Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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E-mail address:
jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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My other blogs
Small Sample Watch
XBM Graphics

The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
Bad Science
Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
Foreign Dispatches
Good Math, Bad Math
Greenie Watch
The Hand Of Munger
Howard Lovy's NanoBot
Liberty's Torch
The Long View
My sister's blog
Neo Warmonger
Next Big Future
Out of Step Jew
Overcoming Bias
The Passing Parade
Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
Pictures of Math
Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
Seriously Science
Slate Star Codex
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

Monday, January 01, 2018

It's 2018

Aren't anti-agathics supposed to be invented this year?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Miscellaneous Notes

Tap tap. Is this thing on?

A few notes on recent controversies:

Net Neutrality: I'd be more likely to take seriously the claim that Net Neutrality regulations are a matter of ancient tradition if it weren't for the fact that every Net Neuterer has a different definition of Net Neutrality and a different timeline of how the regulations changed. As far as I can tell, Net Neutrality was a matter of custom … like tipping. It was enforced by the FCC frowning hard.

I won't more than mention that whether a foreign nation has Net Neutrality changes depending on rhetorical needs. If it's necessary to find an example to prove that corporations won't adhere to Net Neutrality standards without being forced, then there are lots of examples of nations without Net Neutrality. If it's necessary to say “All the cool nations are doing this,” then those examples disappear.

In the real world, Net Neutrality violations can be divided into:

  • The beneficial (throttling a bandwidth hog);
  • The trivial;
  • The temporary;
  • The imaginary.

Corporations: As far as I can tell, support for Net Neutrality is based on the theory that corporations are all-powerful psychopaths. As far as I can tell, the entities that act most like the way leftists imagine corporations act are governments and online mobs.

In a typical example of anti-corporation prejudice, the SF writer Ted Chiang compared corporations to out-of-control AIs. On the other hand, the original speculation comparing an organization to an AI was Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes which compared governments to AIs. (“What is the heart, but a spring?”). Nowadays, online mobs can also be compared to Leviathan. To paraphrase the movie The Terminator:

The online mob is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop …

The best reason to regard democratic governments as preferable to corporations is that they can be controlled by The People. The People also control online mobs, but that doesn't make them good … especially when you recall that Trump was elected by Twitter mobs.

Corporate power is also much less than many people think, some of whom run the corporations. For example, a few months ago, Cloudflare stopped providing DDoS protection to Daily Stormer, effectively kicking them off the respectable Internet. They tried the same stunt with Ghost Gunner. Ghost Gunner is still there. Blacklists don't work unless they're unanimous.

A personal note: I don't believe in corporate power, not because I disapprove of it, but because I think it's much less than many others think. Some of my actions were done in order to make that point. I joined Mastodon, partly to show that Facebook doesn't have a monopoly. I got a Linux computer partly to show that Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly. I started ordering books from Amazon when people were complaining that Barnes & Noble (or was it Borders?) was becoming a monopoly. (It might be time to change that.)

On the other hand, some right-wing commenters disagree with handling monopolies privately.

The recent tax bill has two problems:

  • It made major changes a bit too suddenly. Making them more slowly so we know what we're doing might make more sense.
  • It looks like it was written for the purpose of raising taxes on New York Times reporters. “The purpose of power is power” is bad. “The purpose of power is revenge” is worse.
“The purpose of power is revenge” might also explain “political movements that appear exceedingly stupid.”

Is free speech only for the powerful? I had trouble understanding the belief that free speech is a tool for the privileged. As far as I can tell, this is based on the theory that the privileged will always be able to censor. In order to level the proverbial playing field, the downtrodden also must be given the privilege of censorship. I find it much more plausible that the privileged will always be able to speak. (If they can be censored, they were not privileged in the first place.)

Ideas I agree with while opposing the proponents: An opinion you agree with may be a “tribal marker” for people you regard as dangerous. For example:

  • Black lives matter.
  • It's okay to be white. (It's more worrisome when “white” is capitalized.)
  • Allah akbar. (God is great.)
  • There's evidence that human action might make the Earth warmer.
  • Sustainable anything.

“Cuckservative” and “neoliberal” mean the same thing: “How DARE you pretend to be on my side while believing in individual rights!”

