Five Fold Today

Elijah & the Famine - Dives & Lazarus: a Primer on Liberation Theology - The Age of Radical Evil - Where Are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable? - Fighting Fascism, Time for New Tactics - Venezuela’s Coronavirus Response Might Surprise You - “The American Disease”: Only the Overthrow of the Oligarchy Will Cure It

April 11th, 2020

Elijah & & the Famine

-by Dale Garris.

And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me.  And all the people came near unto him.  And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. - 1 Kings 18:30

Just a few years before this showdown on Mount Carmel, Israel had been lush with prosperity and wealth.  King Ahab had led the Israelites on a path that led farther away from the old, established worship of God than any before him, and had brought them to a life of riches, prosperity, and licentiousness.  

The gods that he and his wife Jezebel had enticed the people of God with appealed to their earthly and fleshly desires. No longer did they have to be constricted with an old religion that demanded holiness and the fear of the Lord. No longer did they have to lead a life of separation from the things of the world that other, more prosperous nations enjoyed. They could enjoy the prosperity and fullness of riches without the constraints of a religion that had become outmoded and old-fashioned.

Life was good.  So when Elijah pronounced the judgments of God upon Israel, they laughed him out of the king's court.  The true prophets of God had been eradicated from the public place and were no longer a thorn in the side of everyone who wanted the rewards of love, peace, and prosperity. You were no longer allowed to mention the name of Jehovah, much less pray to him in a public place. They now had priests and prophets of Baal that had replaced those old critical and judgmental men who had caused such consternation in the land.

Elijah had stood as the one, lone voice who cried for a return to righteousness.  

And who was this hairy old man?  He didn't seem to be of any real consequence.  He had no credentials, no theological bearing, and no consequential importance.  Even his dress revealed his lack of social prominence and his irrelevance in such a modern, sophisticated time as this.

Ahab's ears may have been deaf to Elijah's pronouncement, but when Elijah spoke, God listened.  The Ahab's court may have derided him with laughter as he stood before the king, but 3 years later, no one was laughing.

We have followed a course similar to the one that Ahab had led Israel down. The Gospel we listen to is far different than the Gospel our grandfathers believed in. We decry the old brush arbor revivalists as hard, judgmental men who did not understand the love of God, and we have traded their message of repentance and holiness for one that is a kinder, gentler approach which promises love and peace and prosperity.  

But the love, peace, and prosperity that our modern prophets have promised us are but a worldly shadow of that which God offers us through a walk of righteousness in the fear of the Lord.  

We have been like the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai - we feared and trembled at the presence of God when the mount shook with fire and smoke, but as soon as Moses departed up the mountain and we were left to our own devices, we made for ourselves a golden calf to worship in God's place.  

I have said for 7 years now that something is coming to America that will be far worse than 9/11, but I never knew what form that judgment would take. Would it be a dirty nuclear explosion in one of our cities, or an epidemic, or some natural disaster?  We would be hurt, but it wouldn't take long to go back to our old ways. We are the great and mighty America, and we have an innate belief that we will always bounce back and dominate.

What if it wasn't any of those imagined disasters, but something that struck right to the heart of that which we cherish the most? What if we lost our prosperity and wealth?  And what if it consumed every level of our society and every part of our country?

We are living in that time of drought when the ravens fed Elijah by the brook Cherith, right after he fled the king's court.  

We look to our televangelists who promise us blessings, and refuse to consider that our lust for those promises is what has led us to this drought in the first place.  But we still flip on the TV and hope for a word of encouragement that will convince us to hang on to a Gospel that has a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof. And of course, they tell us exactly what we want to hear, along with an encouragement to send them your money so that God can release His blessings all over you - but never a word of reproof or repentance.

The job of a prophet is not to tell you how beloved you are, how many blessings God wants to bestow upon you, or how much love is in your church. The job of a prophet is to rebuild the old broken down altars of God and declare unto the people of God their sins and transgressions so that they may come to a place of repentance and, once again, return to the true God of Israel.

"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked... As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." - Rev 3:17-19


Dives & Lazarus: a Primer on Liberation Theology

By Mike Rivage-Seul

Today's liturgy of the word provides us with a virtual catechism of liberation theology, Christianity's most important theological development in the last 1500 years, and the West's most important social movement of the last 150 years.

I have come to those conclusions over a period of more than forty years studying liberation theology. My interest began in Rome during my graduate studies there, 1967 through 1972. There I first heard Peru's Gustavo Gutierrez speak. (Fr. Gutierrez is considered the father of liberation theology.)

Subsequently I read Gutierrez's book, A Theology of Liberation (1971) and was completely taken by it. Reading the book gave me the feeling that I was hearing Jesus' Gospel for the very first time.

You might ask, what is liberation theology? To answer that question fully, please look at my blog entries under the "liberation theology" button. I've written a series on the question. In my blogs, you'll find that I always define it in a single sentence. Liberation theology is reflection on the following of Christ from the viewpoint of the world's poor and oppressed. That's the class of people to which Jesus himself belonged. They constituted the majority of his first followers.

When read from their viewpoint, accounts of Jesus' words and deeds, the entire Bible for that matter take on depths of meaning and relevance to our contemporary world that are otherwise inaccessible to people like us who live in the heart of the wealthy world. From the viewpoint of the poor, God passes from being a neutral observer of earth's injustices to an active participant with the poor as they struggle for justice here on earth. Jesus becomes the personification of that divine commitment to the oppressed. After all, he was poor and oppressed himself. The Roman Empire and its Temple priest collaborators saw to that.

My interest in liberation theology deepened as my teaching career developed at Berea College in Kentucky from 1974 to 2014. There I was encouraged to continue my study of liberation theology. So, I spent extended periods in Brazil, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, Zimbabwe, South Africa, India and elsewhere studying under liberation theologians, dialoging and publishing with them. The poor in all of those countries were suffering from the aggression the United States directed against them.

Meanwhile at Berea, I found the conclusions of liberation theologians validated by the college's very fine scripture scholars. They had almost no acquaintance with liberation theology, and yet what they were teaching perfectly harmonized with its central tenets. It's just that they stopped short of drawing what seemed to me the obvious political conclusions from their work.

