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“AMBUSH AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2017 at 12:14 am

After being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Meryl Streep criticized Donald Trump’s mocking of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.  

Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts the movement of the muscles in his arms.  

At a South Carolina rally on November 24, 2015, Trump claimed that Kovaleski was backing away from an article he had written four years earlier.

Trump had earlier said the article proved that New Jersey Muslims had celebrated the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Kovaleski had insisted there was no credible proof of such celebrations.  

Angered at being contradicted, Trump mocked Kovaleski: He flopped his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while imitating the reporter: “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.'”

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Trump mocking Kovaleski, left; Kovaleski, right

At the Golden Globe Awards on January 8, Streep denounced this behavior that “broke my heart.”

“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. 

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

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Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes

Streep’s words outraged Trump’s supporters–especially his mouthpiece, Kelleyanne Conway. 

Appearing on Right-wing Fox and Friends the next morning, she said: “We have to now form a government, and I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep is also, I think, inciting people’s worst instincts. 

“When she won’t get up there and say, ‘I don’t like it, but let’s try to support him and see where we can find some common ground with him, which [Trump] has actually done from moment one.”

Conway didn’t say what common ground Streep should find with Trump. Perhaps agreeing on mocking the disabled? 

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Kelleyanne Conway

Then Conway visited CNN’s “New Day,” where she offered a “black-is-white” defense for Trump’s videotaped ridiculing of Kovaleski: It didn’t happen.  

The host, Chris Cuomo, having seen the video, wasn’t buying it.

CUOMO: But is [Streep] wrong? Is she wrong that it was wrong for Trump to make gestures like that about a man with disabilities?  

CONWAY: He didn’t–but that is not what he did and he has said that a thousand times. As he tweeted out today–

CUOMO: He can say it a million. Look at the video.

CONWAY: Why can’t you–wait, excuse me. Why can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt the way the benefit of the doubt was given to CNN’s polling, all of its analysts?

CUOMO: Because he’s making a disgusting gesture on video talking about Serge.

CONWAY: Not about that reporter and that’s just a fact. That is what he’s said. You should give him–

CUOMO: But how is it not about the reporter?

CONWAY: –the deference and respect if he says that it was–he was not mocking, he was mocking the groveling. He said it again this morning. He has three tweets out about it.

CUOMO: But he’s doing a gesture that goes right to the guy’s vulnerability.

CONWAY: You’re saying you don’t believe him. You’re calling him a liar and you shouldn’t.

CUOMO: Look, Kellyanne, to me that’s like you’re trying to scare me off the point and we both know it’s a waste of time.

CONWAY: I’m not going to scare you off anything.

CUOMO: He’s making a gesture that is so keenly tuned to what Serge’s vulnerability is. 

CONWAY: And now you’re giving oxygen to what Meryl Streep said.

CUOMO: Forget about Meryl Streep. This happened before her. If our kids did that, could you imagine what we would say to them?  

Conway said she would not bring her children into the discussion.

CUOMO: I will. If my kid did something like that, it’d be a really tough day.

CONWAY: You have to listen to what the president has said about that. Why don’t you believe him? 

Conway tried to change the subject to Hillary Clinton: “She was given the benefit of the doubt here constantly.”  

When Cuomo asked for specifics, she refused to give them.  Then she returned to claiming that Trump had never mocked Kovaleski:

CONWAY: You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this, when he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth, rather than look at what’s in his heart.  

* * * * *

Previously, politicians had defended themselves with arguments like: “You can see right here on the tape, I did (or, I didn’t)….”  

Trump has cast aside that logic–and the taped evidence–by demanding: “Believe what I’m telling you, not what you’ve just seen.”

By that rationale, if a security camera shows Trump robbing a bank at gunpoint, we’re supposed to believe him if he says: “No, I didn’t rob that bank. I was simply checking my bank balance.”

Such “logic” holds appeal for paid shills like Kelleyanne Conway. But most people will continue to judge by the evidence.

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 13, 2017 at 12:02 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore an illegitimate President.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so. 

As his popularity fell to less than 1% among blacks, the managers of his campaign urged: Put the “birther” issue behind you.

So, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.  

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Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”  

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.  

