American Elephants


“American Decline” Did You Know That’s What He Meant by Hope and Change ? by The Elephant's Child
February 28, 2014, 7:05 pm
Filed under: Politics

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I am worried about the Obama administration’s efforts to diminish our military presence in the world. The Shiites and the Sunnis are embroiled in trying to kill each other, al Qaeda is a growing presence, Iraq is troubled and al Qaeda has taken over Fallujah, Iran — relieved of troublesome sanctions — is embarked on finishing up it’s nuclear weapons, Syria is a catastrophe, Russia is embarked on something or other in the Crimea, and President Obama has embarked on a grand strategy to relegate the United States to the status of just “one nation among many.”

He has rejected the idea of America as “exceptional” and the status of the United States as “the indispensable nation” that provides security for the world. His overspending and conspicuous consumption and the growth of the welfare state “have made it difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to increase defense spending in the future if such a response becomes necessary. This is a radical shift and a dangerous one,” according to Mackubin Thomas Owens, who is a professor of national-security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, and editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He was a Marine platoon commander in Vietnam and retired as a Colonel.

In the wake of the widespread belief that we should not have been involved in the First World War, we whittled down the military and when Hitler came to power and began invading his neighbors, the isolationist movement and the Great Depression left us with a military that was 16th in the world. The total strength of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1939 was 1,308 officers and 18,052 enlisted men, fewer men than in the New York Police Department.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked and Hitler declared war, we were woefully unprepared., not just in trained men, but with old equipment. A lot of fine young men died because we were so unprepared. It took time to  ramp up the factories and start turning out “the arsenal of democracy.”

We built the arsenal the free world needed. and in 1945 the Army strength was 8,266,373 men (including the Army Air Force), the Navy was 3,319, 586 and the Marine Corps 469,925. Peace dividend. World at Peace. United Nations. So when the North Koreans invaded South Korea in 1950, we were again woefully unprepared with an Army of 593,167, an Air Force 411,277, a navy of 660,695, and a Marine Corps of 74,279,  all untrained, poorly equipped. And the North Koreans had the Red Chinese backing them up.

A lot of fine young men died because we were unprepared. You perhaps remember when roadside bombs began blowing up American Humvees in Iraq and there was an outcry about up-armoring them. Don Rumsfeld said “you go to war with the Army you have,” to anger from the press. But it’s true, over and over.

It boils down, of course to basic beliefs. Is the natural state of the world peace or war. If you believe the world is naturally peaceful, you can count on being unprepared. If you believe that cantankerous nations and people are too often in conflict with their neighbors, you need to be prepared, and if we are prepared, those cantankerous people are apt to think twice before they start shooting at their neighbors — because a prepared United States of America might just react.

Most colleges and universities do not require students to take courses in American history.  If you have a college student, you might make sure they understand that you require it.

Colonel Owens writes for National Review as well. His article “Obama Chooses National Decline: But the Pentagon has chosen a path that may buy some time,” is invaluable. It’s worth your time.



Russians Move into the Ukraine, but Deny Any Such Move. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama just spoke on the situation in the Ukraine. Deeply concerned. Destabilizing. Profound interference. Situation remains fluid. We will continue to communicate.

Do you suppose President Putin noticed that President Obama wants to cut our military down to pre-World War II levels? Of course. The world pays attention to these things. Wire reports say that Russia has seized the government buildings in the Crimea, and taken control of the airport. The Russian Defense Ministry says it is taking measures to guarantee the safety of the Black Sea Fleet, which is based at Sevastopol in the Crimea. (It is helpful to look at Google maps if you are as fuzzy on geography as I am.)

The questions are — will Putin take the Crimea by force? And if so, will his ambitions be limited to simply securing the Black Sea Fleet’s bases or does he have greater ambitions?

What else, besides issuing statements of concern, is President Obama prepared to do? The new interior minister, Arsen Avakov, described it as a military invasion and occupation, and asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the escalating conflict. Russian forces denied any involvement.

