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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on Obama’s Call for Less Regulation

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Posted on Jan 21, 2011

(Page 4)

Anderson: Well, here’s someone who wants to challenge you a bit on your column, asking from the Web: “If Obama is ‘pulling a Clinton,’ I look forward to the record-breaking number of jobs that will undoubtedly be created, seeing how Bill had the absolute best job growth in U.S. history—and it’s not even close. (The jobs under Clinton are more than double those of Carter, who is our No. 2 best job-creating president).”

Scheer: Wow, you have very low expectations if you recall the Carter administration fondly, and Clinton…Carter I won’t even visit; that was a disaster in terms of our economy. I mean, the incredible inflation, the…don’t get me started on Carter. Again, a person I like personally, and I interviewed, and so forth. But on Clinton, what we had was what I call the Clinton bubble. He made a deal with the Devil, which I think was Alan Greenspan and the Fed, for cheap money. And it’s well documented. My book, “The Great American Stickup,” goes into it in considerable detail. Robert Reich, who was in that Cabinet, has written about it. He was secretary of labor. And basically, Clinton turned to Greenspan, and he turned to Robert Rubin, who had been the top guy at Goldman Sachs, and brought him in as Treasury secretary, and said, “What do I need to get Wall Street to be happy with us and to have a boom in the economy, and give us a bubble, and give us cheap money?” And they said, “We’ll give you cheap money if you will give us this radical deregulation.” And the [end of] New Deal restrictions, and so forth. And I’ll give you some figures here. For instance, when Clinton…we now have a higher—well, we have the largest number of people in poverty than we’ve ever had in our history. Of course, we have a larger population. But we have 44 million people, officially, living under the official poverty line. That means $20,400 for a family of four. As a percentage of the population, we’re right back where we were when Clinton came into office. So in terms of job creation, and dealing with poverty—no. It’s a bust. Because his radical deregulation—which should have been forewarned by the collapse of long-term capital management, and then we saw the Enron collapse, which had to do with the Enron loophole allowing Enron’s machinations, which was in the Commodity Futures Modernization Act that Clinton signed off on. I wish that the reader would just go Google the Commodity Futures…you don’t even have to read my book, although it’s all in there,  OK? But if you don’t want to read my book, read the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. You can Google it. Titles 3 and 4 very specifically say that none of these financial derivatives—the things that have caused this incredible loss of jobs, incredible loss of value for American people, signed by Bill Clinton—Titles 3 and 4 say specifically: None of these financial derivatives, none of these new financial devices, the Devil that caused this, none of this will be subject to any existing regulation or any existing regulatory agency! In other words: a blank check for the derivatives that everyone now concedes are the root of all of this job loss, this incredible indebtedness which we have had to run up to bail out everybody, to have the stimulus and everything; the loss of tax dollars that’s driving all of these state governments crazy, whether they’re run by Republicans or Democrats, having to lay off firemen and teachers and everybody. And all of that came from this bubble that Clinton authorized, and empowered, with those specific pieces of legislation that he signed.

And so if you look back at the Clinton years as good years, then you’re not looking at the consequence of action. Bubbles always feel good when they’re blooming; it’s the downturn, and that’s what we’ve been experiencing. So, yes, Clinton was able to pump up the economy with cheap money, thanks to Alan Greenspan, which is the opposite of what happened to Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter had a terrible money situation, superinflation, the Fed was not cooperative. But Greenspan cooperated with Clinton, gave him his free ride, and as a result we have this enormous burden that will be a burden for decades to come, having to pay off these debts.

Anderson: OK. Well, believe it or not, we just have time for one more question. And it’s a future-forward question for you, Bob. Can you handle it?

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Scheer: I can handle the question.

Anderson: OK. From Anne Garrison. She asks, “Why did you get so behind Obama in ’08, even as the investment banking industry bankrolled his campaign and it was so easy to see this coming? And what will you do in 2012?”

