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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Comments

I'm happy to sign up to Greenpeace's petition, just so I can say I did so. But if Phil Radford seriously believes that getting an E-mail petition from a bunch of Greenpeace supporters is going to make the slightest bit of difference, well, good luck with that.

On the other hand, having another 75,000 people finally realise that Obama is an opportunistic, lying scumbag, and telling him so, is probably a worthwhile goal, and is somehow vaguely satisfying.

By the way, at least according to Wikipedia, there were 20 million people participating in the first Earth Day, not 200 million (the latter would indeed have been pretty impressive!). Of course, the thing to realise is that the first Earth Day was held in 1970. In the US, there were 3 major television networks; there was no Fox News. Rupert Murdoch was an unknown force. RFK and MLK had been assassinated only two years earlier. The shootings at Kent State would take place a month afterward.

If you look at the political landscape today, there is no comparison. There is simply no — and I mean no — comparable level of political unrest that could possibly bring about the kind of change Greenpeace advocates. The political anaesthetising of the population over the past 40 years has been astoundingly successful.

Ask yourself whether, in, say, 2009, a couple of reporters were to discover that a group of burglars had broken into the campaign headquarters of one of the major parties in the run-up to the election, the sitting president would be forced, within 2 years, to resign or be impeached. It is to fucking laugh.

I figured out that Barack Obama is a lying, opportunistic scumbag quite a while ago. But it wouldn't hurt to say it again. And again.

that Barack Obama is a lying, opportunistic scumbag

All job requirements to be president of the USA in the first place.-Tony

Yeah, 200 million was pretty obviously a typo; thanks for correcting it. But I disagree about the level of political unrest. Just look at the protests in 2003 before the Iraq war (collectively the largest anti-war protests ever), or the global day of action on climate change. There's plenty of unrest and it's only increasing, and the most notable and hopeful thing about it is that it's becoming globalized. But the problem is getting people to act on it--and especially so in this country, where the activist population is willing to sit on its hands for four years since they've convinced themselves they have an ally in the White House. So I'm glad to see Radford and others shedding that fantasy.

"But I disagree about the level of political unrest. Just look at the protests in 2003 before the Iraq war (collectively the largest anti-war protests ever)"

Uh huh, and those protests really made a difference, eh? John, I'm afraid you just proved NomadUK's point. Other than that, many thanks for your post!

Actually NomadUK's point was there's the level of political unrest today isn't comparable to that in 1970, and the examples I cited show it's an open question (and one that I don't think really has a meaningful answer, or even a useful answer in this context).

As to your point of whether or not those protests made a difference, I'd say it's a serious (and common) mistake to assume that anti-war protests are a failure if the war they're protesting goes ahead anyway. We are never, ever going to read a headline like "Citing widespread public opposition, President cancels Iraq invasion"--and anyone who uses that as a yardstick for success is setting themselves up for unnecessary (and highly counterproductive) disappointment.

There's plenty of unrest and it's only increasing

Maybe so. But it's diffuse and unfocussed (thanks in large part to a massive effort by corporate media to confuse and thereby render impotent public anger), and is essentially ignored by those in power. The strength of the police state — in its tactics, its propaganda, and its weaponry — has been increasing as well, much more rapidly than any political unrest, and the firepower and propaganda barrage that can be brought to bear on demonstrations is enourmous. Look at the G-8 summit results, in which the protesters were (successfully, I think) characterised as malcontents and troublemakers.

I think (and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) that perhaps John's point is that sufficient activism will either (a) lead to elected leaders deciding not to start a war if they haven't already committed themselves to one, or (b) the election of leaders who aren't prone to start wars in the first place.

Frankly, my feeling (as is clear from the above) is that neither of these is likely anytime soon without a radical shift in the psyche of the US government and its population. The circumstances under which such a radical shift would occur are difficult to imagine under the present conditions. Suffice it to say that it may not be pretty, and I simply can't imagine it occurring in a calm and orderly manner under the current political and economic systems.

I'm gonna sound like a lawyer here, but I'm not. NomadUK's point related to the degree of change that could be effected by the level of political unrest that exists, not the level of political unrest itself: "There is simply no — and I mean no — comparable level of political unrest that could possibly bring about the kind of change Greenpeace advocates."

Your comment: "I'd say it's a serious (and common) mistake to assume that anti-war protests are a failure if the war they're protesting goes ahead anyway. We are never, ever going to read a headline like "Citing widespread public opposition, President cancels Iraq invasion"--and anyone who uses that as a yardstick for success is setting themselves up for unnecessary (and highly counterproductive) disappointment."

John, what other yardstick for success could there be? The only meaningful yardstick of success for protest must by definition be that the leadership either doesn't start a war they're contemplating or stops a war in progress.

If you see another valid yardstick, where protest can be considered a success even though it has failed in its objective of stopping a war of aggression, please share it.

Bringing my comment back to the thread :) ... even a war of aggression against whales.

NomadUK: The circumstances under which such a radical shift would occur are difficult to imagine under the present conditions.

I've already said that I think you're underestimating the level of unrest and activism today, but even granting that point for the sake of argument, the social upheaval and protest movements of the late 60's were difficult (if not impossible) to imagine before they happened as well.

More to the point, even if you were entirely right about the diffuse and useless nature of protests today, the overwhelming power of forces arrayed against us, the fact that we're all pacified to the point of stupor, and so on...what of it? What's to be accomplished by heaping scorn on any attempt to create change or any belief that change is possible? I don't mean to sound confrontational with that--it's a serious question.

I agree with much of what you're saying, but I think you're taking it too far and making it too absolute. I'm certainly prone to cynicism myself (for many of the same reasons you describe), but I also recognize that there's nothing easier than cynicism--especially for a coddled liberal in a rich society, like me--and also nothing less useful. And when we indulge in it we're effectively doing the work of people like Obama for them.

Harpfool: The only meaningful yardstick of success for protest must by definition be that the leadership either doesn't start a war they're contemplating or stops a war in progress.

I couldn't disagree more with this standard, but applying it anyway for the sake of argument: the Bush administration was contemplating war with Iran, but they didn't go through with it. Why not? There are many reasons, but one of them was certainly the fact that the anti-war movement had demonstrated such a tremendous level of public opposition (in the US and globally) to further American attacks. So even by the standard you're suggesting the anti-war movement that arose in 2003 was a success.

