Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Rambling: My New Hat

I bought a new hat yesterday for a buck. Let me tell you about it.

Last week I was riding on the Metro, and I noticed a woman waiting for the morning train. She seemed "foreign," that's all I can say, she had a round face and a ski-jump nose, blonde but with a Mediterranean complexion and an air of self-composure that Americans don't tend to have. Dressed nicely but not strikingly, in the understated way that women from certain regions of Europe adopt. She was riding by herself and I did not get to hear her speak, which is how you figure out where someone is from. I have seen her before on the platforms, well when you ride the Metro every workday for fourteen years you do start seeing people repeatedly.

In the evening we crossed paths again. I don't know where she got on, but she was on my car. I was sitting in the last seat on the train (which is what I try to get), and I was surrounded by a family speaking French. Beside me was a breathtaking adolescent girl with big dark eyes; her mother and little sister sat in front of us. Brother stood in the aisle -- I was amused to watch him try to tear a piece off a loaf of Safeway French bread, he may have wondered why they call it that. He shouldn't have been eating on the train, and that usually does annoy me, but it's tourist season and lots of people do things like that, eat on the trains, stand on the left, block the turnstiles. The family was all blonde, except the brother's hair was light brown and there was another sister, maybe fifteen, sitting across the aisle, who had dark hair and limpid dark eyes. I'll tell you, I'd like to get a look at her in four or five years. They were a lovely, well-behaved family, and if you ride the Metro during tourist season I think you know what I mean there. Not every glassy-eyed tourist is a Pure Pleasure to ride with, you might say, some are a pain in the you-know-what.

They were somewhat agitated, looking at the Metro map and then out at the signs of each station we passed through, so I asked them what station they were going to. The girl next to me and the brother immediately explained that they were going to Bethesda. They spoke perfect English and understood me perfectly. I asked them where they were from, and they said "France." I noticed that they pronounced it in the American way, and not "Frongs," like French people say.

The foreign lady I had noticed in the morning stood by the door of the car and watched them; it's funny how the locals sometimes look out for lost tourists in the Metro system. As the family jabbered among themselves I heard the phrase "Friendship Heights" several time, and I assumed they understood that their station was the one after that. I talked to them and realized they had no idea how far that was, so I told them about how many more stops it was and said I'd let them know when we got close. I was working on reviewing a paper on the train, which is typical, but I kept track of the stations for them. I pointed out when we got to Friendship Heights and they were up and ready when the train pulled in at Bethesda. The whole family was very gracious in nodding to me and thanking me for helping them. The foreign lady and I both got off at Twinbrook.

Yesterday morning my wife and mother-in-law (who is staying with us this month) and I went out to yard sales. We did pretty well, I found a couple of unusual Tarot packs and my wife bought a box of boxes of beads and sewing things. Also, we found a cane for her mom for two bucks, which was something she needed, it was a nice little short one, just perfect for her. At one house the guy seemed to know us, but I didn't remember him, he was like, "Oh, hi, how ya doing!" My wife thinks we knew him from the grade school, which would seem right, but that was a long time ago. He was collecting money for Haiti. At another yard sale there was a guy about my age (approx. 1 million years old) who plays drums. I yacked with him for a while and got his email address and phone number. I play with a bass player in the neighborhood, and it would be really cool if we found a drummer right here around the corner who could play with us. You might see us on Ed Sullivan someday, and now, a really big shoe, Gerry and the Atrics. What? Ed Sullivan's not on any more? Oh.

We went to another house where when I walked up I noticed a little drawing with deep red ink on a blue mat, it seemed to be a stylized seated woman with her head bowed. A young man and woman were minding the store, and I asked the guy if one of them was an artist. He pointed to the lady, she was in her early twenties I guess, I am tending to refer to her as a "girl" but that's because I am so old relative to her, and I asked her about the drawing. "Oh, that's my mother's," she said. "So your mother's an artist?" "Oh, no, my dad is the artist, but that drawing is one she got in Mexico."

There were some hats on a table and I tried one on and my wife said, "That looks good on you." Let's say, I don't hear that a lot. Also, it was my size, seven and three-eights, which is unusual. Also, it seems that in recent years the sun has figured out how to penetrate through my hair and burn the top of my head. Also, the hat was a dollar and appeared to be new.

Prominently standing on the table was a book of text and drawings by Antonin Artaud. This <adjective_has_not_yet_been_invented> Frenchman is not the kind of author you typically see at Rockville yard sales, I guess you could say. I pointed to it and said to the young lady, "Somebody here has cultivated tastes." She said, "That would be my mother."

It is really interesting to go to somebody's yard sale and see the things they have picked up in their lives, and the things they are willing to part with. Mostly, you know, you see the same old stuff, with some variations. Every house has some kind of surprise. This house had lots of surprises.

While I was looking at a piece of Mexican folk art, the young lady went in and brought her mother out. And wouldn't you know, it was the foreign lady from the Metro. I said, "I saw you on the Metro," and at first she looked at me like, everybody sees everybody on the Metro, Jack, you gotta do better than that! But then she said, "Ah, you were sitting with those French people." She explained (in a decidedly Spanish accent) that she is half Spanish and half French, and though she grew up in Spain she speaks and understands French, so she knew what they were talking about. After a few seconds I let my wife take my place in the conversation, talking about our trip to Spain and so on, and I looked over the treasures I had not seen yet.

I am trained in science, in the use of inferential statistics to identify causality, in the use of sample statistics to make estimates of population parameters. I know something about probability, about randomness and chance, I run with a crowd where we use the word "stochastic" in ordinary conversations. Never mind that, as a human being I find that it is important to me to let coincidences illuminate my life. Sometimes things happen and you don't know why -- like here's one: two different people last week talked to me about the Spirit album "Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus." I have not heard that album mentioned for decades, and then there it was, two entirely unrelated individuals mentioned it. When something like that happens, there is a part of me that tunes in and asks, what is the lesson here?

