Tag Archives: Jim Henley

The Flotilla And Seichel

Isabel Kershner at NYT:

Israel’s deadly naval commando raid Monday morning on a flotilla carrying thousands of tons of supplies for Gaza is generating widespread international condemnation and diplomatic repercussions far beyond the waters where the confrontation occurred.

Several European nations summoned their Israeli envoys to explain Israel’s actions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his plans for meeting with President Obama in Washington on Tuesday, an Israeli government official confirmed. Mr. Netanyahu, who is visiting Canada, planned to return home Monday to deal with fallout from the raid, the official said.

The criticism offered a propaganda coup to Israel’s foes, particularly Hamas, the militant group that holds sway in Gaza, and damaged Israel’s ties to Turkey, one of its most important Muslim partners and the unofficial sponsor of the Gaza-bound convoy. Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling the raid “state terrorism,” cut short a visit to Latin America to return home.

The Israeli Defense Forces said more than 10 people were killed when naval personnel boarding the six ships in the aid convoy met with “live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs.” The naval forces then “employed riot dispersal means, including live fire,” the military said in a statement.

Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement, speaking by telephone from Cyprus, rejected the military’s version.

“That is a lie,” she said, adding that it was inconceivable that the civilian passengers on board would have been “waiting up to fire on the Israeli military, with all its might.”

“We never thought there would be any violence,” she said.

At least four Israeli soldiers were wounded in the operation, some from gunfire, according to the military. Television footage from the flotilla before communications were cut showed what appeared to be commandos sliding down ropes from helicopters onto one of the vessels in the flotilla, while Israeli high-speed naval vessels surrounded the convoy.

A military statement said two activists were later found with pistols they had taken from Israeli commandos. The activists, the military said, had apparently opened fire “as evident by the empty pistol magazines.”

The warships first intercepted the convoy of cargo and passenger boats shortly before midnight on Sunday, according to activists on one vessel. Israel had vowed not to let the flotilla reach the shores of Gaza.

Named the Freedom Flotilla and led by the Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, the convoy was the most ambitious attempt yet to break Israel’s three-year blockade of Gaza.

About 600 passengers were said to be aboard the vessels, including the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire of Northern Ireland.

Steve Benen:

There are, not surprisingly, competing versions of exactly what transpired, and Israeli officials not only defended the existing blockade policy, but said Israeli forces faced resistance on the ships. Every claim has a counter-claim, of course, and those condemning the violent raid this morning insist Israeli forces attacked peaceful civilians, including a flotilla carrying a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor.

Either way, as the AP noted, the pre-dawn violence has “set off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis.”

This much is clearly true. The ship was unofficially sponsored by Turkey, which has long been a key Israeli ally in the regional, and which recalled its ambassador to Israel this morning in the wake of the incident. The United Nations, among others, is demanding a detailed Israeli explanation.

The White House issued a written statement, noting that the United States “deeply regrets” the loss of life and injuries, and was gathering information to understand exactly what transpired in this “tragedy.”

Scott Lucas at Enduring America:

1605 GMT: Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that NATO’s spokesman James Appathurai had stated that the organisation would be gathered extraordinarily, at the request of Turkey.

NATO issued a very short statement earlier today: “NATO is deeply concerned about the loss of life in this incident. We look forward to a further establishment of the facts of what has happened.”

1600 GMT: IDF said Defne Y, the 5th ship in Gaza flotilla, cleared of its crew – Mavi Marmara currently being brought into Ashdod Port.

1555 GMT: Al Jazeera English correspondent Sherine Tadros reports, “We’re hearing 14 activists have agreed to be deported and on way home;50 taken to prison in southern Israel resisting deportation.”

1550 GMT: Pictures of wounded activists were released. Plastic handcuffs during the transport of heavily wounded ones are noteworthy.

Gaza Flotilla Attack: Israel Line “We Are Sorry but It Was a Life-Threatening Situation!”
Gaza Flotilla Video: Questions from Last Report Before Israeli Attack
Gaza Video: “If You’re Watching This, The Flotilla Has Been Attacked”

1548 GMT: The United Nations Security Council will meet on Monday afternoon for an emergency session that will start at 1 P.M., New York time.

1545 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Chile: “This is a state terrorism.”

1515 GMT: While on his way to Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “This is clearly a piracy. Israel must apologize and answer. According to unconfirmed information, we have around 50 wounded and 10 martyries. No country is above the international law.”

Meanwhile, tens of thousands people are protesting in front of Israel’s Consulate General in Istanbul.

1500 GMT: Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning Israel:

Israel has once again clearly demonstrated that it does not value human lives and peaceful initiatives through targeting innocent civilians. We strongly condemn these inhuman acts of Israel. This grave incident which took place in high seas in gross violation of international law might cause irreversible consequences in our relations.

Besides the initiatives being conducted by our Embassy in Tel Aviv, this unacceptable incident is being strongly protested and explanation is demanded from Israeli Ambassador in Ankara, who has been invited to our Ministry.

Whatsoever the motives might be, such actions against civilians who are involved only in peaceful activities cannot be accepted. Israel will have to bear the consequences of these actions which constitute a violation of international law.

May God bestow His mercy upon those who lost their lives. We wish to express our condolences to the bereaved families of the deceased, and swift recovery to the wounded.

1440 GMT: Israel’s Portrayal. Amidst the rush of Israeli depictions of the attack — with the continuing use of the word “lynching”, now from the commandos who carried out the assault — this story stands out from a “Ron Ben Yishai” in YNet:

Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.

However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapon.

1435 GMT: Washington’s Reaction. The US statement, given by White House spokesman Bill Burton, is far more restrained than the UN denunciation of Israel (1330 GMT) and even Britain’s expression of concern (1035 GMT). Burton said the Obama administration “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained” and officials are “currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy”.

Ron Ben-Yishai at Ynet:

Our Navy commandoes fell right into the hands of the Gaza mission members. A few minutes before the takeover attempt aboard the Marmara got underway, the operation commander was told that 20 people were waiting on the deck where a helicopter was to deploy the first team of the elite Flotilla 13 unit. The original plan was to disembark on the top deck, and from there rush to the vessel’s bridge and order the Marmara’s captain to stop.

