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Dr. Peikoff on which party to vote for: GOP or Democrat

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I previously in this thread interpreted Dr. Peikoff's statement as implying that those who do not vote for Democrats are immoral. After thinking it through, and reading Dr. Peikoff's post again as well as Mrs. Hsieh's excellent post, I would apologize for my previous statements. Although I still think that Dr. Peikoff's statement could have been better worded, given the amount of work he has done in Objectivism and his understanding of it, I should have examined his statement more thoroughly and given him the benefit of doubt.

TommyEdison: Thank you -- not just for reconsidering the issue, but also publicly saying so.

To those who've read Dr. Peikoff as morally condemning Objectivist who do not vote Democratic: Leonard Peikoff has been advocating principles of moral judgment expressly and obviously contrary to those you attributed to him for decades. He's earned the respect of a few minutes of thought along the lines of "Wow, did he really say just that?!? Maybe I misunderstood." Given his enormous contribution to Objectivism, that's the least you could do.

Yes, Dr. Peikoff did say that such people don't properly understand Objectivism, but that's not a moral failing. Again, given all that he's done I think he's entitled to such a judgment. In any case, even if I still disagreed with Dr. Peikoff (as I did in 2004), I wouldn't be offended by such a statement, as many apparently are. Through his lectures, Leonard Peikoff has told me that I'm totally wrong about 1000 times. He's told me that I don't properly understand Objectivism. He's told me that I'm a rationalist. That's good! It's a red flag for me, i.e. something interesting that I need to investigate. Then I learn something in the process, even if I still disagree with him. (Of course, he's been right the vast majority of the time.) If he were less blunt, I might not recognize the disagreement -- or the importance thereof.

Opportunities for intellectual growth are wasted by defensiveness.

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I've been a lurker on this forum for a couple years now, but this issue has caused me to come out of the woodwork and state my view. It is expressed in the following message of support I sent to Dr. Peikoff:

I am just now reading this thread, and wanted to respond to this.

Thank you so much for posting this fabulous letter. It sums up the truth about this entire debate so perfectly, especially your final sentence:

Thank you for having the courage to give words to the convictions of those of us who do understand the life-importance of philosophy, as against those pragmatists in Objectivist clothing, who "twist the truth you've spoken to make a trap for fools."
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What, no mention of me? I said the same thing as Diana Hsieh about the meaning of Dr. Peikoff's statement, several days before.

Oops! Sorry. It's just that I read Mrs. Hsieh's post last so that stayed in my mind. But thanks for your help too.

Just to be clear, what is your judgement now? Was Dr. Peikoff saying that those who do not vote for Democrats are not immoral, but do not understand philosophy?

This was what I posted on NoodleFood

At any rate, in regards to the concrete issue of voting for Republicans vs. Democrats, I fully support voting Democrat. The reason is that the Republicans are explicitly using Christian principles to justify a variety of anti-life measures like anti-abortionism, censorship, etc. Once the principle that what God wish is a moral imperative is accepted, the rest is just a matter of time. The Democrats by contrast have no principles to support their actions and are thus powerless culturally.

As an aside, although I don't know of Dr. Peikoff's reasoning, I would suspect that he wouldn't say that those who vote Republican or don't vote have no understanding of Objectivism based solely on his DIM hypothesis (which he knows most have not heard) as has been implied by some on The Forum. I think he is correct in his judgment because Objectivists are too easily ignoring the principles being advocated by the Republicans (faith in God being used to justify government funding of religion, anti-abortion, censorship, creationism, Forward Strategy of Freedom, etc.). If this principle is accepted, then a theocracy is just a matter of time.

Are you saying that anyone who abstains from voting or who votes for someone other than a Democrat is almost certainly making a philosophical error rather than some other type of error: e.g. an error in judging the composition of the two parties, or an error about the extent and speed of likely future change, and so on?

