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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in "A.J. Rose" (Jonathan)'s LiveJournal:

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Friday, March 21st, 2008
10:19 am
Irresponsible Prediction

Plenty of idle speculation on very little info in the passport files breach...so, heck, I believe I'll briefly join in. If and when we know the full story -- probably way too late to make a difference -- I suspect we will find we are seeing two things here:

(1) Actual snooping on the necessarily-extensive passport file of Sen. Barack Obama (which file started in his childhood, natch) in hopes of finding something to damage his campaign; and

(2) "False-flagging," meant to divert suspicion towards the Clinton campaign as being behind the breaches.

There were three breaches of the Obama file: two of them punished by firing without the benefit of an Inspector General's investigation -- and once fired, people are no longer subject to the IG's questioning -- and a third breacher only disciplined, so he or she can be questioned, who also breached Sen. McCain's file. (The breach of Sen. Clinton's own file is alleged to be, and could well be, a training mistake, immediately rectified.) If I hadda predict, I'd predict that breachers one and two of the Obama file will prove impossible to follow up on, but that breacher three -- who has conveniently snooped on both of Sen. Clinton's opponents, and can also still be questioned -- will end up either "confessing to," or looking really guilty as having done, the dirty deed on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

This is the single most classic Karl Rove technique, btw, according to the film, and book, Bush's Brain: Do something bad in a way that suggests your opponent did it, and reap the benefits of public sympathy. Rove is alleged to have done this all the way back to his own assumption (and/or "stealing") of the post of chair of College Republicans, through several political campaigns (like the one where a listening device was "found" in his candidate's office), and through the revelation of candidate George W. Bush's drunk-driving arrest in his first presidential campaign...the source of which, I believe, was in fact revealed to be Rove, long after people felt bad about the Gore campaign for having presumably done it.

Idle speculation on my part to link the two; I have no way to know what happened. If it was all just "imprudent curiosity," okay, fair enough. If a genuine Clinton partisan was involved, nobody will denounce it more than I will. But I have to tell you, the mere diversion of suspicion to the Clinton campaign ain't gonna cut it with me, because that's how these guys operate, is the thing. Spy on Obama, see what you find, tell no one...then, after it's well covered-up, "false-flag" a followup that targets McCain and Obama, and yell "Hillary! How could you?!"

So there it is: today's Tinfoil Hat Report. Doubtless I'm being paranoid. Let's hope so. :(

93 93/93 -- AJ

P.S. In 1992, when George H.W. Bush was President, candidate Bill Clinton's passport file was hacked, in an attempt to prove he traveled to Russia as a student. A special prosecutor was appointed to look into the breach; one extensively interviewed in recent days about these new breaches. That "independent" prosecutor? (who finally found no wrongdoing after three years): Joseph DiGenova: husband of Victoria Toensing, and the both of them famous Clinton-haters on TV during the Lewinsky scandal. These. Guys. Don't. Take. Chances. :P

More on the independent, non-partisan Mr. DiGenova -- presented, like his wife, as an unbiased expert, each defending Karl Rove's role in what became the Libby case:

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008
7:47 pm
Quick tiptoe through a minefield ;)

Senator Barack Obama lost Mississippi's white vote last night by like 70-30. He won 91% of the black vote, hence the primary itself. This has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with race, and only a KKK, stone-racist David Duke type would think otherwise.

Does that sound reasonable to you? Well, we're walking a minefield, so let's walk careful-like.

Of all the stupid things that can be said, the idea that (as Orrin Hatch has often suggested, in effect) black people have it too darned good in this country is perhaps the stupidest. Black skin is, even today, a serious disadvantage in this country, no question about it.

That said, at certain times and under certain circumstances and in certain company, blackness can in fact give one an edge: rare as hell, but it happens. To call such an observation "racist" is to rob the word of its meaning. Barack Obama was elected to the United States Senate straight out of the Illinois legislature -- but (as maxomai instructed me) this has everything to do with the divorce-scandal meltdowns of both his primary and general election opponents, so let's leave that one out of our equation. Before that had even happened, though, this unknown state legislator was given the stellar honor of delivering the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Party Convention -- traditionally a tryout spot for Presidential contenders of the future -- and after serving a mere two years in the Senate, announced his candidacy for President.

Obama is a politician of quite extraordinary gifts: oceans of charm, tons of charisma, wonderful public speaking skills, you name it; and his campaign has, to this point, been one of the most effective ever seen in American life. His chief opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton, has by contrast run one of the worst campaigns in living memory, quite aside from her years of "high negatives," and her general failure to "present well" as likable, warm, human, and so forth. Obama is trouncing Clinton because he deserves to, in at least the political-campaigner sense: he's done so well, and she's done so poorly. Let's not lose sight of any of that.

Some folks -- former VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro, for example -- are really frustrated at this state of affairs, not least because (they argue) normally a state legislator who walked into the U.S. Senate and after serving two years there decided to run for President would be engaged in an impossible act of hubris: nobody (they argue) would give such a person a second thought as a serious candidate. Hence Ferraro's comments, now widely decried as racist, that Obama wouldn't be in this position were he not black. Finally, then, to the point of this post.

* Had Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro been Congressman Gerard Ferraro, he would never have been considered, much less nominated, for VP in 1984. That's simply a fact. (It's also a quote from Ferraro.)

* Had Hillary Clinton run for Senate from New York without having been First Lady to President Bill Clinton, she'd have been laughed out of town. That, too, is simply a fact.

Such are the accidents of politics, in given times, circumstances, and company. It takes nothing away from these gifted politicians to note that once upon a time, they got a "lucky" leg-up, a break not available without some accidental quality they possessed. That's how I, anyway, took Ferraro's statements about Barack Obama: "Normally a first-term Senator with two years' experience wouldn't have a prayer at reaching the White House, however gifted he might be; and in a lot of these races, the black vote is proving to be key. Hence, he's lucky (in this instance) to be black."

