Monday, August 20, 2007

Jerry Owens, RIP

Jerry Owens, 64, of Springfield did not fit the stereotype of Illinois politics—he was honest, genuine, smart and not in it to get rich. He also was the anti-preener. He hated phonies and posers.

Gene Callahan, the legendary former aide to Alan Dixon and Paul Simon, perfectly captured Owens' attitude toward political arrogance in a Saturday story in the Springfield-based State Journal-Register about Owens' death the day before.

"He got right down to the nitty-gritty. There was no phony bologna about him. He was tough, but he was kind," Callahan said, adding that one thing Owens didn't like were people who thought they were better than everyone else.

"He was an expert on puncturing pomposity," Callahan said. "In other words, he didn't care for pompous people. He'd puncture their balloons, and I think that's an attribute."
I will join Callahan as a pall bearer for Jerry tomorrow in Springfield. Gene is a good Democrat and I'm a Republican. Jerry didn't care about your party, he cared about good government. That's another way Jerry differed with the Illinois stereotype.

On a personal level, I will miss Jerry greatly. We worked closely together at the Attorney General's office for eight years and stayed in touch since. A bunch of Jerry's good friends—Gene, Al Manning, Luke Carey and I all went to a St. Louis Cardinals' game in St. Louis last year. It was a great day for a bunch of politicos.

There was nobody like Jerry. He was a true Illinois original. He was a great athlete (all-state basketball player, superb fast-pitch softball pitcher), journalist and government official, but that just begins to describe him. Jerry operated on his own clock. He arrived at work before 6 a.m. He arrived at events early, and left early. He was Google before there was Google, at least when it came to Illinois. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Illinois politics, baseball, movies and literature. I could call him from anywhere in the state and he could give me directions to the nearest restaurant, government building or newspaper office.

He had great political radar. He could immediately sense the good public servants and the bad ones—and he nearly always was right. He provided great advice to public officials on how to do things the right way, and in a way that comported with Illinois history and tradition. He knew how to play political hard ball when necessary, but that's not what drove him. He told me many times that his happiest days were prior to his government career when he was political columnist for the Springfield paper, hunting down information and scoops.

Jerry loved baseball and the Cardinals and was able to attend the deciding game of the World Series last year. If there's any justice in the world, today, on the day of his visitation, the Cardinals will beat the Cubs. Rest in peace, my friend.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

GQ candidate gets AP bailout

Barack Obama, fresh off an epic GQ cover story where he complains about the superficiality of the press coverage in between glamor shots, makes yet another foreign policy gaffe.

Associated Press jumps right in and reframes the argument in Obama's favor even faster than Obama's own press staff. It sure is nice to have the media on your side.

The National Review demonstrates that AP's cover for Obama was as phony as his whining about superficial coverage.

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Not so Swift

In the left-wing frenzy to discredit Karl Rove on his way out the door, there were many contestants for most absurd or false allegation. The winner was ABC News, which, two nights in a row, claimed that the evil genius was behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth commercials that were pivotal in George W. Bush's re-election in 2004.

The only problem is, it's not true.

It's beyond irresponsible for ABC to say that. Rove, by law, could not be behind the Swift Boat ads because they were independent expenditure ads that must be made without the help or coordination with any political campaign.

Just more Bush Derangement Syndrome. And a further blow to the credibility of the national press, which thinks it can make up its own facts as long as they further an ideological storyline.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

The Natural comes through

Baseball fans everywhere—even those who despise the St. Louis Cardinals—can appreciate the electric moment last night in St. Louis when Rick Ankiel, with a one-handed flick of the bat, drove a 384-foot home run into the ethernet of baseball history.

Dean Barnett captures it well, from the perspective of a non Cardinals fan.

As a lifelong Cardinals' fan, I can tell you that Ankiel has an almost mythical status in Cardinal country. First, he was going to be the generation's version of Sandy Koufax, the once-in-a-lifetime talent with a 97 mph fastball and free-drop rollercoaster curveball. When he gave up pitching and started playing the outfield, all Cardinals' fans I know were keeping one eye on his progress to see if "Young Musial," as some called him, could somehow follow in the rare footsteps of those who convert from a pitcher to a hitter.

