1127: "Congress"

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1127: "Congress"

Postby Munksgaard_ » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:05 am UTC

Image
Large: http://xkcd.com/1127/large/

Alt text: It'd be great if some news network started featuring partisan hack talking heads who were all Federalists and Jacksonians, just to see how long it took us to catch on.

I don't really know what to make of this? What's the message here?
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Re: Congress

Postby Envelope Generator » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:09 am UTC

Edward Tufte is a helluva drug.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Quicksilver » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:22 am UTC

This comic looks amazing on my 30" monitor. I'm going back through the old large comics to see how they look.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby AvatarIII » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:29 am UTC

So this is why Randall's been phoning it in recently!

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby KarMann » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:33 am UTC

That's... an awful lot of errors for one XKCD comic. Mixing up the Afghanistan & Iraq wars is probably the most egregious.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby nightwkr » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:50 am UTC

Personally, I think the most egregious mistake is the misspelling of Franklin "Pierece". A bigger travesty has never been seen.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:54 am UTC

I was noticing a lot of typos, as well. And it looks like it was originally written to read top to bottom instead of bottom to top - the introduction of the Republican party in the house finishes the sentence of the paragraph below it.

Really neat, though, and I like that it's given as a metric that doesn't make overt political commentary.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby I am Jack's username » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:58 am UTC

Some more errata:

1794 "favored a central bank, national [sic] sound national fiscal policy"

1838 "abolitionist faction eventually becoming the" [missing text]

1844 "If the first variable represents ]the [sic] left-right"

1906/1898 [paragraph duplicated]

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby KarMann » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:04 pm UTC

Right in the legend, we have "ideologica bloc".

Then, there's that second paragraph about the Whigs, around 1848. It just ends with "eventually becoming the". And right next to it, another unfinished paragraph, "The Republican party formed around".
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pi is exactly three » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:23 pm UTC

It's pretty, but I'm not sure what to make of the graphical representation. (When it loaded, my first thought was "Man 'O War tentacles"). And it's HUGE, I can't see the whole width even on a 24" HD screen.

Quite a few grammar/spelling errors though. If Randall wants to fix them then my list is:

Duplicate text block "The Republicans dominated national politics after the war, with Grover Cleveland the only Democrat elected president over a period of more than half a century" at coords (Senate-left,1906) and (Senate-right, 1898).

"...stuck up for the the little guy..." at (Senate-right, 1830).

"..who would be be voted out..." at (House-left, 2000).

"Watergatge" at (House-left, 1968).

The word "was" is omitted in the sentence "Other than these few years after the war, the House [was] under Democratic control..." at (House-right, 1954).

"They ultimately collapsed over the issue of slavery, with the abolitionist faction ultimately becoming " - rest of the sentence is missing at (House-left, 1836).

"ideologica" in the first sentence of the Legend.

The word "they" is omitted in the second sentence under "How Ideology is Calculated" - "...are placed on a spectrum based on how consistently [they] vote together".

Space missing between sentences in the second bimetalism paragraph: "...easier to pay off.Wealthy bankers...".

Spurious ] in the "second DW-NOMINATE variable" paragraph ("If the first variable represents ]the left-right variable...").

Full stop (period) missing from the lowest/rightmost text block.

There may be others - I can't read a lot of the small faint text superimposed on the coloured areas.

Stuff I learned - Democrats were originally pro-slavery.

[Edit] Spotted another one: in the James K Polk box there is some duplicated text ("The Republican party formed around") from the paragraph at (House-left, 1858).
Last edited by Pi is exactly three on Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:40 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby AvatarIII » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:27 pm UTC

Sometimes I wonder if Randall just uses the forum for beta testing on these big ones.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby thesingingaccountant » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:29 pm UTC

Munksgaard_ wrote:I don't really know what to make of this? What's the message here?


No clue whatsoever. I figure Randall was trying to make a point, but it's apparently a bit too obscure for me.

I personally am of the opinion that there is no significant difference between the two major political parties in the US. Each party is wholly owned and operated by big business and the ultra-rich, and the main goal of each party is the same: to transfer as much money and power as possible from the poor (by which I mean the bottom 90% of the population) to the rich by any means necessary. So, to me, it's somewhat amusing that we still use two different colors to represent them.

This is just my opinion. I cannot call it fact and argue effectively about it, because it would be pretty much impossible to prove. But if anyone wishes to discuss, I'm game. I only ask that we all remain civil and avoid personal attacks.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby finity » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:36 pm UTC

This is really beautiful. It looks like a spinal cord ripped out, or something. Like Congress is our political backbone. Or perhaps it looks like a vein and an artery.

I thought I read the whole thing before noticing the Emperor Palpatine reference.

