As a Species we don’t deserve to live anymore, we really don’t

Some of you may have heard the news that Governor Gregg Abbott announced that he is reopening Texas 100% and dropping the state mask mandate. That announcement was followed in short order by Governor Tate Reeves, who announced a similar reopening for Mississippi.

We’re allegedly the “smart” species on the planet.

In the meantime, the Governor of Texas is trying to kill his people in three different ways. 

  1. He did nothing to protect them from freezing to death with a completely insufficient power grid.
  2. He did nothing to protect them from insane spikes in people’s electric bills, ensuring a certain number of future bankruptcies.
  3. He is reopening Texas completely while only about 13% of the population has even had the first dose of vaccine administered.

By reopening way too soon — when another two months of patience would make all the difference — Abbott is guaranteeing that there will be a renewed spike in Texas, and even worse, that it’s also guaranteed to increase the number of coronavirus variants, which will also be guaranteed to be more infectious and more deadly.

Darwin awards nominee.

The damage won’t be limited to Texas or Mississippi. These variants will spread across the United States, and impact all of us, no matter how good we all have been being.

Republicans, who are constantly chomping at the bit to reopen everything, could get to where they want to go so much quicker if they were just to follow the public health guidelines and really enforce a mask mandate. You would think that would be in their interest more than anyone else.

It’s not like Democrats are flawless on this issue, but at least they’re trying much harder.

And we haven’t even begun to talk about climate change.

Really, as a species we don’t deserve to live anymore. Let the insects take over the Earth. After all, there are already an estimated 10 quintillion of them. They would, at least, not cause catastrophic climate change or depletion of the Earth’s natural resources.

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Andrew Cuomo’s goose is cooked (in part because he’s a Democrat).

Andrew Cuomo’s goose is cooked. Sorry, it really is. The three-term Governor (2010, 2014, 2018) was the darling of the left just one short year ago, when his news conferences on Covid-19 stood in stark contrast with Donald Trump’s lie-filled, self-aggrandizing, pandemic-minimizing news conferences. My God, Cuomo was getting better ratings than Trump!

Nursing Home Scandal

Early in 2021, it was determined that Cuomo had understated the toll of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%. Apparently, the problem was nursing home residents who were hospitalized who subsequently died in the hospital were counted as hospital deaths instead of as nursing home deaths.

From a legal perspective,  this doesn’t make a huge difference. It mostly skews the public health statistics. Cuomo’s initial defense was that if the true rate of nursing home deaths was reported that Donald Trump would have “politicized” the numbers.

Which he undoubtedly would have. 

It’s mostly a black eye for Cuomo because his early handling of the pandemic was so widely praised. At one point people were talking about him to replace Joe Biden as the Presidential nominee because he seemed so much more dynamic and articulate than Biden.

Sexual Harassment Allegations

More recently we had allegations of sexual harassment being reported against Cuomo by two different women. First we had Lindsey Boylan, a former aide for Cuomo (who also happens to be a Democratic candidate for Manhattan Borough president) who alleged, on December 13, 2020, that Cuomo had sexually harassed her. She claimed that Cuomo tried to goad  her to play strip poker with him while on a flight in October 2017 and that he forcibly kissed her on the mouth in his Manhattan office in 2018. Then, a second former Cuomo aide, Charlotte Bennett, came forward and alleged that Cuomo  asked her about her sex life, and inquired if she had been in sexual relationships with older men.

And then, yesterday another woman, Anna Ruch, who previously worked in the Obama White House as a photo editor, reported that Cuomo tried “forcibly kissing her on the cheek” at a 2019 wedding they both attended.

As sexual harassment allegations ago, this is hardly in Donald Trump territory. But they are problematic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more women come forward in due time.

Cuomo has tried to take care of this by having his office initiate an internal investigation, but that is clearly not going to do the job. People have been calling for the Attorney General of New York to conduct an investigation, which Cuomo has now agreed to.

And, of course, Cuomo issued a “non-apology” apology (“if anyone was offended”).

Will this lead to an Al Franken-style resignation?

We shall see.

A lot of people are now of the opinion that Franken probably should not have resigned, given what Donald Trump (and other Republicans) have been able to get away with without any consequences.

But then, we’re not the Republicans.

Regardless, Andrew Cuomo’s whole firmament has changed in a rather brief period of time.

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The Republican Party has become a parody of itself

In recent times the Republican party has literally become a parody of itself. 

