Something in common with the tea protestors

By Jeff Golden of Ashland, Oregon. Jeff is a former talk show host on Jefferson Public Radio, former Jackson County Commissioner, and the author of several books, including Unafraid, a novel about John F. Kennedy.

"Thousands of anti-tax "tea party" protesters took to the streets Wednesday in some of the nation's biggest cities voicing their opposition to high taxes and big government spending." —Fox News

"These poor suckers are being played like puppets on a string by people like Richard Armey and others who are using them to push forward the interests of the super-rich." —Thom Hartmann

I have an eye on Fox’s website and an ear on Thom’s talk show as I write these words on Tax Day, April 15. And I’m remembering columns I wrote after Obama’s election, open letters to Joe the Plumber and other conservatives (pretending momentarily that the label has clear meaning anymore), urging them to think independently about the state of the world and what matters to them before joining crusades to bring down a President who hasn’t even taken office. Take a deep breath, I said. Listen carefully. Don’t reflexively oppose everything the guy proposes just because you don’t like him. You can think better than that.

Today reminds me that knee-jerk “thinking” shows up across the political spectrum. MEMO TO OBAMA SUPPORTERS who are reflexively snickering at folks waving teabags today: you can think better than this.

I hear two main themes in the snickers. Thom Hartmann’s comment above captures one. There’s no question that agents of wealth from Dick Armey to shouters from Rupert Murdoch’s empire have been pumping up Tea Party energy, and their media power probably multiplies the number of people in the streets today. And to the extent that tea partiers are protesting Obama proposals to reverse Bush’s staggering tax-code generosity to the wealthy, Thom and others are right. But that doesn’t explain those in the streets because they can’t imagine what their grandkids are supposed to do with a national debt that seems to grow by a trillion dollars with the unveiling of every new “recovery” plan.

The second theme goes something like this: where the hell were you guys when Bush/Cheney and a Republican Congress (for most of those eight years) were spending us into oblivion? Where were your teabags when they spooned up multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts to Halliburton and friends, slipped huge subsidies to oil companies already rolling in record profits, fought measures to close Cayman Island-style tax loopholes or allow federal agencies to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices? Well, some were probably throwing things at their TVs, with no public event like a Tea Party to collect their anger. Some were still suffering 9-11 PTSD, something like as long as he keeps us strong and protects us against the terrorists, don’t bother me with the details. Some were hunkering down reactively to our steady criticism of Bush policies, unwilling in the midst of political battle to listen to what we were saying any better than we’re listening to them now. In the end, it doesn’t matter; what they did or didn’t do a year ago is a feeble reason for ignoring them today.

If you clear those two hurdles, tax protestors become more than just stooges duped into attacking their own interests. What I want to say to them is “Look, you and I have different takes on Obama’s intentions and the proper role of government. Fine. But both of us are furious at some of the places our tax dollars are going. I want to find out if there’s anywhere we can team up. What’s on your list?” Then I’d listen for where it intersects with mine. What’s mine?

Can anyone who genuinely cares for our kids and grandkids, whether a Fox News or progressive radio fan, blow all this off?

Someone hand me a teabag.

Comments

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)
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    $100 billion or more to station troops overseas. Unconstitutional wars from Korea to Iraq. $100 billion annually in corporate welfare. $50 billion to look up people for their personal habits. $50 billion in Ag subsidies annually. I could go on.

  • Assegai Up Jacksey (unverified)
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    I have an eye on Fox’s website and an ear on Thom’s talk show as I write these words on Tax Day, April 15.

    Are you a soothsayer, or do you like trying to divine the situation by poking around in the shitty bowels of animals?

    Those that do their own programming, or never turn on that horrid little box, are virtually unaware of the teabag machinations.

    You're right though. Doesn't it gall the shit out of you when a political party with a vested interest acts like they're out to advance the national agenda, and most are too dumb to get it?"

    Now you know how real progessives often feel reading the latest, "can you believe" outrage, from the BO regulars.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    At last, some balance on this! I think Jeff speaks for a majority of the longtime BO posters. This whole thing has been disturbing, but, hey, look at what we've swallowed from those idiots in the last 8. Bottom line is that those that are still thinking are more disturbed by the Democratic Party's spin machine than the misguided retasking of the reprehensible right's stooges. Can anyone who genuinely cares for our kids and grandkids, whether a Fox News or progressive radio fan, blow all this off?

    No, but those that put Party first can. For 5 years the thesis that Parties are unnecessary, or detract, has been made here, by a few. This last week's posts illustrates the contention and you show exactly why it is not a pedantic point.

