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REPUBLICANS: COUNTING ON COVID TO GET RE-ELECTED

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on September 15, 2021 at 12:20 am

A September 10 CNN headline said it all: “As Covid-19 hospitalizations spike, some overwhelmed, some hospitals are rationing care.”

Its opening paragraphs read:

“Once again, Americans who don’t even have coronavirus are suffering the consequences of Covid-19 patients filling up hospitals.

“More than 101,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data Thursday from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

“Now, some patients wanting urgent care won’t get it because so many beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.”

In short, tens of thousands of men and women who could have gotten vaccinated against a deadly virus refused to do so. They claimed they didn’t trust the medical establishment generally or the vaccines in particular.

But now they demand that the medical establishment save them from a possible death sentence they brought on themselves. Many of them have said, while taking up space in ICU beds, that they should have gotten the vaccine but, for unexplained reasons, kept putting it off.

That means victims of heart attacks, strokes, car accidents and crimes must now go without desperately-needed medical attention owing to the egotism, ignorance and/or arrogance of anti-vaxxers and/or Stormtrumper followers of former President Donald Trump. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Covid-19

In West Virginia, hospitals are “overwhelmingly inundated with cases of people that are not vaccinated,” Governor Jim Justice said.

The state has 813 people hospitalized with Covid-19 and set a new record for Covid-19 patients in ICUs—252 on September 8.

A record 132 Covid-19 patients are on ventilators.

In Idaho, the Department of Health and Welfare activated its Crisis Standards of Care in the northern part of the state due to “a massive increase in patients with Covid-19 who require hospitalization.” 

Governor Brad Little pleaded for eligible Idahoans to get vaccinated.

Only 23 ICU beds are available In Arkansas.

As of September 11, 660,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. 

By contrast, on that day 20 years ago, nearly 3,000 Americans died at the hands of Islamic terrorists at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

That works out to the equivalent of 220 9/11’s from January 1, 2020 to September 11, 2021.

So while Americans publicly mourned the victims of 9/11, those who have needlessly died from Covid-19 remain forgotten—except by those who knew and loved them. 

But this situation may soon—at last—be changing.

On September 9, President Joe Biden announced six measures to increase coronavirus vaccination rates, which have slowed in recent months, allowing the Delta variant to spread. Among these:

  • All federal employees and contractors must get vaccinated, without exemptions.
  • Companies with more than 100 employees must require their employees to get vaccinated, with some exceptions, or face weekly testing.
  • Hospitals that participate in the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs must also vaccinate their estimated 17 million employees.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said in a speech from the White House, making clear that he blamed the unvaccinated for the current surge in the country. “And your refusal has cost all of us.”

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

President Joe Biden

On the Fourth of July, Biden held a party on the South Lawn of the White House, declaring that the country was on the cusp of “independence” from the virus.

But the refusal of about 80 million Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has thoroughly sabotaged that goal.

The Delta variant has surged through Florida and Texas, whose governors have taken a hardline stand against mask mandates. The vast majority of the people who have become seriously ill have not been vaccinated.

Schools are closed once again. The economic recovery is faltering.

But for the Right, this means nothing.

Fox News—which supported four years of Donald Trump’s dictatorial rule—attacked Biden as an “authoritarian.” Republican officials vowed to fight his new mandates in court. 

And former Vice President Mike Pence—who similarly supported Trump’s tyranny—said: “I mean, to have the president of the United States say that he has been patient but his patience is wearing thin—that’s not how the American people expect to be spoken to by our elected leaders.” 

There are solid reasons for this.

Governors such as Ron DeSantis (Florida) Greg Abbott (Texas) and Kristi Noem (South Dakota) are trying to inherit the constituency of former President Donald Trump.

Trump attacked public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci—especially when they recommended mask mandates to stop the spread of the virus. And he urged his followers to storm state capitols of Democratic governors who were desperately trying to keep hospitals and morgues from overflowing with Covid-19 victims. 

The result: 75 million militant Right-wingers ignored the Covid-19-related deaths of 400,000 Americans and the rising ride of the pandemic and almost re-elected him President.

Republicans believe that by opposing mask and vaccination mandates, they can keep the virus going. This will depress the economy—and give them a potent issue to use against Biden in 2024.

Thus, Republicans want to look tough and champion a demented version of freedom—even as it kills huge numbers of their own constituents. 

SALUTING THE AMERICANS WHO GAVE US 9/11

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 13, 2021 at 12:07 am

On October 16, 2015, then-Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump told a brutal truth to take down his opponent, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.

