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The apotheosis of John Howard

“John Henry Calvinist” (David MacKinnon to his friends) has been a participant in Webdiary discussions for some time, and runs his own website, The New Humanities.

John describes himself: "University studies in psychology and zoology, cut short by an (ongoing) psychological disorder, were eventually succeeded by an honours degree in comparative history - sans any “postmodernist” nonsense, I hasten to add... However, the seemingly inexorable rise of said nonsense - coupled with the declining 'career' opportunities for young Humanities academics with any notions of wide-ranging theoretical pluralism (not to mention active bullshit detectors) - saw him drop out of his doctorate to plunge into an active program of self-education on a wide variety of fronts... whilst seemingly becoming 'unemployable' in the 'workers’ market' of modern Australia. You be the judge of whether said market is all that it’s cracked-up to be..."

There was some discussion amongst the Webdiary team before we agreed to publish the following piece. Blame it on a bit of education in the classics at university, but I don't mind taking responsibility for being chief advocate to publish it. According to John up to 30% of the words are directly from Tacitus, and if the style is to be quibbled with, we quibble with the Roman historian. Is it too anti-Howard? Surely not! It's satire guys, albeit of a very obscure breed. This is John's first piece for Webdiary. Hamish Alcorn.

The Apotheosis of John Howard
(from the Apocrypha of Tacitus)
by John Henry Calvinist

...it was at about this time that, following upon the demise Sir Phillip Lynch, one John Howard succeeded to the Treasury. As yet little known to the populace, he united in his person both the detriments of a mean origin, and an ill countenance only exceeded by the malignity of his disposition.

Needy, obscure, and restless, he spurned the faction of his forbears and, in hubris, clutched at the party of oligarchy, deriving great benefit from early servility until his pride swelled beyond measure. Upon loss of power, with growing ambition seemingly watered by the tears of his departing leader, Howard contended with one Andrew Peacock for leadership of the forces of opposition, despite the contempt of the populace for his rapacious conduct and notorious failures of policy.

Formed by nature and trained by habit to hide his hatred under delusive flattery, Howard seemingly returned to early servility following his failure to secure leadership, but his overweening pride nourished in secret a personal following even more corrupt in habit than himself. Playing upon the very essence of oligarchy, which sees long-continued license for wrong as if it were right and justice, he suborned the arrogant youth of his faction into abandoning the obligations of natural wealth for blind rapacity, and a
heedlessness for the good of the state which at times even exceeded his own.

As one who screened himself while attacking others, he then swayed his faction to undermine the leadership, whilst cloaking his lust for supremacy in the affectation of humility. Cringing and imperious, Howard was widely distrusted amongst the virtuous in opposition, whose every rebuff he stored away. For he would twist a word or a look into a crime, and treasure it up in his memory.

Preparing himself for fresh inquities as the term of government drew to a close, Howard divided the opposition, turning its strengths to feud and bitterness, sacrificing all chance of success in his inordinate quest for personal power. And, as in all campaigns, it was the force under divided leadership which was driven ignominiously from the field. Without pause, he then turned upon the leader his cunning and hypocricy had betrayed, and vilely built his own success upon the other’s failure. The leadership of opposition was his.

Meanwhile, it is necessary to first detail the conduct of government in this period. Whilst proclaiming their loyalty to the commons, the party of labour heeded the hypocritical importunities of usury and market power, fatally weakening the restraints upon such evils, then basking in their chorus of loathsome flattery. Even good faith could not be upheld in its integrity, and men looked only to the greatness of their gains. It is in times such as these that men such as Howard, deaf to all claims of virtue, and heeding merely propriety and self-interest, gain the repute of an honesty they know not, for veiling their lusts and working in secret, like the worms that gnaw at the roots of trees.

Emboldend by the acts of those claiming to represent labour, Howard then gave licence to those of his faction who had cast aside all care for justice and, under the banner of free debate, undermined all disinterested claims of the liberal tradition. Resentful by nature and hating all good, yet not fearing discovery amidst the politics of greed, he plotted anew the destruction of those illustrious men who had scorned him, casting their virtue in the language of insult and despite.