It will be fascinating to see how far Ankiel's considerable talent can take him. Probably not as far as the myth, but he's given us all another reason to learn from his perseverance.

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Can Ankiel erase bad taste of Bonds' story?

There's a potential good news baseball story emerging that could be a welcome respite from the bittersweet Barry Bonds' home run record tale.

The St. Louis Cardinals are reportedly calling up Rick Ankiel, the man already part of baseball lore as one of those rare cases where a player completely loses the ability to throw the ball straight. Ankiel was a pitching phenom—described by some as a talent rivaling Sandy Koufax—who blew up during the 2000 playoffs and eventually was forced to stop pitching.

Ankiel, always a tremendous athlete and good hitter, tried to salvage his careeer as an outfielder in a move most thought was futile. Well, he's 28 years old now and is leading AAA baseball with 32 home runs and 89 RBI. And he's a very good outfielder with a howitzer arm.

Ankiel (who vaguely resembles a younger Eric Zorn, the Chicago Tribune columnist/blogger pictured above right) still has some plate discipline issues, but it will be interesting to see if he can successfully transition back to MLB. I'm sure part of the press horde that was following Bonds around will descend on St. Louis this weekend as Ankiel dons the uniform the first time as a Cardinals' outfielder.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Durbin: Senate equipment for campaign video

Just when you thought U.S. Senator Dick Durbin had dispensed with the tempest about using his Senate logo for a campaign video, his staff dug an even deeper hole.

On the New York Times blog Caucus, Durbin spokesman Mike Daly admitted that a 5-minute welcome video to liberal bloggers at the YearlyKos convention last weekend in Chicago should not have had the Senate logo, because, by inference, it was campaign related. However, in the same NY Times blog post, it says that Durbin's people concede the video was made in the Senate studios.

The video, which was posted to a YouTube site connected to Mr. Durbin's re-election Web Site, has since been removed along with several other clips. Today a spokesman for Mr. Durbin, the assistant majority leader, acknowledged that the video had been made using Senate equipment and should not have been posted.

The spokesman, Michael Daly, acknowledged that Mr. Durbin's team made what amounted to a "clerical error," but said that they did not intentionally violate Senate ethics rules. A section of the Senate Ethics Manual notes that it is improper to use the Senate seal in connection with campaign messages.

"We've taken it down, and it shouldn't have been there," Mr. Daly said. He added that the campaign consultants who posted the video to Mr. Durbin's YouTube site were not aware it had been produced in the Senate's recording studio. (You can no longer connect from several YearlyKos sites that linked to the video on YouTube, because it's been deleted.)
Either this story is wrong, or Durbin has admitted an even wider infraction: Using government equipment for campaign purposes. We'll see if either the NY Times or Durbin clarify this.

Meanwhile, for some reason, the video has resurfaced on YouTube after it was yanked yesterday amid the criticism over the government seal. Anne Leary has the YouTube link.

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Monday, August 6, 2007

Durbin video found

Dick Durbin's purged YouTube video—where he exhorts the Daily Kos nutroots to help re-elect him and his colleagues—has surfaced. Backyard Conservative's Anne Leary found it and has posted it here.

Here is a transcript of the first four minutes of Durbin's five minute talk. The video link above crashes my video player before the end. Note the overt political nature of much of the video. The diatribe was delivered with the U.S. Senate seal depicted on screen. As Leary points out, Senate ethics guidelines make it very clear it is against the law to use the seal for campaign purposes.

Michelle Malkin has a rundown as well.

Well, welcome to Chicago, one of the greenest big cities in the world and one of bluest states in America. We're proud to host the historic gathering of the 2007 YearlyKos convention. Wish I could be with you. Been looking forward for weeks to hearing some impassioned, progressive discussion and matching faces to some of the brave bloggers that are changing America. Unfortunately, I'm stuck in Washington tonight, headed to Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow. So I send this video greeting instead and hope maybe next year I can get together with you in person.

