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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

If this election proves one thing, it is that the Old America is gone. And, sad for the world, it is not coming back.

Ronald Reagan himself could not win an election in today’s America.

Ronald Reagan himself could not win an election in today’s America.

The most charitable way of explaining the election results of 2012 is that Americans voted for the status quo – for the incumbent President and for a divided Congress. They must enjoy gridlock, partisanship, incompetence, economic stagnation and avoidance of responsibility. And fewer people voted. At the time of this writing (election day), with almost all the votes counted, President Obama has won fewer votes than John McCain won in 2008, and more than ten million off his own 2008 total.

But as we awake from the nightmare, it is important to eschew the facile explanations for the Romney defeat that will prevail among the chattering classes. Romney did not lose because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy that devastated this area, nor did he lose because he ran a poor campaign, nor did he lose because the Republicans could have chosen better candidates, nor did he lose because Obama benefited from a slight uptick in the economy due to the business cycle.

Romney lost because he didn’t get enough votes to win.

That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues – the traditional American virtues – of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness – no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate. The notion of the “Reagan Democrat” is one cliché that should be permanently retired.

Ronald Reagan himself could not win an election in today’s America.

The simplest reason why Romney lost was because it is impossible to compete against free stuff. Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentivizes looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote; so too those who anticipate “free” health care, who expect the government to pay their mortgages, who look for the government to give them jobs. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.

Imagine two restaurants side by side. One sells its customers fine cuisine at a reasonable price, and the other offers a free buffet, all-you-can-eat as long as supplies last. Few – including me – could resist the attraction of the free food. Now imagine that the second restaurant stays in business because the first restaurant is forced to provide it with the food for the free buffet, and we have the current economy, until, at least, the first restaurant decides to go out of business. (Then, the government takes over the provision of free food to its patrons.)

The defining moment of the whole campaign was the revelation (by the amoral Obama team) of the secretly-recorded video in which Romney acknowledged the difficulty of winning an election in which “47% of the people” start off against him because they pay no taxes and just receive money – “free stuff” – from the government. Almost half of the population has no skin in the game – they don’t care about high taxes, promoting business, or creating jobs, nor do they care that the money for their free stuff is being borrowed from their children and from the Chinese. They just want the free stuff that comes their way at someone else’s expense. In the end, that 47% leaves very little margin for error for any Republican, and does not bode well for the future.

It is impossible to imagine a conservative candidate winning against such overwhelming odds. People do vote their pocketbooks. In essence, the people vote for a Congress who will not raise their taxes, and for a President who will give them free stuff, never mind who has to pay for it.

That suggests the second reason why Romney lost: the inescapable conclusion that, as Winston Churchill stated so tartly, “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Voters – a clear majority – are easily swayed by emotion and raw populism. Said another way, too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads. That is why Obama did not have to produce a second term agenda, or even defend his first-term record. He needed only to portray Mitt Romney as a rapacious capitalist who throws elderly women over a cliff, when he is not just snatching away their cancer medication, while starving the poor and cutting taxes for the rich. Obama could get away with saying that “Romney wants the rich to play by a different set of rules” – without ever defining what those different rules were; with saying that the “rich should pay their fair share” – without ever defining what a “fair share” is; with saying that Romney wants the poor, elderly and sick to “fend for themselves” – without even acknowledging that all these government programs are going bankrupt, their current insolvency only papered over by deficit spending. How could Obama get away with such rants to squealing sign-wavers? See Churchill, above.

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai Stevenson: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back: “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!” Truer words were never spoken.

Similarly, Obama (or his surrogates) could hint to blacks that a Romney victory would lead them back into chains and proclaim to women that their abortions and birth control would be taken away. He could appeal to Hispanics that Romney would have them all arrested and shipped to Mexico (even if they came from Cuba or Honduras), and unabashedly state that he will not enforce the current immigration laws. He could espouse the furtherance of the incestuous relationship between governments and unions – in which politicians ply the unions with public money, in exchange for which the unions provide the politicians with votes, in exchange for which the politicians provide more money and the unions provide more votes, etc., even though the money is gone. How could he do and say all these things ? See Churchill, above.