Science assumes that events cause other events, generally through physical contact. In recent years the trend has been to look at complexity, the effects of great numbers of causal forces acting simultaneously. The useful word in that discussion is "emergence," which is a phenomenon that happens when many lower-level causal interactions produce a higher-level phenomenon. A cloud, for instance, emerges from the change of state of gazillions of molecules under certain conditions. A human body develops out of a single fertilized egg though the actions of millions of genes directing the synthesis of proteins, many simultaneously, each one affecting the growth of the embryo and all of them together interacting in a way that is described as "the edge of chaos," that embryo growing and being born and raised in a society of similar beings to produce the living breathing emergent phenomenon we call a "person." The thing about truly emergent effects is that they are impossible to predict. You could never take a set of human chromosomes and say, this is going to be Johnny who likes Insane Clown Posse and is good at badminton and calculus. You could never map out a region of the sky and say "At 11:37.15 a cloud will form here."

Emergent things, when they happen in life, seem uncontrolled and surprising. Think about a game like billiards, or even chess, where you have a small number of pieces and strict rules about how they can behave (billiards will include the laws of physics and Euclidean geometry). Even with such a stripped-down set of possibilities, every pool game, every chess game, can be different. You play just to see what's going to happen. Possibilities in the real world, continuous in extension and unbounded in size, teeming with the multitude of objects and their combinations and movements, are uncountable, unthinkable. Even given the constraints of physical law, just about anything can happen, including amazing coincidences.

It seems to me there is another factor here, which is the mind. Scientists can talk about the world in empirical terms, and ordinary people do, too, we talk about what size nut you need for that screw, or describe what happened at the scene of the accident as if it were a real scene, but really all we have is some sort of representation of the world. The problem with solipsism is that it is not only absurd but correct. The same neurocognitive mechanisms that create a world out of sensory information create dream-worlds without it, and the dreamer rarely realizes his world is not the real one that is validated by social consensus. Since all we know is a representation, it cannot be proven that all this is anything more than a dream, and sometimes human life operates under a set of rules closer to dream-rules than physical ones.

We are coming into an important presidential election. Two guys want you to vote for them in November, and they're doing all they can now to win your vote. You could decide based on real-world features: how does each candidate feel about the war, the environment, the economy, privacy and citizens' rights, and so on. A "campaign" could just be the publication of a list of positions, and people would have their own beliefs and they could go down the two guys' lists and see who comes closest to doing what they want.

People don't do that.

Apparently the appeal of George W. Bush, when he had appeal, was that he was a guy you'd want to sit down and have a beer with. He's the last kind of obnoxious frat-boy I'd ever want to have a beer with, but apparently a lot of people felt that way about him. Importantly, a lot of people who feel that way would actually cast their vote for the individual to run the entire country based on which candidate they'd most like to have a beer with.

See, we're not in a world of causation any more, where decisions are made by creating logical links between facts. We are now under the rules of the dream-world. They took this buffoon, put him in a flight suit, posed him on the deck of an aircraft carrier, and took his picture. The Commander Codpiece picture represented a nice heroic archetype, that's the way you win votes in the dream world! Do you remember when the President was wearing those weird uniforms, back at the start of the war? Do you remember all the photographs where the Presidential seal or some other round illuminated object was behind his head, so it looked like a halo? The guy was marketed as a dream character and that worked.

Several hundred years ago some philosophers had the insight that you could live your life by the laws of logic. You could put some effort into gathering accurate facts, you could study the chains of causation and learn how to produce desirable effects and avoid undesirable ones. There was an assumption that people would prefer the good over the bad, we'd prefer to live in comfort rather than misery for instance; though sometimes those things were hard to define, it seemed that you could make conscious decisions based on known facts that would guide your life toward prosperity and happiness.

The idea caught on, with many results. The young United States were organized around these kinds of principles of reasonable living, the explosion of technology and science of the past two hundred years or so is a direct consequence of the shift from dream-world thinking to Enlightenment thinking. But it never caught on entirely. First, I think it is possible that the purely rational life leaves something to be desired. Everybody needs love, adventure, thrills, rock and roll. Everybody needs a break in the routine.

But there's more than that. We could rationally build "escape valves" into our social world, and maybe that's what we do with art and music and war and other things. But it would be best to develop a theory of causality that included human behavior, including the tendency to act irrationally sometimes. There is nothing rational about a war, about going into people's houses and raping their children and then killing the whole bunch of them, about bombing city blocks of buildings full of innocent people, but we do it, the American people accept it, in fact nearly half of us think it's a terrific idea. Do we have a way of understanding this sort of thing? How did we accept that an entire country was "evil?" It seems that everybody lives partly in the dream-state and partly rationally, with some people favoring one more than the other, and some societies or Zeitgeists favoring one over the other.

In a rational world language would be algebra. Symbols would be applied to discrete things, verbs would describe their actions and interrelationships, sentences would be formulas. But language is not algebraic, not much at all. Words are not rationally assigned, words come to have meaning and the meanings evolve with time. The words we use today come down from the Romans and the Vikings, they reflect the sounds of our cultural ancestors more than any logical scheme for encoding the world and the things in it. You wouldn't want to speak in algebra, the perpetuation of culture through spoken and written language is not only fun but it is essential to us as persons in ways we can hardly understand.

So rationality has the disadvantage right from the start. Romans and Vikings, great. It seems to me we have to find a way to make rational decisions that take into account the phenomenological richness of real existence as irrational human beings, there's no joy in pretending to be robots but we can use logic to fortify the structure of our lives and to help us make important decisions. There will be catchy archetypes and irresistible images, and there will be rational discussion of the implications of seeing things a certain way.

America has polarized into dream-world people and real-world people, and it is impossible for them to talk to one another. The keyword for the dream-world is "faith," which means "belief without evidence." People who live in that dream-world see a battle between good and evil raging around them, they blow their leaders up into mythical heroes, they see their opponents as disgusting subhuman creatures -- just listen to Anne Coulter talk about "liberals" sometime. I don't know how this happened, but I can see it won't be resolved through discussion and debate; you can't debate a person who clings to beliefs without evidence. In the long run, the superiority of the reasoned life will be demonstrated, I think, and in the short run we just have to fight for what's obvious and right.