Officials estimated that passengers will show slight resistance, and possibly minor violence; for that reason, the operation’s commander decided to bring the helicopter directly above the top deck. The first rope that soldiers used in order to descend down to the ship was wrested away by activists, most of them Turks, and tied to an antenna with the hopes of bringing the chopper down. However, Flotilla 13 fighters decided to carry on.

Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.

However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapons.

One soldier who came to the aid of a comrade was captured by the rioters and sustained severe blows. The commandoes were equipped with handguns but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. When they came down from the chopper, they kept on shouting to each other “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” even though they sustained numerous blows.

‘I saw the tip of a rifle’

The Navy commandoes were prepared to mostly encounter political activists seeking to hold a protest, rather than trained street fighters. The soldiers were told they were to verbally convince activists who offer resistance to give up, and only then use paintballs. They were permitted to use their handguns only under extreme circumstances.

The forces hurled stun grenades, yet the rioters on the top deck, whose number swelled up to 30 by that time, kept on beating up about 30 commandoes who kept gliding their way one by one from the helicopter. At one point, the attackers nabbed one commando, wrested away his handgun, and threw him down from the top deck to the lower deck, 30 feet below. The soldier sustained a serious head wound and lost his consciousness. Only after this injury did Flotilla 13 troops ask for permission to use live fire. The commander approved it: You can go ahead and fire. The soldiers pulled out their handguns and started shooting at the rioters’ legs, a move that ultimately neutralized them. Meanwhile, the rioters started to fire back at the commandoes. “I saw the tip of a rifle sticking out of the stairwell,” one commando said. “He fired at us and we fired back. We didn’t see if we hit him. We looked for him later but couldn’t find him.” Two soldiers sustained gunshot wounds to their knee and stomach after rioters apparently fired at them using guns wrested away from troops.

The planned rush towards the vessel’s bridge became impossible, even when a second chopper was brought in with another crew of soldiers. “Throw stun grenades,” shouted Flotilla 13’s commander who monitored the operation. The Navy chief was not too far, on board a speedboat belonging to Flotilla 13, along with forces who attempted to climb into the back of the ship

David Bernstein:

I have my doubts about the wisdom of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and there was obviously an operational/intelligence failure that led to Israel’s naval commandos having to open fire to defend themselves, giving the other side a propaganda victory. But it does appear that the physical violence started from the other side, which to begin with had the rather unhumanitarian mission of aiding Hamas, and, to the extent there were sincere humanitarian/peace activists involved, allowed themselves to get hijacked by violent Islamic extremists who manned one of the ships.

Net result of the “peace/humanitarian” mission: dead activists, wounded Israeli soldiers, no more humanitarian aid to Gaza than if Israel’s offer to transfer the aid to Gaza from Ashdod had been accepted, and a likely breakdown in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks that were about to start. Congratulations.

Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy:

This crisis — and it is a crisis — is the fairly predictable outcome of the years of neglect of the Gaza situation by the Bush and Obama administrations.  Bush turned a blind eye during the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008, and then the Obama team chose to focus on renewing peace talks between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority while continuing to boycott Hamas.  The U.S. only sporadically and weakly paid attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the strategic absurdity and moral obtuseness of the Israeli blockade, or the political implications of the ongoing Hamas-Fatah divide.   Now, on the eve of Obama’s scheduled meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas — the fruits of the “honey offensive” towards Israel — can they be surprised that Gaza is blowing up in their face?

The Israeli assault on the flotilla has galvanized Arab and international media attention (to say nothing of my Twitter feed).   Arab and Turkish publics appear to be truly outraged, as do the Turkish, Arab and many European governments.   The issue is evidently headed to the Security Council.  It is difficult to fathom how the Israeli government could have thought that this was a good way to respond to a long-developing public relations challenge, but its actions will certainly fuel its evolving international legitimacy crisis.  We’ll be keeping track of the story as it develops.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

The incident is being portrayed in the Arab press as an unprovoked attack by the soldiers. As usual, the flaw in this theory is that if the soldiers had set out to massacre the activists, they would have done a better job of it. Violence occurred on only one of the six ships, because only on that ship was it instigated by the pro-Palestinian activists. But that won’t stop the incident from triggering another round of world-wide Israel-bashing.

Jim Sleeper at Talking Points Memo:

The government has let the flotilla “drive Israel into a sea of stupidity,” writes Gideon Levy, a senior columnist for Haaretz the country’s most prominent liberal daily.

“We were determined to avoid an honest look at the first Gaza war. Now, in international waters and having opened fire on an international group of humanitarian aid workers and activists, we are fighting and losing the second,” writes Bradley Burston, a senior editor at Haaretz. “We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege. The siege itself is becoming Israel’s Vietnam.”

Burston would know: A Los Angeles native and Berkeley graduate, he moved to Israel in the 1970s with some young Americans I knew to settle in Kibbutz Gezer, a progressive outpost between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. If you can recall that in those Vietnam War/Nixon years Israel seemed a lot more noble and just to many of us than the U.S. did, you’ll understand why Burston served in the Israel Defense Forces as a combat medic and studied medicine in Be’er Sheva for two years.

But Burston must also know that his scathing Vietnam analogy has its limits: The U.S. could have walked away from Vietnam with no dangerous consequences. In Gaza, by comparison, the influence of Iran and other powers make the Israeli situation a little more… existential. Israelis also don’t have Americans’ history of conquering a whole continent and not having to care about it. Their history, too, is more… existential.

But precisely for those reasons, Haaretz reports, Israeli security forces are now on high alert, bracing for protests closer to home, maybe even for a third intifada if it turns out that one of the Palestinian activists on board the flotilla was killed. That only underscores the government’s stupidity.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

There is a word in Yiddish, seichel, which means wisdom, but it also means more than that: It connotes ingenuity, creativity, subtlety, nuance. Jews have always needed seichel to survive in this world; a person in possession of a Yiddishe kop, a “Jewish head,” is someone who has seichel, someone who looks for a clever way out of problems, someone who understands that the most direct way — blunt force, for instance — often represents the least elegant solution, a person who can foresee consequences of his actions.