Interviewed on Bloomberg TV, Trump said what—to Republicans—had been the unsayable about former President George W. Bush: “I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.”

“Hold on,” said correspondent Stephanie Ruhle, “you can’t blame George Bush for that.”

“He was President, okay? Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was President,” Trump said. “The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

Related image

Donald Trump

Immediately after Trump’s remarks, Jeb Bush rushed to his brother’s defense on Twitter: “How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.”  

Of course, “my brother” didn’t keep safe those 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11

Nor did Jeb mention that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, “my brother” was on vacation 42% of the time.

But holding Bush accountable for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center is taboo for Right-wing Republicans.

Conversely, Republicans spent four years blaming President Barack Obama for the deaths of four Americans killed in an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Fortunately, British historian Nigel Hamilton has brutally laid bare the facts of this needless tragedy.

Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

His book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, appeared in 2010.

It was inspired by a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius. 

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first 12 Caesars of Imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens—and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy—who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

These included:

  • Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.” 
  • National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice: Initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject. Then she insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting in April, 2001.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney: Focused his attention on fomenting a war against Iraq.
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: Repeatedly ignored American Intelligence warnings that Al-Qaeda was planning a major attack on the American mainland.

The only major administration official who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council. But Clarke’s position didn’t give him Cabinet-level rank.

Richard Clarke

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with higher-ranking Bush officials—such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice.

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Condoleeza Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Apparently, that moment never came for Rice—or any other Bush officials.

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz ever apologized for their negligence. Nor has any of them ever been held accountable.

After 9/11, they wrapped themselves in the flag and posed as America’s saviors.

  • Bush retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.
  • He wrote his memoirs and was paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice retired to private business, wrote their own memoirs, and lived in comfort as respected elder statesmen.

Only Richard Clarke—who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda—gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

BARBARIANS CAN’T BE CIVILIZED

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2021 at 12:07 am

On July 8, President Joseph Biden said that America would withdraw its armed forces from Afghanistan by August 31, thus ending the nearly 20-year war.

“How many more, how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?” Biden said to those calling for the United States to extend the military operation. 

To put the consequences of this effort into human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times—once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

Joseph Lemm - Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement. 

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy—that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly. 

A total of 2,312 US military personnel in Afghanistan have died and 20,066 have been wounded since 2001. The cost of military operations is put at $824 billion.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

On that date, 19 Islamic hijackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted—and the hijackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

The administration of President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011—less than one month from the 9/11 attacks—American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

The whole point of the campaign was to pressure the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

But the Taliban refused. Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then ultimately escaped into Pakistan.

After December, 2001, American Intelligence completely lost track of Bin Laden. CIA officials repeatedly said he was likely living in the “no-man’s-land” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan—to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

There was, admittedly, a great deal to detest about the Taliban:

  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they turned soccer stadiums into execution plazas for mass beheadings or shootings.
  • Taliban “fighters” have proven their “courage” by throwing acid into the faces of women who dared to attend school.

Taliban religious police beating a woman

  • On August 8, 1989, the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif. Talibanists began shooting people in the street, then moved on to mass rapes of women. Thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate.
  • The Taliban forbade women to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and wearing the burqa—a traditional dress covering the entire body. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten.

Yet, as horrific as such atrocities were, these did not obligate the United States to spend eternity trying to bring civilization to this barbaric country.

And, in pursuing that goal, both the Bush and Obama administrations repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy—despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • The same can be said for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • Afghan “insurgents” are fighting American forces because (1) they are in a civil war; and (2) they believe their country has once again been occupied by foreigners.
  • Counterinsurgency was preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan—where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied just as firmly to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops now feel about their Afghan “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed up how Americans had really felt about their supposed South Vietnamese allies.

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person. The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps. The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].

“The fourth was VC [Viet Cong]. And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value. The only thing below them was the civilians,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 20, 2021 at 6:58 pm

So why are Republicans unwilling to admit what millions saw on their TVs on January 6: That a mob of Stormtrumpers attacked and invaded the United States Capitol Building?

On the May 14 edition of the PBS program, Washington Week, Manu Raju, CNN’s Chief Congressional correspondent, provided the answer: 

“This is a party that is dominated still by the former president, that has such a strong attachment, a connection to the Republican base….There are really only a handful of Republicans who are in the same position of  [Representative Liz] Cheney [R-WY] about calling out the [former] President and calling out his lies, which is why she got ultimately pushed out.