You can argue that the protests had nothing to do with it, but by the same token you can argue the Vietnam-era protests had nothing to do with ending that war either. There's no way to win either argument. You could also argue that it's too soon to judge whether an attack on Iran has been prevented, and that's true--but it's also exactly why it's so critical that people not succumb to the impossible standard of success you're suggesting and stop voicing their opposition when they don't see instantantaneous, obvious, and entirely unambiguous results from what they're doing.

Speaking generally, the main purpose of protesting and other forms of resistance is to express opposition to and raise the social cost of a policy--and every protest that does so is by definition successful, whether it's a million people descending on Washington or a dozen people standing on a corner somewhere in Montana. The only way for activists to "fail" is for them to stop being active.

I believe, on the subject of protesting, these are two good articles to consider:

http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/011069.html

http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/011053.html

I just signed. It may be that activism does no good. But who knows? Sometimes, life has pleasant surprises.

Thanks for your comments John - food for thought.

I don't see how any unrest or protest aimed at modifying or reforming the compartmentalized, and often competing, factions of the US state can succeed.

The State is not a monolith. Reform of one compartment does not translate into reform of another, and public attention is en-Spectacled to the point where even heartfelt opposition to State abuses end up serving state and corporate interests (see, greenwashing and cap-and-trade).

Look at what happened with NAFTA and the repeal of Glass-Steagall - the reactionary factions were opposed, under the cover of the pervasive myth of the American Nation, but serving the interests of a class of capitalist producers and retailers which did not benefit directly from globalization (ie, the driving down of wages through the use of foreign slave, corvee and captive labor).

The "progressives" were in favor, and couched their arguments in cosmopolitan, humanitarian and human rights terms.

Competing factions, same system, same capitalist class.

Directing insurrectionary and protest efforts towards amelioration of one compartment of this impressively versatile machine is not unlike scrubbing the floor of an abattoir. You might clean it up for a bit, but that doesn't change its function.

What if protesting actually works against us in a way no one is seeing? What if it inadvertently sends the exact wrong message to everyone?

If you're not coming from a position of power, isn't it true that you can't make demands, you can only make requests? Will the next and the next and the next wealthpower gi-ants be kinder to the ants and feel compelled to grant us our requests if we just persist in begging them for our rights long enough?

I sincerely think this deserves serious consideration: Protesting sends the message that it is good to beg wealthpower giants for our rights, that it is right to beg wealthpower giants for our rights, that it is necessary to beg wealthpower giants for our rights, and that it will always be good, right, and necessary to be begging wealthpower giants for our rights.

I think this thinking is all wrong, is self-harming, and it actually helps hide the simple fatal fact that we can't get our rights nor fix ANYthing while the diabolically stupid idea to allow wealthpower giants to have to beg our rights from survives.

Somebody please remind me of the very good reason this species ever had for allowing unlimited personal fortunes? Is it wealthpower giants who are killing us all and this planet, or is it our very bad idea to allow wealthpower giants that we should be attacking?

We Humans are pulling leaves, not digging the root. Pulling leaves wastes time and energies we can't afford to waste and ensures everybody keeps suffering from hope-fatigue. The leaves on the vine of troubles grow back faster than we can pull them, but we never decide to dig the vine out by the root and be done with it once and for all. We're not evil, we're just being stupid. Humans are stupid: that isn't an insult, it's a fact. We should be studying our stupidity, not ignoring it. We're goners if we don't dump our mindless faith in custom and convention and start thinking fearlessly. Our myopia is going to get us dead. Never mind that the innocent dying are and have been paying and paying with their lives for our mistake of thinking we have the right to prioritize as we please and focus where we will.

Our wealthpower inequality factor resides in the billions and is ever-escalating...making democracy by definition impossible, but we hilarious humans just can't figure out why we have tyranny-slavery. Americans have tyranny-slavery and they are congratulating themselves on their democracy. We are about to disappear right up the ass of our own absurd thinking. This species has no clue the can of worms it opened when we began division of labor. Nobody is being made aware that inequality is inbuilt into the very nature of transaction itself and occurs with or without human agency helping it along. Wealth - courtesy of market forces - gets shifted one direction while the work that alone produces the wealth gets shifted the other direction - a fundamental fact still invisible, being ignored on all continents.

Where are all the campaigners for fairpay justice? Who is helping murder the geno-sadistic idea to allow wealthpower giants? Can we afford to keep begging wealthpower giants for our rights, or is fairpay justice really, as I insist it is, the non-negotiable price of survival?

Jack: Look at what happened with NAFTA...

Actually, look at what happened with the MAI: it was defeated by a global campaign organized through the Internet, which was possible thanks to networks that had already been organized in opposition to the WTO and NAFTA.

MoG: If you're not coming from a position of power, isn't it true that you can't make demands, you can only make requests?

Protests serve many functions, but one is to act as a reminder that we are the power. Here's Daniel Ellsberg recounting a critical bit of history:

Roger Morris, who worked on these escalation plans under Kissinger, reports seeing the actual mission folders, including photographs, for the nuclear targets recommended to the president; one of them was a railhead in North Vietnam a mile and a half from the Chinese border. Hanoi never did accept the terms of Nixon’s ultimatum; and Nixon’s discussion and his later actions indicate strongly that it was not a bluff. Why then was the escalation not carried out?

Nixon himself gives the reason, one only, in his memoirs. There were too many Americans on the streets, demonstrating nonviolently against the war, on October 15, and again on November 15, 1969, the days of the Vietnam Moratorium actions and the Washington March Against Death, which happened to straddle his secret November 1 ultimatum. Nixon realized by October 16, he reports, that the protest movement had so "polarized" public opinion that he would not have sufficient support for his planned escalation. As he saw it, the antiwar movement had kept him from ending the war—his way—his first year in office. From another point of view, the protest actions—whose actual power and effect Nixon kept at the time as secret from the public as his ultimatum—has prolonged the moratorium on the combat use of nuclear weapons by a dozen years so far.

And it's worth remembering that nobody who participated in those protests at the time knew what an effect they'd had. We often don't know until years later just what it is we've accomplished by showing our dissent, and the 2003 protests against the Iraq war are no exception--and that's another reason why we shouldn't give up on protesting just because we don't see immediate, obvious results.