I don’t know yet exactly what happened at sea when a group of Israeli commandos boarded a ship packed with not-exactly-Gandhi-like anti-Israel protesters. I learned from the Second Intifada (specifically, the story of the non-massacre at Jenin) not to rush to judgment without a full set of facts (yes, I know what you are thinking: So why have a blog?). I’m trying to figure out this story for myself. But I will say this: What I know already makes me worried for the future of Israel, a worry I feel in a deeper way than I think I have ever felt before. The Jewish people have survived this long in part because of the vision of their leaders, men and women who were able to intuit what was possible and what was impossible. Where is this vision today? Israel may face, in the coming year, a threat to its existence the likes of which it has not experienced before: A theologically-motivated regional superpower with a nuclear arsenal. It faces another existential threat as well, from forces arguing that Israel’s morally disastrous settlement policy fatally undermines the very idea of a Jewish state. Is Israel ready to deploy seichel in these battles, rather than mere force?

UPDATE: Lots and lots of posts on this one. Just a handful, a sprinkling here.

Leslie Gelb, Reza Aslan and Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast

Max Boot at WSJ

Jonathan Schanzer at The Weekly Standard

Mona Charen at National Review

Megan McArdle

Daniel Drezner

Jim Henley

UPDATE #2: Elliott Abrams at The Weekly Standard

Marty Peretz at TNR

Daniel Larison (one of many posts) responding to Henley

UPDATE #3:  Leon Wieseltier at TNR

Robert Farley and Daniel Drezner at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #4: Heather Hurlburt and Eli Lake at Bloggingheads


Filed under Israel/Palestine

And Now The Caplan Has Been Cloned!

Bryan Caplan:

Now that I’m finishing up Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, another controversial passage is on the chopping block.  In the current draft, this paragraph concludes my discussion of cloning:

I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally.  Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet.  Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son.  Seriously.  I want to experience the sublime bond I’m sure we’d share.  I’m confident that he’d be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me.  I’m not pushing others to clone themselves.  I’m not asking anyone else to pay for my dream.  I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone.  Is that too much to ask?

My reasons to keep it, as before, are: (a) it makes a good point, and (b) angry reactions would confirm my broader thesis that many people senselessly oppose assisted reproductive technology.  The downside, of course, is alienating otherwise sympathetic readers.  The upside of the downside is that controversy is excellent publicity.  Should my cloning confession make the final cut?

Advise me.

Tyler Cowen:

If you don’t like his proposal for a cloned son, I will ask why you think your preferred degree of genetic similarity — between you and your next kid — is right and Bryan’s is wrong.

More Cowen:

I don’t have the same preference as Bryan, far from it.  I think most of us desire children who are “too similar to us” and there are obvious Darwinian reasons why this is the case.  Nonetheless we should try to overcome this attitude and there are many successful instances of adopted children or various other “mixed” arrangements, such as foster parents.  We can only hope there will be more and that means we need a greater flexibility of intuitions about parenting and inheritance.

As a proud step-parent, I find it increasingly odd how many of you insist on the “fifty percent solution.”  Ew!  What if it — heaven forbid — looks like you?  What if you’re both economists named Keynes?  But there’s more: the rest of your daughter looks just like the woman you chose to marry?  Yuck!!!!!  And so on.  Maybe you all think that fifty percent is great but one hundred percent is unacceptable, when it comes to the genes.  Good luck arguing that one with a committed nominalist.  And I bet most of you don’t find it repugnant if a father wants a son rather than a daughter, but similarity of gender is pretty important too.

If I have any criticism of Bryan, it’s that he’s pro-natalist (fine in my book) but I’ve never heard him promote the idea of adopting a child or defend the idea of raising a biological child who is, for whatever reason, very different from his or her parents.  (Don’t overreact here and interpret his silence in a negative way, I’m simply goading him to take up these issues, which I think will force him to revise his thought.)  Furthermore I think his intuitions about similarity, and child-rearing, will change once (some of) his kids start rebelling against him.

Most of all, I found this thread to be a lesson in how quickly smart people will side with their Darwinian intuitions, and attack another smart person with intolerance, just because something feels icky to them.  It’s not so different from how some people find gay people, and also “what they do,” to be disgusting.  They also don’t want gay people to be adopting children because they see that as offensive too.  It’s not, least of all for the child.

That all said, I guess he shouldn’t put the passage in his book.

Brad DeLong:

Before, all he wanted was to claim that women in the 1880s were “more free” than women today–than, for example, the character Carrie Bradshaw played by Sarah Jessica Parker in “Sex and the City.”

Now–well, read for yourself


He wants to take the genes of the mother of his children out of the baby she is carrying and substitute his own genes in their place.

Wow. Just wow.

Steve Sailer:

Unfortunately, Professor Caplan doesn’t inform us what his wife thinks about his desire to create a child untainted by her genes. Does Professor Caplan intend to have Mrs. Caplan bear his clone for him? Does Professor Caplan intend to have Mrs. Caplan pick up after his clone for 21 years? Will Mrs. Caplan appreciate it when she and her husband’s immature clone get into an argument and Professor Caplan sides with his clone against his wife? Will she be concerned that he might favor his clone in his will over their mutual children?

Of course, that’s assuming that Bryan’s assumption that he and his clone would be Best Friends Forever is correct. More likely, the opposite would be true.
Generally speaking, people who would like to clone themselves tend to be arrogant and lacking in common sense. Their children will tend to also be arrogant and lacking in common sense. The interpersonal dynamics between cloner and clonee would likely be disastrous.
Are families in which the sons are exactly like the fathers happier? I don’t see a lot of evidence for that. In fact, I see a lot of evidence from memoirs and fiction that strong-willed fathers tend to have strong-willed sons, and the two clash relentlessly over who will be dominant. Too much similarity does not always make for happiness within a family.