More specifically, Berea's scholars identified the Exodus (Yahweh's liberation of slaves from Egypt) as God's original and paradigmatic revelation. The whole tradition began there, not in the Garden of Eden. Moreover, the Jewish prophetic tradition emphasized what we now call "social justice." Even more, Jesus of Nazareth appeared in the prophetic tradition, not as a priest or king. Jesus directed his "ministry" to the poor and outcasts. The Gospel of Luke (4: 18-19) has Jesus describing his program in the following words:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

After his death, Jesus' followers continued along those lines. They lived communally, having sold all their worldly possessions and distributed the proceeds to the poor.

All of that finds vivid expression in today's liturgy of the word. As I said, it's a kind of catechism of liberation theology. The reading from Amos the prophet describes the sin that most offends God, wealth disparity in the face of extreme poverty. Amos decries a "wanton revelry" on the part of the wealthy that sounds like the "American Way of Life" or the "Lives of the Rich and Famous" that we Americans find so fascinating.

The prophet describes a rich class that lives like King David himself in luxurious houses, overeating, drinking wine by the bowlful, and generally ignoring "the collapse of Joseph," i.e. the poverty of their country's most destitute. For that, Amos says, the rich will ultimately suffer. All their wealth will be confiscated and they will be driven into shameful exile.

In railing against the rich and defending the poor, Amos was calling Judah back to the worship of Yahweh whose attributes are described in today's responsorial psalm. There God is depicted as loving the just and thwarting the ways of the wicked. The psalm describes Yahweh as securing justice for the oppressed, giving food to the hungry, and setting captives free. He gives sight to the blind and protects resident aliens, single mothers and their children.

Then today's excerpt from 1st Timothy outlines the characteristics of those who worship that God by following in Jesus' footsteps. They keep the commandment which is to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

According to St. Paul, that means pursuing justice and living with devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.

Finally, the gospel selection from Luke chapter 16 dramatizes the sinful relationship between rich and poor and the destinies awaiting both. Luke tells the story of the rich man and "St. Lazarus" who is honored by the poor throughout Latin America.

It is significant that Lazarus is given a name in Jesus' parable. Usually we know the names of the rich, while it is the poor that remain anonymous. Here matters are reversed. To remedy this anomaly, tradition has assigned the wealthy man a name. He's called Dives, which is simply the Latin word for rich man.

For his part, Lazarus is quintessentially poor, hungry, and lacking medical care. His sores are open and the only attention they receive are from dogs licking his wounds. Meanwhile, Dives seems completely unaware of Lazarus' presence, though the beggar is standing at his very doorstep. Within the sight of Lazarus, the wealthy one stuffs himself with food to such a degree that the scraps falling from his table would be enough to nourish the poor beggar. But not even those crumbs are shared. How could Dives share? He doesn't even know that Lazarus exists.

So, the two men die, and things are evened out. The rich man goes to hell. We're not told why. Within the limits of the story, it seems simply for the crime of being rich and unconsciously blind to the presence of the poor. For his part, Lazarus goes to the "bosom of Abraham," the original Hebrew patriarch.

Lazarus is rewarded. Again, we're not told why. Within the story, it seems simply because he was poor and Yahweh is partial to the poor, just as he was to the slaves God intervened to save when they were starving in Egypt.

Seated with Abraham, Lazarus feasts and feasts at the eternal banquet hungry people imagine heaven to be. Dives however is consumed by flame in the afterlife. Fire, of course, is the traditional symbol of God's presence, or purification, and of punishment. This seems to suggest that after death, both Dives and Lazarus find themselves in the presence of God. However what Lazarus experiences as joyful, Dives experiences as tormenting.

And why? Simply, it seems, because Dives was rich, and Lazarus was poor.

Does the parable tell us that what awaits us all after death is a reversal of the economic conditions in which we now find ourselves? The first will be last; the last first. The rich will be poor, and the poor will be rich. That in itself is highly thought-provoking.

In any case, Yahweh is presented as champion of the poor in this parable, just as in the reading from Amos, in today's responsorial psalm, and in Paul's letter to Timothy. And according to liberation theologians, that's the central characteristic of God throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition. God is on the side of the poor and hates obscene wealth disparity.

You can well imagine how such insight inspired the poor and oppressed throughout the world when it emerged as "liberation theology" following the Second Vatican Council. Poor people everywhere (and especially in Latin America) took courage and were inspired to demand social justice from the rich who had been ignoring them in the New World since the arrival of Columbus 500 years earlier. In fact, Liberation theology motivated social movements more powerfully than any thought-current since the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848.

And that's why the reigning empire, the United States of America took action against liberation theology. It initiated what Noam Chomsky calls "the first religious war of the 21st century." It was a war of the United States against the Catholic Church in Latin America -- yes against the Catholic Church. The war killed hundreds of thousands of priests, nuns, lay catechists, social workers, union organizers, students, teachers, and journalists along with ordinary farmers and workers.

Today's liturgy of the word reminds us not to let the United States have the final word. We are called to divest ourselves of our wealth and to take notice of St. Lazarus at our gates. God is on the side of the poor, not of the rich.

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The Age of Radical Evil

Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges, an ordained Presbyterian minister, gave this sermon Sunday [a while back] at the Claremont Presbyterian Church in Claremont, Calif.

Immanuel Kant coined the term “radical evil.’ It was the privileging of one´s own interest over that of others, effectively reducing those around you to objects to be manipulated and used for your own ends. But Hannah Arendt, who also used the term “radical evil,’ saw that it was worse than merely treating others as objects. Radical evil, she wrote, rendered vast numbers of people superfluous. They possessed no value at all. They were, once they could not be utilized by the powerful, discarded as human refuse.

We live in an age of radical evil. The architects of this evil are despoiling the earth and driving the human species toward extinction. They are stripping us of our most basic civil liberties and freedoms. They are orchestrating the growing social inequity, concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a cabal of global oligarchs. They are destroying our democratic institutions, turning elected office into a system of legalized bribery, stacking our courts with judges who invert constitutional rights so that unlimited corporate money invested in political campaigns is disguised as the right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Their seizure of power has vomited up demagogues and con artists including Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, each the distortion of a failed democracy. They are turning America´s poor communities into internal militarized colonies where police carry out lethal campaigns of terror and use the blunt instrument of mass incarceration as a tool of social control. They are waging endless wars in the Middle East and diverting half of all discretionary spending to a bloated military. They are placing the rights of the corporation above the rights of the citizen.

