It’s Basic Math: You Can’t Lower US Health Care Costs

Either I’m crazy or you can’t lower the price of health care in the US. Despite the political grandstanding, our costs have nothing to do with Obamacare, Republicans, Democrats or even pharmaceutical and insurance companies.   America’s costs will always be high, and always much higher than other countries. And full disclaimer; I’m a Bernie Sanders fan, but everyone is missing the point when discussing US costs, including Senator Sanders. Our costs are high simply because of basic math.

How Much Higher? The following are the per capita 2013 annual health care costs of the US and other industrialized countries the US is most often compared to: US $9,086; Switzerland $6,325; Norway $6,170; Sweden $5,153; Germany $4,920; Canada $4,569; France $4,361 United Kingdom $3,364. These numbers are taken from here: US Health Care From A Global Perspective.  

But why are our costs higher?  Easy. Basic math.

1 – We Weigh More. Our costs are higher because America has a higher rate of obesity.  Over 1/3 of Americans (35.3%) are obese.  Obesity rates for other nations are as follows: Japan 3.7%; Switzerland 9%; Sweden 11.7%; France 14.5%; United Kingdom 24.9%; Canada 25.8%.

I’m not saying obesity is right or wrong, but I am saying that it costs more.  A lot more. Obese individuals incur health care costs that are 150% higher than normal weight individuals.  Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain – the costliest conditions in America – are all directly connected to obesity.  Of the 10 most used prescription drugs in the US 8 of them are related to obesity.

Obesity is also responsible for skewing statistics to make it appear that the US has inferior health care relative to other countries.  The “we pay more but have worse outcomes” discussion. When Bernie Sanders and others highlight that the US has a higher infant mortality rate relative to other developed nations they fail to mention infant mortality is connected to obesity (they also fail to mention that other nations don’t report infants born under 500g in weight who pass away while the US does). The US has outstanding health outcomes when accounting for our elevated rate of obesity.

Obesity is expensive.  It’s basic math. We cost more than other countries because we weigh more.

2 – We Use More Pharmaceutical Drugs. More on drug prices later.  But it is also irrelevant. Our costs are higher because we use more prescription drugs.  A lot more as in the US alone consumes 80% of the word’s opioids.  The average American takes 2.2 prescription pills per day while other countries are as follows: Canada 1.8, Sweden 1.6, Germany 1.6, Norway 1.5, France 1.5, United Kingdom 1.3, Switzerland 1.3 for an average of 1.5 pills per person per day.

The difference between 1.5 pills per day and 2.2 pills per day may not seem like a lot, but it is a difference of 68%. Even if the US adopted another country’s prices overnight, exact same prices, we would still spend 68% more on prescription drugs because we use 68% more.

In 2013, the annual U.S. prescription drug spending was $858 per person compared with an average of $400 for 19 other industrialized nations (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD nations).  Either I’m crazy or that’s actually a great deal – we use 68% more, but only spend 46% more.

It’s basic math.  We cost more because we use more prescriptions.

3 – We Have More Procedures. Simple. Americans have 107 MRIs per 1,000 people per year and 240 CTs per 1,000. The OECD country averages are 50.6 and 17.6 per 1,000 people.  And despite these numbers, America suffers from the undersuse of services – people not going to the hospital when they should.  That’s right, we need to use even more care.

We also provide more timely care. The Canadian province of Ontario has roughly the same population as Pennsylvania. Ontario has 11 hospitals that can do open heart surgery while Pennsylvania has 60.

It’s basic math.  We cost more because we have more medical devices. We cost more because we utilize these devices more. We cost more because we have more facilities for expensive procedures than other countries.

4 – We Pay Our Doctors and Nurses More.  Note that I did not say we pay too much, just more.  Average physicians in the US are paid 78% higher relative to other industrialized nations. And although income varies across general practitioners and specialists, higher relative US doctor compensation contributes to 5% of America’s total health care cost.

It is more than just physicians; essentially all health care professionals in the US have a higher salary relative to other countries.  The average nurse in the US is paid $70,000 compared to $51,000 in Canada, $47,000 in Germany and $44,000 in the United Kingdom.

It’s basic math. We cost more because our hospitals need to generate more revenue to cover salaries, and those pesky items from above like MRI machines and surgical facilities.

And there you have it.  Those are the main reasons that our costs are high. And yes, health care is that easy. And that is why people make it hard. Nobody likes the math. Nobody likes what the math implies. But this basic math is precisely why we can’t “fix” health care in the US, which I assume means more people covered and lower costs.

“It’s the Greedy Pharmaceutical Companies” I’ll keep this simple.  They make chump change.  Here is a piece by the Huffington Post lamenting the $711 billion 10-year profit margin of Big Pharma. Huffington Post is no fan of Big Pharma, nor is my guy Bernie Sanders. But $70 billion a year profit? Out of $3 trillion in total US health care spending? Chump change. Let’s round it up and give them $100 billion in yearly profits. That’s only 3% of total US health care spending.

If you magically make Big Pharma work for $0 profit, yes ZERO profit (this only makes sense if you’re a good liberal and you own no pharmaceutical stock, of course) you would save the US 3%. Health spending increases by more than 3% each year. In other words prices would continue to rise.

And yes, I said I’d keep it simple but here’s some food for thought: US Generic Drugs Cost Less Than Canadian Drugs (that’s where that 68% and 46% mystery comes from).

“It’s the Greedy Health Insurance Companies” See above. Same phenomenon. Focus on profits, not revenues. Highly  annoying to a Bernie guy like me, but still true.

“Medicare and Medicaid Have Lower Administration Rates than Private Insurance”   This comment usually goes hand in hand with the above statement.  It is just not true.  Any Medicare cost estimates need to factor in that Medicare uses the IRS, Health and Human Services and Social Security to function and do many jobs for them, like collecting money. They also use the FBI to investigate billions of dollars in fraud each year.  You know what efficient entities don’t do? Send payments to fake doctors.  Once the costs of the other agencies’ Medicare responsibilities are factored in, Medicare’s administrative rates are higher than private insurers.