On the evening of September 16, Hillary Clinton strongly responded to Trump’s comments: 

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to de-legitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”  

And First Lady Michelle Obama slammed Trump for his “birther” claims: 

“Then, of course, there were those who questioned, and who continue to question for the past eight years, and up to this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country.

“Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set, by going high when they go low. And he’s answered these questions with the progress we’ve achieved together.” 

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Michelle Obama

But perhaps the best perspective on this event was provided by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Each Friday they appear on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

On September 16, Shields (a liberal) and Brooks (a conservative) addressed Trump’s about-face on birtherism.    

MARK SHIELDS: “I think it’s important to establish right at the outset that [Trump] wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump. He lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

“And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton.

“And this was an appeal to–he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth, but a corroding relationship to the truth, frankly, as politics has gone on over the years.

“But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules.

“And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in 1984. And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored.

“And so I do think this statement sort of shocked me with the purification of a lot of terrible trends that have been happening. And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

“And the fact that there is no penalty for it, apparently–he’s doing fantastic in the last two weeks in the polls–is just somehow where we have gotten.”  

Less than two months later, Trump won the Presidency.  

Since then, Trump has continued to inhabit what David Brooks called “Orwell land.”

The most recent example of this occurred on January 9, 2017.  

The night before, Meryl Streep had enraged Trump and his mouthpiece, Kelleyanne Conway, at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony.

While being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, she had criticized Trump’s mocking, on November 25, 2015, of disabled New York Times reporter Serve Kovaleski:  

“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. 

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.” 

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 12, 2017 at 12:10 am

In 2011, Donald Trump, host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Barack Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya–and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

SEALS attacking bin Laden’s compound in the 2012 movie, “Zero Dark Thirty”

And how did Trump respond?  With the following series of Tweets on Twitter:

May 18, 2012:  “Let’s take a closer look at that birth certificate.@BarackObama was described in 2003 as being “born in Kenya.” http://bit.ly/Klc9Uu

August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

August 27, 2012: “Why do the Republicans keep apologizing on the so called “birther” issue? No more apologies–take the offensive!”

September 13, 2012: “Wake Up America! See article: “Israeli Science: Obama Birth Certificate is a Fake” 

June 30, 2013: @davidrhythmguit: @realDonaldTrump @Chuffman48 Mark Cuban accepts the fact that the President of the United States was born here. Doubt it”

August 22, 2013: “Why are people upset w/ me over Pres Obama’s birth certificate? I got him to release it, or whatever it was, when nobody else could!”

December 12, 2013:  “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived”

November 23, 2014: “@futureicon: @pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump

Even after declaring his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015, Trump continued to insist that Barack Obama was an illegitimate President.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity among blacks had steadily fallen. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters. By comparison, 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Among the reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • His “birther” attacks on President Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya–and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.

In doing so, he entered into what conservative New York Times political columnist David Brooks called “Orwell land.”

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 11, 2017 at 12:02 am

“Credibility gap” is a term that came into use during the mid-1960s to describe public and journalistic distrust of President Lyndon B. Johnson. In particular, the term was applied to his administration’s conduct of the Vietnam war.

It was, in short, a euphemism for accusing government officials of outright lying.

An example of the credibility gap in full swing appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 Vietnam war movie, Full Metal Jacket

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Vietnam was a war where military and political officials spewed a gung-ho version of constant American progress against a tough enemy.

And where civilian reporters like David Halberstam and Walter Cronkite saw–and labeled–the war as a brutal, wasteful and ultimately doomed effort. 

Midway through the film, there’s an editorial meeting of The Sea Tiger, the official Marine newspaper.

Lieutenant Lockhart is presiding–and he is determined to give his superiors an endless stream of “all-systems-go” propaganda reports. He reads a series of stories that have been published:

Story #1: DIPLOMATS IN DUNGAREES–MARINE ENGINEERS LEND A HELPING HAND REBUILDING DONG PHUC VILLAGES.

LOCKHART: “Chili, “if we move Vietnamese, they are evacuees. If they come to us to be evacuated, they are refugees.”

Story #2: N.V.A. SOLDIER DESERTS AFTER READING PAMPHLETS.

LOCKHART: “A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.”