Arendt captured the radical evil of a corporate capitalism in which people are rendered superfluous—surplus labor as Karl Marx said—and pushed to the margins of society where they and their children are no longer considered to have value, value always determined by the amount of money produced and amassed. But as the Gospel of Luke reminds us, “what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.’

Who are those who would sacrifice us on the altar of global capitalism? How did they amass the power to deny us a voice, to insist that the earth is an inert commodity they have a right to exploit until the ecosystem that sustains life collapses and the human species, along with most other species, becomes extinct?

These architects of radical evil have been here from the beginning. They are the slaveholders who crammed men, women and children into the holds of ships and sold them in auctions in Charleston and Montgomery, rending families apart, taking from them their names, language, religion and culture. They wielded the whips, the chains, the dogs and the slave patrols. They orchestrated the holocaust of slavery, and when slavery was abolished, after a war that left 700,000 dead, they used convict leasing—slavery by another name—along with lynching and black codes, to carry out a reign of terror that continues today in our deindustrialized cities and our prisons. Black and brown bodies are worth nothing to our corporate masters when on the streets of our decayed cities, but locked in cages they each generate 50 or 60 thousand dollars a year. Some people say the system does not work. They are wrong. The system works exactly as it is designed to work.

These architects of radical evil are the white militias and Army units that stole the land, decimated the herds of buffalo, signed the treaties that were promptly violated and carried out a campaign of genocide against indigenous people, penning the few who remained in prisoner of war camps. They are the gun thugs, BaldwinFelts and Pinkerton agents who gunned down, by the hundreds, American workers struggling to organize, forces of the kind that today oversee the bonded labor of workers in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. They are the oligarchs, J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller and Carnegie, who paid for these rivers of blood, and who today, like Tim Cook at Apple and Jeff Bezos at Amazon, amass staggering fortunes from human misery.

We know these architects of radical evil. They are the DNA of American capitalism. You can find them on the commodity desks at Goldman Sachs. The financial firm´s commodities index is the most heavily traded in the world. These traders buy up futures of rice, wheat, corn, sugar and livestock and jack up the commodity prices by as much as 200% on the global market so that the poor in Asia, Africa and Latin America can no longer afford basic staples, and starve. Hundreds of millions of people go hungry to feed this mania for profit, this radical evil that sees human beings, including children, as worth nothing.

These architects of radical evil extract the coal, oil and gas, poisoning our air, soil and water, while demanding huge taxpayer subsidies and blocking the urgent transition to renewable energy. They are the massive corporations that own the factory farms, egg hatcheries and dairy farms where tens of billions of animals endure horrendous abuse before being needlessly slaughtered, part of an animal agriculture industry that is one of the leading multifactorial causes of climate catastrophe. They are the generals and arms manufacturers. They are the bankers, hedge fund managers and global speculators who looted $7 trillion from the U.S. treasury after the pyramid schemes and fraud they carried out imploded the global economy in 2007-2008. They are the goons in state security who make us the most spied-upon, watched, monitored and photographed population in human history. When your government watches you 24 hours a day you cannot use the word “liberty.’ This is the relationship between a master and a slave.

Corporate culture serves a faceless system. It is, as Hannah Arendt wrote, “the rule of nobody and for this very reason perhaps the least human and most cruel form of rulership.’ It will stop at nothing. Anyone or any movement that attempts to impede their profits will be targeted for obliteration. These architects of radical evil are incapable of reform. Appealing to their better nature is a waste of time. They don´t have one. They have rigged the system, elections dominated by corporate money, the courts, the press a vast burlesque show for profit, which is why they spend so much time focused on Trump. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or Exxon, Shell, BP and Chevron, which along with the other top 20 fossil fuel corporations have contributed 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane emissions worldwide—480 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent since 1965.

We know these architects of radical evil. They have been and always will be with us.

But who are those who resist? Where do they come from? What historical, social and cultural forces created them?

They too are familiar. They are Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, John Brown, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. They are Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Chief Joseph. They are Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Emma Goldman. They are “Big Bill’ Haywood, Joe Hill and Eugene V. Debs. They are Woody Guthrie, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer. They are Andrea Dworkin and Caesar Chavez. They are those who from the beginning fought back, often to be defeated by this radical evil but knowing they were called to defy it, even at the cost of their own reputations, financial security, social standing and sometimes their lives.

The architects of radical evil are disemboweling every last social service program funded by the taxpayers, from education to Social Security, because lives that do not swell their profits are considered superfluous. Let the sick die. Let many of the poor—41 million people, including children—go to bed hungry. Let families be tossed into the streets. Let the young graduate have no meaningful employment. Let the U.S. prison system, with 25% of the world´s prison population, swell. Let torture continue. Let assault rifles proliferate to fuel the epidemic of mass shootings. Let the roads, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, rail lines, subways, bus services, schools and libraries crumble or close. Let the rising temperatures, the freak weather patterns, the monster cyclones and hurricanes, the droughts, the flooding, the tornadoes, the wildfires, the melting polar ice caps, the poisoned water systems and the polluted air worsen until the species dies.

Many in the church are complicit in this radical evil, failing to name it and denounce it, just as we failed to see in the thousands of men, women and children who were lynched the very crucifixion itself, as James Cone pointed out. And this complicity and silence condemns us. It is why W.E.B. Du Bois called “white religion’ a “miserable failure.’

“Black people did not need to go to seminary and study theology to know that white Christianity was fraudulent,’ Cone wrote in “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.’ “As a teenager in the South where whites treated blacks with contempt, I and other blacks knew that the Christian identity of whites was not a true expression of what it means to follow Jesus. Nothing their theologians and preachers could say would convince us otherwise. We wondered how whites could live with their hypocrisy—such blatant contradiction of the man from Nazareth. (I am still wondering about that!) White conservative Christianity´s blatant endorsement of lynching as a part of its religion, and white liberal Christians´ silence about lynching placed both outside of Christian identity. I could not find one sermon or theological essay, not to mention a book, opposing lynching by a prominent liberal white preacher. There was no way a community could support or ignore lynching in America, while still representing in word and deed the one who was lynched by Rome.’