Either I’m crazy, but Americans need to look no further than the Pentagon to understand inefficient spending. Or the disaster in the Veterans Administration. You know what efficient governments that know about health care don’t do? Let Walter Reed, a government run hospital located 11 miles from the capitol building turn into a national embarrassment.

I could go on and on. Health savings accounts. High deductible plans (Read this: High Deductibles Make Health Insurance All but Useless). Health reimbursement accounts. Co-pays. Public Option. Medicare-for-More. Medicare-for-All. Hillarycare. Berniecare. Obamacare. Trumpcare. Romneycare. Universal Coverage. Universal Access. Cadillac Tax. Cost Shifting. Deadweight. Fee for Service. Employer Mandate. Individual Mandate – none of these lower costs unless you ration health care, prioritize surgeries, limit prescription drugs and pay providers less just as in the countries we are always compared to.

Negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. Sure.  The VA and Medicaid already receive lower prices.  But other countries negotiate by saying no to certain drugs.  Without a willingness to say no (cue politicians and their death panel speak) it remains somewhat of a mystery as to what power the US has to lower prices.

Even systems that do just that, with coverage for all, still have systemic basic math problems: this week the Red Cross announced their concern the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is facing a humanitarian crisis. Universal coverage is easy. It just requires large sums of money and limits on unlimited care.

Instead of thinking about costs in the abstract, simply try this: lose weight, tell a doctor you don’t need your next prescription, tell your doctor you don’t think you need the next surgery they recommend,  tell your doctor you’ll pass on that MRI, and tell your doctor that you think they are overpaid. Also, tell your local politician you would like higher taxes. Basically, change American culture. Either I’m crazy or the “back hurts try yoga” approach is not popular.

We need to stop pretending we can’t do math. Politicians are liars, but fortunately for them, Americans don’t like the truth.  But until we discuss the truth we can never have a honest debate regarding policies. The costs are what the costs are. If you believe you can somehow cover more people and lower costs and not impact availability of services, you might want to see a doctor. Repeat after me: we’re screwed.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out the hyperlinks ~ Nick

 

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This election has been boring

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Either I’m crazy or this election has been boring.  Horribly boring.  And I understand that Clinton and Trump supporters are animated.  Or perhaps more aptly stated, the anti-Clinton and anti-Trump voters are agitated.  An election based upon hate. Regardless, everything about this election has been predictable.  And everything after this election will also be.  Predictable and boring.  All of this is much ado about nothing.  All of this won’t matter much in the overall scheme of any important issue.

Boring Nomination Process The Republican Party nominated somebody who acts like an imbecile. This is news? Has the country forgotten George W. Bush? People criticize Trump’s inability to speak coherently. Again, has the country forgotten George W. Bush?  Am I the only person left who still does not like him? What is supposed to be exciting, that the GOP nominated a billionaire? Has the country forgotten Romney? (And yes, of course Republican billionaires are bad and Democratic billionaires are good).  The Republican base has a disdain for establishment politicians (to their credit) and went with a complete outsider, albeit in this case, a touch too far.  The richest white person won. Boring.

Speaking of boring, the Democratic Party nominated another person named Clinton. This is exciting? It has happened before, literally.  Boring. While the GOP does not like insiders, the Democratic Party loves insiders.  It feeds on them.  It needs them.  It was even boring  and unsurprising when leaked emails showed that former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was working against Bernie Sanders.  It was still boring when it was found out that her replacement, Donna Brazile, was giving Team Clinton questions ahead of her debates with Bernie.

But overall, boring. You didn’t think Bernie had a chance, did you? Clintons have always beat Progressives (read this: Clintonism Screwed the Democrats: How Bill and Hillary Gutted Progressivism).  The richest white person won. Boring.

Boring Conventions In addition to being boring, both conventions were pretty much the same.  Same exact schedules.  Including when BFF’s Chelsea and Ivanka both gave the same middle class speech despite being wealthy from their fathers and being married to hedgefund managers. They are essentially the same person. Boring.

Both sides paraded on stage the parents of dead children, either killed by illegal immigrants or killed by police.  Both sides pretended to care about our military, but let’s be honest, chances are every American can name more Kardashians than people who have earned the Medal of Honor.  But apparently the highlights of these things are supposed to be the candidates’ speeches.

Yes, the speeches.  Either I’m crazy, but I don’t find it enthralling watching adults read speeches that somebody else wrote for them. In high schools we call this cheating, or at the very least, lazy.  Boring.

Hillary is Going to Win This is obvious. And boring. It’s the Electoral College. The Democratic nominee, any Democrat, only ever needs to find 28 electoral votes. This is just 1-2 states above and beyond the same states that always go Democratic. Boring. (Read this: The Republicans Have a Massive Electoral Map Problem). Granted, a sane Republican like Kasich could have had a better chance against Clinton, but still, the electoral map will always be king. And more importantly, not much is going to change in DC. Boring.

Global Warming The next president will again not believe in Global Warming.  Republicans typically do not believe in Global Warming at all, or if they do, they do not believe that it is caused by people. I believe at one point Trump called it a Chinese conspiracy.

Democrats pretend they believe in Global Warming, but also reject the science behind it. Scientists do not say that Global Warming is a small threat.  Or a distant threat. Or a threat that needs a future plan. No, scientists are saying that if we don’t address this immediately we may ruin Earth as we know it (read this: Last Chance to Limit Global Warming to Safe Levels).

What is worse, not doing anything because you don’t believe in Global Warming, or not doing anything while you do believe in Global Warming?

If Democrats believed in Global Warming would the US, under Obama, have drilled for enough oil to even make Sarah Palin blush? (Read this: How Obama Become the Oil President).  If Democrats believed in Global Warming would they love fracking? (Read this: Natural Gas Won’t Reduce Global Emissions Much or read this: Hillary Clinton and Climate Change Pro-Fracking). Expect the use of fossil fuels to only increase under President Hillary; a clear Republican-esque rejection of science. Drill baby drill.

Ignoring Climate Change. Again. Boring.