In fairly short order we have:

  • Senator Ron Johnson denying that January 6th was an “armed” insurrection because (in his opinion) there weren’t enough firearms confiscated, even though we could all witness the armed insurrection on our own televisions as it happened.
  • Senator Mitch McConnell (trying to break the Guiness world record for hypocrisy) reversing himself yet again, after first voting to acquit Trump of impeachment, then excoriating Trump on the House floor, then practically inviting the United States Attorney for D.C. to indict Trump, and now suddenly saying he would support Trump as the party’s nominee in 2024.
  • Republicans refusing to confirm Neera Tanden for sending out a few “mean” tweets, as if the four year twitter-storm of their beloved great leader had never happened.
  • Eric Trump, the second son of the Donald, going on radio and pronouncing that his father had “literally saved Christianity.”
  • And, as if to prove that they really don’t know anything about Christianity, the folks at CPAC literally wheeling out a “golden Trump” statute as if they had never heard of the parable of the golden calf, which only sent the Isrealites to wander in the desert for 40 years, and kept Moses from reaching the promised land. 

I mean, you can’t make this shit up anymore. The Republicans have become the “fact free” party, still claiming the election was stolen, and now, like a cheating husband who wants to be forgiven without ever apologizing, they’re surprised that many Democratic lawmakers are not rushing to join in with them in “bipartisan” activities.

To say that today’s Republican party is on the wrong side of history would be putting it mildly.

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We passed the 500,000 milestone in the United States yesterday, although it did not feel like that

The United States passed 500,000 reported deaths from Covid-19 yesterday which — as the President noted — is more than all the American war dead from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined.

And yet, as a lot of people have noted, it doesn’t feel like we’ve lost half a million Americans.

Part of the reason for that is that we’ve mostly lost the elderly and the frail. Almost half of the people we’ve lost were lost in nursing homes. These are mostly people who already didn’t have much quality of life, most of whom didn’t have many years left. And even among those who did not die in nursing homes, the majority of those people were elderly, 65, 75 or up, or with co-morbidities.

This is very different from the way we view soldiers who’ve died in wartime. We still have a tendency, collectively, to valorize soldiers in a way that we do not do for other people.

And (of course) soldiers are mostly young people still in the prime of their lives. But it was also the valorizing of soldiers, the glorifying of warfare, that was a big piece of the beginning of World War I. It is the glamorizing of ware that still motivates politicians to go to war, thinking that they’re doing something especially honorable.

From my perspective, every time we go to war it proves that we’ve failed. We’ve failed to find a more productive way to resolve whatever conflict it is that drove us in the first place.

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Trump’s legal problems are just beginning.

Donald Trump thinks that he’s going to rise like a Phoenix, but he’s more likely going to sink like a lead balloon under the weight of his legal troubles. Those legal troubles fall into two categories:

  1. Potential criminal cases
  2. Potential and actual civil cases

That doesn’t even include the many cases that his administration is still a party to, some of which will expire with the new administration.

Potential Criminal Cases

There are at least four potential criminal cases with Trump as the defendant. These are:

  1. Tax Fraud in New York. This has both federal and New York state implications, although at the moment the primary activity is in New York. Cyrus Vance Jr., the District Attorney of New York County, is attempting to subpoena the tax records of President Trump as part of the ongoing investigation into the Stormy Daniels scandal. The Supreme Court has already found that Trump is not immune from the subpoena (see Trump v. Vance) but sent the case back down for the lower courts to work out the details.
  2. Federal Tax Fraud. Trump’s tax records over many years have been under audit,  which is (of course) the reason that Trump has famously refused to release his tax returns. The New York Times, in an extensive investigation, found that Trump paid no net federal income taxes in eleven of the fifteen years preceding his presidency. In 2016 and 2017, Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes despite earning millions. 
  3. Incitement to Riot. Trump’s part in soliciting and encouraging the January 6th insurrection may potentially make him liable for a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 2101, the federal “incitement to riot” statute.  That will initially mostly be a decision for Michael Sherwin, the interim United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In the meantime, the United States Congress is likely to create a “January 6, 2021 Commission” (modeled after the 9/11 Commission), with the authority to do extensive investigative work on what led up to the storming of the Capitol (and the President’s role in it).
  4. Election interference in Georgia. Based on his January 2, 2021 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger (as well as a December 23, 2020 phone call from Trump to the chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state’s office ) it’s quite likely that Trump violated federal and state laws against soliciting election fraud or interference in elections. The Attorney General for Georgia has now opened a formal investigation.