We have failed to denounce the Christian fascists who peddle a magic Jesus who will make us rich, a Jesus who blesses America above other countries and the white race above other races, a Jesus who turns the barbarity of war into a holy crusade, for the heretics they are. And we have failed, as well, to confront the radical evil of corporate capitalism. Let us not once again render our faith a miserable failure.

Defying evil cannot be rationally defended. It makes a leap into the moral, which is beyond rational thought. It refuses to place a monetary value on human life or the natural world. It refuses to see anyone as superfluous. It acknowledges human life, indeed all life, as sacred. And this is why, as Arendt points out, the only morally reliable people are not those who say “this is wrong’ or “this should not be done,’ but those who say “I can´t do this.’

Those who come out of a religious tradition, any religious tradition, have a responsibility to fight this latest iteration of radical evil, which is swiftly ensuring that our species and many other species will not have a future on this earth. It is our religious duty to place our bodies in front of the machine, as many of us did in the protests organized by Extinction Rebellion last week around the globe.

“The law, as presently revered and taught and enforced, is becoming an enticement to lawlessness,’ Dan Berrigan wrote. “Lawyers and laws and courts and penal systems are nearly immobile before a shaken society, which is making civil disobedience a civil (I dare say a religious) duty. The law is aligning itself more and more with forms of power whose existence is placed more and more in question. … So, if they would obey the law, [people] are being forced, in the present crucial instance, either to disobey God or to disobey the law of humanity.’

Let us not in this present historical period replicate our sins of the past. Let us affirm our faith by affirming our defiance, our willingness to engage in the acts of sustained civil disobedience against the forces of radical evil. Let future generations say of us that we tried, that we were not complicit through our collaboration or our silence. There will be a cost. History shows us that. All moral battles have a cost, and if there is not a cost then the battle is not moral. Accept becoming an outcast. Jesus, after all, was an outcast. We are called by God to defy radical evil. This defiance is the highest form of spirituality.

Where Are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing."

by Ralph Nader

The British political philosopher, John Stuart Mill, was a man of many pithy phrases. Possibly his most widely quoted assertion is that “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.’

This quote fits the Trump age perfectly. Where are you, Barack Obama? Obama is still polling higher than any other politician, active or retired. Instead of speaking out, he is making movies, maybe writing another book, and otherwise really enjoying himself.

Where are you Condoleezza Rice? She encouraged Rex Tillerson to be Trump´s Secretary of State, but Tillerson was cast aside in 2018 by a sneering Trump, who pronounced him “dumb as a rock.’ Condoleezza is collecting honors and large speech fees and teaching at Stanford University (keep in mind that Rice was on the inside during the criminal Bush/Cheney war in Iraq, which she supported and defended).

Where are you General Colin Powell? Powell is another former disgusted high official still high in the polls. He thinks he is hated by the White House. He needs to speak up, as his formidable former Chief of Staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, has repeatedly done.

The list could go on and on. The former high officials or elected politicians, now retired, who do want to speak up, complain that they can´t get any media attention. If that is true, they should organize into a collective force, with some staff, to help push for media attention. I´m sure they will be able to attract some enlightened large donors.

Not all former officials are AWOL. Some former officials write prominent op-eds in newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Some former Obama-era public servants started a podcast called Pod Save America. These efforts are, sadly, not enough to compete with Trump´s onslaught.

It is imperative that these political figures speak out, stand tall, and push back against Trump´s worsening outrages. Trump´s brazen lies obscure his administration´s secrecy and cover-ups; for his abysmal betrayals of workers, patients, consumers, communities; and for Trump´s false pledges that he would help create a safe, healthy environment. Remember his nonsensical rhetoric about clean air, clean water, and beautiful, clean coal.

He still thinks evidence about climate disruption is a “Chinese hoax.’

In his mass rallies – that screen out critical citizens – Trump knowingly lies with reckless abandon. For example, at his recent Dallas rally, Trump said that he has brought the “largest decline in drug prices in over 51 years.’ Actually, drug prices are soaring as deprived patients, insurance company executives, and Medicare officials know so well. So what does Trump add? He tells his believers that the reason they don´t know about lower drug prices is that the media, which he calls “crooked,’ “corrupt,’ and “fake,’ isn´t telling Americans the truth.

That Trump has lied over ten thousand times to the American people is itself, given their many ramifications, a “violation of the public trust,’ which Alexander Hamilton described as an impeachable offense.  Trump lies more in a month than other presidents do during their entire four year term.

Many of the influential people who are silent about Trump´s abuses have no economic worries. They are sufficiently or extravagantly well-off. They have no concerns over the need for future jobs, being in their sixties or seventies. Retired lawyers who see Trump trampling on our constitutional and legal frameworks should be particularly incensed.

If some billionaire would fund the creation of a Secretariat to promote the views of Trump´s critics, a small experienced staff and these influential people together could create a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

Former lawmakers and executive officials, when acting together and assisted by a support staff, can multiply their efforts. Former Senators Lowell Wiecker and Gary Hart; former EPA chiefs, such as William Ruckelshaus; and former governors of New Jersey, Thomas Keane and Christine Todd Whitman are all critical of Trump´s misbehavior. Trump ravages people and lies about a variety of serious matters without rebuttal. As we know from history, an unchallenged lie, repeated over and over again begins to sink in. It is imperative that accomplished people who challenge Trump´s lies gain public credibility. Just consider the “nicknames’ Trump assigns to his adversaries, without any nicknames being successfully applied to him. “Crooked Donald,’ “Decadent Donald,’ “Draft-dodging Donald,’ “Disgraceful Donald,’ “Lying Donald,’ and so forth. He has used such monikers, and worse, to slander opponents and these insults have been repeated by the mass media. Trump´s victims are not afforded a chance to respond to his invectives.