The use of the term “cuckservative” might be due to one of the more bizarre assumptions of the “alt-right,” that anybody who disagrees with them must be doing so in order to avoid being called names and can be forced in the other direction by enough name-calling.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Free Will Denial

I suspect that a large fraction of left-wing ideology comes from a denial of free will: the belief that free will either does not exist or is valueless. That can have several effects:

  1. If free will does not exist at all, there is little point in defending the right to make your own decisions. If something is desirable, it must be compulsory; if it is undesirable, it must be forbidden.
  2. I've already discussed the effects of the belief that free will only applies to pointless actions.
  3. If an individual's free will cannot affect his/her economic status, anybody rich got that way from ‘society’ (“You didn't build that…”) and the wealth can be redistributed.
  4. Finally, if the combined free wills of all of humanity cannot cause anything good, then either economic growth does not exist or it has bad effects (e.g., global warming).

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Harvey and Zoning Laws

Houston is noteworthy for the lack of zoning. Houston is also noteworthy for a $100 billion flood. Some people insist on connecting the two. Apparently, the riffraff moving in produce floods.

Let's do some arithmetic on the cost of Harvey. It's approximately $15,000 per resident of the Houston metropolitan area. Let's compare housing costs in Houston with housing costs in New York City (where the zoning plague started). The monthly rent for 85 \(\text{m}^2\) (900 Sqft) furnished accommodation in NORMAL area in New York City is $2,828. The monthly rent for a similar apartment in Houston is $1,228. In other words, the Hurricane Harvey cost as much as the additional rent for ten months.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

A Note on Overpopulation

At the population density of The Netherlands (a food exporter, believe it or not), we can support 60 billion people on Earth … four times that if we cover the seas with greenhouse ships.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Common Right-Wing Meme

If the mainstream calls ordinary conservatives Nazis, what will they do when real Nazis come along? Now we have some idea.

Penalty for being a pro-lifer: Winning the lawsuit.

Penalty for dissent on global warming: Getting your name on a Museum wing.

Penalty for homophobia: Getting your name off a declining web browser. (On the other hand, Pale Moon sometimes hangs on PJ Media articles.)

Penalty for Naziism: getting booted off the normal Internet and onto Tor … along with the drug dealers. (On the other hand, it's unfair to drug dealers.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How Powerful Are Online Mobs?

Let's look at recent online mobs.

The mobs after Hobby Lobby and DropBox lost. Period.

The pro-gay-marriage mob lost the battle of Chik-Fil-A. They won a temporary victory over Duck Dynasty but had to retreat. They got Brendan Eich fired but the result was that Firefox is getting increasingly buggy and losing market share.

The feminist mob after James Damore got him a job offer from Wikileaks.

It looks like we have the equivalent of an aging black-belt who, after losing a fight or two, first picked a fight with a couple of white-belts, drew those, and finally went out into the street to beat up a cripple. (The black belt can get away with it only because the cripple used to be an even worse bully.)

I suspect they're marching against “Nazis,” not only to look noble, but also in order to look powerful.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What Were They Thinking at Google?

I have a couple of theories on why Google came down on James Damore like the proverbial ton of bricks.

Why there's a crackdown on anything that looks “alt-right” now

The tech industry top people don't actually like feminists (who have a tendency to produce expensive lawsuits) but they made the mistake of surrendering to them (at least verbally) a decade or two ago and it's too late to go back now. They have resolved to not let that happen again.

Meanwhile, opponents of feminism (or left-wing ideology in general) have been saying it's time to imitate left-wing tactics. As a result, the tech industry is trying to stop Feminism II before it starts. It is, after all, very difficult to surrender to two incompatible factions at the same time.

Without the threat of the imitation leftist tactics, disagreeing with company dogma would simply earn a reprimand and a warning to not do that again. With that threat, dissent produces:

The infamous memo might not be “alt-right,” but it can be plausibly claimed to be in “THAT ENTIRE CATEGORY OF THING.”

Was this a false flag?

A conspiracy theory I haven't seen anywhere yet:
Since Google has not actually been promoting that many women, it doesn't look like it is a real feminist-run organization. What if the purpose of coming down on James Damore in such a heavy-handed manner is to provoke such a lawsuit? They might be able to get a court order that they can wave in the faces of the feminists.

If the lawsuit goes the other way, of course, they now have a legal precedent that can be used to fire feminists suing them.

I (and apparently very few other people) noticed that, with a few minor changes, the Zunger response to the Damore memo (including the need to fit in) could be used against feminists.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Identifying Science-Curious but Science-Ignorant People, Part II

The studies I asked for a few months ago are starting, at least as far as brain science is concerned.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

A Brief Note on Free Speech

Much of what appears to be a violation of freedom of speech is actually a matter of refusing to listen.