I'll take it one step further, and this one does involve real racism:

* For my money, if Barack Obama weren't half-white -- and in particular didn't "present" with so many of the mannerisms and speech patterns of elegant white privilege -- he wouldn't have a prayer at the White House, even this year. America isn't "post-racial," but it would like to believe that it is, and a Kenyan-American law professor who reads like the reincarnation of Jack Kennedy is just what the doctor ordered, on that score.

What Ferraro said was extraordinarily stupid, however frustrated she is, and whatever truth there is to what she said. The answer to "X wouldn't be winning elections if it weren't for accidental quality Y" is always gonna be, "Yeah? So what? He's lucky. Deal with it." (Try, "That JFK is just lucky he's so handsome and well-mannered," or even, to reduce it to the absurd, "That John McCain is just lucky he was tortured by the North Vietnamese" -- each stupid comments, whatever limited truth-value they possess in a political context.) But was Ferraro's underlying assertion untrue, or racist? For my money, no, it wasn't.

Finally, let me note my fear that this constant airing of Obama-supporters' cries of racism (as well as their general tone of contempt for those who disagree with them) could destroy much of the Obama magic, perhaps threaten his campaign itself. The Mississippi results cited above could just be, well, Mississippi...but if Obama transforms into the hypersensitive black candidate in the roiling mind of whitey, it won't serve any Democrat's interests at all -- least of all his own.*

93 93/93 -- AJ

* For the disturbing view that Obama's campaign has deliberately "played the race card" from the beginning, see:
I tend to doubt it, but if true, it's an extremely unwise tactic, IMO, and quite likely to backfire. Anyway, were I the Obama folks, I'd shut up about race, starting, well, weeks ago. :(
Tuesday, March 4th, 2008
2:57 am
Quadrennial Suicide Pact :/

Every four years, the Democratic Party goes through an ever-more-complicated regimen of primaries and caucuses, with one goal in mind: to winnow out of a large field of able candidates the single least electable one, and proceed to nominate them for President.1 This doesn't always work: sometimes the GOP has been so bad that a Dem gets in anyway (e.g., Bill Clinton) -- but more usually it's Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and so forth. Anyway, that field has come down to the two I predicted thirteen months ago:


...and while I'm a fan of neither (though Senator Clinton sure looks better when you see who hates her, much as the impeachment made Bill more popular), I thought you guys might enjoy a quick nod at reality before the game is over. Here it be.

I've long realized that most people are hearing a different speech from Senator Obama than I am. He's a fine speaker, particularly (and maybe not coincidentally?) when Ted Sorensen was hanging around with him, but -- putting it charitably2 -- I don't believe most Dems are paying sufficient attention to what he's actually saying, in his occasional descents from glittering generalities to some few specifics. To take just the most prominent example: he promises that he's a better candidate because instead of the hateful, strife-filled politics of the past, he'll bring a new spirit of across-the-aisle cooperation.

Now, given that it wasn't Democrats spearheading such slash-and-burn partisanship -- ever, but especially in the last several decades -- there are only two ways this promise can be kept. Either, (a) Senator Obama plans to put something in the water to get the GOP to give up its policies, beliefs, general competitiveness, partisanship, and what have you; or (b) Senator Obama plans, on behalf of the Democratic Party, at a time when the public is leaning toward some Democratic solutions3, to compromise Democratic positions in favor of the GOP preferences, wherever he can. I mean, it's pretty obvious when you think about it.

Want some evidence of which it is? Go here for Obama's record:


Look, I don't disagree with all his positions myself...and in any case, I was an Edwards man, hence have no horse left in this race; and federal judges being so crucial, I'll doubtless vote for the Democrat, whomever it proves to be. But well, y'know, a word to the wise 'n' all; "footnotes for philosophers," as it were. :D

93 93/93 -- AJ

1. The Republican process is exactly the opposite. They know that most folks don't want most of what they're selling, so they have to find someone electable...even if, as this time, they don't much like him.
2. This is the polite version of this post, btw, which began as an annoyed lampoon of both "Barrage Odrama" and "Chillary Flinton." Quick excerpt:
ODRAMA: "Some people seem to feel...that you folks are, uhh, hypnotized. Are you hypnotized?"
ODRAMA: "So you can still, uhh, think for yourselves?"
You get the idea. Anyway, cooler reflection prevailed. ;) Peace to all beings.
3. The conspiracy-minded might wonder at the fantastically-swift course Sen. Obama has had: into the U.S. Senate virtually without opposition, then immediately into the Presidential race. True, 90% of his donors are small donors, but 50% of his actual money comes from the other 10% (les chats grands). Some who favor tinfoil hats might suggest that the GOP belatedly realized that the current President had so screwed up, well, everything -- so harmed the GOP "brand" -- that even Sen. Clinton might prove electable. Voila: a Democrat who vows to "end partisan bickering" and thereby give the GOP much of what it wants without a fight.

Current Mood: contemplative
Saturday, October 6th, 2007
2:52 am
Oh, Noes!..."Nudged"! :)
93, all!

For those who care either way (and especially that stalwart who took the time to LJ-"nudge" me about it -- bless you for your interest! :) ), please be aware that I'm doing the Greater Magical Retirement thang at the moment: withdrawing for a bit to catch up, catch my breath, take stock, meditate, and so forth: "feeding the machine," as it were.

In the meantime, thanks for the interest of such as find this stuff interesting; I won't feel hurt in the slightest if folks want to cut my LJ for lack of traffic; and I loves you all bunches, 24/7/365-1/4. :D

93 93/93 -- AJ

P.S. Those waiting will want to know that ITNV won't be out before next year, alas. OTOH, those who find this whole post lamebrained ("Who cares whether you're posting or not, dumbass?") should be aware that I agree...which is why I didn't post about the "Retirement" in the first place. Peace to All Beings. ;)
Wednesday, July 4th, 2007
9:04 am
Dear Mr. President...

It's been a while since I bugged you here, and I realize it's a holiday and all, but I really wish you'd checked with somebody who knows about these things before deciding to commute Irving Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison term for perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to the FBI, from "thirty months" to "not a single day." Had you asked around, you might have found out that, say, executive clemency isn't supposed to be considered until someone's already serving his term, and his appeals process is over; or, at the least, that you're supposed to wait for the guy to apply for clemency before, y'know, granting his application. As it is, though, within hours of the appellate court unanimously agreeing with the trial judge that the sentence was fair, you vacated it...and that, sir, sorta leads to a problem for you, personally.

