Needed To Save Democracy:  A Way to Throw the Bastards Out Without Putting the Other Bastards In

According to The Economist magazine.

Roughly 40% of the politically active say that members of the other tribe are evil; 60% believe they are a threat to the country. More than 80% think the system needs “major changes” or “complete reform”.

I have good news for politically active Democrats and Republicans.  I agree with them, and have for decades.

Not because I have been convinced of their opposite’s evil by politically active Democrats and Republicans.  I believe they are completely focused on their tribalist, culture war issues as extensions of their own egos.  And are completely beholden to the interest groups that back them – sometimes both of them – and have been therefore allowed to use the power of government to pillage the future of country, and the later-born people who will live in it, in exchange.  And not because I pay any attention to the media that makes money by pandering to their views, repeating their propaganda, and whispering sweet nothings to power.  I have never had cable TV, or been on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I fact, these days the only national and international news sources I trust are those from outside the United States.

Rather, I see them as evil and a threat to the country because I have observed what the two political parties, when given the chance, have actually done, and how that has actually affected regular people just living their lives.  And have become increasingly disappointed.

So does that mean I’m opposed to the two-party system?  What two party system?  If a large share of the electorate is so brainwashed that they are unwilling to vote for the other party no matter what their own party does to them locally, and the members of either one party or another are concentrated in large areas of the country, then there is, in reality, a one-party system.  And that party, and the special interests that back it, know that they can get away with anything, with zero accountability from either the voters or the media.  The Democrats (especially in New York) and Republicans (in other states and at the national level) have, therefore, become irreformable.  The only way out is from outside them entirely.


With regard to state and local government in New York, I have thought that way for a long time.  Here the Democrats have, for 150 years, been the party of government that serves itself, taking more and more and providing less and less in return.  Offering tribalism to the screwed and expecting people to support them because of their race, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, etc. etc no matter what.  Think Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed.

For most of those 150 years, however, New Yorkers were able to turn to Republicans, once the party of good and efficient government (at least some of the time), whenever things got too bad.  Republicans like Andrew Green, who led the creation of Greater New York, Fiorello LaGuardia, etc.  But since 1980 the Republicans have ceased to be the party of good government, and have instead waged an economic war on everyone born after 1957 or so at the national level – running up debt and spending like crazy on Generation Greed.  And an economic war on New York City at the state level, pouring money and benefits into the rest of the state, pandering to public unions and contractors in New York City (whose members live in the suburbs), and leaving the city with high taxes and inadequate services.

The Republicans were unacceptable to me as an alternative 20, 30 and 40 years ago.  And are even more unacceptable today, now that they have attempted to overthrow the government and the constitution.  They are the party of irresponsible selfishness, on a mission to find someone to blame for the consequences of decades of irresponsible selfishness, other than themselves.

What if anything does “conservative” actually mean today?  Balanced budgets?  Balanced trade?  Family values?  Entrepreneurship rather than government favoritism and crony capitalism?  Free markets rather than bailouts for the rich? Respect for the constitution?  Are they kidding?  How can they say those things with a straight face?  Anyone who has paid attention to what they have actually done, and what the consequences have actually been, for the past 40 years know that they actually stand for the opposite.

According to The Economist

Extreme partisanship and the Republican refusal to accept the results of the election are indeed a dangerous combination. Yet easily lost in the daily diet of outrage is a fundamental truth about two-party politics: Democrats and Republicans need each other for the system to function. Renewal therefore must flow through the Republican Party. That will be hard—but not as hard as the catastrophists say.

Too late.  Renewal requires that the Republicans go the way of the Whigs.  Yes, the Democrats did finally recover after the Civil War, but I’m not sure that was a good thing.

Where, however, does that leave New York?  Perhaps Mayor Adams is making noises about New Yorkers deserving something for all the taxes we pay, but that isn’t happening.  The unions and contractors control the state legislature. Candidates for Governor, starting with existing Governor Hochul, are bidding for their support, not anyone else’s, because in a political monopoly they don’t need anyone else’s support.  And all monopolies always end up feeling greater and greater entitlement, year by year.  Judging by what she says, they have shifted their propaganda strategy from saying they deserve more money because public services are bad, to saying they deserve more money because everything is Great Again!, now that it is uncertain if the victims will remain in NYC to keep paying.  The real situation is unchanged.

