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Playing the Class Card

Posted on Jan 8, 2008
Hillary Clinton
AP photo / Elise Amendola

A jubilant Hillary Clinton celebrates her primary win on Tuesday night in Manchester, N.H.

By Robert Scheer

As long as Hillary Clinton, and now Gloria Steinem, has chosen to play the women’s card against the race card, let me throw in a third one: the class card. Clinton claimed in the New Hampshire primary debate that she is the unmistakable agent for change because she is a woman and her election as president would send a strong signal of a new day aborning to America and the rest of the world. It is hoped that it would be a more progressive message than the one sent by Margaret Thatcher’s ascent in England.

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Steinem put a finer point on the argument in her New York Times commentary, published Tuesday, New Hampshire’s primary election day, arguing that women get wonderfully more “radical” as they age, and therefore older women are more inclined to vote for Clinton, Steinem’s preferred candidate, as opposed to Barack Obama, whom younger women went for in Iowa.  Maybe those younger women were more worried about how to pay off college loans or swelling mortgage obligations than gender identity.

What is radical about voting for a corporate lawyer who, in defense of her Arkansas savings and loan shenanigans, once said you can’t be a lawyer without working for banks? Steinem boasts of Clinton’s “unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House” without referencing the Clinton White House’s giveaways to corporate America at the expense of poor and working Americans, the majority of them being women. Sen. Clinton’s key election operative, Mark Penn, was the other half of the Dick Morris team that recast populist Bill Clinton as the master of triangulation.

I am not trying to play the class card here by claiming that because Obama grew up black and middle-class he will therefore inevitably be that rare politician who remembers where he or she came from. Bill Clinton, who came from a poor family, disproved the notion about remembering. To his everlasting shame as president, Clinton supported and signed welfare legislation that shredded the federal safety net for the poor from which he personally had benefited. He faithfully served big corporate interests by signing off on Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the Financial Services Modernization Act, which, as a gift to the banks, insurance companies and stockbrokers, reversed consumer protection legislation from the New Deal era. Thanks to Bill Clinton, those pirates were allowed to merge into the largest conglomerates the world has ever witnessed and, adding insult to injury, to “data-mine,” thus sharing your most intimate financial and health information. Bill Clinton’s next biggest concession to the fat cats was the Telecommunications Act, which ended what was left of public control of the airwaves and permits mega-media corporations to grow even bigger. No wonder Rupert Murdock and Hillary Clinton now get on so famously.

Yes, Bill Clinton was a very good president compared to what came immediately before and after, and his wife has many strong points in her favor, not the least of which is her wonkish intelligence. What I object to is the notion that the perspective of gender or race trumps that of economic class in considering the traumas of this nation.  That is because the George W. Bush administration engaged in class warfare for the rich with a vengeance that has left many Americans hurting, and we desperately need change to reverse that destructive course.


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John Edwards deserves credit for putting this issue of the growing division of American society front and center, and certainly Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has related his politics to growing up in abysmal poverty. As Kucinich has pointed out, a permanent war economy in which more than half of federal discretionary funds go to the military leaves no room for needed social programs.  Question the honesty of any candidate who continues to vote for war funding while talking up all the wonderful domestic programs he or she claims to favor. At least Ron Paul is consistent in saying he would cut both.

Obviously, coming from an impoverished background does not ensure a social conscience, and there is no better example that the contrary can be true than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the scion of a wealthy family, who, as president, was a god in my Bronx home for expanding federal poverty programs that put food on our table when both my parents were out of work.

Yes, it is important for the health of our democracy to break barriers that have held back a majority of our citizens, and for that reason it would certainly be an advance to have a black or female president. But that alone is not enough to justify a vote. What we need far more than a change in appearance is one of perspective. Otherwise, Condoleezza Rice would make the ideal candidate.

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G.Anderson's avatar

By G.Anderson, January 9, 2008 at 8:12 am Link to this comment

Mr. Clinton was not a Democrat but an opportunist who acted more like a Republican than a Democrat.

Not only did he shred the safety net for the poor, but he shifted the burden of welfare from the states, and counties of this country to middle class men.

Just as the welfare burden was destroying the states and counties, it has now destroyed much of the middle class, and is responsible for much of the polarization that this country faces.

Many of us do not remember Bill Clintons presidency as good times, but as the prelude of the Republican hard times.

Hillary Clinton has already indicated that she is willing to deal in order to get what she wants.
The middle class will continue to suffer for those deals under any Clinton presidency.

