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Can a collective act in a "selfish" or "rational"

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The arguments currently being used to support the Iraq war or to start an Iran war assume that as a nation, Americans can act "rationally" or "selfishly" and that it is in the "self-interest" of the collective (Americans) to use nuclear weapons on these "enemies". My question is: are these valid assumptions? As far as I can see, only an individual can be rational and selfish.

The government (which is supposed to represent the collective of Americans) is there only to protect the rights of the people. So, it can do this by attacking the enemy government that has attacked its people, not by attacking any random government that may (or may not) have an "intention" to attack its people. If we start persecuting people based on their "intentions" we'd be moving away from an objective definition of law to a whim-based one.

Also, is "protecting the American way of life" equivalent to "protecting the individual rights? If so, then Americans need to start attacking and nuking every country other than itself (since no one else "follows" the American way of life other than the Americans).

These are some of my thoughts on the foreign policy of the US. Please let me know what you think of it.

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The arguments currently being used to support the Iraq war or to start an Iran war assume that as a nation, Americans can act "rationally" or "selfishly" and that it is in the "self-interest" of the collective (Americans) to use nuclear weapons on these "enemies". My question is: are these valid assumptions? As far as I can see, only an individual can be rational and selfish.
In a similar way, only an individual can be irrational, altruistic or evil, because only an individual has a mind. So in that sense, slavery, murder and communism are not evil, but an individual who does those things is evil. Well, it seems to most people (and I agree) that it's just too long-winded to say that murder is a "concept which can only be chosen by an evil person", therefore we say that murder is evil. Likewise, if a jury of 12 men each acts rationally and frees an innocent man, we express this fact by a slight conceptual broadening and say that "the jury acted rationally".

Now consider buying fire insurance: a company has 7 partners, and 6 of the 7 vote to buy fire insurance while 1 wanted to buy a new coffee maker. Would you agree that the company acted rationally in buying fire insurance, even though 1 of the partners voted to be irrational?

The government (which is supposed to represent the collective of Americans) is there only to protect the rights of the people.
I don't know what you mean by "represewnt" the collective of Americans -- I can't imagine something where it really is so that the government does that. Maybe it's just a wording thing.
So, it can do this by attacking the enemy government that has attacked its people, not by attacking any random government that may (or may not) have an "intention" to attack its people. If we start persecuting people based on their "intentions" we'd be moving away from an objective definition of law to a whim-based one.
Actually, you've described the problem with libertarian national defense -- always wait until you've been attacked, always wait until your cities have been obliterated before defending yourself. The correct way to run a government is to attack any and all forces (governments or otherwise) before they attack you, when you have proof of their intent to attack. Don't pick governments at random, pick aggressors who the facts show are acting to attack you -- that is, who have initiated force. You don't have to wait for the full blown realization of the force, you can attack when they have initiated the use of force.
Also, is "protecting the American way of life" equivalent to "protecting the individual rights?
That's hard to say. The problem is whether "the American way of life" means "whatever it is that Americans do", versus something more conceptual, for example living a free life where each man has the right to pursue his own values. If you mean the latter, then of course they are the same, whereas if you mean "whatever Americans do, including having a welfare state", then no, obviously not.

A nuke-Tehran option would only be rational as part of an overall foreign policy, which we don't have. Since by policy we do negotiate with terrorists and we are not resolute in our defence of America and opposition to terrorism, it does not make sense to falsely imply a policy change until there actually is one. The policy change needs to lead the deployment, not follow it.

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In a similar way, only an individual can be irrational, altruistic or evil, because only an individual has a mind. So in that sense, slavery, murder and communism are not evil, but an individual who does those things is evil. Well, it seems to most people (and I agree) that it's just too long-winded to say that murder is a "concept which can only be chosen by an evil person", therefore we say that murder is evil. Likewise, if a jury of 12 men each acts rationally and frees an innocent man, we express this fact by a slight conceptual broadening and say that "the jury acted rationally".