One might reasonably object that not every Obama supporter could be unintelligent. But they must then rationally explain how the Obama agenda can be paid for, aside from racking up multi-trillion dollar deficits. “Taxing the rich” does not yield even 10% of what is required and does not solve any discernible problem – so what is the answer, i.e., an intelligent answer?

Obama also knows that the electorate has changed – that whites will soon be a minority in America (they’re already a minority in California) and that the new immigrants to the U.S. are primarily from the Third World and do not share the traditional American values that attracted immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a different world, and a different America. Obama is part of that different America, knows it, and knows how to tap into it. That is why he won.

Obama also proved again that negative advertising works, invective sells, and harsh personal attacks succeed. That Romney never engaged in such diatribes points to his essential goodness as a person; his “negative ads” were simple facts, never personal abuse – facts about high unemployment, lower take-home pay, a loss of American power and prestige abroad, a lack of leadership, etc. As a politician, though, Romney failed because he did not embrace the devil’s bargain of making unsustainable promises, and by talking as the adult and not the adolescent. Obama has spent the last six years campaigning; even his governance has been focused on payoffs to his favored interest groups. The permanent campaign also won again, to the detriment of American life.

It turned out that it was not possible for Romney and Ryan – people of substance, depth and ideas – to compete with the shallow populism and platitudes of their opponents. Obama mastered the politics of envy – of class warfare – never reaching out to Americans as such but to individual groups, and cobbling together a winning majority from these minority groups. Conservative ideas failed to take root and states that seemed winnable, and amenable to traditional American values, have simply disappeared from the map. If an Obama could not be defeated – with his record and his vision of America, in which free stuff seduces voters – it is hard to envision any change in the future. The road to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and to a European-socialist economy – those very economies that are collapsing today in Europe – is paved.

A second cliché that should be retired is that America is a center-right country. It clearly is not. It is a divided country with peculiar voting patterns, and an appetite for free stuff. Studies will invariably show that Republicans in Congress received more total votes than Democrats in Congress, but that means little. The House of Representatives is not truly representative of the country. That people would vote for a Republican Congressmen or Senator and then Obama for President would tend to reinforce point two above: the empty-headedness of the electorate. Americans revile Congress but love their individual Congressmen. Go figure.

The mass media’s complicity in Obama’s re-election cannot be denied. One example suffices. In 2004, CBS News forged a letter in order to imply that President Bush did not fulfill his Air National Guard service during the Vietnam War, all to impugn Bush and impair his re-election prospects. In 2012, President Obama insisted – famously – during the second debate that he had stated all along that the Arab attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was “terror” (a lie that Romney fumbled and failed to exploit). Yet, CBS News sat on a tape of an interview with Obama in which Obama specifically avoided and rejected the claim of terrorism – on the day after the attack – clinging to the canard about the video. (This snippet of a “60 Minutes” interview was not revealed – until two days before the election!) In effect, CBS News fabricated evidence in order to harm a Republican president, and suppressed evidence in order to help a Democratic president. Simply shameful, as was the media’s disregard of any scandal or story that could have jeopardized the Obama re-election.

One of the more irritating aspects of this campaign was its limited focus, odd in light of the billions of dollars spent. Only a few states were contested, a strategy that Romney adopted, and that clearly failed. The Democrat begins any race with a substantial advantage. The liberal states – like the bankrupt California and Illinois – and other states with large concentrations of minority voters as well as an extensive welfare apparatus, like New York, New Jersey and others – give any Democratic candidate an almost insurmountable edge in electoral votes. In New Jersey, for example, it literally does not pay for a conservative to vote. It is not worth the fuel expended driving to the polls. As some economists have pointed generally, and it resonates here even more, the odds are greater that a voter will be killed in a traffic accident on his way to the polls than that his vote will make a difference in the election. It is an irrational act. That most states are uncompetitive means that people are not amenable to new ideas, or new thinking, or even having an open mind. If that does not change, and it is hard to see how it can change, then the die is cast. America is not what it was, and will never be again.

