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Category Archives: Populism

Populism, polemics, pandemic and cadre base helped BJP win Assam: Experts – Down To Earth Magazine

Posted: May 4, 2021 at 8:27 pm

With its populist schemes and organisational strength, the BJP endeared itself to various segments of Assamese society

Populist policies, polemical rhetoric, a strong cadre base and even the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) helped the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tide over anti-incumbency and retain power in Assam, experts said May 2, 2021.

The incidents in the run-up to the COVID-19 pandemic making its appearance in India and the state governments handling of the crisis may have helped it win the poll, Deban Bhattacharya, state secretary of the Communist Party of India, told this reporter.

Wide-spread protests against the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) had rocked Assam as well as other parts of India after the CAA was passed in December 2019.

The leaderless protests led by people of Assam, especially students, forced the BJP government to go on the back foot on the implementation of a nationwide NRC.

There were huge protests against the CAA in Assam in December 2019. Five persons lost their lives during such protests in Guwahati.

However, the protests had to be suspended in February 2020 after COVID-19 hit the country.

Bhattacharya said:

The BJP swiftly carried out all their core agendas in the first year itself including the abrogation of Article 370, triple talaq and the CAA. The upshot of what they did was the deepening of the communal divide in the country.

He added that COVID-19 played the role of a speed breaker for anti-CAA protesters. Protests against the BJP slowed during the pandemic. The BJP took advantage of it, he added.

Others said the pandemic did not have a role to play in the win. Santanu Borthakur, political analyst and advocate of the Gauhati High Court attributed the victory to three factors. Management was the main factor, he said. The BJP succeeded in winning tea garden voters to their side.

The party also promised to increase the financial assistance given to pregnant women of the tea garden community to Rs 18,000, from the current amount of Rs 12,000, Borthakur said. They also succeeded in convincing the states voters that there was no credible alternative to them, he added.

Others credited the BJP and its ideological parent the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sanghs strong cadre base.

We campaigned from door-to-door and met every voter. We organised 27,000 booth-level committees in Assam during the election. The booth-level committees played important role, BJP Guwahati district president and ex-Mayor of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation, Mrigen Sarnia, said.

Akhil Ranjan Dutta, political analyst and professor at the political science department of Gauhati University, agreed on the populism and organisation points:

They (the BJP) have two things. One is populism and the other is organisation. The partys populist policies like the Orunodoi scheme for low-income families, Arundhuti scheme for womens welfare, giving a free two-wheeler to girls, free admissions for poor students, endeared them to various segments such as girls, women and tribal communities. Given their cadre base, they also reached out to all ethnic groups.

The BJP, along with its allies Asom Gana Parishad and United Peoples Party Liberal was leading in 75 of the 126 Assembly seats for which trends were available by 6 pm May 2. The Congress-led 10-party Mahajot was leading in 50 seats.

Assam Pradesh Congress committee (APCC) President Ripun Bora said, We have accepted the verdict of the people. I do not want to give any comment before party-level committee discussions.

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Memo to Dems: Call The GOPs Populist Bluff – The Bulwark

Posted: at 8:27 pm

To: The Libs; Interested PartiesFrom: A New FriendRe: Wedging the crap out of the new working-class party phonies

If you havent seen it yet, my padna James Carville is on one this week. In a Honey Badgeresque Vox interview, which was helpfully transcribed for the faculty-lounge Yankees who cant decipher his clipped Cajun, Carville laid out the problems he sees with his party in the wake of a narrow victory over a world-historical buffoon that also resulted in the loss of congressional seats.

Carvilles concern is a practical one: An imbalance in the Senate, Electoral College, and to a lesser degree the House gives working-class white voters disproportionate sway in our politics. Thats just a fact. And it isnt going anywhere, no matter how it makes you feel.

Democrats who want to win campaigns need to come up with a plan to address this fact and not just fantasize about Joe Manchin getting hit by falling piano, suffering amnesia, and waking up wanting to end the filibuster, add three new states, and coin a new tagline for Ocean Breeze soap.

As Carville says:

Heres the deal: No matter how you look at the map, the only way Democrats can hold power is to build on their coalition, and that will have to include more rural white voters from across the country. Democrats are never going to win a majority of these voters. Thats the reality. But the difference between getting beat 80 to 20 and 72 to 28 is all the difference in the world.

The last sentence is the key. Hes not suggesting Democrats try to dominate rural America. But he recognizes that, as a matter of national political survival, Democrats must claw back part of their old coalition.

His advice for doing it:

I concur on all three, but Id like to revise and extend the third item. Because Democrats dont just need to do a better job branding the benefits of the Biden agenda.

They need to make the working class Republican party pay for opposing them.

From my vantage point Republicans are giving the left a massive opportunity to wedge them.


Following the 2020 defeat the Republicans plan for moving forward is to


In sum, the Republican plan is to stick with the Trump coalition, hope to attract some working-class minorities, and make it harder for Democratic groups to vote.

You might not like that plan, but its viable. Theres a path to victory for Republicans thereespecially in the midterm but absolutely in 2024, too. Theres only one weakness in it. Are you ready?

Republican politicians tried to stop Bidens (popular) programs which help working-class voters.

Sure, they have gone hard-populist on cultural issuesas God is their witness, theyll never cave on trans athletes (well, almost never). They will rant and rave about Dr. Seusss self-cancelation. But what are they gonna do? Tell voters, Vote for me and Ill pass a law forcing the Seuss estate to publish everything, forever. Promise to hold a hearing about drag-queen story hour?

On the real parts of populismthe parts where legislators vote on bills that change the tax code or give working parents a benefit to help pay for the cost of raising kidsRepublicans are in large part still stuck in the Tea Party / Chamber of Commerce days.

If anything, Republicans are sitting in the sour spot of populist economics. You get Marco Rubio tweeting that he wants to use the government to punish woke corporations if they dont support his conception of the common goodbut then hes going to oppose Bidens attempt to raise the corporate tax rate in order to fund a bigger social support network for workers.