Both Sailer and DeLong via Andrew Sullivan

More Sullivan

Jim Henley:

Caplan’s paragraph isn’t creepy because he wants to rear his own clone, but Caplan’s paragraph is creepy. Wanting to rear your own clone is eccentric, sure, and more than a little narcissistic, but I have a “Keep the Blogosphere Weird” bumper sticker across my Macbook screen, and man does it make blogging harder. To this day, I’m glad that Kim du Toit wrote the hilarious “Pussification of the Western Male” because, ridiculous as the essay was, it was exactly the kind of eccentricity – total, fucking eccentricity – DARPANet knew the country needed if it was going to survive a nuclear attack by the Russians.

The creepy part is compounded of his certainty that he and his clone-son will share a “sublime bond” and his avidity for it.

Tyler Cowen is right that it’s a bit narcissistic when we men prefer at least one son to only daughters. Caplan’s narcissism is so much greater and denser than that that I suspect it has an event horizon. But it’s worse than that.

For one thing: Let’s consider the Cap-Clone as a person in his own right for a second. That’s a hell of a lot of expectation to burden a kid with. Returning to Tyler’s “50-percent solution” parents again, we already know the minor and major tragedies that can ensue when parents have too-specific, too-intense hopes for their children. Caplan’s rebounding conviction that “he’d be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me,” is every overbearing Dad’s determination that Junior become the same great athlete dad was/heir to the family business/doctor he could never be collected together and crushed down until the electrons all collapse into their nuclei. And Caplan is old enough that he should realize this.

For another thing: no, it’s not misogynist as such, but wanting to cut your wife out of the breeding program in hopes of a super-special dad-son relationship of a kind your actual existing children can’t provide strikes me as, at the very least, something better kept to yourself.

And, then, what if the joke’s on Caplan? Meaning, why is he so certain his bond will be all that sublime? Those of us who read Gide’s La Symphonie Pastorale in French class are surely thinking, “Thank heavens there was a movie version, even if it had subtitles.” But also: “Man, sometimes these things don’t work out so well.” cf. “Pygmalion.” (Why can’t a baby / be more like a professor?) Our protegées have a distressing habit of not being us, and resenting us for not being cool with that. The Google tells me that there’s no evidence that twins suffer higher degrees of sibling rivalry than singleton kids, and the anecdotal literature includes, yes! some sublime bonding (that causes its own problems). But monozygotic twins don’t just share chromosomes. They share environments, experiences and generational context. They are peers. Bryan Caplan and the Cap-Clone will be different ages, from different eras. Whatever experiences they share, one of them will experience it as a naive, only partially matured intellectual, emotional and moral being, and the other as a little kid. (STOP MAKING ME SAY THESE THINGS, DAVID HOROWITZ!) Plus, the Cap-Clone’s music will be just noise.

Jason Kuznicki at The League:

Bryan, I’m right with you about the stupidity of anti-cloning arguments. Most of them are just plain silly and not even worth discussing (“Will clones be less than human?” Only if you treat them that way…). Many anti-cloning arguments were trotted out not so long ago about IVF, and before that they had an equally dismal run against the smallpox vaccine. Hooray for cloning!

But here’s where you’re wrong. You are deluding yourself when you say you will experience a “sublime bond” with your cloned son. The bond will be no more, and possibly a good bit less, than the bond shared between identical twins. Romanticizing cloning is just as silly as demonizing it. And the more you insist on the reality of that sublime bond, the more your cloned son is going to rebel against you. Perhaps he will even end up as a Marxist. It would serve you right, frankly.

I also have to say I am always puzzled when people — it seems to be exclusively straight people — valorize their own genes so much. Your genes are nothing special. They are shared by thousands of other people, in different combinations, all across the world. What you do or don’t do with them will scarcely affect your genes’ chances of survival at all. This is thanks to the thousands of others who also carry precisely the same genes — the same genes for brown hair, or pale skin, or hemoglobin, or whatever. Will your genes survive? It depends vastly more on what they do, and hardly at all on what you do.

Your genes are not little avatars of your Self. They are not post-theistic souls on which to pin your dashed hopes for immortality. They are not even alive, for crying out loud. Want to save your genes for all eternity? Build a fifty-foot granite monument and inscribe them. It would work about as well for your purposes.

More Caplan:

I’m touched to see Tyler publicly defending me and my clone, and think I ought to respond to his only reservation:

If I have any criticism of Bryan, it’s that he’s pro-natalist (fine in my book) but I’ve never heard him promote the idea of adopting a child or defend the idea of raising a biological child who is, for whatever reason, very different from his or her parents.  (Don’t overreact here and interpret his silence in a negative way, I’m simply goading him to take up these issues, which I think will force him to revise his thought.)
I probably haven’t addressed these issues because my views are conventional.  On adoption: I think that adoption is a noble, generous act, and admire those who do it.  But I personally don’t want to adopt.  On raising a biological child very different from myself: Of course I’d still love and raise him/her.  My post on “parenthood as the trump of all past regret” is predicated on this endowment effect.  Still, I’m honest enough to admit that I’d be happier if my child and I had a lot in common.

More Kuznicki:

I am astonished that someone writing a book about children can have such prejudiced views about adoption. I see these views all the time among friends and family, but never, as a rule, among experts in the field.

I wonder how many adoptive parents Bryan talked to in his research. How many books and articles did he read about adoption? Did he talk to any social workers, child psychologists, or even — call me crazy — actual adopted kids? Or did he just recycle the same glurge I always get from casual acquaintances when I tell them that I adopted a daughter? (“Oh wow, that’s so great of you. Tell me though, why didn’t you get a surrogate mom?”)

Overwhelmingly, parents adopt for exactly the same reasons that lead others to have kids in the biological way. The “mode” adoptive parent in the United States is heterosexual, married, and infertile. But they want kids just like anyone else, and for the very same reasons. The only catch is that they aren’t able to have kids in the cheap, fun, and conventional way.