So, what is your point? Do you think that the entire population will become rational or selfish when you say that it is rational and selfish to nuke "enemies"? How do you know if people do not have other intentions in nuking other people?

Now consider buying fire insurance: a company has 7 partners, and 6 of the 7 vote to buy fire insurance while 1 wanted to buy a new coffee maker. Would you agree that the company acted rationally in buying fire insurance, even though 1 of the partners voted to be irrational?I
No. I would say that the company followed the principle of "majority wins".

I don't know what you mean by "represewnt" the collective of Americans -- I can't imagine something where it really is so that the government does that. Maybe it's just a wording thing.
I mean that the government is supposed to represent the majority of the American collective who voted it into power.

The correct way to run a government is to attack any and all forces (governments or otherwise) before they attack you, when you have proof of their intent to attack.
What exactly constitutes "proof"? How can you objectively verify whatever the government says? What if it fabricates "proof"? Americans have already been told a falsehood regarding WMD's in Iraq as the reason to attack that country.

Don't pick governments at random, pick aggressors who the facts show are acting to attack you -- that is, who have initiated force.
In other words, if you are pointing a gun at a person for whatever reason, it constitutes "force"? That is absurd. Force is when physical damage has been done or the enemy has stated in unequivocal terms that it is going to initiate force, not when an intention may or may not exist. I don't know which country's government has unequivocally said that it is going to attack the US and annihilate its cities or if any government would be foolish enough to say such things today.

A nuke-Tehran option would only be rational as part of an overall foreign policy, which we don't have.
What don't you have? A foreign policy?

Since by policy we do negotiate with terrorists and we are not resolute in our defence of America and opposition to terrorism, it does not make sense to falsely imply a policy change until there actually is one.
Please note that you have shifted the discussion to "terrorists". I am talking about an enemy state and nuking people who may not in anyway be involved in terrorism or running a dictatorship.

If nuking people who live in dictatorships is supposed to be "rational", do you think the US was or is not rational by not nuking the USSR, Nazi Germany, Communist Vietnam, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia etc etc?

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Don't pick governments at random, pick aggressors who the facts show are acting to attack you -- that is, who have initiated force. You don't have to wait for the full blown realization of the force, you can attack when they have initiated the use of force.

As a tangent, what qualifies as an initiation of force?

Would practices such as espionage, spy planes, or doing business with your enemy state fall under an initiation of force? Because if so, it seems like no country that counts for anything can really be exempt.

Or what about more passive aggressive tactics, like having a nuclear program? Would that be an initiation of force? Assuming that is if the country in question has never had any quarrels with the US, but simply decided to arm themselves.

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I mean that the government is supposed to represent the majority of the American collective who voted it into power.
That's a fundamental mistake and misunderstanding of government. A government is supposed to protect the rights of citizens, not act on the basis of the majority urge.
What exactly constitutes "proof"?
Are you asking "for all imaginable scenarios, what exact set of facts would constitute proof that an enemy ihas initiated force?". I don't have an infinite amount of time to type in all of the imaginable situations. Or do you simply not understand the concept of "proof". At a conceptual level, what is required is evidence. The type of evidence needed depends on the domain of investigation, so if you are speaking of an academic hypothesis, the necessary level of proof is very high. When someone is threatening you in a park, the necessary level of proof is lower, and might be simply a verbal threat. When dealing with dictatorships, it could be the presence of a secret plutonium-production facility.
How can you objectively verify whatever the government says?
Why would I need to? The question is not whether I can verify what they say, it is whether they are telling the truth. If they are lying, they should be imprisoned.
In other words, if you are pointing a gun at a person for whatever reason, it constitutes "force"?
Yes. Exactly.
Please note that you have shifted the discussion to "terrorists". I am talking about an enemy state and nuking people who may not in anyway be involved in terrorism or running a dictatorship.
That's true, but enemy states who aid terrorists are initiating force by proxy. The point is that Iran and Syria should be attacked for aiding terrorists, and it is not necesssary that they send uniformed troops to cross the US border. They've sent non-uniformed terrorist troops to the US.
If nuking people who live in dictatorships is supposed to be "rational", do you think the US was or is not rational by not nuking the USSR, Nazi Germany, Communist Vietnam, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia etc etc?
We've covered that. Do you remember the historical details of why we didn't drop the A-bomb on Nazi Germany when they first were a threat to peace in the world?
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That's a fundamental mistake and misunderstanding of government. A government is supposed to protect the rights of citizens, not act on the basis of the majority urge.