Liz Cheney official 116th Congress portrait.jpg

Liz Cheney

“The fight has caused a distraction for Republicans, because this moment she starts questioning the election and starts questioning Donald Trump’s saying that the election was stolen or rigged, then her colleagues are forced to answer questions about what they believe. 

“And what they don’t want to say is that the election was legitimate, because if they do that, then they get hammered by Donald Trump. So then they suggest that there’s some sort of irregularities, or anomalies, or variances, or something amiss in the election without really any evidence to back that up. 

“And that puts them on the opposite side of the facts, and that ultimately is a position that Republican leaders just do not want to be on.” 

Washington Week host Yamiche Alcindor: “There is this sort of deal to form this January 6th commission, but [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy [R-CA] is saying he’s concerned about the scope.”  

“There was a bipartisan agreement announced [May 14] on this commission to investigate what happened on January 6th,” replied Kasie Hunt, Capitol Hill Correspondent for NBC News. 

“Cheney did an interview with ABC News…where she said that she expects….Kevin McCarthy potentially to get subpoenaed to testify during—in the course of that commission investigation….

“And there are some questions about what transpired when [McCarthy] called [Trump]—who, of course, was then in the Oval Office on January 6th—and said to him, ‘Please call off your people, they’ve invaded the Capitol.’  

“And of course, McCarthy has really changed how he has approached the narrative of January 6th in the intervening months. It didn’t actually take very long….I think it’s something that clearly many Republicans are nervous about this commission. 

Kevin McCarthy, official photo, 116th Congress.jpg

Kevin McCarthy

“They got some concessions. It’s going to be evenly split. And while they’ll have subpoena power, Republicans will effectively be able to veto subpoenas if they want to.”

Nineteen years ago, Republicans were thrilled to establish a bipartisan commission.

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States—also known as the 9/11 Commission—was set up on November 27,2002. It consisted of five Democrats and five Republicans.

Its mission: Investigate the events that led to the worst terrorist attack in American history..

On September 11, 2001, 19 Islamic highjackers had slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted—and the highjackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

Three thousand Americans died in one day.

The commission’s final report blamed the CIA and FBI for their lack of aggressiveness in failing to prevent the attacks. 

Republicans eagerly joined the commission—there was no downside. America was fearful of another major attack—and anxious to beef up its security. And Osama bin Laden—the mastermind of the attack—was an exotic figure, at once menacing and alien.

Not so with a commission investigating Right-wing treason.

According to a March 30-31 Reuters/Ipsos poll:

  • About half of Republicans believe the Capitol attack was largely a non-violent protest—or the handiwork of left-wing activists “trying to make Trump look bad.”
  • Six in 10 Republicans believe Trump’s false claim that victory in the November election “was stolen” from him by widespread voter fraud.
  • The same proportion of Republicans think he should run again in 2024.
  • While 59% of all Americans say Trump bears some responsibility for the attack, only three in 10 Republicans agree.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump said the rioters posed “zero threat.”

Other prominent Republicans, such as Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, have publicly doubted whether Trump supporters were behind the riot. They blame Antifa—despite the all-white crowd sporting “TRUMP” flags and red MAGA caps.

In March, 12 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a resolution honoring Capitol Police officers who defended the grounds during the attack. One lawmaker objected to using the word “insurrection” to describe the attack.

There is a reason why most Republicans refuse to admit that:

  • Joe Biden was legitimately elected; and
  • Donald Trump’s followers attacked the Capitol to prevent his certification as the winner.

They fear that if they speak the truth, it will infuriate Trump. And if he attacks them, his fanatical base will desert them at the polls.

They want to retain their positions—and all the power and perks these bring them. For that, they will sacrifice truth and betray the Constitution they have sworn to defend.

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 19, 2021 at 12:11 am

Four months have passed since the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol Building.

And a small but growing number of Republicans have chosen to glorify those who participated in the greatest act of treason in modern American history. 

Now they argue that the rioters—who shouted “Hang Mike Pence!” [then Vice President] and “Where are you, Nancy?” [Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi], brutally beat Capitol police officers and turned flagpoles into weapons—were actually peaceful protesters.

Nowhere do they mention that these “peaceful protesters” were illegally trying to overturn Joe Biden’s November 3 election.

Had they succeeded, Donald Trump would have gotten another—and illegal—four years as President.

On May 12, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the January 6 riot, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA.) said the House floor was not breached, and that the supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol behaved “in an orderly fashion.

