Aug 092012
 

John Dean referenced Bob Altemeyer’s work extensively in his 2006 book, “Conservatives without Conscience.”

A 27-page condensed and abstracted version is available on this site at: http://sociodynamics.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Bob-Altemeyer-The-Authoritarians-Abstracted.pdf 

To read the complete 254-page original, your link is http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

Also, I have found an audio CD, read by the author at: http://cherryhillpublishing.com/Bookstore/en/nonfiction/14-the-authoritarians-cd-audio-9780972329880.html

Altemeyer explains: “This book is about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.”

“The feedback I’ve gotten from those who have read The Authoritarians enables me to give you the major reason why you might want to do so too.   “It ties things together for me,” people have said, “You can see how so many things all fit together.” “It explains the things about conservatives that didn’t make any sense to me,” others have commented. And the one that always brings a smile to my face, “Now at last I understand my brother-in-law” (or grandmother, uncle, woman in my car pool, Congressman, etc.)”

Ever since John W. Dean published his Conservatives Without Conscience in 2006, much interest has been vested in the research of Dr. Bob Altemeyer that was so prominently featured in the book. In CWC, Dean set out to learn why modern conservatives seemed to think and behave in ways diametrically opposite the righteous and moral values they so publicly espoused. What he discovered was an existing body of scientific research tracing back to the cinders of the Holocaust. This research focused on the Authoritarian Personality, which social scientists believe was the enabling element within German society that was so deftly exploited by Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich.  Bob Altemeyer’s research on the Authoritarian Personality, summarized in this book, won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Prize for Behavioral Science Research.

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Jul 312012
 

I would like to have one more go at the effects of the core philosophies of the elites among us. I have described those working from an early “Puritan Ethic” of community betterment and their opposite, those working from an early “Plantation Ethic” of being above the law with the freedom to control and exploit others and their property at will. How is this playing out in 2012?

The Republican Party seems to have been seized by elites with the Plantation Ethic during the past few decades. They love their money and privilege and will do anything to protect their private advantages. They have been preaching a host of destructive circular arguments. Here are a few examples:

They describe government as being out of control and being the root of all evil. They say that government needs to be slashed, reduced, and killed. No joke. Grover Norquist, the lobbyist and conservative “No Taxes” activist said, “… I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Then they work to systematically cripple government so that it has trouble doing the good things that government is supposed to do. Finally, they point at this damaged government and say, “See, government really is worthless.”

They describe our government’s financial, pollution, and safety regulations as being out of control and the root of all evil. They say that government regulations are preventing businesses from making a profit and so there are fewer jobs. They have been working to systematically cripple important regulations so that financial, pollution, and safety issues pop up more often. Then they point at these preventable problems and say, “See, government really is worthless.”

They describe our public schools as being ineffective and the root of all evil. They work to underfund schools and lay-off teachers while burdening them with mountains of paperwork. With teaching becoming a thankless struggle against parental and community apathy, overwork, and buying your own books and supplies, good teachers give up. Then the elites point to these problems and say, “See, public education really is worthless.”

What is their alternative? Well, of course: contracts for private companies to provide services that were previously provided by public employees. Now, do you think that a corporation with these private contracts will actually work in the best interests of their employees and of those they “serve?” Or, will they work to maximize profits? Color me real skeptical. I absolutely believe that there are some things that public agencies and public servants are better able to do, and one of those things is caring for neighbors. The “public sector” isn’t just some big anonymous bureaucracy; it’s your neighbors and mine. When was the last time that a big multinational corporation brought you a casserole or tutored your child for free after class?

And, have you forgotten that “the love of money” is named as the root of all evil? While our economy is still struggling to recover from the last big private adventure in financial risk-taking, corporate profits are at a record high and employee wages, as a proportion of our economy, are at an all-time low. Yeah, tell me that the “job creators” need more tax cuts so that they can create more jobs. We’re fools to keep on thinking that the moisture we feel is the start of trickle down from the corporations who love us. I don’t think its trickle down; I can tell when I’m being pissed on.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 312012
 

Last week, I talked about the inevitable presence and place of elites in American Society. While we believe that all men are created equal and certain of their rights are unalienable and should never be threatened, we understand that some of us have advantages and abilities that others do not. Nonetheless, we hope that our children and grandchildren might yet find exceptional success for their efforts.