Charles Krauthammer suggests that Putin’s mission is restoration. Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century. The 2008 war with Georgia returned two of its provinces to the bosom of Mother Russia, and last year pressured Ukraine to reject a long-negotiated deal with the European Union. Putin, Krauthammer says, wants Ukraine back.

The New York Times says that Obama wants stability. He sees Ukraine as merely a crisis to be managed rather than an opportunity to change the autocratic trajectory of the region. Krauthammer says:

Sure, Obama is sympathetic to democracy. But it must arise organically, from internal developments. “These democratic movements will be more sustainable if they are seen as . . . coming from within these societies,” says deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes. Democracy must not be imposed by outside intervention but develop on its own.

But Ukraine is never on its own. Not with a bear next door. American neutrality doesn’t allow an authentic Ukrainian polity to emerge. It leaves Ukraine naked to Russian pressure.

Obama says he has assigned Vice President Biden to talk to the new Prime Minister of the Ukraine, whose name Obama couldn’t remember. Secretary of State Kerry said a vague something or other about Russian action being a mistake. That should be helpful.

This is a difficult situation. President Obama has staked his credibility on being the president who ended the dumb war in Iraq, got bin-Laden, and is getting us out of Afghanistan. He sees America as a world bully that needs be restrained, and Americans as “war-weary.”

Others see Obama as embarrassingly passive and demonstrating American weakness before an increasingly violent world. I am not surprised by Putin’s actions. He has told us that he regrets the demise of the Soviet Union — have people forgotten the Cold War?



The Failed State ObamaCare Exchanges: by The Elephant's Child

The disastrous rollout of ObamaCare continues apace, but the federal government spent more on broken stat-run exchanges than it did on its own troubled system. Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia established their own health insurance coverage under ObamaCare. Of those fourteen, seven remain dysfunctional, disabled or seriously underperforming. The development of those exchanges was funded by the federal government through a series of grants that totaled more than $1.2 billion —almost double the $677 million cost of the federal exchange.

Oregon: Spectacular failure. $48 million “early innovator” grant from the federal government, which hoped the exchange would be a model for other states. Delays, delays, delays. Consultants warned that it was headed for disaster. Total federal grants —$303 million.  I’m not sure that they have signed anyone up yet.

Maryland: Obama used Largo, Maryland as the background for a speech touting the benefits of ObamaCare. Maryland promptly turned out to be one of the worst in the nation. Announced this week it was terminating $193 million contract with Noridian Healthcare Solutions, its IT contractor. Officials now say the existing system is so flawed they may dump the whole thing.

Massachusetts: The state’s 2006 reform supposedly helped inspire the design of ObamaCare. They hired CGI, the same contractor who built the federal exchange. Technical glitches from day one. By January the state lagged further behind their original enrollment goal than any other state. Only 5,428 people signed up during the first 3 months, 0.8% of the first year goal. $135.6 million in federal grants, and an early innovator grant.

Vermont: The Affordable Care Act is not progressive enough for Vermont. State officials said they would pursue a single-payer program beginning in 2017. Failed launch, $165.2 million in federal grants, still not working. Calls for an investigation.

Minnesota: Exchange was glitchy on rollout, problems persisted for the next few weeks. 14 exchange officials received bonuses prior to launch, the director took a tropical vacation while the site struggled. Officials and contractors blame each other. Outside assessment warned that problems would not be fixed by the end of open enrollment on March 31. Total federal grants $153.7 million.

Nevada: One official described the failure of the exchange as ‘catastrophic’. The system enrolled just 16,000 of the 118,000 expected. Projections have been reduced to 50,000. State officials are said to be thinking of ditching their own exchange in order to join the federal system. Federal grants $83.7 million. (All lies, according to Harry Reid)

Hawaii: Hawaii’s exchange was taken down right after the launch, but enrollment remains exceedingly low. The state has signed up just 4,300 people for coverage, the lowest of all the states. Total federal grants $205 million.