Potential and Actual Civil Cases

Unlike the criminal cases, most of which are speculative at this point, there are a number of civil cases that have already been filed, where Trump is the defendant. These include:

  1. Sexual Assault. A lawsuit by a former campaign staffer Alva Johnson who alleges that Trump forcibly kissed her at a rally in Florida in August 2016. (The lawsuit also involves allegations of unequal pay for her as an African-American woman).
  2. Defamation. A defamation lawsuit raised by Summer Zervos which arose from Trump’s statement that she lied about sexual assault allegations against him.
  3. Defamation. Another defamation lawsuit raised by E. Jean Carroll which arose from Trump’s denials of her accusation that he sexually assaulted her more than 20 years ago.
  4. Civil Conspiracy and Fraud. The lawsuit by Mary L. Trump against the former President, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry and the estate of his brother Robert Trump claiming fraud and civil conspiracy for them cheating her out of her late father’s inheritance.
  5. Campaign Violations. A lawsuit alleging a pattern of persistent illegal conduct involving extensive political coordination between the Trump presidential campaign and the former President’s personal and business interests.
  6. Assault. A lawsuit where the plaintiff’s allege that Trump’s security team assaulted them during a 2015 peaceful protest on behalf of the Black Lives Matter and Mexican immigrants.
  7. Civil Rights Violations. A similar lawsuit where the plaintiff’s allege that Trump encouraged an atmosphere of violence and anti-Trump protesters were subjected to attacks and racial slurs being led out of a campaign rally in 2016.
  8. Ku Klux Klan Act Violations. Most recently, a lawsuit filed on behalf of Representative Bennie Thompson by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, including as defendants Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Trump himself, alleging violations of the 1871 Civil Rights Act (also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act). The suit seeks an injunction as well as compensatory and punitive relief in an unspecified amount.

And really, that’s just the top of the iceberg. There are many more lawsuits that involve the Trump administration, the Trump organization, the Trump campaign, and Trump himself, that have simply not been filed. Wikipedia has a list of lawsuits involving Donald Trump that is already mighty impressive.

As if that weren’t enough, the Congress is well on its way to establishing a “9/11” type commission to investigate the January 6th uprising. That could lead to much more evidence of Trump’s involvement with and liability for the insurrection.

Trump is (of course) familiar with legal claims, as he and his organizations have been — by the latest count — involved in over 3500 of them in the years since he began to be in business. That means that Trump has averaged about 70 cases a year as either plaintiff, defendant, or a 3rd party in an enforcement action in his approximately 50 year long career, which must be some kind of Guiness World’s record.

Ah, but the best is yet to come.

And, in fact, later today (after this post was initially published) the Supreme Court ruled — with respect to the New York tax fraud allegations — that Cy Vance Jr. would be entitled to see Trump’s tax returns.

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Just outright lying seems to be the Republicans new “go to” for dealing with difficult situations

It’s nice of the Governor of Texas to blame everything other than what is actually at the root of the problem in Texas. This seems to be the Republican’s new “go to”: just engaging in outright lying. (That’s a tactic that the late Rush Limbaugh perfected early on.) 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott went on Fox News and blamed renewable power (especially wind turbines) and the Green New Deal for the crisis with the Texas power grid. He did this even though:

  • The Green New Deal has only been proposed. It hasn’t yet been enacted anywhere.
  • Texas has an independent power grid not connected to the rest of the U.S. power grid, in order not to have to comply with federal regulations.
  • Texas had a similar storm-related failure 10 years ago, and did not implement any of the recommendations that were made in its aftermath.
  • Almost all parts of the Texas power grid failed for the simple reason that virtually none of the grid had been winterized.

It turns out, by the way, that wind turbines can work in very cold places, including all of the Nordic countries, Russia, and even Antarctica.

Antarctica?

Yes, Antarctica.

Finally, I should note that Senator Ted Cruz has gotten a lot of grief for escaping his state for a vacation to Cancun, Mexico, while the rest of his state was in a deep freeze. Cruz later explained that he was accompanying his two daughters had asked to go on a trip with friends. 

Aside from the truly awful optics, and the fact that just about everyone (including conservative colleagues) hate Ted Cruz, I don’t think this matters. I understand why people want to have fun with this gigantic faux pas, but what Cruz did is not (in my opinion) on par with the abject mendacity of Gov. Abbott.

What does matter is that Beto O’Rourke was spending all his time raising money and helping people in his home state, and even AOC — hardly beloved in Texas — led a team that raised $1 million for Texas. Cruz returned home early with his tail between his legs.

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I’m not going to start saying nice things about Rush Limbaugh just because he’s dead.

It was announced yesterday that Rush Limbaugh died, and a number of prominent conservatives immediately took us to task for not being gracious about his passing.

To be fair, some of the tweets and other remarks I saw were really not kind. I wouldn’t have turned the volume up that much. But this is Rush Limbaugh we’re talking about. His brand was being an asshole. That was his brand.