Wall Street Wall Street will pretty much do whatever it wants. Again. As always. Boring.  And yes every good Democrat knows that Bush is to blame for the housing crisis in 2008 because he repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, exempted credit-default swaps from oversight and forced banks to lend money to poor people. Just kidding, those were all things that Bill Clinton did. Let’s be honest Democrats, in your heart of hearts, do you think it was the Democratic Party or the Republican Party that wanted to help poor people buy houses? (Read this: 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis).

Both parties are in the pockets of Wall Street. Both parties are in the pockets of corporations.

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie will be locked away until they are needed again in 2020. And as she outlined in her now not-secret Wall Street speeches, Hillary will allow into Congress the powers that be at Wall Street to write the regulations to game the system in their favor.  Another administration where Wall Street reigns supreme. It is the same reason that in the midst of the housing crash, then President-Elect Obama allowed Citigroup to dictate who the president will appoint to various positions.  Wall Street will always dominate over Main Street.

Money in Politics Expect the money in politics to only increase.  Ignore the words from the Democrats and look at their actions.  The DNC changed an Obama precedent to again allow contributions from federal lobbyists. The Clinton machine has been in operation for 40 years and favors need to be paid. (Read this: The Clinton’s Old Attack Dogs Have A Profitable New Role).  Bernie chose not to have a Super Pac. Hillary colluded with hers. And that is all you need to know. 

More Wars The main job of the president is foreign policy.  But yet, Obama, the man who decried the Iraq War, chose as his VP in Biden and Secretary of State in Clinton 2 Iraq War supporters. And rumor has it that if the Dems win the Senate, Chuck Schumer, another Iraq War voter, will be the majority leader. Both parties love war. Hillary has the same foreign policy as Dick Cheney.

Although I suppose shooting down Russian planes in Syria and the prospect of nuclear war is a little exciting, the fact that Americans will see over 54% of their income taxes spent on our military is boring (Read this: We Just Killed More Syrians than Killed in Nice, Hate Aladdin and Love War).

It Doesn’t Really Matter If you were hoping the election might address Climate Change, the power of Wall Street, the power of money in politics or our constant obsession with war you are going to be disappointed. Every other issue in this country can simply be framed as a byproduct of one of those 4 issues.

The same problems that existed under George HW Bush existed under Bill Clinton and then existed under George W. Bush and then existed under Barack Obama and will exist under Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the fact that by 2020 the Oval Office will have had only 3 last names over the past 32 years could be part of the issue. But more oil drilling. More fracking. More military spending.  More debt.  More partisan half-truths.  More of the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the middle class realizing the inevitable descent into a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.

Trump. Clinton. Republican. Democrat. There will be winners, but the loser will without a doubt be America.

Totally predictable. Totally boring.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to click the hyperlinks ~ Nick

 

 

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If Trump Grabbed a Vagina in Yemen, would we care?

A girl cries as she walks onto the veranda at the yard of a school sheltering people displaced by Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen's northwestern province of Saada, in the capital Sanaa

A girl cries as she walks onto the veranda at the yard of a school sheltering people displaced by Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen’s northwestern province of Saada, in the capital Sanaa August 27, 2015.

I usually start these posts with with the words “Either I’m crazy or” followed by something witty, witty at least in my mind. But right now I am at a loss for words. Or, more aptly, I don’t feel it is appropriate to use even the slight deadpan humor that accompanies my usual irony.

Simply put, I’m completely mortified by my country right now. A fluctuating mix of sadness, disbelief and anger. I am embarrassed at the complete lack of attention, the complete lack of compassion, the complete lack of interest in the current role the United States is taking in bombing and starving Yemen (Babies Starved of Milk as Yemen Slides Towards Famine), one of the poorest nations in the world.

The media, mainstream and social, has been incessantly focused on the recorded comments that Trump made in 2005. It is 24/7 coverage. It’s evidence that when the country decides, any story can be covered non-stop.

Are the Trump tapes newsworthy? Sure.

Let’s assume the worst. Let’s assume everything Trump said is literal, not meant in any joking manner and precisely true. Let’s assume that Trump, 10 years ago, when he was a sought after political donor and insider admitted in those recordings to forcibly grabbing and kissing women.

Let’s assume that every allegation against Trump is true and he deserves to be vilified. Let’s also assume that the 9 women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault or rape are all liars, and should simply be dismissed because as Democratic strategist James Carville said, “If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”

Horrible. Yup. Newsworthy. Yup. But what about Yemen?

Referencing Donald Trump, today Michelle Obama said, “It has shaken me to my core in a way I could not have predicted.” Either I’m crazy or I don’t think the Trump tapes are worse than death. I don’t think the Trump tapes are worse than famine. I don’t think the tapes are worse than the over 600 casualties caused by US bombs a few days ago.

If the Trump tapes are so horrible, why the hell are we even friends with the Saudis to begin with? Their exemplar treatment towards women?

Look. In the past I’ve put more time into my posts.  But now I just feel deflated. I assume you could get my point by the title of the post. Just go to Google and type in Yemen. Or read this A Forgotten Crisis (where the above picture is from). Or this Most People Die Here In Silence. Or this We Sleep Afraid, We Wake Up Afraid: A child’s life in Yemen.  This is a good read also: Why the US has Blessed a Saudi War Against a Small Group of Impoverished Smugglers in Yemen.

These words by Trump, these actions by Trump, are the most shocking news in the world? I don’t think so.

My 7-year old just walked in. This was the conversation after she saw the picture at the top:

Who is that girl?

She is from Yemen.

Why is she crying?

We are dropping bombs on her.

She’s adorable. Poor girl.

My 7-year old has more compassion than CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News combined. And more compassion than everybody who has read more about Trump’s comments than anything related to Yemen.

Starving children in Yemen. That’s ok. That’s not media worthy. That’s not speech worthy. That doesn’t shock America’s moral conscious. It’s just our tax money.

Bombing of children in Yemen. That’s ok.  That’s not media worthy. That’s not speech worthy. That doesn’t shock America’s moral conscious. It’s just our tax money.

