Living Large in Carson City: The Center Is not Holding Edition

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This past week (running through the weekend) I did something I swore not to do ever do again. It happened so suddenly I was knee deep into it before I knew it. Having sworn off more times than I care to admit, I engaged two deeply loyal Trump supporters on Facebook as to why I thought they were wrong in their beliefs. It was a tag team, wink and a nod offensive on their part, and honestly, I blame no one but myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I knew better from past skirmishes with other equally loyal fans of Trump, and it turned out no better.  From the beginning of Trump’s presidential campaign, I have been baffled how seemingly, normally intelligent people could fall for the charade that is Donald Trump. All one has to do is stay awake and marginally focused on what is going on in the country to see the dire straits America has fallen into at the hands of the Orange One.

Actually, I learned early on that engaging people who deny climate change, accommodate serial lying, cheating on their wives, and are literally clueless about governance at the federal level was a waste of everyone’s time. After all, if a person refuses to follow minimal standards of decorum in public office, there is not much of a chance that anything I say will change loyalists’ minds.

To my credit, my issue with the two gentlemen this past week was not to “change” their minds, but something much more specific. Both of them began their posts by dredging up the past sins of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama did this. Hillary did that. They were never punished. Why? The simple answer to this is the rule of law. Had they overstepped too far and broken the law then there would have been consequences. Of course, one would have thought I poured gasoline on my two adversaries and set them on fire judging from their responses.

To me, it is maddening when Trump supporters constantly blame Obama and Hillary for the turmoil gripping America today. The very fabric of our nation is under siege from incompetence, greed, assumed privilege and the total disregard for how a nation should be run. I tried to make these point to my two fellow Facebook posters. They would have none of it. In their minds America is on the highway to greatness with a Trump firmly in the driver’s seat. The swamp is draining and people should be happy.

So, the question remains: Why? What would make a fairly large bloc of voters to disregard the lessons of their parents and history and simply embrace a man who is shaping up to be the worst American presidents on record. The answers are legion; none of which satisfy this black hole of a dilemma.

Here is one explanation,

As the social psychologist David Dunning wrote during the campaign, “Some voters, especially those facing significant distress in their life, might like some of what they hear from Trump, but they do not know enough to hold him accountable for the serious gaffes he makes.” In other words, it’s not that they forgave Trump for being wrong, but rather that they failed “to recognize those gaffes as missteps” in the first place. USAToday

I heard a speaker put it this way recently, “They are just too dumb to know what they know (or don’t know).” This statement makes me think of Hillary’s “basket of deplorables”. The assumption was  that die-hard Trump supporters were under educated, mostly white, and often as not, religious and highly pissed off for circumstances beyond their control. While that description might be true for some of Trump’s base, I don’t think it is a true representation of the vast majority of Trump’s most rabid troops. The two Trump supporters I engaged at the end of last week were intelligent, well-spoken (or written) and knew their talking points backwards and forwards.

The problem, however, is they were wrong on just about every topic. Like Trump, they are climate change deniers. Like Trump, they think Washington is a smoldering swamp that Trump has been preordained to drain. They seemed to fall lockstep into all of the bad things that Trump supporters hold true and dear to someone like me. On the big issues like guns, global safety concerns, diplomatic integrity and a what it really means to put America first, there is no denying that these are issues that divide the vast majority of Americans. Yet, there is more there.

Empathy towards others does not seem to have much meaning for many of Trump’s base. They have become so attached to their monetary and material possessions (or lack thereof) that human life and dignity mean nothing to them. Or maybe it is because they have lost so much over the years as factories closed or moved overseas leaving them jobless and without the promised retirement fund they worked toward only to have it snatched away by giant corporations or Wall Street firms.

With a lack of empathy comes a sense of us versus them, Black versus white, gay versus straight, anti-choice versus choice when dealing with women’s bodies and on and on. These are serious divides that Donald Trump has no inclination of solving if he understands they exist at all. Sure unending war, climate change, the scourge of drugs, the exploding Republican deficit, poverty, and  a whole host of other issues are simmering on the back and front burners. But if America can not regain its empathetic foundation when dealing with our own, we will become more and more fractured as a society until our democracy becomes the ultimate victim.

