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Category: General


[ 0 ] August 17, 2017 |

Actual Nathan Bedford Forrest statue located in Tennessee.

The next time someone talks about the importance of preserving his heritage, tell him his heritage is cheap and tacky. This is a fascinating twitter thread about a lot of the Confederate statues that were erected between 1920-1950.


The Dunning-Kruger school

[ 0 ] August 17, 2017 |

Donald Trump is spending this morning of his vacation lamenting the removal of various monuments to treason in defense of slavery:

Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You…..

…can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also…

.the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!

One thing I’ve been surprised by during this slow motion car crash into a raging dumpster fire of a presidency is the sheer depth of Trump’s stupidity and ignorance. You could tell during Tuesday’s press conference that he thought he had come up with a new and especially powerful argument when he lectured the reporters about the previously unappreciated fact — no doubt just relayed to him by an advisor in the previous day or two — that Washington and Jefferson owned slaves (wait until he finds out that Jefferson liked to rape some of his).

On top of everything else, he’s just really really dumb — and of course he remains blissfully unaware of this.

The Dowd Report

[ 0 ] August 17, 2017 |

Are you ready for some treason-in-defense-of-slavery apologia?

President Trump’s personal lawyer on Wednesday forwarded an email to conservative journalists, government officials and friends that echoed secessionist Civil War propaganda and declared that the group Black Lives Matter “has been totally infiltrated by terrorist groups.”

The email forwarded by John Dowd, who is leading the president’s legal team, painted the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in glowing terms and equated the South’s rebellion to that of the American Revolution against England. Its subject line — “The
Information that Validates President Trump on Charlottesville” — was a reference to comments Mr. Trump made earlier this week in the aftermath of protests in the Virginia college town.

“You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,” the email reads, “there literally is no difference between the two men.”

The contents of the email are at the heart of a roiling controversy over race and history that turned deadly last weekend in Charlottesville, where white nationalist groups clashed with protesters over the planned removal of a statue of Lee. An Ohio man with ties to white nationalist groups drove his car through a crowd, killing one woman and injuring many others, authorities say.

In a fiery news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Trump blamed “both sides” for that violence. He said many of those who opposed the statue’s removal were good people protesting the loss of their culture, and he questioned whether taking down statues of Lee could lead to monuments of Washington also being removed.

Here is the very convincing argument:

Most of these false equivalencies rest on an obvious logical error: Washington was a slaveowner, but he is not being honored for his contributions to maintain and expand slavery, which is the only possible reason to celebrate Lee. But the “both men saved America” line is…unique. I can’t wait for Dowd to argue for building memorials to Hitler because his ill-conceived strategy saved the Allied Powers.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 128

[ 0 ] August 17, 2017 |

This is the grave of Claude Bowers.

Born in 1878 in Westfield, Indiana, Bowers became a journalist in Terre Haute as a young man. Self-taught, Bowers never went to college but devoured any book he could find. He rose in this world, becoming an editorial writer for the New York World in 1923 and then a political columnist for the New York Journal in 1931. He began writing history as well. That history was racist, reflecting Bowers’ personal beliefs about African-Americans. He became an important figure in the rising school of thought that the Civil War was an unjust invasion of the South by a capitalist North and that Reconstruction was a great horror upon the land. Although not an academic, he was very much in the Dunning School that dominated the scholarly interpretation of this critical period in American history that has been discredited but still lives on in the Oval Office today. Bowers’ major theme was the glories of the early Democratic Party and the perfidy of its competitors–the Federalists, the Whigs, and the Republicans. He wrote Party Battles of the Jacksonian Period in 1922 and Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America in 1925. Both books saw the early Democrats–Jackson and Jefferson–as heroes against the elite inclinations of Hamilton and Clay.

Even worse, his 1929 book The Tragic Era described the horrors of Reconstruction on the good white Democrats of the South. This book took the Dunning School and made it nationally popular. He argued that a corrupt Republican Party had not only engaged in widespread graft in the North during Reconstruction (not untrue though it was entirely bipartisan wherever Democrats held power) but had despoiled the South in doing so by creating a black government repressing white democracy (extraordinarily untrue). These books all sold very well, making him one of the day’s most popular history writers. Outside of Thomas Dixon’s The Klansman and D.W. Griffith’s film adaption of Dixon, Birth of a Nation, no single cultural production of the early twentieth century did more to center the Dunning School in American thought than Bowers’ book. Said Eric Foner, in a quick profile of the Dunning School:

Reconstruction refers to the period, generally dated from 1865 to 1877, during which the nation’s laws and Constitution were rewritten to guarantee the basic rights of the former slaves, and biracial governments came to power throughout the defeated Confederacy. For decades, these years were widely seen as the nadir in the saga of American democracy. According to this view, Radical Republicans in Congress, bent on punishing defeated Confederates, established corrupt Southern governments presided over by carpetbaggers (unscrupulous Northerners who ventured south to reap the spoils of office), scalawags (Southern whites who supported the new regimes) and freed African-Americans, unfit to exercise democratic rights. The heroes of the story were the self-styled Redeemers, who restored white supremacy to the South.

