Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Congress, Impeachment and the "Black Hole"

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I am simply an American citizen.

Because I am outraged by the outright refusal of congressional Democrats to bring impeachment charges against Bush and Cheney, even amid mounting evidence of treason and high crimes, I have done quite a bit of digging.

A lawyer would be a much better at this... but as a citizen, I have the right to expect action and I believe I have a personal duty to my own democracy. Quite a number of reputable lawyers have already laid the groundwork for impeachment. What is needed now from Congress is the will to proceed: on behalf of our nation and our very democracy.

By refusing to put impeachment on the table - and if it is indeed true that Democratic leaders are willfully advancing the partisan agenda of keeping Bush and Cheney around as a 'punching bag for Democratic candidates' - congressional leaders are ignoring a myriad of critical consequences, and playing partisan, political games with lives and with our very democracy.

An argument could also be made that they are breaking their oaths to 'protect and serve the Constitution of the United States,' which has been directly undermined by the illegal and warrantless wiretapping of American citizens without their knowledge:

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Not only has the Democratic majority taken ownership of the Iraq war and its consequences when it was in fact holding all of the cards, but Pelosi's refusal to allow the impeachment process to commence has also made this Democratic majority complicit in any future bombing of Iran, any further erosions of our Constitutional protections, and any lasting damage to our planet due to our refusal to take immediate action to curb carbon emissions.

In the face of an outraged country, and accusations of betrayal from the very people who elected them, the only answer seems to be this lame excuse from some nameless Democratic aide:

"No American troop will go without … just so the most liberal activists in the country can be quieted," said a senior House Democratic aide. "If it means Democrats in Congress get tea bags and hate mail, so be it - we will not be irresponsible with the lives of our troops."

Ah yes, the 'we can't leave our guys out there, throwing bullets at Al Qaeda' argument again. "Our hands were tied."

Believe me, this may fly with those who haven't learned how the system works, but it is a lie. The Democrats have the power of the purse - the power to end the war. They chose not to use it. They had Bush on the ropes, but they chose to let him go. And now the war will drag on forever -- or until the GOP base finally revolts and Bush backs down from the people who will stand up to him: his own party.

Once again, and so predictably, the Democrats were 'afraid' of what the GOP would say about them, forever locked in the victim mindset. Just look at Harry Reid... and then Dick Cheney, and tell me honestly: who is the bully, and who is the skinny little kid with glasses? Does Cheney take Harry's milk money too, or simply beat him up on the way home from school?

If you see a crime being committed and you refuse to take any action, you are complicit. You are obstructing justice and betraying the public trust. I believe a case could be made that congressional Democrats' unwillingness to take action when faced with mounting evidence of executive lawlessness, and with the very real danger that we could fall into a dictatorship with little or no warning, is in and of itself 'treasonous.' It is also obstruction of justice.

Both are impeachable offenses.

Are these fighting words? You betcha. There are very real consequences for inaction. Just ask Neville Chamberlain.

Any elected official in our government can be impeached, and impeachment charges have been brought against 16 officials in our history as a nation:

Since 1797 the House of Representatives has impeached sixteen federal officials. These include two presidents, a cabinet member, a senator, a justice of the Supreme Court, and eleven federal judges. Of those, the Senate has convicted and removed seven, all of them judges. Not included in this list are the office holders who have resigned rather than face impeachment, most notably, President Richard M. Nixon.

Impeachment is the process by which any civil officer can be removed from office: for treason, bribery, or other 'high crimes and misdemeanors.'

As stated in our Constitution:

Article. II.

Section. 4.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

We have never - in our entire history - actually removed a president from office via the impeachment process. Impeachment is not (as many believe) an outcome, but rather a process - a trial - that leads to a final outcome of either conviction, or acquittal. The process is an investigation into apparent unconstitutional and criminal behavior; with charges filed by the House, and the case tried in the Senate with the Supreme Court acting as the judges.

For the purpose of comparison, the actual impeachment of Bill Clinton proceeded as follows:

The infamous "Starr Report" outlining the findings of the Independent Counsel's investigation was delivered to the House of Representatives on Sept. 9, 1998, and subsequently made available to the public. Many felt the report, filled with lurid details of Clinton's sexual encounters with Lewinsky, to be a political attack against the President rather than a legal justification for his impeachment. Of the 11 possible grounds for impeachment cited by Starr, four were eventually approved by the House Judiciary Committee: grand jury perjury, civil suit perjury, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power.

