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Robin-Hood Republicanism?

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Posted on Feb 26, 2009

By David Sirota

Only months after the 2008 primaries, most Americans probably don’t remember Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul. But that doesn’t mean the conservative populism they championed during their campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination is as fleeting as their dark-horse candidacies.

Since rank-and-file House Republicans began criticizing October’s Wall Street bailout, a growing faction of the GOP has been channeling the country’s rage at Corporate America with us-versus-them rhetoric and appeals to economic patriotism. And they are getting help from a Democratic Party whose actions often imply subservience to Big Money.

Recall that the majority of House Democrats voted to ratify the bank bailout, and the majority of House Republicans opposed it. Recall, too, that Democratic Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is pushing to throw more no-strings-attached cash at Wall Street, while Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., makes headlines with calls to nationalize the banks.

Conversely, when Republicans tried to prevent bailout and stimulus money from subsidizing job outsourcing, Democrats blocked their amendments and President Obama criticized such “Buy America” laws.

Now, Newt Gingrich is trying to capitalize on the contrast, insisting that the GOP can recast itself as the party of the little guy. Summing up his thoughts during an analysis of recent Democratic legislation, he said: “If in fact it’s terrific for Citibank and GM, but bad for small business, then it’s an elite bill—it’s not a populist bill.”

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To be sure, there is a vaudeville quality to all this.

Gingrich is not only the House speaker who made business lobbyists an official cog in the legislative process. He’s the Washington careerist who has spent his post-government life as an insurance industry mercenary paid to derail serious health care reform, and his “populist” panacea for righting the economy is a proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax, which primarily hits the super-rich. More broadly, while many Democrats joined in the kleptocracy, the Republican Party was the primary force behind almost every regressive tax cut, crony contract, rigged trade deal, deregulation scheme, corporate welfare handout and “elite bill” that became law over the last three decades. The idea that the GOP’s Nottingham Sheriffs have genuinely become Robin Hoods might be plausible in a burlesque subtitled “Men in Tights”—but this is real life, not a Mel Brooks spoof.

Then again, politics is theater of the absurd, featuring everything from a draft dodger posing as a Top Gun pilot to self-proclaimed “fiscal conservatives” repeatedly voting for deficit-expanding tax breaks. And as the GOP regroups for the mid-term elections, party leaders know that Americans’ memories are short during a recession and that rhetoric can substitute for reality in a campaign. They also understand the electoral power of economic populism, even as an appeal to base Republican voters.

During the presidential primary, for example, Huckabee won eight conservative states thanks to his speeches calling Wall Street CEOs “criminals,” demanding Americans get the same health care as members of Congress and criticizing unfair trade policies. Meanwhile, Paul attacked “corporations on welfare” that are “dumping all the bills on Main Street”—and he raised a whopping $34 million, mostly from individual conservative donors.

For this bombast to become a cohesive political program, rebel Republicans will have to do battle with the country clubbers who still control their party—and to date, those rebels haven’t been willing to wage such an explicit fight. However, should Democrats collude with the very corporate interests that the nation is so angry at—say, if they obstruct proposals to toughen financial regulations—they will create the incentive for an internal Republican war to explode. And when the smoke clears, the GOP could have a much different image – one that revives their political prospects for years to come.

David Sirota is the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover” (2006) and “The Uprising” (2008). He is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future. Find his blog at OpenLeft.com or e-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com.

© 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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By BlueEagle, March 3, 2009 at 12:00 am Link to this comment

Tony Wicher - you can ignore me at your own peril. If you can’t see that there is no difference, then you are blinded by hope and optimism.

Obama just signed a 700+ billion bailout package just at Bush did. Obama just sent 17,000 more troops into the Afghanistan to continue Bush’s wars around the world. While there is a pledge in 2010, there has not be one single platoon that has returned from Iraq.

This would be similar to the pledge that Obama made during his campaign to allow the Congress five days to read a bill before it was voted on. Unfortunately, this pledge was broken just weeks ago.

I understand if you are blinded by hope and optimism, but someday you will have to open your eyes to reality.

Go investigate the Federal Reserve System. That might help you on your path to understanding.

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By Tony Wicher, March 2, 2009 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

By BlueEagle, March 2 at 3:32 am #


Jaded Prole - You are a either a war mongering imperialist or just simply uneducated. The fact that you think there is a difference between R and D suggests you probably fit into the uneducated camp.

      x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

BlueEagle,

In my book, those who can’t tell the difference between an R and a D belong to the class of people that also don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. You can safely be ignored from now on.