For all the time we spent in elementary school discussing the history of US politics it never really fit together well. This graph makes the history very clear. The blackboard had a bunch of pull-down maps attached to the top of it, and this map of political-history would have been very useful.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Tobu » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:37 pm UTC

Munksgaard_ wrote:I don't really know what to make of this? What's the message here?


There needn't be one. I find the comic educational, and it gives some perspective. I find that the hegemony and rigid ideological divide of the current parties become less important on this timescale.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby finity » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:41 pm UTC

Munksgaard_ wrote:I don't really know what to make of this? What's the message here?


I suspect that his goal was to provide some context to the US's current political state, and to provide a view of US history that few have. I've never seen anything describe this information so concisely and clearly.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby finity » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:49 pm UTC

Tobu wrote:I find that the hegemony and rigid ideological divide of the current parties become less important on this timescale.


Regarding the ideological divide - I generally make the assumption that the division we have today has (more-or-less) always been present. I thought it was great how this graph fixed that assumption up. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to remember all the details of how that divide has changed, but my main takeaway was that by the 40's there were a whole bunch of centrists on both sides, but leaders have gradually (or quickly in the case of House Republicans) drifted to the edges of both viewpoints.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby JKilo » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:51 pm UTC

I gotta disagree with this really strongly. Putting Obama in the left category is absurd. At best he's center-left, realistic he's pretty far to the right.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby I am Jack's username » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:55 pm UTC

thesingingaccountant wrote:So, to me, it's somewhat amusing that we still use two different colors to represent them.


See http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2012 which shows why someone like me (who is way to the left and below Stein) also find it hard to distinguish between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I realize there are differences, but the Ds and Rs have crossed so many ethical lines that the tiny differences between them don't matter to me. There's nothing that can scare me into voting for the lesser evil, because I'd rather vote for the good and lose, than actually endorse one of the evils.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby gordo » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:55 pm UTC

finity wrote:
Munksgaard_ wrote:I don't really know what to make of this? What's the message here?


I suspect that his goal was to provide some context to the US's current political state, and to provide a view of US history that few have. I've never seen anything describe this information so concisely and clearly.


Indeed.

I think it's awesome. I am Dutch, but even for me this is hugely fascinating. I foresee hours of my time lost on Wikipedia in the near future.

I learned today: Lincoln was not close to being the first President of the USA. For some reason I had always thought he came close after Washington... (Strangely enough, I did already know that the Democrats used to be pro-slavery. I should prioritize my learning differently.)

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:10 pm UTC

I am somewhat confused by how he places the Republicans as the right-leaning party before ~1880, though he might explain be explaining it on the left side.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby dzamie » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:10 pm UTC

Personally, I enjoy seeing the relative ratios of center:[direction]:far. Especially since the Center Right has died out, a result supported by math rather than the entire Republican body of Congress voting on a bill that tortures puppies or something.

Code: Select all

:Clrhome
:while 1
:Output(randInt(1,8),randInt(1,16),randInt(0,9))
:Output(randInt(1,8),randInt(1,16)," ")
:Output(randInt(1,8),randInt(1,16)," ")
:End

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way off scale - and it can't possibly miss mccarthyism

Postby samvimes » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:12 pm UTC

Well, for most of the world, this graph is unintelligible in its use of the left-right scale.
Also, if it is correct, there was no right-turn in the cold war period, in the onset of mccarthyism, or after the Reagan era. From a practical point, the model does not seem to explain anything useful. Maybe it is only showing the composition of the whole, but it fails to display the orientation of the system as a whole.
I should read on Poole and Rosenthal's method but again, from a real world perspective, it does not seem congruent with the facts.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby SerMufasa » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:12 pm UTC

JKilo wrote:I gotta disagree with this really strongly. Putting Obama in the left category is absurd. At best he's center-left, realistic he's pretty far to the right.


Read "How Ideology is Calculated". As far as I can tell, this is simply Randall graphing pre-existing scores and adding some commentary, including a Palpatine reference.

Regarding the alt-text, there are actually modern day versions of the Whig and Federalist party (or at least there used to be). They don't poll well. I for one would love to see the return of a TR-style Republican Party (note: even the Republicans during TR's time weren't TR-style), whether you call it Progressive or Bull Moose. But I believe the government has gone too far away from there ever to return.

The one 1830s Democrat vs Whig difference that I wish was highlighted was the idea of Federal expenditures in States. Jacksonians were opposed to Federal expenditures on projects that wholly existed in one state, while the Clay Whigs supported them (see example below). Lincoln was firmly a Clay man economically even though he was more populist than many of his Republican brethren, and as a result despite Republican party being the current "small government" party, there is never a discussion on this point anymore. (The Democratic party, of course, removed the last shreds of its Jacksonian economic legacy with the New Deal. Note I am saying this without criticism).