Scheer: Well, you know, the honest answer is I was a sucker. I wasn’t alone. First of all, I will say I happen to think it’s very important to have a non-white-male president, OK? I think this is a great achievement for American society. It broke an incredibly important barrier that needed to be broken. And I will say Obama is certainly not worse than his predecessors. I mean, in some ways he’s better. So, you know, I didn’t vote for Nixon and I didn’t vote for George W. Bush. I did vote for Clinton. But my vote for Obama is not the worst vote I have cast. Let me put that right out there. And there are positive things about this administration aside from the fact that we have broken this barrier, this racist barrier that dominated. So I think Obama, a lot of things he’s done in foreign policy…not all of them, obviously. He’s been a war president; he’s accelerated the war in Afghanistan. I thought, if you want to have a positive note, I thought his reception of the Chinese leader this week, [who] George W. Bush snubbed—they didn’t have a formal dinner—I think is opening to China, which was reciprocated by the Chinese conceding they have human rights problems. This was really quite an achievement in foreign policy for Obama this week. I think he’s restored America’s reputation in many ways around the world because he’s soft-spoken, he’s smart, he’s diplomatic. I think he has—you know, one of the reasons I get so upset with Obama is I think he obviously has great potential. If I thought this guy was some kind of dyed-in-the-wool reactionary, I wouldn’t be writing in this tone. My tone is one of disappointment. And when I say I was suckered, you know, I fell for too bright a view. And specifically, I ignored the fact that Obama turned his back on public financing. That was the big mistake for people like myself. I should have seen the danger right there. And when he announced that he was going to break with what was the most important, really, campaign finance reform that we’ve instituted—presidential candidates were accepting public financing, and he said no, and it turned out Wall Street was the major contributor to his campaign, not all of us folks hitting those buttons and sending our contribution on the computer. The handwriting was on the wall. And when he came in, he really put the smiling face on George W. Bush’s coddling of Wall Street, throwing money at Wall Street. And it’s been an enormous disappointment.

Now, you know, I never tell people that they should vote the way I tell them to vote. This is not my expertise. I try to concentrate on the issues; I try to concentrate on what I see developing. We have other people who write on Truthdig—Bill Boyarsky, who was the political editor for the Los Angeles Times, and a political reporter, I consider the best political reporter in the United States. And you know, I’d probably suggest, read Bill’s columns when you want to figure out who to vote for, rather than my own. We have other good writers on Truthdig. So I don’t feel, “At election time, vote the way I do.” That’s not my job as a columnist or as a thinker. I’ve been deceived plenty in life, and I’ll probably be deceived again, by candidates. And you do fall for the lesser evil. And if the Republicans put up some horrendous candidate in the next election, I’ll probably have to support Obama. If they put up somebody reasonable, that’s a different story. But, again, this is not my strength, telling people who to vote for. I think my strength is trying to be honest in my analysis, informed, follow the facts, follow the logic. And sadly enough—sadly enough, I say—my work has held up. Sadly enough, I turned out to have been right about my criticisms of presidents in the past, and they didn’t follow my advice, and a lot of damage occurred.

Anderson: Well, Obama has two more years to listen to you, so let’s hope he tunes in soon.

Scheer: Well, let’s hope he listens to our readers, and others, you know? Let’s help people get aroused. I mean, criticism is not intended to make people weaker; it’s to make them stronger. Obama needs to hear from people who are disappointed with his performance on the progressive side. He needs to hear from people who are losing their houses and haven’t gotten their jobs back, or are working for much lower wages. He needs to hear not just angry noises out there, but he needs informed criticism. You know, it’s interesting. Let me end on this: The Republican right really came out of Barry Goldwater’s campaign. And Barry Goldwater suffered an ignominious defeat by Lyndon Johnson—you know, what, two to one? And yet true conservatives…and Barry Goldwater was a principled, decent conservative; I didn’t agree with a lot of his stuff, but he was an honest man and a principled person. And the people who rallied around his message stuck to it. They didn’t sell out, and they demanded that subsequent candidates adhere to Barry Goldwater’s philosophy, to a considerable degree: smaller government, lower taxes, and so forth.

On the progressive side, we don’t do that. We didn’t follow that example. We sell out so easily, you know. We cared about stopping these needless wars that are getting lots of people killed and angering the world and wasting resources—the guy says “OK, I’ll escalate Afghanistan.” “OK, go ahead and escalate Afghanistan.” … And we accept it. We elect this guy because we think, you know, he gave a great speech saying he’s going to hold the bankers accountable. When he was running, he challenged the things that I said today about Clinton. He said in his Cooper Union speech—it’s in my book—when he was a candidate, about the need for regulation, about the mindless deregulation of the Clinton administration, you know, and then he betrays that. Well, why don’t progressives do what the conservatives do and say, “No! This is critical to what we’re all about.” Same thing happened on health care. Why did we accept that there would be no cost control, there would be no public option, no extension of Medicare? I mean, God, if he just had lowered the Medicare age down to 55, that would have been better health reform than what we’ve got now. But the progressive side collapses. And so I don’t think we’re doing him any favor; I certainly know we’re not doing the country a favor by betraying our principles. I happen to think they’re sound; I happen to think it’s the direction of progress. And so I don’t think abandoning logic and fact is good for the country or it’s good for Obama or anybody else.