I agree with you about getting rid of concentrated wealth, by the way, and one of the ways we're working toward that goal is by establishing global networks of like-minded people. Which is why I also think it's a serious (in fact, practically suicidal) mistake for people like us to denigrate the importance of organizing over the Internet.

John,

With respect, I think that sort of makes my point, at least from my perspective. One tiny bit of reformist obstruction, tons of energy concentrated on a narrow topic, death state still rolls on anyway.

Well, the MAI was no small thing--it was to NAFTA and the WTO what Godzilla is to a komodo dragon, and the world is clearly better off for activists having strangled it in its crib. I think that should be counted as a major victory by any standard.

That said, I agree (with you and MoG) that we need basic structural changes. But I don't see any tension between working in that direction and opposing wars, trade agreements, or whale slaughter. In fact I'd say the one reinforces the other, since the kinds of changes I imagine we'd all like to see are going to require the same kinds of global networks.

I don't wish to denigrate. I tried not to, really I did. I'm very eager to exchange ideas about all this with you bunch of thinkers, and I strongly suspect we are in very large agreement in the end. I can't get it down to soundbites (I'm so jealous of John's writing ability!), but please may I say more?

I believe we humans suffer a universal epic failure to apprehend just how wealthy we have allowed the wealthy to become and we’re vastly underestimating the true ability of wealthpower giants to in fact and practice make history be what they say it will be. Money is power and no one disputes that. So have a look at this, and then tell me why the 99% underpaid are continuously surprised by how much evil the richest get away with using the uber-power we hand them on a platter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woIkIph5xcU (that’s the L curve animated. Watch it, People, and get yourself an economics PHD in 3 minutes. Then pass it along!)

Don’t get me wrong, John – I am in perfect strongest agreement with you on the crucial fact that wealthpower, no matter how extreme, is still only the second-greatest power and fully subordinate to people-power once the majority general human consciousness is in agreement on something. I’ve been yelling it from the rooftops forever. For an obvious example, no matter how rich, a wealthpower giant cannot walk around naked in public, because the public “just knows” it’s “wrong”. Which ought to tell us clearly that the only reason we have wealthpower giants is because the majority general human idea is still in agreement to allow them. From this, we should be easily, accurately concluding that, like I keep saying, the enemy is not a who, it’s a what. The rich are not the enemy or the problem. The enemy and the problem is an idea – the very stupid, worst-ever, unnatural and ultimately pan-species-fatal idea to allow unlimited personal fortunes. No-thing of consequence can or will change until the human species rids itself of that worst of all ideas. That idea, not the rich, is what is driving everything that is going on. That's why my protest is against that idea.

Long ago, the majority general human consciousness came to agreement on giving up the “right” to commit murder in order to be protected from murder, and today there are laws against murder everywhere. In just the same way, humans can agree to give up the “right” to have an overfortune in order to be protected against overfortunes, and laws against overfortunes can be passed everywhere.

How obvious is it that 99 people can make the one troublemaker amongst 100 behave if they all decide to? 1% of people are overpaid. 99% are underpaid. That’s some seriously easy math there. Is the logical conclusion hard to draw? Could it be any more obvious that John Lennon was absolutely correct when he sang ‘War is over when you want it’ to the people? There is no question we have the power to get out of the madness. The question is how. But is organization all it’s cracked up to be? That’s next…

Organization, within our current socioeconomic, political, cultural and environmental reality, and by its very nature, too, has a big downside we might be choosing to ignore or consciously or unconsciously underestimate while we look at only the upside it is easier for us to see. I think there are many sound reasons to say it might actually be true that dis-organization has the better chance to succeed – indeed it may be true that ONLY disorganized resistance can succeed now. Shall we discuss it a bit further? If organization is really the best idea, then we cannot denigrate it by probing it fearlessly, we can only reinforce its goodness, right?

I read an essay about the advantages of dis-organized resistance I found valuable (despite the article being severely flawed imo in some respects), and saved the following snips from it:

Organizations can be (and are) infiltrated. Organizations can be taxed. Organizations have legal responsibility. Organizations have membership lists and lists are wonderful tools for the oppressor. Organizations take on a life of their own. They struggle to exist and their continued existence takes priority over their mission. Organizations attract opportunists, power mongers, and attention seekers. Organizations tend to exploit their rank and file for the benefit of their inner circle.

Disorganizations share none of these defects.

Bureaucracy cannot comprehend disorganization. Disorganization is invisible. The asymmetry of the relationship between organization and disorganization favors disorganization. Organization depends upon planning. Planning requires predictability. Disorganization cannot be predicted. This leaves organization at a disadvantage.

Organization requires a supply chain. Supply chains can be disrupted. Disorganization depends only upon the resources of its members. Supply chains that do not exist cannot be eliminated.

Disorganization breeds. Organization grows. The many and dispersed are a more difficult target than the large and concentrated.

Organizations take their steps by design. If the design is flawed, the organization fails. Disorganization relies not upon design but upon evolution. The motivating notions of disorganization are memes. Memes evolve and memes compete. This process improves the motivating notions of disorganization.

The important thing to remember is that it is easier to destroy than to create that which is designed. Thus, the cost to those who lose the manifestation of their design outweighs by leaps and bounds the cost it takes to destroy it. That which evolves is cheap and when an effort is created to destroy the evolved entity, it merely mutates and evolves again, adjusting to the new conditions. As a process that fosters evolution, a movement based on disorganization will continue to survive, evolve, and expand without cost. The resource constraints placed upon the designed (e.g. government and corporate) and those absent from the evolved (a decentralized and disorganized opposition movement), favor the later.
end of snips

So history shows organized successes, yes, (and don’t you sometimes secretly wish you could force every American to read Zinn’s A People’s History for their own good?) but history also holds out to us myriad examples of the downside, too. If we counted the successes and failures of organization going back a long time, would we find more success or more failure? I've never attempted such a listing, but considering the state of things today I have to suspect far more failing than succeeding. And it matters a lot that things have changed since we let the E=mc2 genie out of the bottle. It’s a whole different ball game now with a nuclear bombs clock ticking down. Our age is unique, made so by highspeed transportation and communication. Terrorists, bombs, and diseases fly on airplanes now. As Goldman Sacks-us has proven, computers allow wealthpowerful insiders to control the totally rigged game called the global economy second by second, technology is being used to play the FIRE economy against our real goods-and-services economy, these people have clearly used the power we give them to play out their supremacy whims as if our lives were nothing more than a video game.