Blogger Hazumu Osaragi said...


There is another take on the differentiation you mention here. The works of George Lakoff (Moral Politics, Don't Think of an Elephant, Whose Freedom?) illuminated the difference in world-views of conservatives and progressives.

Much of what you spoke about the dream world -- the need for good and evil, so one can defend ones' family (the good) against the heartless, cruel evil out there; the mythology created and sustained to foster this world view; the belief in absolute rules set by the ultimate Stern Father (God) -- is found in Lakoff's Stern Father model of society.

The other world-view he presents -- the Nurturant Parents -- is closer to your real world, though it has its irrational dreams...

Since I get to be the first commenter, before the Bigot Anominii, I'd like to throw some random thoughts into the mix.

I'd like to see a dictionary that contains dual definitions for certain words. There would be a definition for the Nurturant Parent world-view, and another for the Stern Father world-view.

The words are:
-Freedom and a separate definition for the the sub-variant
--Religious Freedom

The Stern Father believers will not give up their positions without a fight. You have seen their actions, and their actions (which I'll not enumerate *coughhealthclubcough* here, speak that they are of the mind that all's fair in fighting for their position. I read/listen to their rhetoric, where they accuse the LGBT community of shoving an agenda down the 'vast majority' of society's throat and of tearing down society by recruiting and fostering disgusting lifestyles, etc. I feel that to get the basic rights we are fighting for, we should take them at their word and proceed to appear to do just that. It's been my personal experience time and time again that I've gained respect and peace from such individuals by demonstrating I was capable of bloodying noses if necessary. Suddenly, I was 'okay' by them. I think we need to 'bloody a few noses' in the fights in Montgomery County Maryland, in California, in Colorado, Oklahoma, and wherever else LGBT folk are being repressed in the name of an absolute faith-based morality. Victims become a lot less fun to **** with if they show the capability and willingness to fight back.

Jim, so few people will understand the meaning of the story you wrote, of emergent behaviour. Several years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend. He was a well-paid engineer on a water project in the west. He 'drove' water down a huge complex of canals and ditches to supply farmers with irrigation water. The land they farmed had been 'reclaimed' from a 10,000+-year-old desert, and took a lot of water and petrochemicals to produce crops from.

These farmers had attitudes and beliefs that had little to do with rational cause-then-effect, and a lot to do with faith and belief.

We discussed the topic, bringing up specific examples of behaviour and trying to find a commonality that would explain their world-view. Finally, my brain had digested just enough inferences and, while I didn't have a fully formed thesis that could predict all outcomes for a given set of inputs, an 'emergent' statement coalesced in my mind. I turned ot my friend and said;

"They want to believe in magic."


July 20, 2008 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's what Dinesh is thinking:

"I'm going to post here on a question that seems to mystify Dawkins and many other scientific atheists. These fellows wonder: if there is reasonably good evidence for evolution--as, by the way, both Dawkins and I believe there is--why do around 50 percent of Americans refuse to accept it? The conventional wisdom among Dawkins and others is that Americans oppose evolution because they are religiously committed to a literal reading of the Book of Genesis.

But there is a much better explanation of why Americans reject evolution: the idiotic claims of leading champions of evolution who are promoting an atheist agenda. Consider Dawkins himself, rebutting the claim that there are significant "gaps" in the fossil record. Dawkins concedes that there are such gaps, but then writes this: "The gaps, far from being anoying imperfections or awkward embarrassments, turn out to be exactly what we should positively expect."

In other words, the absence of evidence for evolution is itself proof that the theory is correct! This is so bizarre that it makes one wonder what the presence of evidence might do to this theory. Would a complete fossil record without gaps be evidence against Darwinian evolution, as we hear that Dawkins and his fellow biologists "exactly" and "positively" expect that such evidence should not be present?

Dawkins finally puts his cards on the table by saying of evolution: "Even if the evidence did not favor it, it would still be the best theory available." And if Dawkins is dismissed as a crank, here is Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker making the same point. "Because there are no alternatives, we would almost have to accept natural selection as the explanation of life on this planet even if there were no evidence for it."

We have here the weird spectacle of so-called scientists who are so wedded to a theory that they cannot even imagine it not to be true. This is a level of dogmatism that would embarrass any theist. Even the strongest religious believer can imagine the possibility that there is no God. So how can these self-styled champions of reason adopt so closed-minded an approach?

The short answer is given by Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin, who in a 1997 essay in the New York Review of Books makes a revealing admission: "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant proises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment--a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation for the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori commitment to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, the materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

And you thought I was making this stuff up! No wonder Americans are skeptical of these apostles of skepticism. They are peddling their own metaphysical dogmas in the name of science, even though few are as honest as Lewontin in admitting it."

July 20, 2008 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"America has polarized into dream-world people and real-world people, and it is impossible for them to talk to one another."

Let's think of some concrete examples of what these dream-world people think:

-if leave Iraq, everyone in the world we suddenly love us

-if we raise taxes, all our economic troubles will be over

-if we stop looking for oil in our country, gas prices will go down

-is we teach high school kids that we think they're all going to have sex before marriage, they'll make responsible choices

-if you ban guns, there will be no guns

-if you pass enough discrimination laws, everyone will be nice to each other

-if you elect a guy who has spent most of his three years in national politics running for President, we'll revitalize America

What's the phrase?

Oh yeah, "change we can believe in".

Jim says: "The keyword for the dream-world is "faith," which means "belief without evidence.""

Sounds like a perfect description for anyone who is planning to vote for Obama. Belief without reason also seems to apply.

July 21, 2008 6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'd like to see a dictionary that contains dual definitions for certain words."

Oh, TTF is way ahead of you. They've trying to make up their own definitions for words from the start.