But for for heaven’s sake, please make sure those bombs don’t land on any vaginas.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out the hyperlinks – Nick

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We just killed more Syrians than killed in Nice, hate Aladdin & love war.

“By definition if you shoot people who pose no threat to you, strangers, you have a troubled mind.”  – President Obama in response to the Dallas police shooting

Either I’m crazy or Americans should not be surprised when we kill each other. Nothing about quick-to-shoot police officers or the murders of police in Dallas or Baton Rouge is shocking.  We are, after all, a nation that is obsessed with waging war. We love war.  We are always at war and war is an integral part of our culture. As long as this culture persists, Americans should stop acting naive and surprised when Americans resort to violence. Violence is what we do. Heck, violence is what we do on a global scale.

We Just Killed More Than Were Killed in Nice:     The terror attack in Nice recently killed 84 people.  The world was shocked. A few days later, US airstrikes killed 85 civilians in Syria. In contrast to the media coverage of Nice, this story went largely unnoticed. Why?  Yes it is embarrassing and damaging but also because let’s be honest, the US killing of civilians, especially civilians in the Middle East, either intentionally or accidentally, is hardly new.  Killing 85 innocent people has become routine to our news cycle.

And if the US does not directly do the killing, we feel free to use tax money to hire rebels / terrorist who do things such as behead children. On video. And cheer while doing it.

We Are Always At War    The United States has existed since 1776. Of these 240 years, we have been involved in war for 223 years. This great article itemizes each of these years: America Has Been At War 93% of the Time.  In case you think to yourself “But some of those are just Indian Wars” I took the liberty of providing this first person account from the Sandy Creek Massacre.  It was like the Sandy Hook shooting but unfortunately actually worse.

I tell you Ned it was hard to see little children on their knees have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized. One squaw was wounded and a fellow took a hatchet to finish her, and he cut one arm off, and held the other with one hand and dashed the hatchet through her brain. One squaw with her two children, were on their knees, begging for their lives…They were all scalped, and as high as half a dozen taken from one head. They were all horribly mutilated. You would think it impossible for white men to butcher and mutilate human beings as they did.

The full account of the massacre can be found here.  Can a country that is always at war, especially wars of choice, even pretend that is does not love war?

We Want to Bomb Agrabah:    A survey asked Americans the simple question of if should the US bomb Agrabah.  And if your Disney is a bit rusty, Agrabah is the city from Aladdin. And if you’re really out of it, Aladdin is a cartoon. Not surprisingly, 25% of respondents said yes, we should  bomb Agrabah.  Did they mean to suggest we should literally bomb a cartoon?  No. But Agrabah does sound Muslim-ish. So sure. What the hell. Why not?  We are already bombing 6 countries (can you name them? I listed them at the bottom) so why not just add 1 more. And this is my point.  We are so obsessed with war, so in love with war, so accustomed to war that the thought of spending billions to kill other people for no apparent reason (obviously given it doesn’t even exist) makes sense to us.

War is Part of our Culture:    I believe there may be 2 competing flashlight commercials on TV right now.  They both claim to be “tactical” and “military grade.”  Similarly, truck commercials brag about their military grade aluminum, and Boeing commercials featuring bombers often being aired. War is such a part of who we are that we use it to sell products.  War is good. Product is good.

We frame everything we do in terms of war.  War on Crime.  War on Drugs. War on AIDS. War on Cancer. War on Poverty. Kids with no food…and we come up with war.  As an aside, if we funded some of the above ‘wars’ the same way we fund actual wars, poverty would cease to exist.

Stopped Being Surprised:     Why are Americans surprised that police shoot people?  Why are people surprised that people shoot back as means of revenge? We have been engaged in largely wars of choice, and preemptive wars, for over a decade. Police think a person may have a gun, sure, shoot them.  The country went to war just in case Saddam had scary weapons after all. Preemptive shoot first and ask questions later is our foreign policy. Of course it will be part of our domestic policy.

President Obama said that if you kill strangers who pose no threat to you that you have a troubled mind.  Mmm. Did Obama know everyone before he decided to bomb Libya? What was the threat? Did Obama know everybody when he decided to bomb Syria? What was the threat that led the US to foment and stage a fake civil war in order to remove Assad?

Look America.  The shootings of people by police officers and the shooting of police officers are horrific and tragic. But until our elected leaders (hell, Obama has a Noble Peace Prize) stop waging war around the world for dubious reasons, don’t expect Americans to not resort to violence.  It is just what we are used to.

These are the 6 countries we are currently spending billions to bomb: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya.

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Trumpocalyspe: Liberals Will Be Pro-Gun.

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City 1
Peering around your blinds you watch as the mud encrusted pickup truck with the 18″ suspension lift and 40″ tires is doing celebratory donuts in your development’s cul-de-sac, dual Confederate flags flapping in the wind. Despite the intentionally loud exhaust you hear the empty cans of Bud Light hitting the ground as they are thrown from the windows, truck speeding off into the distance, occupants giving a 2016 version of the Rebel Yell.

You hope they don’t notice the Hillary: Maintain the Status Quo bumper sticker on your Volvo.  You’re not thrilled these people are in your neighborhood but you know what they are celebrating. Moments ago you turned off MSNBC as they called the presidential election for Donald Trump. Maddow was in tears.

This cannot be happening. You picture yourself on NPR’s The Moth regaling the audience with the story of the time you had a fashionable bout of temporary insanity and thought Trump won the election. The laughter, coaxed out by your wit and pinot grigio would be so frequent that attendees will need to remove their eye glasses in order to wipe their tears. The frames of said glasses are thick enough to demonstrate the owners are hip but not too thick to be considered a hipster.

You know you won’t be able to sleep. It’s not the $27 frappuccinomaccograndelatte keeping you up; its soy is grown on land that was for formerly rainforest and you find it soothing. No, it’s the horror of a, you can hardly think it, a Pres… President… President Trump. You’ll be up all night wondering what the hell went wrong although you agree that making Oprah his VP was a shrewd move.