I argue we simply do not have the time left to dribble in a few successes here and there anymore. The few successes so far have not even put a dent in the ever-escalating wealthpower inequality factor that is the injustice factor, the war crime violence pollution factor that is killing us – see that L curve again. There is a bomb under every chair, bed, and movieseat on this planet and the fuse is short and getting shorter, not to mention a huge nuclear accident is a statistical certainty. Do you want the list of physicists I’m parroting when I say these things?

The main point is, for me, summed up by Bob Dylan: Freedom’s just around the corner from you, but with truth so far off, what good would it do?

Truly, freedom is an illusion while the idea to allow wealthpower giants survives. We are the ones we've been waiting for, but we still haven't prioritized correctly what it is we need us to do. That's why I don't advocate action yet. First must come an under the radar word-of-mouth campaign where the bellwethers of the human herd learn and teach each other the principles of fairpay justice - which are NOT being discussed. People don't even realize there ARE such principles. (I'll come back to this vitally important point if allowed.)

Has anybody here ever read “Archimedes” by Mark Twain? If not, have I EVER got a goodie to share with you!

I hope I’m not making myself misunderstood here. It’s most definitely NOT my intention to throw the organization baby out with the dirty bathwater. Please don’t think I’m as simple-minded in my views or thinking as that, ok? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Makes perfect sense to me MOG...

I'm all for leaderless resistance, decentralization, loose coalitions, and deep systemic changes.

I also think that preventing Richard Nixon from vaporizing North Vietnamese with nuclear bombs was worthwhile. Just as it was worthwhile to derail one of the most malignant trade instruments ever devised (one which would have largely foreclosed the ability of people in any country, anywhere, to control their own lives). And that was thanks to a handful of people getting off their asses and shouting defiance in the streets for a couple of days in one case, and sitting in front of their computers reading documents, sending email, and organizing their opposition in the other.

As I said already, I don't see any conflict at all between these things--just the opposite, in fact. But it's eye-opening to find out how many people here disagree with that. If there's anyone reading along who doesn't feel that way, please chime in, because if you're out there I'd like to know.

"As I said already, I don't see any conflict at all between these things--just the opposite, in fact. But it's eye-opening to find out how many people here disagree with that. If there's anyone reading along who doesn't feel that way, please chime in, because if you're out there I'd like to know."

Hey John, my head's still spinning trying to figger out MoG's postings...I mean comments (now I understand why I find Her son God so hard to fathom). Anyhow, I'm not sure whether you want to hear from people who agree or disagree with your perspective - "who doesn't feel that way" - please clarify what "that way" refers to.

“We get closest to truth by hearing all opinions.”

I have always emphatically stressed that bit of wisdom in “my” campaign for fairpay justice/limited personal fortunes capitalism. Good on John for inviting all opinions. I second the hope that concerned thinkers will chime in with their thoughtsabout. Getting ourselves out of the bad pickle we’re in is going to take us all helping each other get to the truth.

The only REAL currency anyone living in a human body ever has to spend is TIME. A deeply thoughtful discussion of best use of our irreplaceable time, of correct priorities, of where to focus, of tactics and strategy, of most effective, most-efficient use of our renewable yet limited energies...discovering just what IS most-productive of our most-sought, most-desired and most-needed goal/result – seems to me a ‘pretty darn important’ discussion to have.

From Finnegans Wake: “Come, hours, be ours!”

Harpfool, I’m very happy and eager to clarify anything I’ve said that isn’t clear at first read. Please just ask. Point to any unclear bit and I’ll try my best to restate it better, ok? I'm pretty confident I can clarify any confusion I've caused you.

I'm doing more thinking about all this. Have not got the thoughts composed just yet, though. Meantime, I'm listening for others' thoughts, so if anybody is typing, I'll be reading.

I've been thinking about this all day (since I'm unemployed, I have a lot more of that time-currency) and I'm rather baffled. Perhaps my reading comprehension skills have evaporated along with my income, so let me ask...

Do some of you really object to signing a petition or attending a protest because it's too organized? Do you really think that standing up for what's right is asking permission?

I think the least we can do (as in, bare minimum requirement as a citizen) is sign petitions, attend protests, call and write elected officials, participate in public hearings - in other words, show support for the things that matter to you.

I don't think we can reform one area then rest on that laurel. It's not a task that ends. I think it takes persistent and constant vigilance.

That's why it's bad to have someone like Obama in the casa blanca - people think they don't have to pay attention (or worse, assume that important stuff is in good hands).

Thanks, gfod. I'm as baffled as you are by the amount of resistance to (and outright disdain for) doing simple things that can demonstrably make such a tremendous difference in actual people's actual lives. Would anyone seriously argue that the people who spent two days in the streets stopping Nixon from attacking North Vietnam with nuclear weapons were wasting their time, or doing more harm than good?

I've seen a trend within the U.S. left to dismiss the kind of basic activism you're talking about because it's useless, or laughably naive, or too reformist, or doesn't carry us sufficiently towards the socialist/anarchist world we need, or just reinforces the statist power structure, or is just going to be ignored, etc, etc, etc. I can scarcely imagine what we could achieve if people were willing to take a tenth as much time to write a letter to the editor as they are to decry the worthlessness and futility of writing that same goddamned letter.

There's certainly a useful discussion to be had about tactics, and I can definitely understand people feeling powerless and frustrated, and I share the goal of replacing our deeply broken systems--but if we aren't even willing to use the tools we have so readily and easily available to us, we've got no right to complain. I sometimes think that between liberals who think they did everything they needed to do in the voting booth and those on the left who balk at taking even the simplest actions, maybe we're getting exactly the world we deserve.

Apologies if that tweaks anyone, by the way--that's not my intent. Although I'm clearly starting from what various people have said here, I really am talking about something I've seen much more generally.

At this point, y'all might find this amusing. That 2003 globe-wide candle-light vigil to protest the scheduled invasion and illegal occupation of Iraq?

Yours truly lit the first candle of them all.
Yours truly organized the small, local vigil that kicked the whole thing off.
Yes, I was in New Zealand at the time, where the calendar day begins.
And no, that's certainly not the only organized resistance I've conducted.

I seriously doubt there is anyone posting here who has refused to put shoulder to harness. We are not just talking out of our hats here, those of us who are wanting to scrutinize resistance efforts honestly for their upside and downside...