July 21, 2008 6:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's becoming plain to America that Democrats are living in a dream world. Question is: what is their dream a nightmare for America? Do they wish us well?:

"It's hard not to have heard about the positive developments in Iraq lately. On Friday, the White House announced that President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had reached agreement on a "time horizon" for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last Wednesday that "security is unquestionably and remarkably better." Iraqi security forces recently took responsibility for a 10th province and expect to assume responsibility for all 18 of the country's provinces by year-end. There have been virtually no sectarian killings in 10 weeks. The Iraqi government has made important progress in political reconciliation. Regional neighbors are reestablishing embassies in Baghdad, and some of Iraq's creditors have begun to forgive the enormous debts incurred by Saddam Hussein's regime.

How have Democrats reacted to these developments? Have they reveled in the news that U.S. casualties have plummeted? Have they praised the achievements for which our troops have fought so hard? Have they congratulated the Iraqi government for progress in political reconciliation?

Not exactly.

Last Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued to ignore recent gains and instead criticized Bush and Maliki for pushing a "vague" plan to withdraw U.S. troops. Addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual convention last month, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave major foreign policy speeches. Neither even mentioned Iraq. Last Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, the leading foreign policy expert among Democrats in Congress, ignored the achievements made in Iraq and the importance of promoting stability there when he said: "If John [McCain] wants to know where the bad guys live, come back with me to Afghanistan. We know where they reside. And it's not in Iraq."

Why are the Democrats in denial about recent gains in Iraq? Unfortunately, it appears that they realize that progress is being made and want to change the subject to some other policy they can use to attack the president. Indeed, they are so opposed to acknowledging America's hard-won achievements that in a May 28 interview Pelosi credited "the goodwill of the Iranians" for "some of the success of the surge. . . . They decided in Basra when the fighting would end." As Sen. Joe Lieberman noted in a speech last year, "Even as evidence has mounted that General Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy is succeeding, Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq.""

note: you'll remember this guy was on the Democratic national ticket not so long ago

"Over the past few years, Pelosi and Reid have taken full advantage of every piece of bad news in Iraq to attack the Bush administration. Whenever American fatalities went up or there were major terrorist attacks, they ran to microphones to denounce the war as a hopeless failure. Al-Qaeda took a similar approach, issuing audio and video messages from Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, statements that threatened more U.S. casualties and described their plans to drive America from Iraq so they could make it the center of their crazed fantasy of creating a radical Islamic global caliphate.

Sen. Barack Obama's (current) position on Iraq is hard to nail down. He still favors the same arbitrary 16-month withdrawal timetable he promoted when violence in Iraq was at a high point. After insisting for months that the troop surge was doomed to fail, Obama now credits it with some security improvements while simultaneously claiming in a speech last week that the surge did not meet all of its benchmarks and was too expensive. Setting aside Obama's verbal acrobatics on Iraq, his campaign was caught last week trying to purge his earlier harsh criticism of the surge from its Web site."

note: Obama is now saying that a reisdual force of U.S. troops may need to stay in Iraq "indefinitely"; advisors hint that "residual" may be about 50,000

question of the month: how is that different from McCain saying troops may need to stay for indefinite period, like in South Korea?

"This is no time for our elected leaders to play games about the successes and challenges in Iraq. Our troops and the Iraqi people need and deserve the recognition and support of all U.S. elected officials for their efforts to stabilize that country. They need to know that we are with them and do not want them to fail.

While there is much still to be done in Iraq, recent events give many reasons for hope. Rather than always focusing on the negative of one front in the battle against radical jihadists, Democratic congressional leaders need to acknowledge success, highlight challenges and lay out a comprehensive long-term strategy to confront, contain and ultimately defeat the threat facing America. Our country cannot be led by naysayers who slide from issue to issue. The responsibilities of leadership go far beyond what Democrats in Congress are demonstrating today."

Immediate withdrawal from Iraq has been Obama's issue, the one that differentiated him from the other Democrats.

Did the Democrats buy an extended warranty on this guy?

July 21, 2008 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

In 2001 Dumbya said:

“The United States will make no concessions to terrorist demands and strike no deals with them. We make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them.”

In May 2008, Dumbya addressed the Knesset in Israel and said:

"As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided,'" Bush said.

He added: "We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

And this month, July 2008, Bush flip flopped:

In a surprising development in the tense American-Iranian relationship, the US announced this week that it would send a high-level State Department official to attend talks with Iranian nuclear negotiators in Switzerland over the weekend.

And he's flip flopped on global warming too! Have you checked your Dumbya warranty lately, Anon? Bush is trying to come around to save the GOP's dismal reputation so McBush stands a chance, but the American electorate knows that these changes from "my way or the highway" are far too little and far too late.

How big will Democratic gains be this fall?: I think the last election was a wave election. It was about a national theme, which is change and throw the guys who are in out, and this benefited the Democrats. I think frankly, we are in a very similar environment. If anything, the president's numbers have deteriorated. The Republican brand, I hate to use that phrase because it's now become too commonplace, but the Republican Party's reputation has been eroded further. I think Democrats still have the advantage of being the change party. Given that, we are either in an extended 2006 election cycle which has gone into 2007 and the first half of 2008, or we are in a new cycle and an identical one. I think it can produce Democratic gains in the double digits.

McCain Backers Not Fired Up, Poll Finds: The passion and interest shown by blocs of voters are important because they affect who will be motivated to vote. For now, the numbers favor Obama: 38 percent of his supporters say the election is exciting compared with 9 percent of McCain's. Sixty-five percent of Obama's backers say they are hopeful about the campaign, double McCain's, and the Democrat's supporters are three times likelier to express pride.

...Half of McCain's supporters say the race makes them frustrated, more than double Obama's backers who say so. By 2-to-1 or more, McCain backers are likelier than Obama's to say the campaign makes them bored, angry and helpless. And while 16 percent of those preferring Obama say they may change their candidate, 24 percent of McCain's say they might do the same.