One thing is clear: Trump over the past two years has become the emblem of exclusion and divisiveness. No president has played the race card and vilified those who he sees as less than patriotic, often based on the color of their skin, than Donald Trump. Additionally, the idea that Trump following is a working class phenomenon has been debunked since those heady days of the campaign when “Lock her up” and the attacks on the wicked media were his stock and trade supposedly aimed at the angry, white working class voters.

Then there is this.

It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class.

When journalists wrote that Trump was appealing to working-class voters, they didn’t really know whether Trump voters were construction workers or CEOs.

Moreover, according to what is arguably the next-best measure of class, household income, Trump supporters didn’t look overwhelmingly “working class” during the primaries. To the contrary, many polls showed that Trump supporters were mostly affluent Republicans. For example, a March 2016 NBC survey that we analyzed showed that only a third of Trump supporters had household incomes at or below the national median of about $50,000. Another third made $50,000 to $100,000, and another third made $100,000 or more and that was true even when we limited the analysis to only non-Hispanic whites. If being working class means being in the bottom half of the income distribution, the vast majority of Trump supporters during the primaries were not working class.

The article goes on to say the same can be said about education. While a significant number of Trump followers didn’t have college degrees, the numbers show . . .

Trump seemed to have about as many people without college degrees in his camp as we would expect any successful Republican candidate to have.

So, what is the motivation behind the solid 33 percent Trump base that seem enthralled with the Orange One in such a tunnel vision manner?  If economic uncertainty is not the motivation or lack of education, what drives these people into a rabid, frothing at the mouth hysterical devotion to a man who obviously cares little for anything that does not underscore his “greatness”?
Trump Voters Driven by Fear of Losing Status, Not Economic Anxiety, Study Finds

Living Large in Carson City: When Sugar Daddy Means Something Different Edition

Well, hell, my original post had to be slipped down lower in the queue. I just got what Urban Dictionary calls:

To open handedley slap someone. Denote disrespect for the person being bitch slapped as they are not worthy of a man-sized punch. Suggests the slap was met with little resistance and much whining
In Trump world bitch slapping is as common as collusion with the Russians. It happens every day. Today, it is the revelation that Michael Cohen’s third client is none other than Sean Hannity. Huh? Let’s think about this. Donald Trump’s attorney, the man who is his reported “fixer”, has as one of his clients Mr. Sleazeball of Fox News, Sean Hannity? Granted, no one has ever accused Fox News of being “fair and balanced” other than their PR department. So, Hannity goes on the air and defends Trump and Cohen to give Americans an impartial view of the news? How does that work exactly?
Now, back to the regularly scheduled rant:

“No wonder male religious leaders so often say that humans were born in sin—because we were born to female creatures. Only by obeying the rules of the patriarchy can we be reborn through men. No wonder priests and ministers in skirts sprinkle imitation birth fluid over our heads, give us new names, and promise rebirth into everlasting life.”
― Gloria SteinemThe Vagina Monologues

It’s called patriarchy and is sanctioned by all of the major religions, tacitly and/or aggressively supported by most courts of law the world over, and can be seen as the major force that has kept women in a subservient role all the way back to the beginning of recorded history. Those religions that recognize the Abraham prophet lineage, the Christian, Hebrew and Muslim religions, are steeped in the bondage of patriarchy that is alive and well across the globe.

The Bible is the source of the evangelical, patriarchal scourge women suffer under here in America. While Bible apologists claim that scripture views men and women as equal, don’t buy it. Since the supposed creation of Eve from parts of Adam’s body, women have been seen as below the cut and purposed as supporters of their husbands and male family members.

In a recent opinion piece by Rodney Hessinger, a history professor at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, Hessinger makes some rather provocative links between evangelicals, patriarchy and support for Donald Trump. Granted, this has been an area of speculation for the past couple of years. How can evangelicals accept and support a man who on tape has verbally abused women, carried on as if marriage is an inconvenient restriction to his male libido, and has no qualms about saying as a powerful man of the business world, he has the right to grab women by the pussies?