Gloria Steinham, in her article wondered aloud why younger women are rejecting, what she believed was some of the progress that Feminism has made. Maybe it’s because the reality they experience, one without the institution of marriage and family, is not viewed as progress at all.

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By Expat, January 9, 2008 at 8:11 am Link to this comment

Look people; it’s time to face the cold hard realities of American life/politics.  The Kuciniches, Naders, the knight in shining armor, Jesus returning, et al, just ain’t gonna happen!  Now is the time to determine which candidate will do the least damage according to your point of view.  They are all flawed, badly I might add, but it is after all the hand we have been dealt (accepted actually).  We are where we are because we didn’t care enough to guard our Constitution from the thugs who govern us.  You democrats are the worst; whiners all, but you just won’t get off you ass to make a difference.  You get the majority and with your high ideals and fail at every turn.  Jeez, no wonder Bush ignores you.  Republicans are like Bulldogs; once they get a bite of something they don’t let go.  At least they commit!  You have been betrayed by your own (Pelosi), “et tu Brute”.  Now you are faced with the lesser evils (maybe), oh how I don’t envy you.  The best you can hope for is a benevolent dictator, your rights have been forever sold down the proverbial river and the corporatists have won.  The up side of this is we are forever malleable and adapt well to our cells as long as they don’t look too much like cells.  To cook a living frog, throw it in a pot of tepid water and slowly raise the heat.  If you throw it in a pot of boiling water it will jump out.

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By jackpine savage, January 9, 2008 at 8:09 am Link to this comment

All this talk about gender, race, and “change” sure make for good ink.  But, in my opinion, that’s all they’re worth.

I would love to see a woman or a non-white person be sworn in as president of these United States.  I might actually feel overtly proud of my country for a change.  And “change” is something that roughly 75% of us can agree is a good thing.

But does it mean anything to elect a woman beholden to the same corporate interests as the man she will replace?  Does it mean anything to elect a black man beholden to the same interests as the woman he campaigns against?

“Change” is easier said than done.  It makes a great speech and it rallies the masses, but what does it mean?  In a society so totally conditioned by advertising, it feels more like buying toothpaste than fixing the ills that plague this nation.

We have an amazing narrative in this nomination cycle; people are excited and involved.  That is clearly a positive.  But are we involved in the politics or the narrative?  Is the narrative a slick new advertising campaign to make us believe that smoking is healthy and cool after all?

Clearly, the intertwining of corporate interest and politics is killing us.  Both Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton are just as clearly beholden to those interests.  But all that, and substantive discussion about our position, direction, and troubles, is getting quietly swept under the rug of this narrative about gender, race, and change.

I’m starting to feel like the old family pet being led into the vet’s office with treats and a cheerful “here boy”...right before i get the shot and dumped unceremoniously into a trash can once the family leaves the room.

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By Outraged, January 9, 2008 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

It isn’t the $100,000 she made, it’s the pandering to LARGE MULTINATIONAL corporations that is the concern.  Clinton and Obama have such similar policies on major issues that it’s easy to confuse the two.

You seem to suppose that her involvement and relationships within the corporate world don’t have any bearing on her policy issues.  Clinton’s health care policy alone panders to insurance companies.  She has continuously supported the war, why.. when over 70% of Americans want out. 

It’s not that I think Clinton doesn’t have the intelligence or drive to lead, the problem is WHERE will she lead us…over a cliff?  It’s not what she says that matters, it’s what she does.

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By Virginia Rogalsky, January 9, 2008 at 7:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you were part of a segment of the population who had never been allowed to wield power, perhaps then you would understand a woman’s excitement at the prospect of having a strong, capable, intelligent woman with a real chance to be president.

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By DuckPhup, January 9, 2008 at 7:17 am Link to this comment

I think that the most important thing about the Iowa caucus was that it revealed what the American people want… change… thanks to Obama.

Once the magic word was revealed… change…  almost EVERYBODY… overnight… became the most qualified ‘agent of change’. The campaign was suddenly transformed from a contest of ideas to a contest to establish which camp had the best spin-meisters, in an attempt to give their candidate ‘claim’ to the magic.

In essence, we have just witnessed an ideological highjacking. Clinton and Romney were especially entertaining in this regard.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, January 9, 2008 at 7:02 am Link to this comment

Hammo, I think your point is a good one.  What does have the potential to end status quo in Washington is getting some, any, democrat elected to the White House and perhaps even increasing the majority in congress.

At this point, I really don’t care who gets in, so long as it isn’t a neocon religious right republican.