July 21, 2008 9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama's "flip-flopping" is one thing; rooting for the defeat of your nation's military is another. This will be discussed in the fall. Democrats won't look good. They have conducted themselves in a treasonous manner. Who would have thought even six months ago that Iraq would be an advantage issue for the Republicans? I tried to tell you guys then that things are apt to change.

Bush can flip-flop all he wants. He's not breaking any campaign promises, especially not even before he's elected. You can blame Bush for a lot of things but failure to keep his promises is not one of those things.

Bush, btw, isn't running for anything. The Republican nominee in this election is a guy who has been his most persistent critic in his party. At this point the only issues that he agrees with Bush on is that we should complete the mission in Iraq and we shouldn't raise taxes. That's pretty much where the American people are at this point.

I think President McCain will have a Democratic Congress to work with but who knows how a little education will affect the voters. As much as you talk about how low the President's approval ratings are, they have never been lower than Congress's and they aren't now. Funny thing is, polls show that half the American people think Republicans still control Congress.

The discussion will be interesting this fall. A lot of minds will be changed upon focusing on the facts.

Oh well, Democrats are used to disappointment. They can handle it.

Just, please...don't drool.

July 21, 2008 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

At this point the only issues that he agrees with Bush on is that we should complete the mission in Iraq and we shouldn't raise taxes. That's pretty much where the American people are at this point.

What are you smoking, Anon? Show us the polls that say Americans agree we should stay in Iraq for 100 years and not raise taxes on Bush's enriched cronies to pay for it instead of relying on deficit spending.

Back on June 19, 2005 on Face the Nation with Tim Russert, McCain said "the fact is that I’m different but the fact is that I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I’ve been totally in agreement and support of President Bush...and I will also submit that my support for President Bush has been active and very impassioned...I strongly disagree with any assertion that I’ve been more at odds with the president of the United States than I have been in agreement with him."

McCain wants to set up a long-term US presence in Iraq like we have in Korea. He even told Tim Russert in 2005, "Look, nobody cares--in fact, I'm kind of glad that American troops are in South Korea." But Iraqis themselves want us out of Iraq by 2010, and so does Obama.

BAGHDAD (July 21) - Iraq's government spokesman is hopeful that U.S. combat forces could be out of the country by 2010.

Ali al-Dabbagh made the comments following a meeting in Baghdad on Monday between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, who arrived in Iraq earlier in the day.

The timeframe is similar to Obama's proposal to pull back combat troops within 16 months.

July 21, 2008 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the belief in absolute rules set by the ultimate Stern Father (God) -- is found in Lakoff's Stern Father model of society.

The other world-view he presents -- the Nurturant Parents -- is closer to your real world, though it has its irrational dreams..."

This is a twisted view. Commitment to an absolute morality is not stern; moral relativism is not nurturing.

Look at Christ. He held never compromised morality or pretended that it was all situational. Yet, he forgave and had compassion while still holding that the moral principles applied.

Moral relativism, on the other hand, leads to a decadent society that is vicious and gangrenous. It's anything but nurturing.

Your dichotomy, Hazumu, is twisted.

July 21, 2008 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What are you smoking, Anon? Show us the polls that say Americans agree we should stay in Iraq for 100 years and not raise taxes on Bush's enriched cronies to pay for it instead of relying on deficit spending."

More than half of Americans oppose leaving Iraq without accomplishing the mission. This has been regularly reported in recent polls. Obama himself says troops should remain. It's because he's read the polls.

No one supports raising taxes on those who create jobs. Cutting capital gains taxes has created extra revenue for government consistently. Never failed. America is an aspirational society and would rather see opportunity than income redistribution. This is not new and if you have some evidence of a turn toward socialism in America, let us know.

"McCain wants to set up a long-term US presence in Iraq like we have in Korea. He even told Tim Russert in 2005, "Look, nobody cares--in fact, I'm kind of glad that American troops are in South Korea.""

Americans have no problem with this. They don't want our troops stationed around the world to all come home. We're a global superpower with responsibilities. A Democratic Iraq will obviously be an ally. What Iraq doesn't want is for us to run the country.

"But Iraqis themselves want us out of Iraq by 2010, and so does Obama."

Obama says he wants troops to remain. He won't say how many because he's a lying hypocritical politician of the classic Democrat variety. His aides, however, have hinted at 50,000.

Holy cow, there are only 28,000 in South Korea.

July 21, 2008 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...


I've always wondered about coincidences such as your recognizing the woman from the metro, and then meeting her at the yard sale. Someone must have done a mathematical study on why the world seems so small.

I was walking down R St. NW the other day when someone on a bike passed me. I heard the bike squeal to a halt and then a voice say "Mr. Rigby?" I couldn't see the person from that far since I didn't have my glasses, so I went back. It turned out to be a student whom I first met at the Millenium March (in 2000 of course) when I was walking with PFLAG. She was the president of one of the few GSAs in Virginia at the time, and was starting a "Safe Haven" program for lgbt students at her school, with which I becam involved. Meeting her led me to come out at the school at which I taught, which led to a controversy and my eventual involvement with GSAs and programming for sexual minority youth. It also led to my severing my final ties with the ex-gay movement. It was wonderful to see her after so many years (nine; she looks older, but much the same) and to catch up. She's now all grown up, finished college, working for an educational non-profit. She wants to know whether she should call me Robert now.

It's a small town that we live in, or else we meet so many people that we run into the same ones again sometimes; I can't figure out which.

I also ran into a current student on the metro last week. He was on his way to a United game and I was going to meet some colleagues, whom he had seen at Air and Space the day before. Go figure.


July 21, 2008 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Thinking about the "dream world" as opposed to "real world" points of view (and peripherally, why so many people don't believe in Evolution: someone once suggested to me that religion, and religious feelings (the word comes the latin for "awe"), stem from an evolutionary-derived method for dealing with consciousness. Certainly there is a biological basis for religious feelings. We all have some (not always admitted) superstitions, react in certain ways to dreams, and all sorts of people believe in ghosts, spirits, the efficacy of rituals, and other things which they may not define as religion, but definitly qualify as "magical thinking." I think concepts such as Dinesh's idea that the "mind" exists independently of the brain, prayer, weird feelings, are a way of handling neural experiences which are not easily explained in terms of our understanding of the everyday world. I think we all live, to one degree or another, in a "dream world." Some folks just think that other people should live in the same one they do.

