You know the drill; Eric A. will be back on Monday. Today, it's me, an appreciative Eric Boehlert, sitting in.
Eric A. pipes in: I've got a new Think Again column here called "Signing Away the Constitution," and also, Springsteen Seeger Session band tix go on sale almost everywhere (though not Boston or NY) this weekend, look here.
I actually laughed out loud when I read this.
This made my head hurt. (Is Time magazine in the habit of doling out precious space in its print edition for essayists to dutifully build up, and then eagerly tear down, obvious straw men?)
Honestly, this simple accomplishment by Bill Clinton will probably do more good, and have longer lasting positive effect on Americans, than anything Bush has achieved in six years in office.
And this guy wants to be president?
What's happened to O'Reilly's ratings? "For O'Reilly, April's numbers reflected his lowest demo rating in almost five years."
Meanwhile, CNN's decision to ax Aaron Brown isn't looking too good.
The Daily Howler dissects Joe Klein new book.
As for L'Affair Colbert (Fox News, I own the copyright on that term), plenty has already been said this week about the comedian's clever digs, as well as the MSM's by now patented, tentative response. (Note that the same Beltway crowd that last year was telling us the Downing Street Memo was not news, is the same crowd insisting Colbert was not funny.) What I think is interesting is that none of this should have come as a surprise. Meaning, the press has always advertised its strongest sycophantic urges at these silly, springtime Beltway ritual dinners. Remember last year when, in an obviously scripted routine, First Lady Laura Bush 'interrupted' W. and told some funny jokes? The MSM went bonkers with delight, going on and on (literally for days) about how she'd stolen the show, helped humanize the president, blah, blah, blah. (USA Today posted Laura's entire routine; that's how newsworthy it was.)
But even more revealing were the events that transpired during the spring of 2004 at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner, where tradition held, that Bush was supposed to poke at himself. He did, by mocking his rationale for invading Iraq, where U.S. soldiers were dying on a daily basis. Bush—and the press—thought it was hysterical.
Then Bush turned to the “White House Election-Year Album,” as photos flashed on the screen behind his podium. One showed Bush gazing out an oval office window as he provided the narration: "Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere!" The audience laughed. Then came a picture of Bush on his hands and knees peering under White House furniture. "Nope, no weapons over there!" The MSM audience laughed harder. And then came a snapshot of Bush searching behind the drapes. "Maybe under here?" The audience roared in approval—Bush couldn't find the WMDs!!
The next morning, newspaper reporters who laughed out loud themselves at the Correspondents dinner dutifully typed up the jokes. It wasn't until some Democratic members of Congress, along with parents whose children had been killed in Iraq, expressed their disgust that it dawned on some members of the MSM that Bush's jokes might be considered offensive. Even after objections were raised the MSM rallied around Bush, arguing the jokes were no big deal. In fact, it was telling how the MSM was reading off the exact same talking points as the Bush supporters in the right-wing press. Their mutual message was simple--lighten up! On National Review Online, conservative talk show host Michael Graham, who attended the Correspondents dinner mocked the critics: "Somehow, over the past 30 years, liberalism has mutated into something akin to an anti-comedy vaccine. The more you're Left, the less you laugh."
The supposedly liberal Los Angles Times completely agreed. In an unsigned editorial, the paper mocked Democrats and anyone else who had the nerve to question Bush's sense of wartime humor, or daring to question Beltway tradition: "The truly serious thing about what's known as Washington's "Silly Season" is whether presidents rise to the challenge." On Fox News, there was heated agreement between "Sunday News" anchor Chris Wallace and the network's Washington bureau managing editor, Brit Hume, that Bush's WMD jokes were perfectly acceptable.
Wallace: "I still think it's funny."
Hume: " I thought it was a good-natured performance."
But what about Fox liberal Juan Williams? He had no patience for the Bush critics upset about the jokes: "I think people are petty in the situation."
Washington Post news reporter and Fox panelist Ceci Connelly concurred: "The pictures were funny. I laughed at the photos."
For those keeping score at home, when Bush joked about the missing WMDs, the press rushed to defend the president, insisting the jokes were funny. But when Stephen Colbert joked about Bush's (and the media's) incompetence, the press rushed to defend the president, insisting the jokes were not funny. What more do you need to know about the Beltway media mindset?
Yes, the above excerpt's taken from my new book on Bush and the press. i.e. More shameless self-promotion. (I used that term recently and a friend told me don't even bother with the 'shameless' part; that these days authors have no choice but to hawk their own wares.) There was a rather monstrous book excerpt that ran in Salon yesterday, as well as a look, via Huffington Post, at the Swift Boat chapter. Personally, I'm a big fan of chapter 3, "Noted at ABC," which details the handy work of the smart guys at ABC's The Note.
I think Paul Simon's new album, "Surprise," is going to amaze a lot of people. I've been listening to it for the last couple weeks and it a) it rocks just a bit harder then recent efforts and b) it was a real hypnotic quality to it. (Both may be the imprint of Brian Eno's credited role as "Sonic Landscaper" on the project.) Especially spellbinding is the opening track, "How Do You Live in the Northeast," which I've (gladly) been unable to shake out from my brain.
It's all amazing considering it was 40 years and three months since Simon & Garfunkel's debut, "Wednesday Morning, 3AM," was released. Perhaps more startling is the fact that it's already been 20 years since Simon's landmark solo record, "Graceland" was released. I can still remember where I was the first time I heard the single, "You Can Call Me Al." I was just dumbfounded. Of course, you have to recall the times, back when Def Leppard and Billy Squire ruled FM radio. Plus, prior to the internet there was, by comparison, a cultural news blackout. A big rock music fan who spent my I-95 toll collecting pay (true story) going to 10-20 concerts a year, I had no idea Paul Simon was making a new record, let alone that he was toying with a distinctly African sound. On that June day in 1986 when I first heard Simon's new song, I was mowing lawns up-island on Martha's Vineyard for the summer (I'd graduated from toll collecting) where my boss, 'Uncle' Arnie Fischer, had dropped us off for the day to open a summer house for a longtime customer. (The cottage, perched on a cliff with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, was occupied just six weeks a year; July 15-Sept. 1). Thanks to our distant locale, I was able to dial in the signal of alternative rock station, WBRU in Providence; a rarity on the Vineyard. The station was spinning its midday Smash or Trash feature and played "You Can Call Me Al" for the first time. (The album wasn't released until September.)