Clinton was impeached on two counts, grand jury perjury (228–206) and obstruction of justice (221–212), with the votes split along party lines. The Senate Republicans, however, were unable to gather enough support to achieve the two-thirds majority required for his conviction. On Feb. 12, 1999, the Senate acquitted President Clinton on both counts. The perjury charge failed by a vote of 55–45, with 10 Republicans voting against impeachment along with all 45 Democrats. The obstruction of justice vote was 50–50, with 5 Republicans breaking ranks to vote against impeachment.

Even with a Republican majority, Clinton wasn't actually convicted.

Compared with the case against Bill Clinton, the charges leveled against Richard Nixon were much more serious -- and this undoubtedly led to his resignation before the impeachment process began. It was the threat of impeachment (and the dirt that would be uncovered in the process) that led to Nixon's resignation... not impeachment itself. Nixon was never convicted, although many people now believe he would have been found guilty due to the seriousness of the evidence against him.

Charges against Bush and Cheney are remarkable in their similarity to those leveled against Nixon:

After five men hired by Nixon's reelection committee were caught burglarizing Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate Complex on June 17, 1972, President Nixon's subsequent behavior—his cover-up of the burglary and refusal to turn over evidence—led the House Judiciary Committee to issue three articles of impeachment on July 30, 1974. The document also indicted Nixon for illegal wiretapping, misuse of the CIA, perjury, bribery, obstruction of justice, and other abuses of executive power. "In all of this," the Articles of Impeachment summarize, "Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States." Impeachment appeared inevitable, and Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974. The Articles of Impeachment, which can be viewed at http://watergate.info/, leave no doubt that these charges qualify as "high crimes and misdemeanors," justifying impeachment.

The precedent has been established.

What congressional leaders don't want the average American to know, is that the House doesn't have to prove its case in advance before bringing the charges and starting the impeachment process. Dennis Kucinich has already filed impeachment papers against Cheney. Many are now calling for the impeachment of Alberto Gonzales, because he lied under oath and deliberately obstructed justice. Somehow, the Democrats can't even pull that one off.

This raises a very serious question: why are the Democrats so afraid to act?

Impeachment would kick off a very thorough and public investigation -- something that is much needed if we are to protect our democracy. Some question whether powerful Democrats in leadership positions are compromised by lobbyist ties, and thus fear that they may be caught in their own investigative net. Of course, this has everything to do with partisan politics, and their chances in the 2008 election.

Without this as a possibility, their actions are truly implausible. Pelosi won't say why she won't allow impeachment 'on the table.' We are left to speculate and question on our own.

Democrats have already managed to clutch an enormous moral defeat from the jaws of victory with their refusal to force Bush into accepting a timetable in Iraq. They have alienated not only the many independent and even Republican voters that backed them in the 2006 elections -- but they are now losing their own base as well:

The number of Americans who identify themselves as independent voters is on the rise. According to an average of CNN/Opinion Research Corporation polls, this year, 42 percent of Americans now consider themselves to be independent.

Thirty-three percent identify themselves as Democrats. Twenty- five percent now say they are Republicans.

Why on earth would the Democrats implode like this - and apparently doom their own 2008 election hopes - while claiming that they are in fact trying to protect them?

In a terrific commentary titled 'Cowering In The Suburbs of Berlin,' David Michael Green, professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York, rails against the apparent implosion of Democratic leadership when dealing with the Iraq war:

What choices remain for Americans today? They have an administration which they despise, enacting policies they loathe. So they did what the good citizens of a democracy are supposed to do, they went out in large numbers and voted in a new government. We should make no mistake about what the landslide election of 2006 meant. Democrats had no agenda to put forth and were not chosen for the purpose of advancing any such non-agenda. They had one qualification going into last November’s contest, and it was the one which got them elected: They were the non-Republicans, the non-regressives. Their singular mandate was to curb the excesses of the insane kleptocracy which, by all manner of nefarious techniques, had seized control of the American democracy and was taking every step imaginable to destroy it.

So what did the Democrats do? They immediately put impeachment off the table. We should understand clearly what that meant. By doing this, the Democratic leadership was saying that no matter what crimes might be uncovered, their sense of political expediency in serving their own personal interests would come before those of the country they were paid to be serving instead.

Next, they have demonstrated the depth of their impotence by refusing to impeach Alberto Gonzales, despite the fact that his transgressions - which now manifestly also include perjury and obstruction of justice - are as obvious as they are deep, and despite that these crimes involve the Justice Department, a part of the federal government that is supposed to be most insulated from Rove style politics. Instead of impeachment we’re to be treated to a Senate vote of no confidence. Golly, that’s bold. Knowing that nice man in the White House as I do, I’m sure that will compel him to do the right thing about this darned vexing situation!