There's actually a reason the federal sentencing guidelines are pretty harsh in perjury/obstruction cases -- the courts hope that a little prison time might make the perpetrator "remember" what actually happened in his case, rather than the lies he told about it, see? This is so widely understood, in fact, that a lot of people could really see only one motive for a President to grant instant clemency to a former aide -- that is, to let a criminal co-conspirator off the hook before he can rat out the President's own criminal conduct. I mean, ouch!, you know?...particularly considering we have the authority of James Madison himself that such a use of presidential clemency powers would itself be an impeachable offense, calling for charges from the House, and removal from office by the Senate. And, hey, there was already a perception problem here, right? -- people saying "He can't fire Gonzales as Attorney General, because he couldn't replace him. Professional GOP prosecutors are one thing; criminal co-conspirators are a lot harder to find."

People say awful stuff about you and the Vice President, sir. I hate to see you add fuel to the flames.

Still, I wouldn't worry about it overmuch. This is America, and a lot of people take acts of high treason very seriously. I'm quite certain that the full truth will come out about this matter sooner or later, and that the guilty parties will be punished. Doubtless you're praying that will happen, just as so many millions are, all over the world.

93 93/93 -- AJ
July 4th 2007 EV - Two hundred thirty-first anniversary of America's Independence

Current Mood: peaceful
Wednesday, June 6th, 2007
5:42 am
St. Stephen Crane -- 1 November 1871 - 5 June 1900

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter -- bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

-- Stephen Crane
yes, the 1890s, Red Badge of Courage guy, also a breathtaking poet:


I believe isomeme* and I may have discussed him here (or there) before; I figured the 107th anniversary of Crane's Greater Feast (yesterday) allowed for a little repetition. :)

93 93/93 -- AJ

* WTG, MU!!!!!!! :D
Monday, May 28th, 2007
2:55 am
A Different Memorial

From here: http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/68.html

Musee des Beaux Arts - by W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just
walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the plowman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Breughel's wonderfully-named "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" may be seen here:


Enlarge it and you'll get Auden's references -- particularly if you look closely in the water at the image's lower right.

93 93/93 -- AJ
Saturday, May 26th, 2007
4:24 am
...and sure enough, it was

So it's thirty years ago today -- May 26, 1977 EV -- and a twenty-two year old Jonathan returns to his sunny, airy Pacific Palisades apartment with the new TIME Magazine, glances at the cover, and is just snarking at its banner referring to the alleged "Year's Best Movie" (what, in May?, gimme a break) when the phone rings, so he answers it. Uh-oh: it's Dad: and Jonathan loves his dad beyond measure, but Dad is also really high-maintenance, especially in person, and he's calling to suggest they go to a movie. Like, you know, Right Now.

"I played hooky from work yesterday to see it myself" -- (Dad is a sole practitioner criminal defense attorney, and hooky from work comes even easier to him now that Jonathan no longer works in his office) -- "and it's just a hell of a lot of fun." He sounds almost defensive about it, and explains why: "It's a sort of a kid film, harking back to the Saturday matinees of my youth, but they did such a good job -- Star Wars, it's called."

Surprisingly enough, Jonathan has known about Star Wars for months now: was floored by its trailer at the Avco Westwood last Christmas (and embarrassed himself by trying to suggest to one of his UCLA professors that judging from said trailer, said upcoming film would be heavy with archetypal and mythical material -- "'Star Wars'?" the prof countered, wrinkling his nose), and even bought the novelization when it came out, thanks to the spooky Ralph McQuarrie helmeted guy on the cover (but didn't read it, of course, so as not to spoil the film). Then again, if Dad's up for a movie -- quick flip to TIME's "Year's Best Movie," and sonofagun -- it's Star Wars!


Automatically suppresses having known about the film, since that would ruin Dad's fun at having discovered it. "What the hell," Jonathan says. "Sounds cool. Let's go."

Jonathan's dad will live another seventeen years, and given the three hothouse years they worked together nonstop (1973-76) they already had plenty of fine memories, whatever their differences and the distance your parents divorcing when you were eight can make. There were happier, funnier, and more triumphant days -- but 26 May 1977 might be the sweetest day they ever share: particularly with Jonathan now on his "spiritual path," having started same only two months before....

I am in awe of the Star Wars phenomenon (he types, as always, whilst sitting under the "STAR WARS: THE FIRST TEN YEARS" poster* he bought at Disneyland in 1987): three films of extraordinary joy, beauty and, yes, inspiration, when we needed them most; then three more warning us what was coming next, always pointing through the darkness to the "New Hope" ahead. Lucas taught a generation or more of us to plot, just as Stephen King taught us (mutating Harlan Ellison) a vivid, personal prose style. And finally, Lucas and company -- and what company! -- pulled off the miracle of telling stories that can reach nearly everybody, with very little compromise.

Sure enough, it really was the Best Movie of 1977...and they're all among the best of succeeding years. This stuff changed not only the face of culture; like TV's Star Trek and a handful of others, it actually helped change the world.

And mostly it gave me and my dad perhaps our sweetest day ever, which is why I posted this.

May the Force be with you, gang. :D

93 93/93 -- AJ

P.S. I kept no notes at the time, and can't absolutely swear that I had that "30 May" TIME mag in hand when Dad called, but that is my recollection, so thass what I said here. In Canada it came out a week before the film's release: see the reminiscence here: http://www.exn.ca/starwars/culture.cfm , which links the Menachem Begin cover itself.