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By BlueEagle, March 1, 2009 at 11:32 pm Link to this comment

Jaded Prole - You are a either a war mongering imperialist or just simply uneducated. The fact that you think there is a difference between R and D suggests you probably fit into the uneducated camp.

You probably have no idea why the US and most of the world is in a depression or you are cheering the transfer of power and creation of the NWO.

By calling Ron Paul a nut your are also attacking freedom and liberty. If you think that the strive for freedom is “sham populism”, you are in for a very big surprise one day.

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By cyrena, March 1, 2009 at 10:33 pm Link to this comment

By FiftyGigs, March 1 at 1:36 pm
“Forget mainstream media. Look at the Huffington Post, for example. Increasingly they seem to be devoting more space to junk about Delay, Coulter, O’Reilly, Limbaugh… people who are on the fringe of society. Is Limbaugh right or wrong to want Obama to fail? Holy moly! All the space and time wasted on the irrelevant itch of a fringe kook!
It’s one thing to hold those people up as the fringe for amusement and entertainment, but when the time comes for us (Americans) to put forward an actual idea, a solution to a problem, we wind up staring blankly at each other and shrugging because we spent so much time and effort on nonsense.”
*~*~
Well FiftyGigs, I sure couldn’t have said it better, and quite honestly I have come very close to ‘giving up the faith’ based on exactly what you’re talking about here with Tony Wicher. Quite frankly, Truthdig seems to have come under the same influence as Huffpo, at least in terms of some of the nonsense, which attracts the whackos who indulge in it.
These posters seem to fall into several categories, and they sort of cycle though this cite…few are actually interested in actually promoting any solutions to any problems, at least not from a collective mindset, which is why some of them hate Obama. (not to mention other obvious reasons).
So we can’t expect that from them. Some of them are new, and some just pop in from time to time – having been around for the same purpose (to prostelytize their self agenda, which frequently serves as a cover for their bigoted racism) for a long time. They aren’t seeking any solutions or resolutions to anything. So, they entertain themselves with the blame game, doing their best to avoid putting it where it actually belongs..specifically on the former thug regime of the last 8 years, which is exactly why we’re in the condition we’re in now.
Historians have a tendency to avoid the ‘what if’s’ of history, or to at least be careful in entertaining them. However, I’ll pose a ‘what if’ Al Gore, who won the election in 2000 had actually been able to serve to the elected position….

NO 9/11

NO War ON Afghanistan

NO War ON Iraq

NO cajillion dollar deficit and a totally melted down socio-economic structure.

I might add that we’d be a hell of a lot closer to cooperating with the efforts to deal with our rapidly decomposing enviornment as well.

Of course the Obama bashers and the pathetically ill and misinformed repugs don’t consider any of that. They just skip over these past 8 years and put it all on Barack Obama.

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By melpol, March 1, 2009 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment

The good times are now gone but we all enjoyed the greatest party on Earth. Everybody was welcome to join the festivities and nobody was turned away.  Even the poorest were able to buy homes, cars, and electronic goodies with no money down. But unfortunately the party is now over. The bills have to be paid by somebody. Uncle Sam is coming to the rescue and wealthy Americans are in a panic. They know that they will soon be asked to pick up the tab. Those making over 250 thousand annually will have to take the fall. Sober years will follow and memories of those fun times will be spoken about for ages.

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By FiftyGigs, March 1, 2009 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

Keep the faith, Tony… lol… I’d really prefer it if they got less air time.

Forget mainstream media. Look at the Huffington Post, for example. Increasingly they seem to be devoting more space to junk about Delay, Coulter, O’Reilly, Limbaugh… people who are on the fringe of society. Is Limbaugh right or wrong to want Obama to fail? Holy moly! All the space and time wasted on the irrelevant itch of a fringe kook!

It’s one thing to hold those people up as the fringe for amusement and entertainment, but when the time comes for us (Americans) to put forward an actual idea, a solution to a problem, we wind up staring blankly at each other and shrugging because we spent so much time and effort on nonsense.

Ironically, I think one of the most radical things about Obama is his call to get involved and contribute specific ideas. Look at this board, and the number of so-called “progressives” who can’t seem yet to get beyond the confines of “discourse as simply put-down”.

Which you’ve been wading through yourself, Tony… lol

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By Tony Wicher, February 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

Republicans are getting too much air time, but it’s OK, because every time they open their mouths they make bigger fools of themselves.