The exotic pop sound, completely unlike any thing I'd ever heard on FM radio, just blew me away. When I got home from work to a ridiculously over-crowded railroad apartment on Circuit Ave., I dialed up the island's local WMVY station (aka the best radio station in America) and asked about this new Paul Simon song I'd just heard. Something about Al. They said the station would have it soon. (I think back then `MVY jocks even answered the phones between songs.) Couple days later they did, and I probably requested everyday for a month.
Not to over-do the nostalgia, but I seriously doubt young music fans today have that sort of intimate relationship with FM radio and the joys of discovery.
AIN'T THAT AMERICA
Why on earth isn't John Mellencamp a member of the Rock `n Roll Hall of Fame? Seriously. I know that, like the Grammys, thoughtful music fans aren't supposed to care about the annual inductions, because rock can't be measured by some sort of peer popularity contest or by tabulating record sales. (Agreed. I doubt my favorite, favorite band of all time, The Vulgar Boatmen, have sold 50,000 records in their entire career.) But the fact is the Hall does exist, it does induct honorees each year, and from a historical perspective, it does matter. And for right now, the biggest crime being committed on the banks of Lake Erie in Cleveland is that Mellencamp has not been acknowledged for his extraordinary lifelong artistic contributions, as well as his massive commercial success; 40 millions albums sold and counting in the U.S. alone. Mellencamp's been eligible for the Hall since 2001 and been on the ballot twice.
The way I see it, Mellencamp, and his hallmark brand of mainstream American, drum-bass-guitar rock, is part of the Four Horsemen from the 70's and 80's who defined the working class genre and often spit out perfect 4-minute radio hits. And they are Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Seger and Mellencamp. (You could add Billy Joel to that list, although he seemed to have more a Tin Pan Alley influence.) Eric A. would be the first to insist—and I'd agree—that Springsteen sorta of exists on a higher plane than the prides of Gainesville, Fla, Ann Arbor, MI., Hicksville Long Island, and Seymour, Ind., respectively. Okay, Springsteen point granted. But still, why is Mellencamp the only one among the remaining human rock jukeboxes not inducted in the Hall of Fame?
On its website, the Hall, while honoring Seger, even acknowledges Mellencamp's unique role in rock history: "Seger and John Mellencamp are the great rock and roll voices of the Midwest." And here's how the Hall toasts Petty and his band: "Durable, resourceful, hard-working, likeable and unpretentious, they rank among the most capable and classic rock bands of the last quarter century." How does that not describe Mellencamp's work?
Meanwhile, if it weren't for Mellencamp I don't think Farm Aid would still exist. And I guarantee he's written more songs that address racial discord in America than any other multi-platinum rock singer over the last 20 years. (Mellencamp's music videos almost always featured blacks and whites together; a music industry rarity.) Over the years he passed up untold tens of millions of dollars by refusing to allow his songs to be used in commercials, or to have his tours sponsored by corporate entities. (Mellencamp just recently gave in to car advertisers.)
And as Mellencamp's gotten older his keen sense of right and wrong has only become more pronounced. On the eve of the war in 2003 while lots of artists, like nervous Democratic politicians, were keeping quiet about their deep reservation about Iraq, Mellencamp dusted off an old folk song, "To Washington," re-recorded it with new lyrics that took shots at Bush. He didn’t just wander out on a limb, he jumped up and down on it.
There's room enough here
For science to live
And there's room enough here
For religion to forgive
Simple stuff, but who else is singing it?
I don't know if it's because he got tangled up in the whole name change thing from Cougar to Cougar Mellencamp to just Mellencamp and people still snicker about it, or it's because his first couple records sort of stunk. (Unlike Petty, Seger, Joel and Springsteen, whose early albums still shine.) Or if it's because of the well-known chip Mellencamp carries around on his shoulder.
But for whatever reason Mellencamp has never gotten the respect he deserves. Instead, he's too often been tossed aside as a pop singer. But guess what, back in his day John Fogerty and Credence Clearwater Revival were also dismissed by the critics as singles band, and nothing more. ("Down on the Corner" is to "Pink Houses," what "Bad Moon Rising" is to "Lonely Ol' Night." Discuss.) Over the years though, the obvious genius of Fogerty's roots rock became undeniable. The same will eventually happen with Mellencamp's catalog. (Something CMT has already figured out.) The only question is how long will it take. Which leads me back to my original question, Why on earth isn't John Mellencamp a member of the Rock `n Roll Hall of Fame?
Name: Eric Rauchway
Hometown: Davis, CA
Thomas Heiden of Stratford, CT, writes that he is "beyond sick of the Rauchways of the world continuing to babble about the 'benefits' of globalization. To best understand this, we need to return to the basics. Global capitalism is a race to the bottom...."
Without accusing Mr. Heiden of babbling, I must disagree with him, and without addressing everything he says, I'd nevertheless suggest we return to a different set of basics. It is no more intrinsically true that "global capitalism is a race to the bottom" than that "American capitalism is a race to the bottom." To think about how we feel about this, let's try a variation of the thought experiment proposed by Brian Weatherson here; to wit, why should there be open borders within the United States?
Specifically, as a Californian, I might protest that there ought not to be open borders between my state and Mississippi. Per capita personal income in California is 140% of that in Mississippi. Thirty-two percent of Californians have college educations or better; only 20% of Mississippians do. California has a way better social safety net; state unemployment benefits average, per capita, $260 a week whereas in Mississippi they're only $172 a week. (All information from Statistical Abstract of the United States.)
In short Mississippians are poorer and worse-educated than Californians, and they're all gonna come over here to feed at the Golden State's generous public trough! Get out in the desert and build a fence, quick! I mean, if it was good policy during the Depression, it's gotta be good policy now, right? Plus, they sing the "Star Spangled Banner" in their own language. (Note to Mississippians: I am being ironic. Also, it's a thought experiment. Please don't hate me.)