Andrew Clyde 117th U.S Congress.jpg

Andrew Clyde

“If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) damning Clyde’s comments as “appalling” and “sick,” responded: “I don’t know of a normal day around here when people are threatening to hang the vice president of the United States or shoot the speaker, or injure so many police officers.”

Trump’s supporters broke into the Senate minutes after senators had evacuated, some carrying zip ties and tactical equipment. They clearly had hostage-taking in mind. 

They rifled through desks and hunted for lawmakers, yelling “Where are they?” They invaded Pelosi’s office, stole a laptop and shouted her name while some of her staff huddled quietly under furniture. One demonstrator carried away the Speaker’s podium.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) claimed that a woman who was shot and killed by a Capitol policeman as she tried to break through a door next to the House chamber was “executed.” He was referring to Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who was wearing an American flag.

The Justice Department ruled that the shooting was justified and did not charge the officer involved.

Paul Gosar 2018.jpg

Paul Gosar

Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Gosar accused the Justice Department of “harassing peaceful patriots across the country” as federal prosecutors file charges against hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol.

The massive investigation remains ongoing. Federal agents continue to serve arrest and search warrants and try to locate dozens of other people for questioning. Charges range from disorderly conduct and conspiracy to obstruction of an official proceeding.

“It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said. 

Hice didn’t mention than more than 140 police officers were injured during the treason-fest, and one of them–Brian Sicknick—died after being gassed with bear repellant. 

“Sixty-five MPD [Metropolitan Police Department] members sustained injuries documented in injury reports. Many more sustained injuries from the assault—scratches, bruises, eyes burning from bear mace—that they did not even bother to report,” acting MPD Chief Robert Contee testified before Congress. 

Robert J. Contee III | mpdc

Robert Contee

“People around the country and the world were shocked and moved by the video of MPD Officer Michael Fanone being beaten by a crowd of insurgents, including one wielding an American flag, and of Officer Daniel Hodges in agony as he was crushed between a door and a riot shield.”

Many officers had filed injury claims, he said, but many more had not.

After the attack, two officers—one with the Capitol Police, the other with the MPD—committed suicide.

The attempt to defend the insurrectionists came on the same day that House Republicans voted to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from their leadership team for repeatedly rebuking Trump for his lies that the election was stolen.

Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud were rebuked by numerous courts, election officials across the country and his own attorney general. 

Not all Republicans have bought into The Big Lie. And a handful have dared to speak the truth

“I was there,” said Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). “What happened was a violent effort to interfere with and prevent the constitutional order of installing a new president. And as such, it was an insurrection against the Constitution. It resulted in severe property damage, severe injuries and death.” 

How to account for these changed memories? 

On the May 14 edition of the PBS program, Washington Week, host Yamiche Alcindor provided the answer:

“There was a violent insurrection on January 6th. But in the GOP, accepting reality has consequences: House Republicans booted [Wyoming] Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership post for calling out false claims about the election. Ahead of her removal, Cheney took a defiant last stand against the former president: 

[On video] “Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. He continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.

“This is not about policy.  This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans.  Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.  I will not participate in that.” 

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2021 at 12:11 am

By January 6, 2021, President Donald J. Trump had almost run out of options for illegally staying in power for the next four years.

That morning, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, would certify states’ Electoral College results of the 2020 election. 

That morning, Trump urged Pence to flip the results of the election to give him a win.

Pence replied that he lacked the power to overturn those results.

But as Pence went off to the Capitol Building housing the Senate and House of Representatives, Trump had one last card to play.

Mike Pence - Wikipedia

Mike Pence

For weeks Trump had ordered his legions of Right-wing Stormtrumpers to descend on Washington, D.C. on January 6. 

On December 20, he had tweeted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” 

In tweets, he promoted the rally again on December 27 and 30, and January 1.

On January 6, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence and north of Constitution Avenue and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

A stage had been set up for him to address tens of thousands of his supporters, who eagerly awaited him.  

Trump ordered them to march on the Capitol building to express their anger at the voting process and to intimidate their elected officials to reject the results. 

Melania Trump 'disappointed' by Trump supporters' Capitol riot - ABC7 Chicago

Donald Trump addresses his Stormtrumpers 

“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by a bold and radical left Democrats, which is what they are doing and stolen by the fake news media.

“Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that is what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal….

“Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back….And we’re going to have to fight much harder….

“And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.

“Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated.”

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police, who made little effort to arrest or shoot them.