If Democrats cant make a guy like Rubio pay for those conflicting positions, then theyre going to lose at least the House. And theyll deserve to.

Because Republicans are going to be in the position of being anti-corporate when it comes to popular companies endorsing popular issues and pro-corporate when it comes to companies keeping the former guys tax breaks.

At least Josh Hawley is putting some meat on his kayfabe, proposing a $1,000 cash bonus for families with kids under 13 (alongside his lonely vote against legislation aiming to address anti-Asian hate crimes). But thats not going anywhere. And the main body of the GOP will never get behind itespecially not when it would be Joe Biden signing the deal in the Oval Office.

This disconnect between the Republicans new coalition and what they are willing to actually support hands the ice pick to the Democrats and begs them to use it.

Politics is about expanding your coalition while creating wedges in the other side.

A Navigator poll in February showed that half of Republicans making less than $50,000 a year were worried that the government would not do enough to help regular people suffering from COVID-19 fallout.

And then every Republican voted against Bidens American Rescue package.

How do Democrats take advantage?

(1) It starts with Carvilles suggestion about branding the Biden agenda. Yes there were the $1,400 checks. But what else was in the COVID package? What are the three items in either the rescue package or the infrastructure bill that workers can grasp and know are improving their lives? Can non-political obsessives answer that question right now? I dont think so. Democrats need to change that ASAP. Biden will have a first crack at that in tonights big speech.

(2) Dare the Republicans to live up to their rhetoric. Cant get a $15 minimum wage through Manchin and Sinema? Then cut a deal that gets them on board for a smaller number. Call Cottons bluff on his $10 minimum wage proposal by offering a $12 or $11 compromise and watch him buckle. Do the same with Ernst, Lee, and Rubio on Paid Family Leave.

(3) Find the most tangible, popular items with working-class voters. Not bullshit pablum about economic securitywere talking about actual benefits. Get them into legislation, get them voted onand then relentlessly crush any Republicans who opposes them. In the case of the popular stuff that was already in the American Rescue Plan, every single R is already on the hook.

(4) Figure out how to tell this story inside the R information bubble. Yes, that means adsbut if you wanna get really crazy, go on Fox and talk about it. If the host badgers you about fiscal responsibility and pay fors then youre doing the wedge thing right.

Put in a more Twitter friendly format:

Push economic agenda items that are popular with working-class voters. Watch Republicans vote against them. Beat them over the head with these votes. Ignore all the faculty lounge/Latinx bullshit.

Every single day Democrats should wake up and ask themselves, What am I doing to make sure working-class voters know exactly how we helped themand how Republicans tried to stop us?

As a former Republican, is this my dream politics? Not really, no.

Do I wish we could create a big, beautiful technocratic centrist party that was restrained in its view of what government could do effectively? That paired new programs with cutting wasteful ones? Sure thing.

But at the moment, thats just a fantasy, no more realistic than the progressive dream of killing the filibuster and moving 150,000 liberals to Cheyenne.

Make the GOP own the insurrection and the bigoted, conspiratorial crazy in the suburbs. And make them own blocking economic help in working-class communities. Be relentless about it. Thats the whole ballgame.

Because heres the thing: Republicans are betting that working-class whites only care about the culture-war populism and dont actually give a crap about populists economics.

Now maybe thats right and maybe Republicans will be able to ride online cancel culture to victory while also fighting to make sure that Mark Zuckerberg never pays a dime more in taxes.

And if they are right, then youre probably screwed.

But if Democrats are going to have any hope of growing their coalition further, the best move on the board is to try to bring the R-margins among working-class white voters down a few points. Shift the GOP margins with these folks from Saddam Hussein-level blowouts to normal levels of dominance. Move from 80-20 to 72-28.

If it works, that shift, combined with maintaining the existing Democratic majority would be enough to net a few Senate seats in 2022 and go into 2024 with a winning coalition that Joe Biden is better suited to hold together than basically any other living politician.

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Is Josh Hawley Serious About Taking On Big Tech? – The New Republic

Posted: at 8:27 pm

Where Hawley is most far afield is in talking about content moderation. This is a broad, thorny issue that essentially concerns what kinds of posts a social network should allow and what kind it shouldnt. Big companies like Facebook employ thousands of third-party content moderators who help keep social networks free of the flood of gore, animal abuse, child porn, and other ghastly material that is being constantly uploaded to these platforms. At a scale of millions or billions of users, content moderation decisions carry a huge potential impact. For that and other reasons, these systems are far from perfectand reflect corporate policies that are often political in nature, privileging some types of speech over othersbut without them, most popular websites and platforms would be almost impossible to use. Its a flawed system crying out for reform, public education, and debate; its also all we have right now.

Conservative commentators like Hawley have no understanding of these complexities. To them, content moderation is censorshipfull stop. Its an inhibitor of free speech and a way of coercing users into behaviors and modes of thought that Silicon Valley prefers. Its another manifestation of Big Techs progressive social agendapro-LGBT, pro-abortion, proBlack Lives Matter. Instead of quoting academics, content moderators, or anyone else with a hand in this misunderstood industry, Hawley turns to a pseudonymous Facebook whistleblower, from whom we learn, in muddled terms, about some internal Facebook tools that the company uses to manage content moderation and sometimes coordinate decisions with other companies. In Hawleys view, this is only further evidence of the perfidy of content moderation, which he depicts as a concerted censorship regime designed to promote liberal policies. (To that end, Hawley approvingly cites a widely discredited study by a man named Robert Epstein, who claimed that Google search suggestions shifted millions of votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016.)

Hawley may be smarter than this, but put-on ignorance is a feature of a Republican leadership that would rather deny its elite credentials. (At one point, Hawley disparagingly refers to the founders of Google as Silicon Valley PhD students without acknowledging that they attended Stanford at the same time that he was an undergraduate there.) Fusing the false populism of Trumpism with a Republican establishment that has never seen a tax cut it doesnt like, Hawleys proposed solutions to our Big Tech problem are lacking. He says nothing about strengthening unions or raising corporate tax rates. He says little about actually breaking up companies or using the power of the Department of Justice and regulatory agencies to check tech behavior. He seems to want it both ways, aspiring to a more activist, trust-busting government while never actually promising substantive interventions, since he must maintain his congenital opposition to big government.