Story #3: NOT WHILE WE’RE EATING: N.V.A. LEARN MARINES ON A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION DON’T LIKE TO BE INTERRUPTED WHILE EATING CHOW.

LOCKHART: “‘Search and destroy.’  Uh, we have a new directive on this. In the future, in place of ‘search and destroy,’ substitute the phrase ‘sweep and clear.’ Got it?” 

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Lt. Lockhart, editor of The Sea Tiger 

LOCKHART:  “And, Joker–where’s the weenie?”

JOKER:  “Sir?”

LOCKHART  “The Kill, Joker. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.”

JOKER:  “Didn’t see ’em.”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here: Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–winning of hearts and Minds–okay? And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails … drag marks?”

JOKER:  “It was raining, sir.”

LOCKHART:  “Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Grunts like reading about dead officers.”

JOKER:  “Okay, an officer. How about a general?”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.”

So great became the divide between truth and lies during military “press briefings” that reporters started calling them “The Five O’clock Follies.” And even some soldiers took to wearing buttons that said: “Ambushed at Credibility Gap.”

Reporters who dared to write truthfully about the military’s crimes and failures–like David Halberstam of the New York Times and Peter Arnett of the Associated Press–were regarded as traitors by military and political officials.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy became enraged by Halberstam’s reporting on the corruption of the South Vietnamese government. He pressured New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger to transfer Halberstam to another locale. Sulzberger politely refused–and then extended Halberstam’s stay in Vietnam another six months.

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David Halberstam

In 1965, when CBS Correspondent Morley Safer filmed Marines setting fire to the village of Cam Ne with Zippo lighters, President Lyndon B. Johnson was similarly outraged.

He placed an early-morning call to CBS News President Frank Stanton and shouted: “Your boys shat on the American flag!”

The trail of deceit and attempted censorship continued right up to the end of the war–in April, 1975. That was when North Vietnamese forces invaded the South and quickly overwhelmed the incompetent defenses arrayed against them.

And while America was still bogged down in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal erupted on June 17, 1972.

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Watergate Hotel

Members of the Nixon administration’s secret “Plumbers Unit” burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel.

Obsessed with re-electing Richard Nixon, they sought incriminating information to discredit U.S. Senator George McGovern, the Democrats’ nominee for President.

When the burglars were caught, President Richard M. Nixon and his topmost officials lied and stonewalled both reporters and investigators seeking the truth.

Nixon’s press secretary, Ronald Ziegler, repeatedly slandered the integrity of The Washington Post for its coverage of the mushrooming Watergate scandal. He called the Watergate break-in “a third-rate burglary” and attacked the Post for “shabby journalism.”

Finally, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler, announced at a press conference: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

In short: We’ve been lying to you for the last 10 months.  But now we’re telling the truth.

Like Vietnam, the Watergate scandal destroyed the reputations of many of its chief architects. Forty government officials were indicted or jailed.

Vietnam and Watergate were seminal events for Americans coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They taught an entire generation: Don’t trust the government.  Its officials routinely lie, and their lies can be deadly.

AMERICA: TIME TO EXIT THE SYRIAN QUAGMIRE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2016 at 12:02 am

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton disagree on everything–except that the United States should intervene to stop Syrians from slaughtering one another.  

In fact, there are ten excellent reasons for withdrawing American soldiers from their current war on ISIS forces in Syria.  

1.  It’s been only five years since the United States disengaged from its disastrous war in Iraq.  On December 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–killed 4,487 service members and wounded another 32,226. 

2. The United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. Although the American military role formally ended in December, 2014, airstrikes against Taliban positions continue and U.S. troops remain in combat positions.

U.S. Special Operations troops, serving as advisors and trainers of struggling Afghan government forces, still unleash military operations against the Taliban.

3.  Intervening in Syria could produce unintended consequences for American forces-and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism. American bombs or missiles could land on one or more sites containing stockpiles of chemical weapons. Imagine the international outrage that will result if the release of those weapons kills hundreds or thousands of Syrians.

U.S. warship firing Tomahawk Cruise missile

Within the Islamic world, the United States will once again be seen as waging a war against Islam, and not simply another Islamic dictator.