For Jews, mostly assimilated anyway and staunch Democrats, the results demonstrate again that liberalism is their Torah. Almost 70% voted for a president widely perceived by Israelis and most committed Jews as hostile to Israel. They voted to secure Obama’s future at America’s expense and at Israel’s expense – in effect, preferring Obama to Netanyahu by a wide margin. A dangerous time is ahead. Under present circumstances, it is inconceivable that the U.S. will take any aggressive action against Iran and will more likely thwart any Israeli initiative.

That Obama’s top aide Valerie Jarrett (i.e., Iranian-born Valerie Jarrett) spent last week in Teheran is not a good sign. The U.S. will preach the importance of negotiations up until the production of the first Iranian nuclear weapon – and then state that the world must learn to live with this new reality. As Obama has committed himself to abolishing America’s nuclear arsenal, it is more likely that that unfortunate circumstance will occur than that he will succeed in obstructing Iran’s plans.

Obama’s victory could weaken Netanyahu’s re-election prospects, because Israelis live with an unreasonable – and somewhat pathetic – fear of American opinion and realize that Obama despises Netanyahu. A Likud defeat – or a diminution of its margin of victory – is more probable now than yesterday. That would not be the worst thing. Netanyahu, in fact, has never distinguished himself by having a strong political or moral backbone, and would be the first to cave to the American pressure to surrender more territory to the enemy and acquiesce to a second (or third, if you count Jordan) Palestinian state. A new U.S. Secretary of State named John Kerry, for example (he of the Jewish father) would not augur well.

Netanyahu remains the best of markedly poor alternatives. Thus, the likeliest outcome of the upcoming Israeli elections is a center-left government that will force itself to make more concessions and weaken Israel – an Oslo III. But this election should be a wake-up call to Jews. There is no permanent empire, nor is there is an enduring haven for Jews anywhere in the exile. The most powerful empires in history all crumbled – from the Greeks and the Romans to the British and the Soviets. None of the collapses were easily foreseen, and yet they were predictable in retrospect.

The American empire began to decline in 2007, and the deterioration has been exacerbated in the last five years. This election only hastens that decline. Society is permeated with sloth, greed, envy and materialistic excess. It has lost its moorings and its moral foundations. The takers outnumber the givers, and that will only increase in years to come. Across the world, America under Bush was feared but not respected. Under Obama, America is neither feared nor respected. Radical Islam has had a banner four years under Obama, and its prospects for future growth look excellent. The “Occupy” riots across this country in the last two years were mere dress rehearsals for what lies ahead – years of unrest sparked by the increasing discontent of the unsuccessful who want to seize the fruits and the bounty of the successful, and do not appreciate the slow pace of redistribution.

Two bright sides: Notwithstanding the election results, I arose in the morning, went to shul, davened and learned Torah afterwards. That is our reality, and that trumps all other events. Our relationship with G-d matters more than our relationship with any politician, R or D. And, notwithstanding the problems in Israel, it is time for Jews to go home, to Israel. We have about a decade, perhaps 15 years, to leave with dignity and without stress. Thinking that it will always be because it always was has been a repetitive and deadly Jewish mistake.

America was always the land from which “positive” aliya came – Jews leaving on their own, and not fleeing a dire situation. But that can also change. The increased aliya in the last few years is partly attributable to young people the high cost of Jewish living in America. Those costs will only increase in the coming years. We should draw the appropriate conclusions.

If this election proves one thing, it is that the Old America is gone. And, sad for the world, it is not coming back.

About the Author: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey, and the author most recently of “Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim” (Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2009). His writings and lectures can be found at www.Rabbipruzansky.com.


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101 Responses to “The Decline and Fall of the American Empire”

  1. Sour grapes because Obama is trying to negotiate peace, that Israel has been unable to do with their neighbors. The prime minister Netanyahhoo would rather we bully Iran against the wishes of China and Russia and perhaps lead us to world war 3.