* Other cool SW swag in storage: many of the original Kenner toys, the little filmstrip set, the original, pulled "Revenge of the Jedi" poster, and on and on. Cheryl, my first wife, and I were fanatics, and early members of the Fan Club...as, come to that, is the Jedi I married after her death. Btw, if you find this mawkish, be aware that it could have been a lot more so: to pick just one of my Star Wars memories, there's taking a nearly-translucent Cheryl to the 1997 rerelease (with changes), she shuffling very carefully on the Westwood sidewalk to get there, having very nearly died three months before from the cancer that would take her four years later. I am no objective judge of Star Wars, I'm sure: too much of my life blood is in it. On a happier note, there's Cheryl's and my waiting up all night with the quiet but buzzing crowd on Wilshire Boulevard in May 1983 for Return of the Jedi's 9am first screening. However tortuous it can also be, memory is (as I have written) "our sole persistent treasure."
Wednesday, May 16th, 2007
3:06 pm
Well, he tried

The British military has decided it would simply pose too much risk to too many people for Prince Harry to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, so he won't be going after all:


Good for him for trying, and his men for being willing to accept the risk.

You'd probably heard this already, but having just posted about it I figured I'd be thorough. :)

93 93/93 -- AJ
Saturday, May 12th, 2007
8:38 am
"[W]hether your time call you to live or die, do both like a prince." – Sir Philip Sidney, The "Old" Arcadia, 1580 EV

"...therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm..." -- Elizabeth I, 1588 EV


Sidney -- who wrote so well, and so horribly, about the combat he'd seen -- must be proud today. So must the first Queen Elizabeth, who despite her "feeble body" had the heart and stomach of a King -- "and of a King of England, too."

You may have heard that Britain's Prince Harry, having recently completed his military training, insisted on being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, on the theory that he was damned if he was going to sit home in comfort while "his boys" were in harm's way. You may also know that he'll shortly be deploying for Iraq.

Unsurprisingly, militants there have already announced that they plan to especially target him. Indeed, there'd been some criticism here (in the U.S. and U.K.) of his desire to be deployed, on the theory that he'd be further endangering the men in his unit. Well -- per last night's Bill Moyers Journal on PBS -- now we know what the men in his unit themselves think about this:

They've had khaki t-shirts printed up for the whole unit, with a black bull's-eye right over the heart, and in big red letters the legend: "I'M HARRY."

Translation: our prince has balls enough to put himself at risk. Fuck you.

America has had leaders willing to put themselves at risk in war: many of the older ones, in WW II (JFK, the elder George Bush) or (like Charles Rangel) Korea, but also Vietnam vets like Al Gore, John Kerry, John McCain, Chuck Hagel and Gray Davis. My favorite moment from the gubernatorial recall that handed California to Ahnodd: dimwit newscaster asking Gov. Davis whether this recall were the greatest challenge he'd ever faced.

"Well," he said, "I served in Vietnam, so, No, not really."

Sure, Harry will be surrounded by a contingent of special forces (SAS) men, directly tasked to protect him: he's in line for the throne, besides which we don't want the fanatics we're up against to score a propaganda victory off the situation. But he could have stayed home, and partied, and hung out with girls.

And he didn't. And "his boys" seem to have no trouble telling whether that was admirable or not.

93 93/93 -- AJ
Friday, May 11th, 2007
3:06 am
QOTD: On Eugenics

"The problem was stated long ago; we deceived ourselves that the statement was not meaningful. Simply, it is this: could a congress of gorillas, gathered to plan the breeding of the supergorilla, plan a human being? Discard the line of development of mightier muscles, stronger and longer teeth, greater specialization to master their tropical environment?" -- Gordon R. Dickson, Dorsai!, 1960 EV

93 93/93 -- AJ
Friday, May 4th, 2007
5:04 am
Hurricane senryu...

...is even busier than I am, these days. Details may (at last!) increasingly be found on her IMDb page, particularly (for those of you registered there) now that I've begun to use its message board to post updates (who knew?), but when there's a public event (particularly one involving ticket sales ;) ) she occasionally lets me pass the word around. So let me just mention that the current six-week run of Jeanette Brown's "Walls," at the Ethos Theatre in Hollywood --


-- was reviewed by Lovell Estell III in this week's L.A. Weekly -- not exactly a rave for the play itself, alas (though they spelt her name right, and he pronounces all the performances "excellent," praise Buddha), but he treated it respectfully -- and, hey, a Weekly review is pretty cool beans for such a small venue.* Woo Hoo!


She's also doing event-running at the Silver Lake Film Festival, so say Howdy if you see her (and, uhh, give her the best wishes of her hubby and cats! -- *sob*).

93 93/93 -- AJ

* The last play she did got exactly zero reviews, though admittedly it was in Tarzana. Too bad, too: she was seriously sleazealicious in that one. :0
Friday, April 20th, 2007
3:45 am
On Unintended Consequences
N.B. This was written in response to offline conversation, not to anything seen online. If you happen to have posted on some of these subjects -- so widely discussed this week -- pleeeease know I did NOT have your post in mind!


Particularly in the face of tragedy, melodramatic injustice, and other highly emotion-producing events, the human mind tends to want to bury multidimensional problems under unidimensional analyses (usually labeled "solutions"). Add to this the human tendency to lionize those who agree, and demonize those who disagree, and you get (as they say) a lot more heat than light.1 This post, you'll be relieved to know, is not out to advocate a particular solution to any of several thorny problems; instead, it advocates something rare in discussions of same: an honest admission of the possible downside to our own favored solutions, and possible advantages in the solutions we don't like. One of the most basic points of Initiation is this: Any proposed solution to a problem has unintended consequences, sometimes quite dreadful ones; and the sooner we admit this the stronger our arguments, for whatever "side,"2 tend to become.


1. Social Safety Net
People forget this, but every form of social safety net known to man became law only to forestall civil unrest: that is, however many do-gooders wanted to help the unfortunate, their desire never became policy until it was needed to stabilize the government in question. Hence, e.g., FDR's reforms in this country in the wake of the Great Depression, and the Russian Revolution which preceded it. As somebody or other (old Joe Kennedy?) put it, You can take half my fortune if you'll guarantee I get to keep the other half. Unintended Consequences: too ragged a "safety net" and you get social unrest; too generous and you destroy incentive (and that's not even getting into the effect of taxation on the economy). Even compromises run into such consequences, btw: as when legislators didn't want to give handouts to able-bodied adults, but also didn't want their children starving -- hence offered payments per-child...thereby rendering childbearing a form of employment.