All Democrat-run states, but that is surely just a coincidence. We can probably assume that those who have signed up are those most in need of health insurance, those with pre-existing conditions, and the healthy folks will wait for a better offer.  Those who signed up early will be the most costly.

 



Republicans Tell The Health Care Stories of Real People by The Elephant's Child

The Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Harry Reid, is one of the most corrupt politicians in the country.  He has used earmarks and influence to enrich himself and his family. He seems to have reached the point where he will announce anything he can think of to attack Republicans. Remember his nutty claim during the 2012 presidential claim that Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes.

Now he’s back with an hysterical rant against those who criticize the Democrat’s signature legislation:

Across the country Americans who were once denied insurance because they suffered for something like cancer or as simple as acne have been able to buy affordable health insurance they could afford and could trust. Despite all that good news, there’s plenty of horror stories being told. All are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.

Every “horror story” about ObamaCare is a lie? Five million people have lost their existing coverage and they are all liars?

The leukemia patient whose insurance policy was canceled could die without her medication. Mr. President, that’s an ad being paid for by two billionaire brothers. It’s absolutely false.

Harry Reid is obsessed with the Koch brothers. Billionaires are supposed to be Democrats, belong to George Soros’ Democracy Alliance and give money to Democrat campaigns, not to curing cancer.

The problem is that Republicans have the gall to use a favorite tactic of the Democrats against them. The Republicans are using “anecdotes” or stories of people who have been hurt by ObamaCare to explain the failures of ObamaCare.

Edie Littlefield Sundby, the stage-four cancer patient who lost her team of physicians, parents who can’t take their sick kids to the hospitals at which they were formerly treated. It is clear that ObamaCare is poorly devised, that Obama’s promises of keeping your insurance and keeping your doctors, and paying $2,500 less were all pure hooey, and that the vast number of Americans who receive their health care through their employers are being gulled until “after the election.”

As they usually do, Democrats were interested in getting people signed up, dependent on government for their health care, and in income redistribution. There is clearly little interest in the law about the actual health of the American people. Read the whole thing, for the response of Americans.

The “anecdotes” that Democrats used at the time to try to drum up enthusiasm for their plan — that our health care cost too much (costs had been declining for several years); the uninsured could not get insurance (the uninsured didn’t want insurance, and apparently still don’t); all the folks with pre-existing conditions (That seems to be the only anecdote to which they are still clinging) were not exactly true.

All the warnings about cost and incentives and unexpected consequences went unheeded. The Democrat politicians who drummed this stuff up have never done anything but politics, but locked in the back rooms of Congress they were sure that they could order one-sixth of the American economy, and it would all be ever so wonderful. Well, hubris.  They’ve made a mess of it, but they will not give up. It has passed unworkable, descended into uncaring, and more horrors will be revealed as we get past Obama’s illegal executive revisions. They will attempt to revise it into a single-payer plan, which is what they really wanted all the time.



Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws by The Elephant's Child

The House Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on executive overreach. Members of Congress and constitutional law experts testified yesterday, warning that the legislative branch is in danger of ceding its power in the face of an “imperial presidency.”

The hearing, “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws,” focused on the multiple areas  where President Barack Obama has bypassed Congress, ranging from healthcare and immigration to marriage and welfare rules.

Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, testified that the expansion of executive power is happening so fast that America is at a “constitutional tipping point.”

My view [is] that the president, has in fact, exceeded his authority in a way that is creating a destabilizing influence in a three branch system,” he said. “I want to emphasize, of course, this problem didn’t begin with President Obama, I was critical of his predecessor President Bush as well, but the rate at which executive power has been concentrated in our system is accelerating. And frankly, I am very alarmed by the implications of that aggregation of power.”

“What also alarms me, however, is that the two other branches appear not just simply passive, but inert in the face of this concentration of authority,” Turley said.

Jim Gerlach (R-PA) said “The ACA has been revised, altered and effectively rewritten by the president and his administration 23 times since July.”

Representative Tom Rice (R-SC) said, “When we have these constant changes at the president’s whim, think about what that does to businesses’ planning capabilities and hiring capabilities and their expansion capabilities. We shouldn’t wonder why our economy is struggling.”