    If you accept my thesis that the right has created the current situation deliberately, and that Obama and Co. are Party, Party, Party, a la Chicago machine, and 25% of Americans really can't get by simple facts like "Elvis is dead", one really must ask, with grave concern, just how many people "genuinely care". Worse, given that, how many people would know what genuinely caring looks like.

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    "Some were still suffering 9-11 PTSD".

    You have got to be kidding! Watching a horrific event on TV does not give you PTSD.

    These people are nothing but "Sunshine Patriots". I was going to count all the violations of the US Flag code but gave up, just too many.

    "reflexively snickering at folks waving teabags"

    No I was shaking my head at the hypocrisy they represented. With all the signs decrying "Socialism", they still got on MAX (subsidized) to get to and from the event. They got screwed for 8 years by the Bush administration and never said a word. 3 months into the new administration and they are up in arms, aided and abetted by the right wing blowhard media who sponsored this "New American revolution".

    Morans

  • jonnie (unverified)
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    BOHICA: "hey got screwed for 8 years by the Bush administration and never said a word. 3 months into the new administration and they are up in arms.."

    ME: Never said a word - your funny. If you proposed -$500B you get voted out of office and have a historical low approval rating. If you proposed quandrupling that, you hit the streets. For those who need pictures, here's a picture of Change

    Oh, remember the Huffy post urged people to infiltrate the Tea Party's taking pics/vids of themselves being stupid Morans. Glad to see you propagating their stealth tactics.

  • copycat42 (unverified)
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    I would be interested to know your views on the proper role of government (at the federal level). I am a state's rights man and resent ANY overstepping of authority by the federal government. That being said, I found this post to be pretty much balanced, and frankly, a refreshing reminder that there are people on both sides of the issues that use their brains. I would like to invite you to chat over at EFNET on IRC (#politics channel) there are all sorts of thinking people there from all sides (left, right, libertarian, and statist) and we pretty much get along while disagreeing wholeheartedly. Also, I have a blog for expressing my political views (which evolve as i assimilate more information) http://copycat042.blogspot.com/ Again, thank you for your THOUGHTS on the issue, and for not just discounting the other side as "kooks".

    <hr/>

    my list:

    1.The 17th amendment which robbed the states of a voice in government.

    1. The seizure of census powers by the executive branch

    2. The PATRIOT act, warrantless wiretapping, and other violations of my right to privacy, due process, and the right to keep and bear arms. ("congress shall make no law" means "congress shall make no law" and "shall not be infringed", means "shall not be infringed")

    3. The idea that someone who produces must be forced to support those who do not produce (whether by choice or circumstance).

    4. The Federal funding of research, medical procedures, primary elections and foreign aid. (see the 10th amendment)

    5. The idea that "society" has rights beyond the rights of the individual. i have more, but this will turn into a rant if i go on. :)

    <h2>With great respect,</h2>
  • Brigham Loves Young Booty (unverified)
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    ...Morans...

    Have the Mormons started a movement to avoid confusion with their name and modus operandi?

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)
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    "reflexively snickering at folks waving teabags"

    There was nothing reflexive about it, actually. As a historian and a liberal, I found what they were doing repulsive and anti-American. It was untrue to their own values and their recent actions. If they were waving Fascist flags at least that would be more true to their recent actions.

    In response to copycat: Have you ever been to Europe? Civilized societies are measured not by the strongest among us, but by how we treat the weakest. I work with the homeless. Many are mentally ill and/ or addicted to drugs. Multnomah County has cut 160 recovery beds down to 16! We would rather build a new prison than invest in drug addiction treatment.

    These are the people that "do not produce", as you call them. What is your solution to mental illness? What is your solution to drug addiction? What if it was your child that was addicted? Would you just say, "Well, you are screwed... sorry, you are on your own." Some families do, indeed, do that. Maybe, you would as well.

    This does not mean that I give to the homeless out of my own pocket, but I do give out of my own time. Do you? I believe that with opportunities and some hope many of these homeless can be brought off of the streets and into stable jobs. Some will never be able to work if they have conditions that are so great, such as extreme mental illness or other chronic diseases, such as AIDS. Should we let them die? Is that the kind of individualist society that you wish?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Very well said, Jeff and Liberalincarnate.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    This post exemplifies exactly why I always enjoyed listening to Jeff Golden on the radio.

  • LT (unverified)
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    The whole point is asking for specifics.