Yet our government exists as a result of "the majority urge". Our government was ordained as a result of a majority vote at the Constitutional convention in 1787 and was empowered when a super majority of the State legislatures endorsed the (then) new Constitution. Governments are either imposed by thugs or they are ordained by a collective political action of the people of a nation which almost always involves a majority vote somewhere along the line. Governments do not spring fully armored like Athena from the Brow of Zeus. They are made up by a group of people representing their own interests and the interests of others. Governments are man-made entities, artifacts, creations made at a certain time in a certain place.

As to the operation of governments, the laws are made, ordained by a majority of legislators. There is no Wise Judge Naragansett writing the laws. We do not have Philosopher Kings in this Republic (for which I am thankful). Laws are made by a messy process involving majorities, compromises along with pushing, shoving, bribing, promising, browbeating and bullying.

Bob Kolker

Edited by Robert J. Kolker
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Do you remember the historical details of why we didn't drop the A-bomb on Nazi Germany when they first were a threat to peace in the world?

Historical Detail: The A-bomb did not exist at the time Nazi Germany was first a threat to the peace of the world. We did not have a working A-bomb ready for war until -after- Nazi Germany surrendered in May of 1945. Fat Man and Little Boy were not good to go until July of 1945 and were finally deployed in August of 1945, three months after Nazi Germany ceased to exist. It is very hard to drop something one does not have in hand to drop.

Bob Kolker

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Starting to act by use of force. It's pretty simple, it turns out. Not a complex notion needing extensive deconstruction.

So would building a nuclear bomb be an initiation of force?

Nevermind I saw what you wrote that it is for a dictatorship. I guess the question is how do you arrive at that conclusion logically speaking. Would a dictatorship having an army at all be considered an initiation of force? And would that mean that any country would have a right to attack them preemptively?

Edited by Moebius
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I guess the question is how do you arrive at that conclusion logically speaking. Would a dictatorship having an army at all be considered an initiation of force?
Try distinguishing "having" and "building". The fact that Syria happens to have an army is not a significant sign of anything. It is when it builds up the army, moves troops to the border, and starts to construct nuclear weapons that you have evidence that force has been initiated.
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Yet our government exists as a result of "the majority urge".

So - what's your point robert? That a majority of people band together and form government? This is correct, but that isn't the nature of this point which David answered. He stated that the proper role of government is to enshrine and protect human rights for all its citizens. You respond with a post about how a democratic government must neccessarily be formed through hardship, fought for and/or supported by a majority of the population. For what purpose? To prove what point?

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That's a fundamental mistake and misunderstanding of government. A government is supposed to protect the rights of citizens, not act on the basis of the majority urge.
But in the field of "protecting rights", there should be some limits to government. In the name of "protecting rights" a government should not be allowed to do whatever, including unwarranted mass-murder/conducting torture-camps/infringing on civil rights etc etc. In short, the US is not an ideal Objectivist republic (whatever that may be), but a democracy. The politicians are voted in to office on the basis of their stances on various issues by a majority of the people. In short, they do represent the majority urge and "protecting rights" is definitely not a priority of any of the present government officials/politicians. It is not to "spread democracy" that they invaded Iraq, but for their own interests (please don't say they were being "Objectivist" here, because tyrannical selfishness is second-handedness) while being the cause of death of hundreds of thousands of human beings (be it Iraqi or American human beings).