  • This is the guy who went after Chelsea Clinton for being “ugly” when she was 12 years old. (God forbid any of us should have said an unkind word about Barron Trump.) 
  • This is the guy who went after a Georgetown law student to have the temerity to appear in front of a Congressional committee investigating contraceptive mandates, labeling her a “prostitute” and “slut.”
  • This is the guy who went after Michael J. Fox for participating in an ad promoting funding for stem cell research, alleging that Fox’s had exaggerated his symptoms from Parkinson’s disease.
  • This is the guy who went after certain groups of Iraq War veterans opposed to the war as “the phony soldiers.”
  • This is the guy who started the rumor that Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton.
  • This is the guy who claimed that Covid-19 was the “common cold,” and alleged it was being “weaponized” to bring down Trump.
  • And, of course, this is the guy who first claimed that there was no violent insurrection on January 6th, and then, switching gears, justified and praised the insurrection, saying “I am glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual tea-party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord, didn’t feel that way.”

Could Limbaugh be funny sometimes? 

Sure.

In the way cruel people can be funny.

Even people as expert as Al Franken — who wrote the book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot” — admired his ability to maintain a three hour show for years and years. “Three hours a day is a long time to do ‘unguested confrontation,’ which is the actual name for his format,” Franken has been quoted as saying. “Rush started this thing, and he was good at it. I mean, he’s awful, obviously, a monster, but very talented.”

Limbaugh, on more than one occasion, claimed that he was just an “entertainer.” Well, it was only entertaining if watching the fabric of civil society unravel is entertaining to you.

By the way, if you’re wondering whether Limbaugh’s “Presidential Medal of Freedom” could be taken back, the answer is most probably no. Heck, they couldn’t even take back the Medal previously given to Bill Cosby.

In the end, I can’t do much better than the quote attributed to famous trial lawyer Clarence Darrow:

I’ve never killed a man, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.

Attributed to Clarence Darrow

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How about we vaccinate the Teachers next?

It’s interesting to watch as everyone, especially conservatives, are now piling on the teacher’s unions because many of them are not yet in favor of opening up schools.

Well, there’s no better punching bag for conservatives than unions. Especially public employee unions. (Those Marxists!)

Now, first of all it should be noted that if all the Republican fucks who are now complaining that our economy isn’t opening up fast enough had just endorsed and cooperated in wearing masks, maybe we’d be much further along in being able to open the economy.

(You always know it’s a bad day when conservatives roll out the “communist” label)

Just saying.

Second of all, if I were an older teacher — or really any kind of teacher — I’m not so sure that I’d be trusting the science that schools can be safely re-opened.

Perhaps the scientists are right. They usually are. But the scientific conclusions are also premised on the notion that schools would be implementing all the safety requirements properly. And human nature being what it is, I wouldn’t be so sure of that.

Here’s what I know:

  • There are about 3.2 million teachers in the United States.
  • There are about 20.6 elderly (75+) people in the United States.

Okay, we’re vaccinating the elderly first.

How about we vaccinate the teachers second.

Then they can relax, and we can open up the schools that everyone so desperately wants to have re-opened.

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Will Ivanka and Lara Trump make the Trump’s the next American Royal Family?

In the aftermath of the second Trump impeachment, people have been suggesting that two of the surrogates who could keep the Trump legacy alive are Ivanka Trump and Lara Trump.  And who knows, maybe the Trump family will become a political dynasty like the Kennedy and Bush families. But I don’t think that’s guaranteed. For one thing, what is “Trumpism” without Trump himself, aside from a kind of incoherent anti-immigrant and anti-regulatory fervor. Trump is the icon, the FU President who didn’t give a shit about what anybody else thought, who would just give it to the “libtards” and enjoy doing it.

Ivanka Trump

The beautiful daughter has moved to Florida and is being promoted as a potential rival to Marco Rubio. Ivanka, 39, who attended Georgetown University before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, has only worked in the Trump organization and in the White House (as an unspecified advisor). 

Ivanka, who used to be friends with Chelsea Clinton, has historically been kind of a moderate Democrat. She changed her voter registration to Republican in 2018, and has been quoted as saying “[L]ike many of my fellow millennials, I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat.”  

What Ivanka lacks is the bluster and audacity of her father, who has never met a lie he wasn’t willing to commit to. Ivanka is also an intellectual lightweight, and is likely to be a gaffe machine on the campaign trail or in political debates.

Can she beat “little” Marco Rubio?

Maybe.

She likely wouldn’t be a worse Senator than Rubio, and there would be some Schadenfreude in watching an enabling sycophant like Rubio being taken out by a member of the family he spent four years brown-nosing. But until someone is actually a candidate, we won’t know how they actually perform. (See Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign, if you don’t know what I mean.)