To use Mr. Heiden's language, evidently I should just say to my fellow Americans who live in Mississippi, don't come here "for 'better opportunity' ... stay in [your] own [state] and FIX IT! Make it a [state] that can and does take care of its citizens...."
But evidently we don't think that way about our fellow Americans who live in Mississippi. Why should we think that way about our fellow (North) Americans who live in Mexico?
Contrary to Mr. Heiden's apparent belief, I hold no brief for unfettered capitalism, largely because I believe there can be no such thing. As our man Galbraith noted, the more you call for that, the more you get business and government cronies fixing things for their benefit.
On the contrary, in my post I proposed seeking benefits from open borders and paying the price by a greater social safety net (note to dsquared about who will be "writing the [bleeped] cheques"). This still seems to me an ethical proposal.
Hey Erics (including SivaEric), it's Stupid to tell Tom Friedman he needs to learn a lesson from George Clooney. Friedman is at the end of his rope: for years he has acted like a street corner preacher, furiously waving his hands and shouting that if we don’t turn from our sinful energy ways there will be hellfire to come. Like many street preachers, he’s deluded. He kept acting like there was a prayer in Hell (ok, I'll stop) that the GOP would turn against Big Oil or that the Dems would revisit Carter/Mondale and call for a stiff gas tax. But now he's realizing it will take something like a third party/Ross Perot movement to seriously focus and advance the debate.
I agree with Friedman on how desperate the problem is, but the media and the public aren't going to cooperate. Look at Sudan: George Clooney literally attracted ---exponentially--- more media coverage of Darfur than the combined efforts of human rights activists, various columnists, a physical attack on Andrea Mitchell and the Clooney-less E.R. (definition of surreal: none of the three network news programs reported the Salah Gosh debacle, but a jumped-the-shark medical drama did). People grumble about gas prices, but they shout about immigration. The only third party talk I hear is from anti-illegal immigrant forces pining for Lou Dobbs.
Any new political movement focused on a common sense energy policies will require star power. I have three suggestions. The first is Tom Brokaw. The second is Al Gore...as vice president to a moderate Republican with the courage to break ranks. Olympia Snowe and Al Gore would be a combination so startling yet serious that it would carry its own star power. The third would be a ticket from nontraditional parts of the government: Anthony Zinni + a current Supreme Court Justice (Kennedy? Souter?). They might not win, but they would ground the debate in reality.
It's Siva Vaidhyanathan here again. Tomorrow we will hear from Eric Boehlert. Then Eric Alterman will be back at the helm on Monday. Thanks to everyone out there who has been reading this week's stuff and engaging with us. It's really an honor and a blast to be able to hold forth from this site every once in a while. So thanks especially to Eric Alterman, Will Femia, and others behind the scenes for making this happen.
The Unjustice Department
I was wondering something. Maybe somebody could help me out here. Yesterday a federal jury decided appropriately that this country shall not execute Zacarias Moussaoui, a wanna-be-mass murderer who also happens to be a mentally disturbed megalomaniac who dearly wished to become a martyr for his twisted cause.
No one disputes that Moussaoui should be held accountable for his actions in support of what became the air attacks of September 11, 2001. But it's clearly unjust to execute a person for deaths he did not cause (even if he had wished to) simply because he refused to incriminate himself to the FBI. Even those who were involved in planning the attacks have declared that Moussaoui was too unstable to consider a real part of the plan.
Moussaoui was such an incompetent terrorist that even the FBI could catch him. Think about it.
The jury had a difficult decision to make, in the face of wrenching emotional pleas by federal prosecutors and witnesses and the clear hunger we have to bring someone — anyone — to justice for these offenses.
What gets me — what I don't understand — is why millions of my fellow American citizens, led by the families of those who lost loved ones in the attacks, are not banging down the doors of the Justice Department to bring to justice those who really did mastermind the killings of 3,000 of my neighbors. Their memory still hangs heavy in the air of my city. And we wonder why our government seems all too willing to put on a show trial of a sad peripheral character instead of pursuing real justice and — I admit it — satisfying vengeance.
Somewhere in a secret prison sits Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the mastermind of the attacks. Our government could bring him to trial either here in the United States or in the Hague. It could use the trial to demonstrate not only the terrible hatred that drives Al Qaeda to murder so many innocents around the world. It could use a trial to reveal the depth and breadth of the ideological threat that we face in coming years. It could show how we can avoid such vulnerability in the future. A Khalid Sheik Mohammad conviction would be deeply meaningful and satisfying.
Best of all, it could demonstrate to the world that despite so much recent evidence to the contrary, the United States is a nation of laws and its governmental agents are not above either our laws or international laws. They whole world thinks we have given up on the concept of justice. We could use a decent trial to show otherwise.
The reason we have not done this may be very disturbing: in our haste to be brutal and stupid, we almost certainly tortured Mohammad, rendering him unconvictable in any decent court in any decent country. We have also held him and hundreds more for more than three years without counsel, without facing charges, without a chance to respond to accusations, and without even allowing their families to know that they are in custody.
So basically, we are unable to try the real killer, even though we know who he is and we have him in custody.
Why stop there? Why are Americans not demanding that this administration pursue and capture Osama bin Laden? Or Ayman al-Zawahiri? Why are we letting these guys continue to murder innocent people and inspire hatred against the entire world?
In recent years the Justice Department has created a small series of meaningless show trials. Those young men from Lackawanna, New York? They were dupes who let their religious fervor and a manipulative adult take them to Pakistan to fight against India. They never did fight against India or anyone else. Yet now they are serving prison terms in the United States because they saw no way out but to plea. And John Walker Lindh? Please. He's the biggest threat to my life and liberty? These folks a bad people who broke (unconstitutional) laws. But their trials seem to be counted among this administration's greatest victories.
Don't even get me started on poor Wen-Ho Lee or Richard Jewell. These problems with the Justice Department have grown deeper under this administration, but they certainly sprung their roots in the last one. Is it any surprise that Louis Freeh served as FBI director in both?