Thursday Morning Cute by The Elephant's Child

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For more, visit www.zooborns.com, but warning, it can be addictive.



The Syrian Catastrophe by The Elephant's Child

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The Obama administration’s Syria policy has been a blunder of historic proportions. When he might have intervened effectively, he dithered, When he did intervene it was ineffectual. When the situation was manageable, it was neglected. Nevertheless, this is not the responsibility of the U.S. government. It is the responsibility of Bashar Assad and his supporters, al Qaeda and other radical Muslims who have forcibly taken over the opposition to Assad.

This photograph was taken late last month. The scene is Yarmouk, a district of Damascus that is populated mostly by Palestinian “refugees” and has been the scene of heavy fighting. The U.N. is passing out food packages and the starving people are hoping to get something to eat. This is truly an example of a picture being worth more than a thousand words. (Click to enlarge)

(h/t: Powerline)



Barack Obama, The Nation’s Top Gun Salesman by The Elephant's Child

The FBI has just released their latest semi-annual crime report, which covers January to June of 2013.

Nationwide, forcible rape was down 10.6 percent, burglary was down 8.1 percent, murder was down 6.9 percent, and aggravated assault was down 6.6 percent from the previous period. Arson plunged a staggering 15.6 percent.

There was slight increase (0.6-percent ) in murders in cities with a population of 25,000-49,999, and a 2 percent rise in murders in cities with a population of 50,000-99,999. The number of murders plunged the deepest in cities with a population of more than 1 million citizens, which reported a 18.5 percent drop.

Overall, violent crime dropped 5.4 percent, with the largest drop in non-metropolitan areas, which saw a 10.5 drop in overall violent crime, and a 13 percent drop in murders.

The crime rate dropped significantly as firearm sales had a record-breaking year. The total number of background checks conducted for gun sales last year add up to 21,093,273, beating the 202012 record of 19,592,393 by over a million and a half. Unsurprisingly the greater efforts by President Obama to release executive actions on gun control, the more gun sales increased. States that implemented gun control measures also saw a significant increase in sales.

But violent crime dropped? How can this be? Blame the Butterfield Fallacy. Or blame John LottMore Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws.



Great Effort To Pass a Law. No Interest in Follow-Through by The Elephant's Child

Have you noticed that Liberals are very big on getting their “big ideas” passed into law, and once accomplished have little interest in their effect. Vast attention is paid to “messaging,” to the words chosen, everything is focus-group tested. Wordsmiths are urged on to ever more effort to find the perfect words. Differing messaging is planned for different groups. Outreach is carefully directed to specific audiences. But once they succeed, if they succeed, in getting the legislation passed and it is a done deal— they lose interest and go on to the next “big idea.”

Medicare was a big idea that they were very proud of. Seniors like it, and it works fairly well. But it is a done deal, so Liberals have no hesitation in, for example, taking $500 billion out of Medicare to prop up ObamaCare. The Veterans Administration promised health care to veterans, but when claims piled up, they just destroyed the older claims so the backlog would disappear. When slums became too dangerous Liberals built public housing, but failed to keep it up, keep it in good repair and safe, so the public housing became slums.

The promises of ObamaCare have already proved false, but people who receive their health care through their employers have yet to encounter the lies, cancellations, and the higher costs. Obama has postponed all that till after the coming election. So most people are  unaware that their ObamaCare insurance does not travel, not to the next town, and not to the next state. They are unaware that they will not be able to keep their doctors, nor that the cost will increase astronomically.

Democrat governors met with President Obama this last weekend — they need help selling ObamaCare. They have their own glitch-ridden websites, and the big message of pre-existing conditions isn’t selling. But the drive is to get people signed up, not to offer care. If all the ‘uninsured’ signed up for Medicaid, the illusionary system would collapse. There were not enough doctors who would accept Medicaid patients to keep the system functioning before ObamaCare.