With honour at such a low ebb in the actions of political men, all were united in praise for the idols of new wealth, who strove to surpass each other in vulgarity of display and constant business, building empires of paper upon the corpses of genuine endeavour. But, formed for malice rather than mateship, Howard remained shunned by these new gods, and he failed to reap full benefit in an age when mere show counted above the rewards of further greed. For, although deriving nothing from their slavish associations but what was low and degrading, the party of labour yet retained the name of power, although all true rule had passed to those who had grasped at wealth.

In defeat, many empowered by Howard’s schemes turned upon him, in emulation of his own treachery, to raise his old rival anew. But, the power they extended him was a mockery, designed merely to mask the unchanging viciousness of their plans, and they continued to drive the virtuous out, seeking only those most debased by greed and hatred to join their counsels. Now consumed by his lust for supremacy. Howard joined with this purge, striving to rebuild anew his dominance. Torn by expulsions, and eaten from within by secret rivalry, the party of opposition endured its fourth defeat with little grace, striking down for a second time the Peacock. But, dwelling upon failure with more resentment than fortitude, they had no stomach for the past, and no time for  John Howard.

Casting aside he who had led all in iniquity, they searched out one John Hewson, who had profited much from greed, and confounded vilest slavery with freedom, yet expounded this paradoxical creed with the composure of true belief. So, whilst the party of labour shamelessly indulged in the vices of long rule, with egotism and excess weaning hubris on its own flesh in the struggle for domination, opposition nurtured a plan born of previous policy, but which in scope beggared all the previous infamies of this degenerate age.

There occurred too a thick series of portents, which signified nothing. In the north, a woman gave birth to a snake which, speaking, arose from the dead. And the sun was suddenly darkened over a city then suffering from its laws, as it had hitherto suffered from its vices. The opposition took heart from these signs, though none could clearly interpret their true import, and each strove to surpass all others in expounding the rigor and purity of their creed.

In this struggle, Howard distinguished himself, though the severity of the measures he proposed, it was suspected, were more to glut one man’s cruelty than destroy an iniquitous growth. These suspicions greatly contributed to the fifth loss which the public, wearied of labour’s rule, yet inflicted upon the party of opposition.

A period of turmoil then ensued within the faction, as leadership faltered, and a strange woman roamed the land, turning to her glory every incident, however trivial. Unmasked, she fell swiftly, yet not so swift as to fail to carry the enfeebled leader with her. Howard, meantimes, was almost ready, his schemes nurtured in secrecy whilst hypocritically proclaiming his innocence. But, unsated with newness, Alexander Downer and Peter Costello were chosen, seemingly that these two might have double the chance for failure.

Perpetually under the lash of popular talk, the new died virtually stillborn, yet were sustained by Howard’s treachery, which would not allow such a fall until his plans were fully ripe. Seemingly called reluctantly, he hid his febrile lust for domination under a mask grown more seamless as his infamy aged, so that the conspirator was now hailed as peacemaker, whilst few outside his inner circle suspected the truth.

Remarkably, to all but those who were aware of the depth of his perfidy, the party of opposition now were united under Howard, other contenders both divided and inexpert at secret planning. Applying the same methods as had served him well within the party, he then sought to bring all events under unfavourable regard, prepared to sacrifice any good to satisfy the lust of domination, which inflamed his heart beyond all other passions.

Seeming to have left his cruelty behind him, Howard then played the slave to make himself the master. Nothing was to be done under his rule that had not already received sanction, and new devices in wickedness were veiled under ancient names, that none should forsee their advent. Relieved of all fears of change, the populace then took their long-delayed revenge upon the government of labour, looking more to punishment than reward in their choice of Howard’s rule.

But...all composure was short-lived, as there was more grand sentiment than faith in Howard’s claims to conserve. Inimical to all measures he did not originate, he persisted in private animosities to the public ruin, yet cloaking all under the figures of a sybil whose advice, though heeded by all, had yet to bring other than hardship and despair, save to those sunken in venality.

His foul and infamous character forgotten by most, Howard found the usual substitute in awaiting the folly of others, charging his subordinates with the prosecution of his malice, and basking in a chorus of vile flatteries as his slavish following burned, despoiled, and plundered, as amongst enemies, whilst his duplicity, honed in opposition, rose to new heights in government, where his hatreds were well-concealed by pleas of necessity.