Chicago is the city of broad shoulders and broad minds. Thanks to the Sun-Times, we also have Bob Novak, or as Karl Rove calls him, speed dial number three. Speaking of Novak, did you see that story last week where Novak described heaven as, quote, a place where there are no blogs. Well, you can understand why he might say that, and why others like friends at the fair and balanced Fox News are saying the same kind of thing. But millions of other Americans see it just the opposite. They're looking at what's happening in our country these last few years and saying thank heaven for the blogs. And thank heavens for progressive blogs where people can write and read the truth and organize to fight for a better America. It's obvious why. The progressive blogosphere is opening up the political discussion to new people, new ideas and new energy. You're really changing the Democratic Party and you're changing America for the better. The progressve netroots (inaudible) millions of americans who felt their views weren't just being spoken aloud, much less heard by politicians and pundits and you've been a force in nearly every positive change we've seen in American politics in recent years. You helped expose the outing of a CIA officer. When the administration claimed the US Attorneys purge was just a quote, overblown personnel matter, the progressive netroots showed that it was an attack on democracy. Because of the progressive netroots, we stopped the privatization of Social Security. John Bolton is no longer working at the United Nations. Duke Cunningham is no longer in the House.

If it weren't for the progressive netroots, I wouldn't be assistant majority leader in the United States Senate. You made a big difference. Two races that come to mind immediately. Jim Webb and Jon Tester. Close victories. Not to mention scores of House and local races. You restored checks and balances in Washington. You're helping to bring clarity and honesty to the debate on Iraq, and that's the most critical issue we face. We came a few votes short of what we needed after the all-night debate just last month to end the Republican filibuster on the Levin-Reid amendment, but believe me, that's just the start. You gave my Democratic colleagues and me the support to stand up and fight to end this war. You helped turn up the pressure on wavering senators and you even persuaded a few to cross over and join us. That's progress. And I want you to know, we are going to build on it—during the month of August and beyond. Next year, netroots activism is going to be a critical force in helping to elect a Democratic president and expand our majorities in the House and the Senate. We're fortunate to have so many terrific candidates running for the White House. I'm really proud of all the Democrats in the race and the House Democratic candidates who are coming forward. But they won't be able to win on their own. They need your help. And so will I—running for re-election to the Senate in Illinois. I know progressive candidates can count on your help and you're also going to challenge us from time to time—and you should. We need to run the best races we can, so that we can get America moving in the right direction. In the meantime, there are things we need to do right now together to keep this people powered politics growing. We need to preserve the integrity of the internet. Develop and implement a national broadband policy that works for everybody.
I wonder how Durbin avoids a Senate ethics probe.

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Why Durbin is sealing the seal video

Dick Durbin apparently doesn't want you to see his cheerful video suck-up to the nation's top lefties at the Daily Kos convention because the YouTube video was adorned with his official Senate seal. Durbin or somebody else has pulled the video right about the time Illinois blogger Anne Leary's blog post was starting to circulate today.

Using the government seal for political purposes is against the law.

Top conservative blogger Michelle Malkin has the roundup of the story. We'll await an official explanation from the usually accessible Durbin, but until then, here is what the liberal blogosphere and news media were saying about the video when it was first posted. Their comments leave little doubt that Durbin was playing politics, not government, with the video.