I'm as baffled as you are by the amount of resistance to (and outright disdain for) doing simple things that can demonstrably make such a tremendous difference in actual people's actual lives. Would anyone seriously argue that the people who spent two days in the streets stopping Nixon from attacking North Vietnam with nuclear weapons were wasting their time, or doing more harm than good?

I don't think that 'disdain' is the right word; I think 'despair' is more like it. I really have nothing but respect for those who volunteer their time and energy to take to the streets and protest against the System; I've done it myself, though far too infrequently, I admit.

I think that the problem is that those in power haven't changed their opinions or desires one bit as a result of these protests; all they've done is retrenched and regrouped, and had a little think about how to effectively neutralise them. This has become extremely effective, both here in the UK and in the US, with restrictions on protests, protest-free-zones, anti-terrorism legislation, surveillance, increased police powers, co-opted media, and so on. The result has been — as far as I can tell — an increasing sense of hopelessness and fatigue regarding simple protests, in that it seems that those at the top have successfully insulated themselves from their effects.

Protests that do get people's attention typically involve smashing things, burning things, breaking into things — the sort of stuff that invites vigourous police response, and great physical risk, viz the recent protests in Greece. And the problem is that things aren't bad enough for most people to engage in this sort of protest. Not just that, but the average person sees only the Establishment view on such protests: that the protesters are troublemakers, that they invited a police response, and isn't it a good thing we have those DFHs cordoned off into small areas where they can't really cause too much harm?

Regarding Nixon and nuking North Vietnam, I'm a bit dubious. I mean, if the source of this is ultimately Nixon's memoirs, then that's worth less than the paper it's printed on. I would tend to think that the real deterrent was the geographical proximity to the Chinese border, and the memory of what happened the last time the US poked the Chinese, on the Korean peninsula, only 20 years earlier.

But, if we assume the protests did have an effect, then I can only say again, look at the times: Weather Underground, SLA, Black Panthers, SDS, Chicago, Kent State, etc. There was a serious left-wing movement in the US, and I think that if Nixon was deterred by this, it was because he would have felt that dropping nukes on North Vietnam would have resulted in bombings, riots, and direct attacks on the White House, Pentagon, and Congress. And I think that is a reasonable judgement: it would have meant civil war.

There is no such threat today from any serious component of the Left, and no sign that one is going to emerge soon.

And I have a feeling that if Obama dropped a nuke on some remote portion of Afghanistan or Pakistan and claimed it was to get Osama bin Laden, there would be plenty of support for him in the US. And what would the rest of the world do about it? Not much.

MoG: ...those of us who are wanting to scrutinize resistance efforts honestly for their upside and downside...

See, I'm one of those people--but if that's all I heard in this thread I wouldn't be saying what I'm saying. Beyond myself and gfod, I see barely a positive word, and no recognition that activism (in any of its forms) can have a positive effect on the world. Nobody's even granted yet that preventing Vietnam from being nuked was worthwhile, for pete's sake.

I think you're right that that we probably largely agree, by the way. Part of the problem is that it's difficult to do justice to complex issues in discussion forums like this, and inevitably differences end up being exaggerated and agreements minimized, nuanced positions get turned into cartoon sound bites, and so on.

NomadUK: Regarding Nixon and nuking North Vietnam, I'm a bit dubious. I mean, if the source of this is ultimately Nixon's memoirs, then that's worth less than the paper it's printed on.

Nixon's self-serving lies obviously shouldn't be given credence--but when he grudgingly admits that people he passionately despised stopped him from doing something he dearly wanted to do, there's every reason to believe it. That's a principle that generalizes, actually.

I don't think that 'disdain' is the right word; I think 'despair' is more like it.

I understand that (and empathize), and I wouldn't say you're showing the disdain I mentioned. But despair often leads to cynicism, and that's what I hear in statements like "it is to fucking laugh." And I'd reiterate everything I said about cynicism upthread--including the question.

I know you're just saying what you honestly think, but at the same time one of the primary goals of those in power is to convince people like us that nothing we do matters. And what I see over and over (and again, I'm speaking generally here) is that they've been spectacularly successful. And not only do people succumb to despair, they turn into little foot soldiers of despair--doing the hard work of demobilizing activism themselves with every statement they make that says to people: nobody is listening; nobody cares; you don't matter; why bother; you're powerless; you'll never win; stop wasting your time.

As a wise man once said, argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours. And that's one of the biggest problems I see on the left: the willingness to participate, actively, in our own defeat. To do their dirty work for them. That's the thing that makes me despair--not that our enemies are insurmountable, but that our allies are so quick to abandon the field.

There's never been one lick of doubt in my mind that of course you are one of those people, John. (And though I've intended all along on getting around to saying it out loud eventually, I suspect we all just figured it's so obvious that it goes without saying that preventing Vietnam from being nuked was no-question worthwhile.) Please know that, if I have my way, in the end, when all the loose ends currently dangling get tied up, you are going to be very proud of and very happy about this still-a-toddler thread you are so good to host. Because, if I have my way, it will provide solid help to people to happily, confidently MURDER their despair, and it WILL empower us all. Maybe a LOT. If you could see what I have up my sleeve, John, I'm almost certain you'd be nothing short of delighted.

Your post above, btw, hits several nails square on the head. I've come to expect it of you, so it's never a surprise but it's always a happy occurance.

Nomad and others, I hope you'll stay with us and keep speaking up. You are helping in ways you do know and ways you're unaware of yet. Imo, everybody who has spoken so far has helped on this hunt for our errors and our best ideas.

I'm GLAD this thread is moving slowly. It means no one is giving knee-jerk reactions and everyone is being thoughtful and sincere and serious. Bookmark this rare baby, friends, and keep coming back. We're only just getting started here...on a most-worthy and most important exploration. One that will lead to a good place, and not to nowhere like so many forgettable threads on the internet do.

Speaking of candles (and of lighting them instead of railing at the dark): If you have 4 billion candles unlit, and only one lit, and everyone with a lit candle only ever lights two candles from their candle, all 4 billion candles will be lit in just 32 times the time it takes to light two candles. So everyone can be reached very easily, in short time, just by word of mouth, as soon as we figure out how to get clear ideas into our heads, as soon as we figure out how to get these strange nonsensical ideas out of our way to seeing clearly. There are 4 billion people that have to be reached, but there are 4 billion people to reach them. It seems a giant job to reach and teach 4 billion people, but many hands make light work. Strange it is, but true, that if everyone lights only one candle, it takes 4 billion times the time it takes to light one candle for the 4 billion candles to be lit. But if everyone lights just two candles, it takes just 32 times the time. Amazing but true.