IndieWire on Twitter: "Pro-Trump Rioters Breach US Capitol Building in Unprecedented Attack on Rule of Law https://t.co/QA27RZTEWd… "

Capitol Police facing off with Stormtrumpers

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents or lead pipes.
  • A Capitol Hill police officer was knocked off his feet, dragged into the mob surging toward the building, and beaten with the pole of an American flag. 
  • One attacker was shot as protesters forced their way toward the House Chamber where members of Congress were sheltering in place.

These are some of the high-profile figures who were seen storming the US Capitol

Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

  • Several rioters carried plastic handcuffs, possibly intending to take hostages.
  • Others carried treasonous Confederate flags.
  • Shouts of “Hang Pence!” often rang out.
  • Improvised explosive devices were found in several locations in Washington, D.C.
  • Many of the lawmakers’ office buildings were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.

Trump to Pardon 'Patriots' Involved in Capitol Attack? Truth About WH Pardons Attorney Seeking Names in Viral Post

Stormtrumpers inside the Capitol Building

More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

After giving his inflammatory speech, Trump had returned to the White House—to watch his handiwork on television. 

Four months have since passed. And Republicans have chosen to develop collective amnesia about the greatest act of treason in modern American history.

On May 12, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the January 6 riot, Rep. Andrew Clyde, (R-GA) said the House floor was not breached and that the supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol behaved “in an orderly fashion.

“As one of the members who stayed in the Capitol, and on the House floor, who with other Republican colleagues helped barricade the door until almost 3 p.m. from the mob who tried to enter, I can tell you the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection. This is the truth.”

The Stormtrumpers almost breached the House floor but failed. But they did invade the Senate floor.

“There was an undisciplined mob,” said Clyde. “There were some rioters, and some who committed acts of vandalism. But let me be clear, there was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection in my opinion, is a bold faced lie.

“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol, and walk through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures, you know.

“If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said. 

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2021 at 12:53 am

On the May 14 edition of The PBS Newshour, New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks pointed out the dilemma now facing the Republican party: 

“If you look at the latest Gallup poll, Trump’s approval rating dropped 10% over the last little while, so he’s down to 39%. 

“We learned, in the course of the whole Cheney thing [the ousting of Republican Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney as conference chair] that the Republican party officials were hiding from their members poll data showing how much Trump was dragging them down in certain battleground districts. 

“So they are chained to a person who is fading and is dropping in popularity, and—but they can’t criticize him. So that’s called being in a pickle.”

Which brings us to why Republicans are refusing to participate in a bipartisan investigation of the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol Building. 

First, some necessary background:

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald J. Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes.

Yet for more than two months, Trump refused to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he was the victim of massive vote fraud.

Immediately after the election, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud.

From November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

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Donald Trump

On November 19, losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House. The reason: To persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

The Michigan legislators said they would follow the law.

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

David Perdue and Brian Kemp (cropped).jpg

Brian Kemp

Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million mail-in were unconstitutional.

On December 8, the Supreme Court refused to hear Kelly’s bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory. 

Although Trump had appointed three of the Court’s Justices, not one of them dissented.

On December 10, the Supreme Court refused to let a Texas lawsuit overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said without further comment. It dismissed all other related claims as moot.

The request for their overturning came in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. A Trump ally, Paxton has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges. 

Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported the lawsuit. They feared Trump’s fanatical base would “primary” them if they didn’t publicly declare their loyalty—to a man they knew was slated to leave office within two months.

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

Then, on December 30,  Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley announced that, on January 6, 2021, he would object to the certification of some states’ Electoral College results. As many as 140 House Republicans and 25 from the Senate stood to join him. 

This would have forced Republicans to:

  1. Vote to reject Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud; or
  2.  Disenfranchise millions of voters who had voted for Biden.

“Josh Hawley and anyone who supports his effort are engaged in the attempted overthrow of democracy,” Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said.

“There is no evidence that there was any fraud. Senator Hawley apparently believes that if a Democrat wins the presidential race, it must be illegitimate by definition, even absent any actual evidence of misbehavior.”

Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse bluntly offered the reason for this effort: ‘”We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage. But they’re wrong—and this issue is bigger than anyone’s personal ambitions.” 

Having lost in 59 court cases to overturn the election results, Trump opted for some old-fashioned arm-twisting.

On January 2, 2021, he called the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The reason: To pressure him to “find” enough votes to overturn former Vice President Joe Biden’s win in the state’s presidential election.

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state,” Trump lied.

He even threatened Raffensperger with criminal prosecuted if he did not change the vote count in Trump’s favor: “That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen.”  

Raffensperger insisted there hadn’t been any voter fraud—and refused to change the official results.

