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Archive for March, 2010

While traveling back from Bridgewater, VA on Sunday, for some reason I began to think about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech.  For those who don’t recall, these four freedoms are:  freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  As he put it in his State of the Union address on Jan. 6, 1941:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception — the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change — in a perpetual peaceful revolution — a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions — without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

To that high concept there can be no end save victory.

The first two freedoms he addresses have a constitutional basis as they are both found in the first amendment.  The second two, however, cannot be found anywhere in that document.  I began to think a good bit about the third freedom, the freedom from want.  What do I really want?  Like most citizens, I have my own version of the American Dream, things that I want to both have and accomplish within my lifetime.  As they are all great desires of mine, they are all very important and therefore list order is irrelevant.

1.  Own my own home.  (Preferably in a small city, the suburbs, or a town.)

2. Find a faithful and moral woman to love and marry. (If possible one who shares my passions.)

3.  Publish a novel or, ideally, several novels.

4.  Promote my political ideology in a meaningful way.   Although I can accomplish this task in many ways, at some point in my life, I hope to run for public office.

5.  Find employment that combines my love of politics and my zeal for writing.

Some might say that this list is simplistic, and indeed it may be.  I do not seek great riches, to be showered by fame, or to hold immense power and even though I would not shun these outcomes, for me happiness, true happiness, lies in the statements above.  Now are these wants of mine needs as well?  No, of course not.  My life will go on as it always has regardless if I accomplish all, some, or none of these goals.  They are my ambitions, far removed from my basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.

But wait Joshua, you say, according to the dictionary want could mean need.  Even if this definition is the one President Roosevelt intended, my point remains the same.  If you are in need, should you expect the government to morph into a charity?  Unfortunately, the bread and circuses provided by the government are not true charity, but coercion, as they are not paid for willingly and freely.  Considering you as a private citizen cannot legally rob your neighbor to aid yourself, why should we allow the government to do so?  I say it is high time to return charity to the private section.  After all, a population that relies on their government to satisfy either their wants or needs is not the master of their government but its servant.

So should I, like FDR suggested those many years ago, rely on the government to free me from my wants (or needs)?  And can the government give me what I truly desire?  First of all, can the government offer me these items?  Sure, the government can build me a home with little or no cost to myself.  The government through laws and strong-arm tactics could force some woman to marry me.  Via grants and new agencies, the government could publish my novels.  If we allowed the government to control the job market, I’m sure that they could find or create a position ideal to my specific situation.  But, assuming that we gave the government all this power, all the power to take away and satisfy our list of wants, would we really be happy?  More importantly, would we be free?    And once all our basics wants are completed, is it not human nature to seek even greater ones?  Sooner or later, will we become selfish and corrupt if we take far more than we need and could ever use?  The unanswered question is what do we have to give up in exchange for this freedom from want?  If we rely on the government to remove our wants or our needs, do we not shackle ourselves both economically and liberty wise to it?  Citizens will become perfectly equal, but we all will be equally enslaved.  It is the dream of a socialist and not an American.  Borrowing a quote from Gerald Ford from 1974, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

Although God could take away our wants, he chooses not to, and I believe that want is a basic motivation for humankind, which gives us the drive to go beyond our simple needs.  If you were to offer a single person or even a group of people a power which could solve this want problem, I would greatly fear that they could use that power, as Gerald Ford suggests, to unjustly deprive us of our rights, our property, our liberty, and even our very lives.  Therefore, I must reject this so called freedom from want.  Both a free and an enslaved people have wants, but it is not the proper or constitutional role of our, or any, government to free us from them.  Although I could go on further, especially to discuss the fourth freedom, freedom from fear, we must save those issues for another day.

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Of course you’ve heard the news by now.  House of Representatives narrowly pass Obamacare.  “Pro-life” Democrats abandon principles for the sake of party.  Americans will soon be forced to buy health insurance, etc.  Needless to say, I not pleased by this vast increase in federal government power.  Unfortunately, with each passing administration we surrender more and more of our rights and liberty to the government.  When will it all end?  How much more power do they need?  Will we suddenly wake up one day, stripped of all our liberty and personal responsibility, and wonder how we got in such a mess?  How much more unconstitutional abuse can we endure?