America has continued to struggle to define, expand, and guarantee our liberties. American slaves have been granted the rights of citizenship. Their descendants are increasingly able to vote freely, serve in the military, and sit, as free people, on any free seat on any bus. Women have been given the right to own property, vote, earn equal wages, and use birth control. Recently, more of us have received additional health care protection so that we don’t face the choice of staying healthy or dying quickly.

Nonetheless, America has always faced groups determined to twist government to favor their private wealth, power, and industry. In the years before World War I, this was called “The Gilded Age.” Corruption was open, corporations organized violence against their workers, stark poverty ravaged the lives of the poor crowded into tenement housing. If you were hurt on the job, you could consider yourself fired before you hit the ground.

The “Panic of 1893” was the result of corporate corruption and embezzlement on a massive scale. They even got the US Army to intervene in labor disputes. The “Great Depression” preceding World War II was triggered by the collapse of unregulated financial speculation by financiers. The Financial Collapse of 2007 was also the work of bankers and financiers trading in fabricated instruments derived from bundled lots of high-risk investments. Greece, other countries, and banks bought these investments, thinking that they could lower their own interest payments. The inevitable collapse shook the finances of not just Europe, but the entire world.

Today, self-serving business interests seem to have seized the reigns of the Republican Party. This goes far beyond the conservative or liberal dispositions of voters. They are dismantling needed regulation of finance, pollution, and labor practices. They are undermining and trying to privatize public workers including teachers, law enforcement, and even the military. They are outsourcing and cutting jobs while reducing wages and benefits for those who do still work. They are making it harder for most students to get or afford the college degrees that are demanded for entry into everything but minimum-wage service jobs. And, they are even trying to eliminate the minimum wage.

Today, well into our struggling recovery from the collapse of their economic house of cards, corporate profit margins are again at record highs while U.S. wages, as a share of our economy, are at record lows. If there is “class warfare” going on, they started it. Income inequality is stunning and it is getting worse. I believe that Americans of both parties need to push back against those who are intent on compounding their private wealth and power at the expense of everyone else.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 312012
 

You have seen me struggling to make sense of the differences between conservatives and liberals, the balance between personal liberties and public responsibilities, and persistent class differences in America. Today, I read an article that suggested a difference between American elites that fills in a gap in my thinking. Naturally, I’m excited and want to share.

Despite our belief that all men are created equal, we have always understood that some of us have advantages of education, wealth, connections, and influence that are not shared equally. And, as a competitive capitalistic society, we mostly accept these class differences in the hope that someday we, or our children, might get rich and powerful too. We expect to always have our elites.

 

The thing that got my attention was the idea that, in America, there are two major background philosophies among our elites. Some derive their life-views from Puritan thought while some get their thinking from Plantation attitudes. This makes a difference in how a person of privilege thinks about what they do with their wealth, what responsibilities they feel for others, and how they define liberty and freedom.
The Puritan ethic emphasizes community and the conviction that those having wealth and power also have the responsibility to use some of it to improve their societies. Historically, they typically responded to an inner call to community service and doing good for others. They have endowed universities and public libraries. They have endorsed government policies that improve the lot of the common man. The Roosevelts and Kennedys have fit this mold. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are determined to use their fortunes for good.

Holders of the Plantation ethic are very much different. Sara Robinson’s article describes its origins in the West Indian slave states and its “…utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.”

David Hackett Fischer further describes Plantation Elites that, “…always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press… they… sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and pursuit of pleasure – including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.” They held themselves to be unaccountable and above the law.

In the Puritan Ethic, both liberty and authority reside with the community. Individuals are expected to balance their personal desires against the greater good and occasionally make sacrifices in behalf of others. This kind of support maximizes each citizen’s liberty, dignity, and potential. In the Plantation Ethic, one’s sense of liberty depended on their God-given place in society, and gave them the freedom to “take liberties” with the lives, rights, and property of other people. This results in their feeling the right to dominate, exploit, and abuse others and their property with impunity. This defines them, in their own eyes, as “free men.”

What sort of elites do you want writing your laws and running your government?