By January 6, 2021, Trump had almost run out of options for illegally staying in power for the next four years.

That day, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, would certify states’ Electoral College results of that election. 

That morning, Trump urged Pence to flip the results of the election to give him a win.

SMITE THE RIGHT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 3, 2021 at 1:24 am

On March 2, FBI Director Christopher Wray condemned the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorism.”

He did so while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was investigating how the attack happened and what could be done to prevent such future attacks.

“Unfortunately, January 6 was not an isolated event,” Wray said. “The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away anytime soon.”

He said the number of FBI domestic terrorism investigations had doubled since he took office in 2017 to more than 2,000. The number of investigations into white supremacists had tripled, while the number of probes into anarchist extremists had risen significantly as well.

Wray also said the FBI had found no evidence to support the Right-wing lie that the attack on the Capitol was staged by left-wing extremists such as Antifa to try to frame Trump supporters.

More than 400 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection.Yet Trump—who instigated the attack for two months—remains unindicted. 

Chart: U.S. Hate Crimes At Highest Level In Over A Decade | Statista

Right-wing terrorism has a long history in America:

  • The Supreme Court’s decision, in Brown v. Board of Education(1954), striking down segregated facilities, unleashed a wave of Ku Klux Klan violence against blacks, civil rights activists and Jews.
  • Between 1956 and 1963, an estimated 130 bombings ravaged the South.
  • During the 1980s, more than 75 Right-wing extremists were prosecuted in the United States for acts of terrorism, carrying out six attacks.
  • The April 19, 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 people. It was the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States until 9/11.
  • By 2020, Right-wing terrorism accounted for the majority of terrorist attacks and plots in the United States.
  • A 2017 Government Accountability Office report stated that Right-wing extremist groups were responsible for 73% of violent extremist incidents resulting in deaths since September 12, 2001.
  • Right-wing violence rose sharply during the Barack Obama administration and especially during that of Donald Trump. His remark after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that there were “some very fine people on both sides” convinced white supremacists that he favored their goals, if not their methods.

After 9/11, American law enforcement and Intelligence agencies initiated major reforms to focus on Islamic terrorism.

A similar reform effort, focusing on Right-wing terrorism, could include the following:

  • The FBI’s designating Right-wing political and terrorist groups as the Nation’s #1 enemy.
  • Turning the Bureau’s powerful arsenal—bugs, wiretaps, informants, SWAT teams—on them.
  • Prosecuting militia groups for violating Federal firearms laws. Using Federal anti-terrorist laws to arrest, prosecute and imprison Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence, even if states allow such display of firearms. 

Federal Bureau of Investigation's seal

FBI seal

  • Creating TIT (Turn in a Traitor) hotlines for reporting illegal Right-wing activities—and offering rewards for information that leads to arrests.
  • Treating calls for the murder of members of Congress—as Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has done—as felonies punishable by  a minimum of at least 20 years’ imprisonment.
  • Prosecuting Right-wing leaders involved in the treasonous attempt to overthrow the United States in the Capitol Building attack.
  • Such prosecutions should include Donald Trump as the chief inciter for the treasonous attack on the Capitol Building on January 6.
  • Prosecuting as “accessories to treason” all those Republican members of Congress who stoked Right-wing anger by lying that the 2020 Presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump, although every objective news source proved he had lost.
  • Directing the Treasury Department’s Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) at fundamentalist Christian churches that finance Right-wing terrorism—just as it halts the financing of Islamic terrorist groups by Islamic organizations.

Money stack | Money stacks, Money images, Money cash

  • Using drones, planes and/or helicopters to provide security against similar Right-wing terror demonstrations—especially in Washington, D.C.
  • Using the Federal Communications Commission to ban Fox News—the Nation’s #1 Right-wing propaganda network—from representing itself as a legitimate news network, and requiring that its stories carry labels warning viewers: “This is Right-wing propaganda, NOT news.”
  • Encouraging victims of Right-wing hate-speech—such as the parents of murdered children at Sandy Hook Elementary School—to file libel/slander lawsuits against their abusers.
  • Seizing the assets of individuals and organizations found guilty of Right-wing terrorism offenses. 

* * * * * * * * * *

Of all the reforms offered here, prosecuting Donald Trump for treason would prove the most significant.

The 75,000,000 Americans who voted to give him a second term still look to him for leadership. As do the majority of Republicans in the House and Senate.

Senate Republicans refused to convict him in his second impeachment trial—just as they refused in the first. Their excuse: “It’s unconstitutional to impeach a former President.”