Lara Trump

North Carolina-born Lara Trump, the wife of Eric Trump, is a much spicier, much more blustery version of Ivanka Trump. A sharp partisan, Lara, who graduated  from North Carolina State University, was a story coordinator and producer for Inside Edition from 2012 to 2016 before she joined Trump’s 2016 campaign. She was a well-regarded surrogate with a willingness to speak her mind, both in 2016 and in 2020.

At the moment Lara and Eric and their two children live in New York, so they would have to move to North Carolina, where Senator Richard Burr is retiring. Lara has teased the idea that she might run there, but of course, teasing isn’t the same thing as doing.

Finally, both Ivanka and Eric might still be indicted in New York for participating in various tax fraud schemes, at least if you believe the information in Mary L. Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough. So let’s see before we anoint the Trump family America’s next royal family.

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Can section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment be used to disqualify Trump from ever holding future office?

Now that Trump’s been acquitted — a 2nd time, no less — the question has arisen whether an obscure provision of the 14th Amendment could be used to keep Trump from running for President again.

Background to the 14th Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted on July 9, 1868 as one of the Reconstruction Amendments, addresses citizenship rights for former slaves following the Civil War. In brief, the Amendments’s five sections provide:

  • Section 1 establishes that the former slaves (and any other “persons born or naturalized in the United States”) are citizens of the United States and the states in which they reside. 
  • Section 2 establishes the proper apportionment of representatives.
  • Section 3 prevents anyone who has previously held public office in the United States who was part of an insurrection (i.e., the Confederacy) from holding public office again.
  • Section 4 establishes the validity of the public debt of the United States.
  • Section 5 establishes the power of the Congress to enforce the 14th Amendment through legislation.

In addition, section 1 prevents any of the individual states states from:

  1. abridging the “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States”; 
  2. depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”; and 
  3. denying any person within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws.”

These provisions, collectively, are commonly known as the Citizenship Clause, Privileges or Immunities Clause, Due Process Clause, and Equal Protection Clause. The Due Process Clause, in particular, prohibits state and local governments from depriving anyone of life, liberty, or property without a fair procedure, and makes most of the Bill of Rights applicable to the states. 

Section 1 may be the most litigated parts of the Constitution, forming the basis for landmark decisions such as Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the Slaughter-House Cases (1873), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Roe v. Wade (1973) Bush v. Gore (2000), and Obergefell v. Hodges. The amendment limits the actions of all state and local officials, and also those acting on behalf of such officials. 

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment

So, focusing on section 3 of the 14th Amendment, that section, in its whole, provides as follows:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Section 2 of the 14th Amendment

It’s pretty clear that section 3 was intended to prevent former Confederates who had once held office to hold office again during reconstruction. There was a process for restoring the civil rights for former confederates, which is that the Congress could vote by a 2/3rds supermajority to remove the disability of anyone that the prohibition applied to.

In any case, the political will to punish the former Confederates did not last long: by 1872 the Congress had passed the Amnesty Act, which removed these penalties on all the former Confederates except for those “Senators and Representatives of the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh Congresses, officers in the judicial, military, and naval service of the United States, heads of departments, and foreign ministers of the United States.”

The Berger Case

Since Reconstruction, the case has been applied only one other time, and that’s when the Congress refused to seat Victor Berger as a Representative from Wisconsin, because Berger was a founding member of the Social Democratic Party of America who had also been convicted of violating the Espionage Act for publicizing his anti-interventionist views. That conviction was subsequently overturned in Berger v. United States 255 U.S. 22 (1921), a case that had nothing to do with the 14th Amendment but everything to do with the bias of a judge who had published his own anti-German views prior to the trial.

As Applied to Trump

So, the question finally arises, can section 3 of the of the 14th Amendment be used to prohibit Trump from ever holding office again. And the answer is 

. . . wait for it . . . 

. . . wait for it . . .

. . . wait for it . . .

Maybe.

Yup, that’s the answer.

The problem with applying section 3 to Trump is that it’s not clear how the United States is to establish that Trump “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States.

It’s been suggested that the Congress, with Democratic control of both houses of Congress, could simply pass a Congressional Resolution declaring that Trump engaged in insurrection.

But Trump could challenge this in court.

Or, the Congress could wait for Trump to be indicted and convicted for inciting the insurrection in Federal Court, in which case there would be little doubt.

But that would require a criminal conviction which — for reasons previously cited — would be an uphill struggle.

It could happen, but as with every bloody thing ever associated with the former President, nothing ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever seems to be just a legal slam dunk. 

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