Scalia on the Culture Wars

scaliaA great Catholic and American passed today. Many of Antonin Scalia’s opinions were an inspiration to us non-lawyers on how the public debate should be approached.

Scalia’s dissent on the Federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2015:

… to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions…. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance … is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual.

All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it … enemies of the human race.
In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated. It is hard to admit that one’s political opponents are not monsters, especially in a struggle like this one, and the challenge in the end proves more than today’s Court can handle. Too bad. A reminder that disagreement
over something so fundamental as marriage can still be politically legitimate would have been a fit task for what in earlier times was called the judicial temperament. We might have covered ourselves with honor today, by promising all sides of this debate that it was theirs to settle and that we would respect their resolution.We might have let the People decide.

But that the majority will not do. Some will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it; that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many. But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better. I dissent.

Scalia’s dissent on a case involving homosexual rights in May 1996:

When the Court takes sides in the culture wars, it tends to be with the knights rather than the villains–and more specifically with the Templars, reflecting the views and values of the lawyer class from which the Court’s Members are drawn. How that class feels about homosexuality will be evident to anyone who wishes to interview job applicants at virtually any of the Nation’s law schools. The interviewer may refuse to offer a job because the applicant is a Republican; because he is an adulterer; because he went to the wrong prep school or belongs to the wrong country club; because he eats snails; because he is a womanizer; because she wears real animal fur; or even because he hates the Chicago Cubs. But if the interviewer should wish not to be an associate or partner of an applicant because he disapproves of the applicant’s homosexuality, then he will have violated the pledge which the Association of American Law Schools requires all its member schools to exact from job interviewers: “assurance of the employer’s willingness” to hire homosexuals.
Today’s opinion has no foundation in American constitutional law, and barely pretends to. The people of Colorado have adopted an entirely reasonable provision which does not even disfavor homosexuals in any substantive sense, but merely denies them preferential treatment. Amendment 2 is designed to prevent piecemeal deterioration of the sexual morality favored by a majority of Coloradans, and is not only an appropriate means to that legitimate end, but a means that Americans have employed before. Striking it down is an act, not of judicial judgment, but of political will. I dissent.

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The Nanny State of mind on the Heat beat

If Miami Heat fandom were measured in Scientological verbiage, my Heat-Thetan levels would be off the audit charts. After victories I wallow in post-game interviews, podcasts and NBA filtered Twitter. After defeats, my self-enforced blackouts mirror the regimen of Dwyane Wade recovering from a migraine, as described by Tony Fiorentino. In short, I, like the average fan, think of myself as a little above average in all matters Heat.

The average fan’s exaggerated sense of awareness about their teams is understandably of great irritation to those whose job it is to be truly informed on the matter, local beat writers. I follow and mostly read them all. Main drawback is that when Josh McRoberts is listed questionable for a game by Spoelstra at midday, my Twitter feed reacts as though a Kardashian has tested positive for pubic crab lice on live TV.

Ethan Skolnick is the Miami Herald’s beat writer covering the Heat, is very accessible on social media and hosts a radio show. For me, his likability outweighs his lefty politics [depressingly par for the NBA course]. I get perverse pleasure from the fact that he cannot help but constantly remind his readers and listeners that most things they believe about the NBA and Miami Heat are wrong. Sometimes it feels as though we are just one synthetic drug use away from hearing the TRUTH about the NBA from Skolnick, but its not something I root for since he’s got a youngin at home.

In a recent column, Skolnick got wind[hourst] of Heat fans frolicking in Northeast Ohio schadenfreude and was determined to nip it in the bud, an excerpt.

For reeling Heat fans, especially the most active on social media, there was a welcome distraction this week: the seeming chaos in Cleveland….

[JC: Skolnick then lists every problem the Heat have encountered since the day Lewis Schaffel was born through Deng’s eye poke and indexed each incident by year]….

So catch yourself before laughing too hard at Cleveland.

So it is with proponents of Nanny State politics. Inappropriate fun was detected and the offenders chastised. Their demagogic hero no doubt would approve of the efforts to promote the ‘right kind of cheering.’ Its kinda like being on the ‘right side of history.’

A little perspective. The Heat are going through a very bad stretch with many road games and injuries. Then, in the midst of our gloom, the basketball gods saw fit to throw us a rather large bone.