This portrait, which received scholarly expression in the early-20th-century works of William A. Dunning and his students at Columbia University, was popularized by the 1915 film “Birth of A Nation” and by Claude Bowers’s 1929 best-selling history, “The Tragic Era.” It provided an intellectual foundation for the system of segregation and black disenfranchisement that followed Reconstruction. Any effort to restore the rights of Southern blacks, it implied, would lead to a repeat of the alleged horrors of Reconstruction.

Bowers lionized not only Abraham Lincoln (who in this vision of the 1860s was hated by the evil radicals and was the South’s savior, which is reflected in the first minutes of Birth of a Nation), but also Andrew Johnson, who he claimed “fought the greatest battle for constitutional liberty and for the preservation of our institutions ever waged by an Executive…seeking honestly to carry out the conciliatory and wise policy of Lincoln.” He had expressed these ideas long before he wrote his influential histories. As early as 1905, he gave a speech to the Indiana Sons of Veterans that repeated Lost Cause reconciliationist bromides about the war ultimately having pulled the white men of the nation together, saying that white southerners were wrong during the war but right during Reconstruction. Johnson was a figure that bridged his two political heroes–Andrew Jackson and William Jennings Bryan. That all of these figures were grotesquely racist was a virtue, not a demerit. Southern universities repeatedly asked Bowers to give their commencement addresses, which pleased him to no end. Finally, here was someone telling the “true” history of Reconstruction and the necessary Redemption of lynching, segregation, and violent suppression of black suffrage. The only real criticism Bowers received, even from professional historians, were from black scholars such as Carter Woodson and it’s not as if he cared about that, or possibly even knew about it. The white academy and white politicians loved this stuff.

Through all of this, Bowers also became a somewhat important figure in the Democratic Party. He ran for Congress from Indiana in 1904 against an entrenched Republican. He lost but this did not hurt him in the internal dynamics of the party. His consistently pro-Democratic editorial writing made him popular with his fellow Democrats and he gave a key speech at the 1928 Democratic National Convention.

Bowers might have just been another Dunning-esque Democratic Party hack if it wasn’t for one thing–Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved his books. He was so influenced by Bowers’ opinions on Jefferson that he lobbied for the building of the Jefferson Memorial, which to be fair, is a lovely piece of architecture. He loved Bowers so much that he named him ambassador to Spain in 1933. This was somewhat interesting in that Bowers was like many old-time Democratic elites who were highly uncomfortable with the New Deal. Yet although he privately disliked the New Deal, he never openly criticized Roosevelt. He served in Spain for 6 years. That meant we had this racist newspaper editor as the US representative to the nation during the Spanish Civil War. But he believed that the Spanish Republic was modeled after the United States and he hoped it would succeed. His appointment was political, but he was a true believer in the idea. Thus he opposed Franco. He wrote to Roosevelt constantly, urging him to do something to help the Republic, which FDR was not willing to do and which contributed to the rise of a general war in Europe a few years later. After his time in Spain, Roosevelt named his as ambassador to Chile in 1939. He stayed there until 1953, an almost unheard of time in a single location. Here, he continued pushing his ideas of peaceful democratic government that was a bulwark against both fascism and communism, which meant he was a good early Cold Warrior in Latin America. In 1954, he published his memoirs on his time in Spain, which were highly critical of Franco and fascism.

Ultimately, Bowers’ historical writings are a lot more important than his time as a diplomat. His horrible ideas about race and politics are precisely what we are fighting against today, being produced in the aftermath of the creation of Jim Crow and the core group of Confederate monuments. Toward the end of his life, the historical interpretation of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction was in the early stages of changing, but Bowers retained his beliefs to the end of his life. Bowers died of leukemia in 1958.

Claude Bowers is buried in Highland Lawn Cemetery, Terre Haute, Indiana.

The Bannon Call

[ 0 ] August 17, 2017 |

I just have no idea what to say at this point. Steve Bannon called Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect, evidently just to chat. Yeah, I guess Bannon reads The American Prospect.

I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base.