    Oregon House Republicans can be very specific on what tax increases they don't like, but not as specific on what budget cuts they would favor in order to avoid those tax increases.

    Tax cuts are NOT the answer to everything--they don't directly employ people, employ emergency workers, fix potholes, make sure no schools or other government buildings have leaky roofs, etc.

    The anti-tax crowd used to say that it would be better for the state to collapse around our ears than to raise another dime in taxes. If the Republicans still feel that way, they should have the courage of their convictions and say so out loud. I hear the Congressional Republican alternative budget does away with much of the "non defense discretionary spending"--meaning programs which help ordinary Americans. They should loudly proclaim that if that is their true belief (rather than just attacking opponents) and see where that gets them.

    My experience with both Hartmann and Fox is that they can sometimes be at opposite extremes and I'm closer to the middle than either of them. Which is why I am more likely to listen to NPR, Ed Schultz, a variety of network news programs, watch CSPAN and Oregon Channel, etc.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    Incidentally, I'm not convinced Ed Schultz is a particularly good source of enlightened commentary.

    Since January 20th, many progressives -- and folks on Blue Oregon are no exception -- have turned into exactly what the excoriated conservatives for being during the Bush years: intolerant, chauvinistic chest-beaters who spare no opportunity to impugn the morality, intelligence, and "patriotism" of people with whom they had political disagreements.*

    It seems that Ed Schultz seems to have fallen into exactly this trap. In any case, cheers again to Jeff Gordon for being a progressive who hasn't succumbed to smug self-indulgence.

    (*I'm sure this is where someone will jump in and excitedly tell me how it's all totally different and how "Bush = Hitler" is totally different than "Obama = Fascist". It isn't. You're just the same as them.)

  • Pancho (unverified)
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    A lot of conservatives were upset about the level of debt/spending under Bush. Unfortunately it came more from conservative think tanks than conservative talk radio (and following 9/11 a lot of conservatives were sadly reluctant to add to the general level of dissent).

    And certainly the Bush Administration was used 9/11 and the war(s) on terrorism to justify some of the increased spending.

    Another part of the problem was that the think tank fiscal conservatives had long been predicting economic doom (due to gov't market intervention, monetary policy, etc) but the markets kept going up in spite of it (and government of course grew right along with it).

    Now there is simply no denying that much of the created wealth that permitted so much government growth over the last decade was illusory. Yet still we accelerate this unsustainable trajectory of government growth.

    Bottom line: we can't afford the government we have right now and we shouldn't obligate our children (and their children) to pay for the debts we're incurring to further expand that government.

    Saddling people with tax debts for government operating expenses incurred years (decades) before they were ever eligible to vote is fundamentally unfair.

    That's the 21st Century version of "taxation without representation."

    Blame Republicans all you want for their role in steering the country to this point. A lot of the protesters I met were doing that yesterday.

    But don't use that as an excuse to forgive Democrats if they continue to drive the country off the edge of a cliff.

  • copycat42 (unverified)
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    To LiberalIncarnate,

    If the cause is so important to you, support (or start) a private organization whose mission it is to provide help those people. My responsibility to my fellow man is a moral one, and whether we have a moral responsibility to support those causes which benefit others (social security, welfare, universal health care, AIDS research, care for the mentally ill) is moot, because it is not the responsibility of government, nor should it have the authority, to enforce morality. Once you give the government the the authority to support (through taxes) "good" causes you give it the ability to define what "good" is. whether it be feeding the poor, forcing religious observance, or protecting traditional marriage.

    Whatever the cause, I, as an individual, do not have the authority to force you to donate your money to support it. By what authority does the government (through taxes) force you to donate your money to support it? The government derives its authority from the individuals who are governed. If I (one of the governed) have no authority to force you to give, I cannot give government that authority (I don't have it to give). Whether the cause is foreign aid, welfare, universal health care, or bailing out $multi-billion corporations, only those individuals who want to support a particular cause should do so.

    Think about all the government programs that are out there. Think about one you strongly agree with. If there were a charity that did the same thing, would you support it? (probably) Now, think about one you strongly disagree with. If there were a charity that did the same thing, would you support it? (probably not) The government is now forcing you to support that cause (leaving less money to support those causes you agree with) by using your tax money to pay for it. Many of the causes that are being funded now would probably wither away, if only those who agreed with them supported them. If that happened, maybe it wasn't such a good cause?

    If a private charity can do the same thing as a government "social" program, without spending tax dollars, then the government should not be funding the program. It is in effect competing with a private organization, using taxpayer money.