The Justice Department (Clinton's and Bush's) has become very good at getting convictions (and occasional acquittals) out of people who have killed exactly no people in terrorist acts. But those who have killed? You have to go back to the Oklahoma City bombings or the arrest and conviction of Eric Rudolph to get anything close to a just conclusion in a terrorism case.
The Indefensible Department
Meanwhile, it's becoming clear that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in addition to being incompetent, arrogant, and stupid, is also a criminal himself. As law professor Marty Lederman explains, Rumsfeld clearly broke the law when he ordered U.S. military personnel to torture captives:
... the Army filed criminal charges against Lt. Col Steven L. Jordan, a military intelligence officer who was second-in-command of interrogation operations at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Charge III of the Army's Charge Sheet accuses Jordan of "cruelty and maltreatment," based on the allegation that he subjected Iraqi detainees subject to his orders "to forced nudity and intimidation by military working dogs."
This is a charge under Article 93 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. 893, which provides that "[a]ny person subject to this chapter who is guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."
The Army's charges against Jordan reflect the view, undoubtedly correct, that the use of forced nudity or intimidation with dogs against detainees subject to military control constitutes cruelty and maltreatment that Article 93 makes criminal. It doesn't matter whether they are or are not "torture," as such; nor does it matter whether the armed forces should be permitted to use such interrogation techniques: As things currently stand, they are unlawful, as even the Army now acknowledges.
But then how can we account for the actions of the Secretary of Defense and his close aides?
On November 27, 2002, Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes, following discussions with Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, General Myers, and Doug Feith, informed the Secretary of Defense that forced nudity and the use of the fear of dogs to induce stress were lawful techniques, and he recommended that they be approved for use at Guantanamo. (The lists of techniques to which Haynes was referring can be found in this memorandum.) On December 2, 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld approved those techniques for use at Guantanamo -- and subsequently those techniques were used on detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani.
In other words, the Secretary of Defense authorized criminal conduct. ...
Good thing opera star Enrico Palazzo was not an immigrant!
Isn't it hilarious that some people actually take offense at the idea that new Americans should take so much pride in this country that they are wiling to translate the National Anthem into the language of their origin? I can't think of a greater complement to the inclusiveness and promise of America.
In that spirit, I want to offer Altercation readers the following ( via Balkinization), the Star-Spangled Banner in Yiddish:
O'zog, kenstu sehn, wen bagin licht dervacht,
Vos mir hoben bagrist in farnachtigen glihen?
Die shtreifen un shtern, durch shreklicher nacht,
Oif festung zich hoiben galant un zich tsein?
Yeder blitz fun rocket, yeder knal fun kanon,
Hot bawizen durch nacht: az mir halten die Fohn!
O, zog, tzi der "Star Spangled Banner" flatert in roim,
Ueber land fun die freie, fun brave die heim!
The Library of Congress displays this sheet music from 1919: "La bandera de las estrellas." That's 1919 -- 12 years before The Star-Spangled Banner became the National Anthem of the United States. In other words, it's been in Spanish longer than it's been the anthem. So get over it. Ya basta. Claro?
Want more? Ok. Here, (via BoingBoing) you can find the Anthem in both Morse Code and binary code. Maybe this will start a movement to expel all telegraph operators and computer geeks from our shores!
BTW, according to Kevin Phillips, W sang the anthem in Spanish during the 2000 campaign. Of course, that was back when he pretended to be running for president of the entire country, not just the bitter white part.
I often feel sorry for Philadelphia. It's a great city and has many cool things. But its sports franchises and their core fans are just embarrassing. Check out this photo of Flyers fans attacking a poor lone Devils fan. Fortunately, thanks to the great and good Buffalo Sabres, we don't have to worry about the Flyers any more.
Still, count yourself lucky if you live in Philadelphia because Rosanne Cash is scheduled to give a live reading and performance on Thursday, May 11 at the World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street. She is helping to celebrate the move of the legendary poetry journal, Painted Bride Quarterly, to its new home at Drexel University. For information and to register to attend, please click here.
Ok. Later. Peace.
Name: Bill Brower
Hometown: Covington, TN
I believe that you are seeing a very strong discontent in the American middle class that hopefully will boil over into a change in our government. Everyone is fed up with the corruption in Washington, and the totally self serving function of the government from the President, Senate, Congress, et al. Most of the people I talk with do not believe in our two party system any longer as neither party represents the people who elected them. Our Constitution has been trampled upon and our laws ignored by the greedy bastards that passed them. If a viable candidate for President were to appear from a third party he/she would certainly have my vote. As it is I will not vote for either party this year, or in 2008 unless something changes. I was born in 1950, am a Southerner, and was a Democrat until 1976. At that time I felt that the Democrats had abandoned the people and I became a Republican. I have been a Republican since. At this point I do not claim affiliation. I am interested in the Constitution Party, but have just begun looking. I don't believe that I am an isolated case. We are going to change this traitorous self serving government eventually, through the process the founding fathers set up. Many of us have had it! Thanks for letting me have a forum in which to express my exasperation.
Name: RuthAlice Anderson
Hometown: Portland, OR
First, I doubt Kariyn Kinsey knows the provenance of all of her ancestors for 200 years. Secondly, the virtues and hard work of her ancestors don't imbue her with virtue; they imbue her with privilege that she mistakes for virtue. On the other hand, I agree with her that Congress has poorly served the working class -- failing to increase the minimum wage, giving our hard-earned tax dollars away to corporations and to themselves. She is perfectly correct, but to focus that anger on immigrants is a classic example of kicking down. The agents of harm (Congress) are more powerful than her, so she kicks down at the least powerful people in the nation. It would be more effective is she would stand in solidarity with immigrant workers to demand they receive the same worker rights that the rest of us enjoy. If that were true, corporations could not so readily exploit them and the wage gap that makes them so appealing to capital would begin to narrow. Worker solidarity, not factionalism, is the only way to build the power of working people. Unity, not factionalism, is strength. It's instructive to see how perfectly the right uses wedges like immigration to drive people like Karolyn who should never stand with the right on anything straight into their arms. They understand that sadly enough, hate and anger are more powerful than hope and understanding in moving voters.