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

Um, OK. So, like, Bannon is one of the less racist members of the Trump circle? Or something? That would be weird enough if he didn’t spend the rest of the interview openly undermining the State and Defense Departments.

But what about his internal adversaries, at the departments of State and Defense, who think the United States can enlist Beijing’s aid on the North Korean standoff, and at Treasury and the National Economic Council who don’t want to mess with the trading system?

“Oh, they’re wetting themselves,” he said, explaining that the Section 301 complaint, which was put on hold when the war of threats with North Korea broke out, was shelved only temporarily, and will be revived in three weeks. As for other cabinet departments, Bannon has big plans to marginalize their influence.

“I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”

But can Bannon really win that fight internally?

“That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said. “We’re still fighting. There’s Treasury and [National Economic Council chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying.”

“We gotta do this. The president’s default position is to do it, but the apparatus is going crazy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s like, every day.”

Bannon explained that his strategy is to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right. Hence the phone call to me.

And then there’s his statements on North Korea:

Bannon said he might consider a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections and the United States removed its troops from the peninsula, but such a deal seemed remote. Given that China is not likely to do much more on North Korea, and that the logic of mutually assured destruction was its own source of restraint, Bannon saw no reason not to proceed with tough trade sanctions against China.

Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.” Bannon went on to describe his battle inside the administration to take a harder line on China trade, and not to fall into a trap of wishful thinking in which complaints against China’s trade practices now had to take a backseat to the hope that China, as honest broker, would help restrain Kim.

What the hell is this? Is Bannon trying to get fired? Is this a challenge to Trump? Is he just insane? Is he so drunk with power that he thinks he can undermine the entire American government? But hey, I’m sure we will get through this administration just fine!

What Concrete Steps Will Congressional Republicans Take After Trump Announced His Support for NeoNazis?

[ 0 ] August 16, 2017 |

None, of course.

Despite House Democrats’ calls for hearings on the rise of white supremacy, the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Department of Justice’s handling of domestic terrorism, has no immediate plans to schedule one, aides say. The House Homeland Security Committee is lumping the issue into an annual “global threats” hearing scheduled sometime in September. And while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has suggested hearings in the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has no plans to call for one focused on the events in Charlottesville.

GOP leaders, meanwhile, aren’t leaning on their allies to hold public sessions or launch inquiries. Speaker Paul Ryan’s office deferred questions on potential congressional action to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and would not say whether the speaker believes action is warranted. McCarthy has been out of the country but intends to discuss the matter with panel chairmen. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office indicated that it’s up to individual committee chairs to set their own hearing schedule.

Brave, brave leadership there! I mean, sure, maybe (although probably not) most House and Senate Republicans disagree with Trump. But hey, Ron Johnson is slightly uncomfortable with Trump’s talk and wished reporters would go back to important things like upper class tax cuts. By the way, thanks Wisconsin whites!

Rural People of Color

[ 0 ] August 16, 2017 |

If you only read the New York Times and listen to NPR, you would be sure that the only rural people in America are white. After all, hasn’t every rural white in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin been interviewed since November 8 about why they voted for Trump, why they would still vote for Trump, and why they will vote for Trump again even though they rely on Medicaid to stay alive. But–gasp!–it seems there are actually people of color in rural America. Who knew! And even more shocking, they are even more marginalized than rural whites!

The day after the November presidential election, Turner went with her mother to the store, and they both kept their heads down. “We just feel like we don’t belong here anymore,” she says.

Turner’s mom, who cleans houses in town for a living, went to work a couple of days after that, and her employer, an older white woman, brought up the results of the recent election. The two had talked politics before—Turner’s mom is a Democrat, and her employer is a Republican. “Well, you might as well come and live with me now,” the employer said. “You gonna be mine eventually.”

She called her daughter in tears. Turner immediately got in her car and picked her mother up to bring her home.

Last year before the election, a young woman Turner described as one of her best friends casually mentioned she hoped for a Trump victory so that he might “do away with some of these African American people.” She quickly clarified that she wasn’t referring to Turner’s “type,” but when Turner sharply asked her what she meant, she couldn’t answer. Another friend assured her that it would be okay if Trump won the election because she would convince her parents to purchase Turner’s family as their new slaves. In a place where a few large plantation-style houses remain scattered through the county, the “joke” feels a lot like a threat.

“I saw a lot of true colors from a lot of people since the election—down with African Americans, down with Hispanics, build the wall, even for the legal ones,” she says. “It really hurts.”