Anderson: All right. Well, thanks so much for your time and your learned words, and we’ll look forward to more in the future, hopefully next week.

Scheer: And I’m glad you cheered up. [Laughter]

Anderson: All right. ’Bye, everyone.

1   2   3   4

Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”


Keep up with Robert Scheer’s latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/robert_scheer.



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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, January 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment

skimohawk,

Wasn’t Milton Friedman the guy who gave us “trickle-down economics”?

No. Friedman was a monetarist, not a Supply-Sider”. Perhaps you should try reading Wikipedia to get a basic understanding of the difference. Art Laffer, inverter of the “Laffer Curve” gave us Supply-Side economics.

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, January 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment

felicity

First of all, we need to distinguish between banks and other businesses. IMHO, what we need to do, is deregulate private enterprise, and “set banks free”. Banks only operate with special permission and favoritism of the government. The government granted the permission to “create” money through fractional reserve lending, and the Federal Reserve. There was a time when all corporations were special privileges from the government, like banks today. That was known as a part of Mercantilism. Today, anybody can incorporate a business, or form a corporation. However, there are still special favors granted to a select few corporations, such as tax subsidies, grants and patents.

Banks are not sitting on hoards of cash. They are engaging in faulty bookkeeping. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)has altered its rule on capital reporting requirements (Ruke 157, 166 and 167). The banks are still under-capitalized, they just “look good” on paper.

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, January 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment

Who or what is OJama? Is he a virus, in our political system? Or is he aTrojan horse?

Is he invading the body politic, to reproduce his ilk, and generate more like himself?

Was he designed from the start to sell hope, but deliver hopelessness? We need an
antidote to his politics of despair, in the form of primary challenges in all the states,
every single one of them.

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By ardee, January 22, 2011 at 8:13 am Link to this comment

Ahh yes, deregulation, because after all haven’t our corporations proven themselves capable of self policing and acting responsibly? BP, Goldman Sachs, Halliburton, Massey Energy all bastions of the public interest.

How many more examples do we need to fully comprehend that neither major party works for us?

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By DofG, January 22, 2011 at 1:39 am Link to this comment

If we can, for a moment, come out of the weeds of infinite particulars, we must step back and recognize that what we are really dealing with technology adavancing ahead of our ontology. And the reason why this is increasingly dangerous, and difficult to change is that culturally we’ve become so overly egocentric in our view of ourselves and everything we’ve created. We just won’t accept the fact that this thing called “existence” is not about us-the ego in Man. Even the science of quantum physics acknowledges that we are not even the “ultimate observer” of our own reality. And yet, rather than seeking the key that would transcend us from the slavery of the ego, we delude ourselves in pretending that our conventions can successfully operate without the benefit of any practical understanding of our immutable cosmological paradigm.

If one starts with the driver of capitalism, which is competition, one would think of it as some sort of construct of the human intellect, when it’s just our collective impulse towards selfish ends. And one could loosely argue that was fine up to a certain point. However, we also have to contend with the “law of change” in the sense that as the world has become smaller and more complicated, the “immaterial” part of the equation that expresses our collective continuity, has exposed a grave paradox from the absence of its utility. In other words, capitalism having become increasingly untempered, is now speeding toward becoming a full blown pathology, under the pretension of intellect! Its the unfortunate scenerio of “living to eat”, where large corporate entities are suffering from the weight of their own success, and like cancer, needing to forever feed (in competition)to survive.

In short, our democracy was structurally predicated on the “sphere”-a equilaterally inclusive self government. However, our economic system is inherently pyramidal, where wealth, via ill advised government policies, naturally gravitates towards the apex. This is the paradox. And this paradox expresses itself especially during an economic infarction that relies on taxpayers for its resuscitation. (Notice also, that when the private sector disposes labor during a recesssion, people just naturally expect government to put them back to work, when the government didn’t hire, nor fire them!) Again, this is the political paradox in the hierarchial structure of “capital”!