2. "Zero Tolerance"
We've all heard the examples: as when universities ban all touching of students by teachers, or kids get suspended from school for sharing a Midol with a friend, or bringing scissors to school, or or or. I admit a distinct lack of sympathy for a "zero tolerance" (i.e., mechanical and unthinking) response to most problems...though there are several examples where they've arguably helped, bigtime: as where police are forced to arrest in a domestic disturbance with any sign of injury, regardless of the victim's pleas. Unintended Consequences: Too much wiggle room in a policy can make for a disaster down the line (not only a Columbine; what do you do about Professor Grody the Tenured when he insists his "friendly touching" is understood by everyone?); too mechanical a policy and you can turn a kid into the offender they previously weren't.

3. America the Litigious!
...is itself largely the Unintended Consequence of something nobody ever seems to talk about: our lack of a subsidized health care system. People in countries with such health care systems don't need to sue their neighbors, or McDonald's, or some innocent manufacturer to keep from being bankrupted by their medical bills. (Note that I don't go to doctors, have never sued anybody, etc. -- just making the point.)

And finally, the two most on people's minds this week.

4. Violence in Entertainment and Life
I happen to be a wild-eyed defender of free speech. This does not keep me from understanding that some forms of free speech have Unintended Consequences: in particular, that film and TV violence, and most especially the revenge plot, tend to prompt imitation, particularly among a small segment of young men. In my own writing I tend to avoid all but the most fantasy-oriented forms of violence, simply so I'll never have to worry that I gave some loony-tune a great new idea.3

I have to admit I wish SOMEone would make some films emphasizing what a weak little dork the Scary Guy With a Gun really is, rather than treating him as a sort of alternate hero in the story, an unstoppable force of nature not far removed from God, and so forth. American film and TV have spent decades equating firearm possession with both power and respect. Crap, what effect do we expect that outpouring to have? :P

Speaking of which:

5. Gun Control
-- the really big one this week, of course, thanks to the horrific events at VT (though not in Congress, where further gun control is largely a dead issue). Though I have no weapons myself, I happen personally to be a strong opponent of most gun control laws (though I'd support the kind of point-of-sale screening meant to keep a guy who just got out of a 72-hour forced psychiatric evaluation from buying a gun for the next few years ;) ). To my mind, the Unintended Consequences of gun control involve an increased risk of a totalitarian state -- I want a large number of wonky freedom-loving people armed to the teeth, should Unca Adolf ever get elected, even though I don't want to be one of them myself. That said, I don't kid myself: there's a pretty obvious reason that American handgun death stats dwarf those in other countries.4

Then too, I think if people are going to seriously advocate legal concealed carry -- particularly on college campuses -- they might want to think about why carrying a concealed weapon became illegal in the first place (it allows police to arrest someone before he commits a violent crime); how often in their college years they felt -- e.g., while drunk -- like killing themselves, or someone else, and how the wide availability of concealed handguns on campus might affect that urge; and weigh the likelihood of an incident like that at VT against the likelihood of other, unintended consequences.5

In sum, then, I'm arguing for an effort to thoroughly and sympathetically understand the arguments with which we disagree, and an open admission that we're engaged in a balancing act: preferring one of several rational courses, rather than hewing to the only reasonable one. The really contentious issues tend to be so because they're complex; pretending they aren't, to my mind, just makes us look like less serious thinkers than we really are.

93 93/93 -- AJ

1. Insert here yet another pitch for S.I. Hayakawa's Language in Thought and Action, available in most goodsized libraries: a workbook to train ourselves out of the sort of "either-or" thinking I'm critiquing here.
2. Such a formulation is part of the problem: the word "side" puts us on a different "team" from those with whom we disagree, instead of putting all of us on the team looking for reasonable solutions.
3. This has been true ever since I started writing, long before I went pro in 1985. In the early 1970's I came up with an absolutely compelling crime thriller plot, which I instantly realized would (a) sell to Hollywood, and (b) prompt guaranteed copycats in the real world. In the thirty years since, I've only heard of one such real-life instance -- and I'm damned grateful they didn't get the idea from me.
4. i.e., availability of weapons, though the social safety net thing also plays into this, IMO, as does American culture. Still, I think of the guy in Canada who got so furious on the road that he threw his wristwatch at another driver, trying to hurt him. Absent wide access to guns, less people get shot.
5. The VT incident itself, taken in isolation, tends (I believe) to skew one's assessment some in this area -- not only for gun control advocates, but for their opponents. For example, some highly likely unintended consequences of concealed carry at VT this week would have been panicked shooting of every lone person with a gun out, on the theory they were the killer, unintentional hits in a crossfire, and so forth...all of which seems negligible with thirty-two dead. If such events happened every day, concealed carry everywhere would be a no-brainer. (Which is not to say it might not be a valuable experiment, btw -- I was serious about not advocating specific positions here.)
Thursday, March 29th, 2007
5:36 am
Iraq: a glimmer of hope

Hey, beats "Iraq: boy, are we #$%ed," hunh? ;)

The glimmer I have in mind is neither the President's current short-term escalation gamble, nor yet the efforts of the Democratic House and Senate to put some limits on the conflict. Instead, I have in mind the belated attempts by the non-elected, permanent government -- military, intelligence, diplomatic, and other such folks throughout the bureaucracy -- to wrest control of the conflict away from incompetents, crooks, lunatics and children of any party, and steer America somewhere back in the direction of her own best interests. If their effort succeeds, everyone who insists that government is the problem will owe them a major apology...like he didn't already.

I stopped posting about Iraq here once it became clear that the President intended to reject the advice of his entire military command and throw what few remaining ground assets we have -- Army, Marines, Guard and Reserves -- into the meatgrinder (after the ones he'd already fatigued, crippled or destroyed), in hopes that things might work out after all. This hope, however unlikely, wasn't and isn't impossible -- except in the form his neocon buddies proposed it: i.e., sending our remaining troops head to head against Sadr and his militia. The extremely good news is that General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq with overwhelming bipartisan support, is rumored instead to be cutting deals with Sadr, and focusing on keeping Iran as far out of the mix as possible. So there's the first improvement: Petraeus isn't doing what they sent him there to do. Thank God.