Then there is Stormy Daniels and the revelations she came forward with to support her claim that Trump had violated the duos’ nondisclosure agreement. For a mere $130,000, she promised that she would not comment on her relationship with Trump at a Lake Tahoe resort and subsequent meetings thereafter. Just the term “porn star” alone should have sent evangelicals into frothing at the mouth, rolling on the floor, hysterics.  Yet, it did not. Why? Where is the stiff, no nonsense stance against sin, adultery and lying?

Hessinger wrote,

The most recent Pew polls suggest that President Donald Trump hasn’t just held his support amongst white evangelicals but actually has grown his support since the Stormy Daniels story took hold.

With his white evangelical support having dropped to 61 percent in December, Trump now enjoys 78 percent support, just a shade beneath the support he won from white evangelicals on Election Day.

Many commentators have puzzled about the seeming hypocrisy of those who would see adultery and womanizing as grave sins. And yet for those who know the history of evangelicalism in America, this should be no surprise at all.

In fact, there are good reasons why we should expect this result. The history and sexual politics of evangelicalism in America fit well with Donald Trump and his message.

Hessinger goes on to quote Kristen Tobey, an assistant professor of religion and the social sciences at John Carroll, who stated that white evangelicals long ago latched on to the concept of “family values”, which in her estimation, means patriarchy. By the church embracing patriarchy, women were relegated to a subservient role, and men assumed the mantle of family patriarch whose word was law. The fact that some in the role of family steward may have overstepped their “marital mandate” in abusive ways was something swept under the rug and not spoken about in polite company.

As Hessinger points out, patriarchy set men and women apart from others in society who didn’t buy into the subjugation of women under the thumb of their husbands. Hessinger states that by protecting these social classifications, no matter how unjust or misguided they might be, evangelicals see themselves as fighting a righteous war that supports their beliefs pertaining to the will of their God. Thus, patriarchy became a self-fulfilling prophecy. We belief this way. The larger world doesn’t; therefore, we are being persecuted for our beliefs and must defend ourselves as a bloc.

Or as Hessinger wrote,

. . . evangelicals still often see themselves as embattled outsiders. As sociologists of religion have observed, religious outsiders have much to gain from boundary maintenance, often courting outcast status or even persecution to rally the faithful.

From this perspective, evangelicals are most successful when they resist total assimilation into the values and cultural norms of wider society, highlighting the ways they are misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misjudged. They thrive precisely because they are embattled.

Picking political fights on Twitter is Donald Trump’s stock in trade. Criticism by the “fake news” organizations plays directly into this sense of embattlement, yielding stronger support amongst the base.

Seeing oneself as an “embattled” individual or as a member of an outlier group can also lead to an alienation syndrome that begins to define, not just the reality of the real world, but underscores the suspected persecution from “dark forces” lying in wait in the shadows of one’s mind or group thinking. The rise and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer groups, state sanctioned gay marriage, the rise of social groups like Black Lives Matters, and even restrictions on their second amendment rights, all underscore the core beliefs of embattled and separate from others in society. Hessinger notes that this “unique”, set apart mentality feeds into the Trump world view.

This sense of being besieged is also echoed in the president’s rallying call, “Make America Great Again.” This slogan, harrowing up fears of the rise of racial and sexual minorities in America, also conforms to the classic evangelical sermon form, the “Jeremiad.” Since the time of the Puritans, evangelicals have used the Jeremiad to voice lamentations of social decline, thereby chastening and strengthening their ranks.

So far, Hessinger has not told readers anything that is not easily deduced simply by watching the absurd and often awkward antics of evangelicals across the nation. They are evangelicals because they choose to hold themselves above the masses as ordained by their God, and the rest of the world can simply go to hell . . . literally.

This aspect of evangelicalism I have always had a hard time with throughout my life. I am perfectly happy to allow anyone the right to believe whatever their fevered little brains can come up with to justify their existence. However, I am not comfortable when they want to dictate how the rest of us should act to give their beliefs legitimacy.

This is where Hessinger makes an observation that explains a lot about how the evangelicals square Trump’s adulterous ways with their own view of sin and immorality. If the patriarchal order represents the foundation of the evangelical’s worldview, shaking or radically demeaning or endangering that order is to be avoided at all costs. This means that sins like adultery, lying or other mundane “sins” can be forgiven and even act as a catalysis for the group as a whole to band together to affirm their God’s willingness to forgive and heal any damage done to the group belief system as a whole.