From DC: Video from Dick Durbin. Stuck in DC going to Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow. Talking about Novak. He said heaven was a place with no blogs. DD says thanks for blogs. Changing Dem party and America for the better. Voice not being heard. Helped expose outing of CIA officer, purge not just an overblown matter. Bolton no longer at un because of bloggers. Netroots made him asst maj leader. Restored checks and balances. Just the start on ending Iraq war. Turning up pressure. Progress. Build on it. Netroots critical force in electing a Dem pres. Proud of all Dem candidates and house and senate candidates. They need our help. Challenge them too from time to time. Right now: preserve integrity of Internet. Change the way we pay for elections. National broadband strategy...small d democracy. Not just asking national lobbies. Fair Elections now act. Break dependence on special interest money. public funds to qualified candidates. need more republicans to support. Put America back on track.
We're currently listening to Senator Dick Durbin's video address in the grand ballroom here at the Hyatt McCormick Place. Durbin is praising the netroots' role in electing Jon Tester and Jim Webb, thanking bloggers for helping defend Ambassador Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, and inviting the community to participate in dialogue about issues such as municipal broadband.
Senator Dick Durbin appeared via recording on the giant video screens lavishing praise on liberal bloggers for providing scrutiny and perseverance in covering stories that might have otherwise never surfaced.
Durbin lauded the "brave bloggers" in the crowd for helping force John Bolton to resign and exposing the White House's role in the Valerie Plame scandal. "If it weren't for the progressive netroots I wouldn't be assistant majority leader," he added, and the crowd whooped.
He's a no-show, we're told, because he's in D.C. fighting for us. Via video he Calls Chicago home of "broad shoulders and broad minds," describes Bob Novak as Karl Rove's "speed dial number three," and then basically credits all victories to the netroots, who he prefers to dialogue with rather than evil telecom companies. Shocking! He also plugs his own internet diaries, which I don't actually care enough to find to link to.
Durbin lauded the "brave bloggers" in the crowd for helping force John Bolton to resign and exposing the White House's role in the Valerie Plame scandal. "If it weren't for the progressive netroots I wouldn't be assistant majority leader," he added, and the crowd whooped.
We trust that if Durbin's people were responsible for pulling the video, it was the campaign staff rather than the government staff making the call. Wouldn't want to compound the infraction, right?

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Did Durbin break the law?

UPDATE: The below-mentioned video has been removed from YouTube and is no longer available on the DailyKos site. Anne Leary still has the screenshot.

Anne Leary
of Backyard Conservative makes the argument this morning that U.S. Senator Dick Durbin may have violated the law by using the official senate seal on a video he prepared for the liberal YearlyKos convention this weekend in Chicago.

The video has been posted on the DailyKos website since Saturday.

If Durbin is going to make the argument that the video is a government activity, he sure is speaking in a political manner. Watch it for yourself. I wonder whether the presidential candidates who appeared at YearlyKos used government or campaign funds for their appearances. My guess is campaign. Durbin is up for re-election. From the Senate ethics manual, via Leary's post.

While the interpretation of this statute is a matter for the Department of Justice, it appears that in most cases use of the Senate Seal or the Great Seal for normal official Senate business would be appropriate; by contrast, commercial use, personal use or campaign use would be improper.
This looks like it might need some review by the Justice Department.

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Illinois Dems burn Pakistan

What is it with Illinois politicians and Pakistan?

First, Barack Obama, who said he would usher in a new era of diplomacy that will lift our reputation across the globe, sparked flag-burning and other protests in Pakistan with his political posture that he might invade as president.

Then, the Chicago Tribune reveals that Pakistan simply threw away the half-million doses of expired flu vaccine Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich tried to dump on that country. Blagojevich tried a press stunt that failed. He tried to play off the drug importation political angle and "bought" $2.6 million in vaccines he never was able to import. Taxpayers would be paying for the bone-headed move, but so far state Comptroller Dan Hynes has refused for Blago's folly.

A state trade office over there might not be a good idea right now.

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Wrong Way Obama

What should be on Barack Obama's Sunday reading list: former special forces turned journalist Michael Yon's column today in the New York Daily News. It shatters the remaining reeds of logic in Obama's assertion that to defeat al Qaeda, we are fighting the wrong war.
Clearly, not every terrorist in Iraq is Al Qaeda, but it is Al Qaeda that has been intentionally, openly, brazenly trying to stoke a civil war. As Al Qaeda is now being chased out of regions it once held without serious challenge, their tactics are tinged with desperation.