The franchise we most wish ill is showing structural cracks. LeBron James just got his coach fired, while pretending otherwise. Comical after he undermined the rookie coach to the point that only the corpse remained to be moved in year two. Blatt was moved for yet another rookie coach, who was part of the Blatt attack. The Love trade and subsequent max deal, is now seen as a mistake as Wiggins develops nicely under a rookie contract. The conflict with James business interests, through his best friend agent, vs what is best for the Cavaliers team have been exposed by the Thompson signing and Jackson overtures.

I thought it would take a James injury and/or the inevitable Irving re-injury [a Rose by any other name …] to see Cleveland’s championship window start to close. This way is way better.

So, no Ethan, I don’t think we will be ‘catching ourselves’ anytime soon. Pending improved health, Dragic channeling a Tony Montana mindset and a consistent Green 3-point shot, James failure to deliver for Northeast Ohio will do just fine.

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When Trump invokes William F Buckley Jr

WFB mouse padWhen Donald Trump invokes the memory of my hero, William F. Buckley Jr. — the image to the right is on my mouse pad — my first reaction is a vague recall of the gag, ideally voiced with a Southern accent, about the man who had not minded when his friends and neighbors had been shot at, but when his dog was targeted, well that was the last straw.

So as a loyal Republican who has voted for almost all [couldn’t do Dole] of the party’s nominees in primaries since Reagan, I’ve watched this pre-Primary season with some regret as the embodiment of a charlatan has consistently been leading in our polls. Bad enough. But now this, Trump attempting to wrap himself in the Buckley mantle.

NationalReviewSTOPTRUMP(1)The magazine which WFB founded, National Review, has just come out with an anti-Trump edition. Good for them. I digitally subscribed in gratitude.

As someone who has read almost everything the prolific writer wrote, the idea of any intellectual connection between Trump and Buckley creates a sensory overload of disbelief.

Buckley’s Catholicism was at the center of his life and he exhibited great manners in his countless appearances in over 50 years in the public square. You might say the contrast with Trump is huuugggeee. We don’t even have to guess what WFB thought of Trump – the excerpt below is from a 2000 article reproduced in the recent National Review edition:

… Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line.

Buckley had good reason to wish to root out narcissists in our politics. Early in his active ventures into politics, Buckley had a front row seat to how badly the wrong messenger hungering for the limelight can harm the conservative cause. His name was Joseph McCarthy.


Whittaker Chambers giving Witness

The cause back in the 1950’s was communist infiltration of our politics by elites who sympathized with Stalin’s Russia following WWII. The tragic and compelling figure of Whittaker Chambers did much to expose the reality of traitors like Alger Hiss who had effectively burrowed their way into American government. McCarthy’s excesses [although WFB always maintained that McCarthy’s excesses never approached the excesses of his critics] caused great harm to the conservative movement.  America deserved better than a McCarthy to wage the battle Chambers had exposed.

Similarly, if one believes that Western cultures are on the verge of having to do battle with Islamists — Muslims who wish to impose their version of Islam over society — it’s critical that we enlist leaders in that battle who avoid overreach in their public pronouncements.  The call to ban all Muslims exemplifies the type of strategic error that would be almost guaranteed from a Trump-type.  To paraphrase an old saying, if you’re gonna take a swing at the caliphate….

The entire WFB article which discussed Trump is copied at end of post.
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If it’s not the Crusades, it’s the cartoons

muhammad15“If it’s not the Crusades, it’s the cartoons,” was the reaction of President Bush back in 2006 as to possible motivations of Islamist jihadists. Cartoons which depicted Muhammad were published by a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September of 2005 with the by now predictable outrage.

Fleming Rose an editor at the Danish newspaper, made the following defense of the decision to publish in 2005:

The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims….

As a former correspondent in the Soviet Union, I am sensitive about calls for censorship on the grounds of insult. This is a popular trick of totalitarian movements: Label any critique or call for debate as an insult and punish the offenders. That is what happened to human rights activists and writers such as Andrei Sakharov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, Boris Pasternak. The regime accused them of anti-Soviet propaganda, just as some Muslims are labeling 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper anti-Islamic.

The lesson from the Cold War is: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants.

ch3ch2ch1This was ten years before Charlie Hebdo. These photos reflect the results of that attack. None of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were printed in any major U.S. newspaper. A major victory for the Islamists.

About those Crusades. A reminder from historian Bernard Lewis:

The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war…

Mohammed himself led the first jihad, in the wars of the Muslims against the pagans in Arabia. The jihad continued under his successors, with a series of wars that brought the Middle East, including the Holy Land, under Arab Muslim rule and then continued eastward into Asia, westward into Africa, and three times into Europe — the Moors in Spain, the Tatars in Russia, the Turks in the Balkans. The Crusade was part of the European counterattack. The Christian re-conquest succeeded in Spain, Russia and eventually the Balkans; it failed to recover the Holy Land of Christendom.