Although this latest affront known as Obamacare worries me greatly, it makes me very glad that I live here in the state of Virginia.  You see, unlike some parts of the country, our legislators in Richmond don’t simply throw up their hands and surrender to the overreaching authority of Washington.  This year, Senators Steve Martin, Fred Quayle, and Jill Vogel, as well as Delegate Bob Marshall have all introduced similar or identical bills in the General Assembly, which exempt Virginians from Obamacare.  As a result of their efforts, Virginians are protected from this federal mandate.  It is a modern day example of nullification; the theory that states can ignore or overturn any federal law that they believe violates the constitution.  In addition, our Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli is preparing to sue the feds over this issue.  Even though other states are planning similar actions, Virginia is taking the lead for federalism and the 10th Amendment.  I do feel sorry for those citizens who live in states whose legislators are either too liberal or too cowardly to take a stand against this “reform”.

Here is a clip from March 17, 2010 on Fox News.

Ultimately, it is very likely that this issue will reach the Supreme Court.  Will the court find Obamacare constitutional?  And if so, will nullification efforts like Virginia’s be upheld?

I encourage you to head over to Crystal Clear Conservative who has a couple of good clips from Attorney General Cuccinelli on the matter, as well as Bearing Drift who have an important interview with Representative Wittman and AG Cuccinelli.

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So as I’m skimming through my inbox, I come across my now fairly regular email from Congressman Forbes.  As I stated in a previous post, I’ve appreciated the Representative’s emails and I expected today’s to be of interest.  After reading the message, what caught my eye was not the body, but the introduction.  Normally, most emails of this nature are sent out in bulk to constituents and interested parties.  However, this one came with a personalized message reading:  “I thought you’d be interested in reading this resolution that I am supporting.  Congressman Goodlatte plans to introduce the legislation this week.

- Randy”

Given that I live in the 6th district, the mention of Bob Goodlatte would be no mere coincidence.  Clearly someone in Rep. Forbes’ office knows a bit about me and took the time to add this personalized greeting.  I must say that it’s nice to be noticed, and I am very humbled to be singled out in this way.  These days, most Washington politicians are far too busy, too disinterested, or too overwhelmed to get to know the people in their district, let alone folks outside.  I’d like to think that this blog would make an impact, that it will be noticed.  That gesture raises my hopes that people are listening and that anyone, including myself, can make a difference.  So thank you very much Congressman Forbes and your staff.  You made my day.

By now you are asking, “what does the resolution say already!?”  It is as follows:

RESOLUTION

Expressing the sense of Congress that House Democrats should join House Republicans in a total ban on earmarks for one year, that total discretionary spending should be reduced by the amount saved by earmark moratoriums and that a bipartisan, bicameral committee should be created to review and overhaul the budgetary, spending and earmark processes.

WHEREAS families all across our nation must make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford;

WHEREAS government officials should be required to exercise an even higher standard when spending taxpayers’ hard-earned income;

WHEREAS Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude;

WHEREAS our national debt is at its highest rate ever;

WHEREAS the federal budget deficit is projected to exceed $1 trillion for the next two fiscal years and hover around $800 billion annually for the foreseeable future;

WHEREAS current levels of spending are simply unsustainable;

WHEREAS it is time for Congress to wake up and see that the federal deficits and the national debt have reached crisis status;

WHEREAS Congress must control spending, paving the way for a return to surpluses and ultimately paying down the national debt, rather than allow big spenders to lead us further down the road of chronic deficits and in doing so leave our children and grandchildren saddled with debt that is not their own;

WHEREAS House Republicans have adopted a one year total moratorium on all Congressional earmarks: Now therefore be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that—

(1)    The entire membership of the House should join House Republicans in a total ban on earmarks for one year;

(2)    Discretionary spending should be reduced in the FY 2011 Budget by the total amount that was spent on requests for earmarks in FY 2010;

(3)    In the event that spending in the FY 2011 Budget is not so reduced by the amount spent for earmarks in FY 2010, an amendment to the budget resolution to effectuate this change must be made in order; and

(4)    A complete review and overhaul of the Congressional budgetary, spending and earmark processes should be commenced by creating a bi-partisan, bicameral committee to study the issue and report back with recommendations.

With all the hoopla over the hot button topic of socialized medicine, we sometimes forget that there are hardworking men and women fighting for our principles in Washington.  Limiting earmarks would be an important step to reign in federal spending and reduce the growth of our crippling debt.  We must stop the cycle of burdening future generations with the frivolities of today.  Although I’d like to see the resolution expanded beyond a one-year time frame, it is a bold move in the quest for financial liberty.  And if Congressman Goodlatte and Congressman Forbes will support this resolution, I am proud to stand along side them the best that I can.

To Representative Forbes, his staff, and all lovers of liberty, I hope that you have found my posts worthwhile and will continue to visit often.  Remember, comments (as long as they are civil) are always welcome.