When dealing with dictatorships, it could be the presence of a secret plutonium-production facility.
As long as these dictatorships or, say some dissident scientist or politician etc, do not declare that these "secret" facilities are for war-purposes, it cannot be Objectively proved so. In the name of "protecting rights", which the government has never been known to do, no sane man should support unlimited/unwarranted government intrusion/intervention.

If they are lying, they should be imprisoned.
Unless you are joking, is the government going to imprison itself (a.k.a., Who will watch the watchers)? It has been conclusively proven that the US government was lying when it propagandized the reason to invade Iraq. Do you think that all the government officials from Bush to everyone else involved in the fabrication of this "proof" be imprisoned?

Yes. Exactly.That's true, but enemy states who aid terrorists are initiating force by proxy. The point is that Iran and Syria should be attacked for aiding terrorists, and it is not necessary that they send uniformed troops to cross the US border. They've sent non-uniformed terrorist troops to the US.
What proof exists that it was the Irani/Syrian government was the indirect or direct cause of the WTC attacks? The terrorists were and are funded by private individuals (does the name Usama bin Laden mean anything to you?) and crimes committed by individuals does not constitute "initiation" of force by a government, however much they may hate you or you may hate them. You cannot kill a person because he hates you. However a government official can (by creating whimsical laws) and it is a principle of anti-statism that government officials should be reigned in by Law. This constitutes Rule of Law.

We've covered that.
Who is "we" and where is what covered?

Do you remember the historical details of why we didn't drop the A-bomb on Nazi Germany when they first were a threat to peace in the world?

What about the other dictatorships (Communist Vietnam, USSR etc) I mentioned?

Warning! Parody: Should the US now nuke North Dakota

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But in the field of "protecting rights", there should be some limits to government.
Certainly: the declaration "We're protecting rights" should not become a magic wand to justify violating rights. Very broadly speaking, "objective necessity" is what's called for. More concretely, there should be procedural objectivity in the use of such force, for example warrants to limit the power of the police to use force to secure justice.
In short, the US is not an ideal Objectivist republic (whatever that may be), but a democracy.
Clearly it's not ideal. But the US is not a democracy, for which we should be thankful, and it should not be a democracy. But there's no discernible logical relationship between the fact that there should be limits on government, and the "in short" (false) conclusion that the US is a democracy.
The politicians are voted in to office on the basis of their stances on various issues by a majority of the people.
That is actually not true on numerous grounds (majorities are not required, no person has ever been elected by a majority of the people, the basis of the vote is in a black box that has little to do with stances on issues).
As long as these dictatorships or, say some dissident scientist or politician etc, do not declare that these "secret" facilities are for war-purposes, it cannot be Objectively proved so.
I can't imagine what could make you think that, unless you hold that we can only have objective knowledge of a person's intent if they declare "This is my intent", ignoring the fact that dictators are generally big fat liars. (Bokassa was apparently truthful, just totally insane).
Unless you are joking, is the government going to imprison itself (a.k.a., Who will watch the watchers)?
You really are unaware of laws against perjury and the fact that government agents are subject to these laws and can be prosecuted for them?

Anyhow, you're wandering off point. There are objective questions regarding Iraq to be asked. 1: Is it mandatory for the US to depose Hussein? Answer -- yes, if he poses a threat to the US. I'm not impressed with the evidence that he did. 2: Is it optional for the US to do so? Answer -- yes, if. If, in particular the war was to be a quick in and out to depose the dictator and then leave. Whereas the current protracted life and money wasting orgy of self-sacrifice is unquistionably immoral.

Asking the same questions of Iran, Iran is a threat to the US because it sponsors terrorist organizations which do attack America and Americans, and we should deal with them; but I wouldn't trust W to prosecute a just war there. It would be right, rational and just to use force or (better yet) the threat of horrifying levels of force to secure a rapid dissolution of the current Iranian political system. Unlike Iraq, I think Iran can actually manage itself without the mullahs in charge.