Ross Douthat with a perspective on the Crusades that inspires:

… not interested in an exercise in historical amnesia where the actual necessities of medieval geopolitics get wiped out of Western memory in favor of blanket condemnation of anyone who took the cross. If you want me to condemn pogroms in the Rhineland or the bloody aftermath of Jerusalem’s fall or the entirety of the Fourth Crusade, I will, and readily. But ask me if I’m sorry that Spain is Spain and not Al-Andalus, or if I regret Lepanto or Jan Sobieski’s gallop to Vienna, or if I wish that Saint Louis had somehow rescued Outremer or that aid had come to Constantinople in the 15th century — I’m not, I don’t, I do.


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Why our Civilization could fall to Islamists

Historian Niall Ferguson does not look away from the weakness being exploited by *Islamists:

I am not going to repeat what you have already read or heard. I am not going to say that what happened in Paris on Friday night was unprecedented horror, for it was not. I am not going to say that the world stands with France, for it is a hollow phrase. Nor am I going to applaud President Hollande’s pledge of “pitiless” vengeance, for I do not believe it. I am, instead, going to tell you that this is exactly how civilizations fall.

Here is how Edward Gibbon described the Goths’ sack of Rome in August 410 AD:

“In the hour of savage license, when every passion was inflamed, and every restraint was removed . . . a cruel slaughter was made of the Romans; and . . . the streets of the city were filled with dead bodies . . . Whenever the Barbarians were provoked by opposition, they extended the promiscuous massacre to the feeble, the innocent, and the helpless . . .”

Now, does that not describe the scenes we witnessed in Paris on Friday night?
Let us be clear about what is happening. Like the Roman Empire in the early fifth century, Europe has allowed its defenses to crumble. As its wealth has grown, so its military prowess has shrunk, along with its self-belief. It has grown decadent in its shopping malls and sports stadiums. At the same time, it has opened its gates to outsiders who have coveted its wealth without renouncing their ancestral faith.

So who exactly will speak up to ensure that future citizens ‘renounce their ancestral faiths’ when those faiths are incompatible with western secular values? Clearly not a job for the feint of heart, or perhaps we can just use the shorthand ‘college administrators‘ going forward. Someone who is up to the job is named Maajid Nawaz.

Nawaz coined the term *Islamists. He is a British Muslim who speaks frankly and at great personal danger about the extremism in the Muslim world. He describes Islamists as “those who wish to impose their version of Islam over society.” [see video at the 11 min mark below]. More from Nawaz:

[He likens] Islamism to the evil character Voldemort, from the Harry Potter books. In the novels, Harry is the only one allowed to name Voldemort and acknowledge his existence, while the rest of the wizard community are too scared to do so and instead insist he does not exist.

“When we’re dealing with the challenge that we call Islamism, if we get to a situation where the president of the United States cannot even bring himself to name this ideology, we cannot even begin to tackle it. So what we’ve been doing with the British government is focusing on getting the British government and the prime minister to recognise that there is an ideology.

This ideology is called Islamism. It needs to be isolated from whichever interpretation of Islam Muslims may happen to subscribe to and then it needs to be challenged, because we are indeed engaged in an ideological war.”

Nawaz’s influence might have had something to do with the fact that this week British Prime Minister David Cameron finally broke with those leaders who to date continue to pretend that terrorism is unrelated to Islam.

Douglas Murray, another British warrior in this cause, who also happens to be a gay atheist, happily documented the PM’s newfound clarity, Cameron said the following:

“It is not good enough to say simply that Islam is a religion of peace and then to deny any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists. Why? Because these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims.”

The Niall Ferguson article is copied in full at end of post

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Pope Francis denies the dignity of the Cuban dissident

Just when you thought this Papal visit couldn’t get any more dispiriting to Cuban dissidents, it did.

The following questions were asked of Pope Francis on his plane trip leaving Cuba:

Rosa Flores, CNN: We understand that more than 50 dissidents were arrested as they were trying to have a meeting with you. First, would you like to have a meeting with the dissidents, and if you had that meeting, what would you say?