I think it is a philosophical error. It is ideas which determine the course of history, of a country - not the exact approval rating of a born-again president at some point of time, or the exact percentage of people supporting Bible-based laws at a given time, or the number of people supporting censorship of obscenity at a given time (not implying that you are basing your judgment on such facts). These are mere concretes which are trumped by ideas in the long run.

The entire agenda of the Republican party follows from Christian principles. The Republican Party is explicitly basing its agenda on Christian principles - even its agenda for war (Bush:"God told me to do it"). Once this principle is accepted, the rest is a matter of time. As for the sense of life of Americans, for one thing, a sense of life can't survive without an explicit philosophy. Secondly, just like the American sense of life could not prevent FDR's new deal, it will not be enough to prevent a Christian theocracy - provided that there is any remnant of a rational sense of life left in people by then.

Further, keeping the Republicans in power will mean that even more government money will be channeled into Churches which will accelerate the spread of the ideas of Christianity. In addition, the Republicans, especially Bush have become agents of conceptual corruption by putting some phrases like "national security", "national sovereignty", "small government", etc. into their speeches while meaning something completely different by them.

For instance, when Bush advocates "national security" and then proceeds to wage altruistic wars which endanger the US, he completely corrupts the concept of national security. The effect is that a large amount of people who would otherwise be willing to wage total war think that war cannot bring victory.

Brother, you have nailed it down perfectly! I'm saving that quote!

Thank you though I think the proper credit goes to Dr. Peikoff, John Lewis et al.

Edited by tommyedison
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Hm. This thread is very interesting.

Are you guys saying that between a house full of Victor Hugos and a house full of Hillary Clintons, you would vote the latter? [Hugo was a Christian socialist, as the Republicans are being essentially characterised, hence my use of his name here].

I also wonder which of those two hypothetical "houses" Miss Rand would vote for? Hm.

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Hm. This thread is very interesting.

Are you guys saying that between a house full of Victor Hugos and a house full of Hillary Clintons, you would vote the latter? [Hugo was a Christian socialist, as the Republicans are being essentially characterised, hence my use of his name here].

Hugo and Republicans are complete opposites - at least in terms of sense of life. Victor Hugo, had he become president, would never have implemented a full-fledged dictatorship. I don't think the comparison between Hugo and the Republicans is very apt.

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Are you guys saying ...
I don't know if Hugo is an apt comparison. However, on the general Republican vs. Democrat issue, "you guys" should really be "some of you guys". The number of people who think something says nothing about the validity of the idea. Nevertheless, I'm pretty certain that the majority of forum-members do not support the "vote for democrats" position. There seem to be an equal number who will abstain, or vote Republican or vote a mixed-ticket. In essense, it's safe to say that a fair number of forum members are in error; the debate is really about which ones.
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Hugo and Republicans are complete opposites - at least in terms of sense of life. Victor Hugo, had he become president, would never have implemented a full-fledged dictatorship. I don't think the comparison between Hugo and the Republicans is very apt.

The republicans have implemented (or will implement) a full-fledged dictatorship? is that why you won't vote for them?

[And to Software Nerd: "you guys" is obviously not directed at everyone, but at those for whom what follows (the "you guys") applies.]

Thanks.

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I've just been asked not to post to the Forum for Ayn Rand fans after posting the following reply to a similar thread, which was promptly deleted. I don't like where their thread is going, which is why I posted the message. Judge for yourself.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

...Look, if you don't understand things the way Dr. Peikoff does, fine -- go by your best judgement; but don't go around claiming that because you don't understand something then Dr. Peikoff must be a rationalist or must be making a rationalization.

Thomas, i haven't visited that site yet, but from what you've posted, i think the reason you were banned is your very last sentence. By saying, "but don't go around claiming that because you don't understand something then Dr. Peikoff must be a rationalist or must be making a rationalization" you have just insulted the people on that board who have accused Dr. Peikoff

of rationalising (or whatever they said). The implication of your statement is that they did not think before making such a charge on Dr. Peikoff; they made it "just because [they] don't understand something ...". Which means, when they don't understand something, they accuse its messenger of rationalism.