The solution is conceptually easy. However, only the evolution of our consciousness can make harmonious change a reality, especially when many in our body politic is still lacking even in their understanding of the basics of government.

But to go back into the weeds, Obama stated some time ago that he would examine any regulations that would hamper “competition and growth”, but maintain that he would regulate that which would need regulation.

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By Wikileaks for Nobel, January 22, 2011 at 12:24 am Link to this comment

The human capacity for self-deception proves almost infinitely plastic, at least in the political realm.  Bob Scheer is no fool—he’s been around, beginning with the entire Vietnam atrocity—so he has every reason to see things as they are and correspondingly speak the truth.  That’s why it is puzzling to see him immediately drop his sometimes-epiphany about the current Democratic phony in the White House, as soon as there appears any shred to latch onto.  This time, it’s the consumer-protection angle, and this in a conversation based on Obama’s acknowledged fealty to Wall Street. 

Please, Mr. Scheer, stop drinking the kool-aid.  Talk to Chris Hitchens, if you need someone to help you shake your DT’s for the photogenic phoney, Obomber.

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By donald m, January 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A question for Mr. Scheer:  At what point, or what will have to happen for the big bankers and other corporate leaders to catch on that, in their heedless profiteering that is wrecking the broader economy and visiting ruin on so many, they are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs that has been making them rich—or perhaps, have already killed it.

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By Chelsea, January 21, 2011 at 8:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

George Bush #3

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By Michael Aubry, January 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sheer is a breath of fresh air.  Too many economic discussions (including academic)concern mathematical models, theory, and political considerations. What is glaringly missing is any mention of ETHICS.  Economic activity does not occur in a theoretical vacuum, but instead is a real social force with social consequences. Consequently, there needs to be more conversation about the inevitable ethical considerations involved in economic dynamics.  The capitalist’s “labor saving device” is likely to be a labor destroying device to labor itself.  Wall Street’s opacity, its easily exploited cryptic mechanisms, all need to be opened - in the mainstream arena - to ethical examination.

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skimohawk's avatar

By skimohawk, January 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment

Wasn’t Milton Friedman the guy who gave us “trickle-down economics”?

May as well have quoted something from Wikipedia…. would have made as much sense.

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, January 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment

Correction: my post to PRGP should have been addressed to ‘surfnow’

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By felicity, January 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment

Fat Freddy - Friedman aside (which is where I wish he
had been for his entire career) does this make sense. 
The financial services industry has been sitting on
mountains of cash waiting for complete de-regulation
of its industry before putting it to work in the
economy.

What else would explain Obama’s call for less
regulation.  The economy is going to go nowhere when
cash sits stagnating in bank vaults. By sitting on
the money, the Street had us by ‘the short ones.’ 
Obama, like Clinton before him (and the public) had
no defense when the Street delivered its final coup
de grace - de-regulate or ‘die.’

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By ~gonzodave, January 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

CORPORATE CITIZEN’S RIGHTS

The financial upheaval in the US—that has essentially franchised the flesh-and-blood citizen taxpayer and our constitutional system to corporate interests—can be easily understood as an extension of Politically Correct, Identity Politics. From this historical perspective, it can be seen that the open protests behind civil rights, women’s rights, Native American rights, and gay rights were needed in order to establish validity, recognition, and constitutional advances.

The now successful, ongoing, Corporate Citizen’s Rights movement, by contrast, was carried out covertly and with rare exceptions, away from the public eye. Investigative media coverage, on a national level, has been censored due to corporate and congressional affiliations. Beginning with the President, who has surrounded himself with Wall Street and GE money men, no one in Washington is pursuing criminal charges against this international, financial terrorism.

One last bit of comment - socialism is not a dirty word. All branches of government, police, fire, sewage, emergency services, roads, and the military are socialized, taxpayer funded public services. The result of Corporate Citizen’s Rights has turned out to be, and will continue to be from now forward, socialized corporate losses.

Get a grip and get used to it. Or inform yourself so you are a not a part of the ignorance that is falling under the voodoo spell of Corporate Citizen’s Rights. “The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street” by Robert Sheer, is a great place to start.

~gonzodave

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, January 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment

PRGP:
“The only faction that uses violence in Amerika is the Right”
That’s not entirely true since at the beginning, Union organizations promoted violence against the ‘scabs’.