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In a fairly breaking development, my Delegate, Matt Lohr has accepted a position as Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  With this arrangement, Delegate Lohr will be resigning his seat in the General Assembly likely within a month or two.  This departure will trigger a special election in which the citizens of the 26th district (Harrisonburg and the northern half of Rockingham County) will choose a new delegate.  I would assume that it would take place this coming November, coinciding with the House of Representatives race.

Although control of this seat will not tip the balance of power in the House of Delegates, given that Democrats have little chance of unseating Bob Goodlatte from his position in the House of Representatives, it is likely that local Democrats will pour their efforts into this race.  Right now there are a multitude of unanswered questions.  Who will win the Republican and Democratic nomination?  Will there be any third party candidates?  With voter turnout likely to be low, which side will rally their faithful more successfully?  Will Harrisonburg, which the Democrats have occasionally won in recent elections, go for the Democratic candidate?  And if they win Harrisonburg, will it be by large enough margins to counteract the heavily conservative county?

I don’t want to take anything for granted, but given past trends, I would expect whoever wins the Republican nomination should win the election.  As a word of warning though, if you can’t run a campaign worth spit (and that involves hiring knowledgeable people), then don’t run for the office!  I just hope that at the end of the day, we have a strong, committed, constitutionally minded conservative.  The 26th is my home after all.  And as a side note to whomever wins, you should strongly consider hiring Matt Lohr’s current legislative assistant.  You shouldn’t dive head first into a new surrounding without having someone experienced on your side.

I’ll post more on this story as it becomes available.

Update:  Thanks to hburgnews.com, (a great source for local news) for bringing this story to my attention.  Their post can be found here.

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I recently read on hburgnews.com that the mayor of Harrisonburg, Kai Degner, was looking to create a new publication, the Harrisonburg Times.  I’m sure that my initial reaction was much the same as yours.  The mayor wants to run a newspaper?  Wouldn’t such a periodical be little more than a propaganda mill?  Although government control of the press was natural in Soviet Russia, don’t we enjoy the freedom of the press?  But then I got to thinking.  On the other hand, given that most of our public offices are merely part time positions, wouldn’t the mayor as a private citizen have as much a right to run a paper as anyone else?  I’ll admit that the thought of a new paper intrigued me.  Although I have no real complaints with the Daily News Record, this part of the state does need a new forum for political discourse.  Far too often the letters to the editor are poorly written, littered with outlandish political statements, and have little or faulty reasoning.  In addition, I don’t think anyone can honestly say that the paper doesn’t have a conservative slant.  (Being a conservative, I have no qualms about a conservative newspaper, but I’m sure some of our liberal friends would prefer a more “progressive” outlet.)  In general, I believe many portions of the state suffer from an acute lack of political awareness and understanding which can stifle dialogue and create hostility toward differing opinions.  A new paper could work wonders to correct this problem.

As I love both politics and writing, I quickly applied to write for this new publication.  However, in my inquiry, one burning question haunted my thoughts.  Would a conservative such as myself be welcome, or would I be ostracized?  On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Degner scheduled a meeting for potential writers to gather at the Blue Nile Café downtown.  Although I don’t have an exact count, I would say that there were between twenty to twenty-five folks who arrived to learn more.  Of course there were a handful of politically minded citizens in the group, but far more expressed an interest in discussing a variety of topics such as gardening, volunteerism, religion, tourism, or green technology to name just a few.  I would wager that I was likely the only conservative in the crowd.  I earlier joked that if they accepted me, I would be the “Alan Colmes” of the group.  For those who don’t get the reference, for a number of years, Mr. Colmes was the token liberal on Fox News.

Mr. Degner explained that his reasoning for creating the Harrisonburg Times was twofold.  First, and most importantly, it is very difficult to find free news about Harrisonburg on the internet.  Second, he felt that the local media outlets don’t sufficiently cover all the news stories in the region.  Third, although not discussed too much, was dissatisfaction with the conservative aspect of our local media.  I won’t lie; I winced every time anyone uttered the word “progressive”.  I guess the term liberal has fallen out of favor and progressive is now its “politically correct” replacement.  I did find it interesting that the mayor mentioned to me that I was free to criticize him in the Harrisonburg Times.  Even though I may take him up on this offer at some point, unlike some Republican commentators, I don’t automatically try to tear down and besmirch every official who happens to have a D beside his or her name.  But for more information about the Harrisonburg Times, you should visit their website.