4.  Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

5.  There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–only murderers who have long served a tyrant or now wish to support the next tyrant. With no history of democratic government, Syrians aren’t thirsting for one now.

6. The United States had no part in creating the dictatorial regime of “President” Bashir al-Assad.

Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it since 2011.

7.  The United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, other than “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.”

But President Barack Obama hasn’t stated what his “state policy” is toward Syria. He’s said he’s “not after regime-change.” If true, that would leave Assad in power–and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

8. The Assad regime is backed by–among others–the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda. 

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. Besides plotting 9/11, It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.

Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

9.  The United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia.

The Russians have shipped bombers, tanks and artillery units to Syria, in addition to hundreds of Russian troops. This is an all-out effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to bolster President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime–and show that Russia is once again a “major player.”

What happens if American and Russian tanks and/or artillery units start trading salvos? Or if Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l.

But there’s a difference between 1914 and 2015: Today’s Great Powers have nuclear arsenals.

10.  While Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda–or ISIS–makes the United States that much safer.

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them. In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Damascus, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge.  And Hezbollah will do so.

Similarly, when Hezbollah destroys a mosque, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hezbollah–or vice versa. This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.

This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1–TIME TO HANG UP: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2016 at 12:04 am

According to Micheal Scheuer, America needs to end its role as Israel’s permanent bodyguard.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran–as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Testifying before the House Committee on Homeland Security on October 9, 2013, Scheuer warned:

“If it was up to me, I’d dump the Israelis tomorrow. All I worry about is that continuing preaching of American politicians to the American people that our relationship with the Israelis doesn’t cause us to have dead Americans and extraordinary expenses in fighting the Muslim world.”

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Michael Scheuer

For decades, the United States has pursued two policies in the Middle East, one based on relations with the Arab world and the other based on relations with Israel.

Policy 1: Maintaining access to vast amounts of Arab oil at low prices.

Policy 2:  Maintaining the security of Israel.

Since the Arabs and Israelis hate each other, each side constantly tries to sway American support in its direction.

Every step the United States takes to defend Israel–diplomatically or militarily–ignites hatred of Americans among Islamics.

And every step–diplomatically or militarily–the United States takes to improve its relations with Islamic countries convinces Israelis that they’re being “sold out.”

President George W. Bush tilted strongly toward Israel. That convinced Israelis to go on building settlements in occupied Arab territory–and alienated the Arabs.

President Barack Obama, seeking a balanced approach, leaned heavily on Israel to stop building settlements. This alienated the Israelis–who continued building settlements–while leaving the Arabs enraged.

In short: The United States is like a giant who has one foot stuck in Israel and the other stuck in any Islamic country–leaving his private parts fully exposed to whichever side wants to take a shot at them.

This is not to deny that Israel has a right to exist. Every nation–including Israel–has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression.  

But no nation–including Israel–should have the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. America, however, was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

But there is another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel. And it has nothing to do with concern for the fates of Israelis.

It lies in the mythology of the Christian Right: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

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Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

This is also the view of many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate. Clearly, people who hold such totally irrational views shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office.

Unfortunately, such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

During his appearance before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael Scheuer absolutely rejected the conservatives’ assertion that jihadists wage war on us because they “hate us for our freedoms.”  

SCHEUER: These people are fighting for something substantive, for something religious….They are not going to fight us because we have women in the workplace.

That is an insanity.  What they are fighting us about is what we do.

…I would draw your attention to the reality that, to the best of my knowledge, neither we nor any of our NATO partners have yet to capture a Western Islamist fighter whose words or documents have shown a motivation to attack based on hatred for liberty, elections or gender equality.  

Invariably, they attribute their motivation to U.S. and Western military intervention and support for Israel and Muslim tyrannies.

Scheuer’s take on Israel brought him into direct conflict with Rep. Peter T. King (R-New York).

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Congressman Peter T. King

KING: I would just say we would have more dead Americans if we didn’t stand by our allies in the Middle East. We would just be encourage al-Qaeda to take advantage of us.

SCHEUER: You know, you are presiding over a bankruptcy. What can be worse? What has been the goal of al-Qaeda since it was formed? To bankrupt the United States.  Who is winning today, sir?  We are done like dinner.  

KING: We are winning and we will continue to win unless we take the advice of people like you.  