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 282012
 
The following list of 20 characteristics was developed by psychologist Robert Hare and have been noted as defining criteria to identify a “certain 1% of the U.S. population.”One can use this list as a quick and informal identification guide if desired. Ideally, however, it will be more accurate if the individual and his/her acquaintances are interviewed. In this case, each item would be graded as:

0 – Does not apply
1 – Partial match or mixed information
2 – Reasonably good match

Interpersonal relationships

  • Glibness / superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative

Observable behavior

  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Emotionally shallow
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Lifestyle

  • Need for stimulation / proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsiveness
  • Irresponsibility

Antisocial Behavior

  • Poor behavioral controls
  • Early behavioral problems
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Criminal versatility

Other items

  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior

Do you personally know someone in the 1% of the population who might score 25-30 out of a maximum of 40? If so, they might fit the “gold standard” PCL-R assessment for psychopathy. (They may be a “psychopath” – lacking empathy, prone to being self-serving and insensitive to the needs of others.) In other words, these are typically amoral people who lack, or are indifferent to, a concern for others.

The term “sociopath” is sometimes used interchangeably. The choice of term often depends on whether one thinks the cause is due to psychological/genetic/environmental factors or due to social factors.

IMPORTANT NOTE – Before I Go On

_This assessment can only be considered valid if administered by a suitably qualified and experienced clinician under controlled conditions._

 

Now that I have taken you here and teased you with a “1%” label, can you think of any other small cluster or class of individuals who seem to lack empathy and are prone to being self-serving and insensitive to the needs of others? These people don’t need to be overtly criminal. In fact, they may be very good at staying just on the safe side of the law. They may be very skilled at finding and using loopholes. They are capable of doing everything they can to get away with serving themselves and increasing their wealth and power. But, in the last analysis, they often don’t seem to care who they hurt in the process.

Addendum:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) does not list or define “psychopathy.” However, it does diagnose “Antisocial Personality Disorder” (ASPD) – based entirely on behavioral observations. ASPD is defined as a ‘…a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.’ A diagnosis of ASPD requires only three out of the following seven specific factors to be present:

  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  • deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  • impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead;
  • irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
  • reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
  • consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
  • lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;
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Jul 262012
 

 

“Thievery is what unregulated capitalism is all about.” – L. Randall Wray, UMKC professor of Economics explains:
     “As the Global Financial Crisis rumbles along in its fifth year, we read the latest revelations of bankster fraud, the LIBOR scandal. This follows the muni bond fixing scam detailed a couple of weeks ago, as well as the J.P. Morgan trading fiasco and the Corzine-MF Global collapse and any number of other scandals in recent months. In every case it was traders run amuck, fixing “markets” to make an easy buck at someone’s expense. In times like these, I always recall Robert Sherrill’s 1990 statement about the S&L crisis that “thievery is what unregulated capitalism is all about.”
     “After 1990 we removed what was left of financial regulations following the flurry of deregulation of the early 1980s that had freed the thrifts so that they could self-destruct. And we are shocked, SHOCKED!, that thieves took over the financial system.
     “Nay, they took over the whole economy and the political system lock, stock, and barrel. They didn’t just blow up finance, they oversaw the swiftest transfer of wealth to the very top the world has ever seen. They screwed workers out of their jobs, they screwed homeowners out of their houses, they screwed retirees out of their pensions, and they screwed municipalities out of their revenues and assets.
     “Financiers are forcing schools, parks, pools, fire departments, senior citizen centers, and libraries to shut down. They are forcing national governments to auction off their cultural heritage to the highest bidder. Everything must go in fire sales at prices rigged by twenty-something traders at the biggest and most corrupt institutions the world has ever known.
     “And since they’ve bought the politicians, the policy-makers, and the courts, no one will stop it. Few will even discuss it, since most university administrations have similarly been bought off—in many cases, the universities are even headed by corporate “leaders”–and their professors are on Wall Street’s payrolls. “
     “We’re screwed.”
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May 312012
 

Letter to the Editor

Fort Dodge Messenger

 (Published May 16, 2012)

In 1936, FDR (that would be President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the young whippersnappers) gave a speech in Madison Square Garden, New York, just days before his re-election. It was powerful; defiant; inspiring.