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By John Borowski, January 9, 2008 at 6:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Even I a qualified Anti-Republican have some compassion for the Republicans (Aka Conservatives right-wingers) due to Clinton’s victory in New Hampshire election. I can imagine, they all have swollen red eyes this morning from so much wringing of hands, crying, and gnashing of teeth. Despite the fact that Obama and Kucinich are good people the Electoral College (People that represent foreign interest and have the right to pick a president) would never allow those two through the door. Because the media is almost 100% right-wing oriented it covertly favors the weakest Democrat to run against a disgraced Republican (Aka Conservative right-winger) candidate. One can see how the right-wing oriented media denigrates Clinton and yet says little or nothing against a Republican that will have authority over a god as his vice president. (If I was religious I would be insulted by Huckabee’s claim)  Kucinich is blacklisted because he favored the people in Ohio over the robber barons. Obama would feel the sting of bigotry, racism, and hate in the darkness of the voting booth. The bottom line is that I believe there will be no presidential election this year since the right-wing will cause an incident allowing them to justify a dictatorship in this country. Ninety percent of the time I have the TV on mute so I never listen to the debates or any other distorted news put out by the right-wing oriented media. Even on Truthdig I only read the headings. Do you really believe that the media would tell the ocean of ignorance that the Electoral College has the sole right to vote for a nominee, that foreigners control and own our money, that most of our businesses are owned by the British or European “wealthies”, that the Federal Reserve that controls our economy is a foreign entity, that a sovereign nation would allow all of the above? If any person working for the media told the ocean of ignorance the above he would be banned for life in that profession.  PS right-wing boiler folks get out the magnifying glass on this one to see if any i or dot is incorrect so you can use it to throw crap on my good name like you do on Clinton’s good name. Any intelligent person knows your dirty trick tactics.

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By Hettie, January 9, 2008 at 6:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Scheer, I respect you very much. But I disagree with you about Clinton and women on welfare. I went to college in the 90’s after being laid off of my factory job because my local unemployment office told me about a job training program initiated by the Clinton administration. I made many friend at school who like me were in their forties. Most of them had been on welfare. They told me of the childcare program and tuition assistance that enabled them to go to college. They were so excited and proud. Every time I read an article like this I am reminded of those ladies, one in particular who is a social worker with master’s degree helping other women like herself to benefit from programs put in place under the Clinton administration.
Also, Mr. Scheer, I wish you and other commentators would give Hillary Clinton credit for the work she did as an aide to the Congressional committee investigating Watergate, for the Children’s Health Insurance Program which came out of her work on Healthcare, for the compensation and medical attention given to Vietnam Vets suffering from Agent Orange after her investigation into that issue as First Lady.

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By Sue, January 9, 2008 at 6:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

EATING CROW! (how does it taste?) smile

You have no more credibility, you’re boring. move-on please.

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By Kathy (Kwihee) KANG, January 9, 2008 at 6:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Outraged,
Thanks for your honest abd insightful comments that is very refreshing. I am a retired musician(violinist),who has been doing volunteer teaching since my retirement in 2003 here in Virginia. As a young girl,growing up in Seoul,South Korea where sexism was so open and acceptable evil in society,I am thrilled to see a qualified woman who pours her heart and soul for what she believes in. She has been ridiculed,seconed-guessed,and defined by so many,just because she is a woman with a brain and vision. It’s about time for Americans to see her for what she is as a person of conviction,rather than “a woman with a selfish agenda”. I am very saddened by those utterly unfair reactions of those Hillary Haters after she finally had the courage and “dared” to show her deepest emotions by choking back tears a day before NH primary. When George Bush or Reagan teared up occasionally,they saluted them by saying that the were compassionate and sensitive human beings,yet when it came to Hillary,it was a planned act on her part. Very sad.

America has been great to me ever since I came here nearly 40 years ago. I received my Masters Degree in Music from Yale school of Music,and held some great jobs. Yes,this is a greatest country,and I will do everything till my last day to pay back to America that has been so good to me.

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By Joe R., January 9, 2008 at 6:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hope the rest of America sees through Hillary and Obama and changes it’s votes for John Edwards. Hillary is a Republican wearing a jack ass costume. Obama will lose after a year of race card politics.  Edwards is the best chance for the working class and the best chance for beating the Republican noise machine.

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By Hammo, January 9, 2008 at 6:00 am Link to this comment

Scheer makes several important and straightforward points about the Bill Clinton presidency and Hillary’s background, pro and con.