Some of Hawleys ideas, like his proposed Do Not Track legislation to give users more ability to opt out of online surveillance, bear consideration, or at least are founded in worthwhile principles. He seems aghast at the scope of digital surveillance, though he overlooks the U.S. governments own complicity in this state of affairs. He wants a new Glass-Steagall Act for the tech sector [that] would halt techs march into every industry in America and circumscribe its dominance over American life, but he says nothing about other forms of corporate consolidation and influence. Other suggestions seem insignificant or misguided: Hawley would like to ban the infinite scrolling of the Facebook news feed and YouTubes autoplay feature, saying they enmesh users in addictive habits. Hed also like to raise the legal age to open a social media account from 13 to 16 and require that users submit an ID. Perhaps most significantly, he would like to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Acta brief but profoundly influential law that essentially immunizes internet companies from legal liability for the content posted on their services. Hawley seems to have little idea of how to replace it (or what the consequences of not doing so might be).

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Is Josh Hawley Serious About Taking On Big Tech? - The New Republic

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The ‘White Working-Class’ and ‘Woke Capitalism’: Fake Constructs in the Right’s Cultural War Byline Times – Byline Times

Posted: at 8:27 pm

Jon Bloomfield and David Edgar deconstruct the nationalist-populist conspiracy narratives that seek to divide and rule

It is of no wonder that the right-wing commentariat greeted the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities Government-commissioned report with unalloyed joy. The report seeks to divide communities of colour against one another and validates a crucial element of the current national-populist narrative: the concept of the white working-class.

This narrative alleges that a liberal, cosmopolitan elite is flooding the country with immigrant workers, in the interests of global finance capital.

The cosmopolitan elite concept is not a new idea or an exclusively British one a virulent version was around in the 1930s, and the current variant is being cultivated by nationalist populists across Europe and America. In Britain, it is being promoted by culture war Conservatives and some former Labour supporters.

Despite the iniquities of the voting system, the Conservatives know that the ground is moving against them, hence their drive for a new divisive model focused on cultural warfare

In his 2013 book on immigration, The British Dream, David Goodhart blamed the increase of immigration under New Labour on a conspiracy between New Labour globalisers wanting to suppress wages and multiculturalists wanting to rub the rights nose in diversity. In her 2016 conference speech (co-written by national-populist Nick Timothy), Theresa Mays citizens of nowhere were people in positions of power in thrall to international elites.

Just before a short stint at Downing Street, former Times journalist Tim Montgomerie set out the clearest exposition of this politics in Prospect magazine, arguing for a social Thatcherism a re-balancing from a conservatism of freedom to a conservatism of locality and security.

Montgomerie argued that, within the Conservative Party, the magnetism of national sovereignty needs to overtake the magnetism of free markets. The political significance of this anti-globalisation shift from market economics to national populism is that it enables Conservatives to appeal to workers with an apparent anti-capitalist message, challenging the iniquities of foreign capital at the same time as decrying foreigners and refugees.

This new model is advocated by a group of commentators attached to the national-populist Unherd website including Goodhart; philosopher John Gray; Blue Labour guru Maurice Glasman; trade unionist Paul Embery; and Matthew Goodwin, an academic who co-wrote a perceptive book on the rise of UKIP but has become a fervent advocate of what he started out analysing.

Goodwin has now given the conspiracy theory an explicitly racial twist. Writing about the recent report into racial and ethnic disparities in the Daily Mail, he noted that minority ethnic groups are now pulling ahead of white people a conclusion which does not sit neatly with woke dogma. This dogma is promoted by highly educated whites in alliance with multinational firms, with the end result being an informal alliance between white elites, corporations and minorities, against the white working-class.

In Britain and America, the conspiracy narrative is currently corroborated by the phenomenon of woke capitalism, whereby as Goodwin puts it multinational firms voice strong support for the new belief system, while doing all they can to avoid paying a fair share of tax and doing more for their working-class employees.As the new belief system is racial equality, working-class employees are clearly cast as white, as if workers of colour dont have an interest in companies paying tax.

The principal target of British critics of woke capitalism usually the consequence of pressure from a multiracial workforce is clearly not so much the capitalism as the woke: would Matthew Goodwin have been quite so appalled by Sainsburys announcing redundancies in a tweet had the company not also been supporting Black History Month?

Both the white working-class and woke capitalism are ideological constructs designed to obscure the fact that Britains workplaces from factories to farms, hospitals to hospitality are now largely multiracial. But the working-class of which Goodwin writes is never black, Asian or mixed-race nor does it appear to be Polish, Irish or Scottish. In 2019, Goodwin employed the Powellite trope of indigenous workers feeling like strangers in their own country.

Class divisions certainly still scar British society, but the class dividing line is not between white workers and their colleagues from minority backgrounds, but where it has always been between workers of all ethnicities and their employers.

For Goodwin, the conspiracy theory is not just about elites seeking to impose their liberal values on the mass of the people, it is those elites working in alliance with racial minorities against white people. Goodwin blames highly-educated elitists for encouraging everybody to view the world through the prism of race, but it is he who offers a racialised, conspiratorial narrative to attractnationalist-minded working-class voters to the Conservative Party.

The contemporary conspiracy theory has clearly gained traction in the Red Wall seats which Labour lost to the Conservatives in the 2019 General Election.

In her granular analysis of first-time Conservative voters, Beyond the Red Wall, pollster Deborah Mattinson finds that, although many of their grievances are actually economic (lack of job opportunities, inadequate local facilities, decline of the high street), Red Wallers have assimilated the key concepts of national-populist theory including hostility to London, students and graduates (when not their own children).

Living in places with lower immigrant populations than cities, they have picked up tabloid mythologies about scrounger immigrants. (One of the most striking omissions in the recent report on racial and ethnic disparities, which claimed that racial discrimination is exaggerated, is any reference at all to the tabloid press). Most importantly, Mattinsons Red-Wallers have ingested key national-populist terms including political correctness, socially conservative and especially the elites.