I was startled by how circumstances now reflect that time of monopoly, grave financial risk-taking, pocket government, and the resulting Great Depression. I was astonished at how FDR’s words could just as easily be coming from our current president.

“For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away.

Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair!

Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent. For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs.

We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.”

This speech was introduced as part of a “crusade to restore America to its own people.” FDR hoped that, as the forces of selfishness and lust for power had met their match in his first term, they would meet their master in his second.

FDR concluded: “…the recovery we seek, the recovery we are winning, is more than economic. In it are included justice and love and humility, not for ourselves as individuals alone, but for our Nation.”

After watching the recent PBS Frontline report on “Money, Power, and Wall Street,” I am more determined than ever to do what I can to help, yet again, restore America to its own people.

David Satterlee

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May 312012
 

Men of the fields, like all men of faith, are optimists. As defined at Acts 17:11, faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Optimists are able to contemplate the future with eyes of hope. They can imagine the substance of a reality that does not yet exist.

Pessimists are more likely to behave as faithless men of fear. They contemplate the future and imagine losing what they already have. This motivates them to worry about preserving things the way they are and conserving resources already at hand.

As children, we are usually relatively weak and understand that we could lose anything at any time. Someone stronger, having more authority or power, can take property or liberties from us at will. This makes us more focused on near-term risks and immediate gratifications.

As adults, there are several typical reactions to this fear of loss. Some may store up that which they fear losing or, like a prodigal, spend carelessly on whatever they can get now. Some may follow teachers who prey upon their fear. They may work to undermine even the best parts of our own elected government-of-the-people. They may even arm themselves and prepare against a day of “Second Amendment remedies.”

Others, as they develop toward adulthood, exhibit the emotional maturity associated with accepting delayed gratification. This is related to “self-control” – one of the Fruitages of the Spirit. Without this, no one would effectively invest in the future of their children, community, or nation.

By being open to faith in a good outcome, either as the result of hard work, the blessings of a loving  God, or  both, these optimists are willing to invest their resources – energy, blood, and treasure – in an uncertain future.

The further out these liberals are able to imagine the “substance of things hoped for,” the more radically they are willing to invest in the common good of their communities – voluntarily walking in self-sacrificing love rather than fear.

©2012, David Satterlee

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May 312012
 

Most of us have heard the phrase “sustainable development” and perhaps a little about United Nations and other initiatives related to sustainable development such as Agenda 21 and the Earth Charter.  Some of our communities are exploring these principals in the hopes of heading off, or at least moderating, future catastrophes.

The concept of organized sustainable development is described by critics as a massive international conspiracy to deprive you of individual and commercial rights. Yep, that’s pretty much how it is. This threat is so outrageous that I thought I would take this opportunity to speak out [with tongue firmly in cheek] in defense of UN-organized and UN-sustainable development.

[Our] people are guaranteed freedom and liberty.  These should not be trampled on, limited, or regulated regardless of consequences to others. We should be allowed to do whatever we want.

All natural resources are given by God to man to own, subdue, and have dominion over (Genesis 1:28).  Further man was given the physical and mental powers to accomplish this. This same scripture instructed him to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth – with no mention of limits.

Automobiles, the open road, and cheap gasoline are as quintessentially American as baseball and apple pie. A gas guzzling vehicle is not only larger and safer for its occupants but a public symbol of status and achievement. Free public roads are the right of every citizen. We should all have unlimited choice to live, work, play, shop, commute, and just drive around at will.

Trees are for lumber; just ask the long-missing inhabitants of Easter Island. They left behind mysterious rock statues, but no growing wood. Trees are also for burning; and when trees become scarce, one can always make more children to go out and forage for sticks.

Insecticides and pesticides are good for crops and lawns – to say nothing of bees, frogs, birds, fish, and shallow wells. But, who needs all that buzzing and chirping anyway? And do we really need water? I never drink water anyway ‘cause there’s plenty of beer.

We have lots of coal and it’s cheap, so we should be allowed to use as much of it as we want to generate as much electricity as we want. Never mind acid rain, millions of children with respiratory problems, or atmospheric heat retention from rising carbon dioxide levels.

