Paul Ryan

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Republicans are still mostly resisting a real investigation of possible Trump collusion with Russia and his obstruction of justice in regards to the Comey firing. Some lip service, some mild gestures, that’s all thus far. 

Chief among these defiant defenders is Paul Ryan, who’s quoted today in Politico as saying “some people want to harm the President.” His odd stance could stem from reflexive partisanship and the Speaker’s long-held desire to pass at any cost his punitive tax and social welfare cuts. Perhaps he believes a Trump resignation or impeachment would put those plans in peril.

We have to at least consider that it could be something even darker. Ryan may believe Mike Pence is likely to be swept away in this same scenario, leaving him, third in line, as the new President. He might not want any part of what would be an office made untenable by such a large-scale scandal. Even worse, it’s possible the Russian connection runs deeper than we know and may pull under a large number of GOP elected officials. 

Regardless of the cause, the party appears to be in a death spiral and is threatening to feed the entire nation a poison pill. What may save us is that despite any desperate machinations from the White House or Hill, the truth is likely to ultimately be exposed.

From Edward Luce’s latest Financial Times column, which asserts that tax cuts is a ridiculous reason for Republican self-immolation:

Whenever the elites express outrage at his actions, his supporters take pleasure in their anguish. Mr Trump knows how to cater to his base. If that means passing secrets to the Russians the day after firing the man investigating his campaign’s alleged Russia collusion, all the better. Scholars call this “negative partisanship”. People no longer join a party because they believe in its agenda but because they despise the other one. By mocking his opponents, Mr Trump is literally delivering on what he promised. It is a mandate for nihilism.

This poses a terrible dilemma for Republicans. Some are hoping to bide their time until midterm elections. Mr Trump’s approval ratings are so low that if the polls were held today Republicans would lose control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate. At that point, Republicans would start to abandon Mr Trump’s ship. Democrats may well campaign on a promise to impeach Mr Trump. But that is almost 18 months away. Other Republicans are hoping to extract what they can before the Titanic starts to sink.

Most, such as Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, are prepared to suffer the indignity of working with Mr Trump if it gives them the chance to pass a big tax cut. In Mr Ryan’s view, such a cut would unleash America’s animal spirits and restore freedom to individuals.

It is a coherent position. But Mr Trump keeps making it harder for Mr Ryan to build the case for it. The chances are now at least as good that the firestorm around Mr Trump will engulf his economic agenda. Even if Mr Ryan can pull off tax reform, would the bargain have been worth it? The answer is no. Taxes rise and fall. But a great party cannot erase how it acted at a critical moment in the history of the republic.•

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There’s so much good stuff in Tim Alberta’s exhaustive Politico Magazine account of the week the GOP met its waterloo on Obamacare that it’ stunning to see the writer fall back on a tired trope that’s long been untrue but was proven conclusively during this debacle: that Paul Ryan is some sort of brilliant policy wonk. It actually includes this line: “If the bill failed because Trump is a great salesman with a poor grasp of policy, it also failed because Ryan is a poor salesman with a great grasp of policy.”

The AHCA wasn’t a resounding failure despite Republicans owning all three branches of the government simply because it suffered from poor marketing but because it was a piece of junk that would have cost tens of millions Americans insurance while doing little to control costs. Ultra-conservatives deemed the bill a “poorly conceived mess” because it wasn’t draconian enough, but that’s also an apropos description of it regardless of your politics. 

From Alberta:

The speaker has spent decades straddling the worlds of politics and policy, and is infinitely more comfortable operating in the latter. He has dozens of friends around town in the constellation of conservative think tanks, lobby shops, activist groups and media outlets. Knowing that health care was batting leadoff for the new, unified Republican government, it would seem a no-brainer for the speaker to spend a few days, if not a few weeks, meeting with leading voices on the right to introduce the American Health Care Act, answer their questions, accept their criticisms and, most important, preempt any attacks on the legislation itself. After all, as Democrats love to point out, Ryan had seven years to plan for this moment—first as Budget chairman, then as Ways and Means chairman, then as speaker—and if anyone on the right was ready, it ought to have been him.