Anyone looking at the inter-war years is aware both of the dangers of conspiracy theories and of their potential appeal. Donald Trump used them to alarming effect in the 2016 US Presidential Election, claiming that Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers.

In his co-written book, National Populism, Matthew Goodwin outlines an adjacent conspiracy by billionaire Hungarian-Jewish financier George Soros, seeking to flood Christian Europe with Muslim refugees to usher in a borderless world that is subservient to capitalism a theory which Goodwin describes as not entirely without credence.

In the UK, these arguments are not just dividing working people along racial lines they are also driving a wedge through the alliance between the working-class and liberal middle-class, which brought about most of the progressive social achievements of the past century, from the founding of the welfare estate to the social reforms of the 1960s and beyond.

The new fault-line in politics constructed by the national-populists is designed to have supporters of that alliance make an agonising choice between voting for interventionist economics or social liberalism. In fact, it is possible and practical to vote for both, as more than 12 million people did in 2017, as well as in 1997 and 1966.

We face a clear choice about our future. Do we remain a deeply divided country, fiercely unequal in terms of income and race, defined by toxic, conspiratorial fantasies? Or do we seek to build on the progressive national unity demonstrated in the first months of the Coronavirus pandemic?

The terrain is more favourable than it looks. Attitude polling suggests that in reality Britain is moving left-ward on social and economic issues. For all of Paul Emberys contempt for what he calls a protracted moral lecture, more Premier League football fans support taking the knee than oppose it, and the nation will cheer on a multi-racial England team this summer.

Even in the harsh reality of electoral politics, liberal progressivism outdoes conservatism. In every election this century bar 2015, the combined popular vote as opposed to seats won by the progressive parties (Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Nationalist) comfortably exceeded the votes cast for the Conservatives and UKIP/the Brexit Party, even in 2019.

Despite the iniquities of the voting system, the Conservatives know that the ground is moving against them, hence their drive for a new divisive model focused on cultural warfare.

In response, progressives need to focus on the economic and social issues that concern the various components of todays working-class, combined with new ways to talk about race. A savvy Left can defeat the divisive ideas offered by the national-populists.

Jon Bloomfield is a writer, environmental practitioner and author of Our City: Migrants and the Making of Modern Birmingham. David Edgar is a playwright and commentator, whose recent work includes an autobiographical solo show, Trying it On. Since 2009, Edgar has written extensively about the new fault-line in world politics. In the 1980s, both authors were on the editorial board of Marxism Today

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The 'White Working-Class' and 'Woke Capitalism': Fake Constructs in the Right's Cultural War Byline Times - Byline Times

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Opinion | Science and health bested by panic and populism –

Posted: April 23, 2021 at 12:35 pm

In times of crisis, the actions of the public and officials are guided by two things we need to know: What is happening now, how bad is it? Then, what must we do to contain or minimize a worsening situation?

In the case of our current COVID-19 crisis these facts have come in two distinct but related sets of numbers. There are the hard daily numbers; the cases, the hospitalizations, the ICU loading and sadly, the deaths. Then there is the statistical modelling by which epidemiological, mathematical and statistical analysts apply those daily numbers to our provincial medical capacities to provide the best predictions of what might happen next so as to guide our leaders in their efforts at containment and prevention.

Because of their immediate impact on our families and our daily lives, the public tend to concentrate on the hard daily numbers and because that is where the news is, so too do the media. But the daily numbers only provide a snapshot of the pandemic at that moment in time; they are out of date almost as soon as they are published. In an accelerating world of variant driven, rapidly increasing case counts, they can only tell us where the pandemic has been.

The mathematical models, being predictive in nature, therefore less precise, are the only method by which we can make any projection of where the pandemic might go next and what toll it might exact when it gets there. The sole purpose of that statistical modelling is to point out what next steps we should be planning in order to protect hospitals and prevent ICUs from overloading and failure.

So far, the biggest failure in this pandemic has been the failure of our provincial government to either understand the models and plan responses in a timely fashion or, worse still, choosing to ignore them for expediency, political ideology or opportunistic photo-ops.

In Ontario, the modelling numbers and the trends have been there for all to see. We did not need to be epidemiologists or statisticians. We saw the modelling laid out before us. We only needed to read the newspapers or watch TV to see the approaching tsunami. The Ontario government saw the same models and projections, yet did nothing.

The fact that they knew and chose not to act became evident last week. In response to questions about the delay in locking down and applying new public-health measures, when all the scientific modelling predicted that case numbers and hospitalizations were about to explode, Ontario Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones replied: We wanted to make sure the modelling was actually showing up in our hospitals.

So we watched as the Ford government chose only to react to the headline grabbing daily numbers instead of planning their response to the modelling projections, then waited to assure themselves that one would in fact catch up to the other, which, predictably, it did. This was not a failure of science, not a failure of knowledge. This was a failure to act; a singular failure of leadership.

Throughout this crisis, the Ontario government has bought into the false health-versus-economy dichotomy and worse yet, after reluctantly and belatedly tightening public-health measures to combat the second wave, they reopened again too quickly and broadly, for all of two weeks, only to retreat rapidly this week. In their repeatedly desperate attempts to lock down while staying open for business, the Ford government has continually vacillated, hesitated and utterly failed to follow the medical science and the COVID-19 infection modelling.

Ontario now faces overloaded health and critical-care capacities, problems that cannot be solved by simply repurposing hospitals or adding ICU beds. Each requires highly skilled teams of nurses, physicians and more. Fifteen months into this pandemic, finding a reserve of such skilled teams will be a massive challenge, resulting in increased illness and deaths among every age cohort and, ironically, extending the economic fallout which, at times, seemed all they cared about.

Failure is not the best teaching method, but I think we were hopeful that governments at all levels, coping with something brutally new and unknown would at least learn from past missteps. But after 15 months of being outflanked by COVID-19 and with a third wave of this pandemic picking up steam by the day, our Ontario government has apparently learned nothing from the two previous waves.