SCHEUER:  Sir, you are exactly wrong. We are losing. Two U.S. field armies were defeated by men in the field with weapons from the Korean War.

KING: The fact is we have not been successfully attacked since September 11.

SCHEUER: The fact is, sir, we have had two military defeats overseas, which is far more important.

And, warns Scheuer, more defeats–domestic and international–lie ahead unless the United States radically changes its policies toward the Middle East.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 4, 2016 at 12:04 am

For America to avoid permanent military entanglements in the Middle East, it must learn to mind its own business.

So says Michael Scheuer, a 20-year CIA veteran who, from 1996 to 1999, headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer has repeatedly warned: The United States must not deploy troops in Syria.

More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war. The conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

And many members of Congress are demanding that “we must do something” to stop all that killing.

Three reasons have already been given for why America should steer clear of the Syrian tar-baby. Among the others:

Fourth, the Assad regime is backed by–among others–the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God). Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. Besides plotting 9/11, It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.

Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

Fifth, intervening in Syria could produce unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

President Obama has repeatedly said American warplanes are targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). But bombing is never as accurate as its proponents insist. 

An accidental American strike on Syrian government forces could lead the country’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack Israel–perhaps even with chemical weapons.

Assad could do this simply because he hates Jews–or to lure Israel into attacking Syria.

If that happened, the Islamic world–which lusts to destroy Israelis even more than “apostate” Muslims–would rally to Syria against the United States, Israel’s chief ally.

Sixth, the United States cannot defeat ISIL through air power alone.

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIL in September, 2014.  Since then, the United States Air Force has dropped thousands of bombs on ISIL convoys.

This has not, however, destroyed ISIL. And its failure to do so has only led to demands by hawkish Republicans and Democrats for “boots on the ground.”

This was in fact predictable. Air power alone failed to secure victory over Nazi Germany during World War II and Vietnam during the Vietnam war. Nor did it “shock and awe” the Iraqis into surrendering during the 2003 Iraq war.

Seventh, while Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

Eighth, China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–-and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.

Any move by the United States to directly attack the Assad regime could ignite an all-out war with Russia and/or China.

What happens if American and Russian forces start trading salvos? Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l.

Ninth, America’s past efforts in the Middle East have usually gone horribly awry.

Two examples should suffice:

Iran: Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953. His decision to nationalize the Iranian oil industry led to his overthrow in a CIA coup.

He was replaced by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ruled until 1979 when a national upheaval forced him to flee. Iranians have never forgiven the United States for subjecting them to the 25-year reign of a brutal despot.

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Shah of Iran

Afghanistan: In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. America began supplying shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Afghan Mujahideen fighters. These shifted the balance of the war to the Afghans, who brought down countless Soviet airplanes and helicopters.  

Deprived of air supremacy, the Soviet Army lost 14,453 killed and 53,753 wounded, and withdrew by 1989.

Americans congratulated themselves on their Realpolitic. But many of the Stingers remained in the hands of jihadists–who decided that America was now “The Great Satan.”  One of those jihadists: Osama bin Laden.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1–TIME TO HANG UP: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 3, 2016 at 12:02 am

According to Micheal Scheuer, for all their ideological differences, Republicans and Democrats share one belief in common:

“An unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran–as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Michael Scheuer

From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

And he’s convinced that if America wants peace, it must learn to mind its own business.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer says that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”–with its freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture.

Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East:

  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments;
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula;
  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall;
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low;
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; and
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants.

Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.

But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts that threat: The “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

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Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.

Within that group are:

  • politicians
  • journalists
  • academics
  • preachers
  • civil servants
  • military officers
  • philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common: “An unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

On September 28, 2014, President Barack Obama provided an example of this “unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

In an appearance on 60 Minutes, Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Steve Kroft: I think everybody applauds the efforts that you’ve made and the size of the coalition that has been assembled.

But most of them are contributing money or training or policing the borders, not getting particularly close to the contact. It looks like once again we are leading the operation. We are carrying…

President Obama: Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world.

And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s the deal.

President Barack Obama

Steve Kroft: I mean, it looks like we are doing 90%.

President Obama: Steve…when there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America.