Then there are the irrevocable deals they have already cut with themselves.  Mayor Adams will eventually raise our taxes, cut our services, or some combination of both pay for, in part, deals he voted for as State Senator Adams.  Deals that he benefits from personally as a retired public employee.  If he didn’t vote for those deals, or said a word against them, he wouldn’t be where he is today.  Their deals with themselves are irrevocable promises the beneficiaries made with themselves, but other pay for.   The serfs, the younger born in general?  There are no promises for them with any real standing.

What does “progressive” mean anyway?  Today, based on what has happened in New York it means those with a special connection to the government, as members of politically manipulative public unions, or contractors, deserve to get richer and richer at the expense of everyone else.   And when there isn’t enough to go around as a result, those who grabbed more shouldn’t have to give anything back.  Instead, public services and benefits for and assistance to the poor are quietly cut.  The fact that “progressive” mean the exact opposite 100 years ago doesn’t mean we shouldn’t face the reality of what it means now.  Special deals for the special people. 

Progressive means a better and more fair deal for the least well off, the least advantaged, the least connected?  Are they kidding?  

The NY Democrats are in favor of democracy? Is that some kind of joke? How does the 2008 article below on the New York State legislature remind you of the congressional Republican attitude toward January 6th and any proposal made by the Biden and Obama Administrations? See also what I had to say about what for me was the last straw, too.

I can give 1,000 examples of what they actually do to show that New York Democrats, and Democrats in other places where they have an unassailable majority, actually believe the opposite.  In New York, generally with the support of Republicans.

Just as the Republicans can count on Democratic support when it comes to screwing the later born and favoring the $billionaire class.  They dare not do otherwise.  “The era of big government is over?”  Yes, for those born after 1957 – they’ll just pay for it and suffer without it because they have “time to adjust.”  Not for those born earlier.

The bill indisputably and significantly deepens an already horrendous fiscal mess. Plausible projections indicate that over the decade 2005-2014 cumulative federal budget deficits will run to about $4.7 trillion. The Medicare bill will add just under $600 billion in that decade and $1.5 to $2 trillion in the succeeding decade, when deficits will explode. Closing these deficits would require either reneging on these benefits or enormous tax increases.

For ordinary people in later-born generations, of course.

Trump has been like manna from heaven for our self-serving, entitled, political/union class, and the Democratic Party.  They get make it worse and worse for everyone else, and for the future, and know that people have nowhere else to turn.  So, the last political party that cared at least a little about the future, and those who will live in it, at least at the national level, is now competing with the Republicans with regard to cashing it in.  They even have their own macroeconomic lie, with Modern Monetary Theory being a fantasy equivalent to the Laffer Curve.

What the Democrats and their interest groups know they can get away with doing to us in New York, the Republicans and their interest groups know they get away with elsewhere.  In Georgia, according to The Economist

“There weren’t thousands upon thousands of under-age voters and dead people who voted,” says Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, who was asked by Mr Trump to falsify the state’s election results. “That stuff was just spun up out of whole cloth.”

Yet few Republican politicians dare acknowledge this reality. Mr Raffensperger and his family have received many death threats, as have the other nine House Republicans who voted with Ms Cheney to impeach Mr Trump. 

So, is threatening to kill you, your wife, and your children enough to convince you to leave a political party?  Not if the alternative is the Democrats.

Notwithstanding his appalling treatment, Mr Raffensperger has no qualms about remaining a Republican: “I’m a conservative and so I will always be in the conservative party.” This is why so few Republicans consider Mr Trump’s unfitness to be a deal-breaker. He may be a bastard, but he is theirs.

Again, he is using the word “conservative” as if it actually means something, even if that something is the opposite of what people might have thought it meant 50 years ago.  In fact, if forced to describe what they mean by “conservative” or “progressive,” I can immediately point to a million examples of either absurd contradiction or rank hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, the idea that Republicans are Raffensperger’s kind of people even if they “kill his whole family,” and even though he’s a rat and a squealer, is like something out of a George Carlin piece.  Literally. Check out his “Rats and Squealers” piece.