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
To Ms. Kinsey from Utah,
I don't even want to get into a debate about the immigration problem as it is today, since most people have made up their minds as is. However, I would like to point something out to you in something you said, and something I have heard repeated over and over. "My family immigrated here legally, and they can too." Prior to 1875, immigration was the problem of individual states. Most of the new immigrants did not have passports, and all of the inspections were done here in the US. So, a person got on a ship hoping that they wouldn't be turned around at the port when they arrived. In 1875, the Supreme Court decided that immigration should be under the federal government. That is when Ellis Island came into being. However, the same still held true, that the potential immigrant got on board and was questioned once they got to New York. It was only between 1917 - 1924 that the US Government started issuing visas to enter the US at Embassies overseas. And the current laws for immigration didn't really go into effect until 1952. What I am trying to say is this: Your relatives did the exact same thing these illegals did. Your relatives came to this country with no paper saying they could come. They just showed up and hoped they could get in. Try to remember that when worrying about the illegals "trying to take over this country."
Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT
I am beyond sick of the Rauchways of the world continuing to babble about the "benefits" of globalization. To best understand this, we need to return to the basics. Global capitalism is a race to the bottom, because costs are what kill in business. We see all of this now as corporations move their labor, and any pollution-producing manufacturing, to those places with the lowest costs (read: least regulation). This is not because they are evil, but because they are in COMPETITION. There is no international mechanism — hell, we don't at this point even have a NATIONAL mechanism — to control corporate behavior, so these entities are free to go and to do whatever costs them the least and makes them the most. There is no way the average human being will benefit from unrestricted global corporate capitalism (Eric, in other words, it will NOT be "done right", because corporations, with profit as motive, control the process, not governments that putatively have the public good as the goal). The entire world will look and be like the stockyards of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle."
Further, one dire consequence of this vaunted "globalization" is that this nation hemorrhages wealth (to the current tune of about three-quarters of a TRILLION dollars every year) to nations which used to send us their money. This is why the middle class is vanishing before our eyes, and why two people must work to try to maintain that middle-class lifestyle that a single wage-earner could provide back when we had a positive trade balance. Liberal immigration policy will not only not help any of this, it is grossly unfair. If we use Mexico as an example, my view is that I want those coming here illegally for "better opportunity" to stay in their own country and FIX IT! Make it a nation that can and does take care of its citizens by providing opportunities for them to live decently. We don't want them coming here to piggy-back on all the sacrifices that have been made for us by our ancestors - they need to find their own Jefferson and Madison, their own Susan Anthony and, yes, Caesar Chavez. If they do not have the gumption to stand against their own government, we do not need them here for that reason either - we have our own government that is sorely in need of its citizens standing up to it!
This is Eric Rauchway guest-altercating again.
Who's afraid of radical professors? Not Todd Gitlin:
... [T]he academic left is nowhere today. It matters more to David Horowitz than to anyone else. The reason is that its faith- based politics has crashed and burned. It specializes in detraction. It offers no plausible picture of the world. Such spontaneous movements as do crop up in America —like the current immigrant demonstrations— do not emerge from the campus left.
Who's afraid of the imperial presidency? Congress should be:
Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.
Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files ''signing statements" —official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.
In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills —sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.
Finally, who's afraid of globalization? If you raised your hand, and you're a liberal, well, you shouldn't be:
Suppose you were setting immigration policy from behind that veil of ignorance. [That's philosopher John Rawls dictum that societal rules are fair if you would endorse them without knowing what your position in society would be.] Which of these would you choose?
- Restricting immigration to protect some of the lower- paid workers in America from a decline in wages that would be no more than 8 percent, if it occurred at all.
- Expanding immigration to benefit most Americans while also giving some non-Americans living in dire poverty the chance to quadruple their income.
You don't need to slog through "A Theory of Justice" to figure out this one.
Because globalization leads to greater social justice when it's done properly:
Dani Rodrik, an economist at Harvard, estimates that a worker in the first world earns 10 times more than someone with similar qualifications in the third. Even a light loosening of immigration restrictions, Rodrik argues, would provide a far bigger boost to the world's poor than knocking down all the famously crippling agricultural subsidies.
The trouble is, at the moment it isn't being done properly:1
... [T]he ongoing wave of globalization —the third in a series that began in the sixteenth century with the conquistadors and continued in the nineteenth with British imperial free trade— occurs largely in a realm of virtual reality and leaves much of everyday life untouched. Nineteenth-century globalization involved large-scale movements of population to new lands, while the present phase involves mainly commodities and images.
"Today's globalization ... is 'immobile.'" Goods are produced and marketed on a planetary scale but those who live in rich countries encounter other societies chiefly through television and exotic vacations. There are politically controversial migrations of poor people from the Middle East and Africa to Europe and from Mexico to the United States, but immigrants still make up only around 3 percent of the world's population today, whereas in 1913 it was about 10 percent.
There's about enough immigration to make people nervous about it but not enough to do very much good. Some historical observations:
If in 1913, about 10 percent of the world's people were immigrants, about 6 percent of the world's people were immigrants who had gone to the United States. They were not distributed evenly around the country, but were concentrated in certain places —mainly, America's cities.
In cities where there were a lot of immigrants, politicians (responsive as ever to their constituencies) tended to favor immigration. But in cities where there were enough immigrants to scare native-born workers, but not enough to form a strong voting bloc of their own, politicians tended to favor restricting immigration.
In the decades around 1900, Americans spent a good deal of money on social policies that helped workers move around —specifically, on education and on public health.
But they didn't spend much on safety net policies —say, unemployment insurance —that might have reduced the fearsome prospect of immigrant competition for jobs.
In the end, the anti-immigration forces won, and Congress passed a series of laws making it vastly more difficult to enter the United States. Historians often point to these laws, along with laws restricting trade and capital flows, as major forces preventing the re-emergence of nineteenth-century-style globalization after World War I.
And the failure of nineteenth-century globalization to re-emerge after World War I helped cause the Great Depression.
Which we would all like to see not come back.
If we could cautiously draw a lesson from this history, it might be this: let's have enough immigration to generate opportunities (hurray, social justice!) and let's also have a better safety net, so that people competing with immigrants for jobs won't have cause for complaint (hurray, more social justice!); then, globalization can continue to work on reducing inequality in the world (and a third cheer for social justice!).