(Example: Jackson would be opposed to the federal government contributing funds to a project such as The Big Dig, while Clay (and thus Lincoln) would support it. Jackson would be ok with the federal government contributing funds to a project such as the Holland Tunnel, although oddly enough it appears that it was completed without federal funding. Andrew Jackson Wept.)
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby SerMufasa » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:13 pm UTC

Sheikh al-Majaneen wrote:I am somewhat confused by how he places the Republicans as the right-leaning party before ~1880, though he might explain be explaining it on the left side.


Republicans and their Whig forebears were pro-business interests. This has typically been considered a right-leaning interest.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:19 pm UTC

The Democrats of those days were not pro-business?

...the democrats of today are not?

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby TheoGB » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:22 pm UTC

I'd imagine anyone from Europe will have had a little chuckle at the use of the term 'Far Left' in the key, frankly. US political 'far Left' probably barely makes it centerist politics over here. :D

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby SerMufasa » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:24 pm UTC

Sheikh al-Majaneen wrote:The Democrats of those days were not pro-business?


By "pro-business", it typically means you are on the side of management over labor. As explained under the section Democrats (Senate side, near 1836), the Democratic Party was more on the side of the individual, not the elite.

...the democrats of today are not?


The Democrats of today ostensiibly still support labor unions, and want to raise taxes on corporate America. But more importantly, it's really about how you see the economy being driven (note, this change takes place in the 30s). Those on the "Right" want the government to let Businesses do their thing for economic prosperity; those on the "Left" want the government more directly involved.

EDIT: Don't be confused by political ads. "Pro-Business" is a term whose meaning has to do with ideology. The opposite of "Pro-Business" isn't "Anti-Business", it's "Pro-Labor" or "Pro-Government".
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby quuxo » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:26 pm UTC

I have been trying to understand the basis for this chart ... and failing. I did read the sidebar on how ideology is calculated, and I did visit voteview.com as the sidebar suggests. I didn't look through all of the links on that site, but none of the ones I did look at, were helpful in that 'start at the beginning, explain it to me gently' kind of way I was looking for.

Can anyone link such an explanation of the ideology calculations, and how they can be used to predict votes on any given issue? Thanks in advance!

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby JeromeWest » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:27 pm UTC

SerMufasa wrote:As far as I can tell, this is simply Randall graphing pre-existing scores and adding some commentary, including a Palpatine reference.


Not at all. He also added a Harry Potter / Twilight reference.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby SerMufasa » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:28 pm UTC

quuxo wrote:Can anyone link such an explanation of the ideology calculations, and how they can be used to predict votes on any given issue? Thanks in advance!


Based on the explanation, I think it's a score simply based on voting habits as pertaining to economic issues. I'm not really sure it's predictive.

EDIT: I guess it would be predictive if you found a member or two who best represented the group and figured out where they would vote, and thus the rest of the members would likely vote. But honestly, current analysis already knows this. There are very few "up in the air" votes in Congress, and that goes back a long, long time.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby SerMufasa » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:30 pm UTC

JeromeWest wrote:
SerMufasa wrote:As far as I can tell, this is simply Randall graphing pre-existing scores and adding some commentary, including a Palpatine reference.


Not at all. He also added a Harry Potter / Twilight reference.


It was a cromulent reference. But it also falls in the "some commentary" portion of my comment, so I'm not sure why you think that requires a counter?
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby JReynolds » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:35 pm UTC

Another mistake: Chester A. Arthur did not die in office: he died a year and a half after he left office.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Angelastic » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

This is impressive, but :oops: as someone whose school only taught about religious conflicts in social studies classes and who wasn't interested enough in politics to learn it independently, I'd be happier with just a cheat sheet (or song) to remind me which sides of red/blue Democrat/Republican left/right liberal/conservative are synonymous (assuming they all refer to the same divide.) Then maybe a few sentences saying what they actually mean. It's a little confusing having four sets of terms to refer to the same things.

Don't worry, I'm not going to vote in this ill-informed state (certainly not in the US.) :)
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Karilyn » Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:06 pm UTC

TheoGB wrote:I'd imagine anyone from Europe will have had a little chuckle at the use of the term 'Far Left' in the key, frankly. US political 'far Left' probably barely makes it centerist politics over here. :D


Right and left are purely relative terms. There is nothing absolute about them. This specific sample is about US politics, not international politics. Thus there is and always will be no matter what you are sampling, a right, a left, and a center. The same is true even when you look at the most left, and the most right nations.