The first issue of the Harrisonburg Times should be available online on April 15.  My greatest concern is that the publication will be a liberal hotbed.  That issue not withstanding, I’m keeping an open mind and I fully intend to submit an article.  Although I’m still pondering what to write about, I’ve got a few ideas.

Tune in on April 15 to find out more!

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While at the Cato Institute, I picked up an interesting article entitled, “The Libertarian Vote in the Age of Obama”.  Not only does it explain and predict libertarian voter trends, it also shows the number of libertarian voters is much higher than one would expect (small “l”, not necessarily members of the Libertarian Party).  They estimate the percentage of libertarian voters is at least 14%.  Now by libertarian, they mean folks who are economically conservative and socially liberal.  The most interesting part of the piece for me was a segment on Ron Paul voters.  Not surprisingly, libertarians strongly supported Paul.  But, they discovered that only 38% of folks who voted for Representative Paul in the primary voted for John McCain in the general election, with 24% going with Obama and 33% to someone else.  In general, “the more a voter liked Paul, the less likely he was to vote Republican in the general election.”  This trend should not come as some great shock given that McCain and Paul had diametrically opposing viewpoints on many key issues.  With that information in mind, how can the GOP increase its share of the libertarian vote?

Let me start off by saying I have mixed feelings about libertarians.  I confess, in the early days of my political involvement, I held a rather dim view of libertarians.  Then again, like so many things we don’t understand and, as a result, hate, I didn’t know too much about them.  I thought that they were merely politically amoral.  Although we could agree on many fiscal issues, I didn’t like the fact that they many were socially liberal, that they would not promote our Judeo-Christian values in the government.  In addition, some of their theories sounded downright bizarre and when one of them refused to say the pledge of allegiance at a meeting, I was completely miffed.  Are libertarians anti-patriotic, anti-American?  (After reading more, I understand a bit better now).

On the one hand, I appreciate that libertarians continually hold firm to their anti-federal government stance even when some Republican leaders forget things like the Constitution and the 10th Amendment.  On the other, in general, libertarians either don’t seem to be able to instill their ideals into the heart and mind of John Q. Public, or don’t have the interest in doing so.  This deficiency likely springs from a lack of major party representation.

Given that the Democratic Party is largely liberal both economically and socially, while the Republican Party is largely conservative in the same areas, how will the economically conservative but socially liberal libertarians vote?  Obviously some will vote for the Libertarian Party, the fifth largest party by registered voters, but, given that Libertarian candidates are not always available, coupled with our first past-the-post system of elections, a large percentage will vote either Republican or Democrat.  So how can the GOP successfully court the libertarian vote? A better question is, why should libertarians vote for Republicans?  After all, in recent times Republicans haven’t even promoted their shared economic conservatism.  They exploded the national debt and eroded civil liberties through both the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security.  We (that is the GOP) must reclaim its principles, and it must do so now!  Don’t both libertarians and supposedly conservatives want a smaller, more efficient, more constitutionally limited government?  The national party should take a cue from the Republican Party of Virginia whose creed states: “That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations.”

Although I have been called a libertarian on many occasions, I assure you that I am about as socially conservative as they come.  I just believe that we must act within the confines of the Constitution.  Now, I know that as a social conservative, we sometimes toy with the appeal to promote our agenda in the nation’s capital regardless of the issue of constitutional restraint, but we mustn’t surrender to this temptation.  To do so would trample not only our own principles, but also the principles under which this country was founded.  It is the mark of the fascist, not the constitutional conservative.  After all, wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help”?  D.C. has become an open grave for countless conservative ideals and politicians.

The Republican Party should never abandon their social conservative stance in order to woo the libertarians into their camp, but conversely, if we faithfully observed Constitutional limitations, I would expect libertarians would find many aspects of Republican politics to be far more appealing than Democratic ones.  With a sizable percentage of that 14% libertarian vote in our corner, Republicans both at the state and national level will find greater electoral success.  For far too long, the Republicans and the Democrats in D.C. have fought tooth and nail to see which can expand more entitlements, inflate bureaucracies, and increase meddlesome overregulation.  I don’t want to belabor the point, but the answer is simple:  Like Paul, we must advocate and implement policies that actually shrink the size and scope of the government.  Then we, that is the GOP, will be able to successfully court the libertarian vote.

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Guest post by Brent

The United States government is currently heavily involved in domestic agriculture. Intervention in domestic agriculture by the United States is not justified. I believe government intervention in the agriculture market is resulting in more harm than benefit and a market-based environment would lead to more favorable outcomes for the agriculture market and the American people.