Liberal promises are meant to garner votes, to get a “big idea” passed and the people dependent on the benefit. If they are dependent they will continue to vote for those who gave them the benefit lest they lose it and face the unknown. Freedom can be scary. You might have to depend on  your own efforts.



The Economy Is Not a Pie: It’s a Garden by The Elephant's Child

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The most common metaphor for debates about growth and income distribution is a pie chart picturing the economy as a pie. The usual argument is how to divide up the pie and distribute the slices. What is fair? But this is another misleading metaphor.

A pie has a defined size. Economic growth and efficiency are about making the pie bigger. Equality is about the size of the slices. Keith Hennessey, Director of the National Economic Center under President Bush, explains in an essay for the George W. Bush Presidential Center:

The pie metaphor for the economy is misleading and damaging, especially if you place a high priority on economic growth.

A pie has a predefined size. A central authority (probably the baker) cuts up the pie before serving any of it. It’s a single pie to be divided. Indeed the popular economic debate analyzes what “share of economic growth over the past X years has gone to the top (or bottom) Y percent,” as if income or income growth is a single quantity that is centrally allocated among a population, to be later reallocated by policymakers. Because the market allocation is increasingly unequal, some argue we can and should simply re-slice the new, bigger pie to produce more equitable pieces. Those who do usually ignore that their actions would make the economy smaller. The pie metaphor contributes to this view because one cuts the pie only after it has been baked, after its size has been centrally chosen.

A flower garden is a better metaphor for looking at economic growth and income distribution. A flower’s growth depends on the individual characteristics of that type of flower and that particular seed. It also depends on common factors shared with other flowers in the same garden (e.g., the local climate, pests, the skill and diligence of the gardener) as well as its particular advantages relative to other flowers (better sunlight, soil, and water in this part of the garden than that part over there).

The economic challenge is to maximize the growth potential of the whole garden, the gardener helps, but flowers grow naturally, with a little fertilizer, sun and water. Policymakers and elected officials do not “create jobs” nor do they “increase economic growth.” Wise policymakers create the policies under which the whole economy can grow. Think incentives and freedom: maximizing the potential for those struggling to succeed. When you have vigorous economic growth, the whole economy blooms and income distribution ceases to be a problem.

Efforts to control by those who do not understand the workings of business, regulation by those who do not understand the results of over-regulation. Far too many politicians have never worked in the private sector and do not grasp the effects of the regulations they choose to employ.

An example is the current outcry over restaurant menus, and the federal requirement to list every ingredient with its calorie count. Think about the big menu on a lighted sign behind the cashier in a pizza place, a Mexican restaurant or an Asian restaurant. For restaurant chains, the signage problem is immense and costly. Multiple studies have shown that adding calorie counts to a menu have no significant effect on menu choices. But you knew that. You don’t go to McDonalds to reduce. You go to McDonalds because you want a hamburger and french fries. It’s a regulation in search of a purpose.



Backlog of Veterans Claims Piling Up? — Just Destroy Them! by The Elephant's Child

December 30, 2013: The Obama administration’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki said that it is on track to eliminate the disability claims backlog.  For the first time since Barack Obama was elected president, the veterans claims backlog will end this year lower than it began.

Department of Veterans Affairs officials say they’re on track to end the backlog entirely sometime in 2015. At the start of December, the claims backlog —the number of cases unfinished for more than 125 days — sat at just under 393,000 cases. Critics call that an embarrassingly large number, especially considering that the White House pledged to fix the problem almost four years ago. But the peak was 608,000 in March.

Shinseki credits mandatory overtime for the agency workforce and new computer processing systems that pushed to agency to come out of paper to go into electronics.

February 14, 2014: Employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) destroyed veterans’ medical files in a systematic attempt to eliminate backlogged veteran medical exam requests, a former VA employee told the Daily Caller.

“The committee was called ‘System Redesign’ and the purpose of the meeting was to figure out ways to correct the department’s efficiency. And one of the issues at the time was the backlog,” said Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant in the VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center.