A few media critics, notably Margaret Sullivan from The Washington Post, have chided their editors for allowing such defamatory Trumpian soliloquies. To avoid being his bullhorn, Sullivan argues, the media should not report such abuses. At a minimum, those who are attacked by Trump should be offered the chance to respond. Rebutting bullies is the first step in balancing the public stage. This would be particularly effective for a nasty, thin-skinned bully like Donald Trump.

Fighting Fascism - Time for New Tactics

By Michele Goddard

This article examines the current rise in right wing ideology through the lens of psychology and evolutionary biology. By examining the underlying psychological traits of right vs left and the predator/prey characteristics represented, liberals and progressives can evolve past their traditionally passive and reactionary role to authoritarian regimes and proactively neutralize them.

As much as we might not want to admit it, and as reluctant as we are to engage in it, progressives need to acknowledge that we are in a war.  We have been targeted.  This is not a metaphor.  We have been defined as the enemy by the right, and as their language and rhetoric ramps up, as they lurch towards physical acts of violence I wonder when progressives will realize that this is no longer an act of philosophic debate, no longer is it a difference of political opinion, we are looked upon as prey.  And sadly, just like the liberals before us who found themselves on the receiving end of a fascist takeover, we are woefully behind the 8 ball.  In spite of all of our lamenting about the rhetoric of the right, we don't ever seem to mobilize in any meaningful way to protect ourselves until it is too late.  Right wing governments are rising the world over and time is up for us to stop wringing our hands and get a tactical plan together.  I have a plan, I would like to share it with you.

The first thing must do is understand WHY liberals and progressives are always caught off guard when right wing rulers start rounding us up and throwing us in prisons or worse.  To start with, our brains, our psychology suggests that we have certain fundamental differences in behavior and though patterns.  We can't "talk sense" to them or shame them out of their conduct.  Ween we try our best and it has no effect, we sit and scratch our heads or call  them ignorant and walk away.

Liberals, progressives and intellectuals by their nature are, generally speaking, less prone to violence for several reasons.  Many acts of violence are often carried out in a moment of rage that overwhelms the perpetrator and obscures his or her logic and moral base.  We are always told that if we feel angry to count to ten, to give ourselves a moment of calm so as no to react reflexively to this anger and to give our senses time to rebalance against our emotions.  This occurs naturally in those with an analytical, philosophic nature because they are prone to investigate an issue, to see it from all sides, to test their own assumptions and biases against that of their "gut" reaction.  Their moral convictions are based on a broad and lengthy library of mental transcripts, comparing each new situation to the ones in the past, looking for connections and anomalies.  They insist on rationality.  They rest secure in their positions because they are based on continuity, not the moment.  So perhaps the mere process of all of this examination gives even the most passionate liberal time to channel his or her outrage into a better understanding of the situation.  But as for action, they are slow.  They burrow themselves into their positions as deeply as conservatives do, but the difference is, their conviction is self brought.  Those on the left are a collective ,but each one is on his own journey to discover the truth, and although objective truth is impossible for us to know in its purest sense, we come to a general agreement on many things because we use the same processes of evidence, logic and rationality to arrive at our beliefs.

The right is not so much this way.  In fact, they are very much the opposite.  The dynamic which drives the conservative is not an individualistic pursuit of truth, but an adherence to a set of ideals dictated to them by an authority.  In this case, Donald Trump, but to be sure, the church, the military and police are organizations where a set of dictates drives action.  Obedience is a prerequisite to all of these top down structures.  You are to do as you are told.  You are not to question.  To question God, the Church, the President, the Police or a Soldier is all tantamount to heresy.  It shouldn't surprise us that Donald Trump, following in the established pattern of car salesmen turned tv preacher/conman is highly effective at leading the Republicans down this path toward totalitarianism.  They are ruled by emotion and love to revel in it without any annoying pauses for thoughtful reflection.  Watching Donald Trump's rallies, the crowds amped up, dripping with their common iconography of flags and MAGA hats reminds me of the vast sea of devotees, the poor, giving their money to a fire and brimstone televangelist in need to a second private jet.  The image of the Republicans "storming" the room where hearings were being "held in secret" reminded me of the mobs of Charlottesville - were it not for fire codes, I could easily envision Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz leading the march with torches in hand.  

For conservatives, their trust, their faith, their emotion, their devotion is measured by their willingness to forgo logic.  To question is sinful and shows a weakness of faith.  In fact there is a reaction of anger underlaid with fear, that occurs when they are presented with information which may cause them to change their minds.  They fear cognitive dissonance because the very act of considering that they may not be right, that their trusted leader may have told them a lie, is to them, a slippery slope into disobedience. But it is also a personal fear that lives within the conservative.  To them, their very survival is predicated on holding to these "eternal truths".  If they dare to loosen their grip on the holy doctrines of Fox News and Trump's tweets, if they feel themselves tempted by the demonic forces of rationality they will disintegrate into a pile of dust.

So what does this mean?  What it means is that it's time for liberals and progressives to understand what we are up against and to start changing our tactics before it is too late.  Let me use an analogy to further my point.

We have all seen nature shows where the lion "king of the jungle" prowls stealthily in the grass, ever driven by his need to hunt, to kill and gorge himself of the blood of his prey while his intended meal munches peacefully in the grass among the herd.  The lion is a meat eater and survival for him means to hunt and kill.  He is not evil, but is driven by his need to eat to survive.  It is merely a fact of evolution that his survival depends on his drive to kill prey.  All of his senses are specifically designed around the hunt.

The prey, an antelope, per say, lives by grazing.  Its food does not think or run or fight back.  Therefore its survival is not based on the hunt.  It is not more benevolent than the lion.  Its is merely by evolutionary design, that the desire to hunt and kill is absent.  The antelope has developed some defensive tactics against the lion.  They are not completely helpless.  But when the lion attacks, the antelope are REACTING to the lion's action.  Being proactive is not something the antelope is really capable of.  In some prey species having large scores of offspring is a result of many young succumbing to predators, but these are not really proactive, but are still a reaction to being devoured in large numbers.