It sounds good to me, and like something all politicians should back. Also, I would like a pony.
Name: Karolyn Kinsey
Hometown: Utica, KS
As someone who is NOT thrilled with all the illegal immigrants in this country allow me to tell you why. All of my ancestors came into this country legally or were born here. And for the past 200 years or so, my ancestors and myself the last 65 years have worked our asses off just to make a living and survive. Forget about being rich. I own a $2500 house and drive a 7-year-old vehicle and since I wasn't able to go to college until I was 43 I am working 7 days a week so that I can pay off (if I'm lucky enough to live that long) a $55,000 student loan. So these illegals who are Demanding that we give them instant citizenship and all the supposedly perks that go with it, such as free health care, free schooling, and the right to buy a house, give me a real pain in the gut! I'm all for giving immigrants a chance as long as they come into this country legally first or at least have those green cards that say they can work here for a while. But don't tell me that just anyone who can swim, crawl or tunnel their way into this country deserves what I and my ancestors have worked for all of these centuries! I don't know why the government is so loathe in beefing up the INS so it can actually do its job, that of helping immigrants gain legal citizenship in a more expedient timeframe, or making sure they are at least taught the rudiments of English. And that those who hire illegals are actually fined and shut down if they don't stop the practice. I can very well live without lettuce and I certainly can't afford those $700,000 condos they keep putting up around D.C., and it really ticks me off to hear Congress is not willing to raise minimum wages or ensure that the cheap labor practices are stopped. Never mind that they give themselves hefty raises every year and have fabulous health care and pension plans. How many legal Americans are out of work because of outsourcing, or can't find a job that allows them to feed, clothe, and house their families, let alone afford medical coverage? I am totally fed up with the corruption going on in this country, whether allowing the big companies to enjoy all the tax breaks so they can rake in billions, while those of us who are breaking our backs trying just to survive, are being forced to sit back and let the illegals take over this country. And don't ever sing that crappy Spanish version of the Star Spangled Banner within my hearing! Either speak English, wave the American flag, or get the hell outta my country and go back and make your own damn country better!
Hey everybody. This is Siva (not Eric) Vaidhyanathan, filling in for Eric Boehlert, who was filling in for Eric Rauchway, who was filling in for Eric Alterman.
Looks like I am the third one picked, like one Vince Young, soon to be the greatest professional football player who has ever played the game. Like Michael Jordan, Little Joe Cartwright, Maggie Simpson, Babe Ruth, and Thomas Jefferson, Vince and I don't mind going third.
Altercation covers a lot of depressing and dangerous topics like war and corruption and the like. And it's one of the best places to go if you have not been angry at the present administration yet in your day. But every once in a while I like to bring in a reason or two to feel good about stuff. I especially like giving Altercation readers a reason to feel good and proud about this country.
So if you are ever too down or frustrated about the state and direction of our nation, just spend a day hanging around Florida International University in Miami. Or, better yet, slip in to a graduation ceremony there, as I did yesterday. I have been to dozens of university commencements. And this was by far the best.
Florida International is a 34-year-old public university that sits west of downtown Miami. It has one of the most ethnically diverse populations of any university I have ever seen. It started out as a commuter school but has grown into an ambitious residential research university. It opened a law school three years ago and just got approval from the Florida Legislature to open up a medical school as well. South Florida has been devoid of great public universities. The two state flagship universities sit in the northern part of the state. So the growth of both FIU and its cousin up the coast in Boca Raton, Florida Atlantic University, have vastly improved opportunities for students in the southern part. FIU, in particular, serves families that have not been blessed with opportunity in previous generations. Living up to its name, it attracts students from hundreds of national origins and represents the vitality and diversity of South Florida very well.
At the graduation ceremony, I was deeply struck by the looks of awe and respect that these graduates' families had for their efforts. These were not folks who took this opportunity for granted. They had no sense of entitlement. They were modest and directed.
The ceremony itself was no-nonsense, unpretentious, and fun. There was no long-winded address by some famous person who charged $20,000 to tell students to give back to their community. Students spoke. Faculty spoke. Everyone was brief. At one point the president of the university, Modesto A. Maidique, asked all the students who graduated cum laude to raise their hands. Then he asked if any had a grade point average of 3.98. Three did. He asked them to come to the stage -- impromptu -- and tell everyone how they did it and which professor gave them the A minus. The students were shy and witty. They were clearly moved and tickled by this move. The three students with such a high record of achievement, one could not help but notice, were from Peru, Argentina, and Trinidad.
On a day when immigrants all around the nation were letting people understand just how essential they are to our daily lives, these three students stood out and promised us all excellence and inspiration. They stood for the dynamic opportunity that still exists all over this great nation.
As they told their stories, I could not help but reflect on how much of the recent immigration debate has focused on immigrants as labor (muscle) vs. immigrants as skill sets (engineers), as if those were all that immigrants bring to this country. Every high-minded and economically informed pundit, including folks like Paul Krugman, have emphasized that we benefit more from immigrants with skills than immigrants with muscle.
But no one counts imagination, inspiration, and chutzpah. You can't quantify that stuff. Immigrants refresh and reset our national imaginations. They remind us what is possible and introduce us to new possibilities. They check those of us fortunate enough to be born here from getting too comfortable, complacent, or whiney.
Among recent changes in American society, I consider the influx on Latino, African, Caribbean, and Asian immigrants to be our greatest boon. This is a better country for the ideas, languages, flavors, and rhythms that have flowed north and east to our shores.
Another great change has been the imaginative power of communication. When I was a kid my family would call our relatives in India only if someone were sick or had died. A phone call from India was painfully expensive, hard-to-hear, and unwelcomed. But now I don't hesitate to call my uncle Mani in Madras (Chennai) whenever I just feel like checking up on him. I use Skype, a high-quality Internet phone service that costs almost nothing to use. Sometimes I put the baby in front of a Web camera so that relatives around the world can see her smile in real time via AOL Instant Messenger. The very sense that such connections are possible and affordable alters our sense of citizenship and connection with the world.