Pope Francis: Look, I don’t have any news that that has happened. I don’t have any news. Some yes, yes, no, I don’t know. I don’t know, directly. The two questions are about reading the future. Would I like this to happen? … I like to meet with all people. I consider that all people are children of God and the law. And secondly, a relationship with another person always enriches. Even though it was soothsaying, that’s my reply. I would like to meet with everyone. If you want me to speak more about the dissidents, you can ask me something more concrete.

Rosa Flores, with the follow-up later on: What would you tell them if you met with them.

Pope Francis: Oh, my daughter, I don’t know what I would say. (laughs) I would wish everyone well, but what one says comes in that moment and … You’ve got the Nobel Prize for being a reader of the future, eh? (laughs)

Given a second opportunity to give a word of encouragement to the truly dispossessed in Cuba, Pope Francis not only declines, twice, but goes out of his way to minimize their dignity, by noting four times in this brief exchange that his thoughts on the matter apply to EVERYONE.

Mission accomplished. No one can report that the Pope repudiated the dissidents, but neither can they report that Pope Francis wished to meet with the dissidents. The exchange is skillful on his part, note the playfulness at the end, it only lacks in morality.

This from a pope who recently visited a prison in Bolivia and stating that “he could not leave without visiting with them.” This from a Pope who will visit a Philadelphia prison during this U.S. visit. This from a Pope whose frequent off-hand comments have caused great confusion in the Church. And yet, at the prospect of offending the Castros, or reneging on whatever deal he made, discipline rules the day. Will this constitute his first miracle?

Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal on the politicization of the Pope Francis:

Francis’ popularity remains high, but the dangers in his current course are high. What many of his new political friends mainly seek is to have the pope “moralize” their politics. Francis’ spiritual message could not be more secondary. They won’t be with him in Philadelphia. How allowing the papacy’s core moral authority to be politicized is in the interests of the Catholic Church as an institution is difficult to see.

For those interested in following this issue, Charles Lane is a great source on Twitter.

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The Pope? How many additional Parishes does he want?

Ladies in White arrested at home of Berta Soler

Ladies in White arrested at the home of Berta Soler

Stalin famously mocked the moral authority of the Catholic Church by asking “how many divisions” the Pope had. Perhaps he should have just sarcastically inquired as to how many safeguarded Parishes would be required to have them look the other way?

A Pope whose hagiography emphasizes his humility, aversion to the trappings of power and the need the evangelize directly to the people could not find a moment in his three day trip to Cuba to meet or mention any dissident. But Pope Francis did meet with at least two dictators, one who has no official government role.

If Pope Francis’s heart is as compassionate as we are told, I don’t see how he makes it through his next lost sheep parable without choking on the hypocrisy of it all.

Realpolitik is not a game for the feint of heart, I get it. Those who play it are willing to sacrifice a chunk of their moral authority in the hope of the greater good, or that the ends justify the means, to be more blunt.

But what if moral authority is all you bring to the game? How big a payoff is required to risk it then? Because we are all watching these moral compromises in real time. Do they expect people to forget or ignore?

The Washington Post editorial summarizes it well:

Pope Francis may believe that merely by touring the country he will inspire Cubans to become more active and press the regime for change. But two previous papal visits, in 1998 and 2012, did not have that effect. By now it is clear that the Castros won’t be moved by quiet diplomacy or indirect hints. A direct campaign of words and acts, like that Pope Francis is planning for the United States, would surely have an impact. But then, it takes more fortitude to challenge a dictatorship than a democracy.

The complete editorial is copied at the end of the post.
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Joan had the Dauphin, we got Francis

Socialist dauphins listening to audio version of Laudeto Si

Socialist dauphins listening to audio version of Laudeto Si

Did you hear the one about the Papal encyclical whose subject matter was only on the radar of the enemies of the Church, while ignoring the rising level of violence against Christians residing in the Muslim world as the centuries-old conflict between the faiths reignited? Yeah, me too.

Looking for inspiration on how to remain a practicing Catholic during the reign of Pope Francis, a man who blithely encourages socialist economic prescriptions to nations, while failing to specify why the 21st-century results of those policies would differ from the 20th-century results of those policies. Only God, and perhaps Christopher Nolan, know the inception of that idea.