Much of the time such a refusal to listen, although not a violation of constitutional rights, is very unwise. If you refuse to listen, you might find that someone you loathe, that you thought didn't have a chance, just got elected President.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Things to Avoid in Health-Insurance Regulation

Any reform of health-insurance regulation must avoid the following:

  1. A death spiral, when people put off buying otherwise unaffordable health insurance until they're sick.
  2. Bankrupting the country, because promises that cannot be fulfilled will not be fulfilled.
  3. Price controls. This includes giving governments the motive, means, and opportunity to institute price controls (e.g., a single-payer system).
  4. A welfare cliff, in which people don't bother looking for a job because you lose more in benefits than the job pays.
  5. Charging people twice for their health care, in which people with private insurance are charged for the government insurance they might be using anyway. (This is based on the fact that families with children in private school still have to pay school taxes.)
  6. (Lest we forget…) Losing the next election.
I suspect this means we're stuck with the individual mandate, at least until the herd of independent minds starts to stampede in another direction.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Accidentally Serious

According to The Borowitz Report:

With a fury that could spell political trouble for Republicans in the midterm elections, Trump voters across the country on Friday expressed their outrage and anger that they still have health coverage.
According to public-opinion polls:
The only item from the Obamacare requirements asked about in this poll that most reject is the individual mandate. Two-thirds of the public want to eliminate that part of the ACA.
In other words, some people really are outraged at being forced to buy health insurance. Maybe Andy Borowitz thought he was being satirical …

In any case, the technical term for people who want to keep price controls on health insurance, oppose the individual mandate, and think of themselves as right wing is “deplorable.”

A Sound Bite for Conservatives

In view of the fact that Obamacare was associated with a jump in death rates, you can try accusing anybody claiming that its repeal will kill people of traveling backward in time.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Suggestion for Congress

The main reason for the continued rejection of the attempted reforms of Obamacare are the horrendous-sounding numbers from the Congressional Budget Office. These numbers appear to be similar no matter how watered-down the bill is. It turns out that almost all of the alleged losses of health insurance come from the repeal of the individual mandate. The sequence appears to be as follows:

  1. The Republicans propose a heath-insurance reform plan.
  2. The Congressional Budget Office issues a pan report claiming millions of people will lose insurance.
  3. Average voters (the “people of the land, the common clay of the new West”) hear about the report and figure it's because the Snidely Whiplashes in charge of insurance companies will throw people off insurance plans simply because they're mean.
  4. They send lots of hysterical phone calls, emails, and letters to Congress.
  5. The Congresscritters and Senators listen and vote it down.
  6. The Republican Establishment looks for something else to water down.
  7. Repeat.
Maybe they should repeal every part of Obamacare but the individual mandate.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Reactions to Microchipping Employees

Some of my reactions to the news that at one company is planning to install microchips in some of their employees:

  • Incredulous stare.
  • The Book of Revelations looks a little less insane now that we have the Mark of the Beast.
  • By the way, why would microchips have to be implanted instead of worn? Is this an attempt at giving the employees something that's hard to remove?
  • Is this what happens when people who are taught that businesses can get away with anything grow up to run businesses?
  • If someone quits rather than do this … will he become a poster boy for government regulation of worker agreements?
  • If he turns out to be a “fundie” worried about both the Mark of the Beast and gay marriage, will the Left abruptly drop him … followed by the Right using him as a poster boy?
  • If his church opens a soup kitchen for illegal aliens, will the Right then drop his case? Will both herds of independent minds start marching in opposite directions?
  • On the other hand, maybe he'll be a poster boy for his next employer: They can advertise “WE HIRE PEOPLE OF PRINCIPLE!”

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Real Problem with Left-Wing Politics

According to a recent article advising liberals on how to win elections:

It's possible to push for the policies you think are important on climate change without making people feel guilty about their hamburgers.
Translation: Don't tell people not to buy hamburgers; just tell people not to sell them.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Brief Note on the Voight–Kampff Test

One of the Voight–Kampff test questions is:

You're in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, it's crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't, not without your help. But you're not helping. Why is that?
The capitalist living inside the heads of leftists will not help the tortoise. A British health-care bureaucrat will prevent anybody else from helping.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I Was Wrong

A few years ago, I said:

It's a government regulation that hasn't been discredited yet. Advocate a government regulation in nearly any other field and you'll have libertarians saying “Look at how the State messed things up” In the case of net neutrality, our best argument is “Look at how the State messed things up everywhere else!” This, of course, can be spun as paranoid rantings. (It doesn't help that some of the people involved also engage in paranoid rantings.)
I was wrong. Net neutrality really was associated with bad effects.

Apparently, net-neutrality used to be the law, back when American broadband was rare. Net neutrality is not a matter of “You need to fill out this form for your Internet connection” or “You need permission from Occupy Wall Street to start an ISP” (despite what some people think). It's a matter of “ding ding ding ding khkhkhkhkh…”

I had overlooked this because the Other Side kept insisting that American slowness in adopting broadband was due to capitalism and—like an idiot—I believed them. (In the real world, the “cool nations” haven't been that strong on net neutrality.)