Hillary was up by 15 points in every poll. Every poll. She had endorsements from both sides of the aisle. Even Dick Cheney endorsed her, stating “You won’t find one foreign policy decision that we disagree on.  And she was right, Iraq was a great business opportunity.”

It wasn’t Bill Clinton’s sorority house incident. Lena Dunham rushed to his defense explaining that when Hillary said to reach out to college students Bill innocently thought she meant literally.

It wasn’t that Hillary still refused to release her transcripts. Trump ‘released’ his but voters knew it was hardly fair. There were no speech transcripts for Trump.  Apparently nobody previously thought anything he had said was worth recording.

The terrorist attack last month. That must be it. The worst October Surprise in political history. It didn’t help that it was committed by a recently arrived Libyan refugee via a grant from the Clinton Foundation. Or that the terrorist obtained a gun from an illegal Mexican immigrant who in turn obtained the gun from President Obama’s Operation Fast and Furious scheme. And it definitely didn’t help that the terrorist’s name was Osama bin Saddam Ghadaffi Ibrahim Salam Inshallah Salifist. Or as Trump calls him, “Osama ISIS.”

“Are you kidding me? We let in someone named Osama ISIS? Folks, I told you so. Bigly.” #OsamaISIS was the top trending Twitter tag.

And to make it more politically damaging, the attack occurred at an animal shelter and killed four puppies. Osama ISIS only targeted animals which helped him command news coverage for the weeks preceding the election. America is used to people being killed by guns. America is even used to White people being killed. But puppies? Not since Cecil the Lion was killed has a gun death invoked such outcry. CNN covered it nonstop:

Andersen Cooper: You’re a Hillary supporter. Does this attack matter? Will it impact the election?
Pundit: No.

Andersen Cooper: You’re a Trump supporter. Does this attack matter? Will it impact the election?
Pundit: Yes

You feel like Marty McFly in Back to the Future 2. Or 3. You’re not sure which one. But whatever movie had Biff in charge running everything. You can’t believe your country did this to you. Should you move? To where? Canada is out of the question. If you wanted to live in damn socialist country you would have voted for Bernie.  Maybe Mexico. You don’t know any Hispanic people but you vacation yearly at Cabo San Lucas and find it pleasant. However, that option may be out. Mexican President Enrigue Nieto was quoted as saying they will build a wall to keep out insane Americans.

Dammit. You do at least take assurance that in your bedroom you have your newly purchased assault rifle. You have always been anti-gun. Strongly so. You were even anti-hunting and vegan for a couple of weeks in your life. Heck, in your 4th vacation home you altered the plans and only did the downstairs in bamboo flooring because you were worried about panda habitat.

You didn’t buy the gun because you thought Trump would be president. You thought there was no chance. No, you purchased it when you realized that somewhere between 30-45% of the country actually liked him. And yes there are the local police. And yes you have ADT Home Security. But still, you take comfort in the fact that if you are going to have to live under a President Trump, and going to have to live in a country that actually voted for him, that you at least have a gun.  Who knows what these people will try to do next.

In your mind this is the Apocalypse. The unfathomable Trumpocalypse. Although you have never actually seen an episode, you now view the country as a large-scale zombie scene from the Walking Dead. A bunch of climate change denying racist anti-gay right-wing nut-job zombies.

Don’t they realize that the poorest counties and states in the US are all Republican? Have they forgotten how horrible the country was under Bush and how President Obama saved us? Why do they keep voting Republican? Why do they…..It’s hopeless. You can’t even get animated with your usual retorts. You are too shocked to even be angry anymore. You are going to read your rifle’s owner’s manual.

Damn Republicans. You hate them.  If they were just not so ignorant the country would be better off.

City 2
You leave the medical center furious. You can’t wait for President Trump to be sworn in and repeal this damn Obamacare. The receptionist told you that you have not yet met your family’s $7,000 deductible. It’s November and it will again reset in January. Deductible? What the hell does that mean? You’ve been deducting $650 from your income every month to pay for the damn insurance to begin with.  Jesus Christ. What the hell is the point of insurance if it is too expensive to use?

You used to have insurance through the plant but you were laid off when it moved to Mexico. Damn NAFTA. Thanks a lot Democrats.

You don’t get why if all the American jobs are going to Mexico all the Mexicans are coming here. You can’t wait for President Trump’s wall to be built. The damn liberal media mocked the wall idea. But hell, the damn Democrats voted to build a wall too but only made it 700 miles. The border is 2,000 miles. Only a Washington politician would build a 700 mile wall for a 2,000 long border.

And to top it off, the damn Lefties keep calling you racist.  Damn liberal media.  Hell, you heard that only White people are allowed to live in communist Vermont.  And nobody talks about Obama’s White House fence. The White House is actually raising the height of its fence. If fences don’t work, why is Obummer making his bigger?

The White House has a fence and armed guards. What those damn Liberals don’t understand is that your house is more important to you than the White House. You’ll protect it anyway you damn please.

You do at least take assurance that in your bedroom you have your newly purchased assault rifle. It has joined your collection. You bought it just in case Billary won and tried to get rid of the 2nd Amendment. You’d probably have more guns if the damn big government Democrats didn’t keep taxing every cent you make.

You’re not even sure of why you have to keep paying Social Security taxes. Nobody in your family has ever lived past the age of 62.  Those damn big government anti-gun high tax left-wing nut-jobs.

Too bad the animal shelter didn’t have any assault rifles. Stupid liberals.  Damn Osama ISIS wouldn’t have had a chance and those puppies would still be alive.

You are glad Trump won. You barely even like the establishment Republicans.  Obama obviously created ISIS and has destroyed the country, but you still remember that Bush got us in Iraq to begin with.

Damn Democrats. You hate them.  If they were just not so ignorant the country would be better off.

*****

And there you have it. A sardonic tale of two cities. The polarization of our political system. The polarization of our country. Either way you slice it, roughly half the country at any point thinks the country is being run by a fascist.  The same fears that Trump gives the Left are the same fears that Clinton / Obama give, and have been giving, the Right. One man’s fascist is another man’s president.