At least statewide (unlike in any given part of it) Georgia is now a state where either Republicans and Democrats could win, like Virginia and North Carolina, three states that not long ago were robotically Republican.  And in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which not long ago were Pavlovingly Democratic.  No such luck in New York.

Or in Oklahoma.

I’ve noted in other posts that there is no place close to New York City/New York State in the same direction.  Only, perhaps, as bad in the opposite direction.  Like New York, Oklahoma has a sector that produces gushers of tax revenues when it’s up and disappearing tax revenues when it’s down – Wall Street here, oil and gas there.  As there, as here, the most powerful interests grab more when the money is rolling in and no one needs to be made worse off to pay for it in the short run.  With others made to sacrifice when the money flows go in reverse.

In Oklahoma, that has meant a continual ratcheting down in the tax burden, cycle after cycle, and ongoing and increasingly unaddressed needs in education and social services.  I’m familiar with that state because I spent my last two years of high school there, after my family was forced to relocate from New York during the deep 1970s recession.  And I can tell you that it is, by many measures, a much worse place than it had been from 1977 to 1979 when I lived there.

The schools were never world beaters, but they had their strengths.  For one thing Oklahoma, with a population only equivalent to the Bronx and Brooklyn combined, has traditionally punched far above its weight in music.  But after the latest cycle under Republican Governor “Failin” Fallin, with tax cuts when oil revenues were high and drastic cuts in school funding later when they were low, there isn’t much left.  And that applies to most of the state, because there is far more funding equality there than here (all teachers are paid for out of the state budget).

According to one ranking, Oklahoma now ranks 47th in school quality.,rankings%20of%20education%20quality%20indicators

Fallin’s insulting excuse was that lots of Oklahomans are farmers, and they don’t need much education.  In reality, while a farmer may not have to know all that much about any specific thing, a good one has to know something about all kinds of things.  It’s a job for a renaissance man (or woman), not a dropout.

If “defunding the schools” has been a rallying cry for Oklahoma Republicans, one can imagine how social services fared.  And while it is difficult to disentangle the impact of social trends from a failed public response to them, Oklahoma has become a sink of social ills.

Oklahoma has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, and was second not long ago.  The state’s high school graduation rate has declined, best as can be determined, because almost half of school districts refuse to provide graduation rate data.  A federal report placed the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center at the top of the U.S. list for sexual violence in female prisons.  Oklahoma incarcerates more women per capita than any country on earth, and the road to prison for many Oklahoma women is paved with trauma.  Oklahoma ranks fifth in obesity in the U.S.  Oklahoma is also above average in pre-term births, in part because it is far above average in smoking.  

The you have the soaring crime, with Oklahoma ranked 12th in the country for violence.  Back in the 1970s you had property crime there, but nothing like the violent crime you have to day.  For perspective, New York State ranked 25th.  Perhaps New Yorkers should move to staunchly Republican Tennessee, which vies with Florida for the lowest tax burden in the country.  It ranks third in violent crime.

With taxes being cut and needs rising Oklahoma, as in New York (despite high taxes in our case), there has been a desperate search for non-tax revenues.  So Oklahoma has been legalizing a wide range of temporarily pleasurable but potentially addictive and life-wrecking substances and practices for “economic development.”  They are at the extreme end of a national trend that I called the “just enough rope to hang themselves” economy.

When I moved there in 1977, there were no bars, restaurants were not allowed to sell liquor by the drink…

Beer was 3.2% alcohol and the liquor stores that sold beer and liquor were restricted in number with very small and plain signs allowed an no advertising.  

And today?  Casinos where people with no teeth gamble away their Social Security disability checks, and formerly middle-class people gamble away embezzled funds, may be found from one end of the state to another.

Number 5 — Oklahoma’s ranking among states with the most casinos. More than 80 — Tribal casinos in Oklahoma, three Oklahoma racetrack casinos and the statewide lottery. About 60 — Number of casinos each in Canada, England and Central America. About 50 — Number of casinos in both France and Germany. About 13 — Number of casinos in Australia.

The latest sin boom in this allegedly moralistic state is legalized marijuana.  Thus demonstrating that there is at least one type of farming that you don’t need a strong education system to succeed in.

Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program has seen such staggering growth since it launched three years ago after voters overwhelmingly backed a ballot referendum that it has earned the wry nickname “Tokelahoma.” More than 380,000 Oklahomans — or nearly 10 percent of the state’s population — have enrolled in the program, making it by far the largest in the country on a per capita basis. 

Thanks to Oklahoma’s free market approach to legalization — there are no limits on marijuana business licenses and the cost of a license is just $2,500 — there are more than 9,000 grow operations in Oklahoma. To put that figure in perspective, Pennsylvania — which has more than three times the population of Oklahoma — has just 13 licensed grow operations to supply its medical program. Even California, the world’s biggest legal cannabis market, has about 3,000 fewer grow operations than the staunchly conservative Sooner State.

Love County Sheriff Marty Grisham’s department conducted a July raid on an illegal cultivation site in the county that netted 2,300 cannabis plants with a street value of roughly $3.5 million.

I guess it’s no surprise.  When I did a little surreptitious survey of my peers for the high school newspaper in 1979, I found that far more of my peers were smoking marijuana than drinking alcohol (the article was suppressed by the administration).  But decades later, legalization or this supposedly less harmful substance has led to more illicit activity, not less.

“We all know that things are going on,” Grisham said of other potential operations in Love County. “There’s probably some human trafficking going on. There’s probably some money laundering going on. There’s a lot of things going on behind the fences of those places.”

As the next logical step in the “just enough rope to hang themselves economy,” there has been some talk of legalizing prostitution (for the revenues to pay pensions and fund mass transit) here. The women bought and sold would presumably be desperately poor women imported from desperately poor countries, illegal immigrants with no other options. That’s the way it works in Singapore and Amsterdam, from what I read. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if New York ended up bringing up the rear on that “economic development” opportunity, as it did on gambling.

Instead, perhaps desperate-for-revenues-other-than-taxes Oklahoma might take the lead, with poor, non-college-educated Oklahoma women available for rent, and sex tourism as an economic development opportunity. In addition to business opportunities, since you aren’t allowed to continue to collect unemployment or some types of other public assistance while refusing a legal job, it could be considered a way to reduce social services costs too. Rationalize the whole thing as empowering women being in control of their bodies and they might even get the few remaining Democrats on board there, as here. To really cash in, they could use “girl power” as a rationalization to lower the age of consent. As George Carlin might say, “it’s a good sound business solution.”

So with Republicans having this record in the state, might Oklahomans turn to the Democrats?  Not in this era, even though their local media (unlike large parts of our media) is willing to point out how badly they have been served by the local political monopoly, as shown in the articles above.  The locals don’t notice because they get their news from national outlets like Fox News, and know more about bad things happening NYC than just down the road.  Instead of worrying they might be killed in a car crash with an uninsured, stoned driver, they are concerned that I’ll either be killed by a stray bullet or pooped on by a homeless person while biking from Brooklyn to work in Midtown.

So there is a new Republican Governor, and they still haven’t learned their lesson.

House Bill 2962, by House Speaker Charles McCall, will reduce the top personal income tax rate to 4.75% from 5%. Most Oklahomans are in the top income tax bracket.  According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, of the 1,782,110 tax returns expected to be filed, 1,523,252 will pay less income tax, while 258,858 will have no change. No one is expected to see an increase.  The average savings is expected to be $131.

The measure also restores the refundability of the earned income tax credit.

For fiscal year 2023, the cost to the state is expected to be $236.7 million, according to House staff. But an increase in state revenue is expected to offset the reduction.

House Bill 2960, also by McCall, lowers the corporate income tax rate to 4% from 6% at a cost of $110.2 million for fiscal year 2023…

Critics of tax cuts say while it only takes a simple majority for a reduction, it takes a super majority of both chambers or a vote of the people to increase taxes due to State Question 640, approved by voters in 1992.

Sounds like NYC’s uber-costly public employee pensions that get increased when Wall Street and the economy are up because there is “plenty of money,” but then can never be reduced, resulting in tax increases and service cuts later, due to “circumstances beyond our control.”  Funny how that is.  Shouldn’t the push for tax cuts be in the high tax state, and the push for tax increases be in the low tax state, rather than the other way around?