But all of this is in danger. Consider this: I use Verizon for my high-speed Internet service in my home. Verizon is basically a phone company. And since I started using Skype and AOL Instant Messenger to communicate with friends in family from England to Israel to India, my phone bill is pretty much the basic local fee.
Given the chance, wouldn't Verizon want to slow down the digital packets that flow through Skype, Vonage, ICQ, and AOL? Of course it would. If Verizon makes IP telephony work badly, it can either extort a fee from these companies, favoring one over another, or just squelch them all to drive business to its own services. Time-Warner Cable, my other option for high-speed Internet, has the same conflict. It now offers voice-over-IP phone service as well. Why should I pay for that when Skype is better and cheaper? Exactly.
The Internet has been powerful -- revolutionary, in fact -- because just about anyone with a good idea has a chance to get noticed. Think about how brilliant new services like YouTube have risen in just the past year to dominate Web video services, at the expense of dumb dinosaurs like Time-Warner (see where this is going?) and become more important than even rival Google Video. If you want to see cool video like this you turn first to YouTube. And it's a good thing, too. But YouTube has no future if cable and phone companies either choose to crush it or extort from it like an old-time Mob enterprise.
There are free-speech implications to this problem as well. If Verizon does not take a liking to what I am writing here, it could block this site, my blog, or any site linking to me. It could at least make these pages slow to load for Verizon customers. I could switch to Time-Warner. But most Americans don't have a choice for broadband. And Verizon customers could be losing out without even knowing it.
Here is a great video explaining all this better than I can.
BTW, if you want to read the most brilliant and important book on the revolutionary consequences of digital technology and networking, read The Wealth of Networks by Yale law professor Yochai Benkler.
Congress can fix this extortion threat by passing legislation guaranteeing " net neutrality." As usual, if telecom and cable lobbyists can own the debate, we the people have not chance of getting our representatives to work for us. But we can intervene. We can make a stand. This is one of those issues. Check out and contribute to Public Knowledge, the best DC-based public interest group working on these issues.
One last thought before I leave this to one Eric or another: On behalf of Paul McLeary, myself, and every other American who respects truth and justice, Go Sabres!
A note from Eric R.:
STEPHEN COLBERT IS A VERTEBRATE LIFE-FORM
...and evidently one of a very few in attendance at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Yes, it's all over the blogosphere—here's a streaming clip, a torrent, and a transcript, and a summary of the allegedly liberal media's evident decision to ignore it.
How did Colbert keep going, with few supportive laughs from the crowd in the room?
Colbert made not-very-exaggerated statements that could easily have come out of the mouths of any pompous reporter or Republican flunky, statements that not only made the press and the administration look silly, but also hubristic, heedless, weak, and even murderous. Those of us who were not implicated by his speech could laugh freely at it.
Hi Eric: Happy 'Mission Accomplished' day. A day that will live in infamy for our president, not being a student of history or anything else, claimed victory prematurely. John Paul Jones, that great American Naval Commander, when asked if he was ready to surrender, stated, "I have not yet begun to fight." Had Bush and Co. not been romanced by their own rhetoric they might have known that winning the first skirmish does not mean you've won the war.
Hometown: W-S, NC
Just a little explanation about why Lienart went 10th. Just go down the list and it really does make sense.
1st. Texans wanted Reggie Bush, but weren't about to let Bush get to dictate the negotiations, so they took Williams as he was more willing to go cheep. Also, Texans have a good quarterback in David Carr (they just need an O line to protect him long enough to throw the ball).
2nd. New Orleans, who picked up Drew Brees in the off season, very well might have gone for a QB to back up Bree's - but this is the NFC south, and you can't have enough good running backs in the NFC south (not when facing a pair of top 5 D's in division). So Reggie Bush fell, and New Orleans snapped him up.
3rd. Titans wanted a much younger version of McNair, who may or may not be back next season (he may play 06 as a Raven), and got him - Vince Young.
4th. Jets have two QB's with starting experience - Chad Pennington and Patrick Ramsey. Notice I didn't say good QB's, just that they started. The Jets FO probably figures at least some of their problems are O line related (something the Texans need to figure out), especially after Curtis Martin fell apart last year - So O line, not another QB.
5th. Green Bay selected their QB of the 'After Brett Farve finally gets the hell out of town finally' years last year - and their D does need a lot of work.
6th. San Fran also has their QB of the future from last year.
7th. Oakland. Probably think with their talent at WR, the QB position is more or less plug and play (so long as randy moss doesn't get hurt again) - and their D ain't that great either.
8th. The Bills dropped from what, 3rd in 04 to about 22nd in D last year? They are in panic mode. Also, they have JP Losman in at QB for better or for worse for at least 2 more years.
9th. Detroit, especially after all the wasted 1st round offensive picks and picking up both McCown (sp?) from the cards and Kitna from the Bengals in the off season, went Defensive.
10th. The cards could use a QB to back up/eventually replace Kurt Warner, Lienart was still there, ta-da! perfect fit. And that is how Lienart fell to 10th in the draft.
Name: Rob Stafford
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Eric B.-- A few quick hits: First, appreciated the Downing Street stuff -Americans still have no idea about this and a lot of things- and it is the press' fault. I swear, I ended up in a discussion with a guy *last week* who said we had no choice to go to Iraq, because, "If you come over here, and pull something like that, you gotta expect a response." Jesus wept for our ignorance.
Gore is looking more likely, glad you and Eric A., are keeping him on my radar. Will see the movie.
Loved Stephen C. on C-Span (just saw the .mov file). Can tell I'm too polite -loved what he was saying but was uncomfortable for the audience. Also, for me, some parts weren't really funny, just tragic -but they still needed to be said.
Thanks very much for the News Hounds link, a new site for me, and I loved their tag line, "We watch FOX so you don't have to."
Lastly, re: the $100 dollar gas rebate...I'll tell you why they thought it would work. They bought a lot of people for $300 bucks a head & some sweet nothings the first term, and by now, they've sufficiently managed our expectations that they figured $100 bucks would make us feel like we owned a bunch of stock in Kellogg, Brown & Root.
Thanks for the blog. Congrats on the book.