Meanwhile, in 2002–2015, we didn't have net-neutrality laws and had a rapid expansion of broadband. We also saw Comcast smack down Netflix for bandwidth hogging, but that was a feature, not a bug.

More recently, we also saw Verizon's arrogant treatment of ISPs it doesn't like, but it's doing so as a content provider. Strengthening ISPs might stop that.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

They Really Believe This

According a “toot” from the Mastodon Federation (earlier mentioned here):

Mentally, I'd like you to replace "capital" with "big piles of money" wherever you see it. That's a gross simplification but I think it also makes some things more clear.

An economic system is one that determines a) what goods/services should be produced and b) how to distribute them.

Capitalism supposes that a) and b) ought to be determined by (people with) Big Piles of Money

It's "big piles of money-ism".

The explains the persistent belief in folk economics.

On the other hand, the phrase “big piles of the results of the voluntary decisions by consumers-ism” sounds awkward.

In related news, it looks like the Mastodon Federation might be the platform I speculated about here.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

A Suggestion on the Health-Care Crisis

On the one hand, it looks like anything done to Obamacare will have effects on somebody that can be called catastrophic and might cause a Democratic takeover of Congress.

On the other hand, Obamacare continues to implode. For example, according to The New York Times:

Next year, about 35,000 people buying insurance in Affordable Care Act marketplaces in 45 counties could have no carriers to choose from.
It looks like the problem will then get worse.

On the gripping hand, there is an increasingly-plausible theory that Obamacare was designed to collapse and be replaced by a single-payer system riding to the rescue. The single-payer system might start as a public option for counties with no insurer and then get extended.

A possible alternative comes from New Jersey which was able to reverse a “death spiral” by relegalizing “Basic and Essential” health insurance. (I'm dubious about the details of the New Jersey plan because it saved money by having low caps instead of high deductibles but that's a quibble.) It might make sense to have a private deregulated option for people in counties with no insurers. The important part is for Obamacare to fail right instead of fail left.

It will be hard for the Left to complain about this because they will refuse to admit Obamacare is failing until it's painfully obvious. They will try to blame the failure on Trump, of course, but the failure has already started. I suspect Trump was elected by the votes of people whose premiums increased shortly before the election.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Brief Note on the Republican Health-Care Plan

Let's see … The current system (for the past few years) was based on:

  • Adding some popular regulations that varied from stupid to trivial.
  • Adding an unpopular regulation (the individual mandate) aimed at keeping the first set of regulations from being disastrous.
  • A large expansion of Medicaid.
In response to that the Republicans are currently planning to:
  • Repealing some (but not all) of the first set of regulations.
  • Repealing the individual mandate (the only part of this system that came close to making sense).
  • Cutting Medicaid.
The last might make sense except that they're not not doing much about Social Security … an even bigger program.

I won't more than mention that the regulatory part of the State (at least on the Federal level) is even more out of control than the spending part of the State.

Maybe, under Trump, the Republicans have misplaced priorities … but we knew that.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I Am Now on Mathstodon

Mathstodon is a social network that supports MathJax.

My Mathstodon address.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

What Will Happen if the U.S. Joins or Leaves the Paris Accord?

If the U.S. joins the Paris Accord…

  • Coal will be gradually replaced by natural gas.
  • Carbon emissions will decline slightly.
  • Coal miners will lose their jobs.

If the U.S. leaves the Paris Accord…

  • Coal will be gradually replaced by natural gas.
  • Carbon emissions will decline slightly.
  • Coal miners will lose their jobs.


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Posts from an Alternate Timeline

I've noticed lots of posts on blogs or twitter (typical example here) advising the adoption of left-wing tactics. Those posts come from an alternate timeline in which the Left is winning. In the real world …

In politics, they lost the Presidency, the Senate, the House, most governorships, and most state legislatures. If we had a real Republican in the White House, we'd be well on the way to repealing Obamacare.

They're even losing the Culture Wars. Chik Fil-A: They lost. Duck Dynasty: They lost. DropBox: They lost. Hobby Lobby: They lost. WeRateDogs: They're losing. They're vulnerable.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

How Some People Intend Net Neutrality to Work

Maybe the cartoonists had no idea of how net neutrality would work, but other people have some idea of how they want it to work.

Either some of the supporters of net neutrality are even more ignorant than the cartoonists or the cartoonists underestimated how much of a threat to freedom it would be.