That can probably qualify for some kind of banning on any online community dedicated to using reason.

Edited by blackdiamond
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I think it is a philosophical error. It is ideas which determine the course of history, of a country - not the exact approval rating of a born-again president at some point of time, or the exact percentage of people supporting Bible-based laws at a given time, or the number of people supporting censorship of obscenity at a given time (not implying that you are basing your judgment on such facts). These are mere concretes which are trumped by ideas in the long run.
I guess everyone here would agree with all of the above, except the first sentence, which does not follow from the rest.

Nevertheless, if ideas are important, then they must be manifesting themselves in the real world. Perhaps more people going to church, more people willing to vote to curtail their neighbor's freedoms, or -- if nothing else -- more people beginning to read the books that suggest these things. So, it is disintegrative to say: ignore the stats and look at the philosophy. What does that mean? Who's philosophy? The leadership's philosophy? Well, how do we know they are the leaders? Are they being ignored by everyone or do people listen to them? I think the type of stats that Diana presented on her blog are fairly meaningful and need to be integrated into one's judgement. If one makes an error in judging who the real leaders of the GOP are, who is crafting their agenda, how they are changing their philosophy and who will win in the long run, is that a philosophical error?

In my opinion, the case not to vote for the GOP is very strong. I've even been getting myself used to the idea of voting for Hillary in 2008. In my opinion, the best case for an anti-GOP vote is the piece by C. Bradley Thompson in The Objectivist Standard. In my own mind, the way I summarize the case for the GOP is: slower death. The way I summarize the case against the GOP is: gives life-based policies a bad name, thus long-term less chance for life. Either way, I do not consider my vote to be a big deal -- there are many things that are far more important if the battle is philosophical.

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The implication of your statement is that they did not think before making such a charge on Dr. Peikoff; they made it "just because [they] don't understand something ...". Which means, when they don't understand something, they accuse its messenger of rationalism [or making a rationalization].

As a point of observation, both with regard to The Forum for Ayn Rand Fans and Objectivismonline.net, the initial reaction to Dr. Peikoff's statement indicated that a great deal of thought had not been put into the replies to his statement.

A great many people took it personally that Dr. Peikoff would say that people who took the opposite view of his, to vote Republican instead of voting for Democrats, did not understand Objectivism; that is, they did not understand that the history of the world is moved in terms of philosophic fundamentals. And they were outraged that Dr. Peikoff would come right out and say that.

Dr. Peikoff has written extensively on philosophy and its applications, most notably The Ominous Parallels, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, and most directly applicable to this thread, "Religion Versus America." So, when he says there is a great danger on the horizon to this country and that this danger is the Republicans, then it is time to stop and think about the issues before running to an on-line forum to express your opinion.

And there is a big difference between Dr. Peikoff saying that someone is being rationalistic versus someone else saying that Dr. Peikoff is being rationalistic. Dr. Peikoff is a great teacher of the philosophy of Objectivism, which means that he is ahead of the curve. However, the immediate reaction to his statement was basically, "What the hell are you talking about?!" and "We are not the rationalists, you are!" But to accuse him of making a rationalization is even worse, and that particular post is still up on the Forum (#176); which shows no respect for Dr. Peikoff at all.

As I've said before, I champion the virtue of independence. And there have been many thoughtful replies to Dr. Peikoff's statement once things cooled down a bit. But I do see some comments as stemming from a misunderstanding of Objectivism; especially the idea that history is moved according to philosophic fundamentals. And I do see that people who don't understand that are the ones accusing Dr. Peikoff of making a rationalistic argument detached from the facts.

If you find that offensive...well...it's not said to be offensive. It is said to conceptualize an observation.