But a former President can still be prosecuted for crimes he committed while in office—just as a former Senator or Supreme Court Justice can.

Whatever the outcome, this would send an unmistakable message to Right-wing terrorists: “Your days of immunity are over—and you will be held accountable for your terrorist acts, just as Islamic terrorist groups are.”

SMITE THE RIGHT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2021 at 12:08 am

On September 11, 2001, 19 Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. 

They did so by turning four commercial jetliners into fuel-bombs—and crashing them into, respectively, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C.; and—unintentionally—a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda mastermind of the attacks.

By December, 2001, the power of the Taliban was broken—and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than 16 years, the United States—through its global military and espionage networks—relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan—and shot him dead.

And today—almost 20 years after the 9/11 attacks, the United States continues to wage war against Islamic terrorists. 

On January 6, the United States suffered another spectacular terrorist attack—this time launched by Right-wing Americans.

Thousands of Fascistic supporters of President Donald J. Trump—many of them armed—stormed and ransacked the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.  Five people—including a Capitol Hill policeman—were killed.

The insurrectionists’ goal: To stop members of Congress from counting Electoral Votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election, from which former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was expected to emerge the winner.

For Trump—who had often “joked” about becoming “President-for-Life”—that Biden had won the election was intolerable. And it must be prevented by any means—legal or otherwise. 

U.S. Congress Under Attack, Trump Supporters Enter Capitol Building - YouTube

After overwhelming the Capitol Police force, the Stormtrumpers damaged and occupied parts of the building for three hours. Legislators huddled fearfully while National Guard units from several states finally evicted the insurrectionists.  

The Capitol attack marked the first time in American history a defeated Presidential candidate violently sought to remain in office.

It should also mark a desperately-needed change in the priorities of American law enforcement, which has traditionally focused on Left-wingers—and especially blacks—as the country’s mortal enemies. 

Numerous commentators have noted the contrast between the tepid police response to the Capitol attack by white Right-wingers and the brutal crackdown on peaceful blacks protesting the murder of George Floyd in Washington D.C. on June 1, 2020.

U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops used tear gas, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, horses, shields and batons to clear protesters from Lafayette Square—so Trump could stage a photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church. 

It’s time for American law enforcement and Intelligence agencies to wage all-out war on Right-wing terrorism—and those Republican voters and Congressional members who support it.

On March 2, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee on the Capitol attack and the growing challenges of Right-wing terrorism.

Chris Wray official photo.jpg

Christopher Wray

The hearing came as the FBI continues to make near daily arrests related to the riot. So far, more than 300 people have been hit with a variety of charges, from trespassing to conspiracy against the government.

According to PBS Newshour Correspondent Lisa Desjardins:

“[On March 1] federal prosecutors filed a revealing document in the case against Proud Boy leader Ethan Nordean, seen here with a megaphone on January 6. This charges that he and other Proud Boys raised money and collected protective gear weeks ahead.

“On January 6, prosecutors allege, they used high-tech radios to communicate and purposely dressed incognito, no Proud Boy colors or clothing. This, prosecutors say, was to help with their plan to turn others in the crowd, who they called normies or normiecons, to join them in violent attack.”

Wray was appointed FBI director in 2017, after Trump purged James Comey for refusing to become his personal KGB chief. Wray himself had been marked for dismissal because he refused to agree with Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 Presidential election.

Only Trump’s loss to Joe Biden had prevented a similar purge of Wray.

Referring to Right-wing terrorists, Wray warned: “They don’t have a formal membership in an organization. They don’t have clear command control and direction, in the way that, say, an al-Qaida sleeper cell might have. And  that’s much more challenging to pursue.” 

From Trump on down, Republicans have tried hard to convince Americans that it was Antifa—not Right-wing Stormtrumpers—who brutally attacked Capitol police and threatened the lives of Congressional lawmakers.

Their goal: To absolve Trump and put the blame on Antifa.

There are three problems with that assertion:

  1. The insurrectionists’ carried out their attack amidst a sea of red MAGA caps and blue and white “TRUMP” flags.
  2. There was not a black face to be seen in the mob—all were white.
  3. Numerous videos recorded rioters’ saying they were acting on orders from their President.

On March 2, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) asked FBI Director Christopher Wray: “Do you have any evidence that the Capitol attack was organized by—quote—‘fake Trump protesters’?”

To which Wray replied: “We have not seen evidence of that at this stage, certainly.”