    <hr/>

    ..."I believe that with opportunities and some hope many of these homeless can be brought off of the streets and into stable jobs."

    me, too, but it is not the place of the federal government to do it. The states are not prohibited from supporting these causes, but the Federal government is limited to powers SPECIFICALLY STATED in the constitution (see the 10th amendment). I have no doubt that if you had some states with liberal welfare laws, and others with less welfare, the liberal welfare states would go bankrupt, because anyone who is tired of moochers would move out. Then who would support them?

    ..."What is your solution to drug addiction? ...

    Legalization. Education. Responsibility for your own actions and not blaming others for your lot in life. Legalization would get the money out of drugs. If you can handle drugs responsibly, then it is none of my business what you do to your body. If you go out and harm others, that is a crime, and you should be prosecuted for it. If you overdose and die, then that was a bad decision, and i am not responsible for your behavior. My children know drugs are harmful, and we make sure to impress upon them this fact. btw i have family members who have gotten in trouble for meth, and i have little sympathy for them.

    There are few contemporary drugs i have not done, but I never let them get the best of me. I know addiction, and i know that it can be beaten, if you want to beat it. I have been clean for 8 years and i don't miss the lifestyle. I am productive and happy.

    ...Is that the kind of individualist society that you wish?... The type of society i wish, is one in which i am responsible for my own actions, and everyone else is responsible for their own. I want to be able to support the charities i feel are worthy of my support, and for you to be able to support those you feel are worthy. I want the Federal government to read the document which gives it what little real authority it has, and obey it. I want it to stop trying to define and promote "traditional marriage", because it has no constitutional authority to do so. I want all citizens to have the right to fail, not the right to succeed, because if you don't have the right to fail, then success means nothing. I want the federal government to stay out of the abortion issue, and stop funding ANY research, because it has no authority to do so. I want the federal government to let the free market work, and limit itself to enforcing contracts. There should be only 1 rule, and 1 guideline in business: rule: Do what you contract to do. guideline: Read the contract you sign.

    That is the type of society i wish.

    respectfully,

    copycat

    p.s. i donate 1/10 of my income to charitable causes.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Since January 20th, many progressives -- and folks on Blue Oregon are no exception -- have turned into exactly what the excoriated conservatives for being during the Bush years: intolerant,...

    On the other hand there are some things no civilized person should tolerate, such as torture, shredding the Constitution, corruption in government, starting illegal wars, etc.

    And people claiming the mantle of progressive who were intolerant of the Bush administration for the above should not accept the Obama Administration's going along with the sins of their predecessors. "Looking forward" is an excuse to avoid facing up to America's immorality in the past under the Bush regime. This is a denial of our history and typical political hypocrisy. Apparently, if he studied the Nuremberg Trials, Barack Obama learned nothing from them or he lacks the moral courage or integrity to emulate the judges at those trials who refused to accept orders from a higher authority as an excuse for immoral conduct. It appears that if we want to see justice served in this instance we will have to rely on the Spanish or the Belgians.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Jef, thank you. It is my belief that some of those protesting yesterday were concerned exactly with the prolifigate spending and programs you mentioned. They were just as concerned when Bush and the republicans did the same. there were some for sure that were more concerned with running down Obama and the democrat party.

    I think Steve Novick stated on another post that almost 72% of US taxpayers are more concerned with HOW their tax dollars are spent than the actual paying of taxes. Count me in that group. I apologize in advance if I misquoted Mr. Novick.

    We may disagree about the purpose of state and federal government, but the central theme to most is, "how effciently are my tax dollars being used?" Unfortunately too many the answer is, "not very".

  • Terry Parker (unverified)
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    Bicyclists have a tea party almost daily - every time they climb on a bike, bailed out by taxpayers and freely pedal along streets, roads and the specialized infrastructure for which they are not directly taxed to help pay for.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    On the other hand there are some things no civilized person should tolerate, such as torture, shredding the Constitution, corruption in government, starting illegal wars, etc.

    Of course. Pointing out the behavior of the January 20th Patriots does not serve as an excuse for anything that Republicans did over the last eight years.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    There is usually something to be said for going back to the basics so let me repeat a point I have made before that appears to be a propos.

    Peter Drucker, known mid-20th century as the father of modern management and one of that era's more profound thinkers, said a well-organized society needed three elements: commercial enterprises, non-profit organizations, and government. The trick is to decide which functions belong in which of these categories. In the case of government, the people should decide what functions should be part of their government's responsibilities and then they should perform their roles as responsible citizens and pay for those functions but not for inappropriate functions.