  2. Sour grapes because Obama is trying to negotiate peace, that Israel has been unable to do with their neighbors. The prime minister Netanyahhoo would rather we bully Iran against the wishes of China and Russia and perhaps lead us to world war 3.

  3. Sour grapes because Obama is trying to negotiate peace, that Israel has been unable to do with their neighbors. The prime minister Netanyahhoo would rather we bully Iran against the wishes of China and Russia and perhaps lead us to world war 3.

  4. why does the Rabbi continue to live in galus.

  5. Great article :) Obama is the worst thing that has ever happened to the States . I grieve deeply as I watch the greatest country in the world tank :(

  6. **** U and your condescending bull****. I can't believe your editor even allowed post in this paper for such a ridiculous piece fantastically devoid of any objectivity and insulting to any audience –specifically voter constituents. Signed, Voter/EMPLOYED/ Registered Nurse/not on welfare and incidentally voted along womens rights and pro-choice agenda. Voted for FREEdom of Choice not FREE STUFF!

  7. Tamika Renae says:

    I dealt with a Bush re-election, and survived it. So now we all must deal with an Obama re-election. All super powers eventually fail…if this one does it will be because of our fears. We fear more than we don't fear…make scary movies, thrillers, and can't sleep at night. Need some new heroes…and they aren't usually A President. It is an average Joe who turns out not to be so average.

  8. Steve Lehmann says:

    That's a fairly unpopular opinion among people that I know. I'm genuinely curious why you think that as I think you are a great guy and I respect you.

    Is it possible that people didn't vote Romney because the disliked some of the surface attributes like being anti-gay and the fact that he changed his opinion on most of the things he stood for between running for governor and then president?

  9. WHAT I HAVE READ IN SOME OF THE COMMENTS, PEOPLE HAVE REALLY LOST THEIR PRINCAPLES.

  10. Bubba Dan says:

    G-d is using Obama to pass judgement. The USA has become a decadent and disgusting place. We no longer help each other as we are all so selfish. Everyone feels entitled and is into getting free stuff.

    Everything G-d hates is being done in America, immorality is on the rise, deviant sexual behaviors, homosexual marriages, sacrificing living children through abortion and promoting it worldwide. G-d will not stand by and watch this stuff go on forever, He will pass judgement and I believe he has started doing just that.

  11. Sound like the best summary I've seen yet.

  12. Praxidio Buenagua says:

    Wow. Congratulations President Obama.

  13. Yehuda Cohen says:

    Nothing new here with America, just more of the same but worse. The pattern has been set a long time ago and we see how it developed up until today. Look and learn.
    http://www.hirhome.com/israel/hirally.htm

  14. Anonymous says:

    Rabbi, get it right. OBAMA and all the other politicions in AMERICA are dictated what to do by an elite RICH conglomerate of multi-national MILITARY_PHARMA_INDUSTRIAL complex, that manipulates all aspects of the "NEW AMERICA", and that's what's really sinking the once great nation with a great constitution. Fake legislation called "EXECUTIVE ORDERS" has decimated the constitution and the amendments, until now, there's nothing but shreds of those documents.

  15. Gary Kreller says:

    Sorry Kenny, but I think that article was just a load of bigoted codswallop designed to further inflame an already divided electorate. I think it's just possible that Americans didn't vote for Republicans because the current crop don't actually represent those so-called "conservative virtues" or anything remotely resembling actual conservative values. Y'all seem to forget that what we are attempting to achieve here is a SOCIETY, not a collection of atoms.

  16. Sorry, we don't allow The conservative whackos in Israel and their warmongering leader to dictate our policies here and abroad. You obviously don't know us very well… We're not a crazy-assed theocracy nor a plutocracy.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Bull****. OBAMA could care less about peace, in ISRAEL, IRAQ AFGHANISTAN or anywhere else in the world. He hasn't changed a thing about what his TREASONOUS WAR.CRIME predecessor has done in IRAQ or AFGHANISTAN, and THAT'S AFTER the whole world knew that BUSH and CO lied repeatedly to the world about a number of things to allow them to attack two sovereign countries and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and obliterate the countries' infrastructure. All the USA's "leaders" are rapacious pawns of the ELITE RICH who have stolen the country and decimated it's constitution under the secrecy umbrella of "national security".