Naturally I turned to Mark Twain’s biography on St. Joan of Arc to help me through this particular bad dream. From the introduction:

… Joan’s notion of the Church includes Christ as its active head, the saints in heaven, the Pope as Christ’s Vicar, and good parish priests. Opposed to these warmhearted priests who console the people of God are theologians and bishops whose ambitions are sometimes self-serving and politically parochial. Both de Conte [Twain’s alter ego used to narrate story] and Joan have precisely the same regard for religion and secular authorities. If as men these authorities are sometimes misguided or unscrupulous, they are, nevertheless, necessary because they are God’s chosen means to govern His Church and His people. To de Conte and Joan authority is primarily a matter of legitimacy rather than merit. For example, both de Conte and Joan know that the Dauphin is the legitimate heir of the kingdom of France, even though both know that as a man the Dauphin has little self-confidence and less courage. Even after Joan’s military victories on his behalf and her testimony to him regarding the inevitability of France’s triumph over the English invaders, even after she made it possible for him to be crowned King, he was too weak-willed to offer the ransom to free Joan, a ransom which her Burgundian captors were required by the conventions of war to accept. Even though de Conte and Joan knew that the King’s hesitancy to act in a kingly way made him responsible in part for Joan’s martyrdom, they never once doubted his right to rule, nor did they secretly desire that someone more virtuous and talented—but someone other than God’s chosen ruler—were King. They may have wished that the King were a better man, but they never questioned his authority.

That I can embrace. The idea that obedience need not require ignoring the socialist cleric in the room. I may wish my Pope was not motivated by past theological and ideological defeats (not to mention a certain Malvinas ass-kicking), but I don’t question his authority.

As such, the one prayer I sincerely proffer my legitimate and to date unworthy Pontiff, John Paul II-ishly speaking; On his judgment day, may he not be judged too harshly for ignoring victims of oppression, causing those victims to despair at the immoral silence exhibited by the Vicar of Christ. † Amen.

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Christians on the rack, Brooks on the couch

David Brooks on ISIS:

The ISIS atrocities have descended like distant nightmares upon the numbed conscious of the world. The first beheadings of Americans had the power to shock, but since then there has been a steady barrage of inhumanity: mass executions of Christians and others, throwing gay men from rooftops, the destruction of ancient archaeological treasures, the routine use of poison gas.

Even the recent reports in The Times about the Islamic State’s highly structured rape program have produced shock but barely a ripple of action.

Reading his column feels as though I am eavesdropping on a counseling session in a novel. In the session, the patient, let’s call him Harold, struggles to come to grips with a truth which is evident to everyone but him.

The session is ostensibly about why the United States hasn’t been more alarmed or done more to combat ISIS. Harold is troubled over this. But there’s a problem, he is an acquaintance and great admirer of President Obama. We the readers are rooting for him to make the connection with who dictates US policy and the inaction, but he seems unable.

If this were a novel, we could bring in a trusted and brilliant friend, Nikhil, without any emotional or political baggage who would blurt out the obvious. For the role of Nikhil, think Tyler Cowen with amnesia and a melliferous Ben Kingsley-like accent.

Nikhil addresses Harold with a slightly annoyed tone, “Is it really that hard for you to get that given your President’s background, the plight of Muslims in the future is a greater concern to him than some Christians in mostly Muslim nations today?”

“You’re always lecturing people on how smart he is and how he’s playing the long game. Maybe so, but it sure ain’t the long game of a Christian American who is occasionally filled with pride when thinking about the Founding Fathers. When this brother thinks about the Founding Fathers, intercontinental grievances are what come to mind.”

Then Nikhil added a little more angrily than he intended, “You supported an unknown dude named Barack Hussein. Now you’re acting all surprised. Sheeeeeeeite.”
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The Schilling effect

Schilling extremism tweetCurt Schilling got in trouble with his employer [ESPN] for tweeting a comparison of the number of Muslim extremists that might exist today vs the number of Nazis in 1940. [May I suggest Stalin or Pol Pot for future attempts at evil equivalencies?] The move comes just in time to be part of the upcoming paperback edition of Kirsten Powers’ book, The Silencing.

On the one hand, ESPN’s suspension is the latest attempt by the powers that be to communicate to Muslims that; ‘While savageries are continually committed in the name of your Islamic faith across the world, we deem that no stigma or responsibility shall be ascribed to those of you residing in the Western societies, safely separated from the realities of being governed by your brethren in the faith. This protection is applicable even if you share the belief in Sharia law which is the main justification for the many atrocities committed in the name of Islam.’

In short, another example of the type of political correctness which is driving my fellow Republicans so insane, that they are actually telling pollsters that they would support Donald Trump for President. Don’t worry, I know you guys are kidding. Right?

But on the other hand [while I still have one, pending Sharia law implementation for blogging excesses which may offend the Profit [see what I did there?]], its an opportunity to highlight the very point Schilling was attempting to make.
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