But generally I agree, this side of the pond, the Left is committed to non-violence.

But in Europe and Britain, the Left is typically the faction that goes violent. That’s not surprising since the French Revolution was a peasant revolt.

It’s not so much the violence, but the legitimacy of the circumstances that incite it- one being the serious exploitation of the poor and working class.

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By surfnow, January 21, 2011 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

PRGP:
The only faction that uses violence in Amerika is the Right. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why Obama has been such a good little President lackey and won’t rock the boat. I’m sure he doesn’t believe the Warren Commission whitewash anymore than anyone with half a brain.

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By PRGP, January 21, 2011 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

I’m already a frustrated independent who cringes at the choices offered the electorate every two years.  Following the money leads us to the plutocrats.  The French had the right idea in the late 1700s.  Perhaps that’s the only way the “powerless” can affect change - revolution.

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By surfnow, January 21, 2011 at 10:48 am Link to this comment

Which is why I can’t believe any true progressive would still be supporting Obama. He escalated an illegal war, supports privatization of the school system and deregulation of not only the financial industry but big oil and pharamacy. How is he any different from Clinton, Bush or Reagan? 
And please don’t answer with that absurd list of accomplishments, like
Obamacare and
The Repeal of DADT

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, January 21, 2011 at 8:55 am Link to this comment

Something to ponder:

The ICC [Interstate Commerce Commission] illustrates what might be called the natural history of government intervention. A real or fancied evil leads to demands to do something about it. A political coalition forms consisting of sincere, high-minded reformers and equally sincere interested parties. The incompatible objectives of the members of the coalition (e.g., low prices to consumers and high prices to producers) are glossed over by fine rhetoric about “the public interest,” “fair competition,” and the like. The coalition succeeds in getting Congress (or a state legislature) to pass a law. The preamble to the law pays lip service to the rhetoric and the body of the law grants power to government officials to “do something.” The high-minded reformers experience a glow of triumph and turn their attention to new causes. The interested parties go to work to make sure that the power is used for their benefit. They generally succeed. Success breeds its problems, which are met by broadening the scope of intervention. Bureaucracy takes its toll so that even the initial special interests no longer benefit. In the end the effects are precisely the opposite of the objectives of the reformers and generally do not even achieve the objectives of the special interests. Yet the activity is so firmly established and so many vested interests are connected with it that repeal of the initial legislation is nearly inconceivable. Instead, new government legislation is called for to cope with the problems produced by the earlier legislation and a new cycle begins.”

- Milton Fiedman

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, January 21, 2011 at 8:28 am Link to this comment

‘The lesser of two evils’ rationale keeps this incompetent two party system going. This is how they play off one another to capture the American public.
What they have in common is more disturbing than what seems to divide them- namely the big corporate liplock under the fake rubric of creating jobs.
Corporations have been serviced by the ruling administration on all fours for decades and there is no evidence that doing so creates jobs. The stimulus was one such felatio - but jobs were not forthcoming. De-regulation is more of the same that got us into the mess. Obama is on record having said so several times. He is a shameless dishonest manipulator.

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skimohawk's avatar

By skimohawk, January 21, 2011 at 4:02 am Link to this comment

another member mentioned something in another thread which merits repeating:

WHAT IF all those in states where one registers to vote and signs on to a “party affiliation” were all to revise their voter registrations and say they were “independent”?

Would THAT get their attention?

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skimohawk's avatar

By skimohawk, January 21, 2011 at 3:31 am Link to this comment

Mr. Scheer said:
“And you do fall for the lesser evil. And if the Republicans put up some horrendous candidate in the next election, I’ll probably have to support Obama.”

And therein lies the crux of the problem at hand: the resignation and acquiescene of the electorate, voting for the lesser of two evils, and against their own best interests.

For all the reasons you mention in the interview, Obama isn’t much different than Bill Clinton. It seems to me obvious that he’s owned by Goldman-Sachs.
The only “change” we’ve seen has been for the worse, unless you’re a Big Bank, Wall Street, or Big Oil.
A horse of a different color, but it’s the same jockey, the same track, and will end up at the same finish line: more of the same.

The stranglehold of the Democrat/Republican machine ( I see little difference between the two, other than their rhetoric and demagoguery ) must be broken.

Abandon Obama.
Abandon Democrats.
Abandon Republicans.
Vote for Something Else.

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