This may be the greatest miscalculation they've made in their otherwise sophisticated battle for the hearts and minds of locals, and it is one we must exploit.
It was Obama who told cable TV host/blogger Jeff Berkowitz last year that civil war is what we need to avoid. Barack now apparently is more concerned with presidential political positioning than civil war in Iraq. His withdrawal plan on the table is a certain prelude to that civil war he once feared.

Yon went on to destroy the argument tried by the New York Times that al Qaeda in Iraq is somehow unrelated to al Qaeda.
The current controversy about the extent to which Al Qaeda is a threat to peace in Iraq is a case in point. Questions about which group calling itself an offshoot of Al Qaeda is really an offshoot of Al Qaeda is a distraction masquerading as a debate.

Al Qaeda is in Iraq, intentionally inflaming sectarian hostilities, deliberately pushing for full scale civil war. They do this by launching attacks against Shia, Sunni, Kurds and coalition forces. To ensure the attacks provoke counterattacks, they make them particularly gruesome.
And Yon, who has been on the ground at the front edge of the surge, sums up the situation today.
Anyone who says Al Qaeda is not one of the primary problems in Iraq is simply ignorant of the facts. I, like everyone else, will have to wait for September's report from Gen. Petraeus before making more definitive judgments. But I know for certain that three things are different in Iraq now from any other time I've seen it.

1. Iraqis are uniting across sectarian lines to drive Al Qaeda in all its disguises out of Iraq, and they are empowered by the success they are having, each one creating a ripple effect of active citizenship.
2. The Iraqi Army is much more capable now than it was in 2005. It is not ready to go it alone, but if we keep working, that day will come.
3. Gen. Petraeus is running the show. Petraeus may well prove to be to counterinsurgency warfare what Patton was to tank battles with Rommel, or what Churchill was to the Nazis.

And yes, in case there is any room for question, Al Qaeda still is a serious problem in Iraq, one that can be defeated. Until we do, real and lasting security will elude both the Iraqis and us.
So Barack and fellow anti-war Dems: What do we do with al Qaeda in Iraq when we go home or to Pakistan?

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The KabukiKos Konfab

Predictably, the news media sanitized the convention of liberal bloggers this weekend in Chicago called the YearlyKos. I don't recall any tough questions to the convention goers about the vitriol posted daily on the DailyKos, and I didn't see any stories asking the lefties about credible reports that say the surge in Iraq is proving successful.

Nah, that would ruin the good time they were all having basking in the glow of the news media attention and pandering by Democratic presidential candidates. We can all ponder on a Sunday afternoon whether the national media would have been so uncritical of an emerging right wing blogger/grassroots movement.

It was all Kabuki Theater, anyway. While the nutroots were celebrating the explosion of "New Media," they were vehemently opposing the terrorists using New Media to communicate their plots to kill us by the thousands. While the convention was rolling, the DailyKos was challenging Congress to reject allowing our government to intercept potential terrorist communications that originate overseas and intersect with our communications network. Because President Bush was supporting the surveillance, DailyKos opposed it, no matter how many innocent American lives it might save. In other words, the Kossites were saying "screw them" to not Red America or Blue America, but Sane America. Fortunately, the Senate and then the House sided with Sane America and approved the measure.

YearlyKos' brand of democracy also didn't extend to those who expressed the opinion that the war surge may be working. A panel moderator shouted down a military man who expressed those views, saying it was inappropriate for the man to be expressing them wearing the uniform. Problem is, the panel moderator has a website where he is pictured wearing the uniform espousing his anti- Iraq war views. A message thread criticizing YearlyKos for this censorship was promptly censored from the site.

It's funny, because an Illinois blogger misread my earlier post about the upcoming convention, saying I wanted to stifle the First Amendment because I wanted the news media to treat the YearlyKos like it would a conservative political movement—critically. The only suppression of the First Amendment in Chicago this weekend that I know of occurred at McCormick Place.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Obama's Pakistan whacky-stand

Barack Obama's foreign policy speech today threatening to attack Pakistan after we pull out of Iraq can only be viewed through one lens—politics.