Maybe it means we need more political parties.  Republicans and Democrats in the center with the Tea Party and Progressives on the wings. Of course, each party would still feel they should be in that figurative center.  Or, maybe the Libertarians had it right all along; keep the federal government small. Keep everything within the original scope of the Constitution, lessening the importance of a president. Governors, state legislatures and members of Congress would be more important than the president.

Trump vs. Clinton.  Does it matter who wins?  Either I’m crazy or either way, half the country will feel it loses. Either way, it will always be the best of times for half the country and the worst of times for the other.

Thank you for reading.  Consider sharing – Nick Pepe

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Kasich Will be the Next President

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In defense of the title, I acknowledge I’m likely an idiot later in the post

Either I’m crazy or John Kasich will be the next President of the United States. This is crazy because it not only assumes Kasich will get the Republican nomination, but that he will then beat Hillary Clinton. However, each of these will likely happen.

How Kasich Becomes Nominee
Kasich will get the nomination at a contested convention. All he needs is for Donald Trump to be 1 pledged delegate shy of the 1,237 needed to become the nominee on the first ballot. Even if Trump has 1,237 delegates via primaries, they do not all have to vote for him. Some are unpledged. This is the rigged system Trump complains about. And he’s right. It is rigged. But it is rigged for just this scenario; to prevent a candidate the establishment / party leaders do not endorse from becoming the party’s nominee. Democracy is a cute theory but politicians, both Republican and Democratic, despise it.

Assuming Trump is 1 vote shy – then what? Trump convinces other delegates to vote for him? Unlikely. And after each round of voting more and more pledged delegates become unpledged and can vote for anybody they’d like. Trump will only lose delegates after each successive ballot.

Will they then vote for Senator Ted Cruz? Ha. No chance. His policies are much more insane than Trump’s. But more importantly, he is loathed by the GOP establishment and given cute nicknames such as Lucifer in the Flesh.

That leaves John Kasich, the Governor of Ohio to win to the nomination at the convention in, well, Ohio. He will remind the establishment that if not for him, Trump would have won Ohio in the primary and already be the nominee.

What will the GOP say to Trump voters? First, I don’t think the party that denies climate change and evolution is exactly concerned about public opinion. But nonetheless, the GOP will need some Trump voters to still vote in November. Kasich will have to promise to build a wall. But besides that it is not a large concern. Hillary Clinton is the one candidate who can unite a fractured Republican party (Hillary Clinton as the Great Uniter—of Republicans). She riles up GOP voters in much the same way Trump riles up Democratic voters. Convention delegates will not be overly concerned about scorned Trump voters.

The message to these disillusioned and angry voters, the vast majority who voted for Trump or Cruz is simple: we want to win the White House. We want to pick not only the next, but likely next 2 Supreme Court justices. And poll after poll indicates Kasich is the only Republican who has a chance of beating Clinton.

How Kasich Beats Hillary
Ohio. Ohio and Ohio. Given the electoral map any GOP candidate essentially needs a miracle to become president. Part of any miracle of course includes winning Ohio. Governor Kasich is 14 out of 14 in Ohio elections. Although a VP pick of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown by Clinton may help slightly, Kasich still wins. As an aside, given that Trump has essentially guaranteed the Hispanic vote for Clinton, my earlier guess of Julian Castro for VP may be politically unnecessary by Clinton. As an aside aside, I think Trump picks the Governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, as VP. He has a little work to do with Hispanics and females so he might as well double up.

Pennsylvania. Guns and Pennsylvania.
Kasich will also win Pennsylvania. You don’t need to be Karl Rove to make a commercial that simply cycles Hillary, from the March townhall saying “We are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business…

Also, in an effort to get to the left of Senator Bernie Sanders on any issue, Hillary chose the slight daylight that Bernie provided via guns and decided to capitalize on the Sandy Hook tragedy. This is of course pure political theatre. She favors using weapons in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya and had awarded the same Remington company she thinks is liable for Sandy Hook millions in contracts to send guns to the Middle East.

This gun charade from a person surrounded 24/7 by armed Secret Service does not play well with many independent voters. Especially in parts of Pennsylvania. Besides getting the aforementioned Trump voters motivated, her gun ploy will cost her votes in Pennsylvania and the state.

Marco. Florida and Marco.
Rubio will be Kasich’s VP. This is of course in return for Marco releasing his pledged delegates to vote for Kasich at the convention. Rubio should do nothing but stay in Florida. He should also only speak Spanish. If he does this it is possible that Kasich also gets the state.

Out of Sight out of Negative Advertising
A common sentiment after the polls show Kasich beating Hillary is that this is only because there has not been negative ads against him yet. His major scandals so far have been eating pizza with a fork, which for memory challenged ‘journalists’ is also how current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio eats pizza. His other scandal was suggesting students should prevent rape in part by avoiding parties at college that have lots of alcohol. That’s good advice given that 72% of rapes involve alcohol. He should have said if you want to avoid being raped avoid Bill Clinton. That probably would have given him some needed GOP votes.

Kasich has not been attacked – true. Heck, 1 in 6 GOP voters have not heard about him. However, I also think the negative advertising has not begun against Hillary. Bernie is a debate cupcake much to the exasperation of his suporters. She has never run against a Republican before. And if you think she has, I challenge you to name her previous Senate opponents.

Kasich will benefit by being under the radar until after the convention while also benefiting from months of Trump calling Clinton corrupt. If Kasich is really lucky, Trump will air his commercial featuring some of the dozens of women that have accused Bill Clinton of rape or assault. And yes, Bill is not running. But Hillary has stated she would give him a formal role in her administration. But my point is that while most Democrats only equate Monica Lewinsky to Bill’s past, the list is much more extensive and worse than adultery. When it is time to get ugly and the attacks begin, Hillary et. al. has more liabilities than Kasich.

Bernie won’t mention the Clinton Foundation’s pay-to-play involvement with its donors and State Department favors.  Or the numerous scandals and questionable stock dealings going back to the 90’s. And if you think these are old news, a dead horse and boring conspiracies, keep in mind they will be new stories to Millennials who will already be upset regarding the demise of Bernie Sanders at the hands of Hillary and the DNC. They may just not vote.