Scheuer believes that America shouldn’t be the world’s 9-1-1 number. And that the place to start is by not deploying troops to Syria.

More than 470,000 people have been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war. The conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Among the reasons why America should steer clear of the Syrian bloodbath:

First, since 1979, the U.S. State Department has listed Syria as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hizbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safehouse in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–-the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

Second, there are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–-only murderers who have long served a tyrant and other murderers who now wish to become the next tyrant.

Third, the United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, except “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.” But President Barack Obama hasn’t stated what his “state policy” is toward Syria–or what he intends to gain by attacking it.

Obama has said he’s “not after regime-change.” If true, that would leave Assad in power–-and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 30, 2016 at 1:31 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.

In April, 2011, Obama released the long-form version of his Hawaiian birth certificate. Still, Trump questioned its–and Obama’s–legitimacy.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so. 

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity steadily fell among blacks. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters–while 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.  

Image result for Images of Donald Trump's birther press conference

Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”  

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.  

On the evening of September 16, Hillary Clinton strongly responded to Trump’s comments: 

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”  

And First Lady Michelle Obama slammed Trump for his “birther” claims: 

“Then, of course, there were those who questioned, and who continue to question for the past eight years, and up to this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country.

“Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set, by going high when they go low. And he’s answered these questions with the progress we’ve achieved together.” 

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Michelle Obama

But perhaps the best perspective on this event was provided by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Each Friday they appear on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

Image result for Images of Mark Shields and David Brooks on PBS Newshour

David Brooks and Mark Shields

On September 16, Shields (a liberal) and Brooks (a conservative) addressed Trump’s about-face on birtherism.    

MARK SHIELDS: “I think it’s important to establish right at the outset that [Trump] wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump. He lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

“And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton.

“And this was an appeal to–he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth, but a corroding relationship to the truth, frankly, as politics has gone on over the years.

“But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules.

“And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in 1984. And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored.

“And so I do think this statement sort of shocked me with the purification of a lot of terrible trends that have been happening. And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

“And the fact that there is no penalty for it, apparently–he’s doing fantastic in the last two weeks in the polls–is just somehow where we have gotten.”  

* * * * *  

Americans were slow to recognize the dangers of their government’s committing armed forces to South Vietnam. But when the record of government lies reached critical mass, Americans demanded an end to the war.  

Similarly, Americans were reluctant to brand Richard Nixon, their newly-re-elected President, a criminal worthy of impeachment. But when the evidence of his criminality steadily mounted, they demanded his ouster.  

Today, Americans are flooded with overwhelming evidence of Donald Trump’s unfitness to become President. His narcissism, vindictiveness, ignorance and hair-trigger temper have been on public display for more than a year.  

Yet millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans plan to catapult this man–who “debased democracy, debased the national debate, appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us”–to the Presidency.

If that happens, future historians–if there are any–may similarly condemn those Americans who stood by like “good Germans” and allowed their country to fall into the hands of a ruthless tyrant.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2016 at 12:01 am

In 2011, Donald Trump, host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Barack Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya–and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

SEALS attacking bin Laden’s compound in the 2012 movie, “Zero Dark Thirty”

And how did Trump respond?  With the following series of Tweets on Twitter:

May 18, 2012:  “Let’s take a closer look at that birth certificate.@BarackObama was described in 2003 as being “born in Kenya.” http://bit.ly/Klc9Uu

August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

August 27, 2012: “Why do the Republicans keep apologizing on the so called “birther” issue? No more apologies–take the offensive!”

September 13, 2012: “Wake Up America! See article: “Israeli Science: Obama Birth Certificate is a Fake” 

June 30, 2013: @davidrhythmguit: @realDonaldTrump @Chuffman48 Mark Cuban accepts the fact that the President of the United States was born here. Doubt it”

August 22, 2013: “Why are people upset w/ me over Pres Obama’s birth certificate? I got him to release it, or whatever it was, when nobody else could!”

December 12, 2013:  “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived”

November 23, 2014: “@futureicon: @pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump

Even after declaring his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015, Trump continued to insist that Barack Obama was an illegitimate President.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity among blacks had steadily fallen. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters. By comparison, 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Among the reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • His “birther” attacks on President Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya–and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.

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