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So, it can do this by attacking the enemy government that has attacked its people, not by attacking any random government that may (or may not) have an "intention" to attack its people.

All right punk, HANDS UP!! If you make just one funny move ... Now sloooowly take off your watch ... Sloooowly, man slooowly. There's no need to be nervous. If you be a good boy, you're not gonna be hurt. Yeeah, that's it. Now just veeery carefully hand it over to me. There, just put it on my palm. NOW PUT YOUR HAND BACK ABOVE YOUR HEAD! Yeah, that's nice. Lovely watch, brother, I thank you for yer generosity. Now slowly turn around and start walking. C'mon walk! Jes' remember to always keep your hands up...

Under your kind of government, I could do that to you and you couldn't say a peep. I didn't hurt you, did I? I even assured you that you were not going to be hurt. You just voluntarily gave me your watch--and I even thanked you for your generosity--and that was it. No force there, nothing for the cops to do. Just a little brotherly gift-giving. But if you had responded by pulling out your gun and shooting me--now that would be a crime!

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But if you had responded by pulling out your gun and shooting me--now that would be a crime!
Thanks for the red herring CF. Force includes physical violence and robbery, only robbery had not come into this discussion's context until you brought it up. I'd shoot anyone who initiates force on me: physically or by trying to rob me.
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Thanks for the red herring CF.

No no, I thank you for the watch, man. Really generous of you, as I said.

Force includes physical violence and robbery, only robbery had not come into this discussion's context until you brought it up.

Robbery?! What robbery are you talking about?? Of course robbery would qualify as force, but I didn't rob you! I just politely recommended that you place your watch on my palm. Is it my fault that you followed my recommendations? Perhaps you were a bit intimidated by the gun I was pointing at you, but to say that that constitutes "force" is absurd. I certainly didn't intend to pull the trigger! Maybe you thought that I might intend to shoot you, but you can't just go around and shoot people when an intention may or may not exist. You can only do so if I state in unequivocal terms that I am going to initiate force. I'm not making all this up; these things were all said by someone whose opinion I'm sure you respect:

In other words, if you are pointing a gun at a person for whatever reason, it constitutes "force"? That is absurd. Force is when physical damage has been done or the enemy has stated in unequivocal terms that it is going to initiate force, not when an intention may or may not exist.

And if you shot me, be warned that the police will come and find that my gun was not loaded. So I had no WMD (weapons of muggin' and dis-watch-in')! You LIED to yourself when you thought I had WMDs. How does it feel to be the originator of a lie that caused the death of an innocent person?

Edited by Capitalism Forever
corrected typo
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If "getting rid of dictators" in countries thousands of miles away should be the only concern of foreign policy, where does the rational egoism come in from? To me, trying to help Iran and Iraq "transform into democracies" smells awfully of altruism. If you want an egoistic foreign policy, try to encourage trade between these countries and the US: this actually is beneficial to the American people. Atleast we can lure away the young wannabe jihadis away with x-boxes and make a profit while we're at it. On the other hand, if you want to nuke everybody who has a nuke and may or may not like the US government, the US government will have to sponsor a program to research into trading with dead bodies and destroyed countries. The only possible trade item would seem to me to be coffins and that too only a one-time affair, unless you want to nuke cities one after the other.

"I don't want to fight for the people, I don't want to fight against the people, I don't want to hear of the people. I want to be left alone--to live."
CF, the troops in foreign countries who have been told that sacrificing their lives for the "greater good" is good, may actually say this to the war-mongers after reading Ayn Rand.
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If "getting rid of dictators" in countries thousands of miles away should be the only concern of foreign policy, where does the rational egoism come in from? To me, trying to help Iran and Iraq "transform into democracies" smells awfully of altruism.

I agree 100% with the above. The only concern of our foreign policy should be to protect the rights of American individuals. It is for this reason that we must urgently end the regime in Tehran.