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By Grousefeather, February 28, 2009 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We’ll know if Obama is doing a good job according to how loud and how hard the republicans complain. The more they complain the better the job he’s doing.

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By wildflower, February 28, 2009 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

You’re right, David. The insurance industry’s mercenary old Newt Gingrich is out there once again trying to move his rank and file into working against his or her own best interest. This time around old Newt is playing host and inviting everyone to his rowdy tea party:

“Several thousand neopatriots – some shouting “Give me liberty or give me death!” – took to the streets in over 30 US cities Friday, representing what some of them call the beginning of a new conservative counterculture in America.

“The spark has been lit,” says Ben Mihalski, a “house husband” from Cobb County, Ga., one of at least 300 protesters who gathered in a hefty downpour outside the Georgia Capitol on Friday to protest what they see as profligate spending by Washington. . . .

The Tea Party USA movement also added some symbolic flourish, vowing to gather tens of thousands of tea bags to be dumped on the floor of the US Congress. In Atlanta, the brand was Luzianne.

Critics call the protests a predictably partisan, ill-informed and unhelpful development in the midst of a deep-sink US recession.

But the largely grassroots show of force hints at a sharpening thorn for Democrats and a potential powder keg that could threaten to blow ahead of the 2010 congressional elections.”

http://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2009/02/27/budget-debate-launches-new-tea-party/

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By FiftyGigs, February 28, 2009 at 9:41 am Link to this comment

I think there’s a tendency to give the Republican conservatives way too much credit. For achievements as well as for strategic thinking.

Huckabee, and to a much lesser extent Ron Paul, managed only slivers of the conservative base, Huckabee mainly the right-wing evangelicals of the deep south. In other words, a small part of a small region.

The self-resurrected Gingrich speaks volumes about Republican’s real intent. It’s the same as always. They’re trying to find a populist message that resonates. It has nothing to do with finding an actual populist POSITION on issues.

Republicans have no intention of balancing any budget, of doing anything to any CEO, or applying any corporate America fix. They just want people to believe they do, and that’s all Gingrich is fishing around for.

The fundamental principle of conservatism is unchanged: the subordination of the individual to the elitist authority of the state, the church, and the aristocracy.

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By Tony Wicher, February 27, 2009 at 9:05 pm Link to this comment

By Alan MacDonald, February 27 at 11:16 pm #


Obama is starting to look like the ruling-elite’s worst nightmare since Napoleon or Marx!

In a global world, where are the Ponzi schemers and looting financial elite to hide?

Even the pirates in Somali waters are getting nabbed today.

Our more sophisticated financial pirates may find that their only chance may be the mountainous Afghan northeastern territories with Osama—- but when he touches them with a sword; it won’t be to knight them, like that phony, Sir Allen Stamford.  Nor would such escaping crooks be unlikely to be staying in multi-million dollar penthouses, like Bernie Madoff.

Republicans, champions of the working class?  This film is a dud.

  x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Nice post, Alan! You’re a breath of fresh air around here. I agree, Obama is these crook’s worst nightmare come true. In the process of seriously restoring the Constitution and the rule of law on both the national and international levels, these pirates of finance will have nowhere to hide. The Empire is falling, not because Obama is making it fall but by it’s own internal contradictions and the march of history. It falls to Obama to manage the transition from empire back to democracy and international law. He understands that and so far he is doing great.

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By Alan MacDonald, February 27, 2009 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment

David’s points are only plausible with many caveats, all of which would have to come true, and very few of which are realistic.

Certainly both ‘Vichy’ parties are already auditioning for the part of majority party shills for the ruling-elite Empire in 2012, if hell doesn’t break out in the meantime—- which is the first of David’s unmentioned caveats.

Secondly, rather than the laughably improbable role-reversal of anti-corporate-financial-Empire ‘Robin Hoods’, the Repugs would be much more likely to cast themselves (and avoid the fast costume changes from Nazi goons to Men in Tights) as simply the party of blaming and attacking “those damn foreign countries” (fill-in the country name at your option, ______).

Thirdly, most of the rest of the developed social democracies in the world are going to justifiably hold US based financial firms (crooks) with dumping toxic assets that they created (CDOs, CDSs, derivatives) on the world and beggaring their economies.

But what’s really strange is that there has been no talk in the US media about the rest of the world talking and starting to grumble about this entire global financial mess being proximately caused by the US banksters and financial con-artists selling those CDOs and other toxic ‘un’securitized instruments.