Adopting is a pain — it means tons of paperwork, hours of interviews, repeated hearings before various officials, thousands of dollars in fees, criminal background checks, home safety inspections, financial reviews, invasive medical tests, and possibly years of waiting. (All for good reasons, I’d add.)

Compare all that to an evening of sexual intercourse, and it’s obvious why adoption is a second choice — as a method.[1] But that doesn’t mean that adopted kids are a second choice. If anything, it may mean that adoptive parents are more committed to parenting than many “natural” parents. It’s not like we end up here on accident. Which quite a few bio-parents do, of course. And many infertile couples — those among them least committed to parenting — don’t ever adopt.

Perhaps all this is what brought Bryan to think of adoption as noble. But saying that adopting a child is “generous” is both an insult and an undeserved, patronizing compliment.

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Filed under Books, Families, Science

Libertarians And The Sprawl

Heather Horn has the round-up.

James Howard Kunstler:

On Mar 3, 2010, at 4:52 PM, Lott, Maxim wrote:

Hi Howard,

John Stossel of the FOX Business Network is doing a show this Friday at 6pm on zoning. We’re going to be comparing zoning rules in Cleveland and Houston, and will also have Randal O’Toole on the show. He will say that we need to get rid of zoning because it gives the government planners too much control.

I was on a John Stoessel ABC show a few years ago and I consider him a completely unethical person, since he used me as a straw man and distorted everything I had to say — in the editing process.
Randall O’Toole is a shill for the sprawl-builders. You deserve him.
Please tell Stoessel he can kiss my ass.

James Howard Kunstler
“It’s All Good”

John Stossel at ABC:

Suburban sprawl is evil. The unplanned growth, cookie cutter developments is gobbling up all the space and ruining America. Right?


But in town after town, civic leaders talk about going to war! They want “smart growth.” They say sprawl has wrecked lives.

So-called experts on TV say all sorts of nasty things about the changing suburban landscape.

James Kunstler, author of “The Geography of Nowhere,” said, “Most of the country really is living in these mutilated and defective environments.”

Kunstler and others say suburbs are despicable places. He calls them, “uniformly, low-grade miserably designed environments that make people feel bad.” Even ABC News’ “Nightline” ran a program called “America the Ugly.”

What upsets many critics most is the loss of open space.

But is open space disappearing in America? No, that’s a total myth. More than 95 percent of the country is still undeveloped.

You see it if you cross this country. Only a small percentage is developed. Yes, in some places, like some suburbs, there are often huge traffic jams.

But lots of people, while they don’t like the traffic or the long commute to work, like where they live.

“I like that I have a nice piece of property, and I have privacy,” one woman said.

Another said, “Even with all the congestion, it’s a wonderful lifestyle.”

The anti-sprawl activists say more Americans should live the way I do. I live in an apartment, and most days I walk or ride my bike to work. But should everyone have to live the way I do?

I like my lifestyle, but I chose it, voluntarily. Other people want to make different choices the critics don’t call “ideal.”

Austin Bramwell at The American Conservative:

For the 101st time: sprawl — an umbrella term for the pattern of development seen virtually everywhere in the United States — is not caused by the free market. It is, rather, mandated by a vast and seemingly intractable network of government regulations, from zoning laws and building codes to street design regulations.  If Stossel wants to expand Americans’ lifestyle choices, he should attack the very thing he was defending, namely, suburban sprawl.

It’s odd that self-described libertarians such as Stossel are so slow to grasp that government planning makes sprawl ubiquitous. You would think that libertarians would instinctively grasp the deeply statist nature of suburban development.  First of all, with a depressingly few exceptions, virtually every town in America looks the same. That is, it has the same landscape of arterial roads, strip malls, and residential subdivisions, accessibly only by car. Surely, given America’s celebrated diversity, you would also see a diversity of places. As it turns out, all but a few people live the same suburban lifestyle.  Government, as libertarian assumptions would predict, is the culprit.

Second, the few places in America that have a distinctive character are also exceedingly expensive. John Stossel himself admits to living in an apartment and walking to work most days. Now, I don’t know where exactly Mr. Stossel lives, but it sounds as if he lives in Manhattan, where residential space costs over $1000 a square foot (that means a two-bedroom apartment where a family of four could fit costs at least $1.5 million).  If Mr. Stossel’s lifestyle, as he puts it, is less popular than the suburban lifestyle, then why does his cost so much more? He apparently never asks himself the question.

Jim Henley:

I don’t disagree with Bramwell’s thesis, but I think anti-anti-sprawl libertarianism will exist so long as there are libertarians who hate hippies more than they hate central planning – which is to say, it will exist for a long time.


John Stossel, like a lot of self-descrbed libertarians*, isn’t so much “libertarian” as he is an anti-liberal. He is reflexively opposed to anything that liberals favor, even when there is significant overlap in goals and implementation. Which is how he finds himself in the strange place of defending a status quo that is just as statist, if not more so, than the imagined alternatives. If liberals like it, then it must be bad, regardless of the merits.

Matthew Yglesias:

Not being a libertarian or a conservative of any sort, I’m happy to just take it for granted that you’re never going to have a genuinely “small government” approach to the built environment. But I would sort of be interested to see, as an exercise, someone try to put together a serious, genuinely libertarian view of how cities and towns should be built—what’s the absolute minimum we could get away with.

But whatever that would be, it’s certainly not what we have in America’s sprawlier places. Take the thrilling Maricopa County Zoning Ordinance in Phoenix and it’s suburbs. Chapter 6 covers single family residential zones. You’ve got your R1-35 areas in which you need 35,000 square feet of land per dwelling unit, your R1-10 areas where you need 10,000 feet, and then separate zones for 8,000 square feet per unit; 7,000 square feet per dwelling; and 6,000 square feet per dwelling.