But Ryan didn’t feel such preventative measures were necessary. After days of drafting the bill in secretive locations at the Capitol—and Sen. Rand Paul, a hard-core Obamacare critic, exposing the absurdity by bringing reporters along as he hunted door-to-door for a copy—the text was leaked, and then unceremoniously released, without any clearly coordinated media strategy between the speaker’s office and the White House. Conservatives around Washington, including some of Ryan’s longtime friends, were stunned. “The bill has had the worst rollout of any major piece of legislation in memory,” Rich Lowry, editor of National Review and a longtime Ryan ally, wrote in his Politico Magazine column on March 15.

Back in 2013, when the so-called Gang of Eight had authored its comprehensive immigration reform bill, Sen. Marco Rubio spent weeks making the rounds and meeting with top influencers on the right, taking unlimited time to answer every question and consider every criticism. He talked to journalists, grassroots leaders and academics; he offered himself as a human sacrifice to every prominent voice in conservative talk radio, attempting to neutralize opposition to the bill before it materialized. It never became law, but Rubio did everything he could. It passed the Senate, at least, before dying a quick death in the House—and that was in large measure thanks to having a media-savvy Tea Party darling take the lead and work conservative journalists and opinion leaders.

There was no such effort on Ryan’s part, and it showed. (Several allies argued he had done some outreach, but they failed to provide any specific examples.) After he unveiled the bill, leading health care experts on the right like Yuval Levin and Avik Roy trashed it as a poorly conceived mess.•

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It was a year ago today that several of my relatives, in harm’s way of Hurricane Sandy, literally ran for their lives, fanning out from flood zones into the darkness of a city that quickly came to resemble a necropolis. Their homes and many others have not yet been fully repaired, and, worse yet, the toll on their health was even more severe. Two members of my immediate family who were in the storm’s path nearly died in emergency rooms in the ten months after the ferocious storm, suffering from unusual bacterial illnesses that may have been caused by the flood waters or clean-up efforts. No one’s sure. Having spent nearly two months visiting hospitals, I can’t quite count the number of patients and medical personnel who told me they still hadn’t rebuilt their houses, hadn’t yet recovered their health, their wits. The storm doesn’t end when the winds and rains die down–that’s just the beginning. And I will never forget how Paul Ryan and others voted against Sandy relief as people desperately searched for help. How many of these people self-identify as Christians when campaigning?

From Amy Davidson at the New Yorker blog:

“Well over a hundred people were killed by the storm, and the indirect toll, though harder to measure, was greater. The mortality rate in that Coney Island nursing home, according to a new report from NY1, was higher in the weeks and months after Sandy than it had any right to be. Since the storm, evacuation maps have been redrawn, subway tunnels are still being repaired (after a heroic effort to reopen them in those first days), and New York is inching toward a discussion of what a world of climate change, with rising sea levels and more extreme weather, means for a metropolis built on one of the planet’s best natural harbors. But perhaps the greatest mistake would be to reminisce only about the ways that the storm created unity and division, rather than looking critically at how it interacted with the city’s persistent inequalities. There is a reason that the tale of two cities has been one of the motifs of this year’s mayoral campaign—and it has nothing to do with just where the lights went out.”

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Paul Ryan: Creepy little poltergeist.

I haven’t counted all the newsprint (real and virtual) nor added the TV minutes, but I would be willing to bet that the amount of time news organizations spent on the Beyoncé lip-sync “controversy” far exceeds the attention given to Paul Ryan and other members of Congress who voted against the initial $9 billion relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Having just spent time visiting a relative in a hospital in an area that was heavily impacted by the natural disaster, I can tell you that the ER is overrun. I assumed it was due to the flu outbreak, but one hospital personnel member after another told me the heavier-than-usual demand for beds was due to an assortment of health issues. In the wake of the storm, it’s harder for people, especially children and seniors, to remain healthy. And the mold that has been growing inside abandoned houses can’t be good for anyone. People can die. They do die.