“We just didn’t have the resources to conduct all of those exams. Basically we would get about 3,000 requests a month for [medical] exams, but in a 30-day period we only had the resources to do about 800. That rolls over to the next month and creates a backlog,” Mitchell said. “It’s a numbers thing. The waiting list counts against the hospital’s efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned.”

By 2008, some patients were “waiting six to nine months for an exam” and VA “didn’t know how to address the issue,” Mitchell said.

VA Greater Los Angeles Radiology department chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden initiated an “ongoing discussion in the department” to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus reducing the backlog, Mitchell said.

Audio from a November 2008 meeting was obtained by the Daily Caller.

“I’m still canceling orders from 2001,” said a male official in the meeting.

“Anything over a  year old should be canceled.” replied a female official
.
“Canceled or …  your backlog should start at April “07” the female official replied, adding “a lot of those patients either had their studies somewhere else, had their surgery … died, don’t live in the state. …It’s ridiculous.”

Congress has been after the VA for some time, trying to get information, responses, and explanations. This is just the first chapter is a long disgusting story. The government is not dependable. Promises are not kept. Contracts are not fulfilled. Politicians lie and cover up, and promise that which they cannot deliver, in order to get votes. Ethics start at the top.

July 1, 2013: The Backlog:

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Politicians Play The Poverty Game by The Elephant's Child
February 25, 2014, 7:18 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

We lose track of reality by misuse of words, deliberate efforts to change the meaning of words, ignoring common sense, and simply not stopping to think things through.

Poverty is much in the news. But do we ever stop to think that as long as we define the poor as the bottom twenty percent of the national income, there will always be the poor.

There is no material poverty in the United States. 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning; three-quarters have a car or truck, 31 percent have two or more. Two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have one or more computers. Forty-two percent own their homes. Poor Americans have more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France or the U.K.

The Treasury Department divides the American people up into quintiles —  the poor, the lower middle, the middle, the upper middle, and the rich. They are not the same people over time, and income mobility is the norm.  80 percent of people born in households below the poverty line escape poverty when they grow up, some become rich.

Economics Professor Walter E. Williams writes:

The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 35 percent and among whites at 13 percent. The illegitimacy rate among blacks is 72 percent, and among whites it’s 30 percent. A statistic that one doesn’t hear much about is that the poverty rate among black married families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8 percent. For married white families, it’s 5 percent. Now the politically incorrect questions: Whose fault is it to have children without the benefit of marriage and risk a life of dependency? Do people have free will, or are they governed by instincts?

The black illegitimacy rate was only 14 percent in 1940. A slightly higher percentage of black adults were married than white adults according to census data going back to one generation out of slavery, a fact in every census from 1890 to 1940. Avoiding long term poverty is not complicated: 1. graduate from high school. 2. get married before you have children and stay married. 3. work at any kind of job, even one that starts at the minimum wage. A married couple, each earning the minimum wage would earn an annual combined income of $30,000. The poverty line for a family of two is $15,500, and for a family of four, it’s $23,000.

Since LBJ’s War on Poverty the nation has spent about $18 trillion at the federal state and local levels of government on programs justified by the “need” to deal with some aspect of poverty. Poverty is a political game. Promising to help the poor is a good thing. Making the poor dependent on government is not. A poor person who is offered a job at the minimum wage that promises a brighter future, would lose money by going off welfare. But you don’t climb the economic ladder on government handouts. The government is not dependable. Once welfare is granted the amounts may be cut at any time depending on budgeting. There is little political interest in addressing the basic causes of poverty. Which is why the failure to talk about it honestly is so unfortunate.

So you have increasing the minimum wage. Government will make the poor less poor by ordering their employer to pay them more. A full time minimum wage worker at $7.25 is earning more than the poverty line. The minimum wage here is $9.25, and goes mostly to teenagers whose family incomes are around $50,000. You will notice that the politician who is proposing to raise the minimum wage has no skin in the game. He just gets to preen and get votes from people who think he’s doing something nice.




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