It made no sense if you follow any of Obama's previous statements, it made no sense logically, it made no sense geopolitically, it made no sense militarily. It only made sense if Obama correctly counted on the dutiful news media to report the tough talk as "evoking JFK" (liberal blogger Andrew Sullivan), or an attempt to burnish his anti-terrorism "credentials" after a campaign so far of foreign policy rookie mistakes from a foreign policy novice.

So politics it was from the candidate who continues to audaciously insist he is above politics.

First, we can easily dispense with Sullivan's flimsy JFK comparison. JFK would never retreat from our enemy in Iraq as Obama is proposing.

The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are. … The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.
The tactics of surrender in Iraq? Absolutely devastating, according to Pulitizer Prize war correspondent John Burns of the New York Times, in this recent interview with Hugh Hewitt.
…And so if American troops were withdrawn, I think that there would be a very serious risk that large parts of this country will fall under the sway of al Qaeda linked groups. Now we could debate what that exactly means. Al Qaeda's a holding company. Does that mean that Mr. bin Laden would be able to direct affairs in Afghanistan? No, I don't think he would. I don't think he does now. But it would mean that Islamic extremists who bear the worst intent towards the United States would have a base similar to the base they had in Afghanistan before 9/11 from which to operate, and I think it's very likely that they would then begin to want to expatriate their hatred of the United States in some way or another. In fact, it's already the case, that there are parts of Iraq which are under the sway of groups that swear allegiance to al Qaeda. And just to speak of one of them, the city of Sumarra, where I was yesterday, it's about sixty miles north of Baghdad, is definitely under the sway of al Qaeda right now. And that would likely get very much worse in the event of an accelerated withdrawal. So I don't think it's purely propaganda, political propaganda on the part of the Bush administration to say that there would be a major al Qaeda problem here. It seems to me it's absolutely self-evident that there would be.
Contrast this with what Obama said in July 2006, in an interview with Jeff Berkowitz:

I think that it is important for us to stabilize Iraq. I think the measure of success should be that there is not an all-out civil war. That there are not terrorist bases inside Iraq. That there has not been a melt-down of Iraq that draws its neighbors into escalating conflict. That should be our criteria. And, I think that can still be accomplished, although...
Then, there's the problem of invading Pakistan, our friend, a nuclear power. Our invasion could turn the population against its moderate leadership and invite an extremist revolt. The left, including Obama, went into a tizzy a few months when it sensed that President Bush might invade Iran, our sworn enemy. Now, Obama is talking about invading Pakistan, our friend. I'd like to know where the left's outrage is now. Nonetheless, everybody knows that going into the isolated and hostile mountains of Pakistan is unlikely to happen. Writes John Podhoretz:

This country is never — never — going to stage a major military action against Pakistan. Pakistan is a nation of 170 million people that has nuclear weapons and whose admittedly problematic and troublesome regime has, to some extent, cooperated with the United States in the war against Al Qaeda both in ways we know and ways we have no idea about. The concern that this strategically vital county might become an Islamic fundamentalist state is, should be, and will be paramount in every and all discussions about how to conduct the fight against Al Qaeda.

What's more, every serious person knows the United States won't invade Pakistan, even with Special Forces — since the reason we cancelled the proposed action against Al Qaeda in 2005 is that it was going to take many hundreds of American troops to do it. This isn't 15 people dropping like ninjas in the darkness. It's an invasion, with helicopters and supply lines and routes of ingress and escape. It would have had unforseen and unforeseeable consequences, but it would have been reasonable to assume the Pakistanis would have turned violently against the United States and hurtled toward Islamic fundamentalist control.
I'm wondering when the fair and balanced news media is going to ask Obama for his "plan" for attacking Pakistan and his "exit strategy."

Barack Obama appears unable to comprehend that al Qaeda exists in many countries, not just in a cave in Pakistan. He only wants to fight the "politically correct" al Qaeda. He wants to withdraw from a battlefield where we are defeating al Qaeda in order to engage in another one where we have far less chance for success and will incur many more casualties. Obama's politics of hope is that Americans will suspend logic and military common sense for his raw political posturing. Let's hope he's wrong.

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