She works as a dispatcher for Kirkland’s, a home goods store, where she handles shipping coordination, but she’s hoping to move into a role that is more IT-focused. Even one of her coworkers—a manager—insisted on seeing a copy of her business degree for days, to the point that Turner finally gave in and brought it to her to examine. It’s hard to not hear echoes of birtherism claims that plagued Barack Obama throughout his presidency in actions like those.

“It gets me emotional sometimes,” she tells me. “I wake up, and I never know, am I gonna get called the ‘n word’ today? Am I gonna have to defend my education?”

The only solution here is for the Times to run another 12 stories on rural whites and their undying support for Trump.

Who Still Supports The Fond Remembrance of Treason in Defense of Slavery?

[ 0 ] August 16, 2017 |

The white government of Alabama of course!

The attorney general of Alabama sued the city of Birmingham and its mayor on Wednesday over their effort to block a Confederate monument with plywood walls, reported Wednesday.

Following Saturday’s protest in Charlottesville, Virginia against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park, Birmingham Mayor William Bell moved to obscure his own city’s Confederate monument from view.

Due to a recent state law barring the removal or alteration of monuments located on public land for 40 years or more without a state committee’s approval, however, Bell couldn’t legally order the monument removed, as Baltimore and other localities have done in the wake of the tumultuous weekend in Charlottesville, which left one woman dead after a man who had been photographed with white supremacists allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Instead, Bell covered up the monument to Confederate veterans, first with tarps and then with wooden walls erected by city workers overnight Tuesday. Bell told reporters earlier in the day that his immediate goal was to temporarily cover the monument “until such time that we can tell the full story of slavery, the full story of what the Confederacy really meant.”

“What the Confederacy represented was the maintaining of individuals as being less than human, of promoting a supremacy doctrine that is no longer valid, and wasn’t valid then,” he added.

In a statement reported by Wednesday, however, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said that his office had “determined that by affixing tarps and placing plywood around the Linn Park memorial such that it is hidden from view, the defendants have ‘altered’ or ‘otherwise disturbed’ the memorial in violation of the letter and spirit of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.”

In related news, nothing makes me brim with confidence than a Justice Department led by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III investigating the white supremacists in Charlottesville.

Fortunately, Nobody Like This Ever Became a Major World Leader Again

[ 0 ] August 16, 2017 |

–Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris.

BREAKING: A photo of the world’s greatest best beautiful high quality business president’s ego

[ 0 ] August 16, 2017 |

Fried dendrites in tRump’s brain or trees blasted in the Tunguska Event? Credit: The Leonid Kulik Expedition.

It was great to watch business leaders leave #TheStupidestPresidentEver’s manufacturing council after his latest pro-bigotry outburst.

Not only is it nice to see people say no to Nazis, but tRump’s yuge, delicate ego is his sole weakness and anything that harms it is good for the rest of the planet.

Being publicly rejected and repudiated by members of the President’s manufacturing Council – people who really are successful – has likely done to his ego what being stuck in a tumble dryer for an hour would do to a spun glass sculpture. Witness his statesman-like response after several members of the Manufacturing Council had announced their departure.

“For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on,” he tweeted Tuesday morning, adding at the end, “JOBS!”

As of this morning, at least 11 people had left the Manufacturing Council, because the one thing this vicious piece of shit won’t lie about is his affection for Nazis and affiliated scum.

And a few moments ago, his dear Strategic & Policy Forum disbanded.

The business leaders chose to dissolve the council in order to “condemn” the president’s comments about the Charlottesville violence, the same member said. The member described Trump’s defiant press conference on Tuesday as a “tripwire.”

They had heard from employees and customers about the council.

“There really was nothing to debate,” the member said.

That’s great, but it gets better.

Here’s the Liar-in-Chief’s 30 minute solo on le trombone du tristesse attempt to spin this self-inflicted disaster into more winning.

Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!

The End of Softselling Treason in Defense of Slavery

[ 0 ] August 16, 2017 |

Boy, one wanders around the West for a few days, turning a corner and finding oneself 15 feet from a grizzly bear who mercifully was far more interested in eating berries than eating you, and the whole world has changed.

My blog colleagues and many around the internet have said much of what I would say about Trump’s official approval of NeoNazis and NeoConfederates. It’s a truly horror show, yet one that completely fits Trump’s base, which is one reason why McConnell and the like won’t call Trump out by name, even if a few Republicans who can see their political futures ending at the next election (Cory Gardner) have. But let me state a few things here as I get back into my routine of real work now that vacation has ended and I am setting up in Oregon for the next few months.