Whilst it is not so easy to determine what is best to be done, under Howard it was sure that what was done would be the very worst which could be shielded under benign prospect. For, what others call crimes he calls reforms and, by similar misnomers, he speaks of strictness instead of barbarity, and of economy instead of avarice, whilst the cruelties and affronts he inflicts upon you he calls discipline. To such a man, ill-omened, and delighting in the debasement of others, we have repeatedly entrusted the rule of our commonwealth. Disgrace we have exhausted in such a selection: only virtue remains unplumbed in the policy of today. That such a one should gain luster from the perfidy of others speaks to a failure of memory, and a depth of treachery, that are only now beginning to be revealed...

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re: The apotheosis of John Howard

John Henry, I particularly like your comparisons about memory - that JH remembers everything (and pays back with a vengeance), contrasted with the seemingly short-lived memory of the electorate.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

John Henry Calvinist, would it be fair to suspect that John Howard should not count on your vote at the next election?

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Thanks JHC, now I'll have to have a go at translating your piece back into Latin and occasionally muttering a few lines in the old lingua franca when I smell a pork-barrel, a rort, a boondoogle, or a cesspool of spin. Less chance that way of some overzealous busy body ringing one of the hundreds of additional secret police we're set to get and telling them I'm bringing the Government into some kind of "dissaffection".

Auguror nec me fallit augurium, historias tuas immortales futuras JHC, after all it's to be taken cum grano salis.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Russell Darroch, I don't think Howard really minds if lawyers and doctors who haven't succumbed to the great god self-interest, who, like his minion pocket-lining, will always vote their money rather than the common weal, refuse to ever support him again.

As he has long ago worked out, enough of them in the silvertail suburbs of the capital cities are balanced by the eveready loyalists. It's the punters in Palookaville that he needs to work on and does, assiduously.

In fact, it is said that as Labor's traditional base goes to the Conservatives, especially with the ageing and increasingly conservative demographic, so does the 'Doctor's Wives' cohort start to find The Greens or The Labor Party more attractive. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose [Alphonse Karr,1849] and Howard knows it.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Welcome back to the Hell Fire Club.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Phew Craig,, I had to Google that Latin bit! For the benefit of others who, like me, are not au fait with the lingo, (hope you don't mind Craig) it translates as 'I predict, and my predictions do not fail me, that your histories will be immortal'. Originally from a letter to Tacitus written by Pliny the Younger. A moving tribute to a lovely piece of satire.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Now we have Kim, riding in from the wild west, claiming that things aren't tough enough down at Fort Laramie. When does Russell Crowe get a chance to show these guys how tough he is? I'm having a tough time coming to terms with all this toughness.

By the way JHC, nice work, and good to see some people have, and use, a Long Term Memory.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

A few doctors and lawyers may not be voting for Howard either.

A good sized group marched on Kirribilli today as reported here to protest the proposed terrorism bill which "Dozens of prominent lawyers and doctors ...say are draconian and anti-democratic."

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Hi. How can Howard possibly set himself up as the supporter, fellow traveller, etc of the Australian worker. It is, to me, unbelievable.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

JHC, are you sure you couldn't find a niche for yourself as a subversive Classics teacher at some elitist Private School [oops, sorry, they're only full of the sprogs of the 'aspirational' and 3 jobbers aren't they, rather than the progeny of the wealthy and privileged :] ?

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Russell Darroch: "A few doctors and lawyers may not be voting for Howard either... A good sized group marched on Kirribilli today..."

This will have about as much affect as the letter the academics wrote to the SMH before the last election.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Jay White, there is something really important I have been trying to get an answer from you about for the past year.

Do you ever actually have anything to say that is not mere panting support for a man who could clearly be called a sociopath.

He has no empathy for his fellow man unless there is a vote in it and you seem to be just the same.

Do you seriously think a vote is all that counts?

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

JHC, I've decided the phrase in your piece I'll translate to Latin and mutter most often is "what others call crimes he calls reforms".