So, there you have it. My crazy idea of how Kasich wins. Of course, this is crazy mainly because it is predicated on the premise that Republicans actually care enough to do it.

I’m Not Only Crazy But Also an Idiot
California
Trump is about to dominate in Indiana (Kasich, ironically, should have suspended his campaign to help Cruz win to ensure an open convention). In order for Kasich to become president, I’m assuming that California will not decidedly vote for Trump and give him the nomination. I’m probably an idiot because after all, this is the state that elected Arnold Schwarzenegger governor.

Not Worth It
As I previously mentioned, any Republican, due to demographics, the electoral map, and common sense has a slim chance at becoming president (Republicans Have An Electoral Map Problem). Many Republicans would rather lose and be able to blame it all on Trump rather than deny him the nomination, lose anyway regardless of the nominee, and hear Trump claim forever that he would have won.

Also, being the party of ‘no’, or at least the party of ‘don’t blame me’, is much easier than being in charge.  It is easy to say repeal Obamacare but not give a good alternative yet alone address the 30 million Americans without health insurance. The debt will continue to explode and it will be great to blame it on Democrats rather than a GOP president.

Eh. Clinton is Republican enough.
A contested convention is a hassle. Why bother. Hillary will be good for the status quo. She is the epitome of big money in politics. The epitome of lobbyist influence. The epitome of enormous defense spending. These are things Congress loves and helps most of them become millionaires during their time in office. Wall Street likes her (Wall Street is Not Afraid of Hillary). The Koch brothers like her. She’ll expand fracking and oil drilling at least as fast as President Obama has.

Bill Clinton has spent a lifetime not only making his wife’s political career, but also moving the Democratic Party towards the Republican Party (Clintonaism Screwed the Democrats). It’s time to cash that in. Establishment Republicans will be perfectly content with Hillary. Sure, the GOP may lose the Senate, but they’ll still have a majority in the House. And that’s good enough.

Kasich. Trump. Hillary. The Sophie’s Choice of 2016 (Millennials, you should Google that reference). Trump won’t win in the general election so either way, the GOP and Democratic establishments that have racked up $19 trillion in debt, waged war across the Middle East for decades, rejected true climate change action and long ago sold-out citizens to the donor class will be the true winner.

Status Quo. The next President of the United States.

Thank you for reading and please consider sharing. Be sure to click the hyperlinks ~ Chris Childers

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Stop Being Pretentious America, Trump is not Extreme

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Either I’m crazy or Trump is not extreme. Far from it. Despite the fact he is constantly compared to Adolf Hitler his platform should be somewhat familiar to Americans. Trump’s actual policies are bipartisan, supported by the majority of US states and are largely currently in place.  From immigration to mosque surveillance to torture, Donald Trump is actually mainstream.

By most political measures I am a liberal. A drugs-should-be-legal-focus-on-rehab-not-prison type of liberal. A Bernie liberal. A liberal who can’t understand trillions for war but not for health care or education. I am obligated to defend Donald Trump, not to support him, but to rather highlight the uncomfortable truth about how Trump-esque America really is. Or conversely, to show how non-liberal America is.

Many of his criticized polices revolve around immigration: building a wall across the border with Mexico, deporting illegal immigrants and a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the US, including refugees.  However, none of these policies should shock America’s moral conscious.

Building a wall across the border is hardly extreme simply because the US government already does this. A few people named Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders voted to help pass the Secure Fence Act of 2006. It calls for 700 miles of double layered fencing across the border. Pictures of it are here: The Great Wall of America.

The current construction is shoddy, overpriced and not effective; smugglers routinely use hydraulic lifts to raise their cars over the barrier.  If it is not extreme for Hillary Clinton, likely the next US president to boast “I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in” it cannot be considered extreme that Trump wants to extend and improve an already bipartisan agreed to concept that for the meantime has just wasted billions in tax money.

Sorry America. Building a border wall is what we do.

Trump has also called for the deportation of all illegal immigrants. However, this is not extreme because actual US policy and practice is obviously to deport all illegal immigrants.  Don’t forget, one of President Obama’s nicknames from the Hispanic community is Deporter in Chief due to him deporting more illegal immigrants and at a faster rate than any other president. More federal money goes towards deportation than any other law enforcement program. President Obama has deported millions of illegal immigrants and to borrow a phrase from this campaign season, Trump cannot be extreme for simply wanting to ‘build upon Obama’s legacy.’

Either I’m crazy or part of President Obama’s deportation legacy is that his Department of Homeland Security announced this past Christmas that they have begun a mass deportation of women and children who fled violence in Central America. These ‘tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to’ not die came to America seeking asylum. It is the US equivalent of the European refugee crisis and our response has been a pathetic attempt at immigration court that ultimately, and predictably, results in these mass deportations.

Hillary Clinton, who Americans will likely elect as their next president, has agreed with these deportations and has advocated for deporting these children, even when pressed about their safety. For a related and fun time, I recommend you play Who Said It: Hillary or Trump.

Sorry America. Deporting people is what we do.

Donald Trump could advocate to change US policy to stop some deportations. Or advocate for policies such as the Dream Act or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  However, the executive actions taken by President Obama to allow certain groups to remain in America were blocked and rejected by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals after a majority of US states sued the federal government. Mr. Obama acted after Congress failed to pass the Gang of Eight Immigration Bill. While hailed as immigration reform, the path to citizen it outlines takes 19 years. Regardless, the bill still did not pass Congress, which Americans support by rewarding its members with a 96% re-election rate.

Trump has also been criticized for stating he would ban Syrian refugees from coming to the United States. Again, it can’t be considered extreme since the majority of US governors also support this position.  In all actuality, so does President Obama.  To date, the US has taken in a paltry 1,500 Syrian refugees. The US has also promised to only take in 10,000 by September 2016. To put this into perspective, Canada, roughly 1/10 the size of the US, has taken in 25,000.  Germany has helped over 1 million.  Sweden, with a population under 10 million has taken in over 100,000.  The difference between Donald Trump and President Obama is only 1,500 people.  This is hardly extreme. Either I’m crazy but I doubt that Americans have been calling their elected officials to increase the number of refugees allowed in.