These communities needed help immediately. But the faux athlete, faux economist, faux policy wonk Ryan felt, as usual, that his half-witted ideology needed to come before those who were suffering. And don’t get me started on that owl-headed freak Rand Paul. More than anything, both of these little boys–and they don’t qualify as adults to me–need to live on the streets for awhile and see what life is really like.

Beyonce: Sounded good to me.

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  • President Obama led the race every day, in both the popular vote and electoral vote, since the moment Mitt Romney won his party’s nomination. His lead grew after the DNC and shrunk after the Denver debate dud, but it was always there. National polls that suggested otherwise were wrong.
  • Intelligent readings of the polls were incredibly accurate. Will cable news still cherry pick polls four years from now to push false narratives? Probably.
  • Obama benefited from weak opponents in 2008 and now. If the Republicans had a more attractive ticket, they probably would have won this time around. (Of course, putting together an attractive duo when you have to pander to wingnuts isn’t easy.) You’ll hear plenty of pundits claiming America has become a liberal country, but I don’t agree. The current GOP extremism came awfully close and a more traditional brand of conservatism would have probably been a winner. Let’s remember that Team Obama was better in every way organizationally than its opposition and it needed to be. It’s still a conservative country.
  • But that may not be the case four years from now. Many Latino teens, part of the fastest-growing population, will have aged into the voting pool by then. Unless the Republicans seriously adjust their policies, they could lose this bloc for several election cycles.
  • Paul Ryan ultimately had little impact. He was a poor selection. Romney knew Ryan’s policies would be troubling, so why choose him only to hide him? Either Marco Rubio or Bob Portman would have been better picks. The former may have delivered Florida.
  • Romney’s strategy in Ohio was puzzling. Because of his reaction to the auto bailout, it was going to be a steep climb. But he absolutely had to have this state. There was no way around it. Why let Obama have 100 more field offices in Ohio? Would not go all in?
  • A lot of people owe Nate Silver an apology. It’s funny that Silver got his start as a stats guru in baseball, since many sports and political pundits have similarly reacted to logic and math with ad hominem attacks and general ignorance.
  • That sure is an incredibly ugly piñata hanging sadly at the empty Romney celebration. Oh wait, that’s Karl Rove.

Chriis Matthews: Nutsac tingling all night long.

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The new Rolling Stone interview with President Obama is now online and ungated. It was conducted by historian Douglas Brinkley, who is not a bullshitter. An excerpt about Ayn Rand:

Douglas Brinkley:

Have you ever read Ayn Rand?

President Obama:

Sure.

Douglas Brinkley:

What do you think Paul Ryan’s obsession with her work would mean if he were vice president?

President Obama:

Well, you’d have to ask Paul Ryan what that means to him. Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a ‘you’re on your own’ society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.

Of course, that’s not the Republican tradition. I made this point in the first debate. You look at Abraham Lincoln: He very much believed in self-sufficiency and self-reliance. He embodied it – that you work hard and you make it, that your efforts should take you as far as your dreams can take you. But he also understood that there’s some things we do better together. That we make investments in our infrastructure and railroads and canals and land-grant colleges and the National Academy of Sciences, because that provides us all with an opportunity to fulfill our potential, and we’ll all be better off as a consequence. He also had a sense of deep, profound empathy, a sense of the intrinsic worth of every individual, which led him to his opposition to slavery and ultimately to signing the Emancipation Proclamation. That view of life – as one in which we’re all connected, as opposed to all isolated and looking out only for ourselves – that’s a view that has made America great and allowed us to stitch together a sense of national identity out of all these different immigrant groups who have come here in waves throughout our history.”

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Mitt Romney: Face smooth like baby’s ass.