Out of the mouths of babes…

The below was written by a child. My daughter, knowing I would cherish it so, rescued it at end of day from a wastepaper basket at the childcare center where she used to work. I’ve typed it exactly as it was written. The children had been told to write a story about being fair. It is to my mind perhaps the most succinct and brilliant piece of “peace” thinking ever scribbled:

A Story about fairness

Bob + Sally made a batch of cookies there were 7 cookies + they got in a fight. So Sally went back to Japan. Bob went back to north America. So they told their leaders of their countrys. The leaders didn’t agree on anything. So they declared war. Then we got out our big bombs + nuclear bombs. so we bombed them they bombed us. so we send our navy to bomb shores of Japan. Then our men invaded their citys and took everyone prisons. Then Bob said Sally you stink were winning. Sally said no you aren’t you stink. So then they agreed they both got 3 ½ cookies.
The End

When we start seeing this and this on Labor Day in the US, we'll know we're starting to get somewhere....

Thanks for the pictures, Nomad (much as my heart breaks looking at the horrors. That effigy of Gordon Brown was ghastly real-looking, eh?). We had a death in the family this weekend, so I’m running farther behind – and I didn’t see teevee. Were the peoples’ struggles covered by the USA ministry of mainstream propaganda? Did anybody in our bought and paid foe Congress speak up for the people?

Ever-increasing austerity measures are what’s in the works for all the world’s working people (the ones who produce all wealth), including USAmericans. You can, you should, BANK on it. (Read the astute Michael Hudson and the Renegade Economist and Sam Pizzigati.) Where more and more of us are headed is “I’ve got beans, you’ve got rice, who’s got salt?” And that’s if we’re lucky, as total geopolitical dislocation unfolds this decade. Meanwhile – AND DID ANYBODY HERE LOOK AT THAT ***REMARK-ABLE*** AND STILL GROWING L-CURVE? – the privately-owned nuclear-powered submarines are on back order (which reminds me to ask is direct whaling even the biggest threat to survival of whales?) while a child dies a miserable, tortuous, lingering, 100% preventable death every 5 seconds and 50 million working people – WORKING PEOPLE – die from lack of means to purchase the means of survival each and every year, year in, year out. And still no economist gets it!!! The richest-most-powerful have grown and are growing even richer and more powerful BECAUSE of the global bankers’ strike – not in spite of it. The top nine richest men in the USA have money that rakes in (with no work done at all) $150.00 per second every second of their lives, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Is this madness harmless? Is it even possible to save anything while this madness continues?

Working people getting their heads busted by frightened riot police is the status quo, not progress. It’s history on repeat, repeat, repeat. Social upheaval, riots, strikes, buildings destroyed, people destroyed, whales destroyed, overpower versus underpower (including underpower to save the whales) ...overpower versus underpower to the deathclash forever: is this what we want? How many bloody revolutions where humans fight against the extreme power over them does it take before this species moves finally to not allow anyone extreme power? What’s so hard to understand about this: If I am enough more powerful over you to come over and beat you up and take your lawnmower, then I am enough more powerful than you to come over and beat you up and take everything you have!

Money is POWER.

***EVERY*** PROBLEM IS ROOTED IN OVERPAYUNDERPAY.

Everyone has been tricked somehow into thinking that labor is a cost of doing business that the unlimited personal fortunes capitalists must bear. This is backwards thinking, or nonthinking – it stands reality on its head.

Only work, the sacrifice of time and energies, creates the finite pool of wealth there is to divide. It is in reality labor that bears all costs of doing business: productive labor bears the costs of investors, management, distribution, sales/advertising, etc. The investor is paid forever for his initial contribution of capital. He never lifts a hand after that, just keeps getting paid. Labor however, has to continue to sacrifice, has to show up day after day after year after year, to get a fraction of the cut the investor/owner/capitalist gets.

Only work creates wealth. If anybody out there isn’t yet sure that’s true, well, as the Conceptual Guerilla put it: now is an excellent time for you to take a dollar bill out of your wallet and tell it to fix you a sandwich. Money doesn’t make money – money will never even fix you a cup of tea. Money rakes and takes money. And the rich do not create jobs – they CAN’T. Only DEMAND creates jobs – which means it’s the people who create their own jobs!

CG again: "Adam Smith said that once a small elite had monopolized ownership of land and materials, they would drive wages down to the level of subsistence. It is the "appropriation of land and stock" -- Smith's terminology -- that creates the "market force" that reduces the market value of labor.

Now, that doesn't mean that certain derivative functions -- management, distribution, and even investment -- don't exist, and that labor cannot contract for the delivery of those derivative functions. If you are the labor producing automobiles, or any other good or service, a sales force selling those goods and services is probably necessary. Likewise, certain organizational functions -- we call it "management" -- might be useful. Even "investment" has a place, since the goods and services needed to build and equip a shop must be paid for.

But notice that those derivative functions serve the labor that produces the value. It is distribution, management and investment that are "costs of doing business." Productive labor is the business that has these costs. Our contemporary business model has stood this on its head. The "cost" is productive labor in an arrangement where "ownership" trumps "production," and where the owner of materials and facilities is seen as the central player. Owners have a "natural right" to reduce their "costs" and maximize their profits. Productive labor is not perceived as having any such right.

I say that productive labor has the same, and indeed a superior right to maximize its profit, and that the laws and government have an entirely legitimate function in protecting these fundamental rights of labor -- fundamental rights that have not hitherto been recognized.

As a final observation, notice that recognition and protection of the fundamental rights of labor is entirely consistent with a "market economy," where "market forces" are understood to be shaped by certain legal and governmental constructs. The government has an absolute right, if not an obligation, to shape the fundamental rules of the market in such as way as to guarantee labor its fundamental rights."

This next is not what you think it is. This is a LOVEPOEM FOR HUMANITY, disguised as the Mother of all wake-up calls. A false friend will flatter your ego. A True friend tells you the truth. A loving friend is one who warns you - even if they have to slap you upside the head to wake you up.