Jim Young is vaccinated, masked and still locked down in Burlington.

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Opinion | Science and health bested by panic and populism -

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COVID is surging and populist premiers won’t save us – National Observer

Posted: at 12:35 pm

Of all the controversial covers Macleans magazine has run over the years, few attracted a bigger backlash than its December 2018 edition. It featured Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer flanked by Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, Brian Pallister and Scott Moe, all wearing their best blue suits and sporting their best tough-guy demeanours. The headline, though, put it over the top: The Resistance. This was a cheeky nod to the anti-Trump movement in the United States, and the text underneath described them as a powerful new alliance ready to stand against the prime ministers climate plan. Welcome to Justin Trudeaus worst nightmare, it blared in boldface.

So much for that. The conservative premier quartet might actually be one of Trudeaus best assets in the next election, whenever that comes. And while their tone-deaf approach to Trudeaus climate plan certainly plays a role in that, its been their ongoing resistance to the best advice of doctors and other public health experts doing the heavy lifting here.

According to a recent Environics Research poll, when asked who they trust more to make the right decisions in handling the pandemic, Canadians in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba were most likely to say the federal government. On the flip side, they were also the four places where residents were least likely to prefer their own provincial governments, with only 18 per cent of Albertans and 20 per cent of Ontarians trusting their premiers.

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Its no wonder. While the federal government has made mistakes along the way, from its failure to close the borders early to some hiccups in the vaccine procurement process, they pale in comparison to the litany of anti-scientific goals that have defined the responses in Canadas resistance provinces.

The Ford governments recent behaviour, which included closing playgrounds and other public recreation areas and closing public schools one day after insisting they would remain open has been particularly egregious. Andrew Morris, an infectious diseases specialist and member of Ontarios COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, was unsparing in his description of the Ford governments response. They havent learned anything over the past six to 12 months, he told Toronto Life. I dont understand it. Its just so disappointing.

By constantly trying to balance the needs of the economy against the imperatives of a dangerous virus, and by catering to their political base rather than trying to lead it, premiers like Ford and Kenney have managed to both frustrate and infuriate their populations. And while they may eventually pay a high political price for their incompetence, the people who voted them into power in the first place ought to reflect on their role in this.

After all, that fateful Macleans cover speaks to a moment in Canadian politics when populist politicians promising easy solutions, from buck-a-beer to pipelines aplenty, were on the rise. But as COVID-19 should have taught everyone by now, simple solutions are no match for the complexity of the real world and challenges like a global health crisis.

Thats why populist leaders like Donald Trump, Brazils Jair Bolsonaro and Great Britains Boris Johnson have failed the test the virus has presented in spectacular (and lethal) fashion. And make no mistake: there will be other tests in the future that these populists havent studied for, whether its climate change, wealth inequality or another pandemic.

Once were able to vaccinate our way out of the abyss that Ontario and other provinces now find themselves in, we need a reckoning with the politics that got them there in the first place.

First and foremost, we need to stop electing people who dont believe in government, and who insist on running them like personal fiefdoms when entrusted with their administration. We saw what the rise of know-nothing, pro-business populism did to Great Britain and the United States, and we may have comforted ourselves here in Canada with the belief that we were better than that. We arent.

We also need to start demanding a higher standard of education and professional achievement in our leaders. Prideful ignorance is no match for the ever-more complex challenges of our time, and governing from the gut can have disastrous consequences. The fact that the 56-year-old premier of Ontario reportedly doesnt even know how to use a laptop is an obvious punchline, but it doesnt inspire much confidence in his ability to handle more complex challenges.

The good news here is that even some conservatives seem to appreciate that their movements ongoing flirtation with anti-intellectual populism is leading them down a dangerous road. As former Stephen Harper adviser Sean Speer wrote in a recent piece, the Liberal governments new budget is a powerful (and perhaps sobering) sign that progressives are winning the battle of ideas.

So far, though, Canadas conservative leaders still seem drunk on their preferred populist cocktail of misinformation and blame-shifting. On the same day the Liberal budget was announced, former finance critic and party heavyweight Pierre Poilievre tweeted a deliberately misleading chart about the federal debt one that was duly picked up and shared by other members of his caucus.

Theres still time for conservatives in Canada to start taking that battle of ideas more seriously. If they do, they may yet be able to meet the increasingly complex challenges that lie ahead. But one thing should be abundantly clear: while populism can be a good way to get elected, its a terrible way to govern.

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COVID is surging and populist premiers won't save us - National Observer

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A politics of fraternity is the true response to the rise of populism – L’Osservatore Romano – L’Osservatore Romano

Posted: at 12:35 pm

On Thursday, 15 April, Pope Francis sent a video message to participants in the International Conference, A Politics Rooted in the People, organized by the Centre for Theology and Community, and urged them just like a good shepherd to put the most vulnerable first. The following is a transcript of the English subtitles of the Holy Fathers message which he delivered in Spanish.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Im happy to send you some words of greeting at the start of this conference organized by the Centre for Theology and Community in London around the themes in the book Let Us Dream, above all as they relate to the peoples movements and the organizations that support them.

I want to send a special greeting to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which celebrates its 50th year of helping the poorest in the United States to live with greater dignity, promoting their participation in the decisions that affect them.

This is also the sphere of work of many other organizations present here, from the United Kingdom, Germany and other countries, whose mission is to walk with the people in their search for la tierra, el techo y el trabajo (land, housing, and work), the famous three Ts and staying by their side when they meet with attitudes of opposition and contempt. The poverty and exclusion from the labour market that have followed this pandemic have made your work and witness all the more urgent and necessary.