There is this paranoia, in both political parties, about voting and vote counting.  Meanwhile, there seems to be no concern by anyone with the fact that most of us have only one real choice of who to vote for.  Just as in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.  The approved candidate of the regime.  In fact, even primaries are seen as problems if they threaten incumbents.

As long as there is no other alternative, they can get away with anything.  And they know it.  Here and there.


So what about a new political party? It would have a hard time gaining support in any legislative district or for any executive position where the Republicans and Democrats are competitive, because abandoning one of them would help the other.  But how many places like that are there with regard to the House of Representatives, the state legislatures, city councils, Mayors, even Governors?  

Shouldn’t there be an opening, given what the Republicans and Democrats have done to us?  Shouldn’t everyone under the age of 63, and certainly under the age of 45, be looking for an alternative, or at least revenge for decades of cashing in their future?  Alternative parties have historically held extreme, fringe views.  I don’t think “moderate” really means anything today either, and no one has ever called me one.  Today, however, remaining a democracy, telling the truth, and treating everyone equally – places, generations, etc. – is an extreme view. And this should open the door to an additional party, with its own media, if it could form without being taken over.

The record of new parties in New York is decidedly mixed.

Back in 1994, I appreciated what Tom Golisano did when he started a new political party and ran for Governor.  I didn’t agree with everything he said, but he got a lot of things right, including the need for ordinary people to try to participate in government if we are to have a democracy.  But soon after various political factions that knew how the election laws worked moved in, took over, and started fighting among themselves.  And the party started doing what almost all of New York’s other minor parties have done – cross endorse incumbents in exchange for a few crumbs of patronage.  If they are going to cross-endorse incumbents, what is the point?

The so-called Working Families Party was an astroturf movement from the start, created by some of the same organized interests who had been cashing in at the state level by wanted even more.  With those groups and their taxpayer-derived revenues remaining in control, that party has remained organized.

With such a limited impact, if by impact one means change, one would think New York’s Democrats would be unconcerned.  But as more and more of those they have actually served die off and move away, and government becomes a worse and worse deal for most of those who remain (even later-hired public union members), they have decided that any alternatives that might result in contested elections must be abolished.  And the establishment media, notably the editorialists at the Paper of Record, have for the most part backed them.

When one of the minor parties failed to cross endorse a major party candidate, and instead ran their own, the Democrats moved to try to eliminate them – all of them.

By a 6-3 vote, the commission voted that in order for political parties to maintain a guaranteed line on the state ballot, they must draw either 2 percent — or 130,000 votes — of the general election vote for governor or president every two years.

The current threshold is 50,000 votes every four years, pegged to the governor’s race, a level that regularly allowed multiple smaller parties on both ends of the political spectrum to qualify for state ballots.

Should a third party fail to garner the required number of votes, it can still regain a ballot line for a candidate through petitions.  But the commission agreed to make that process harder, too: It voted to raise the number of signatures required to petition onto the ballot to 45,000, from 15,000.

New York already requires independent candidates without an “official” established party to get three times as many signatures as an incumbent Democrat for offices such as state legislature and congress, and to collect them in less time.  In fact, nowhere else is more done to prevent non-incumbents from getting on the ballot than in New York.

The Democrats and the paper of record also opposed non-partisan city elections, which might have resulted in more than one Democrat – on backed by the special interests, and one not so backed, being on the on the ballot on Election Day, when everyone shows up.

Responding to critics who have grown more organized and vocal in recent weeks, Mr. Bloomberg lashed back, saying opponents were clinging to a flawed system merely because it benefited them by allowing them to remain in office.

”The more people scream about it, the more you know that you’ve hit the right nerve,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference in Harlem, where he announced the establishment of a new charter school. ”The fact of the matter is, those who have been able to manipulate the process don’t want to get rid of it.”

Then there are term limits, which the City of New York has as a result of initiative and referendum, and the State of New York does not.  With the city represented by legislators at each level, this has set up a double-blind test of democracy.  And one finds for more actual elections at the city level than at the state level as a result.  

When the state legislature does turn over, the replacements for the old legislators – generally in special elections no one even knows about, generally turn out of to their former staff members.  Even so…

We opposed term limits when New York City voters first approved them in 1993. (They were reaffirmed in 1996.) Term limits are undeniably seductive. They seem to promise relief from mediocre, self-perpetuating incumbents and from gridlocked legislatures in places like Albany. They also diminish democracy, arbitrarily deny choice, reduce accountability and squander experience.