I have been pushing the idea of the Confederacy as “Treason in Defense of Slavery” for the last decade. I didn’t invent the term. I stole it from Lemieux and Noon and I believe it originates with a long-time friend of LGMers (a southerner it should be stated). I am glad to see it start to become a useful public term for discussing secession for the right to buy, sell, rape, and kill black people. To see an overwhelming rejection on the left of any interpretation of the Civil War that does not center slavery is highly rewarding to me, even if it’s not worth the hell that has created the situation.

As of last weekend, there can never be a reconciliation on the left with treason in defense of slavery again. Unfortunately, and we’ve even seen it in comments here over the years, there developed an equivalency on the left between the Civil War and anti-capitalist politics. This was particularly salient in the 1960s, where, despite the beginnings of real historical studies of the horrors of slavery, the popular conception on the left was, while not directly racist, a sympathy for southern planters fighting against a northern captialism seeking to crush everything in its path. Thus you have first Gram Parsons and then Lynard Skynard using the Confederate flag as a backdrop to their concerts, The Band having a huge hit with “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and endless writings and other cultural productions on the left talking about how the Civil War was a capitalist war on the South, even if it happened to free the slaves.

This now defunct left interpretation of the Civil War is, of course, ridiculous. Historians such as Ed Baptist and Sven Beckert have demonstrated the deep integration of the plantation economy into not only a national but a global capitalism. Two generations of African-American history scholars have brought out the stories of slaves and freedom, exploring how slaves fought for their own goals and had their own demands both during and after the Civil War. Sure, capitalism was central to the Civil War, but the U.S. economy in the 1850s was a regionally integrated capitalist economy that was based more on the ownership of black bodies than any other commodity. Battles between northern and southern whites might have revolved around the future of that regionally integrated capitalism, but there was nothing anti-capitalist at all about the plantation South.

What this leaves is a far more correct interpretation of the Confederacy as a white supremacist state that hoped to become a world power based around slavery. There is nothing to romanticize, unless you want to romanticize white power. That’s what happened at Charlottesville and that’s what Herr Trump supports. That leaves no room for middle ground on this issue. There no longer can be any legitimate argument that Confederate memorials are “HISTORY” that need to be left alone. Scholars have pointed out the explicitly Jim Crow white nationalist origin of these monuments, as well as the inclusion of the Confederate flag on southern state flags in the 1950s and 1960s, the changing of which is another battle coming soon. Supporting these monuments is supporting the white nationalist origins of them that have been reclaimed by today’s racists.

Finally, the past is always politics. There is nothing about the study of history that is not political. How we understand the past is how we understand the present. Allowing the white South and their sympathizers to write the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction for a century explicitly reinforced white supremacy. The change in the study of the era in the last 40 years has challenged this and, not surprisingly, has fed into charges that higher education is “indoctrinating” our good young people. As per always, conservatives are projecting here because indoctrination is exactly what they want to do, especially with our history. Whatever happens with this nation, whether democracy is saved or a new century of white supremacy wins out beginning with Trump, supported by the Supreme Court, and doubled down upon by states restricting the suffrage, the battle over the past will be an important front in the war. And no event in our history is more central to that battle that the meaning of the Civil War.

This is why all of us on the left we need to fight for taking down all Confederate statues and ban the flying of the Confederate flag in public spaces. This is not about the past. It’s about the future.

Republican White Supremacy

[ 0 ] August 16, 2017 |


You may have seen this, but there was an excellent illustration of this phenomenon in the news yesterday:

On Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump refused to blame white nationalists for the violence in Charlottesville, a federal court ruled that congressional districts drawn by Texas Republicans after the 2010 election were enacted with “racially discriminatory intent” against Latino and African American voters.

This is the seventh time since 2011 that a federal court has found that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters, through its redistricting plans and strict voter ID law. This repeated finding of intentional discrimination means that federal courts could once again require Texas to clear any changes to voting laws or procedures with the federal government—a requirement that was in place until the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Texas added 4.3 million new residents from 2000 to 2010 and gained four new congressional seats after the 2010 census. Although nearly 90 percent of that growth came from minorities, who lean Democratic, under the congressional redistricting map passed by Texas Republicans in 2011, white Republicans won three of the four new seats that resulted. The League of Women Voters called the plan “the most extreme example of racial gerrymandering among all the redistricting proposals passed by lawmakers so far this year.”

Also, the President gave a rambling apologia white supremacists, which upset his aides because they would prefer that his well-known racism be confined to private comments.

Getting the monument to Roger Taney in Baltimore torn down was excellent. Getting Shelby Country overruled would be much better (granting that with a Republican White House the preclearance provision would be essentially null and void anyway.)

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