Besides, I’m okay now and I don’t give a rip about my grandchildren or anybody else either. Speaking of which, I also don’t care about neutering pets, soil erosion, toxic waste, or even famine. Other people have those problems, not me… so far.

©2012, David Satterlee

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May 232012
 

John Dean referenced Bob Altemeyer’s work extensively in his 2006 book, “Conservatives without Conscience.”

In case you wanted to dig deeper, your link is http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

Altemeyer explains: “This book is about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.”

“The feedback I’ve gotten from those who have read The Authoritarians enables me to give you the major reason why you might want to do so too.   “It ties things together for me,” people have said, “You can see how so many things all fit together.” “It explains the things about conservatives that didn’t make any sense to me,” others have commented. And the one that always brings a smile to my face, “Now at last I understand my brother-in-law” (or grandmother, uncle, woman in my car pool, Congressman, etc.)”

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May 202012
 

Among the many opinions about the differences between Conservatives and Liberals, some point to the difference of blaming internal or external causes. “If you were to ask people about the cause of someone’s problems and sufferings (such as homelessness), you will hear two very different explanations.”

If you are a conservative, they point out, you will blame internal causes such as a lack of work ethic, family or religious values, sense of shame, or some other personal weakness.

If you are a liberal, your explanation will likely focus on external causes such as lack of education, oppression, social injustice, or some other influence outside of their control.

The essential conservative point is that interior causes can and MUST be addressed individually. Every person bears an inescapable personal responsibility to work continuously on their internal weaknesses and faults. It is not “success” if someone dragged you to the finish line.

You may seek guidance or it may come unsolicited, but you must walk the walk. A door may be opened to you, but you must enter. Your mother, teacher, minister, psychologist, or warden may point the way, but you have look where they point, set a destination, and keep on faithfully through every obstacle.

Liberals completely accept and internalize this core conservative value. They have individually embraced and fully assimilated the idea that you cause your own suffering and bear your own responsibility to master it. They believe in personal choice and responsibility so fervently that they take it for granted and assume that everybody understands it intuitively.

However, liberals do not believe that a personal failure is the end of the road. They are not comfortable going back to grazing while a predator munches on a weaker or slower neighbor’s carcass. If a member of the herd can be rescued from a hole, if sentries can give an alarm, or if circumstances can be improved, liberals believe that the community should work together to take these actions.

This leaves liberals to work with what remains – external factors. It is not that liberals believe that external factors are the EXCLUSIVE cause of problems and suffering. It is that liberals see external factors as something that they, as a community, have the collective ability and moral responsibility to address. This is called government.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Liberals would rather persuade and rehabilitate you than punish you or whip you into submission.

Liberals believe in people’s responsibility to raise themselves up. In fact, they have faith that most people can, and will, better themselves if their burdens are temporarily lightened. But, they would rather offer opportunities such as education, social equality, or a safety net than leave a suffering neighbor torn and bleeding by the roadside.

If we are to ever find a practical approach to building consistently robust, productive, and satisfying communities, we must come to terms with both internal and external problems.

If we blind ourselves to the stereotypical perspectives of either conservatives or liberals we will fall to the tyranny of incomplete solutions to our many problems; we will constantly engage in endless destructive battles of “either/or” when the reality is found in “and/both.”

©2012, David Satterlee

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May 112012
 

Ushahidi’s director of crisis mapping, Patrick Meier, and Meta-Activism Project founder Mary Joyce are collaborating on a project to update and add to Gene Sharp’s 198 “Methods of Nonviolent Action,” a manual for civil resistance, with ways these techniques could be adjusted for the 21st century. Together with other contributors, they’re managing a spreadsheet in Google Docs with each of 198 methods from the pioneering researcher in protest and activism. For each — and a few new ones added on — they’re listing ways the traditional method could be tweaked to take advantage of new technology, and ways that those methods could be completely reinvented.

For example, Joyce updated Sharp’s method number 175 — “overloading of facilities” — to suggest that a distributed denial of service attack is an equivalent action for the Internet age. In a “DDoS” attack, so much Internet traffic is directed at a given site that it is unable to handle the load and either performs poorly for visitors or can’t be viewed at all.

THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND PERSUASION

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