The brains of liberals and conservatives are not that unlike these two camps.  Conservatives are like the lion.  They are driven by an internal belief that to survive they must always be engaged in the hunt.  Even in times of peace they are always on the hunt for more.  More prey.  More resources.  More power.  Liberals, like the antelope, are live and let live.  If left alone, we will munch our grass, choose our mates, birth our young, nurture the next generation to adulthood and  then die, without ever feeling a desire to kill anything unless it threatens our young.

When the lions attack, there is among the herd a sense of intense panic. From the first of the herd to hear a rustling in the grass to the all out chaos of the stampede as the alarm is sounded, to the lion finally taking one of the antelope down.  And as the lion finishes his prey, its last frantic bleating brought to an end in the powerful jaws, the herd, realizing the hunt is over, calms quite quickly and returns to normal.  They go back to munching the grass until the next attack.

Liberals have to develop new tactics because the "prey" that conservatives are seeing is more than just a meal to survive.  The hunt they are on is for ideological compliance. Their hunt is about "convert or die"  When the balance of power is held in check by the trappings of democracy and the rule of law it is easy to look at the "extreme" cases that pop up here and there as outliers.  We see the emergence of certain aspects of authoritarianism as sectional and unrelated but they aren't.  While we have been munching grass, the conservatives have built an infrastructure, an ideological movement, a battleplan, right under our noses and as these plans begin to take shape as Donald Trump lurking in the tall grass, we have to sound the alarm, because the convergence of all these extreme elements leads to the destruction of democracy and the rule of law.  And once authoritarianism is unleashed, it will be a feeding frenzy.  We have already seen certain members of the herd singled out.  The media and journalists.  People of color and immigrants.  Religious minorities and trans people.  The lions are on the hunt.

As we watch children in cages, we hear the bleating cries of the injured in the mouth of the lion.   We dart about our senses heightened, but we haven't formulated a plan.  We have to stop doing this over and over.  If Donald Trump's presidency doesn't lead to the abolishment of democracy and his installment as ruler for life, we have to consider this our last chance to evolve.

We have to realize going forward that we need to evolve and there is hard science which suggests that predator and prey evolve together and that the roles can be reversed given certain environmental factors.  Conservatives will often tout the concept of "survival of the fittest" and praise the archetype of the hunter, a strong belief in dominance and destruction of the weak.  Hitler was a big fan.  But so were many common people swept up in the racism of eugenics.  They laud these theories because they see themselves as apex predators and they want to keep what they feel is the "king of the jungle" position.  This underlying belief is expressed through racism, patriarchy, misogyny and narcissism that shows its ugly head in blatant ways at times.  Donald Trump's father explained it to him in terms of "killers" and "losers" and told him you had to be one or the other. Killers know how to be aggressive and take what they want. If you want a beautiful woman, just grab her by the p*ssy, and brag about it.   These things are not detractors to those on the right, but are signals of pride.  A badge of honor that they are predators not prey.

But scientists who study the evolutionary dynamics of predator prey relationships have shown that roles can change and even reverse.  Without getting too deep into the mechanics of how this happens (you can read more here )

I will say that the political parties, across the globe, as experiencing a shift.  The tactics used by the conservative and right wing governments, racial hatred, xenophobia, oppression of women, propaganda, religious fundamentalism and nationalism have been in decline over the last 200 years, with violent spasms occurring periodically.  The conservatives wail about the expansion of liberty and progressive ideas as a threat that must be dealt with .  Overall however, the herd has been signaling when one of these traits exposes itself and we call it out as dangerous.  The revival of right wing ideology we are witnessing is a sign that the prey is getting more connected, more responsive and it frightens them.  Donald Trump is the backlash of progress.

To truly bring an end to the threat however we have to be proactive.  If the predator hides in tall grass, cut it down, don't give them places to hide.  Be a citizen journalist.  Report everything to your community.  Talk to each other.  Foster interconnectedness.  Organize.  Empower.  Make real, tangible plans.

We have to educate new generations to the dangerous tactics of the predators.  Don't teach about Nazis as if their existence came as a surprise, but rather, was a predictable and foreseeable outcome. Identify trends that lead to cult like obedience and target the source.  Develop infrastructure that advances egalitarianism over hierarchical systems. Praise collaboration and cooperation over competition and winning.  Focus on family and community units.  Use technology to better signal one another and maintain vigilance.  Build up your defenses.  And remember, that if the predators take control, even briefly, they will be ruthless and savage in their treatment of their "prey".  Being a pacifist doesn't mean you are willing to be slaughtered.  Be ok with, be comfortable with, the idea of defending yourself, before it actually becomes necessary.

Submitters Bio:

I was born in 1970 in Wheeling, WV and have lived here all my life. I come from mostly Irish Catholic coal miners and railroad workers. My original academic interest was in teaching foreign languages studying both French and Spanish in High School. After high school I married and had two children.

My first jobs were waitressing and hotel housekeeper and Medicaid Billing Clerk. I recieved my Associates in 2003 studying social services and child development. I took several years off from college to focus on working and trying to raise a family. I returned to school in 2006 and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice from West Liberty State College (Now West Liberty University) in 2008. I worked in the security field for 13 years.

My interests include politics, law, history, travel and language. I have been called a conspiracy theorist at times, but often remind my critics that often the only difference between a conspiracy theory and history is 40 years.

I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to hold its government accountable and to push for the government to serve the people not the other way around.

Venezuela´s Coronavirus Response Might Surprise You

By Leonardo Flores

Within a few hours of being launched, over 800 Venezuelans in the U.S. registered for an emergency flight from Miami to Caracas through a website run by the Venezuelan government. This flight, offered at no cost, was proposed by President Nicolás Maduro when he learned that 200 Venezuelans were stuck in the United States following his government´s decision to stop commercial flights as a preventative coronavirus measure. The promise of one flight expanded to two or more flights, as it became clear that many Venezuelans in the U.S. wanted to go back to Venezuela, yet the situation remains unresolved due to the U.S. ban on flights to and from the country.