Complete speculation on my part, of course.

July 21, 2008 1:07 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...

What MAY be emerging is a consensus about what we should do with the mess we got ourselves into in Iraq. The Administration took one more shot at avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe beyond the one we had already created, and it appears to have worked, at least for now. So whether we are talking about "horizons" or "timetables", whether we are talking about "victory" or "being as responsible getting out as we were irresponsible about getting in," the consensus about going forward is that the Iraqis will never get their act together unless they know they will not be on American military welfare indefinitely. And the only way they will know that, will be if we so tell them.

That is no guarantee that they will not fall back into civil war, but it is the best alternative, since if we become a permanent Roman Legion imposing a Pax Americana on Iraq, we will make more enemies and sap our own ability to protect ourselves world-wide. Given the sheer numbers of Sunni and Shia in Iraq, Al Qaeda was never going to establish itself permanently in Iraq. Fortunately, Sunnis in Iraq finally got fed up with Al Qaeda and, with our help, seems to have squelched Al Qaeda. If the Sunnis had not done it, the Shia (including Hezbollah) would have done so – while wiping out thousands of Sunnis in the process. So the Sunnis finally got smart.

The real long term danger now in Iraq will be that Iranian-connected Shia will get their revenge later rather than sooner. That is not something we can prevent, unless we are prepared to stay in Iraq forever – with all the downsides that any occupying force faces. The long term tragedy of our Iraqi adventure may be that we will have traded a tin-pot dictator who oppressed only his own people for a radical Shia regime, bent on religious expansionism, a real desire to literally and physically destroy Israel, and a real desire to topple our erstwhile Arab “friends” who still control most of the oil in the region.

In the meantime, the Republicans want to talk about the tactical success of the surge, pretty well ignoring the larger stratetic question of whether the entire enterprise was a good idea in the first place, particularly given that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have reemerged in Afganistan and now in Pakistan, as well.

The Democrats want to talk about what could have happened re Sunni terrorism (i.e., Al Qaeda) if we had finished the job in Afganistan in 2001, 2002 and 2003, rather than shifting the focus and the military resources to Iraq. They move gingerly about the tactic of the surge, which has helped significantly -- but will be for naught if we try to stay forever and impose our will and our oil companies.

The most important thing is this: If there is a consensus emerging about how to go forward in Iraq (forcing the Iraqi politicians to work out a modus vivendi) and there is a consensus about how to go forward in Afghanistan/Pakistan (doing now what we should have done in 2001-03), then the real discussion -- and the real difference between McCain and Obama -- is whether the Bush/McCain mindset that led us to invade Iraq should be our approach to the future, or we should be less unilateral and more realistic about our efforts on the world stage (which must include far more than engaging terrorism, but must include economic, energy, and climate issues that will, in fact, determine the health of our country and other countries for the rest of the century). Obama is running agains the mindset that got us into the mess. That is the fundamental strategic disagreeement.

In one sense, the military force debate in the Presidential Election is really between the policies of Clinton/Bush I on the one hand and Bush II on the other.

The broader debate is over whether we keep muddling through, employing an ostrich-like head-in-the-sand little approach to energy and climate, or whether we get ahead of the curve and move our society boldly toward new technologies that will enable us to economically prosper while not destroying the planet. McCain, at best, seems to pay lip service to the former – just look at his team, which is made up essentially of the old-time lobbyist crowd from K Street; Phil Gramm was simply the tip of the iceberg. Obama may offer us a way to seize the former.

July 21, 2008 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

More than half of Americans oppose leaving Iraq without accomplishing the mission.

Well it's good to know you finally realize that big old "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner behind Bush on the USS Lincoln back in May 2003 was ridiculously premature.

Just last week, 9 American troops were killed and we were forced to abandon an outpost in Wanat, Afghanistan to some regrouped Taliban fighters, who have a safe haven in the border areas with Bush's dear ally in Pakistan. We should have finished the mission in Afghanistan before blundering into the quagmire in Iraq.

July 21, 2008 1:39 PM  
Anonymous anon said...


were you abused as a child? is that why you hate the world so much?

July 21, 2008 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're pathetic, Bea. Few are saying that Bush's execution of the Iraq mission was well-planned or executed. That's not the issue now. The issue is what should be done now. McCain was a frequent critic of the Bush administration's handling of the war.

I also think David's idea that the original decision to invade is a legitimate topic of discussion is correct. If the Democrats want to discuss that, it's worth talking about. I think they're wrong but it's not an improper issue when trying to decide who should make such decisions in the future.

What is offensive is the gleeful desire to see the U.S. fail and the lying about what our troops have accomplished. Hopefully, Republicans have a lot of videotape to play in the fall of Congessional traitors trying to undermine the war effort.

Then, there's this?:

"not raise taxes on Bush's enriched cronies to pay for it instead of relying on deficit spending"

Bea, you are startlingly ignorant. Just last week, the IRS released its data for 2006. It's apparent now that the 2003 Bush tax cut was the biggest increase in tax payments by the rich in history. The CBO in 2003 predicted the tax cuts would lead to higher deficits. They were wrong. In 2003, the deficit was 3.5% of the GDP; in 2006, it was 1.9%.

Obama would like to lower taxes on the poor and pay for it by raising taxes on the rich. It's a little tough to see how that could happen, considering that the rich already pay most of the taxes in the country. In 2006, the top 50% of taxpayers paid 97.1% of taxes; the bottom 50% pay 2.9% of taxes. Does Obama think one half of the country should pay all the taxes in order to support the other half? His last name sounds like Osama; his middle is Hussein; maybe his first should have been Marx.

Meanwhile, from 2003 to 2006, the number of millionaires doubled. Extrapolate it out and most Americans would be millionaires within 25 years if Bush's policies are maintained.