Hessinger states it this way,

Which brings us to the most paradoxical aspect of evangelicalism of all: Sexual scandal has always attended revival religion in America. So forbidden sex is not just a forgivable sin, but somehow essential to its expression.

Remember  Jimmy Swaggart? He was one of the first evangelicals along with Jim Bakker caught with their pants down, and in Bakker’s case, fleecing the church coffers  for millions of dollars. Swaggart’s tearful confession before a packed house at his megachurch in Baton Rouge with his wife in attendance, and Bakker’s forty-five-year sentence (he only served five years) for theft seemed like the end of both men’s careers as stewards of their respective congregations. Think again.

Both men were forgiven, not only by their God, but by the people they spiritually betrayed. Yet, the patriarchal chain was upheld and the family, forgiveness of sin, and resurrection from the ashes for both their ministries was the order of the day. Both men’s actions were serious, not just in the secular world, but in the world of religion where they had made their fortunes. By forgiving them, both congregations got the double reward of sustaining the status quo and brownie points from their God for opening their hearts to the two philanderers and forgiving them their transgressions.

So, what if Trump is little more than a horn dog gone off the rails. So, what if he bedded a porn star, Playboy model, or at last count, nineteen women who say they have had sexual relations with the him. The evangelical’s get out of jail adultery card wipes away a multitude of sins. From Trump’s perspective, it is just another day of Making America Great Again.


Living Large in Carson City: The Nattering Nabobs of the EPA Edition

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Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth. Ludwig Borne

When Trump named Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), I like most environmentally conscious people felt a wave of nausea sweep over me. Far from a Trump supporter, he backed Jeb Bush up to 2016 until is timely demise in the presidential primary, and said things like Trump was an

“empty vessel when it comes to things like the Constitution and rule of law,” CNN reported Monday.

Not a resounding show of support by Pruitt for the Orange One who would be king. Why would Trump tap a detractor like Pruitt for one of the most sensitive positions in his nascent administration? The answer speaks volumes about both men. Trump, who has shown over and over again, his lack of ethics and shyness towards transparency while demonstrating a vociferous drive to win at all costs, simply turned the other cheek.  Pruitt represented a juicy hunk of red meat on the hoof for his shortsighted and equally environmentally tone-deaf basket of deplorable constituency.

Pruitt, who is from Oklahoma, was exactly what Trump wanted in an EPA director to dismantle the gains the Obama administration made on regulating businesses and corporations and improving the environment. As the Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times during his tenure in an attempt to derail Obama’s progress in addressing the causes and concerns of climate change. Name any mainstream stance on the environment and Pruitt comes down solidly in the opposition.

Climate change? He refuses to link CO2 emissions to global warming and has been one of the most vocal climate change deniers on record. His 14 law suits against the EPA were a heavy-handed attempt to block implementation of Obama’s progressive EPA rules. Oklahoma under Pruitt’s reign as attorney general joined a dozen other states in trying to block the Clean Power Plan which was intended to reduce CO2 emissions by monitoring U.S. power plants.

His other “interests” included promoting mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant women, promising to sue the federal government for “expenses” incurred from immigration and on and on. Frankly, Pruitt comes across as a political troglodyte with little concern for his often- outlandish stances on all things political and environmental. Is it any wonder Trump felt comfortable in overlooking Pruitt’s past indiscretions that may have been hostile to Trump becoming president?

Of course, Pruitt’s ethics are as incomprehensible as his stances on the environment.  His security detail he maintains he needs is burning through its budget faster than one can say acid rain. In the past, as today, his association with the fossil fuel industry is the thing that Republican’s wet dreams are made of. His penchant for luxury pampering is monumental. His frequent first-class flights home to Tulsa are costing taxpayers a lot of money. A $43,000 soundproof telephone booth, $50 dollar a night rent for a bedroom in a luxury Washington condo owned by a lobbyist (shared with his daughter), and demands for his drivers to illegally turn on the limo’s sirens and lights to bypass traffic are just a few of the 23 ethic violations he has to justify in the coming months. The man is just wacky.