  18. Anonymous says:

    It is NOT just OBAMA, get it straight, it's MANY MANY deviant and foolish pawns for the rich elite that have caused the countries' demise. It's been going on for quite some time. AND, it's NOT just the USA, the "evil" you speak of is virtually everywhere on the planet, just open your eyes and look around to what's going on in the world. And, more importantly, look at your OWN spiritual failings 1st, before casting stones, lest you be called a hypocrite.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Sure. Like "congrats BUSH" in the past? Use your mind.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Kenny, grow a brain. Bush Jr was the worst EVER, enacting two aggressions against sovereign countries with LIES to the world, illegal mass spying on AMERICAN citizens, illegal torture and secret renditions, passing executive orders destroying the very foundation of freedom and the constitution in the USA ( PATRIOT ACTS ). OBAMA is merely continuing what SICKO-BUSH enacted.

  21. Gregg Munshaw says:

    Rubbish…

  22. Mercedes Muchita-Thomas says:

    This is a sorry article of lies.

  23. Kenny… the reason why Romney lost was cause he is Romney, an emotionless clown that most of America cannot relate to. If you cannot relate to a guy you are asked to vote for, then you cannot fundamentally trust him. His actions over the last 4 years in stalling any progression in government in the states by focusing on 2012 from the start of the Obama presidency is what turned off most people from him. The article which I have read says that Romney didn't run a negative campaign… that's hugely unfair since while the ads may not have been overly negative the mere fact that Mitt started campaigning in 2007 is by itself a negative act which itself was a statement of how he felt about Obama. Romney and his group of unhappy men are sore losers who want to dictate and work their way in america and THAT is why they lost. There was no attempt on their part to work with Obama from day 1… They were negative from the get go and that makes the government fail. We see the same thing in Canada and Ontario with our elected "unofficials". We the people choose a direction to go in. We elect the guy who represents that direction, and often times the loser of the election cannot accept the peoples choice and will spend the peoples money in time wasting arguments and challenges for the next four years to get the losers agenda done anyways. That's why people don't vote, because it doesn't matter who we vote for anymore nothing will ever get done. Until the politicians start to realize they work for the people, and not to advance their own agendas and financial situation, will anything ever get done.

  24. Matityahu Ben-David says:

    I didn't vote for Romney because I saw first hand how trickle down economics doesn't lift the lower elements of society. Outsourcing jobs overseas making business owners wealthier and stock prices going up does not result in money "trickling" down the working class. People won't buy into this failed ideology anymore. I'll even go to the extent and say Trickle Down Economics RUINED Judaism in America in the form of inflated kosher food prices AND $30k/year tuition. Time we get back to the basics and go back to the economic principles of Zaydie and Bubbie that led to the New Deal and brought the Jews up in wealth. It is rather racist to say it was acceptable for the Jews to use the "liberal" economic policy in the 40's and 50's but to now say no it's not ok for the new immigrants (ie. Hispanics). We need to take a good look in the mirror and find the heart of the problem with people flying OTD, insane tuitions, and a shidduch crisis (caused by chasing the Egel HaZahav (materialism) and worshipping Momma (Greek God of Wealth) and not Hashem.

  25. And then there is tricke down government from the public sector unions that steal millions from the taxpayer to fund their million dollar pensions. Do the math

  26. And elite welfare thives and unions taking their cut of taxes not goods.

  27. Obama is only a symptom of some deep anti semiticism a la the Democratic convention that fervently booed GOD and JERUSALEM.

  28. Matityahu Ben-David says:

    Yes, I agree there needs to be Union Reform, but overall it is still a better system than the new trickle down formula. Ask your grandparents.