Finally, the Democrats, their special interests, and the establishment media fought like hell to make sure no one even knew about a constitutionally required vote on whether to authorize a state constitutional convention, something that happens every 17 years.  Except those who know enough to keep “this thing of ours” going.

Vote no.  Vote “no” on New York Ballot Proposal 1. A convention would not accomplish anything that New York lawmakers couldn’t already do on their own.

Like enact term limits for New York lawmakers?

So back to my original idea, an additional party set up to take advantage of how bad the two existing parties are. Not by running a LaRouche-like crank for President, but rather by providing a second alternative in one party districts and states.  I don’t have a better idea.  Do you?

Which is why the most recent U.K. election was the most depressing of all.

There, as here, the two largest parties have made decision after decision, and presided over social and economic trend after social and economic trend, that have made life better for the generations in charge, now over age 62, and worse for those coming after.  Both were led by leaders generally thought out of touch with the actual needs of most people, dishonest, and generally unfit for office who had somehow climbed the greasy pole.

A popular parlour game in political circles is to debate which party is the biggest liar. The answer is that the Tories are probably the worst offenders and the Liberal Democrats probably the least bad, though they have a troubling habit of producing fake local newspapers. But this misses the larger point: that both the main contenders have turned disinformation into an art.

Both were in favor of Brexit, the hot button tribalist issue, but the majority of voters – and the vast majority of the later born – were against it.

On Friday the 13th, unlucky Britons will wake to find one of these horrors in charge.

But the UK has a third well-established major party to which voters could have turned.

That leaves a low bar for the Liberal Democrats, and they clear it. They, too, have become more extreme since we backed them in 2017. Under a new leader, Jo Swinson, they have gone beyond the idea of a second referendum for an irresponsible promise to reverse Brexit unilaterally. This has deservedly backfired. Yet their economic approach—a moderate increase in spending, paid for by broad-based tax increases—is the most sensible of the main parties, and is the only one to be honest about the cost of an ageing society. On climate change and social policy they strike the best balance between ambition and realism. As last time, they are the only choice for anyone who rejects both the hard Brexit of the Conservatives and the hard-left plans of Labour…

The past few years have shown why Parliament needs good people such as Sam Gyimah, who left the Tories because of their extremism, and Chuka Umunna, who left Labour because of theirs. The course of Brexit has been repeatedly changed for the better by independent-minded mps making the running. If Britain withdraws from the eu in January, the Lib Dem mps will be among the best advocates of a deep trade deal and the strongest opponents of no-deal. There is no good outcome to this nightmare of an election. But for the centre to hold is the best hope for Britain.

In a depressing outcome, the screwed later born folded and backed one of the two major parties, to get Brexit over with, and the Lib Dems lost big.  Perhaps the very presence of a third party that might benefit reduced the level of nasty personal attacks between Labor and the Conservatives, making these two parties seem less evil.  The way ranked choice voting, something I also favor, made personal attacks in the recent New York City election a bad strategy.

Are later-born voters happy with the consequences of their vote?  They are not.

Yet still, these suggestions presuppose that there can be a political solution to a demographic problem. Another option is neatly summed up by a popular meme: “I’m a millennial so my life goal is societal collapse.” Let’s *hope* it doesn’t come to that.  

And here in the U.S., there appear to be more people interested in overthrowing the government with violence than in overthrowing the government by fully participating in the democratic process.

Once again, do you have a better idea?  I wrote years ago that the way things were going, the U.S. seemed ready for an Il Duce.  And then we almost got one.

P.S. – when I ran my minor party protest campaign against New York’s state legislature in 2004 I would have used “Throw the Bastards Out Without Putting the Other Bastards In” as my slogan.  But Steve Isler, who was kind enough to put up a website for me…

Advised that candidates shouldn’t swear in public.  I wasn’t on my own ground, so I took his advice.  Given that I didn’t make much of an impact, I now wish I has used my original idea.  Perhaps someone would have said “Give ‘em Hell Larry” and I could have responded “I didn’t give them hell.  I told the truth and they thought it was hell.”  Even so thanks again Steve, if you are still out there somewhere.

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