What’s most astonishing about the whole affair is that Democrats still haven’t awakened to the fact that the core thrust of the entire scandal was yet another scheme to steal elections from them. Why don’t they just get it over with and form the Caspar Milquetoast Society for the Slow Suicide of Superfluous Political Parties? Just as in the case of the elections of 2000 and 2004, these guys don’t even put up a fight when it comes to the one issue you’d think even such self-serving sycophants might actually care about, namely, keeping their jobs.

It’s absurd and it’s tragic that the Democrats will not touch Bush, Cheney or Gonzales, but this week’s caving on funding for the Iraq war is in a league by itself. When they took over Congress, these guys had just one thing they needed to get right. They didn’t. They had a moral responsibility to end a war which they’ve long known, and which Harry Reid has even publicly admitted, is lost. They wouldn’t. They had virtually all the right political conditions in their favor, from a public mandate to a despised president for a political opponent. Still, they couldn’t.

And why exactly were their hands so very tied when they had the mandate of the American people and held the power of the purse?


Are the lobbying groups and the corporate behemoths they represent now so powerful, and our representatives so compromised by lobbyist ties, that Democratic leaders (along with their GOP counterparts) are nothing more than puppets serving a corporate master? Did the master in fact lay down the law and refuse to allow any impeachment process to take place?

Something stinks here.

It is impossible to know the true extent of congressional complicity while Congress continues to refuse impeachment... and the only branch capable of bringing impeachment charges against this president and vice president is our Congress itself. In spite of a mandate by the people and a whopping House majority, the Democratic Congress refuses to even discuss impeachment. This speaks volumes.

None of this is really new:

Since President McKinley and the Spanish-American War, overseas adventures have been the oligarchy’s response to the public’s demand for reform. Whether it was Populists or Progressives, rank-and-file Republicans or Democrats leading the charge for domestic change, the major party bosses and their partners on Wall Street have worked together in “collusive harmony,” in the words of political historian Walter Karp, to divert the country from its just demands by embroiling them in deadly foreign entanglements.

Reform movements are an ever-present worry for both parties’ bosses, because any successful reform put forward by regular citizens and insurgents in Congress tends to excite the electorate with the possibility of actually controlling their own government. The ruling class well understands that as the engagement of the citizenry waxes, their own power wanes. And it is war and the threat of war that provide the best excuse for not passing social-welfare legislation, and calling anyone who demands it “unpatriotic.”

It is obvious how we got here: corporate interests. Oil. The lucrative 'war contracting' business, and the Military Industrial.

The system 'of the people, by the people and for the people' has been compromised by money interests, and Lincoln's great fear has come to pass: corporations have been enthroned. These corporations have no intention of giving up the power they have gained under this administration. Their best guarantee of continuing the gravy train is by 'buying' representatives from both sides of the political aisle, possibly blackmailing them, and effectively undercutting efforts to fix the system from the outside.

It is working beautifully, I might add.

We have the right to demand an investigation. The question now is how to overcome our current 'rulers;' the ones we can see, and the ones behind the scenes.

I call these behind the scenes manipulators the 'black hole.' We can tell something is there, even if we can't quite see it. We can 'see it' by the uniform pull it manifests on all surrounding 'objects', which include the three branches of our Federal government and our media. Someone or some organization is quietly pulling strings, and the marionettes are all dancing their complex choreography to a tune we citizens cannot hear. Its no wonder we are confused and dismayed.

If 70 cities, 11 state legislatures, numerous state Democratic parties and hundreds of thousands of average citizen voters (this is unprecedented in our history) are pressuring Congress to impeach, and credible legal minds have listed impeachable offenses and laid out a prosecution groundwork... well gosh, there might actually be a FIRE somewhere under all of this smoke:

More than 70 cities and 14 state Democratic parties have urged impeachment or investigations that could lead to impeachment. The most common charge is that Bush manipulated intelligence to lead the country into the Iraq war. Other charges include spying on Americans and torturing suspected terrorists in violation of U.S. and international law.

Most recently, the Massachusetts Democratic Party voted to push impeachment of both men. The 2,500 state convention delegates voted almost unanimously against Cheney; the vote against Bush was closer.