Iran, of course, is seeing its hegemony over the Middle East -- which it could never have got on its own, but succeeded in very nearly getting by gaming the Bush administration into handing over -- endangered by current moves. I suspect that's why Iran is engaging in ever more provocations (most recently its capture of fifteen British sailors and marines): the mullahs hope to build a pretext, any pretext, for sending a million fresh troops into Shia Iraq to consolidate their gains. We could exact a huge cost for such an operation, but I am far from certain we could stop it...leaving aside what the cost to ourselves would prove to be (and it would be immense, both there and back here).

The President, alas, remains as intransigent as ever: if he can't have his latest huge-dollar blank check from the Congress with no strings attached, then he'll veto the spending bill and then blame them that he's run out of money. For their part, the Dems are trapped in a fractious coalition: those terrified what a pullout will mean, side by side with those who want a pullout last week and no more shilly-shallying. And in the meantime, China is making noises about wanting to diversify its holdings (as in, stop picking up the tab for our debt). Oops.

In short, the danger to the United States continues to be greater than any I have ever seen in my life. But the good news is, the professionals seem to be reasserting themselves, with some help from elected grown-ups in both parties. I pray for their success, and for our undeserved salvation.

93 93/93 -- AJ
Thursday, March 22nd, 2007
12:23 am
Cool week...

...but hectic! :0

(1) Hope you had a Happy Equinox! We did, too. :)
(2) Thanks for the high-fives on senryu's recent appearance in the L.A. Times. You folks are too kind. :D
(3) I keep writing posts in my head. Maybe I'll find time to actually put some here! :0
(4) Yes, I still hope to have ITNV out this calendar year (EV). Wish me luck!

In the meantime, several quick shots:

* When we get a chance to watch stuff, we're jonesing on reruns of The Gilmore Girls. That is some spectacular writing (and fine acting) there, is what that is.
* I still owe you a Heroes post. Maybe it'll get here before the show gets back from hiatus!
* Interesting comparison: two versions of the same basic film, made very near one another (with much of the same cast), and radically dissimilar: Paul Schrader's Dominion: an Exorcist Prequel, and Renny Harlin's subsequent Exorcist: The Beginning. Only the latter got theatrical release. Most instructive to watch both (and with all due respect to Harlin, Schrader is a flippin genius).

That'll have to do, for now. Much love to the bunch'a yez! :*

93 93/93 -- AJ
Tuesday, March 13th, 2007
3:26 pm
(near)-QOTD, & brief rant

(1) Attorney General Gonzales's position, explained:

"I take the responsibility for what happened...but not the blame. Responsible people get to keep their jobs."
-- David Frye's "President Nixon" in Richard Nixon: A Fantasy, ca. 1973 EV. (From faulty memory, alas. :( Corrections welcome!)

Given Gonzo swore under oath that there was nothing political in the firings of the (Republican) U.S. Attorneys -- only to have massive proof to the contrary surface, most recently his Chief of Staff's memo to White House Counsel Harriet Miers coordinating the political strategy involved -- we may be gratefully rid of one of the worst attorneys general in U.S. history, shortly. I sure hope so. (Said Chief of Staff is already gone, for having done what his boss wanted him to. Shades of Scooter Libby.)

(2) Most people working in media are socially liberal, and though many are politically conservative in other ways you might expect to see something other than the bizarre anti-Democratic Party metanarratives we actually do see. This one, for instance:

(a) Dems introduce non-binding resolutions to disapprove the President's Iraq escalation. Narrative: "A 'non-binding resolution'? Why won't they do something serious?!"

(b) Dems take the bait, try to pass a law impairing the President's ability to escalate in Iraq. Narrative (paraphrased from an editorial in the Washington Post, no less!): "Instead of a responsible effort to withdraw from Iraq, this will only prompt a Constitutional crisis, since the President has already said that he'll veto it. This doesn't serve the nation's interests."

Note, btw, the concept of the President enshrined in that Post editorial: not an elected officeholder with staggeringly low approval ratings, who might be swayed by popular opinion and a vote of the Congress; no, Mr. Bush is apparently God's representative on earth, who cannot ever change his mind. If you choose to disagree with him, you're only stirring up trouble. (This from the "liberal" Washington Post, mind you; I assume over on POX News they're vomiting blood over treasonous heretical faggotry or somesuch. Like usual. :P )

My point, however, is this: why the consistently pro-GOP bias, becoming ever more shrill as GOP policies consistently fail, and the GOP itself loses political support? True, media businesses are huge corporations and can be expected to be sympathetic to corporate interests, but there's more to it than that. So file this away for future reference:

In the United States, official labor unions exist to prevent the rise of actual labor unions. In much the same way, the Democratic Party exists to prevent the rise of an actual Democratic Party.

Had the GOP been smart, they would have left well enough alone: a two party system, one protecting corporate interests, the other protecting corporate interests plus those of greedheads, religious fanatics, bigots, and crooks. It's a truly magnificent system: every time people lose heart over the Dems, in come the GOP for a few years!...to remind them it could be a hell of a lot worse.

Unfortunately, the GOP got out of control and decided to eliminate the Democratic Party entirely: through "campaign finance reform" that cut off its funding, the "K Street Project" that cut off its lobbyist support, offyear "creative redistricting" to guarantee expanding GOP control, and so forth. But something breathtaking happened: thanks largely to the internet, a new generation of supporters poured fresh life and financing into the mordant Democratic Party.

Only this NEW, new Democratic Party...is in serious danger of becoming an ACTUAL Democratic Party: the people paying for it want it to do their will. Hence the current panic.

One almost pities the lying hacks at the Washington Post editorial board. They know as well as anybody that the current administration and GOP are likely to destroy American power -- not to mention possibly eradicate human life on earth -- forever; and yet if this horrible new Democratic Party takes over, corporate taxes might go up, the propaganda system itself could be endangered, and God knows what else.* Is it worth the risk? Who can say??!!