  • C. Mitchell (unverified)
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    Jeff, THANK YOU for not being so non-partisan and able to use reason. I agree with your list of complaints. TARP,AIG, etc . . . each bailout has made me more angry. The "budget" is unreal and an horrible example of what a budget is supposed to be. We can agree/disagree on the role of government, but we should all be angry that our Congress passes bills laced with pork and that they never even read! I remember anger when the Patriot Act was passed without being read. Now the Stimulus bill? Will it ever stop? Not unless we protest.

  • steve (unverified)
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    The US national debt is currently about $12T, which includes the $10T as the "official" number plus an estimated $2T for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which until this year were "off the books". It will probably be necessary to increase this by 10-20% in order to stimulate the economy back to normal growth levels. We have no real choice with this, anyone who suggests otherwise is an idiot that should be ignored. Once this is accomplished, we can pay this down by about $.5T in present dollars per year, as at the end of the Clinton admin. Yes, it will take decades to pay off, but it took decades to accumulate. The Reagan administration, which accumulated more debt than the sum of all previous presidents in history, and W, who more than doubled this, are responsible for this deep hole.

  • Anonymous (unverified)
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    Progressives are maintained largely by their ignorance of history.

    Example - fiscal conservatives "never complained about Bush's overspending." False, false, and false.

    But by ignoring history, you have an excuse to ignore your neighbor.

    Between a fourth and a third of the Tea Party folks I met were Obama voters. Kinda sucks for the subsidized true believers at BO. Must be why they ignore such facts.

  • Anonymous (unverified)
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    What about the movement by some Oregon Republicans to dis-affiliate from the national party as a protest of Bush and the GOP Congress' overspending?

    Does that not count? Or is it too inconvenient for you to remember?

  • rw (unverified)
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    This has got to be the most trite "discussion" I've witnessed in a very long time.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)
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    The problem I have with the 'baggers' are that many of them haven't the foggiest idea what the true definitions of 'tyrant' or 'fascist' or 'socialist' is, yet they throw those around with gusto at a President who is none of those. Along of course with several that are much more crude and racist.

    No doubt these people are upset and feel economically vulnerable but it is my contention that they are myopically focusing on the wrong part of the economic equation: Taxes. It is my belief that they should of protesting the lack of growth in jobs and wages instead.

    In the past 28 years productivity has increased, profits have grown, the top 5% of the wealthy have grown into the Mega-Super-Wealthy and the wages for average Americans like myself have remained flat. Couple that with the fact that corporations evade hundreds of billions of dollars of taxes every year by utilizing off shore tax havens while shipping American jobs overseas and you end up where we are now....... with a large majority of Americans who feel, frankly, scared for their future with good reason.

    So, what's the best things for the corporations, Faux News, The Club for Growth, Freedom Works and all the other lobbyist sponsors to do with these people? Get them distracted into focusing not on the lack of family supporting jobs and wages but on taxes. "Here, look at the shiny ball!"

    I saw allot of grey haired old folks in the coverage I watched: Are they really willing to give up their Medicare, Medicare Drug Benefit, and Social Security benefits to make the government cheaper and smaller? I don't think so. Do they want to cut the size of the military to reduce the cost and size of government?

    Tea-bagging is just a diversion to keep the angry mob busy with while the corporations continue to rob this country blind.

    Wake up baggers, the root of your problems are jobs and wages, not taxes. Our real interests are the same. Once you realize that, then we will have something in common to talk about.

    If you are only interested in calling Obama names, then we don't.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    The problem I have with the 'baggers' are that many of them haven't the foggiest idea what the true definitions of 'tyrant' or 'fascist' or 'socialist' is, yet they throw those around with gusto at a President who is none of those.

    Well, "Bush = Hitler" isn't exactly plumbing the depths of nuance, either. Casting the first stone, and all that...

  • steve (unverified)
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    Progressives are maintained largely by their ignorance of history.

    Example - fiscal conservatives "never complained about Bush's overspending." False, false, and false.

    But by ignoring history, you have an excuse to ignore your neighbor.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, daily remind normal people that... Well, never mind. Any conservative objections to Bush's fiscal policy were obviously ineffective, both in terms of changing that policy and in reaching the general public discourse.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    Any conservative objections to Bush's fiscal policy were obviously ineffective, both in terms of changing that policy and in reaching the general public discourse.

    <h2>So?</h2>
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