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

John Henry Calvinist, you do know that the GST is not a VAT. A GST is rebatable every single step along the way, apart from at final POS. So if the farmer sells it to the miller, the farmer collects the GST, but the miller can get a rebate for the GST he paid, with a 0 net effect.

So I don't get your point on the financial burden.

That and the fact that any large business which is integrated in such a way vertically (from one end of the chain of production to another) will usually be split up into subsidary companies (both for management and financial reasons), and therefore use the same payment/rebate system as the SME's do. So how does this GST disadvantage those small business people again?

(By the by, I should disclose I work in tax, and do a lot of work with SME's, as well as listed companies, as a tax agent/financial advisor.)

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Many thanks to you all - for your (measured) responses to this piece - from the author/plagiarist himself, who stole all the best lines directly from the (real) Tacitus, anyway...

Tacitus - of course - being (perhaps) the most distinguished republican conservative of all time...which is one reason why his rhetoric remains so potent, to this day. And, to those who'd reject the application of said rhetoric to one John Howard... well, if the cap fits - then wear it, would be my response.

Because, it was only a (chance?) re-reading of Tacitus, soon after Howard's elevation to PM, that prompted me - almost a decade ago - to attempt compiling (I won't say "composing") this piece... And, if this greatest of republican conservative's moral damnations are so EASILY matched by JH's actions, then I do feel that his boosters might do well to re-think their support for this man - because, future histories (albeit less rhetorically) will undoubtedly have little regard for him, however long his term as PM.

And... now, a few direct responses - albeit, the rest can be assured of my thanks, irrespective. Malcolm, given mine Honours thesis was on Dr Shandy himself, I don't think that I've ever left the Hellfire Club. Still, I could be mistaken, eh? If so, I'm glad to be welcolmed back into the fold.

Craig/Mardi, many thanks for your compliments but, I should also acknowledge - pace Victoria Collins - that I know no Latin (or Ancient Greek), so any teaching of Classics on my part would be a travesty and (see a future column for details), I've had entirely enough of pretending to be something that I'm not - albeit the marks were (very) high, and the pay was (much, much) better than any other work I've ever had in my 43 years to date.

Matt, my father (an ex-Liberal voter in his youth/early middle-age) has been a Howard-hater for decades now, so, I certainly can't take the full credit for such a memory. Because, as one who has seen, and fully understood, the transformation of a "broad-church" Liberal Party into the narrow, near-totalitalian model of today, what you compliment me on here is better directed to my (much esteemed) father - one Malcolm MacKinnon - an unswerving democratic pluralist, like his ill-fortuned son.

And, finally, to Jay White, the only Howard supporter yet to comment here. Yes, Jay, JH has NO chance of mine vote... and, to my mind, he should have no chance of anyone's vote in this nation that understands liberal freedoms, viable medium/long-term economic policy, and the actual meaning of democracy.

Nothing "left-wing" there, at all, now, is there?

However, this shouldn't - at all - be read as any kind of "apology" for our so-called "opposition" since, if you read carefully, I was just as scathing about those turds.

So, given that I'm a historian, just what should we do? Well, we should look (carefully) at the fate of the Australian UAP in the midst of the last century - and that of the US Whigs a century before that - because BOTH major Australian political parties are now headed for a similar crack-up, once the international residential property boom genuinely collapses, and the warning signs of same are all about us - as The Economist repeatedly insists (no left-wing paper, I hasten to add).

Because, once said market collapses - and, remember, it happened in the 1930s, so it IS possible - former disillusioned Labor voters will be (starkly) faced with the fact that JH and company have played fast and loose with their mortgages/political allegiances - and, trust - so, neither party will be worth shit, electorally... which means that local/independent politics will (briefly) come to the fore, until some new groupings - much more genuinely representative of voters' ACTUAL wishes - arise and seize the rhetorical high ground. If they don't - given past history - we can expect a descent into something much, much nastier, which no-one sane would hope for.

Except - maybe - a few (unnamed) aging media barons?