I would guess that well before people are starving in Europe, Japan, China, and the Middle East that many foreign governments will be telling their distraught citizens ‘where the bear shits’——and that the guilty bear is the US.

Get ready for world condemnation of the US, and ‘blow-back’, even from our friends—- and deservedly so!

All of which predictably will give the Repuglicans more indignation (that they will not be able to control), and thus increasing the likelihood of lashing out at foreign countries and pompously taking the position of defending US corporatist interests.

Fourthly, Obama is already taking away any Repuglican maneuvering room to be the champions of anti-corporatist/financial crooks, by being the only ones actually attacking the populist hated CEOs, bankers and financial Ponzi artists through the ‘claw-back’ mechanisms—- sure to be the most emotionally satisfying to the American public.

Obama is already ‘clawing back’ the loot from the financial elite looters.

Just look at the Executive Branch actions to get back the looted cash from UBS secret (tax dodging) accounts of thousands of these crooks—- who have looted billions and are now trying to expropriate it, to sneak it off shore, and out of Uncle Sam’s reach to ‘claw back’.

I strongly believe that this is just the first, quiet, but very serious effort by Obama to ‘claw back’ our stolen ‘commonwealth’, and that Executive Branch efforts (which can be done without bipartisan support, for obvious reasons) will increase to the point of real PAIN (bordering on torture) for the ruling-elite ‘corporate financial Empire’ looters.

In fact, I strongly believe that the shoes (or rather the leg-irons) are precisely on the other foot—- the foot of the formerly ruling-elite imperialist looters—- and that they already sense, from the UBS situation,  the cell doors slamming shut on them.

Obama is starting to look like the ruling-elite’s worst nightmare since Napoleon or Marx!

In a global world, where are the Ponzi schemers and looting financial elite to hide?

Even the pirates in Somali waters are getting nabbed today.

Our more sophisticated financial pirates may find that their only chance may be the mountainous Afghan northeastern territories with Osama—- but when he touches them with a sword; it won’t be to knight them, like that phony, Sir Allen Stamford.  Nor would such escaping crooks be unlikely to be staying in multi-million dollar penthouses, like Bernie Madoff.

Republicans, champions of the working class?  This film is a dud.

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By Tony Wicher, February 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm Link to this comment

RE Purple Girl, February 27 at 2:18 pm

Really, PG! Robin Hood was a hero of the people. Reagan was criticized by liberals as a “reverse Robin Hood” who stole from the poor and gave to the rich. If Republicans think they are putting Obama down by comparing him Robin Hood, it just shows how politically out of it they are. They are only talking to themselves, not the American people. They are living in their own ideological world.

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By Big B, February 27, 2009 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment

Jim Yell,

I tend to think you are right. We americans will not accept or demand an alternative energy infrastructure until the last goddamn drop of oil is pumped out of the cold dry ground.

Bertil

Just think, in the next five years huge amounts of baby boomers will try to cash in their 401K’s that are now worth half what they were two years ago. Imagine what dumping all that stock at once on this already fragile market is going to do to the economy.

The shit storm is just begining.

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By Purple Girl, February 27, 2009 at 10:18 am Link to this comment

Oh you underestimate our ability to memorize slogans and Who used them and how.
“Redistribution of Wealth” apparently sounded like a great idea to US and one of the main reasons the Repugs Lost!
Now every Right wing Meiida outlet is parroting the ‘Robin Hood’ analogy? Are they that stupid/suicidal or do they think we are too drugged up on Pharm’s to remember the childhood story? Robin was a Good Hood! He stole from the Greedy Rich Heartless Hoarders and gave back the wealth they had stolen from the labors of the Poor.
Even though US liberals love to bitch, we really don’t need to exert so much energy.the Repugs and their mouthpieces do a great job of proving our points even when we are nowhere around to mentally joust them into the corners of Logic and Truth.
Boehner has to ask how a light rail system could be stimulative. Ah Mr. Minority Leader of the House From the Rust belt Sate of OH,THINK!...Steel, iron, plastics, fabrics, along with engineering, tool & die, casting, and oh yeah ASSEMBLY!!! yep I’m sure none of your unemployeed constituents and their surrounding Rust Belt neighbors couldn’t think of a thing either!!
Jindal can’t come up with any reason why volcano Research may be benefical? Would he have said the same about oceanic research. Would he Like to repeat that claim to those in AK living under Redoubt? Or the people of WA who lived through Mount St. Helens. How about the scientist who not only gave warnings about Redoubt’s activity, but who are probably studying the Peruvian Eruption from just last week?
These politicans are not stupid, they have proven they have no regard for our economy nor our safety.
They are nothing more than modern day Red Coats. When they decry the ‘redistribution of wealth’ and call Obama ‘Robin Hood’, they Prove they are nothing more than modern day Red Coats. They don’t give a damn about ‘We the People’ they are for more concerned about ‘We the Profiteers’