If you want to build a mult-family structure in those places, you can’t. If you find yourself an R2 zone you can, but it can only be a two family structure. Also your building can’t be taller than 40 feet, “There shall be a front yard having a depth of not less than 20 feet,” the year yard needs to be 25 feet, and the side yard needs to be at least 5 feet. On average, buildings can only occupy at most 50 percent of the lot. And there have to be two parking spaces per dwelling unit. And you can go so on and so forth throughout the whole thing. The point, however, is that walkable urbanism is illegal in most of the county. Not just giant skyscrapers, but anything even remotely non-sprawling.


Despite my efforts on this humble blog, I still think many people don’t quite get that, as Yglesias says, walkable urbanism is illegal to build in most places, often including existing walkable urban areas (meaning, new development faces restrictions that make it impossible to build new or redo existing areas in walkable fashion).

But the point of the post is to respond to a commenter over there who brings up Houston. Houston doesn’t have zoning, though deed restrictions set up a kind of de facto zoning to some exist, but it still has land use regulations and building codes. Zoning and land use generally get jumbled up, but zoning is more about what kind of function you can have on a property, while land use restrictions are about what kind of building you can build, whether there are setback and parking requirements, etc. So building walkable urbanism in Houston is as difficult (illegal) as anywhere.

E.D. Kain:

Sprawl is a result of massive statist interventions into our culture and society, and its symptoms are equally enormous.  Everything that conservatism has historically stood for is undermined by sprawl.  It is not only the physical manifestation of our decline, it is a poison which continues to contribute to that decline.  Its repercussions can be felt in our discourse, in our speech, in our way of thinking.  This is not merely a matter of aesthetically pleasing communities, but of communities which allow individuals to be a part of the whole.  I doubt this is sustainable, this suburban maze – in any way: fiscally, socially, spiritually.  It is, as James Howard Kunstler called it, “a peculiar blip in human experience.”

Rod Dreher:

But isn’t sprawl just another manifestation of the hypermobility that contemporary Americans see as a fundamental right? I might well dislike urban sprawl, but given that I haven’t shown any sense of being loyal to a place, I’m as implicated in the general rootlessness that Erik decries as any denizen of sprawlsville. Still, I am increasingly convinced that Erik is right about the need to pioneer a kind of anti-political politics to change the culture.

UPDATE: Randal O’Toole at Cato

Yglesias responds to O’Toole

UPDATE #2: Kevin Drum

Ryan Avent

UPDATE #3: Yglesias responds to Drum

Drum responds to Yglesias

Avent responds to Drum

UPDATE #4: Samuel Goldman at PomoCon


Filed under Go Meta, Infrastructure

Gone Baby Gone

Paul Boutin at Venture Beat:

Go to Amazon.com. Search for any publication by Macmillan, one of the world’s largest publishing firms. The Prince of Silicon Valley, perhaps, or Sarah’s Key. Or last year’s huge #1 bestseller The Gathering Storm.

Gone, mysteriously gone. We found Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, but his new novel Makers and his popular debut, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, have been removed. Robert Jordan’s entire Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels is gone, except for 2005’s The Knife of Dreams.

You get links to other sellers. But Amazon has stopped carrying them.

Brad Stone at NYT:

I’ve talked to a person in the industry with knowledge of the dispute who says the disappearance is the result of a disagreement between Amazon.com and book publishers that has been brewing for the last year. Macmillan, like other publishers, has asked Amazon to raise the price of electronic books from $9.99 to around $15. Amazon is expressing its strong disagreement by temporarily removing Macmillan books, said this person, who did not want to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Macmillan is one of the publishers signed on to offer books to Apple, as part of its new iBooks store. Its imprints include Farrar, Straus & Giroux, St. Martins Press and Henry Holt. The publisher’s books can still be bought from third parties on the Amazon site.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

* If true, Amazon draping itself in the consumer-rights flag in demanding a fair price is even more farcical. Though Amazon’s physical-goods sales business is the best in the world when it comes to giving buyers a fair shake, this is materially untrue when it comes to electronic book sales, a sector that it dominates. As mentioned above, Amazon’s DRM and license terms on its Kindle (as well as on its Audible audiobooks division, which controls the major share of the world’s audiobook sales) are markedly unfair to readers. Amazon’s ebooks are locked (by contract and by DRM) to the Kindle (this is even true of the “DRM-free” Kindle books, which still have license terms that prohibit moving the books). This is not due to rightsholder-demands, either: as I discovered when I approached Amazon about selling my books without DRM and without a bad license agreement for Kindle and Audible, they will not allow copyright owners to modify their terms, nor to include text in the body of the work releasing readers from those terms.

Concentration in media is nothing new — as far back as the eighties, activists have been sounding the alarm about mergers and acquisitions in publishing and bookselling (and, of course, in film we have the antitrust decisions of the 1940s). In the eighties, we worried that mergers would create corporate giants that would dictate unfair terms in distribution, sales, contracts with writers, pricing, and so on.

But today, we have a deeper worry. For no matter that a giant distributor or a massively agglomerated publisher could distort the market to the detriment of readers and writers — we could bounce back, through competition and new technology and innovative marketing and sales (and we did, by and large).

Jim Henley:

Of the links above, I think Doctorow makes the most sense. Some reactions of my own follow:

1. There’s a lot we ordinary readers don’t know about the sequence of events here. The NYT’s Bits blog says Macmillan “asked” to increase the price of some of their Kindle books to as much as $15. Other sites say Macmillan “demanded.” Apple’s courting of Macmillan for their planned iPad bookstore plays in somehow. (Apple is luring publishers partly with the promise of higher price points.) For the cheap seats out here in reader and business-observer land, sorta-yanking Macmillan’s books seems pretty extreme for an “ask,” less so for a threat.

2. People are rightly passionate about books, which can obscure the fact that this is fundamentally standard corporate hardball, likely to be revised one way or another fairly quickly. That’s not guaranteed – corporate honchos are people mammals eukaryotes too. Their emotions can get the better of them and get into a downward spiral of pride and vindictiveness. But the truth is that from time to time producers and distributors get into arguments that lead to the producer temporarily withholding or the distributor temporarily deleting a set of products.