SCUTTLE THE ARK
memo to Noah
people are disgusting for not being horrified by the horrors
they are disgusting for a million trivial tv shows amidst the horrors
they are disgusting for not being in earnest to get out of the mess
they are disgusting for not picking up on the hints that have been thrown out to them
they are disgusting for fiddling while the world burns
they are disgusting for their vanity, their self-flattery, their egotism, their prejudice, their violent beliefs
they are disgusting for their denial, for their facile head in the sand behaviour, for the poverty of their horizons
they are disgusting for their lack of shame at not being fair
they are disgusting for thinking they have some right to go on seeking agreement on answers to all the wrong questions
they are disgusting for wasting their limited time and energies
they are disgusting for their failure to prioritize sanely
they are disgusting for pleasuring themselves by attacking personalities, bankers, politicians, corporations, CEO’s, corrupted government officials, lawyers, judges, this or that political party, hedgefund kings, weapons manufacturers, tea-partiers and monopolists to avoid getting real and going after the root of all horrors
they are disgusting for their devotion to silence on extreme economic unjustice
they are disgusting for their overpowering love of having otherearned wealth
they are disgusting for their selfdestruction
they are disgusting for many reasons there is no longer any point in listing
most of all they are disgusting for erecting a wealthpoverty, masterslave situation whenever they have an egalitarian opportunity so they can indulge their taste for sadomasochism for a few centuries and then when they get tired of that, have a killfest, and then do it all again

Scuttle the Ark, Noah

Mother of God

and yes, I know:

The extent of your awareness of the world around you, and the extent of your sensitivity to and concern for the sanctity of human life, will be the extent to which you are punished. - Morton West

Let my beatings begin.

I got the Morton West from Arthur Silber, btw. And since there is no limb I won't go out on in effort to save my species' bacon, here's a few snips from Finnegans Wake, from James Joyce, who was trying with that most-important of all books to forge the uncreated consciousness of his race - the human race: (don't try to understand this. just go slow and let it wash over you)

“Oh, how it was duusk! From Vallee Maraia to Grasyaplaina, dorimust echo! Ah dew! Ah dew! It was so duusk that the tears of night began to fall, first by ones and twos, then by threes and fours, at last by fives and sixes of sevens, for the tired ones were wecking, as we weep now with them."

"Then Nuvoletta reflected for the last time in her little long life and she made up all her myriads of drifting minds in one. She cancelled all her engauzements. She climbed over the bannistars; she gave a childy cloudy cry: Nuee! Nuee! A lightdress fluttered. She was gone. And into the river that had been a stream (for a thousand of tears had gone eon her and come on her and she was stout and struck on dancing and her muddied name was Missis-liffi) there fell a tear, a singult tear, the lovliest of all tears (I mean for those crylove fables fans who are 'keen' on the pretty-pretty commonface sort of thing you meet by hopeharrods) for it was a leaptear. But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O Weh! I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!"

"Soft morning, city! Lsp! I am leafy speafing. Lpf! Folty and folty all the nights have falled on to long my hair. Not a sound, falling. Lispin! No wind no word. Only a leaf, just a leaf and then leaves."

"...You mean to see we have been hadding a sound night's sleep? You may so. It is just, it is just about to, it is just about to rolywholyover. Of all the stranger things that ever not even in the hundrund and badst pageans of unthowsent and wonst nice...to be have happened! The untireties of livesliving being the one substrance of a streamsbecoming.
Totalled in toldteld and telltold in tittletell tattle. Why? Because, graced be Gad and all giddy gadgets, in whose words were the beginnings, there are two signs to turn to, the yest and the ist, the wright side and the wronged side, feeling aslip and wauking up, so an, so farth. Why? It is a sot of a swigswag, systomy dystomy, which everabody you ever anywhere at all doze. Why? Such me. Where did thots come from? It is infinitesimally fevers, resty fever, risy fever, a coranto of aria, sleeper awakening, in the smalls of one's back presentiment,...a flash from a future of maybe mahamayability through the windr of a wondr in a wildr is a weltr as a wirbl of a warbl is a world.

Tom.
It is perfect degrees excelsius.
....Anemone activescent the torporature is returning to mornal. Humid nature is feeling itself freely at ease with the all fresco."

"Lead, kindly fowl! They always did: ask the ages. What bird has done yesterday man may do next year, be it fly, be it moult, be it hatch, be it agreement in the nest. For her socioscientific sense is sound as a bell, sir, her volucrine automutativeness right on normalcy: she knows, she just feels she was kind of born to lay and love eggs (trust her to propagate the species and hoosh her fluffballs safe through din and danger!)"

end snips
Humans have been hadding a sound night's sleep alright!
But the dawn is breaking this long night...

Yes, "shillelagh law is all the rage"

but we can do so much better! And we're more powerful when we're working FOR something, instead of against uncountable atrocities. Fairpay Justice is the undanced wallflower waiting to give us humanity's Golden Age.

Mother of God = disinformation specialist following the Church Lady path of polite correction hiding nefarious intent.

Wow.

No worries, Nomad. Though it’s always sad to see another demonstration of it, egalitarians are the realists in this world and we acknowledge there are those who are so deeply terrified by the notion of equality of mankind they feel compelled to tell any lie, even those as fantastic as above, in attempt to stop even discussion of it. Their fear makes them feel small, so they try to compensate by making themselves feel bigger. Their crippling fear is born of mis-thinking that economic justice will be a cost to them, rather than beneficial beyond what they can imagine. They will be the last to learn that fairpay justice will mean an enormous increase of wealth for 99% of people and an enormous escalation in happiness for 100% of people on this planet. Just as somewhere out there is the very worst doctor in the world, somewhere out there is the person who will be the very last to turn to justice to save their own bacon. Perhaps that person has shown up here, but it matters not. He or she doesn’t intend to be getting their thinking the polar opposite of correct, they are just unaware they are doing so.

Moving on, gfod said 2 things above that we need to return to. One, he or she mentioned being unemployed. On that issue, we need the reminder that work is the first, most fundamental, least negotiable, utterly essential condition of life – therefore society has no right to withhold jobs from anyone because to do so is to prevent them staying alive. That is, withholding jobs is murder. (And it is, of course, wealthpower giants who manufacture artificial scarcity of jobs in a world where so much work is still needing to be done.) Which brings us to the sorry and crucial fact that every lion cub to this day gets born with its birthright to a place to put its feet and live its life intact, but society has – without even realizing it - stripped every human’s first birthright off them sans compensation, ever since all land became owned. Which means future humans must purchase their most fundamental birthright off past generations. In fact and practice we have said to the future that past generations had more right to live than coming generations do. Human bodies cannot simply float in air, eh?