Why did tax revenue from rich people go up when the rates were cut? They had more to invest, so they produced more. The capital gains rate was lower so investment decisions were made rationally instead of being motivated by tax considerations and more sales meant more taxes. Lower taxes on dividends caused more public companies to pay out more and thus, wala, more income to pay taxes on. With lower rates, there was also less motivation to use tax shelters.

The country has benefitted from 28 years of Reaganomics. Obama would like to go back to the last year in the Carter administration. In that year, the last time the country had a tax structure similar to what Obama is proposing, the top 1% of taxpayers paid 19% of all taxes. After 26 years of low tax rates on rich people, in 2006, the top 1% paid 40% of all taxes.

Who exactly is going to buy this bill of goods that Obama is selling?

July 21, 2008 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

The differences touted in the percentages paid by the wealthier taxpayers versus the less wealthy only underscore the vast differences in wealth between rich and poor Americans.

Mark Twain said "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics."

Of course the rich pay most of the income taxes. They have most of the income. The poor pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes, and the very poor pay a premium in fees and sales taxes.

July 21, 2008 3:19 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...

Anon writes:

"What is offensive is the gleeful desire to see the U.S. fail and the lying about what our troops have accomplished."

No, what is offensive is the setting up of this straw man. No one wants to see failure in Iraq, and the entire debate has been about how best to deal with a messy situation we created.

It is long-past time to stop reliving the Viet Nam War era. Back then, there were loud voices foolishly touting the Viet Cong as Jeffersonian democrats, voices who did take some glee at our (inevitable) failures. That is why I still don't like Jane Fonda, even though I was very much against the Viet Nam War as an utterly misguided enterprise.

The Left, such as it is, learned from the fatuous and sophomoric mistakes made by much of the anti-war movement in the 1960s and early 1970s. There is a reason that ANSWER (a carryover from the Viet Nam era) has effectively disappeared from the scene. It is because the vast, vast majority of those opposing the War agree with Obama: They are not pacifists against all wars no matter the circumstances; rather, to quote Obama, they are against dumb wars. Those of us who opposed this war from the start would love to be proven wrong, given the heartache and loss we (and the Iraqis) have gone through due to our government's decisions. But that does not mean that we suspend disbelief in the vain hope that the pain and loss and lost opportunities will turn out to be worth it.

July 21, 2008 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

they work for most of the income, robert.

Dual income working families have little to no spare time. It is non existent.

Two married professionals, making 125K each, married filing jointly, are currently with the Bush tax cuts paying 87,500 approximately in fed taxes after exemptions (which are phased out at the level), 23,000 for the privilege of living in MC and Maryland, 14,140 in social security taxes, and 3600 in Medicare for good measure. So one income is almost completely consumed by taxes - 124,033. However, if they have kids under school age, they are probably paying a nanny. Nannys run about 25,000 a year in after tax money. Minimum of 10,000 a year for one kid for day care. So actually they have about 100,967 of income left. If mom quits, that same couple at 125,000 of income would have 86445 of expendable income after taxes. So working mom under Bush is working for approximately 15,000 a year until her kids are old enough not to need that nanny or daycare. Assume about 10 years. And mom and dad are stressed all the time juggling.

Same couple, Obama plan. Mom is now working for 1500 a year, because that couples fed is now 96127, state is 12,500, local is 7500 and social security is 17,500 and medicare is 3625.

Why would Mom work under these circumstances ? For an extra $1500 and a whole lot more stress ?

Obama clearly does not understand the concept of a professional working mother, because he is out to destroy the concept.

July 21, 2008 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that he is an inexperienced male chosen over a more female for a job.

July 21, 2008 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No, what is offensive is the setting up of this straw man."

No straw man, David. Flesh and blood supposed representatives of the people who have consistently tried to spin every development to the detriment of American interests and have been hesitant to acknowledge any accomplishments of our military.

"No one wants to see failure in Iraq, and the entire debate has been about how best to deal with a messy situation we created."

Yes, and a solution was found that Democrats opposed when it was proposed. They feel defensive and would rather that their country look bad than themselves.

Not exactly model statesmen.

"It is long-past time to stop reliving the Viet Nam War era. Back then, there were loud voices foolishly touting the Viet Cong as Jeffersonian democrats, voices who did take some glee at our (inevitable) failures. That is why I still don't like Jane Fonda,"

Her and the SDS. Not really the epitome of the mainstream. Certainly not typical Democrats at the time.

"The Left, such as it is, learned from the fatuous and sophomoric mistakes made by much of the anti-war movement in the 1960s and early 1970s."

And then they took over the Democratic Party and we have essentially had only one rational choice in every election since.

"It is because the vast, vast majority of those opposing the War agree with Obama: They are not pacifists against all wars no matter the circumstances; rather, to quote Obama, they are against dumb wars."

Iraq wasn't a dumb war. It was a war to enforce U.N. resolutions violated by a vicious and expansionist dictator in a strategic area who controlled a significant segment of the market for a commodity key to the stability of the world economy. It also drew out the key combatant in the war on terror and significantly diminished its influence among Arab populations. Now, this regime has been replaced with the first democracy in the Arab world.

"Those of us who opposed this war from the start would love to be proven wrong, given the heartache and loss we (and the Iraqis) have gone through due to our government's decisions."

Oh, please. You have been proven wrong.

"But that does not mean that we suspend disbelief in the vain hope that the pain and loss and lost opportunities will turn out to be worth it."

I'm sure the Iraqi people believe it was worth it. I'm sure they, like us, would have liked the execution to be more competent but, outside Saddam's circle, no one wishes we hadn't come.

July 21, 2008 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ABCPoll: Iraq Where Things Stand

THE U.S. – Views of the United States, while still broadly negative, have moderated in
some respects. Just shy of half, 49 percent, now say it was right for the U.S.-led coalition
to have invaded, up by 12 points from August; the previous high was 48 percent in the
first ABC News poll in Iraq in February 2004.