  • Although the final night of the RNC was most notable for saving us all admission on The Expendables 14, and, perhaps, the last gasp of fake tough guys convincing Americans they know best, Mitt Romney tried to show his feminine side. He romanced the ladies in the audience with tales of his parents’ loving relationship. He said it all with honey in his voice. It was like watching Neil Diamond in 1978 (though Neil never wanted women to put an aspirin between their knees). And then he blew his cover at the end with his asinine mocking of attempts at reversing “rising oceans” and “healing the Earth” as if female voters–and most voters, actually–think the health of the planet is grist for an obnoxious punchline.
  • The line about Obama raising taxes on the middle class was patently false and there were other doozies, though Romney’s speech was nowhere close to Paul Ryan’s in terms of mendacity.
  • However, Romney’s idea that everyone in the country rallied around Obama after he became President was absurd. There is proof that the GOP gathered before he was inaugurated to plan obstructionist action. 
  • Romney spent far too much time polishing this speech to have not intended a double meaning with his “you need an American” line. It was another Birther jab. Sad stuff from a guy who claims to have pulled over to the side of the road and wept when Mormons undid their racist beliefs about African-Americans.
  • Not incredibly important, just an observation about double standards: Occasionally male politicians are called out for the cosmetic nature of their looks–Ronald Reagan’s hair color, John Kerry’s Botox–but women are always called out on such things. And even about their clothes. Can you imagine if a 65-year-old woman at the top of a ticket had a smoother face than her VP candidate, who was 42 and a health-and-fitness devotee? I’m assuming a few things would be said whether they’re true or not.

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Paul Ryan: 6% body fat, 3% integrity. (Image by Gobonobo.)

  • The Rove-Gingrich playbook, which says you can get away with saying anything provided you code it in the right words, is dead. Maybe it’s because words mean less in the Internet Age or because media’s been disseminated and fact-checking is in the hands of the many. I know plenty of misinformation and conspiracies get legs on the Internet, but that is on the fringes, not in the mainstream of Presidential politics. The GOP hasn’t figured this out yet. They still think rhetoric can cover up who they really are. Sarah Palin was a terrible VP nominee not only because she’s inane and petty but because she set herself up as a fraud by standing up at the 2008 Republican Convention and introducing herself as a liar. Yes, it took a couple of weeks for her to be exposed, but then the backlash was brutal. Paul Ryan, likewise, lied into the camera so many times (while trying to couch his bullshit in the right phrases) that he will also be in for a bruising rebuttal. He wasn’t artful–he was deceitful, and he’s provided the Dems with many avenues of attack.
  • As out of touch as the GOP is, the television media is even worse. Lawrence O’Donnell and Michael Steele reaching across the aisle to agree that Ryan’s presentation was more important than his substance, as if they were analyzing the Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960, revealed two people who have no idea that the world has changed dramatically recently. And to hear countless well-fed, insulated talkers crow about Ryan’s “youthful” musical taste and how it will appeal to young voters, is to have your mind boggled. No offense to Led Zeppelin, but I assumed Ryan chose one of their songs to play at the end of his speech in order to reassure seniors about Medicare. Ryan will no more attract young voters because of his age than Palin did women because of her gender. His appearance is young, but he’s spiritually been an old hack his whole career. And it’s been a long time since that kind of nonsense has rocked and rolled.

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Paul Ryan: Chiseled abs, no remorse,

Grover Norquist, whose name I have never espied while within a voting booth, wants the U.S. government to return to the GDP levels of 1900, when the average lifespan of our citizens was 47. (There truly were no second acts in America then.) While that fact doesn’t suggest only causation–medical progress played a large part in the elongation of life–it can’t be reduced to mere correlation, either. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs have helped us live longer and better than humans ever have in our nation’s history.

GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan is also more in love with ideology and fudged math than human life, more beholden to ingrown, adolescent fantasies of rugged individualism. If his policies were ever enacted, really good people would die sooner than they have to. Talk about your death panels. In his latest column in the New Republic, Leon Wieseltier spits his considerable bile at a worthy target in Ryan, that Objectivist altar boy, dismantling his subject with reason and rage. An excerpt:

“‘I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.’ That is how John Galt concludes his testament, which Paul Ryan demands that his staffers in Congress read. What a frail sense of self it is that feels so imperiled by the existence of others! This monadic ideal is not heroic, it is cowardly. It is also dangerous, because it honors only itself. In his Roadmap, the intellectual on the Republican ticket lectures that “the Founders saw [Adam] Smith not only as an economic thinker, but as a moral philosopher whose other great work was The Theory of Moral Sentiments.’ Never mind that everybody else also saw Smith that way, because he really was a moral philosopher and he really did write The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Has Ryan ever opened The Theory of Moral Sentiments? Has he ever read its very first sentence on its very first page? ‘How selfish soever man may be supposed,’ Smith begins, ‘there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.’ That is the least Galt-like, least Rand-like, least Ryan-like sentence ever written. And from there the conservatives’ deity launches into a profound analysis of ‘mutual sympathy.’ So much for Ryan’s fiction of the isolato with a platinum card! If there is anything that Adam Smith stands for, it is the reconcilability of capitalism with fellow feeling, of market economics with social decency. But Ryan is a dismal student of Smith, because he likes his capitalism cruel.”

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Having met some venture capitalists over the years, I can tell you their success rate isn’t that high. That’s not because they’re not talented or intelligent. On the contrary. It’s just that most things in life don’t pan out. When they occasionally do, venturers make their mark and live to invest another day. Some get fabulously wealthy–but even they have a pretty high fail rate.

Since being named Mitt Romney’s VP pick, Paul Ryan has attacked President Obama’s stimulus plan in particular and government investments in general. But from lithium-ion battery factories in Michigan to the auto industry to the many alternative energy initiatives througout the country, this administration has largely invested shockingly well, made bold attempts to transform our future and created well-paying jobs that are many grades above Staples cashier. 

David Plotz, who quietly does an excellent job at Slate, examines that other silent success, Obama’s stimulus, in an interview with Michael Grunwald, author of The New New Deal. The opening:

Slate:

What possessed you to write this book?

Michael Grunwald:

I fled Washington for the public policy paradise of South Beach while writing my last book, about the Everglades and Florida, so in 2010 I was only vaguely aware of the Beltway consensus that President Obama’s stimulus was an $800 billion joke. But because I write a lot about the environment, I was very aware that the stimulus included about $90 billion for clean energy, which was astonishing, because the feds were only spending a few billion dollars a year before. The stimulus was pouring unprecedented funding into wind, solar, and other renewables; energy efficiency in every form; advanced biofuels; electric vehicles; a smarter grid; cleaner coal; and factories to make all that green stuff in the U.S.

It was clearly a huge deal. And it got me curious about what else was in the stimulus. I remember doing some dogged investigative reporting—OK, a Google search—and learning that the stimulus also launched Race to the Top, which was a real a-ha moment. I knew Race to the Top was a huge deal in the education reform world, but I had no idea it was a stimulus program. It quickly became obvious that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the formal name of the stimulus) was also a huge deal for health care, transportation, scientific research, and the safety net as well as the flailing economy. It was about Reinvestment as well as Recovery, and it was hidden in plain view.”

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Paul Ryan: P90X + social engineering. (Image by Gage Skidmore.)