Federal programs to aid domestic farmers are very costly to the American government. “Farm support programs cost taxpayers nearly $20 billion a year” (Griswold 2007). The costs of farm support programs have been rising every year. From 1995 to 2004 the average cost of farming subsidies was $14.3 billion per year, from 2002 to 2006 subsidies cost the American people an average of $20 billion per year with $25 billion alone in 2005 (Frydenlund 2007). With the rising national debt the American government cannot afford to continue the practice of providing subsidies to agriculture firms.

A government subsidy to farmers creates high levels of income disparity in the agriculture market. In 2003, the wealthiest 10 percent of farmers collected 72 percent of the government subsidies handed out (Frydenlund 2007). Many people believe that farm subsidies have been put in place to protect the “local” farmer but that is simply not true. The large agriculture firms are the ones receiving the majority of the benefit as Frydenlund (2007) points out. The struggling rural farmers are not the ones receiving the benefits of subsidies, “ While farm programs have enriched certain farmers, they have failed to deliver long-promised rural development” (Griswold 2007). Studies have found that areas in the United States where subsidy payouts are high tend to have poor job and population growth. As Frydenlund (2007) discusses the results of a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, “Job gains are weak and population growth is actually negative in most of the counties where farm payments are the biggest share of income”.

Government intervention in the form of subsidies to farmers increases environment degradation. For example, Griswold (2007) writes that farm support programs promote the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides which damage the environment. The price of land conservation also rises due to land owners being able to receive government subsidies from allowing farmers to use their land (Frydenlund 2007). Edwards (2007) of the Cato Institute writes, “Lands that might otherwise be used for parks, forests or wetlands get locked into farm use”. By providing incentive to turn land to usable farm space, the federal government is decreasing the amount of land set aside for environmental conservation efforts. If the free market were allowed to run its course, the amount of land set aside for conservation would increase due to lower opportunity costs and therefore the amount of harmful fertilizers and pesticides would in turn decrease.

Government subsidies in the agriculture market can cause higher food prices for American consumers. The government subsidies of ethanol are a prime example of subsidies driving up the price of food. Farmers responded to ethanol subsidies by devoting more corn to the production of ethanol which lowered the supply of “food” corn. This intervention results in a rise the cost of food, “Rising food prices in response to ethanol mandates also illustrate an important point raised by Ludwig von Mises in his various critiques of interventionism–there is no such thing as an isolated government intervention” (Carden 2010). This is a major point against government intervention, the act of intervention can affect many unintended areas of the economy. A free agriculture market would be able to keep food prices at a desirable level of equilibrium. Government intervention in food markets lead to inefficiencies and higher prices.

Many supporters of government farm support claim that subsidies in agriculture are necessary in order to maintain adequate levels of domestic food production for national security reasons. For example, Young (2007), chief economist for the American Farm Bureau describes farm subsidies as an “insurance policy”.  Guell (2008) also suggests, that without government aid many farmers would have declared bankruptcy and halted growing. This scenario of farmers leaving the industry due to lack of government intervention has not been true across the globe. The farmers of Australia and New Zealand are a prime example of this scenario being false. Farmers of these two nations receive dramatically lower government payouts and yet their populations have experienced no food disruptions or shortages since government spending was cut due to improved efficiently throughout the newly free market of agriculture (Griswold 2007).

Government intervention in farming and agriculture is not justified and it producing an outcome that is suboptimal compared to letting the free market reign. Federal subsidies are contributing to higher food prices, environmental degradation and increased income disparity. Fears of national security risks due to a free agriculture market have been disproved by Australia’s and New Zealand’s agriculture market. In order to achieve an optimal outcome for the people of the United States, the government must cutback or remove current intervention in the farming and agriculture market.

Works Cited

Carden, A. 2010, America’s Food to Fuel Problem, Viewed on 26 February 2010,

http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/10/ethanol-environment-government-initiatives-opinions-contributors-art-carden.html

Edwards, C. 2007, Ten Reasons to Cut Farm Subsidies, Viewed on 27 February 2010,

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=8459

Fydenlund, J. 2007, Farm Subsidies: Myth and Reality, Viewed on 28 February 2010,

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/896376/Farm-Subsidies

Griswold, D. 2007, Online Debate: Should the United States Cut Its Farm Subsidies?,

Viewed on 27 February 2010, http://www.cfr.org/publication/13147/

Guell, R 2008, Issues in Economies Today, 4th edn, Mcgraw Hill/Irwin, USA.

Young, B 2007, Online Debate: Should the United States Cut Its Farm Subsidies?,

Viewed on 27 February 2010, http://www.cfr.org/publication/13147/

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