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By Jim Yell, February 27, 2009 at 10:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Far from being a bind on profit a well fed National Treasury has fueled much of the over priveleged wealth in this country. The military industrial complex repeatedly get huge amounts of money for R&D of unneeded weapons and unworkable hardware. Missles systems that won’t work even when they know where the missle is going to be at, planes that are better at crashing than flying.

If all that money was spent for light rail and for encouraging heavy shipment to be done by rail instead of huge trucks tearing up roadways that should last for decades, we would all be a lot better off. If all that money was spent on wind, solar and water energy, instead of dangerous things like nuclear power and oil based energy we would all be better off.

The biggest problem with electric cars is they need the infa-structure in order to be practical. That is they need a way of refueling during a trip or you can hardly get across town in most of them.

We have waited for the private sector to be creative and proactive and all they have done is get us involved in foriegn countries in effort to assure energy. With a Natl mandate from the government we can have positive change, with corporate goons we just get death.

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By AmiBlue, February 27, 2009 at 10:03 am Link to this comment

Speaking of bombast, Mr. Sirota…you’re pretty good at it yourself.

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By Bertil, February 27, 2009 at 9:07 am Link to this comment

I heard a description of the present day Republican and Democratic parties that was very illuminating.  It helps to understand the problem that the American people face in getting the government to act like a legitimate goverment.  The description simply says that the Republicans and Democrats are like mafia families.  They might knock each other off in squabbles, but when the people begin to attack “their thing,”  their cash cow, they unite and then the bullshit is stepped up. everyone puts on a mask and starts ranting and raving saying things they wouldn’t ordinarily say just to get face time on the propaganda media.
The only thing, the only thing they are interested in is getting elected.  That’s it. 
The old line about going to Washington to do good and wind up doing well is no joke. 
What’s going now behind the scene is the set up for the next stock bubble, namely, the carbon cap and trade.  These deals will take the next generation’s 401ks and retirement accounts along with middle and lower income taxes.  Wall St and lobbyists are swooping down to Washington now. 
I hope David Sirota continues with these types of articles

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By KISS, February 27, 2009 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

As a Free-Thinker, I seldom take anything biblical as serious, however I think that the description of anti-christ might be applied to the new found repug party,especially Newt Gingrich. In true Machiavellian terms the face you see is not indicative of the true face that will prevail.In the book ” The Prince” the blue print is there for all politicians to use..dimmos are not above the deception of lying and taking from K street, but with repugs it is a fine-tuned art.
Another good piece of writing, David.

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By Jaded Prole, February 27, 2009 at 7:52 am Link to this comment

Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are nut cases. Their sham populism is nothing to wish for. Pat Buchanan is a “populist” too. Repugs are reverse Robin Hoods giving to the wealthy. They uses populism in the same way Hitler did—to undercut progress and fool the masses into supporting a program contrary to our interests.

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By Ivan Hentschel, February 27, 2009 at 7:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Evil lurks in the hearts of men and in all of the nooks and crannies of the GOP, the right and the wing-nut bins of the local hardware stores.The CPAC meeting yesterday was an obscenity.

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By melpol, February 27, 2009 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

More than 100 million people in the U.S. are dependent on government assistance. That number will be increasing as the recession deepens. There are radicals that want the government to stop supporting our most needy. If that ever happened we would see millions of walking skeletons begging for a buck and stinking corpses littering the streets. It would no longer look like America but an image of purgatory. Budget trimming is necessary but lets us not hurt the blind, lame, and feeble.

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By Terradea, February 27, 2009 at 6:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Look, I’m a die-hard, pro-choice liberal and always have been. But if the Republicans run Ron Paul for president, I would vote for him.  Even if the current crop of Republicans had good ideas (which they do not), I couldn’t consider them since they’re in bed with the crazy religious lunatics and the box-of-rocks dumb nationalists.  Ron Paul is different.

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