One objective of your meeting is to show that the true response to the rise of populism is precisely not more individualism but quite the opposite: a politics of fraternity, rooted in the life of the people. In his recent book, Fr Angus Ritchie (Executive Director of the Centre for Theology and Community) calls this politics that you do inclusive populism; I like to use the term popularism to express the same idea.1 But what matters is not the name but rather the vision, which is the same: it is about finding the means to guarantee a life for all people that is worthy of being called human, a life capable of cultivating virtue and forging new bonds.2

In Let Us Dream, I call this a politics with a capital P, politics as service, which opens new pathways for the people to organize and express itself. It is a politics not just for the people, but with the people, rooted in their communities and in their values. On the other hand, populisms tend to be inspired, consciously or not, by another slogan: everything for the people, nothing with the people political paternalism. So in this populist vision the people is not protagonist of its own destiny, but ends up in thrall to an ideology.

When people are cast aside, they are denied not just material well-being but the dignity of acting, of being a protagonist in their own destiny and history, of expressing themselves with their values and culture, their creativity and fruitfulness. This is why it is impossible for the Church to separate the promotion of social justice from the recognition of the culture and values of the people, which includes the spiritual values that are the source of their sense of dignity. In Christian communities, those values are born from the encounter with Jesus Christ, who tirelessly seeks out the lost and downhearted, those struggling to live from day to day, to bring them the face and presence of God, to be God with us.

Many of you gathered here have worked for many years doing this in the peripheries, walking with the peoples movements. It can be uncomfortable at times. Some accuse you of being too political, others of trying to impose religion. But you understand that respect for the people means respect for their institutions, including their religious ones; and that the role of those institutions is not to impose anything but to walk with the people, reminding them of the face of God who always goes before us.

That is why the true shepherd of a people, a religious shepherd, is one who seeks to walk in front, among, and behind the people: in front, to point out to them something of the way ahead; among them, to feel with the people and not to go wrong; and behind, to assist the stragglers and to allow the people with its own nose to find for itself the right paths.

That is why in Let Us Dream I speak of a desire: that every diocese in the world have an ongoing collaboration with the peoples movements.3

Going out to meet the risen, wounded Christ in our poorest communities allows us to recover our missionary vigour, for it is here that the Church was born, in the margins of the Cross. If the Church disowns the poor, she ceases to be the Church of Jesus; she falls back on the old temptation to become a moral or intellectual elite a new form of Pelagianism, or a kind of Essene life.4

In the same way, a politics that turns its back on the poor will never be able to promote the common good. A politics that turns its back on the peripheries will never be able to understand the center, and will confuse the future with a self-projection, as if in a mirror.

One of the ways of turning ones back on the poor is by having contempt for the cultural, spiritual, and religious values of the people, which are either ignored or exploited for reasons of power. The contempt for the culture of the people is the beginning of the abuse of power.

In recognising the importance of spirituality in the lives of the people, we regenerate politics. That is why it is essential that faith communities meet together and fraternize in order to work for and with the people. With my brother the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, [we] declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.5 Always in the service of the peoples.

Now, more than ever, dear friends, we must build a future from below, from a politics with the people, rooted in the people. May your conference help to light up the way. Thank you very much.

[1] Angus Ritchie, Inclusive Populism: Creating Citizens in the Global Age (Univ. Notre Dame Press, 2019)[2] Pope Francis, Let Us Dream. The Path to a Better Future. In conversation with Austen Ivereigh (Simon & Schuster, 2020) p. 112[3] Let Us Dream, p. 121.[4] Let Us Dream, p. 120.[5] Document on Human Fraternity, quoted in Fratelli Tutti, n. 285.

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A politics of fraternity is the true response to the rise of populism - L'Osservatore Romano - L'Osservatore Romano

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Rachel Kushner on What She Takes From Art (and Artists) – The New York Times

Posted: at 12:35 pm

LOS ANGELES At one point in Rachel Kushners recently published novella, The Mayor of Leipzig, the narrator, an American artist, reveals: I personally know the author of this story youre reading. Because she thinks of herself as an art-world type, a hanger-on.

This aside is typical of Kushner, both in its self-deprecating humor and its metafictional address. Kushner, however, is scarcely a hanger-on. While she is best known as the author of three widely acclaimed novels Telex from Cuba, The Flamethrowers and The Mars Room she has also written incisively about art and artists for magazines and journals including Artforum and BOMB.

She often features the art world in her fiction, too. The Flamethrowers describes, in part, the protagonist Renos entree into the downtown art scene of 1970s New York (Reno sharing certain traits, such as a passion for motorcycles, with Kushner). It includes cameos from real artists, such as the sculptor John Chamberlain, mixed with invented ones in locations both historical Maxs Kansas City, Andy Warhols Factory and made up.

An anthology of her essays, The Hard Crowd, was published this month. Alongside tales of motorcycle racing, bartending in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, and reflections on cult writers including Marguerite Duras, Denis Johnson and Clarice Lispector, the book includes essays on the artists Jeff Koons, Thomas Demand and Alex Brown. In another essay, Made to Burn, she reveals some of the art-historical inspirations for The Flamethrowers, such as Los Angeles artist Jack Goldsteins vinyl record of sound effects and the Italian photographer Gabriele Basilicos 1984 series Contact, showing the imprint of various designer chairs on a womans bottom. (The link between violence and modernism is everywhere but too broad to get into the form of a caption, she writes beneath the image.)

On the porch of her home in Angelino Heights here, Kushner, 52, spoke about her enduring interest in art and the individuals who make it. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Whats in it for you, writing about visual art?

Its something of a natural affinity for me. I was always interested in art, even as a kid. Im originally from Eugene, Ore., then we moved to San Francisco. But I was lucky enough to get to visit New York in the 1970s and 80s and be exposed to the art world there. My aunt, the media activist and artist DeeDee Halleck, made films with the Land artist Nancy Holt and Richard Serra, and was friends with the installation artist Gordon Matta-Clark. When I was about 5, I remember visiting the artists Gate Hill Cooperative outside New York City, where DeeDee was living along with John Cage and the experimental filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek. A friends mother worked for Donald Judd as his studio manager. So I got a glimpse of things.

What impression did that make on you?

I was interested in it not just for the work people were making but how they talked and how they lived and the way they performed their personalities, which seemed to me a component of what they do. The way they move toward their curiosity, stay interested in new things happening around them. I look to them, probably more than I look to other writers, for how to be an artist, how to recognize whats yours for the taking.