Hope that helps explain the current dilemma, otherwise difficult for folks to parse. ;)

93 93/93 -- AJ
(who though he doesn't really do anything about this stuff, feels happier and saner to understand it)

* Perfect recent example of this: California. Thanks to Gov. Pete Wilson's use of wedge issues -- particularly against gays and Latinos -- California became a solid Democratic-majority state, and looked to continue so indefinitely. Enter the recall election to remove Gov. Gray Davis, the protected ascent of Arnold Fartzenknocker, and so forth. And I've already mentioned the media anointing -- a year before the primaries! -- the two least electable Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Clinton and Obama, as the only two allowable choices for the 2008 nomination. So it goes.

Bottom line: If actual Dems are ever allowed to take actual control, they might forget where their bread is buttered; hence the periodic corrections. In 1968 those corrections were made in rather melodramatic ways; today our masters generally prefer more peaceful means. I pray, btw, that this latter bias continues. :/
Monday, March 12th, 2007
5:41 am

From a blog you might like -- mostly entertainment themed, with occasional dips into politics -- Hollywood and comics writer John Rogers's* "Kung Fu Monkey," this bit of thoughtful advice for those seeking to influence other countries by the use of force:

"Please remember -- when you bomb people for their own good, they rarely take the point in the way you hoped. Empathy is our friend. When America was attacked, its population became incredibly nationalistic, and rallied wildly behind a leader who was of mediocre popularity beforehand. Assume other countries are also populated by human beings."

More soon, I hope. I'm swamped. :0

93 93/93 -- AJ

* Emphatically NOT guru "John Roger."
Friday, February 23rd, 2007
2:00 pm
Word of tha Day

From "TRex," at http://www.firedoglake.com/


I suspect he meant to limit it to righty bloggers, but I think it applies just as well to anybody with an unduly hostile online persona...particularly one that doesn't, mmm, square well with their actual, IRL presence.

Who knows? There may even be* some magicians like that online! I mean, it could happen.

93 93/93 -- AJ

* I originally typed "may even me some magicians..." Oooh, calling Dr. Freud! :0
Wednesday, February 21st, 2007
4:16 am
Why Checks and Balances Matter

The Framers of the United States Constitution built deliberate inefficiencies, deliberate frustrations of power, into the interlocking system they created. They did not trust power; or, rather, history led them to trust that power would be abused sooner rather than later, hence must be vested in competing interests if they wished to prevent dictatorship. They knew that egotism, smallmindedness, ambition, and a hundred other unlovely human qualities would guarantee constant collisions among the competing branches of government they created. Indeed, they counted on it. By this mechanism -- and here is the genius of the Constitution -- they increased the likelihood that human nature would tend to prevent, rather than ensure, graft, corruption, and tyranny.

In case I haven't been clear about it, herein lies my greatest fear of this administration, and the elements of the Republican Party (and some few Democrats) supporting it. Since taking power, and with growing speed since 9/11/01, the Bush-Cheney administration and its hardcore GOP allies have sought to systematically remove all checks and balances from the path of the executive: to establish an unfettered monarchy, answerable to no one on earth.

This is, of course, what the Framers intended their Constitution to prevent...hence the growing opposition among American patriots of all political views, right, left, and center, to the current monarchical drift.

Those planned inefficiencies and frustrations of power also provide the strongest argument against checks and balances, of course; an argument rendered more compelling, in the minds of some, since the events of 9/11/01.* "The Constitution is not a suicide pact," the argument runs: that is, we can't afford Constitutional protections in a "post-9/11 world." I have to confess that such arguments disgust me. I find them cowardly, unworthy of the "land of the free and home of the brave." Most of the world has endured perfectly terrible conditions throughout history, and many industrialized nations have endured brazen acts of terror without imposing open-ended dictatorship to meet them. Apparently some Americans don't have the stomach to preserve their system of government in the face of a sudden, unexpected feeling of vulnerability. This makes me sad, and ashamed of them. I honestly believed that Americans were made of sterner stuff.

On the specific issue of detainment of terror suspects, don't think that I'm either naive, or trying to apply the Geneva Conventions wholesale where they don't well fit. The Geneva Conventions were designed to cover armed conflict between nations; not terror tactics by non-state actors, traditionally handled by criminal statutes. Beyond that, I understand the argument that increasingly well-funded, -armed, and -disciplined international terrorists are not well-handled by the deliberate inefficiencies of U.S. criminal law. My own argument here is intentionally simpler than that, need not try to settle these thorny problems. In brief, my argument is this:

I believe that whatever tactics the executive branch devises to deal with terrorism MUST be subject to review by both the legislative and judicial branches -- subject, that is, to the most fundamental checks and balances the Framers devised. I believe this because I am certain, as the Framers were, that the more Constitutional checks and balances you remove, the sooner you arrive at a dictatorship. We might get there anyway, of course: plug enough fans of dictatorship into the executive, legislative, and judicial branches and you end up with a dictatorship in any event.

But checks and balances tend to slow such a drift. That's why they matter.

Final thought experiment, on the detainee question.

Suppose a dangerous lunatic -- let's call him Chick Deney (though Ronald Dumsfeld is funnier) -- were to decide to start arresting every American who disagreed with him and interning them, for the rest of their lives, in offshore prisons. Under the provisions of yesterday's federal appellate ruling, what could stop him from doing so? The answer is, of course, literally nothing whatsoever. Those detained this way could not even ask a court to look into their detention. That, my friends, IS absolute dictatorship...and it is what the administration has consistently argued for, and yesterday's decision by the D.C. circuit purports to provide.

Maybe such a nightmare will never happen; but without Constitutional checks and balances there's no way to prevent -- maybe even, for a time, to find out about -- its happening. Given an administration that has spent five years arguing for absolutely unfettered executive power, one of whose officials recently threatened to blacklist private lawyers who sue to limit that power, and looks to be about to consolidate that power regardless of its own unpopularity? Yeah, I'm worried, all right.

Regardless of your political affiliation, maybe you should be, too.