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Apparently Dr Peikoff views Objectivism as some kind of self-administered philosophical suicide pact. I get the impression that he would not have joined Christians and Jews in defeating Hitler because there were just to many Jewish and Christian socialists because after all socialism is the problem. And yes, in the long run Peikoff would have gotten his way but a what a price. By my standards it would be lunacy to pay the price the Democrats will extract. But I guess Peikoff might say that after all in the long run we will all be dead anyway and any thinking that just doesn’t take into account a millennial view of the current political environment is just plain nuts. I say first things first – stay alive as along as you can while achieving the many other required goals.

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Nevertheless, if ideas are important, then they must be manifesting themselves in the real world. Perhaps more people going to church, more people willing to vote to curtail their neighbor's freedoms, or -- if nothing else -- more people beginning to read the books that suggest these things.

True and I think it is being manifested given the popularity of faith-based books ("Left Behind", "Purpose driven Life", etc.), faith based movies ("Passion of the Christ"), faith based music (some evidence of this provided by Dr. Peikoff in his '04 statement), Bible Camps, etc.

So, it is disintegrative to say: ignore the stats and look at the philosophy.

I agree. What I meant was that it is wrong to base one's conclusions only on statistics or some out-of-context anecdotes. For instance a lot of arguments, both for and against Dr. Peikoff's statement, have consisted of something like this:

I meet with mystical Christians everyday. They are very dangerous. One should vote Democrat.
or

The Christians around me are VERY this worldly. They have that American sense of life. Theocracy is simply impossible in America because America will not go for it

or

"47% support teaching of creationism. However the number was 49% a decade ago". This is evidence that a Christian theocracy is not in the car.
or

We had bad laws like anti-abortion before. Just because Christians are hammering for these laws again does not mean we will have a theocracy. It will be essentially a return to the non-objective law we had in the past. In the past we had no theocracy therefore in the future we will have no theocracy.

Such out of context arguments are not any evidence for or against the possibility of a theocracy or Dr. Peikoff's statement. This is what I was arguing against.

I think the type of stats that Diana presented on her blog are fairly meaningful and need to be integrated into one's judgement.

I am not saying they are totally useless. What I am saying is that they by themselves shouldn't be taken as evidence for or against voting for Democrats.

If one makes an error in judging who the real leaders of the GOP are, who is crafting their agenda, how they are changing their philosophy and who will win in the long run, is that a philosophical error?

Does it matter who is crafting the agenda of the GOP? The important point, I think, here is that a very evil philosophy and consequently evil policies are being advocated by the M2s in the GOP who have been supported by the M1s and not opposed at all by the pragmatists. If these guys are kept in power, they will weaken the principle of the separation of the church and state (which will be much more harmful in the long run than any threat posed by the Muslims as it will pave the way for a theocracy) and they will destroy the meaning of military offense and small government by package dealing those phrases with an immoral agenda.

If ideas determine the course of history, then I don't see how it is not an error to think that the GOP (which is advocating fundamental evil ideas) will not do much more harm than the Democrats by spreading evil ideas. If Christianity keeps getting ever larger funding from the state, it will massively accelerate the spread of Christian philosophy. Electing the Democrats will delay this which will give more time to change the culture.

Either way, I do not consider my vote to be a big deal -- there are many things that are far more important if the battle is philosophical.

The concrete effect of one vote may not be that important. But one side in this debate over the elections is committing a philosophical error. And since the battle is philosophical, I think it is extremely important to identify which side is committing the error and what is the error.

Edited by tommyedison
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...
Pragmatism at its finest.

Just because someone acts on principle, he must be thinking in in some unreasonable, 'millenial' timeframe.

[Part of] Dr. Peikoff's point [as I understand it] is that we can survive, or at least fight against, the Democrats, but that if we don't get rid of the Republicans now, there won't be anything left to fight for. The Republicans are undermining rational principles (like capitalism and secularism) while pretending to support them, whereas the Democrats are openly rejecting them.

I don't doubt the Democrats will exact a price. but the Republicans are destroying the country. They must be stopped.