So, what America faces under Pruitt as head of the EPA is an environmental disaster in the making. Given his checkered past and current egomania, there seems to be little to do but bury our heads in the sand and hope the mid-terms give Democrats back control of the Congress.  Or is it?

In an article in Politico titled

The Myth of Scott Pruitt’s EPA Rollback

His ethics woes are overshadowing the central fact of his tenure: He hasn’t done much.

 By MICHAEL GRUNWALD April 07, 2018

tells a different story. First off, when implementing laws related to the environment and how they affect industry, it is an incredibly burdensome. It’s the same incredibly difficult task when trying to reverse them.

But Pruitt did not kill or roll back Obama’s strict fuel-efficiency standards; he merely announced his intention to launch a process that could eventually weaken them. In fact, Pruitt has not yet killed or rolled back any significant regulations that were in place when President Donald Trump took office. While Pruitt is often hailed (or attacked) as Trump’s most effective (or destructive) deregulatory warrior, the recent spotlight on his ethics—allegations of a sweetheart housing deal; pay raises for favored aides; lavish spending on travel, furniture and security; and retaliation against underlings who questioned him—has arguably overshadowed his lack of regulatory rollbacks during his first 15 months in Washington. The truth is that Scott Pruitt has done a lot less to dismantle the EPA than he—or his critics—would have you believe.

Say what? No one could believe one of Trump’s most loyal foot soldiers could be pulling the wool over the American public’s eyes, especially those that are loyal to the president and his outlandish policies. Right, and I have some ocean front property in Arizona I will sell you at a small fraction of the national budget.

Pruitt’s problem is that major federal regulations are extremely difficult and time-consuming to enact, and just as difficult and time-consuming to reverse. The rulemaking process can take years of technical and administrative work that Pruitt and his team have not yet had time to do. And even if Pruitt manages to keep his job long enough to complete that process for any of his efforts to weaken clean-air and clean-water rules, the EPA will inevitably face years of litigation over each one. The old saying that it’s easier to tear down a barn than to build one does not really apply to rules limiting pollutants like ozone, coal ash, mercury and methane.

“The regulatory apparatus is like a super-tanker; it can take a long time to turn around,” says Washington appellate lawyer David Rivkin, who represented Pruitt in several of Oklahoma’s challenges to Obama-era EPA rules. “If you want durable results, you can’t be sloppy or rushed.”

What Pruitt has been able to do is put on hold the Obama era rules and policies that have not been implemented yet. The ones that are in place are subject to the above legal mine fields before they could even be repealed. Granted, this isn’t the best-case scenario, but the knowledge that there is a smoke screen surrounding Pruitt’s alleged whacking away at EPA rules is a bit comforting.

“You can’t just govern by press release. You have to do the hard work of developing a rule that can withstand judicial scrutiny, even though it isn’t sexy,” says State Energy & Environmental Impact Center director David Hayes, an Interior Department official in the Clinton and Obama administrations. “Pruitt hasn’t been willing to do that, and that’s why he isn’t really having much of an impact.”

What we know is that Pruitt’s “successes” are much like Donald Trump’s successes, illusions at best. and outright lies at their worst.

Living Large in Carson City: The Chaos Theory Edition

Maybe I am a bit thicker than most. All of 2017 and now 2018, I’ve watched the Trump circus win the presidency, circle the wagons, uncircle the wagons and bounce from one scandal to even greater scandals every week. By all rights, he should have been toast after the Access Hollywood tape revealed he bragged to Billy Bush about grabbing womens’ pussies. By god, as an entertainer and a powerful man, it was not only his right to do so, but it was expected of him. Narcissistic jokes aside, Trump seems not to be able to find that “third rail” of political suicide most Americans expected him to stumble over eventually.

Even the most skeptical Americans, and certainly liberal Democrats, were not ready for the deluge of scandals, ineptitude, greed, and simple mismanagement of the existing arms of government that are necessary to keep the ship of state afloat. Trump’s “White House” has been more than remiss in their lack of interest in keeping the gears of government running smoothly. As of January of this year, many important jobs are still not filled.