It doesn't particularly make you smart or cute to point out that American politics international is right.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby mojacardave » Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:15 pm UTC

Angelastic wrote:This is impressive, but :oops: as someone whose school only taught about religious conflicts in social studies classes and who wasn't interested enough in politics to learn it independently, I'd be happier with just a cheat sheet (or song) to remind me which sides of red/blue Democrat/Republican left/right liberal/conservative are synonymous (assuming they all refer to the same divide.) Then maybe a few sentences saying what they actually mean. It's a little confusing having four sets of terms to refer to the same things.

Don't worry, I'm not going to vote in this ill-informed state (certainly not in the US.) :)


Your slashes were almost perfectly aligned in left/right groups: except for the colours.

Blue Democrat Left Liberal
& Red Republican Right Conservative

are the two sets you were aiming for.

I don't follow American politics very closely, as a European. As has been previously pointed out, all parties in the US are comparatively skewed to the right. In Britain for example, our Prime Minister is currently from the most right wing of the 3 major political parties, and yet full same-sex marriage legislation is being pushed through.

The more disturbing issue with the political make-up on the chart seems to be the lack of 'centre-right' politicians. There seems to be an increase in right-wing fundamentalism in America, even when you're not comparing American moral values directly to the rest of the world.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Karilyn » Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:25 pm UTC

Angelastic wrote:I'd be happier with just a cheat sheet (or song) to remind me which sides of red/blue Democrat/Republican left/right liberal/conservative are synonymous (assuming they all refer to the same divide.) Then maybe a few sentences saying what they actually mean. It's a little confusing having four sets of terms to refer to the same things.

Don't worry, I'm not going to vote in this ill-informed state (certainly not in the US.) :)

Left and right are relative terms for a person's overall pattern. The terms mean that "X is more liberal/conservative than X." Clinton is more right than Obama. Bush is more right than Clinton. Clinton is more left than Bush. Obama is more left than Clinton. Europe is more left than America.

(L)eft means more (L)iberal
Right means more Conservative
Centrist means Moderate relative to the sample.

Conservative, Liberal, and Moderate are terms which describe your feelings on individual subjects. For example a person's political beliefs could be... Conservative with budgets and labor unions; Moderate with welfare, religion, and the environment; and Liberal with racial/gender/homosexual equality (Roughly my own major political views in the context of American politics; it's very much a math-first view /shrug). Conservative and Liberal can also describe your overall pattern, however, I dislike to use them this way personally. I would be considered conservative-leaning moderate (in the context of American politics).

R)ed (R)epublicans
Blue Democrats

My actual political party is Libertarian, not Republican or Democrat. Libertarians are typically displayed as orange. The colors are purely arbitrary and represent a specific political party that an individual claims to be. It is colors, much like a flag. There is also for example, the Green Party, who's color is predictably green. And the Constitution Party who's color is purple. Those are the three largest third-party American parties.
Last edited by Karilyn on Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:35 pm UTC, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby yedidyak » Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:26 pm UTC

Wow. What really stands out to me is the huge decline in the Center-Right, which totally disappeared from the House.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby SerMufasa » Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:27 pm UTC

I think the parliamentary-style of government that most(all?) European governments have is more favorable to 3rd, 4th, and 5th parties that spread across a much wider portion of the spectrum. With the US' style, fringe parties are a lot more likely to fall into obscurity, and any ideological shift of where the center lies represents a shift of the nation's viewpoint, not just of a select few.

(I'm not saying one's better than the other, just positing my belief)
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby JudeMorrigan » Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:27 pm UTC

mojacardave wrote:
Angelastic wrote:This is impressive, but :oops: as someone whose school only taught about religious conflicts in social studies classes and who wasn't interested enough in politics to learn it independently, I'd be happier with just a cheat sheet (or song) to remind me which sides of red/blue Democrat/Republican left/right liberal/conservative are synonymous (assuming they all refer to the same divide.) Then maybe a few sentences saying what they actually mean. It's a little confusing having four sets of terms to refer to the same things.

Don't worry, I'm not going to vote in this ill-informed state (certainly not in the US.) :)


Your slashes were almost perfectly aligned in left/right groups: except for the colours.

Blue Democrat Left Liberal
& Red Republican Right Conservative

For what it's worth, blue representing the left side of the political spectrum and red the right side is a relatively recent adoption in American politics. The current codification really only dates back to 2000.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby FrobozzWizard » Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:31 pm UTC

On the resemblance of Robert Byrd and Palpatine, I think there's some worthy competition.

Emperor Palpatine versus Robert Byrd:
Image

Joe Lieberman versus Palpatine:
Image

Of course, by these standards, economist Paul Krugman is the Dos Equis guy.


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