Here is one of the very finest and most important pages on all the web: http://www.envisioneer.net/RainForest/

It is at this following page of that empowering site you’ll find Mark Twain’s very short story called “Archimedes”...a little story with superpower to dramatically shift perspectives to the biggest picture: http://www.envisioneer.net/RainForest/archimed.htm

To entice everyone to go see for themselves, here’s a bit from the BEarthright site that goes straight to the core of what matters: “The richest 5% in every nation, rich and poor, North and South, East and West, now own between 70% and 95% of their own countries.” "These are the simple facts: If you have no land to live from, you are dependent on money to purchase the products of the land; if you have no money to live from, you depend on employment to gain the money; if you have no employment, then dependent on the State; if the State refuses you, you beg for the charity of the rich; no charity, you steal or you die."

The second thing gfod said that we need to address is this: “I don't think we can reform one area then rest on that laurel. It's not a task that ends. I think it takes persistent and constant vigilance.”

But vigilance *about what* is the question. If we become vigilant about the overwhelmingly most important “area”, the Herculean tasks we have set for ourselves do indeed end – so that’s next up.

Wait. Before proceeding about vigilance, perhaps I should have said plainly above that land is the field of all labor. You see, work is the only thing that creates wealth, and work is one of only 2 things: it is either the work that Mother Nature did for all of us for free (like putting the minerals in the ground and giving us bees to pollinate our food crops and creating the views seen from expensive oceanside resorts), or it is the sacrifice of an individual’s time and energies.

Economics 101 is this: We humans were cursed with having stomachs that require to be fed. It would be lovely if it did, but food does not just fall into our mouths whilst we sun ourselves or rest in the shade. You either sacrifice time and energies to getting food, or you die. Yes, you’d rather be making love to your sweetie or (insert all the things you’d rather do than go to work here.) But staying alive hinges on making sacrifice of time and energies to feeding your stomach. Like this: If bear no pickee berries, bear no eatee berries. If bear no catchee fish, bear no eatee fish. If bird no catchee worm, bird no eatee worm. This is the way life works - for humans, too. The insertion of money between work and eat does nothing whatsoever to change the fundamental situation humans are in.

We must define pay justice. How can we know how much people should have and should pay and be paid unless we have sound, fundamental ideas of pay justice? James Madison said "The purpose of government is justice". The state built on injustice cannot stand - so to be democratic, for the people to do their job of ruling, to be patriotic, to love your country, to love yourself, to pursue happiness (of which pay justice is a very, very important part), you need to be able to locate pay justice.

At the moment, many are saying: these people should have less, these others should have more. But how much should they have? What are the principles of pay justice? Happiness [everyone's everything], safety, good governance, peace, order, satisfaction – all depend on justice. Those are 'pretty important' things, yet we look in vain for thoughtful study of where pay justice is. It should have been the focus of all education, from young age right through. People should have been very sophisticated about pay justice, able to pinpoint it by good principles. Instead, all the debate we hear boils down to: they should have less, no, they shouldn't have less, they should have more, no, they shouldn't have more.

Pay justice is the great wallflower, waiting to give us the world average pay per hour, which is approximately US $40 per hour including paying housewives and students. Pay justice waits to give us peace and plenty - and give us our future back.

Pay ranges widely while no one (well, there is the exception of yours truly) asks how widely it should range. How are people going to be able to say: "This far and no further. This is the line between right and wrong, between fairpay and robbery, between fairpay and overpay-underpay." Children should all grow up knowing that overpay-underpay is the cause of the shaking of societies to pieces. People should worry about their society being shaken to pieces. People should know that every empire so far has been shaken to pieces by pay injustice. There is no subject closer to civic responsibility and pursuit of happiness - no subject more worth our care and mental labour - and it is utterly neglected. Vigilance is the price of liberty – but vigilance about what? Very few can answer that question.

Proper pay, just pay, is what a person's work would win them in a state of nature, plus an equal share of the efficiency benefits of division of labour. An equal share, since division of labour is a community effort, impossible without everyone cooperating in it, a "social effort" with equal contribution, so everyone has right to reap the benefits equally.

Pay justice is no-pay for no-work, pay only for work [= sacrifice], equal pay for equal sacrifice. Pay justice is taking out of the social pool of work as much as you put in, as your work puts in. We pool the workproducts because of division of labour, and trade is ideally the exchange of items of equal workvalue, in order to remix goods separated by division of labour, job specialisation, to get the mix of goods everyone wants and needs. The variety of goods we take out is ideally (justly) of equal workvalue to the workproducts we produced in our job. Anything more or less than this is overpay or underpay, and overpay-underpay is unjust, causing tensions which escalate endlessly as people try to get justice and people tug to and fro, causing violence, war, crime, weaponry growth - which has grown for 3000 years - and brought us to superextreme pay injustice and danger, and corruption, tyranny, slavery, wageslavery, disorder, undemocracy, falling states - all our gigantic problems.

What things are there, that justify unequal pay per unit of work, unequal pay/hr, unequal pay/yr? Are there any? Provided society pays students for studying the things it wants studied, there are no reasons for unequal pay per hour. Close scrutiny of the so-called reasons given for unequal pay do not stand up to rational examination.

MoG, you might want to put all your thoughts on this together on a blog or web site, so it'd be easier to point people to it (and because blog comment sections age pretty quickly and are only remembered by those who participated...and sometimes not even them). I can recommend Typepad for blogs, and sites.google.com is supposedly pretty easy to use if you want to build a web site.

John, I want to go on record as saying that you and Chris Floyd are like blogdom's matching bookends: not only principled but gentlemen to boot! Both your principles and your tact put me to shame...If I weren't trying to maintain an egalitarian demeanor, I'd bow in your direction. So I'll hoist a beer in your direction instead. Thanks man!

http://www.conceptualguerilla.com/?q=node/5194

http://www.conceptualguerilla.com/?q=node/2601

http://www.conceptualguerilla.com/?q=node/2592

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