Massachusetts' Democratic Party thus joined 13 others on the investigate-or-impeach bandwagon, including: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

Among the cities and towns, the largest and most recent is Detroit, where the city council voted 7-0 this month to urge Congress to impeach Bush and Cheney for "intentionally misleading Congress and the public regarding the threat from Iraq in order to justify the war."

The probability that Bush would be impeached by a two-thirds vote in the current, partisan Senate seems remote, but the point is to bring due process anyway, force White House compliance, and get to the bottom of these charges. Let the democratic process work. We the people are the rightful owners of our government in a democracy, and as such we have the right to know what crimes have been committed by our elected officials.

A few days ago I read a story explaining why the Democratic party doesn't want to impeach.

The writer states that Democratic leadership won't consider impeachment because they believe that allowing Bush and Cheney to stay in office will actually help their party's chances in the 2008 election. I strongly disagree. The longer the Democrats refuse to act, the greater the likelihood that the American people will decide that Democrats are weak, capitulating windbags without any teeth.

The story begins by describing apparent worries within the Democratic leadership that there just 'isn't enough proof' to bring impeachment charges, and fears that there will somehow be a political backlash - among the people, rather than the obvious objectors, the corporate lobbyists.

According to the article, there are three "policy and political reasons that Democratic leaders are risking the anger of their base:"

Some don't see an impeachable offense in what Bush has done, what the Constitution calls "high crimes and misdemeanors." They might find such evidence in any of the many congressional investigations, but they haven't yet.

Let's debunk that one right now.

There are are now countless volumes of legal arguments, written by experienced and brilliant legal minds - all laying out the framework for impeachment.

Any activity that deliberately undercuts the Constitution is both a 'high crime' and treasonous. The president and vice president both took an oath to uphold the Constitution as part of their swearing in process. Bush, Cheney, Gonzales -- all swore the oath. Any direct action they have taken against the wording of our Constitution is grounds for impeachment.

Impeachable offenses include:
  1. Outing Valarie Plame, a verified covert CIA agent. Felony offense, high crime.
  2. Lying to Congress and to the American people, with the intent of invading a foreign, sovereign nation. High crime, possible war crime, and treason.
  3. Misrepresenting information provided by the CIA. Obstruction of justice, high crime.
  4. Illegal rendition. High crime, possible war crime.
  5. Refusing to turn over evidence such as emails. Obstruction of justice
  6. Using outside email accounts for White House correspondence. Obstruction of justice, violation of the Hatch Act.
  7. Destroying logs of official visitors to Cheney's residence to avoid having them entered into the Presidential record. Obstruction of justice, abuse of power.
  8. Holding prisoners without due process. High crime.
  9. Secret torture camps. High crime, potentially war crime.
  10. Promoting CIA torture practices. High crime, possibly war crime.
  11. Tampering with election outcomes. Felony, high crime, treason.
But the biggest case for impeachment, according to most legal scholars, is the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. This can arguably be considered both a high crime and treason.

Even Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said:

"I think if we're going to be intellectually honest here, this (domestic spying) really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed."

Elizabeth De la Vega, a 20-year federal prosecutor has probably laid out the best legal case for impeachment in her book "United States V. George W. Bush et al." This is a brilliant and well crafted legal analysis, and there are many others.

Here are a few of the better ones:

  1. The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office, by Dave Lindorff

  2. Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush, from The Center for Constitutional Rights

  3. Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush And Cheney, by Dennis Loo

  4. George W. Bush Versus the U.S. Constitution: The Downing Street Memos and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, Coverups in the Iraq War and Illegal Domestic Spying, by John Conyers Jr.

  5. The Impeachment of George W. Bush: A Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens, by Elizabeth Holtzman
The Democrats are either remarkably illiterate when it comes to the impeachment process, or are pretending to be ignorant in the hope that the American people will believe that they are helpless, none of this is their problem, and that impeachment is a waste of time.

I have also heard them say that they would rather concentrate on the real issues (issues? You mean like getting our troops out of Iraq?) They would like everyone to believe impeachment isn't viable. And as always, Democratic leaders are acting out of fear of GOP reprisals, rather than from a strong and forceful position of principle and moral strength.

Americans want strong leadership. The Democrats are in the drivers' seat and in the perfect position to show that they are strong and moral leaders. Instead, they seem determined to prove that they are weak and afraid. I cannot see how this can possibly be successful.

The second reason for not impeaching Bush and Cheney is that the Democratic leadership apparently fears...

a political backlash from voters similar to the one that punished Republicans after they impeached Bill Clinton. One factor on the side of the pro-impeachment crowd: Clinton was much more popular than Bush.