93 93/93 -- AJ

* This is, of course, the biggest reason paranoids suspect there's something fishy about those events -- their usefulness for those who wished to replace the American system with a dictatorship, much as Adolf Hitler used the Reichstag Fire in Germany. Such worrywarts read horrific significance into everything from, say, the swift availability of the PATRIOT Act after 9/11, through persistent efforts to remove all checks on the monarch, to last year's efforts to streamline the imposition of martial law, should it become necessary. As one wag put it, "I'd really love, just once, to find an example of Al Qaeda doing something which didn't seem tailor-made to help the administration get what it wants." I DO NOT endorse such paranoid speculations...but I'd sure like to live in a world where they were obviously ridiculous, and don't (alas!) feel like I've lived in such a world since December 12, 2000.
Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
4:57 pm
Update on Habeas Corpus: Today's Appellate Ruling, & Dissent
"It's a terrible ruling that contradicts centuries of Anglo-American history and allows the indefinite detention of innocent people without charge or judicial review. It also allows for detention based on evidence gained by torture." -- Jonathan Hafetz, attorney, Brennan Center for Justice

"The bottom line is that according to two of the federal judges, the president can do whatever he wants without any legal limitations as long as he does it offshore." -- Shayana Kadidal, Center for Constitutional Rights

"The decision reaffirms the validity of the framework that Congress established in the MCA [Military Commissions Act of 2006] permitting Guantanamo detainees to challenge their detention through military hearings1 coordinated by the Defense Department." -- spokesman Erik Ablin for the Bush administration's Justice Department


Which is it? You can decide for yourself, quite possibly by the end of this post. The article I'm quoting from, in TIME Magazine online:


The actual decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit:


The short version:

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration set up a number of detention camps -- the most visible of which is the one at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- and started detaining what it called "unlawful enemy combatants" there, subject (the administration insisted) to no law whatsoever: not the Geneva Conventions, not the U.S. Constitution or statutes, simply the whim of the monarch. Those whose fear of attack -- and trust in the current administration -- is greater than their devotion to the U.S. Constitution had no problem with that arrangement; those who make it a habit to try to nip claimed dictatorial powers in the bud, reacted rather differently.

This still being America, praise God, outside defenders filed suit under a number of provisions, particularly habeas corpus, to get federal judicial review of the legality of these detentions. The administration claimed absolute dictatorial power in such matters, and the D.C. appellate circuit agreed. To the astonishment of many -- and the bitter disappointment of the administration -- the U.S. Supreme Court DISagreed, reversing the original D.C. circuit decision, and forcing the administration to take the issue to the Republican-controlled Congress in 2006. Long story short, that Congress passed the "Military Commissions Act of 2006": a blank check giving unlimited powers to detain anyone they chose, foreigner or American, to (a) the President (b) the Secretary of Defense, and (c) anybody else they picked...specifically denying detainees any right to appeal their detention to any U.S. court (i.e., "suspending the right of habeas corpus," a right dating back in English law the better part of a thousand years).

Now we're back before the D.C. federal appellate court again with a challenge to the habeas provisions of the 2006 law, and by a 2-1 vote they decided, again, that detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay camp -- or any other outside the U.S. -- possess no rights whatsoever, including even the minimal right of a court being allowed to look into their detention. Period. They did not reach the far broader issue of the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant," and if the Supreme Court agrees with this ruling and dismisses all such cases, presumably nobody ever will reach that issue.2

From the TIME article: Under the commissions act, the government may indefinitely detain foreigners [correction: and Americans3] who have been designed as "enemy combatants" and authorizes the CIA to use aggressive but undefined interrogation tactics. But most criticized by Democrats and civil libertarians was a provision that stripped U.S. courts of the authority to hear arguments from detainees who said they were being held illegally.

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will let this stand; unlike last time, Congress subsequently having passed a law supporting such detentions, that might be enough to tip the balance in the administration's favor. It also remains to be seen whether the Democratic Senators trying to enact a "Constitution Restoration Act of 2007" will succeed in reinstating habeas corpus, and other rights. In the meantime, the Gonzales Justice Department will seek to dismiss all pending detainee lawsuits, based on this ruling.

DC Circuit Federal Appellate Judges A. Raymond Randolph and David B. Sentelle ordered that the hundreds of cases pending in the lower courts be dismissed. Judge Judith W. Rogers dissented, saying the cases should proceed. It will presumably be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether the ruling stands.

Again, the full text of the ruling is here:


Don't miss Rogers's stellar dissent, with which we can only hope the U.S. Supreme Court will agree.

One last, and most significant, point, which is contained in the dissent but will likely get zero press coverage:

The administration spokesman refers to "the MCA [Military Commissions Act of 2006] permitting Guantanamo detainees to challenge their detention through military hearings coordinated by the Defense Department" -- the "CSRTs," or "combat status review tribunals." The dissenting opinion explains to us exactly what kind of hearings these are:

"[A] recent report studying CSRT records shows that when at least three detainees were found by CSRTs not to be enemy combatants, they were subjected to a second, and in one case a third, CSRT proceeding until they were finally found to be properly classified as enemy combatants."
(p. 24 of the actual Dissent, p. 49 of the linked pdf file).

Getting easier to decide which of our epigrams had it right? :/

Thank God when monarchical powers came at last to be claimed by an American president, it was a melodramatically unpopular president. Pray for the continued survival of the United States Congress, the continued wisdom of the Supreme Court...and for more judges like Judith W. Rogers.

93 93/93 -- AJ

1. There's a discussion of those hearings' unfortunately marsupial character in boldface, further down. ;)
2. Yeah, I'm bolding all the "unlawful enemy combatant" stuff. I hope it will become clear why.
3. I usually don't interrupt others' quotes that way, but this is really important. A lot of people, the TIME author included, apparently believe the Act only applies to foreigners. The language defining "unlawful enemy combatant" in the 2006 Act covers literally ANYONE designated as such by the President, Secretary of Defense, or anyone else they pick to make such decisions. Yes, I'm serious. Put that together with the boldface discussions above, and what are we looking at?
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