  29. Bush has not been in power in 4 years. We you use this excuse, like the Obama, in another 4 years?

  30. What is "Supreme Commander , Grand Wizared of such and such". Sounds like the KKK only a a relativist one.

  31. Anonymous says:

    No, you allow your rapaciously sicko leaders in the USA to commit false flag PSY-OPS like the TWIN TOWERS, and LIE repeatedly to the AMERICAN PUBLIC and the WORLD to attack two sovereign countries, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and destroying the countries' infrastructure in the process, all in the phoney name of bringing "freedom" and "democracy" to their sorry souls.

  32. Charlie Hall says:

    Michael Schuman Actually it is the politicians who have stolen earned pension benefits from public employees. The larceny is of Madoff proportions.

  33. Charlie Hall says:

    If the Republicans continue to obstruct all progress in Washington, yes. It takes sixty votes to pass anything in the Senate, and the Republicans have the majority in the House. So the Republicans prevent anything from getting accomplished, while blaming the person they are obstructing for the lack of accomplishment.

    And tell the truth: You WAN'T the Republicans to obstruct.

  34. Charlie Hall says:

    The Republican Jewish Coalition Exit Poll showed Orthodox Jews voted for Obama over Romney by 48% to 44%. A lot of us clearly disagree with the Rabbi.

  35. Charlie Hall, it troubles me that I have yet to find a Jewish site that gives upholds facts and data over gossip and slander… Some seem better then others but have you seen a site that would expound the jewish perspective that you feel comfortable with?

  36. Stephen Belsky says:

    Why does he keep on publishing this ḥillul shem shamayim in more and more media forums?

  37. Jay Lapidus says:

    I don't think that a distinction was made between Hareidim and Modern Orthodox. That's important. I suspect that the Hareidim were more likely to vote for Romney.

  38. Praxidio Buenagua says:

    Sorry, I do not flip flop. Thanks for the reply.

  39. William Carver says:

    And this is just the begining ezekiel 38 and ezeikel 39 ! Will happen before march 23 2013 .we are in biblicale times now!! Antichrist is among us in the usa!!

  40. Chris Howard says:

    Pretty bleak maybe he is right.

  41. Iggy Ramona says:

    Free stuff…Rabbi? Do you mean free stuff like the 3 billion in free foreign aid we give to Israel every year? Do you mean like the billions of FREE dollars we spend on supporting Israeli defense initiatives every year? Do you mean like the FREE military training we provide every year? Do you mean like the hundreds of millions of FREE dollars American Jews donate to Israel every year? Do you mean all those FREE trees I helped plant with my allowance money when I was a kid? I always thought the word Rabbi meant "teacher". From here it looks like "liar".

  42. I always love seeing the feedback folks . really :) I'm not partial to campaigns at all because they are an add which really says nothing . I dig and read . My own personal opinion is that I look at a track records wether it my lawyer or my local politician . Mitt Romney could be a huge dick for and Bush is gone . My theory is , who would I hire to get my job done based on there results ?

  43. If the bills don't get paid , it wont matter how good the ideas are . There won't be any money to implement them . You also can't run a country or a business or a family based on an ideology . I'm always for the guys who get the results .

  44. LOl – My spelling is terrible – sorry :)

  45. I'm Sick and tired of being insulted for my liberal viewpoint. As for Christian and Evangelical beliefs….I can easily point to scripture to back MY views too. I have worked (often more than one job at a time) since 1972, paid taxes and NEVER had any "hand out", not even a student loan. When I point that out I am called stupid. SICK of this.

  46. The entire Evangelical movement knows why the Republicans lost the election (we didn't have the right policy on immigration, we didn't have a platform to appeal to single females). Bobby Jindal knows why Republicans lost the election (our platform didn't connect with voters, we need to recalibrate). It's disingenuous that Pruzansky's attempts at introspection come up empty, only finding fault with the voters…

  47. Anonymous says:

    I agree completely with Rabbi Pruzansky. I apparently have little in common with the other commenters on this article; I am a WASP, living in Wyoming.

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