Slick move, playing the Nazi card and the Cult Leader card in the same hand. I won't go into the cult reference, but I will point out that your Nazi analogy actually fits quite nicely - Dr. Peikoff is suggesting allying, temporarily and in limited context, with our socialist enemies (the Democrats) to oust a theocratic, totalitarian regime leading this country on a path of principled and systematic self-destruction (the Republicans).

On to more pleasant matters:

I understand Dr. Peikoff's position (or at least as much of it as I have thus far been able to extract from DIM, which is already having a big impact on how I see the various dichotomies presented me daily at school) in terms of local officials now, too. Earlier, I posted that I wasn't sure which approach to take on local issues, but I see now that it is a party platform issue moreso than an individual one, except where a Republican candidate for local office might explicitly and substantially depart from party policy in a way that is both significant and relevant to the problem. Unluckily (or luckily?) for me, there are no such local officials near me. My next concern is over judges. From what I understand, they declare their personal party affiliations (by state law, I think), but they do not run on a party ticket. Because of this, and because judges tend to differ with each other on somewhat different grounds than the Democrats and the Republicans, I want to take a more jurisprudential approach. Court of Common Pleas judges (or their equivalents in other areas) have nil effect on legal policies; those are things addressed mainly by the State Supreme Court (Or Court of Appeals, if you're from New York) or by the Federal courts, and I don't have to vote for Federal court judges. So with Common Pleas judges, I'm looking for experience, and only looking at jurisprudential philosophy for the appeals and Supreme Court judges I get to elect this term. This is hard information to dig up on judges, especially when the "Voters' Guide" circulated by the various newspapers only asks the question "If elected, what would be the most significant thing you would accomplish in your term of office?" I'll first be looking for a rational jurisprudence, and not being able to look for one (I'm pessimistic), I'll move on to see who would hurt the system the least.

-Q

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I've just been asked not to post to the Forum for Ayn Rand fans after posting the following reply to a similar thread, which was promptly deleted. I don't like where their thread is going, which is why I posted the message. Judge for yourself.

I too had a post deleted on this forum and was put in a special category of "moderator review". This forum has an anti-Peikoff tone. Why?

I refused the request of a hostile critic (poster) to condense Peikoff's 22-1/2 hour DIM lecture for him when he admitted than he didn't want to spend hours of his life to listen to it. For this, the moderator essentially (although in a subtle way) accused me of being a religious-type cheerleader for Dr. Peikoff and implied that I was unable to understand the DIM lecture.

Dr. Peikoff's often-quoted statement was made in the context of his DIM lectures. Most of the common objections to it are addressed in the lecture. Yet many are quick to condemn Dr. Peikoff without any attempt to consider this context.

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As a point of observation, both with regard to The Forum for Ayn Rand Fans and Objectivismonline.net, the initial reaction to Dr. Peikoff's statement indicated that a great deal of thought had not been put into the replies to his statement...

Thomas,

I fully understand where you are coming from, but you are still missing a fundamental point: the forum you were typing on does not belong to Dr. Peikoff (I presume), but to those individuals in question (I presume). So, if you come into my (intellectual) house, it is more important that you FIRST show some intellectual respect to ME before anyone else or I might just exercise my right to kick you out. You can be forgiven for making a rash judgment of Dr. Peikoff (especially if, as it is, he has made a very controversial statement), but you cannot be forgiven for making a rash personal judgment of me, intellectually – on my "intellectual property". An Objectivist forum owner who reversed this hierarchy of respect would be altruistic. A visitor to that forum who would expect such a reversal would be evil.

So, with respect to forum etiquette, it is more critical that you observe what you say (explicitly or implicitly) about the people you are sharing that discussion with (especially the owners or Admins) than about any subject or person under discussion (yes, including Dr. Peikoff). The exception they might make is Ayn Rand herself (judging from the name of the site), who perhaps is existentially essential to the forum itself.

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Yeah, that was definitely an unjust attack on Tracinski. I have to say, this election has brought out the worst in some people.