  • A very poor choice by Mitt Romney. It was clear he was trailing and the gulf was widening, so I can understand the need for a bold stroke (though Americans have yet to vote for the bottom of any Presidential ticket.) But nearly every fear about Romney’s callousness (real or imagined) has been heightened with Ryan by his side, lugging along his magic numbers which soak the poor. Romney gets his stated wish now and becomes a “severe conservative.”
  • No matter what happens on planet Earth between now and the election, there’s a clear path to victory for President Obama. (Vote for me and avoid another supply-side juggernaut.) The final jobs reports become almost an afterthought. The onus is no longer on the President, but on Romney-Ryan to explain how their draconian economics wouldn’t devastate our most vulnerable.
  • Even though this is largely an election about our economy, it’s pretty much a slam dunk for Team Obama on international issues. The American people largely approve of the way the President has handled things abroad. On the other side, you have essentially no experience or vision. Read every word that has been uttered by Romney and Ryan since the announcement, and see how many times they’ve mentioned the world beyond our borders. Romney no longer has to run for President by running away from himself, but he and Ryan will both have to scramble from their lack of foreign-policy credentials.
  • Romney immediately tried to paint Ryan as someone who can work across the aisle and get results. Big mistake. In 13 years, Ryan has accomplished almost nothing of practical value–just two meaningless bills. It would be better for Romney to depict his running mate as a Moynihan-ish big-picture wonk who is light on real-world results because he’s been busy crafting something visionary.
  • When I posted a few days ago about people exhibiting self-delusion, I could have easily added Ryan to the mix. He has to be intelligent enough to know that his policies would cause real damage to our most vulnerable. How does he disassociate himself from that and think himself a decent person? If he really believes that his numbers add up, he is a lousy mathematician.
  • The GOP can point out that Obama has already taken money from Medicare as Ryan plans to, but taking money from Medicare to provide universal health care is not the same thing as taking money from Medicare to provide Romney with 10,000 more square feet on his new house. That’s the Ryan plan.
  • The media has rightly said that the election has now shifted from one of referendum to one of mandate, but just because it’s an ideological contest doesn’t mean post-election America will be any less marked by obstructionism. I don’t see that going away in the near future.
  • The biggest non-story of the weekend was how Romney was able to fool everyone and keep his veep pick a secret. Everybody knew about the choice before he made the announcement, so I wouldn’t say that’s accurate. But even if he had kept it completely quiet, who the fuck cares? It changes not one vote, one opinion, moves nothing. Brian Williams, a consummate entertainer, might be interested in this kind of nonsense, but the air time could have been better used.•

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Here’s the full 22-minute version of Paul Ryan’s excellent 1969 documentary, “Ski Racing,” which uses bold editing and FM radio rock to help profile that era’s world-class downhill racers. One of the pros included is Vladimir “Spider” Sabich who would die horribly in 1976 in ainfamous crime.

From the 1974 Sports Illustrated article, “The Spider Who Finally Came In From The Cold“: “In selling the tour, the sales pitch is not pegged strictly to exciting races and the crack skiers but also to its colorful personalities. There is Sabich, who flies, races motorcycles and figures that a night in which he hasn’t danced on at least one tabletop is a night wasted. Jim Lillstrom, Beattie’s P.R. man, also enjoys checking off some of the other characters.Norway’s Terje Overland is known as the Aquavit Kid for the boisterous postvictory celebrations he has thrown. He’s also been known to pitch over a fully laden restaurant table when the spirits have so moved him. Then there is the poet, Duncan Cullman, of Twin Mountain, N.H., author of The Selected Heavies of Duncan Duck, published at his own expense, who used to travel the tour with a gargantuan, bearded manservant. And Sepp Staffler, a popular Austrian, who plays guitar and sitar and performs nightly at different lounges in Great Gorge, N.J. when he isn’t competing. The ski tour also has its very own George Blanda. That would be blond, wispy Anderl Molterer, the 40-year-old Austrian, long a world class racer and still competitive.

Pro skiing’s immediate success, however, seems to depend on an authentic rivalry building up between Sabich and [Billy] Kidd, who are close friends but whose living styles are as diverse as snow and sand. Sabich is freewheeling on his skis as well as on tabletops. Kidd is thoughtful, earnest, a perfectionist. Spider has his flying, his motorcycles and drives a Porsche 911-E. Billy paints and now drives a Volvo station wagon. Spider enjoys the man-to-man challenge of the pro circuit. Billy harbors some inner doubts regarding his ability to adapt to it.”

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