Backlash? From the voters? Hardly.

There apparently wasn't enough 'backlash' against the GOP after their impeachment of Bill Clinton to keep George W. Bush out of the White House in 2000.

In spite of our collective distaste for the GOP's hatchet job on Clinton, the Monica debacle did affect the campaign of then Vice President, Al Gore. It was the invisible albatross around his neck throughout the entire campaign -- his unfortunate association with a President embroiled in a 'sex scandal'.

There was absolutely no backlash against the GOP at all -- none -- although God knows there should have been. The media should have led the charge against this ridiculous charade and mockery of the impeachment process, but of course they were delighted by the sensationalism, and wallowed in the muck. Coverage of the Clinton impeachment was decidedly x-rated. I found it remarkable that a party so anti-sex and loudly 'pro-Christian, family values' could leak and publish documents so explicitly sexual in nature that parents were forced to keep their kids away from newspapers.

If the GOP could negatively affect Gore's campaign with a bogus impeachment trial against a very popular president -- how on earth could impeaching an extremely unpopular president with a 28% rating cause a backlash? This president started an entire war based on lies, undercut our Constitution protections and our Bill of Rights, spied on American citizens without a court order, leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent, completely dropped the ball after Katrina, gutted our EPA, our FDA, FEMA and other governmental oversight agencies, tampered with election results... how could prosecuting Bush and Cheney bring any sort of public outcry?

And don't confuse the will of the people with a backlash from the media. You know who they report to.

Defend us, already. Defend our Constitution. Hell, show a little patriotism!

If there will be a backlash, it will be the Democratic majority's failure to impeach when it became obvious that over 70% of Americans now believe this president is leading our government right off a cliff. Failure to impeach proves both weakness and capitulation. And perhaps something more sinister:

The third is that they're eager to keep Bush and Cheney around as punching bags for Democratic candidates in the 2008 campaign.

Ah, here it is. This is all a partisan game. And if this is true, it is... profoundly and unforgivably immoral.

It is hard to believe that any person or party would put partisan gain ahead of lives, morality, justice, and the future of life on our planet. If the Democrats are truly motivated only by the 2008 horse race to the Presidency - how are they really any different or any better than Karl Rove? So much for holding the high ground.

Lack of action is action.

If Democratic leaders want to prove that Democrats aren't the cowering weaklings the GOP claims they are, they must do a lot better than this. It is time for them to muster some courage, face the neocon bullies and their corporate power brokers, and act on behalf of the nation. John Ashcroft managed it from a hospital bed... surely Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi can reach deep and find a little patriotic fire and loyalty of their own.

It is time for the Democrats to take a strong and moral position against the crimes committed by this administration. Dedication to the rule of law will earn the respect of the people -- not capitulation. Strength and justice will earn success in 2008. We are not idiots out here. We know courage when we see it. We also recognize cowardice and betrayal.

On Martin Luther King Day in 2006, Al Gore gave a powerful speech about our collective obligation to protect our Constitution:

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law, repeatedly and insistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.

Our founding fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. They recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution, our system of checks and balances, was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law.

As John Adams said, "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers or either of them to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the founders sought to nullify in the Constitution, an all-powerful executive; too reminiscent of the king from whom they had broken free.

In the words of James Madison, the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elected, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

If Congress doesn't take real action soon to impeach Bush and Cheney, there may not be much Constitution left to uphold -- and we will no longer be having this discussion. The future of our democracy can now turn on a dime, and entirely at 'the pleasure of the president.' At his own discretion and without any warning, the president can now declare martial law. Habeas corpus has already been taken away. Our liberty is in very real danger.

We're out of time, Nancy. I'm tired of calling your office. Everyone I know is tired of calling your office. We're tired of asking. Now we are telling you...


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Blogger Dennis Loo said...

Superb posting. Powerful, furious, passionate, closely argued and well-evidenced. I've posted this at my blog: dennisloo.blogspot.com. At the end of it I've also posted an excerpt from my book, Impeach the President, to add to what you've discussed here about why the Democrats are acting the way that they are.

I think, by the way, that your "I am Cindy" is a terrific idea!

1:05 AM  
Blogger Maire said...

Thank you! I really appreciate your comment... I've been editing this forever (it certainly feels like forever.) I started referring to it as the 'opus', because it kept getting longer and longer.

I'll stop by and visit your blog.

1:49 AM  

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