This includes assistant secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsels, heads of agencies, ambassadors and other leadership positions that experts believe are critical for the federal government to function effectively. These represent about half of the roughly 1,200 positions that require Senate confirmation.

The White House likes to blame Congress for dragging its feet, but that’s only part of the story: As of this morning, there is no pending nominee for 245 of the 626 jobs we’re tracking. Among them: deputy secretary at Treasury and Commerce, director of the Census, director of ATF, director of the Office on Violence Against Women at Justice and commissioner of the Social Security Administration.  Washington Post

Also, left out of the list is the crucial position of Ambassador to South Korea. Trump’s attacks on North Korea have been relentless and caustic leaving Kim Jong Un’s southern neighbor twisting in the wind without an ambassador to what should be its most powerful and valuable ally. Instead, the South Korean government hears, like the rest of the world, our Tweeter in Chief’s most recent attack on one of the most dangerous leaders in the world over the Internet. Now, in an unimaginable foreign affairs snafu, Trump recently decided to set up a meeting with the North Korean dictator without the support or knowledge of his Secretary of State. What gives?

Of course, Trump for all of his bombastic rhetoric has some successes and some failures. He seems most effective in Obama era policy reversals. His modus operandi in approaching appointments is to find someone (usually from the business world or Wall Street) who is diametrically opposed to the stated goals and mandate of said agency. Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, is a good example. With no experience in running a department the size of Education, no public-school history, none for her children and a heavy dose of God-inspired belief that Charter and Private schools need public funding, her role has become more of a joke than an actual appointment to improve public education in America.  Check out this article for a list of the changes of heads of departments in the Trump administration – so far.

Then there the ongoing scandals that the Trump gang is dealing with on a day to day basis. Trump’s go to avoidance technique is simply to obfuscate, obfuscate and then obfuscate again. The more Robert Mueller digs the more outlandish Trump’s behavior becomes. Every time a new “indictment” or avenue of investigation occurs, the more erratic and “over the top” he becomes in his tweets, policy changes and/or reversals for no apparent reason.

Consider the week after the now infamous Stormy Daniels 60 minute interview. While the interview itself was mostly a yawner, the accusations contained in it put a damper on the normally gregarious serial tweeter. Yet, while he remained quiet on Stormy, he roiled the Washington political scene with a series of surprise “announcements”. He announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats in solidarity with American European allies over the alleged Russia poisoning in England. He whined like a baby as he signed the budget agreement when he didn’t get the money he wanted for his beautiful wall. After firing several high-profile department heads, he is reportedly secretly planning to get rid of his Chief of Staff and not replacing him. He seems to think he can do just fine filling that role himself.

The upshot of all of these minor and major upheavals to the White House staff and policies results in nearly utter and complete chaos. This is what America bought itself in 2016, chaos. Not chaos in its strict definition as in “complete disorder and confusion”. This kind of chaos is disruptive and unplanned. No, Trump’s brand of chaos is planned, implemented and nurtured for reasons only he and his closest advisers understand. But it must be made clear, Trump’s chaos is a game plan. A plan he has followed all of his life both privately and in business. He thrives on it.

I once had a boss who during the course of a normal day would tell me something in the morning about how something should be handled. Later on, she would tell another manager a completely different way to handle the same situation. Eventually, the other manager and I would find ourselves at odds on how to actually deal with the situation. Invariably, the two of us would become angry and go to our boss to express our frustration with one another. I can remember those meetings. She would sit us both down, hear our complaints and then proceed to set down a completely different solution to the problem.

It took me a while to figure out that this was an intentional-ego ploy on her part. When the inevitable blow up occurred, she could use her power over us both to “settle” the argument so she could be seen as the wise and firm arbitrator of any situation. I think this is what Trump is up to and has been all his life. When things go awry, he denies any involvement. He then supplies off-the-cuff “fixes” for the situation that makes him look good in the eyes of his base. The bigger the lie, the better the outcome from his point of view.

Unfortunately, my situation was much less significant than the acts of the most powerful man on the face of the earth. Put your seat belts on. Chaos is going to be the order of each and every single day Trump sits in the White House. He will and is already causing serious problems for the American democracy.  This is who Trump has always been. He is a liar, a cheat and an egomaniac grifter. America can expect no more.



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