3. Amazon hasn’t stopped direct sales of all Macmillan titles. (You can get Pirate Freedom as of Saturday morning.) In particular, they haven’t taken down third-party sources of Macmillan titles, which they could surely do. This is a slap in the face, not a murder attempt.

4. It’s also a negative-sum game. In the short term, Macmillan and Amazon are both losing sales because of the move. Both have an incentive to settle.

Ben Parr at Mashable:

Amazon’s clearly worried, which is why it’s launching an app store and used its earnings report to remind us that the Kindle is far from dead. But if publishers decide to abandon the Kindle, then Apple will have won the war by default.

That’s why Amazon decided to use its biggest weapon, Amazon.com itself, against Macmillan to send a message to every publisher: If you don’t play by its rules, then you can’t be in its store. While a publisher can likely survive without the Kindle, the same cannot be said for Amazon.com. Publishers simply cannot afford to leave the world’s largest online retailer.

The Kindle and the iPad offer different experiences. The Kindle’s battery life and e-ink are strong selling points for the device as a reader, but the iPad offers so much more. Apple’s banking on those extra features and its undeniable reach to turn the Kindle into an endangered species.

Publishers now have to either choose a side or walk the tightrope between the two companies. The end result will be a long, drawn out war that will both help and hurt consumers. How it will end is anybody’s guess.

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Making A List, Checking It Twice, Finding Out Whose Naughty And Nice

Matthew Yglesias:

Listicle of the Day: Worst Washington Post Columnists of the Zeroes

It’s beginning to feel a lot like listicle time:

10. Michael Kelly
9. David Broder
8. Jim Hoagland
7. Robert Novak
6. Michael Gerson
5. Fred Hiatt
4. Robert Samuelson
3. George Will
2. Robert Kagan
1. Charles Krauthammer

I want to keep the explication to a minimum, but this is an award for the aggregate badness of one’s Washington Post columns, not a holistic judgment of the character of any individual who happens to have written Post columns. Ergo, Bill Kristol gets off the hook on the grounds that relatively few of his bad deeds over the past ten years actually took the form of Post columns.


Michael Kelly Has Been Dead For Quite Some Time

So I’d replace him with Richard Cohen (yes Novak’s dead too but he just died this year).

Kelly was truly awful though.

Doug J.:

Atrios rightly suggests replacing Michael Kelly with Richard Cohen. But I’d take this one step further: Cohen deserves to be number 1. His algebra and “better with the lights off” were probably the two worst columns I have ever read in my life.

Moreover, it’s too stacked against right-wingers. I’ll grant Gerson and Kagan, but Krauthammer is only marginally worse than David Brooks and not as bad as Bill Kristol (both of whom have had Times gigs). Likewise, George WIll is not as bad as John Tierney. And Hoagland is better than Tom Friedman. The list should focus on what is makes the WaPo editorial page bad compared with other papers so I propose a severe reshuffle with some new names

10. Charles Krauthammer
9. George Will
8. Anne Applebaum
7. David Broder
6. Michael Gerson
5. Jackson Diehl
4. Fred Hiatt
3. Robert Kagan
2. Robert Samuelson
1. Richard Cohen

Jim Henley:

I’d move Will down somewhat on the grounds he occasionally goes off-script. Gerson easily takes the top spot; the man preens. He is the most teeth-grindingly sanctimonious drip I can recall getting a regular column. Add the fact that he’s wrong about everything. Krauthammer is deeply evil, but every now and then he manages to be interesting at it. Far more often he’s at least exemplary of everything wrong with the elite consensus, while Gerson is only ever exemplary about I NEED TO STAB MY EYES OUT TO AVOID READING THE REST OF THIS COLUMN!!! Robert Kagan is a horrible fellow, but I feel like he benefits from the miasma of wrongness that is the Kagan family as a whole. It’s like that X-Files episode where Mulder, Scully and President Palmer find the house with the horrible inbreeds – you can’t really single out any one of them as the problem. I believe David Broder deserves a much higher rank than Matt gives him. Broder is supposed to be a genuine expert on practical politics, but he doesn’t seem to have any clue how politics is actually practiced today.

I hold no brief for Robert Samuelson, but for the good of UO I have to rate horribly destructive foreign-policy columnists ahead of one-note cheerleaders for state-capitalism, so move Jim Hoagland way up the list. Fred Hiatt is bad and dull and evil, but really; if you’re ranking supervillains and you’ve got Magneto in the top five, are you going to put the Terrible Toad within three slots of Magneto just because they work together? No. We already have Krauthammer on the short list. Hiatt deserves credit for the awfulness of the editorial page as a whole, but not as a columnist. He’s off the list.

Michael Kelly is dead, and has been for most of the decade. He was a bad, small-minded pundit, but he did have the guts to see his cockamamie adventure up close, and it killed him. He’s off the list too. Novak’s a hard case, but any man who gets declared “unpatriotic” by David Frum can’t be all bad. He’s off the list.

We have three spots to fill. I nominate: 1) Richard Cohen. This serial harasser shouldn’t even have a column in the Washington Post, having been chased out of town for going all Mad Men on the female staff. He’s that most annoying creature, the Fake Liberal. And I don’t find that his major subject – The Mind of Richard Cohen – merits that much regular attention. Plus, like Broder he’s pretty much a Post mascot; 2) EJ Dionne. Something about him just pisses me off. 3) David Ignatius. You’re thinking, “Come on, Jim, he’s already on the list.” I respond, “No, you’ve confused him with Jim Hoagland.” And you get a gotcha look in your eye and pounce! “By your own Fred Hiatt Rule, then, you can’t have both Hoagland and Ignatius on the list.” But you are wrong. Consider the following proof: 1) You’re wrong. 2) I make the rules, not you. 3) We’ve been over this: Ignatius used to not be an idiot. A running theme of this blog for years was “WTF David Ignatius? In your first novel you skewered these neocon fools mercilessly and now you are one!” So, QED.