Sorry America.  Not allowing refugees from the Middle East into the US is what we do.

Trump has also called for a temporary ban on all Muslims to the US.  This is not completely unheard of. President Carter banned Iranians from entering the US, and deported Iranians, in response to the US Embassy Hostage Crisis. Additionally, the US has recently enacted the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. If the name was not clear enough, the law’s premise is that anyone who is a citizen of, or who has traveled to, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria could be a terrorist.  And by leaving out countries such as Saudi Arabia or Belgium (places where terrorists actually came from) the US is currently restricting Muslim travel purely for political purposes.

And of course America already illegally spies on the mosques of Muslims who are already in America. Heck, a simple reading of the PATRIOT Act makes it pretty clear the American government does not have qualms about spying on anybody.

Donald Trump can hardly be considered extreme in regards to immigration / refugees for advocating current US law and the policies that are supported by the majority of Congress, federal courts, and the majority of US states. In addition, these are also policies that the Democratic Party endorses given their support of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, the latter who has consistently advocated for more compassionate and liberal immigration policies.

Some of Donald’s Trump recent controversies revolve around torture and targeting the families of terrorists.  But once again, none of this should appear extreme to Americans.

Am I crazy or have we forgotten Abu Grahib already? And if you play that off as just service members acting improper, am I crazy or did the majority of Americans vote for George W. Bush in 2004, after it was well known that the US engaged in torture? Am I crazy or did the US Department of Justice approve torture measures that were clearly against international law?  Am I crazy or does Hillary Clinton, the person most Americans will vote for as the next president, support the use of torture in certain instances? America, Trump cannot be extreme for wanting to bring back policies, that by the most optimistic scenario, potentially ended just over 1 year ago (Does America Still Torture?).  And Trump cannot be considered extreme for advocating for torture when 58% of Americans believe that torture can be justified.

Sorry America, torture is what we do.

Trump’s stance that the US should target the families of terrorists is the reason I have a scene from the Godfather at the top of this post. To remind you:

Michael: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.
Michael: Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?

Do Americans think the United States does not kill innocent people? Really? In the days prior to Trump’s statement, leaked documents show that 90% of people killed by US drone strikes were not the intended target. And of course we specifically target the families of terrorists, even when they are Americans. Am I crazy or did this article appear in the New York Times: The Drone Strike that Killed My Grandson? To refresh your memory, the US killed a 16-year-old American and the only reason it has given is that he had a “irresponsible father.”

Of course the United States kills and targets innocent people.  If former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright thinks that women who do not vote for Hillary will go to Hell, I wonder where she thinks she will end up, given her view that the sanctions against Iraq that killed 500,000 Iraqi children “was worth it.” You can watch the video of her comments here.

Has Donald Trump proposed anything more extreme than killing half a million children? Has Donald Trump said anything more callous than killing half a million children was worth it?

Of course the US kills innocent people. Every president for the last 25 years has bombed Iraq using munitions that contain radioactive depleted uranium. The birth defects, premature births and cancer caused by these weapons is more extreme than anything Trump has proposed.

Sorry America. We kill innocent people all the time. And the examples I just gave only involve 1 country, yet alone the over 3 dozen countries in the last 50 years that the US has killed people in. I could unfortunately, and to my point, diverge greatly on just how many innocent people the US kills. Instead, I’ll refer you to read Robert Kennedy Jr.’s article titled Why the Arabs Don’t Want us in Syria.

I’m still not sure what Trump  has said in regards to foreign policy that seems crazy. Surely it was not this quote: “Obviously, the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake. George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.” You can quibble if he was against the war before the invasion or in late 2003. Either way, he recognized it was a mistake about 1 decade before Hillary Clinton.

Having a presidential candidate argue for a less interventionist foreign policy should hardly be considered extreme. Especially compared to Hillary Clinton’s record as a war hawk.  Heck, has Trump said anything crazier than Hillary Clinton’s support of Henry Kissinger?

As long as everyone is lessening the true evil of the Holocaust by comparing Trump to Hitler, I’ll give my own hyperbolic slant on the current situation: Americans who cannot name the 7 countries we currently bomb are no different than the Germans living next to Auschwitz who claim they knew nothing.

Is Trump crude? Yes. Is he vulgar? Yes. Remember, after Muammar Gaddafi was sodomized and killed by US backed fighters Trump said, “We came. We saw. He died” and laughed about it? Oh, I’m sorry, Hillary Clinton said that. Or how about the time that Trump said foreign policy should simply be “don’t do stupid shit” and that our NATO allies are “free riders” and are to blame for failed state of Libya? Or when Trump said “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun, because from what I understand, folks in Philly like a good brawl.”

Sorry again, those last ones were from President Obama.

Look. I get it.  He talks odd. He is not a great orator. He says things that people hyperventilate about. He is not a refined politician by any means.  He makes the mistake of giving actual answers and many of them sound horrible.  But relative to actually US government practice, the only thing extreme about Donald Trump is that he is the most successful candidate in modern politics not to take campaign contributions. And maybe this is what is causing the establishments their true anxiety.

Build a wall? We already are. Deport illegal immigrants? We already are. Spy on mosques? We already are. Torture? We have, reserve the right to and the majority of Americans want to. Kill innocent people? By the millions. Ban Syrian refugees? We’ve taken in only 1,500 and helped cause the wars that destroyed their country let alone the entire Middle East.

Donald Trump has been called an immigrant bashing carnival barker, a fascist, a racist, Hitler, a bloviating ignoramus among other terms. He has been widely pilloried by the media. Call him what you’d like. But don’t forget, Trump is not extreme. Trump represents America. America represents Trump. The policies he proposes are largely in place, not far from actual practice, and are supported by the majority of states. Don’t be fooled because he says them out loud.

Who is naive now?

Thank you for reading and sharing.  Be sure to click the hyperlinks – Nick

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