Those who rely solely on the mainstream media might wonder who in their right mind would want to leave the United States for Venezuela. Numerous outlets—including TIME magazine, the Washington Post, The Hill, the Miami Herald, and others—published opinions in the past week describing Venezuela as a chaotic nightmare. These media outlets painted a picture of a coronavirus disaster, of government incompetence and of a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. The reality of Venezuela´s coronavirus response is not covered by the mainstream media at all.

Furthermore, what each of these articles shortchanges is the damage caused by the Trump administration´s sanctions, which devastated the economy and healthcare system long before the coronavirus pandemic. These sanctions have impoverished millions of Venezuelans and negatively impact vital infrastructure, such as electricity generation. Venezuela is impeded from importing spare parts for its power plants and the resulting blackouts interrupt water services that rely on electric pumps. These, along with dozens of other implications from the hybrid war on Venezuela, have caused a decline in health indicators across the board, leading to 100,000 deaths as a consequence of the sanctions.

Regarding coronavirus specifically, the sanctions raise the costs of testing kits and medical supplies, and ban Venezuela´s government from purchasing medical equipment from the U.S. (and from many European countries). These obstacles would seemingly place Venezuela on the path to a worst-case scenario, similar to Iran (also battered by sanctions) or Italy (battered by austerity and neoliberalism). In contrast to those two countries, Venezuela took decisive steps early on to face the pandemic.

As a result of these steps and other factors, Venezuela is currently in its best-case scenario. As of this writing, 11 days after the first confirmed case of coronavirus, the country has 86 infected people, with 0 deaths. Its neighbors have not fared as well: Brazil has 1,924 cases with 34 deaths; Ecuador 981 and 18; Chile 746 and 2; Peru 395 and 5; Mexico 367 and 4; Colombia 306 and 3. (With the exception of Mexico, those governments have all actively participated and contributed to the U.S.-led regime change efforts in Venezuela.) Why is Venezuela doing so much better than others in the region?

Skeptics will claim that the Maduro government is hiding figures and deaths, that there´s not enough testing, not enough medicine, not enough talent to adequately deal with a pandemic. But here are the facts:

First, international solidarity has played a priceless role in enabling the government to rise to the challenge. China sent coronavirus diagnostic kits that will allow 320,000 Venezuelans to be tested, in addition to a team of experts and tons of supplies. Cuba sent 130 doctors and 10,000 doses of interferon alfa-2b, a drug with an established record of helping COVID-19 patients recover. Russia has sent the first of several shipments of medical equipment and kits. These three countries, routinely characterized by the U.S. foreign policy establishment as evil, offer solidarity and material support. The United States offers more sanctions and the IMF, widely known to be under U.S. control, denied a Venezuelan request for $5 billion in emergency funding that even the European Union supports.

Second, the government quickly carried out a plan to contain the spread of the disease. On March 12, a day before the first confirmed cases, President Maduro decreed a health emergency, prohibited crowds from gathering, and cancelled flights from Europe and Colombia. On March 13, Day 1, two Venezuelans tested positive; the government cancelled classes, began requiring facemasks on subways and on the border, closed theaters, bars and nightclubs, and limited restaurants to take-out or delivery. It bears repeating that this was on Day 1 of having a confirmed case; many U.S. states have yet to take these steps. By Day 4, a national quarantine was put into effect (equivalent to shelter-in-place orders) and an online portal called the Homeland System (Sistema Patria) was repurposed to survey potential COVID-19 cases. By Day 8, 42 people were infected and approximately 90% of the population was heeding the quarantine. By Day 11, over 12.2 million people had filled out the survey, over 20,000 people who reported being sick were visited in their homes by medical professionals and 145 people were referred for coronavirus testing. The government estimates that without these measures, Venezuela would have 3,000 infected people and a high number of deaths.

Third, the Venezuelan people were positioned to handle a crisis. Over the past 7 years, Venezuela has lived through the death of wildly popular leader, violent right-wing protests, an economic war characterized by shortages and hyperinflation, sanctions that have destroyed the economy, an ongoing coup, attempted military insurrections, attacks on public utilities, blackouts, mass migration and threats of U.S. military action. The coronavirus is a different sort of challenge, but previous crises have instilled a resiliency among the Venezuelan people and strengthened solidarity within communities. There is no panic on the streets; instead, people are calm and following health protocols.

Fourth, mass organizing and prioritizing people above all else. Communes and organized communities have taken the lead, producing facemasks, keeping the CLAP food supply system running (this monthly food package reaches 7 million families), facilitating house-by-house visits of doctors and encouraging the use of facemasks in public. Over 12,000 medical school students in their last or second-to-last year of study applied to be trained for house visits. For its part, the Maduro administration suspended rent payments, instituted a nationwide firing freeze, gave bonuses to workers, prohibited telecoms from cutting off people´s phones or internet, reached an agreement with hotel chains to provide 4,000 beds in case the crisis escalates, and pledged to pay the salaries of employees of small and medium businesses. Amid a public health crisis - compounded by an economic crisis and sanctions - Venezuela´s response has been to guarantee food, provide free healthcare and widespread testing, and alleviate further economic pressure on the working class.

The U.S. government has not responded to the Maduro administration´s request to make an exception for Conviasa Airlines, the national airline under sanctions, to fly the Venezuelans stranded in the United States back to Caracas. Given everything happening in the United States, where COVID-19 treatment can cost nearly $35,000 and the government is weighing the option of prioritizing the economy over the lives of people, perhaps these Venezuelans waiting to go home understand that their chances of surviving the coronavirus—both physically and economically—are much better in a country that values health over profits.

Leonardo Flores is a Latin American policy expert and campaigner with CodePink.

“The American Disease’: Only the Overthrow of the Oligarchy Will Cure It
By Glen Ford

Although the coronavirus provided the trigger for the current global shrinkage, the economic crisis was already looming when the pathogen made its physical appearance.

Donald Trump mouths the words “Chinese disease’ with a racist sneer, playing a juvenile game of “dozens’ while the world economy shrinks. Although the geographic origin of Covid-19 is open to question , the prime vector of chronic global economic sickness is indisputably the United States – the place where all the symptoms of late stage capitalism in chaotic decline are on full display.