Me, I expect some sort of re-alignment throughout the West, in which ordinary employees and small-business proprietors agree to reign-in corporate power, design labour markets for full-employment/genuine flexibility/high minimum wages, and actively prosecute ANY exercise of genuine market power. Because, said "deal" would clearly benefit the vast majority of the population - albeit it's one that neither "side" of contemporary politics could stomach.

Which is why I (deeply) suspect that they're due the chopper - see this review of David Hackett Fischer's recent work for one of the main supports for mine faith.

Oh, and - by the way - has anyone in this forum yet considered the totality of the ways in which "our" GST is necessarily unfair upon small businesses? Sure, many have noted that the increased paperwork burden is disproportionately worn by small business. But most have also failed to realise EXACTLY how much this tax unfairly penalises small business networks in direct competition with vertically-integrated corporations.

Because, the latter frequently pay little GST, in direct contrast to their (purported) "competitors". Say I (a corporation) buy wheat... but, then mill it myself, bake it into bread myself - and, then sell it to consumers via a direct outlet. In contrast, imagine that every step here was handled by a different small-medium sized company? Well, in the latter case, the taxation burden - FOR NO GOOD REASON EXCEPT TO BENEFIT BIG COMPANIES - would be be twice as high, and, remember, this is a very simple chain compared to most manufactures.

And this was what John Howard (the "friend" of small business) imposed upon - arguably - his core supporters, Jay White?

On top of attacking the independence of competition surveillence, when this was small business' only real protection against the naked use of market power (the self-same market power that ALL mainstream economic theory assumes away in its fundamental modelling?).

Methinks mine "Tacitean" satire would work equally well for small business, if'n they could drop their ideology for a moment and start supporting genuine independents that very soon will probably have a real sway in our (sadly debased) "democracy".

All the best.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Thank you. My disaffection for Howard is sustained. ;)

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Stuart Lord, thanks to your correction, I now understand the GST better, so part of my argument against same goes out the window! Still, such a model does impose heavy paperwork burdens, especially upon the smallest businesses - as I know for a fact from the direct testimony of friends who suffer from it.

We too easily lump small-medium sized businesses together but, in this case as in many others, the smallest businesses - so necessary to the social/economic well-being of any nation - are poorly served by policies dictated by the big end of town.

So, whilst I apologise for my ignorance re the workings of the GST, I still maintain that it unfairly impacts on many, many of the smallest businesses.

All the best.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard


re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Congratulations JHC - a long, and absorbing read.

Now Jay White, if you could just listen up. Howard is no conservative - he is a radical, of the kiss up, kick down variety, and has succeeded very well with his politics of downward envy - so far. His populist appeals to the God 'mainstream' and his demonising of any voice of dissent as elitist, out of touch and possibly treasonous, has proved a heady brew for his real supporters in the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Confederation of Commerce and Industry, the National Farmers Federation and the Australian Industry Group. Well let me assure you. The ads by the BCA that have just hit the media have worked wonders for the job I do. They have helped cement the central message that trade unions have been hammering to their memerships - these changes will do nothing for your family, your community or the country - but they will improve the bottom line of Howard's business backers every time you and your family take a dive on penalties, overtime and hours at work (aka rosters). These ads are paid for by the shareholders of these businesses, cost us nothing (except higher prices for their goods and services I suppose), and you know what - bingo! They have just put the best wind in our sails possible.
They have made my job even easier than it has been up to now. Working families I spoke to today raised the ads at a meeting and were literally choking on their packed lunches and take aways about the BCA ads and about the cost of Howards taxpayer funded ads. All the media campaign by the govt and business is doing is contributing to the feeling that 'we the ordinary people' are being done. Finally, he is being revealed for what he has always been. A wolf in sheeps clothing, a nasty, sneaky, creepy little liar who has arse licked his way to the top, and who is determined to leave no stone unturned in order to impose the new world order of the people who have backed him to the hilt.

Oh and Jay, don't make the mistake of thinking that you can divide 'mainstream' workers from workers who are members of trade unions. I don't expect you to understand how labour markets work, and I don't expect you to be able to see past your prejudices - you'll just have to trust me on this one.