How did you first come to write about art?

When I moved to New York in the mid-90s, I worked at a now defunct magazine called Grand Street, where the legendary curator Walter Hopps [the founding director of the Menil Collection in Houston] was the art editor. I had aspirations to write a novel, but hadnt figured out how to do that yet. Writing about art was a simpler proposition for me. Jack Bankowsky, then editor of Artforum, invited me to write for that magazine. And, separately, my social life was pretty quickly all artists. I felt comfortable in that world.

In The Hard Crowd you describe this period of your life in your essay about the painter and musician Alex Brown.

I wrote that piece right after Alex died, in 2019. In writing it, I realized that Alex had introduced me to an entire milieu, one that influenced the direction of my life. When I moved to New York, I met Alex right away, then his gallerist, Hudson, who ran Feature Inc., which was a gallery of artists who pretty much all hung out together, such as Huma Bhabha, Jason Fox and Alexander Ross. Really smart people. Older than me. I loved to listen to them having these late-night discussions, and it was all kind of over my head, but it was absorbing.

It seems you mine art as well as film and literature as raw material for your fiction.

Yes, I do do that. People in novels can and should be able to upholster their realities with art and films from this one. Plus, I never like reading about made up works of art. It seldom works and tends to feel coy and phony. For example, in The Flamethrowers, the character Ronnie Fontaine claims to want to photograph every living person, which was what the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler said he wanted to do [for his 1971 Variable Piece #70 (In Process) Global]. Or evocative details that I borrowed, like the artist and choreographer Yvonne Rainer removing thousands of pins from crevices in the floor of her SoHo loft, a former dress factory, with a magnet, in an era when artists were moving into former manufacturing spaces in New York.

Are there particular artists who have influenced you?

The filmmaker and artist James Benning is somebody I have grown quite close to, after he wrote me out the blue after he read The Flamethrowers. I was already thinking of his work, particularly the beautiful documentary he made in 2007, Casting a Glance, about Robert Smithsons Spiral Jetty. When I first watched his California Trilogy, I was just absolutely blown away by those films, and the way that he forces the viewer to sit with these long takes.

In 2018, I was at Scripps College as the Mary Routt Chair of Writing. As an assignment, I asked my students to come to the Skyspace installation they have on the Pomona campus by James Turrell. For two hours at sunset, we lay on cement benches and looked up at this rectangular cutout of sky. At one point, the sky started to vibrate, and the edges glowed violet and green.

Do you conflate looking and seeing and bearing witness? Theres a big difference between looking at the sky and visiting the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, as you do in We Are Orphans Here from The Hard Crowd. (That essay appeared in The New York Times Magazine in 2016).

Im hesitant about this concept of bearing witness, because it suggests that theres a social importance to simply that, to being on the scene. But I was drawn to Shuafat, and writing about a place that few outsiders have been to. Im interested in the less and more visible elements of how a society organizes itself, and the way that people are sorted. I like to be immersed in worlds that are full of invisible codes that have to be teased out that have to be experienced directly, rather than through books.

In the new book, you credit the artist Richard Prince as an inspiration.

Richard has become a friend of mine. In The Flamethrowers, I included a character called John Dogg, which was Richards alter ego early in his career. In my story he made different work. In the catalog for his 2007 Guggenheim retrospective, there was a great essay by Glenn OBrien, which I loved because it was about humor and sensibility which, for me, really is what the art world is. You either get it or you dont. You just have to have the sense of play. Irony, too.

You have a lot of friends in the art world. Do you feel like an outsider?

Lets say Im more of an independent agent than an outsider. A floater. Like I could just go from one social scene to another but dont have to be defined or limited by each one.

Are your readers floaters, too? It seems unlikely that many will be as familiar with Jeff Koons as Marguerite Duras or Denis Johnson.

I wanted to make it so even somebody who had never heard of Jeff Koons could hopefully read the essay and get something out of it.

I love the part about the 1975 video clip you found, in which a young, mustachioed Koons, not yet performing his man-child consumerism, as you write, sweatily interviews David Byrne. He wanted to be cool, and he was cool, you said of Koons.

Hes the artist who is appreciated by people who are completely repulsed by and suspicious of the art world. I wanted to think about populism and in what way Koons is or isnt a populist artist, and in what way hes just kind of toying with populism.

One through line in the book seems to be this idea of being at the apex of your life, being finished with the new, and turning reflective, interior, to examine and sort and tally.

I wanted to give the reader an experience of these different worlds that Ive passed through and thought about. I think about something that was mentioned in the Peter Schjeldahl profile of my friend Laura Owens, the painter, from her diaries when she was young. Something like How to be an artist. One of her rules was contradict yourself constantly. I think thats totally amazing and insightful because it happens anyway. Cop to it, rather than always trying to present yourself as a seamlessly coherent narrative of mythology.

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Dreaming of a pope-inspired, post-pandemic world – Catholic Star Herald

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Pope Francis meets with author Austen Ivereigh in November 2019. The pope collaborated with Ivereigh on the book, Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future. In the book, the pope said he experienced three COVID moments in his lifetime: lung problems that threatened his life when he was 21; his displacement in Germany in 1986 for studies; and when he was sent away to Cordoba, Argentina, for almost two years in the early 1990s. Let Us Dream will be published Dec. 1 by Simon & Schuster. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

On April 15 Anglican theologian Angus Ritchie and papal biographer Austin Ivereigh coordinated a conference on the popes most recent book, Let Us Dream. It was a tremendous honor to be invited to present along with some representatives from Chicagos Coalition for Spiritual and Public Leadership (CSPL), not least of which because Pope Francis opened the online meeting by addressing us with a nine-minute reflection and blessing. (The popes reflection can be viewed at

The gathering brought together theologians, university administrators, community organizers and pastoral practitioners from around the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe, as well as a number of migrants to those areas from the global south.

