal DOMA

Glenn Greenwald, while recognizing that there are higher priorities for the incoming administration, says the time has come to ask Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). An editorial in today’s Washington Post says it’s “time to press Washington to move in the right direction” on DOMA in response to California’s Prop 8 fiasco, and similar unfair and unconstitutional discriminatory measures in Florida and Arizona.

From Greenwald’s post:

Legalizing gay marriage remains very controversial. But extending marriage-based government benefits equally to same-sex couples — which is all repealing DOMA, especially Section 3, would do — is not particularly controversial.

How is it possible to argue otherwise in light of polls which conclusively prove that majorities of Americans favor (and have long favored) such policies, as well as — more persuasively still — the fact that the country just elected, by a landslide, a President who condemned DOMA as an “abhorrent law” and vowed emphatically to repeal it, while his Vice President said, in the debate watched by tens of millions of Americans: “in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.” That statement didn’t create even a ripple of controversy, nor did Obama’s emphatic opposition to DOMA.

We have to restore the Constitution of the United States of America. While we’re at it, let’s have Congress make warrantless surveillance illegal again and bring back habeas corpus. Torture is already illegal, and our new President can end that with an executive order.

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Election memories

When I was a child, election night was a strange mystery. My parents disappeared soon after dinner and didn’t return until they done the arcane process of voting. It simply happened.

The first election of which I have any memories was 1976. I thought Jimmy Carter’s smile was too broad and Gerald Ford was too grim. By 1980, I was paying more attention. I remember feeling that Carter – a fundamentally decent man – had been done wrong by Reagan in some unnameable way. I said to my mother I thought Reagan should give Carter a job in his new administration.

By 1984, I was, sadly, a Reagan supporter even though I liked both Mondale and Ferraro.

In 1988 I voted for the first time. Jack Kemp spoke at Grinnell College; I attended and was impressed at his fierce honesty, the way in which he knew he was in a space in which people disagreed with him and yet he was there to speak. I sent in an absentee ballot. Same in 1990. FWIW, in 1988 I voted Bush-Quayle to be contrary. Living in Iowa, I figured my Utah vote didn’t matter.

1992 I was living in Virginia.

By 1994 I was back in Utah and proudly walked from my apartment downtown to my polling place after work and gladly voted. In 1996, I pulled the lever (well, punched the card) for Dole (and regretted it immediately) but voted straight ticket Democratic for every other race. I figured my Presidential vote didn’t matter in Utah. I have not voted for any Republican since 1996.

1998 I voted straight ticket D for every race.

In 2000, I went to my polling place after work, waited in line and then proudly and confidently voted for Gore – and down ticket I voted straight party Democratic. 2002 was another straight ticket year for me. I was by 2002 so thoroughly disgusted with Bush and the Republicans I realized I might never again find a Republican I could vote for.

In 2004 I volunteerd with Paul van Dam’s senate campaign and I loved every minute of it. My friend Dina Blaes ran from Salt Lake County Council (and sadly lost). There was something powerful about stepping into the voting booth in 2004 and seeing a name I knew on the ballot. Seeing the candidate I saw in the office, the candidate for whom I’d made phone calls and for whom I’d delivered yard signs. I punched the card proudly and confidently for the Democratic ticket that year – for van Dam, for Kerry-Edwards, for Matheson-Hale for governor. Peter Corroon for County Mayor – someone I’d seen on the campaign trail repeatedly.

2006 was a great night (you can find my election blogging here on OneUtah). I proudly voted for Pete Ashdown for Senate and somewhat reluctantly for Matheson for Congress (I get that Jim Matheson is a good guy, I don’t think he’s a good Democrat).

My 2007 city election blogging and actions are recounted in detail on OneUtah as well. Ralph won.

So here we are in 2008. Twenty years since I first cast a ballot.

As the Bush Administration had staggered through its second term like a common drunk on the bender to end all benders, I’ve watched in despair at the destruction they’ve wrought. Ruinous wars, insane budgets, destructive social policies. It’s time for a new start, a New Deal one might say.

I voted early – mid morning at the County Complex. Obama-Biden. Springmeyer-Valdez. Corroon. Matheson. Rebecca Chavez-Houck. Jean Welch for attny general. I voted for Randy Horiuchi even though I don’t really like him. I voted for both the County Props.

In a few days, election 2008 will be a memory. Soon George W. Bush will vacate the Oval Office and maybe we will miss him, but we want to miss him.

I hope November 5, I can wake up and say, “Barack Obama – President-elect.”

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Closing Arguments

I heard a bit of Biden’s speech today. He said (to paraphrase) we can no longer be a red country and a blue country. We are one nation, under God, indivisible. Get up and take back this country we love. This summarizes the final message from Obama/Biden. The desire is to end the schisms of red and blue and bring all sides together.

The McCain/Palin closing argument is as disjointed as has been their entire campaign. And it continues the drumbeat of fear, lies, distortions, and fails to tell us what they stand for. Bottom line, their closing argument is to campaign AGAINST Obama/Biden, and not campaign FOR anything.

Judge for yourself which one is preparing to take office and move forward to serve the people of this country.

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Biden Won the Debate

Yesterday I wrote:

Palin, tonight, has to prove to the people who are tuning in to laugh at her that she’s not a punchline. She actually has to prove tonight that she knows things. Sarah Palin has to prove that she can rise to the challenge of leading a nation in which the overwhelming majority feel we are heading in the wrong direction. “Connecting” with the audience isn’t good enough. Her “down home” style isn’t enough. Tonight, Sarah Palin has to prove she’s ready to be Vice President; simply not failing is insufficient to do that.

Last night, Palin managed to not fail. She didn’t drool on herself, she wasn’t a gibbering idiot, she delivered a few canned one-liners, she avoided any moose in the headlights moments. Palin’s performance last night was about what I expected of her – although even I was surprised when she announced in essence, “I won’t be answering your questions tonight. I’ll talk about what I want to talk about.” Palin stuck closely to her script. In normal times, she’d be fine. We don’t live in normal times. Palin had the misfortune to share the stage with Joe Biden.

And Biden was on fire last night. He brought his A game and it showed. He was confident, knowledgeable, and clear. He knows his stuff. He hit the McCain ticket hard and did a good job of tying them to Bush.

At the end of the day, Biden demonstrated that he is able to rise to the challenge of leading the nation if need be.

Biden Seeing Son Off to Iraq

Biden Seeing Son Off to Iraq

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