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Certainly: the declaration "We're protecting rights" should not become a magic wand to justify violating rights. Very broadly speaking, "objective necessity" is what's called for. More concretely, there should be procedural objectivity in the use of such force, for example warrants to limit the power of the police to use force to secure justice.
But, today's reality suggests that this has happened and will continue no matter who says what. Unless there is a policy change in the government, I don't see any limitations being put against the expansion of the state in the near future.

But the US is not a democracy
???

You really are unaware of laws against perjury and the fact that government agents are subject to these laws and can be prosecuted for them?

I'm probably unaware of them, because I have never heard of any government official being punished under this law for the Iraq war lie so far.

Is it optional for the US to do so? Answer -- yes, if. If, in particular the war was to be a quick in and out to depose the dictator and then leave. Whereas the current protracted life and money wasting orgy of self-sacrifice is unquistionably immoral.
How did you jump to this conclusion: that it is "optional" for the US to whack off totalitarian states? It seems too altruistic. The collectors of the sacrificial offerings of the present sacrifice of "whacking dictators" seem to be the fascist government officials and corrupt corporations.

The 9/11 attackers were not Irani citizens. They are sponsored by private individuals/states who hate the US for its imperialism. If the world is to see any capitalism, it is imperialism that has to be ended. If the US government indeed does nuke Tehran and destroys Iran, the consequences will be too terrible for the Middle east and Asia, but it would not stop terrorism.

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???
The US is (or perhaps I should say "was") a constitutionally limited republic, not a democracy. In a democracy, 51% of the cannibals can vote to eat the other 49%.

I'm probably unaware of them, because I have never heard of any government official being punished under this law for the Iraq war lie so far.
And what exactly is the "Iraq war lie"? If you’re referring to WMDs, then I suppose it's the same "lie" that nearly every major national intelligence agency was both convinced of and repeating at the time. Do you understand that there is a difference between “lying” and basing policies on intelligence that turns out to have been incorrect?

How did you jump to this conclusion: that it is "optional" for the US to whack off totalitarian states? It seems too altruistic. The collectors of the sacrificial offerings of the present sacrifice of "whacking dictators" seem to be the fascist government officials and corrupt corporations.
If totalitarian thugs threaten US interests and citizens, then we can make the entirely moral choice to destroy them. We don’t have an obligation to destroy them, but we if we choose to do so, that choice would be a moral one.

The 9/11 attackers were not Irani citizens. They are sponsored by private individuals/states who hate the US for its imperialism. If the world is to see any capitalism, it is imperialism that has to be ended. If the US government indeed does nuke Tehran and destroys Iran, the consequences will be too terrible for the Middle east and Asia, but it would not stop terrorism.

Oh please, stop with the Imperialism garbage. Blaming the attacks of 9/11 on US Imperialism is a twisted, Marxist interpretation of events and not worth my time discussing.

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???
I take it that you don't understand the political concepts "democracy" and "republic".
I'm probably unaware of them, because I have never heard of any government official being punished under this law for the Iraq war lie so far.
That would be because no government official lied. You might want to look up in a book somewhere for a description of the difference between "lie" and "error". Once you have that under your belt, you can look at the federal perjury statute, which is how a person would get convicted of perjury.
How did you jump to this conclusion: that it is "optional" for the US to whack off totalitarian states?
Because it is not required, but it is morally allowed. That's what optional means. You fail to properly grasp the concept "altruism", it seems. Deposing a dictator would not act against the interests of America, so there is no destruction of value.
The 9/11 attackers were not Irani citizens.
Why would you mention such an irrelevant fact?
They are sponsored by private individuals/states who hate the US for its imperialism.
No, actually, they hate the US for being good and for being free. They hate the US because it stands as a shining example of the principle that men should be free to do what they see as right for them, as long as they respect the rights of others. The Islamists cannot stand to have such ideas in what they see as "Their World", they cannot stand to see free men spreading the idea of freedom and reason in their irrationalist slave states.

Okay, I know Gags just said this, but I think it has to be said again and again until people get a clue.

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