By the way, smacking down a content provider hogging 30% of the bandwidth does not count as “broken.”

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Four Political Factions

The Right-Wing NutJobs with which I'm sometimes allied will find it hard to believe that leftists are opposed to the “Establishment”. It isn't as absurd as it might seem. There is reason to think the media are not owned by far leftists. I think we can clear up the confusion of whether the “mainstream” media are right or left if we note that there are at least four political viewpoints common in the U.S. today:
  1. the Establishment right;
  2. the Populist right;
  3. the Establishment left;
  4. the Populist left.
We see that the first three are well represented (section 3 is excessively well represented) but the last tends to be ignored except when another group (usually 3) decides to speak for it. (Section 2 cannot be ignored nowadays. Even before the current administration, it was condemned but it was not ignored.)

The Populist left includes but is not limited to the underclass. It also includes underpaid artists, underpaid writers, underpaid musicians, much of the west side of Manhattan, and wacko ex-professors in Montana. (The Usenet version of this was written some time ago and it was based on a CompuServe rant dated April 22, 1996.)

The Establishment left tends to define itself in opposition to the Populist right. It will go along with the Populist left when it disagrees with the Populist right (e.g., on gay rights) or when the Populist right is apathetic (e.g., on nuclear power) but will oppose both populisms when they agree (e.g., on free trade).

The Establishment left will frequently pretend the Populist left does not exist. The Establishment right thinks that is because they will only pay attention to right-wing embarrassments. They may be right.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Here We Go Again!

Evan Williams, one of the people behind Blogger, now regrets starting Twitter, on the grounds that it my have put Trump in the White House.

This is part of a common pattern:

  1. Leftists notice that not everybody agrees with the Enlightened Ones.
  2. They attribute that to Establishment brainwashing. (They really do believe that.)
  3. They then invent another platform that the Establishment cannot censor. (Seen on Usenet: “The Revolution will be Bloggerized” from a left-wing crackpot.)
  4. They then become astounded at how the new platform is being used by The Enemy.
This may be related to the fact that Leftists don't know what capitalism is. (That may also have caused the reaction discussed here.)

As for the next platform … “I have no idea what it will be, and am in no great hurry to find out.

Friday, May 05, 2017

I Have a Strange Superpower

I have a memory.

I can recall that the Rust Belt was called the Rust Belt long before either NAFTA or large-scale Chinese trade.

I can recall that we didn't have large numbers of people dying in the streets before Obamacare. (Those that were dying in the streets did so as a result of collectivism-inspired riots.)

I can recall when 7% interest was considered the minimum for a monetary crisis. (The interest rates at the peak of the alleged crisis of 2008 were much less.)

Addendum: I sometimes feel like this.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Lesson of That United Airlines Incident

The usual claim is that United Airlines incident proves Big Business can get away with anything. I thought the large drop in its stock price in the immediate aftermath proved that it could not actually get away with anything.

As for “What were they thinking?” … The people who set limits on payments to passengers to encourage them to leave voluntarily may have been influenced by the belief that such payments are somehow dishonorable and selecting people by lot is the fairest system. That, in turn, may have been based on the plausible theory that poor people would be more likely to let themselves be bumped as a result of payments.

In other words, this incident may have been due to the anti-market mentality.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fearless Girl or Impatient Girl?

The Fearless Girl looks like she's saying “You're late! What took you so long?” This is obviously a protest against the fact that capitalism was rather slow to arrive and set humanity free. It might even be a protest against the fact that capitalism has not yet penetrated to every nook and cranny on Earth.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

When Your Conscience Is in Thrall to Government Policy

According to bio“ethics” experts (seen via National Review):

Objection to providing patients interventions that are at the core of medical practice – interventions that the profession deems to be effective, ethical, and standard treatments – is unjustifiable (AMA Code of Medical Ethics [Opinion 11.2.2]10).28″31

Making the patient paramount means offering and providing accepted medical interventions in accordance with patients’ reasoned decisions. Thus, a health care professional cannot deny patients access to medications for mental health conditions, sexual dysfunction, or contraception on the basis of their conscience, since these drugs are professionally accepted as appropriate medical interventions.

In other words, it would be regarded as unethical for a doctor opposed to capital punishment to refuse to cooperate with the organ banks. If this becomes accepted, we might be an election away from compelling physicians to offer acupuncture. I won't more than mention this is a violation of the First, Ninth, Tenth, and Thirteenth Amendments.

By the way, if enough ethics experts disagree with this, would we be justified in censoring it?

I'm reminded of the anti-circumcision activists who appeal to “Society” while ignoring the fact that “Society” deems them crackpots.

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