For every union member, there are a couple of workers who are mates/family/acquaintnaces who are not in unions, but who listen to what their friends tell them. What do you think people are telling each other over their beers and BBQs Jay? I can guarantee they aren't congratulating themselves on the opportunity to dump their awards and get into the joys of individual bargaining, minus penalty rates and for averaged annual hours (38 hours a week averaged over a whole year).

The other thing that is playing badly for the best friend workers ever had in this country, is the Terror(fying) legislation. This matter was raised spontaeously at meetings I attended today. And you know what Jay, people are putting things together and concluding, all by themselves, that Howard's IR changes are somehow linked to the attempt to take away people's political rights as well. It is true people are fed up with the lack of spine exhibited by the ALP, but let me assure you, I am sniffing and feeling a mood that I haven't felt for a long time. This little battler for the big of town has just taken his step too far.

I predict Costello for the leadership in March 2006, and a raft of losers among the one term wonders elected on the back of 'interest rates' in 2004. What a pity though that the economy that has been constructed by this bunch of no hopers is so unsustainable in the long term. It is built on asset inflation fuelled by easy credit that has lead to this country being mired in foreign debt. And just because the debt is largely private debt, it still has to be paid back. We will be paying for this nonsense for a very long time.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Oh no JHC, Stuart Lord has it wrong. I love accountants - it's all just figures on a piece of paper isn't it?

GST is payable at the time the bill is paid (assuming that's the time of delivery or within normal terms of trade, it is claimed back later. That is, the poor sod who pays it (me) is out of pocket until such time as the bastards pay it back. Since I have my affairs arranged so that collections and payments are by separate entities, is some cases that has been over 2 years.

Not to mention that we still pay it on everything. For those of us who do not earn much taxable income, there is no benefit in notional reductions in income tax rates. I get compensated for none of the wretched thing.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Malcolm B Duncan, the GST you pay on your bills is cash out of your pocket. True.

However, the GST you collect is in your pocket when you are paid. True.

When you make your quarterly installments, you pay the difference between the GST you paid on any purchases/services received, and the GST you charge on any sales/services rendered.

Therefore, while the money goes out one side, it comes in the other, until the bill has to be paid.

If you have your system such that you wait two years to work out your BAS's, then that is just a case of the 5 P's not being put in action - I'll let you have a shot at guessing what those stand for. But again, you should have the GST you received from sales/etc hanging around until you lodge your BAS.

Paperwork is increased in many areas, though not by an enormous amount, apart from those affected by the stupid GST exemptions. The ridiculous GST exemption on certain things (such as a cold chicken has no GST, a warm one does, and bread doesn't, while fruit bread does, etc) create much more paperwork for many businesses. Otherwise, to do the GST work, it simply requires (for small businesses) a decent system of record keeping on a monthly or quarterly basis.

If you keep a good set of accounts, then 1/11th of the GST involved can be taken of purchases (usually just done in an additional colum in a book, or on a spreadsheet), and taken straight off sales (on the colum next to the GST for purchases). After that you only need to account for wages and tax withheld.

And if you are operating a (very) small business then you should have accurate figures anyway on sales, purchases, capital goods, wages and tax witheld - if you don't you lose track of what sort of financial situation you are in. And if you do that, you are asking for trouble, and need to pick up your act. So for small business, most of the time the trouble is with poor planning, poor information or dissemination, or poor advice on how to set it up. So in the end, if you can't complete a BAS either due to paperwork or a poor set of accounts, then it's because you can't follow the 5 P's.

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Angela, no, I haven't sent it to Howard, but feel free to do so. Doubt whether he'd read it, but there's always the off chance, is there not?

And Malcolm, between the reality and the paperwork falls the shadow, eh? Let's see if the stalwart Mr Lord will (correctly) qualify his statements, as I was happy to do with mine...

re: The apotheosis of John Howard

Ah, JHC, I was linked to this article from Stuart's about tax by Stuart. Thankyou Stuart.

Ahh. Am soaking in the words, words that have enabled the expression of emotions, unable until now, to emerge due my lack of venomous quill. Beautiful. Pity it's too long for a skywriter.

I admire wordsmiths that do a justified dump. The kind of thing that one sends to be admired. Janet won't be pleased. Have you sent it to his website? As a consituent I could. Hmmmmm.


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