Similarly, the number of Iraqis who call it “acceptable” to attack U.S. forces has declined
for the first time in these polls, down to 42 percent after peaking at 57 percent in August.

Even with a 15-point drop, however, that’s still a lot of Iraqis to endorse such violence.
(Just 4 percent, by contrast, call it acceptable to attack Iraqi government forces.)

Sunni Arabs, dispossessed by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, are a good example. In
August 93 percent of Sunnis called it acceptable to attack U.S. forces. Today, that’s down
to 62 percent – a dramatic decline, but one that still leaves six in 10 Sunnis on the side of
anti-U.S. attacks.

Other measures are a little better, if not good. Just 20 percent of Iraqis express confidence
in U.S. forces, up slightly from 14 percent last summer. Just 29 percent say U.S. forces
have done a good job in Iraq, up 10 points. Only 27 percent say the presence of U.S.
forces is making overall security better in Iraq, up 9 points; 61 percent say it’s making
things worse.

Indeed, on a basic level, the presence of foreign forces remains unwelcome: Just 26
percent of Iraqis support having U.S. and coalition troops in their country, up a scant 5
points. But this doesn’t mean most favor immediate withdrawal. Well under half, 38
percent, say the United States should leave now, down from a peak 47 percent in August.
One reason is that Iraqis are divided on what might follow U.S. withdrawal; 46 percent
think it would make security better, but the rest say it would make security worse or leave
it as it is now. Those who think immediate withdrawal would improve security are twice
as likely to support it.

Moreover, despite their antipathy, big majorities see a continued role for the United
States. From two-thirds to 80 percent of Iraqis support future U.S. efforts conducting
security operations against al Qaeda or foreign jihadis in Iraq; providing military training,
weapons and reconstruction aid; and assisting in security vis-à-vis Iran and Turkey. The
most popular of these is a U.S. role confronting al Qaeda.

Future role for U.S. % support
Security vs. al Qaeda in Iraq 80%
Training/weapons for Iraqi army 76
Reconstruction aid 73
Security vs. Iran 68
Security vs. Turkey 66

Americans long have been conflicted about the war: Broadly unhappy with its costs in
human and material terms alike, yet torn on how and when best to leave Iraq in a tenable
condition. Iraqis, it turns out, are equally conflicted on these issues.

July 22, 2008 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iraq Points to Pullout in 2010
High-Level Statement Is Second in Days to Back Timetable Similar to Obama's

By Sudarsan Raghavan and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 22, 2008; A01

BAGHDAD, July 21 -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama conferred with senior Iraqi leaders, U.S. officials and military commanders Monday, as a spokesman for the Iraqi government declared that it would like U.S. combat forces to complete their withdrawal by the end of 2010.

The comments by spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh mark the second time in recent days that a senior Iraqi has endorsed a timetable for U.S. withdrawal that is roughly similar to the one advocated by Obama. Dabbagh suggested that a combat force pullout could be completed by the end of 2010, which would be about seven months longer than Obama's 16-month formulation.

Dabbagh made the statement after Obama's meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has faced pressure from the White House in recent days to clarify published comments that he supported Obama's 16-month plan.

Dabbagh said that his government is working "on a real timetable which Iraqis set" and that the 2010 deadline is "an Iraqi vision."

"We can't give any schedules or dates, but the Iraqi government sees the suitable date for withdrawal of the U.S. forces is by the end of 2010," he told reporters.

The White House responded quickly to Dabbagh's remarks, which along with Maliki's earlier comments have been a thorny political problem for an administration that has opposed attaching firm dates to troop withdrawals as it negotiates the future U.S.-Iraqi relationship.

"We don't think that talking about specific negotiating tactics or your negotiating position in the press is the best way to negotiate a deal," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, suggesting that Dabbagh was responding to domestic pressure.

Obama's visit comes at a time when American troops levels, the timing of withdrawal and overall U.S.-Iraq strategy have become central issues in the U.S. presidential campaign, as well as in Iraqi politics.

Dabbagh said Maliki did not discuss troop withdrawals with his visitor. "Senator Barack Obama is a candidate, and we are talking to the administration which is in power," he said. But in many ways -- from the red carpet rolled out at Maliki's residence to Obama's seat of honor next to Maliki during formal consultations -- he was treated like a visiting head of state.

The White House said Friday that Maliki and President Bush had agreed to set a "time horizon" for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. But administration officials have steadfastly declined to indicate what that time horizon might be, saying only that it will be based on security conditions on the ground.

Perino said Monday that an agreement with "an aspirational time horizon" could include dates of when Iraqi security forces should be able to take control of given provinces. At the same time, she said: "It will not have any discussion about troop levels. The next commander in chief is going to have to make those decisions."

U.S. officials have emphasized in recent days that the security gains in Iraq are reversible. "I think that they think they've done very well over this past year," Perino said of the Iraqis. ". . . But they have got a long ways to go, and I think that they recognize that. They know that the American troops have been critical to helping them get where they are."

Over the weekend, Maliki appeared to support Obama's time frame in an interview published by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. After the interview began generating headlines Saturday, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad contacted Maliki's office to express concern and seek clarification on the remarks, according to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

Later in the day, the U.S. military distributed to media organizations a statement by Dabbagh saying that Maliki's comments, which his own office translated from Arabic, had been "misunderstood and mistranslated." It did not cite specific comments.

But by Monday, Maliki's office had posted on its Web site the Arabic version of the Der Spiegel interview. It was clear that Maliki, without prompting, expressed support for Obama's position.

"Obama's remarks that, if he takes office, he would withdraw the forces within 16 months, we think that this period might increase or decrease a little, but that it might be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq," Maliki said, according to a translation by The Washington Post.

"Obama is closer to Iraqi opinion on the issue of withdrawal of U.S. forces," said Ali al-Adeeb, a top official in Maliki's Dawa party. "We don't know him personally, but we like his opinion and his calls to set a timetable to withdraw forces."...

July 22, 2008 8:20 AM  

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