Scott Lemieux:

I’d have to agree that Richard Cohen — if only for his status as a nominal “liberal” — merits addition to this list. But I’d remove the merely boring Hoagland instead; while I understand Duncan’s point, I’ll insist that three years of Kelly is worth a full decade of the typical winger. For those who don’t remember, read this.

I’d also have thought that Applebaum would be an easy choice, but honestly I can’t identify anyone else I’d remove…

…Henley, despite his inclusion of Dionne (hey, electing Obama was always going to fray the libertarian/liberal alliance) makes a good case for Cohen. And he’s also right about how horrendous Broder is.


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The ESPNZone of Empires, The Applebees of Imperial Powers, The Outback Steakhouse of Global Hegemons

Matthew Yglesias:

Afghanistan is often called the “Graveyard of Empires,” but I think the phrase is pretty misleading. It seems to imply that empires that venture in Afghanistan get defeated and die. But the fact of the matter is that empires tend to venture into Afghanistan, get defeated, and then walk away and be just fine. Alexander the Great couldn’t impose his will on Afghanistan, but his army just left the country still controlling tons of wealthy and important territory. The British decided to leave it alone in the 1860s and contented themselves with running the world’s chief industrial power, plus Canada & Australia, plus India, plus half of Africa, plus all the oceans everywhere, plus the bulk of trade in Latin America and China. The Soviets weren’t in such great shape when the left, but they weren’t in such great shape when they went in, either—their empire collapsed in Budapest and Berlin and Vilnius and Tblisi.

A better analogy might be that it’s the ESPN Zone of empires, someplace where from time to time a lot of people feel tempted to go, but when you get there it turns out to be not so great. But it’s surprisingly expensive to stay! Having gone out of your way to get there in the first place, you’re perhaps initially reluctant to just admit that it’s not worthwhile. But you can’t stay forever.

Spencer Ackerman:

That’s this Matthew Yglesias post. I hope you appreciate it, people: you’re witnessing mastery of the form here.

To add maybe one point to the post, I’d say that history teaches us that American hegemony will survive even if we get kicked out of Afghanistan. (The Soviets were in exponentially weaker shape, politically and economically, than we are.) That’s not an argument for withdrawing from Afghanistan, but it helps shape an ordinal ranking of what American interests can and can’t permit, even if we’re to take a maximal view of American interests. (“Our interest is the preservation of American hegemony.”) No one died from an unpleasant meal at ESPNZone.

Sir Charles

Jim Henley:

Afghanistan can be funny, in a bitter sort of way.

Andy Harnish

The ESPNZone of Empires, The Applebees of Imperial Powers, The Outback Steakhouse of Global Hegemons

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Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT

Klein V. Krauthammer

The right sphere had a great deal to say about Joe Klein’s quote in the Politico piece by Ben Smith. The quote:

“He became ground zero among the neo-cons, but he’s vastly smarter than most of them,” said Time’s Joe Klein, an admirer and critic who praised Krauthammer’s “writing skills and polemical skills” as “so far above almost anybody writing columns today.”

“There’s something tragic about him, too,” Klein said, referring to Krauthammer’s confinement to a wheelchair, the result of a diving accident during his first year of medical school. “His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he’s writing about.”

Klein‘s response at Swampland:

The usual neoconservative malingerers have been hammering me about a quote I gave to Politico, regarding Charles Krauthammer’s limitations as a columnist.

Obviously, I didn’t mean to imply second-class status for disabled people. On the contrary, the distance and perspective that comes with physical deficits often leads to enhanced insight and abilities. The greatest President of the past 150 140 years–(Thanks, commenter flownover!)– sat in a wheelchair.

James Joyner has a great round up of links and quotes: Tom Maguire, Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard, John Podhoretz in Commentary, Betsy Newmark, Jules Crittenden. Joyner writes:

Upon first reading the quote, I was prepared to believe that Smith was reading between the lines about what Klein meant.  But in his non-apology apology, it’s clear Klein is in fact referring to Krauthammer’s inability to travel to conflict zones, a byproduct of his disability.  That’s not quite the same thing as making fun of Krauthammer for being paralyzed but it’s dangerous territory.

Crittenden’s “cripplehawk” comment and Podhoretz’ bit about the “passport stamps” come closest to capturing the essence of Klein’s argument.   Is it a fair one?   Do those, like Bill Roggio and Michael Totten, who actually travel to war zones that they’re writing about have an added perspective that those of us who write from the confort of our armchairs don’t?   Sure.

For more, we have Allah Pundit.

Marty Peretz:

Joe Klein has now entered the fray. This is not exactly a big moment. Joe is one of those people who pretends that it takes bravery to beat up on Israel when what it does is get you invited to the smuggest soirees in New York and Washington. Joe, you are a success. But you haven’t had a single idea half as interesting as those that drop off of Charles’ lips twenty times a day.

Peter Wehner

We already knew, thanks to his role in Primary Colors, that Joe Klein was a liar; he is now becoming quite unhinged.

And isn’t only the right that’s smacking their heads. Wonkette:

Maybe that “came out wrong,” but no? C’mon JOE KLEIN. Charles Krauthammer isn’t blind, and the country is rather wheelchair accessible. Oof.

Spencer Ackerman takes issue with Podhoretz:

Something ludicrous that Jon Podhoretz said. What starts off as a strained read of a quote Joe Klein gave to Politico‘s Ben Smith about Charles Krauthammer (“Is it conceivable that Joe Klein is saying a man in a wheelchair is incapable of understanding the nuances of Iraq and the war on terror because he can’t get on a plane and go there like Joe Klein can?”) becomes something taken for granted by the end of Podhoretz’s post. Look, John, we get it. You and Joe have differences about policy. That animates everything you write about Klein. No one is going to believe you are reading Klein’s quote in good faith. Let’s give the whole thing a rest.

I’m sure there’s more that I haven’t found yet. Will update.

UPDATE: Peter Wehner again

UPDATE #2: Via Scott LemieuxJim Henley

UPDATE #3: Mary Katherine Ham at TWS.

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