And let’s not forget that Bill’s behavior with a college intern helped get George W. Bush elected. So, we do have to look at the personal psychology involved as well as official actions and positions.

As a practical matter, a John McCain could beat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in a general election. John Edwards might have a better chance against someone like McCain.

And, as Scheer notes, Edwards’ positions and messages seem more constructive in many ways, though somewhat adversarial to some special interests.

Once again, the Democrats may shoot themselves in the foot, and the rest of us may suffer because of it.

Thoughts on this in the article ...

“Democrats risk self-sabotage in presidential race ... again” (, November 5, 2007)

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By Jacks, January 9, 2008 at 5:57 am Link to this comment

I agree.  Although I don’t dismiss the role race and gender play in this historical election, people are way too quick to dismiss fears about the poor economy.  Just look at the candidacy of Edwards (especially in Iowa) to realize how potent his message of fighting to save the middle class is.

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By Jaded Prole, January 9, 2008 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

Anyone that says Bill Clinton “was a very good president” is not worth listening to. As Adrienne Rich said, “Nostalgia is the other side of amnesia.”

I too would be glad to see a woman in the White House but not Hillary Clinton. The only difference between her and Joe Leiberman is that Joe has principles (albeit rotten ones).

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By P. T., January 9, 2008 at 3:33 am Link to this comment

From her ridiculous health care plan early in Bill’s administration on up to her support for the Iraq War, just about every major thing Hillary Clinton gets involved with is a failure.  She has a reverse Midas touch.  She’s a master of disaster.

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By sheila, January 9, 2008 at 2:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Kucinich says that half of our federal discretionary budget goes to the military. But isn’t it true that this “military” money goes to the halliburtons, Blackwaters, Brown and Roots and untold other friends of the Bush Adminstration? If you can’t make money off of soldiers , privatize the army, get stock options and you are in the money.  Hey, these guys cannot make any money off of mere   soldiers in Iraq.  Its all about the meals and bombs and munitions,aircraft carriers, etc. in Iraq.  So privatize the military in every sense and suck the blood out of the poor soldiers in our nation and the American taxpayer. And get really, really rich. No one is paying attention, the kids going to Iraq are not that interested in why they are really there. Or maybe they are so deluded by the recruiters and they don’t read ..I am always amazed that so few people who watched Farrenheit 911 and do not remember the scene where Bush is addressing Military CEO’s and says . giggling,(this is about his invasion of Iraq) do you all now how much money an invasion will make for us?  Or something that meant the same.  Gooodnight.

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By Douglas Chalmers, January 9, 2008 at 2:19 am Link to this comment

#By Outraged, January 8: “Mrs. Clinton, now a partner at the Rose Firm, begins a series of commodities trades under the guidance of Tyson Foods executive Jim Blair, earning nearly $100,000…”

That’s NOT a very large amount of money these days, or even then, Outraged. Financial market traders make more than that. Rich people these days are ALL $billionaires. Can you count that far yet???

In fact, you haven’t made a case in the negative about anything, actually. All of what you mentioned is ordinary commercial reality. Point to something if it isn’t, don’t merely make it up as you go.

#By aremmele, January 9: ”...her knowledge of policy and the changes she describes in her town-hall meetings….. are more progressive than anything this country has seen since the 1930s. And her passion for those policies seems genuine engough…”

Well, she’s not really patronizing either, aremmele. Sadly, I know only too well what constitutes patronizing or conceited or imperious or arrogant and Hillary is none of those. She’s not a “cold” blonde, either.

I think some people are still having a little difficulty in getting used to perceiving management qualities in a woman if they are not used to that in their own working life experience. She certainly shows competency, though.

If that seems somehow distant or cold or aloof, then that is not a bad thing. Hillary has shown that she has been able to balance personal feeling and emotion with an ability to deal calmly with the external world. She doesn’t have to shout out of the side of her mouth like some others.

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By aremmele, January 9, 2008 at 1:52 am Link to this comment

Why does everyone assume Hillary in the White House would be a return to the ways of the 1990s? Do you think she would invite the same kinds of scandals knowing what the media and popular scrutiny would be?

She may be a power-monger, but her knowledge of policy and the changes she describes in her town-hall meetings, lasting over two hours, all of which can be viewed on C-Span, are more progressive than anything this country has seen since the 1930s. And her passion for those policies seems genuine engough, even if it is offered to us in a patronizing manner.

By all accounts, Hillary has always been more progressive than Bill, and there is every indication that her administration would be too.