THE PORNOGRAPNY OF PRESIDENTIAL PERKS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2021 at 12:14 am

Once Presidents leave office, they usually lead quiet—and highly prosperous–lives.

It’s become commonplace for Presidents to write—or ghostwrite—their memoirs. These usually fetch them a hefty advance, even if sales prove disappointing.

Then there’s the speaker’s circuit, where fees per speech usually run into tens of thousands of dollars.

These are activities that leave the average ex-President an extremely wealthy man—but don’t impact the public purse. 

But there are other perks—such as lifetime Secret Service protection for themselves and their spouses, as well as taxpayer-funded office expenses—that put a serious strain on the national budget.

us-presidential-seal - Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

George W. Bush, unlike his father, got two full terms (2001 – 2009).

Bush made money in the oil industry and owned the Texas Rangers professional baseball team  before he became Governor of Texas and then President. He’s made tens of millions through a book deal and speaking fees.

His net worth has been estimated at $40 million. 

Barack Hussein Obama served two terms (2009 – 2017). 

Obama has greatly profited from paid speeches and production deal with Netflix worth an estimated $50 million. He also gets a government pension of $161,000 a year. Michelle Obama got a reported $65 million advance for her memoir “Becoming.”

Obama’s net worth has been estimated from $40 to $135 million. 

Donald Trump served one term (2017 – 2021). 

Before he entered politics, Trump reportedly got $200 million from his father to enter the real estate business. He made millions as a New York City real estate mogul. Many of his other businesses have failed, but Trump’s vast property holdings make him by far the wealthiest president of all time. He has also profited from his show “The Apprentice,” which ran from 2004 to 2017.

His net worth is estimated at $3.2 billion.

 * * * * * * * * * *

It’s long past time for the re-evaluation of Presidential welfare.

By all means, Presidents deserve a pension, but it should be on a par with the time they served in office. This currently amounts to $219,200 per year for life.

Most police officers must serve 20 years before they can collect their full pension. And they are required to put their lives on the line almost every day. No police officer is allowed to retire on a fulltime pension after serving eight—or even just four—years.

Then there’s the matter of funding by the General Service Administration (GSA) to staff, set up and furnish an official office anywhere in the country. Ex-Presidents and their staffers can receive up to $1 million annually in reimbursements for costs.

Seal of the General Services Administration.svg

Ex-Presidents use these monies to propagandize their accomplishments—or what they claim were their accomplishments—while in office. This usually takes the form of self-serving autobiographies—which, in many cases, are ghostwritten efforts.

Former Presidents certainly have the right to publish their memoirs. But they should not receive public monies for doing so.

Moreover: Presidents aren’t required to submit their manuscripts to what amounts to a censorship committee to guarantee they don’t spill national security secrets.

Agents of the CIA are—and can have royalties from their books seized if they don’t allow their manuscripts to be so screened.

As for lifetime Secret Service protection: In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service (Public Law 89-186) to protect a former president and his/her spouse during their lifetime, unless they decline protection.  

Secret Service in action: Did 2 agents get into a drunk driving accident at the White House? - YouTube

Secret Service agents guarding Barack Obama

In 1994, as a cost-saving measure, Congress acted to limit protection for future former presidents and spouses to ten years after they left office. 

But on January 12, 2013, President Barack Obama signed a new law authorizing lifetime protection of all former Presidents and First Ladies. In addition, children of former Presidents will receive protection until they are 16 years old.

This was clearly in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center—and America’s entry into a global war on terrorism. 

Still, this is hardly necessary. There has not been one recorded case of an attack on a former President since the Secret Service began protecting the Chief Executive in 1901.

From a national security viewpoint, it is also unnecessary. Once a President leaves office, he is essentially out of the loop of daily government business.

The protection of organized crime witnesses by the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program offers a useful remedy.

While awaiting trial, witnesses are given 24-hour protection by deputy U.S. marshals. But once the trials are over and they have received their new identities and relocation to a safe area, that protection is withdrawn. If they are once again threatened, they can request it from the Marshals Service.

And if such protection is deemed necessary for a former President, then a financial means test should be applied.

Every living ex-President is a millionaire—including even Jimmy Carter, whose wealth is estimated by USA Today at $8.2 million. 

Millionaires are not considered eligible for local, state or Federal welfare programs—unless they are former Presidents.

Thus, millionaire ex-Presidents who believe they need/deserve lifetime Secret Service protection should be required to pay for it out of pocket—or hire private security. 

Treating former Presidents as gods is not only an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ monies. It is an affront to the ideals of a democratic nation. 

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