In 2008, British authorities initially resisted collaborating with Washington´s plans to bail out failing corporate financial institutions. The Brits didn´t want “to import the “American disease,’ said U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson . Most of the world caught the disease anyway, in the same way that global capitalism was brought to the brink of death from the economic pestilence that originated on Wall Street in the Great Crash of 1929.  

The United States is the planet´s breeding ground for virulent capitalist disease, having spawned both of the great meltdowns of the 20th and 21st centuries and most of the less lethal crises that flare with regularity in global “markets.’  As the endemic host of capitalist chaos, the U.S. has also become indelibly identified with the jobs-killing self-medications conjured by Wall Street and its political servants to save “the markets.’ When Japan went into a long, deep economic stagnation characterized by “the excessive and virtually continuous distortion of income distribution at the expense of employees,’ Business Insider  diagnosed that as the “American disease’ – an apt assessment, since the United States by then led the developed world in income and wealth inequality. Researchgate  describes largescale corporate downsizing of workforces as “´the American disease,´ caught by numerous countries in times of economic recession.’

Actually, the “American disease’ is not so much “caught’ by other nations, as actively spread by a globe-swallowing superpower that insists on the right to penetrate every nook and cranny of the planet with its corporate spores, under the protection of 800-plus military bases and multinational “trade’ treaties that obliterate governments´ abilities to resist U.S.-based corporate contagion.

The “American disease’ is simply late stage, globe-trotting capitalism with American characteristics. Although the coronavirus provided the trigger for the current global shrinkage, the economic crisis was already looming when the pathogen made its physical appearance. As economists told the Washington Post , U.S. corporations were $10 trillion in debt on the eve of the Covid-19 crisis, equal to about half the gross national product. Goldman Sachs estimated that “one-quarter of the country´s largest companies had more cash going out than coming in.’ And, the so-called “repo market ’ crisis erupted before Covid-19´s debut in the U.S, necessitating a $400 billion bailout . A meltdown was coming, with or without the intervention of tiny bits of viral DNA. The recent $2 trillion “stimulus’ is really another corporate bailout, justified by the coronavirus.

Crises are endemic to capitalism. In the United States, where corporations have achieved near-total political hegemony, the harshest contradictions of capitalism are no longer mitigated and softened by state intervention, under prodding by “peoples’ forces such as unions and social movements. Rather, the US government is a capitalist tool, as is the tag-team of duopoly political parties. Capitalism entered its “late’ stage when finance capital became supreme over all the other sectors of capital and made the state its abject servant and golden goose.

The “American disease’ – late stage capitalism with U.S. characteristics – is the most virulent strain of a centuries-old system. As the world´s most successful white settler state and the first truly bourgeois republic, the U.S. was from its inception dedicated to the rule of money over humankind and the environment; and to the supremacy of whiteness, the forceful expropriation of other people´s territory and resources, and the subjugation of non-whites. While European colonialism looted far-flung lands and peoples, the United States became a major economic power through Black chattel slavery within its own borders, genocide of the natives on whose land the Republic stood, and expansion through the seizure and incorporation of its darker neighbor´s territory (Mexico). From the beginning, colonialism was U.S. domestic policy, and empire-building its national project – all for the enrichment of a white ruling class.

Beginning in the late 1970s, the Lords of Capital deployed U.S. imperial military and financial power to initiate a worldwide Race to the Bottom in which all of the Earth´s workers would compete for employment, including the Empire´s own domestic workforce. Productivity would skyrocket as the costs of labor (wages) plummeted. Billionaires became as common as millionaires used to be, even as the superpower´s cities and national infrastructure crumbled and living standards stagnated and fell. With the collaboration of the fraudulently pro-labor and pro-Black Democratic Party, the corporate rulers slashed social services and labor protections under an “austerity’ regime whose real purpose was to make working people so desperate and insecure they would accept any job, under any conditions and wage – a capitalists´ paradise, and the purpose of the Race to the Bottom. The banks were unleashed to float mega-bubbles and package worthless assets – until the inevitable burst.

With both political parties in the oligarchs´ pockets, and social movements largely inert, there was nothing to stop the U.S. ruling class from indulging in every speculative excess imaginable, creating new and more exotic financial “instruments’ that yoked the nation´s and world´s destinies to “derivatives’ notionally valued at 20 times the worth of all the goods and services produced by humanity. U.S. healthcare – which was never a “system’ worthy of the name – was shrunken and privatized, including much of the nation´s only “socialist’ medical institution, the Veterans´ Administration healthcare services.

"Every broken piece of our society restricted us from responding to this crisis, from welfare reform to post-2008 austerity to the war on crime. You can't divorce any of it," writes David Dayen, of The American Prospect. But of course, the damage was systematically inflicted by the corporate-bought politicians of both parties – including every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter.-- at the behest of the ruling oligarchy. The transfer of jobs and production to the low wage East and South was the consensus policy of the U.S. and European ruling classes. Austerity (The Race to the Bottom) reigned supreme on both sides of the Atlantic and was enforced in the formerly colonized world by Western-dominated international financial institutions.

The profoundly racist nature of U.S. society -- born in slavery and genocide and unrepentant – allowed the capitalist rulers to strip away even the thin veneer of a welfare state that had been thrown together in the Sixties, and then to dismantle and sell off the health care infrastructure. Race has always ruled politics in a nation founded as a White Man´s Country, and which now pays its citizens what W.E.B. Dubois called “psychological wages,’ constantly exhorting the populace to bask in the glow of empire and exceptionalism. But, the Race to the Bottom cannot coexist with a living wage or a truly universal national health care system. The Lords of Capital have prospered fantastically in this Race, and have no other vision for the future. The rulers have drawn lines in the sand and their minions in both corporate parties dare not cross them – come hell, high water or pandemic,

Joe Biden is proof that the rulers will not allow their operatives to give an inch on austerity/Race to the Bottom. Even as the people´s lives and livelihoods are threatened by the worst epidemic in a century, Biden stands fast with the oligarchy: no Medicare for All.

What happens when the “American (political-economic) Disease’ meets the pandemic? Nothing, if the people don´t demand an end to the Race to the Bottom that has left them with less defenses against disease than any other developed nation. Everything, if they resist. Some folks are calling for a general strike on May 1st.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

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