Her plans for the creation of an economy based on the production of renewable engery, which you can see her as well as Bill describe on C-Span, is something that Al Gore would probably endorse.

She seems to have learned from the previous health-care fiasco, and while the new plan is more of a compromise in being run by the private sector rather than the government, but with government regulations in place, it seems like a plan that will be acceptable to the majority of the country and will become our first national healthcare plan - needless to say it will have to be tinkered with numerous times even after its launched.

And Bill, in his NH apparences, openly stated that she will send him around the country introducing and selling these domestic programs - and there is no one better suited to that.

There is something to be said in favor of her candidacy.

And instead of change versus experience try thinking about change coming with competency. Its quite possible that Hillary will be able to govern effectively.

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By P. T., January 9, 2008 at 12:36 am Link to this comment

Many people think that the Clintons don’t believe in anything.  I think that they do, but their opportunism trumps anything that they believe in.

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By P. T., January 9, 2008 at 12:28 am Link to this comment

You’re funny, Gloria.

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By Outraged, January 9, 2008 at 12:25 am Link to this comment

All to often people get caught up in the moment and and usurp common sense for winning, chasing some idealized notion of gender, race, religiosity or capitalism as a sort of presidential electoral accomplishment.  Sure, I’d love to see something other than a rich white guy for president, but that’s not the bigger issue.

Clinton is not someone who will protect the people’s interests, that is not where her “experience” lies.  Since “experience” is Clinton’s slogan, here’s a more focal interpretation:

“Mrs. Clinton, now a partner at the Rose Firm, begins a series of commodities trades under the guidance of Tyson Foods executive Jim Blair, earning nearly $100,000. (author’s emphasis). The trades are not revealed until March 1994.”

“The Rose law firm was the house law firm of Jackson Stephens’ Stephens Group investment bank in Little Rock. To be the corporate law firm of the Stephens Group was no casual affair. It implied a deep trust relationship and perhaps more. As one crony of Jackson Stephens put it at that time, ‘Jackson Stephens? He’s the man who owns Arkansas.’

“The Stephens Group prides itself on being the nation’s largest investment bank outside Wall Street, based, of all places, in little ol’ Little Rock, in hillbilly land, Arkansas, one of the poorest states in the United States. Stephens Inc. is also one of the biggest institutional shareholders in 30 large multinationals including the Arkansas based firms Tyson Food, the world’s largest chicken industrial factory operation and the infamous Arkansas giant, Wal-Mart.

“The largest shareholder in D&PL;is the Stephens Group of Little Rock, Arkansas. Here is where things become interesting indeed.” 

Hopefully this stuck out, “Stephens Inc. is also one of the biggest institutional SHAREHOLDERS in 30 LARGE MULTINATIONALS”  that ought to make you think twice.  A vote for Clinton is a vote for more of the same…possibly worse.  Read the article, it’s interesting….just like the author claims.

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By Douglas Chalmers, January 8, 2008 at 11:50 pm Link to this comment

By Robert Scheer: “It is hoped that it would be a more progressive message than the one sent by Margaret Thatcher’s ascent in England…”

Smear, Scheer, smear! The repulsive Baroness Thatcher was a conservative and a real war monger (the “iron lady” - Attilla the hen, uhh!). She and Ronald Ray-gun loved each other dearly and both ended with Alzheimer’s…....

While you’re on about age groups, don’t forget that the USA is and ageing country, demographically, and the young are a shrinking voting bloc as well as a shrinking resource. You are not one of them, either.

Nor is Hillary responsible for Bill Clinton’s shortcomings. You seem to want her to be, though, because you have failed to pillory him successfully in the past. What’s the matter now, Scheer? Easier to beat up on a woman???

In fact, that was your biggest paragraph yet - as well as your biggest moan. Then you went on to repeat yourself and to add GWB to the list of sins Hillary must bear to please you. What a wank, uhh! Go iron your own shirts in future, eh!

If you want to vote for a sleazy lawyer, promote millionaaire Edwards. If you want to vote for Kucinich, why then do you need to prove your sexist misogynist credentials, Scheer?

Yes, indeed, it IS important for the health of America’s democracy to break barriers that have held back a majority of citizens, and for that reason it would certainly be an advance to have a black or female president. And that alone IS enough to justify a vote.

You don’t seem to think so because you do not really want that. A white male status quo IS your preference only you are far to politically-correct to admit it. What is needed far more than a change in their appearance is one of your perspective. I already made the point about Condoleezza Rice making the ideal Republican candidate first here months ago, thanks Scheer.

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