So please enlighten me: What was unjust about what John Lewis or I said? And why would you characterize it as an "attack upon Tracinski" (as if it were personal, like the attacks on Dr. Peikoff have been) rather than a (sharp) criticism of his views? That seems completely screwy to me, given that both John Lewis and I were primarily concerned to identify Bush's policies as evil, not mere error.

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The tone of the post is disrespectful. I disagree with Tracinski on this point as well, but I wouldn't frame my disagreement in sarcasm such as "Has Jesus granted President Bush the power to raise the dead and heal the wounded?"
A single sentence of well-explained sarcasm in the course of an argument does not an "an unjust attack on Tracinski" make. Edited by dianahsieh
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I fully understand where you are coming from, but you are still missing a fundamental point: the forum you were typing on does not belong to Dr. Peikoff (I presume), but to those individuals in question (I presume).

I meant no disrespect for the owners or moderators of the boards. In fact, it was my respect for them (The Forum and Objectivismonline.net) that prompted me to post a message there. I occasionally post a message to a forum I don't respect, but not very often, and I'm usually in "attack mode" when I do that. I wasn't in "attack mode" on either forum when I stated my views and observations.

I have known Steven Speicher for a very long time via web forums of one sort or another for almost twenty years, and I have met him a few times. But, I'm sorry, I don't think he understand what Dr. Peikoff is getting at. I also know David Veksler personally, and have enjoyed meeting with him to talk philosophy and Objectivism; but, if he doesn't understand something, I tell him.

For anybody who takes ideas seriously, if you think I'm wrong (and can back it up), tell me.

Politeness should not be used as a substitute for directness. However, as far as I am concerned, I was being both polite and direct.

By the way, as of 10:30 PM central time, the House of Representatives has gone Democrat, and the Senate is not far from an overturn as well. I don't know what the political commentators or the politicians will think about that, or what will be made of it, but it might be interesting to listen to them over the next few weeks.

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Well it appears that the Dems. have regained their power in Congress and their prospects in the Senate are looking fairly strong. I have to say that I was a bit taken aback by the rather spirited debate on the words of Leonard Peikoff. I was one of the people on here that saw more sense in what Harry Binswanger argued for in his endorsement of President Bush 2 years ago, but I'm starting to question alot of things.

One of the things that I am truly questioning right now is the viability of the democrats ideologically, they have displayed a nihilism that rivals it's first inception in late 19th century Russia. I heard nothing out of them that differed in any way from the same mish-mash of Socialism and Fascism that Lyndon Johnson exhibited when he was president. They promise more controls, more regulation, and pretty much everything short of banning free trade. I've heard Leonard Peikoff speak at length on the problems of protectionism, and he has all but made a deal with the devil with his endorsement. Socialism became viable because it had a monopoly in the educational system, and essentially we have handed a good deal of power back to the socialist movement over the educational field.

Granted, the Republicans are hardly what I'd call Capitalists, especially considering the way they've spent the money that they have taxed out of us. They gave us an abomination of an education bill, not to mention the equally grotesque medicare expansion. I wonder if maybe not voting would have been a better choice, as I did end up supporting the Republicans this time around.

Heh, maybe I should get a job with the government, that way I can get back some of the money that they are bound to loot from me in the coming years. Sometimes I wonder if moving to Chile would be a good idea, it may not be Galt's Gulch, but in terms of Liberty and Property Rights I think they've gotten ahead of us.

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Granted, the Republicans are hardly what I'd call Capitalists, especially considering the way they've spent the money that they have taxed out of us.
I think this is really the key question. Historically, the Republicans have supported economic freedom, but they are cashing that value in. The decision has to be comparative, so it's unimportant whether the Democrats are socialists if the Republicans are being equally bad socialists. The best case scenario for the Republicans would be if there were a balancing of the threat from the religious right against the threat from the economic left, and you had to chose economic hell versus personal freedom hell.
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