In addition to Eric B.'s fine entry below, we've republished Eric R.'s excellent review of Richard Parker's "John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics" to commemorate Galbraith's passing.
Lost on Downing Street
Greetings. Eric A. has checked out for the week. So today (and Friday) the Altercation honors fall to me, Eric Boehlert.
As Frank Rich noted over the weekend, May Days have been famously ill-fated for the Bush clan. May 1 2003, was the now-comical "Mission Accomplished" production aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. (I'm sure Rich will have much more on Mission Accomplished in his new Bush book due out in Sept.) Then last year on May 1, the Sunday Times of London published the Downing Street Memo, which detailed, from the inside, the White House's blatantly dishonest path to war. A story the MSM worked overtime trying to ignore.
To me, that event —the press' handling of the DSM— was even more compelling, and historically significant, than the Mission Accomplished charade because I think the DSM story displayed as graphically as possible just how timid the D.C. press corps had become in the wake of Bush's "mandate" win from 2004. I hope the DSM, as a media story, will be studied for years to come in journalism schools.
Like a newborn placed in a roomful of bachelors, the Downing Street Memo was greeted with befuddled stares; a hard-to-figure puzzle that was better left for somebody else to solve. And that's what was so striking —how uniform the MSM response was. Why, in the face of the clearly newsworthy memo did senior editors and producers at virtually every major American news outlets fail to do the most rudimentary reporting —the who, what, where, why, and how of the Downing Street Memo? Instead, journalists looked at the document and instinctively knew it was not a news story. Journalists didn't simply fail to embrace or investigate the Downing Street Memo story, they actively ignored it.
That's taken from my new book, "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush," which Amazon is now shipping. Here are some pre-pub notices from Atrios, Peter Daou, and Tom Tomorrow who calls Lapdogs "highly recommended," and says it's a worthy successor to Mark Hertsgaard's keeper, "On Bended Knee." If true, it's mission accomplished for me.
I must say at times it was profoundly depressing writing the book as I confirmed again and again just how dishonest (there's no other word for it, really) many MSM journalists have been during the Bush years (particularly 2001-2005), as they scurried around desperate not to upset key players inside the White House. A classic example, I think, was Tim Russert's role in the Valerie Plame case and how for 15 crucial months, from early August 2004 through early October 2005, Russert all but refused to publicly explain his central role in a criminal investigation that reached to the highest levels of the White House. And specifically, Russert, apparently free to discuss his testimony, refused to share information he had that would have reflected poorly on key White House officials caught up in the Plame investigation. Only after special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in late Oct. 2005, unsealed the indictment against Scooter Libby, and revealed Russert's starring role, did the high-profile journalist begin to come clean with viewers. (The indictments alleged Libby testified that he learned about Valerie Plame's identity during a July 2003, phone conversation with Russert. Russert testified that was not true because he and Libby never even discussed Plame during their phone call. Based on that discrepancy, the grand jury indicted Libby for perjury.)
That means that during the months of August, Sept., and Oct. 2004, when America was choosing its next president, back when Russert was sitting on exclusive information about the Plame investigation (i.e. that Libby was telling tales to Fitzgerald that were not true), the famous newsman never made a peep. Why, during an election year didn’t Russert appear on "Meet the Press" and announce, 'Based on questions posed to me by special prosecutor Fitzgerald, it seemed clear Libby testified that he and I spoke about Plame in July 2003, when in fact we did not.' As late as July 17, 2005, Russert's "Meet the Press" devoted a big chunk of a Sunday to the Plame story and the host managed to avoid a single mention of his involvement. Last year Arianna posted a complete record of Russert's embarrassing insistence on refusing to discuss his testimony and what the implications might be for Libby. Like White House staffers, it seemed Russert was hoping the whole mess would just go away. (If prosecutors asked Russert not to discuss the case, then he simply should have informed viewers.)
I bring all this up because last week here's how Betsy Fischer, executive producer of "Meet the Press," responded to a question about Russert's role in the Plame case. Read it and try not to get a headache:
"Tim was very up front from day one in this whole situation...He was very frank with how he was involved in the situation." [Emphasis added.]
We can only hope .
And people wonder why the White House has seemed distracted over the last year.
A look back on the life of Galbraith.
Agreed, Colbert's weekend performance was a genuine star turn. Favorite bit from Saturday night:
Over the last five years you people were so good over tax cuts, W.M.D. intelligence, the affect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.
But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The President makes decisions, he’s the decider. The Press Secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know, fiction.
Early word was Bush and some assembled press guests were not amused. Not difficult to see why: "Colbert not only lampooned and humiliated Bush and his handlers, but the lapdog media that has propped him up—in public, live, and for a national audience. It was his, and C-SPAN's, finest hour. And you won't hear cable news talking about it, because Colbert rubbed their nose in their failure." (Note this New York Times article on the dinner made no mention of Colbert.)
Colin Powell's long-shot rehabilitation tour continues.
Oops, according to this right-wing blogger, Air America was supposed to lose its NYC affiliate station on April 1. Maybe he meant April 1, 2007.
The ref should stop the O'Reilly/Olbermann fight before O'Reilly gets really hurt.
Senate Republicans have an idea and everybody laughs.
Go here for the best "Sopranos" recap.
Perhaps somebody smarter than me, like maybe Allen St. John, can explain why Matt Leinart wasn't picked until No. 10 during the weekend's NFL draft. Meanwhile, for now, Kobe is still the king. (What's up with league MVP Steve Nash getting mugged in OT and not getting the call. Still no respect?)
The can't miss playlist:
"What Can I Say," Brandi Carlile. Criminally overlooked song.
"Chicago." Sufjan Stevens. See above.
"Boston Girl," Chris Trapper. See above.
"Help Me Suzanne," Rhett Miller. See above.
"My Own Two Hands," Ben Harper and Jack Johnson.
"Waiting for My Life to Begin," Colin Hay. Crazy good acoustic song from former front man of Men at Work. For real.
"Erie Canal," Bruce Springsteen.
"Can't Come Home," Amity Front. The pride of Amherst, Ma.
"Life Wasted," Pearl Jam
"When We All Get to Heavan," Alan Jackson. Almost makes you wanna be a Baptist.
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