The pope has talked frequently about popularismo, or what Ritchie has rebranded Inclusive Populism. This political life rooted in the people served as the basis for our discussions about the challenges and opportunities emerging in what we all hope (eventually) to be a post-pandemic world. As the pope has said many times, we as a planet will either be better or worse after the trauma of the last year. None of us can now claim to be blithely unaffected by the trends of globalization, nor convinced that things can somehow magically return to be the same as they were before these recent events.

One of the words that kept arising in these discussions was protagonists, because recognizing the agency of the People of the God is the only way to avoid political and ecclesial paternalism.

As Pope Francis put it to us: When people are cast aside they are denied not just material wellbeing, but the dignity of acting, of being a protagonist in their own destiny and history, of expressing themselves with their values and culture, their creativity and fruitfulness.

He charged every diocese in the world to collaborate with popular movements more intentionally.

Let Us Dream is structured with precisely this goal in mind: to encourage people around the world to develop a new way of viewing reality, a spiritually-rooted path of discerning, and a fearless commitment to engaging both interior and structural realities. One of the popes intellectual and pastoral mentors, Belgian Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, once called this quintessentially Thomistic construction a see-judge-act methodology.

Theological themes like close proximity with those who suffer, fostering a culture of encounter, and manifesting responsible and sustainable stewardship of Gods gracious gift of the material world all allow us to assess the dawn of this new era after COVID with realistic hope for a better and more inclusive tomorrow.

As contrasted with faux populist movements metastasizing around the world, inclusive populism cannot be authentically reflected in ideologies that bedeck themselves in religious garb but fail to embody the message of genuine respect and self-negating conversion that lie at the heart of the Good News.

As theologian Brad Hinze, who was also in attendance, has argued: when conflict is properly understood, its familiar dimensions of violence and destruction of relationships (albeit real), can also be complemented by the ability to disclose and actualize the power of Gods mysterious self-communication at work in subject formation of individuals and groups. We know this in our own lives when painful moments enable us to grow as subjects who love, will and act more effectively. It is also true socially and collectively. A prophetic defiance of the status quo allows protagonists to mature in their relationship to the divine and to one other. Thus a politics rooted in the people will necessarily flow out of both parrhesia (speaking forthrightly) and the grace of conflict, which doesnt diminish respect for the other, but rather helps forge it in the powerful crucible of interpersonal exchange.

Originally from Collingswood, Michael M. Canaris, Ph.D., teaches at Loyola University, Chicago.

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Montero accuses the PP of populism for demonizing taxes and will review patrimony, inheritance and donations Explica .co – Explica

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The Minister of Finance, Maria Jesus Montero, insists that the Government is going to review all fiscal figures, including patrimony, donations and inheritance, but it does not set a date to undertake that review. In his appearance before the commission of his area in Congress, Montero has limited himself to saying that the Executive it will undertake the tax reform when the time comes, and has left it in the hands of the newly created group of experts.

Already in the last press conference after Minister council, Montero said that fiscal increases will not be implemented immediately and that the reforms will be undertaken when economic conditions allow it, that is, when the recovery takes hold. Days ago, Montero had opened the door to an additional contribution from the great estates Already in 2022, while the economic vice president, Nadia Calvio, had said that this is not the time to raise taxes.

In this Thursdays debate at the parliamentary headquarters, the head of tax authorities confronted with him PP. Say that the tax reduction produces an increase in collection is a populist slogan, the popular deputy Carolina Spain told him, and reminded him, on account of the electoral campaign in Madrid, that Ayuso did not lower taxes in two years. Montero recognizes that it is necessary to control the tax burden to be competitive , but at the same time he pointed out that the Executives objective is to shield the welfare state and pay the ERTEin the nearest future. PP he has raised taxes more than any party in Spain despite what he is saying when he is in opposition, he concluded.

The Minister of Finance maintained that the interest of the government is to produce a modernization of the tax system to adapt it to the 21st century and that is why they want to adapt taxation. While, accused the PP of demonizing taxes and he reminded them that their arguments do not hold up because they have been, he said, the party that has raised taxes the most in Spain despite what it says when it is in the opposition.

In another message to the popular, Montero argued that They have had eight years to eliminate these taxes and they did not., so they are falling, in the opinion of the head of the Treasury, in a contradiction. He also advised the PP that to do the analysis of taxation from the capital of Spain It harms the rest of the autonomous communities because not everything is Madrid. To conclude his presentation, Montero said that the PP voted in favor of fiscal harmonization in Andalusia and that this debate began to take shape with the appearance of Citizens.

Precisely Carolina Spain he snapped at Montero that the Executive It has no credibility because, he argued, the General State Budgets they are already invalidated. The popular believe that Moncloa does not dare to say what he is going to do in fiscal matters so as not to harm the candidate Gabilondo in the middle of the campaign of the Madrid women. Likewise, Spain accused the minister of being obsessed with Inheritance and Estate taxes.

The PP considers that the Government he is cheating by saying that we are the ones who are going to grow the most. Spain recalled that we will be because we are also the ones who have fallen the most during the pandemic. And he asked Montero to speak of fiscal effort, because, he said, we have one of the highest in the entire OECD. What the Executive does, according to the PP, it is announcing false growth and a tax increase, which is what the left likes.

Montero, faced with this, insisted on defending the plans of the Executive who wants, in the words of the minister, to defend the welfare state firmly and robustly regardless of the territoryand do not allow imbalances at the social and territorial levels. This crisis has required unusual responses without an instruction manual to go to, said the head of the Treasury, who also emphasized that the current recipes are not the correct ones. 2008 .

About the recovery plan, Huntsman He explained that it represents a leap in transformation and modernization and that the objective is to make the production model competitive. In the ministers opinion, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility in which our model of well-being was foundHe also claimed that Spain has been one of the countries that has given the highest degree of protection to local administrations, in reference to communities and municipalities.

Looking ahead to the next few days, Huntsman He recalled that the Executive will send to the European Commission the definitive reform plan to access the 140,000 million of European funds that correspond to Spain. In addition, before April 30, the Government will present the revision of the stability plan, with updated data on debt and deficit.

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