Monday, August 30, 2010

Compared to what?

There's going to be a lot of finger-wagging, head-shaking, chuckling and defending Metro over the recent revelations that their financial picture is, shall we say, less than rosy.

My favorite defense however comes from "New Metro" President and CEO George Greanias, as related to us in this article from ChronBlog's Mike Snyder...

(Sunny outlook reverses at Metro, Mike Snyder, ChronBlog)
George Greanias, Metro's acting president and chief executive officer, said Metro remains financially healthy compared to other major transit systems. More than 80 percent of the nation's transit agencies are cutting service, raising fares or both, and seven out of 10 are projecting budget shortfalls, the American Public Transit Association reported in March.

That's sort of like saying you're in good shape because the Dr. has said you have 12 months to live while the other patients have been told they have 6 months remaining.

"Better than the other guy" doesn't mean much when the other guy is on life support.

Until Metro takes this problem seriously it's not going to go away. So far I've yet to see the leadership necessary from the "New Metro" board that convinces me they have the visionaries steering the ship to do so.

A travesty of little consequence.

Pity the Houston resident angered over the Closing of the Angelika Theater despite not having watched a movie there in years.

Such are the numerous little travesties that occur in Houston from time to time. Most of the people making the loudest noise are in no way affected by the closure. What's not important here is that the Angelika closed down, what's important is that Houston (or, a concept of Houston) lost something that a few feel added to its world classiness.

The Question of Government

To my mind, it's not that Government is all bad or whether or not it can be a force for good. That argument was settled in America long ago. A majority of Americans want the safety net. Even at tea parties there have been reports of people warning Democrats to "keep the Government out of my Medicare."

As far as that goes I'm a fan of utility regulation as well. There's something to be said for maintaining a tightly regulated investment vehicle that's typically a safe haven for retirement investors. Texas has ignored that, at their peril IMO, most Republicans would disagree. So be it. I'm a believer in multi-modal transportation. Yes, that includes rail. I wish America had more of it. Granted, not the terrible plan forwarded by Houston Metro, but more of it that actually went somewhere, did something, and moved someone from where they lived to where they worked. That would be nice and a good use of taxpayer monies.

The question should be: How much Government do we want and how much are we willing to pay for it. Instead we're stuck with a choice between a party that promises the moon while assuring us only the other guy is going to be taxed, or a party that promises to cut pretty much everything except corporate welfare.

In November, the question of Government is unfortunately going to be answered with a false choice. Which is one reason why I'm sitting this election out. I reject both options.

Heckuva job Greenies....

You can't help but wonder if no one takes the Green movement seriously any longer due to the fact that they're not very serious themselves?

Carnival barkers and "tar ball" donuts are fine, for children, but when you enter the realm of adult debate it's time to put hyperbole and histrionics to bed.

Well, that and simple competency might help. Just a little.

What the world really needs right now are not costumed enviros shouting idiotic pronouncements supposedly espoused by big oil but the serious approach taken by conservationists, many of whom work in the corporate world that the ecomentalists so despise.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What if.....

.....the "so-called" American fuel for the Mexican drug cartel problem was really not just the Caucasian-American issue it's been played out to be? Could that mean America's not entirely at fault like progressives say it is? In that vein, could that lead to some sensible talk on the whole drug issue? (Not holding my breath)

.....the burning of a warehouse containing the Harris County Voting E-slates was conducted by a Democratic operative* to allow the InterLeft to jump all over Harris County Clerk Kauffman when she discussed the only possible option for holding the upcoming election (less polling places, etc.) as being part of a grand vote-suppression scheme in order to lessen Bill White's support in what is expected to be his electoral base? (See just how easy it is to engage in silliness? Keep that in mind when you read moon-battery from the InterLeft on this. Harris County Republicans can't plan a budget, do you really think they could pull off a complicated scam such as this?)

.....the Bill White Texas Tribune just went ahead and admitted their bias? Wouldn't journalism be better off? (Amazing how "controversy" for Republicans always seems to stem from speaking with them isn't it? Much easier to avoid when you're being fed soft-ball questions. It's like Fox News, with the parties reversed, on a State level.)

....the reaction to EVERY thing that goes wrong wasn't the suggestion that what's needed to fix it is an expensive government program? (For the most part this problem could have been fix by proper kitchen sanitation and cooking one's eggs to the proper temperature.)

*And no, before someone from the InterLeft gets their panties in a bunch, I DON'T believe this was carried out by one of you. Nor do I believe your wild-eyed theories that the Republicans did it in an effort to suppress votes. Both ideas are equally silly.

Friday, August 27, 2010

20 years ago today.....

Heaven got the Blues.



Make sure to read Tom Kirkendall's post on the coming pop of the pro sports bubble.

At least in one area, Houston is certainly world class.*

*OK, granted, "world class" in terms of the size of the financial disaster, which promises to be even bigger if some have their way.

Campaign of the future?

Much is being made about Rick Perry's refusal to debate Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Bill White and his decision to stonewall newspaper editorial boards in the run-up to the November 2010 election. The question is: Will there be any fallout from this decision?

My guess is no.

Here's why.

The "Rick Perry is a Coward" ads are riling up the InterLeft and Perry's refusal to speak to Editorial boards all but assures that each and every one of them endorse Bill White. None of those people (or people who pay attention to their writings) are very likely to cast a vote for Rick Perry regardless. They're already 100% in the tank for Bill White. Unless the man is caught praying in a secret room to a statue of W while playing footsie with Sarah Palin as Karl Rove provides play-by-play they're solid "D" votes. Even IF something like this happened most of them would either skip the election or cast a vote for the Green Candidate.

Then there are the issues with the debates and editorials themselves:

- For the most part, debates suck. They're boring, the questions are terrible, and the moderators are people who shouldn't be moderating a Jr. High dispute in the lunch line, much less a debate between individuals seeking the highest elected office in the State. There was a time when debates contained shocking content, stem-winding speeches and material of consequence. Now it's just an excuse for lazy reporters to invent "gotcha" moments and for both sides to release press releases declaring "victory" that were written before-hand by the campaign staffer who drew the short straw. Debates are space-filler for news organizations who have spent the last decade or so cutting the reporting budget to make room for "features" content.

- Typically, viewership is low. 2006 being the obvious exception. But 2006 was a special case. That race had two independents, Perry and the political punching bag to hold viewers interest. This one promises to have Perry's hair and the smartest guy in the room explaining why he really, really does understand the mechanisms and purposes behind a blind trust.

- Closed-door editorial meetings suck. From groups who constantly scream "open government", Newspapers are amazingly backwards in their position on meetings between the editorial staff and public figures. Now, were that those interviews be live-streamed, or broadcast after the fact in their raw form, THAT would be something worth seeing. What we get now is some journo school, bottom-of-the-class graduate telling us what to think about (some) of what the candidate might have said. If I want that kind of editing I'll read a press release thank you very much.

One downside to Perry's decision is this: He's pretty much assured himself of nothing but negative press coverage as the State's dwindling capitol corps knocks themselves out trying to prove to the public that their roles are still relevant. It will be "gotcha" journalism in it's lowest form. Between that and the sudden surge of "fact checking" sites it's a pretty safe bet that good, solid, Woodward & Bernstein-style investigative, watchdog journalism finds itself in our state's rear view mirror.

From the major players that is. You can still find quality journalism of that type, online.

Ironically that seems to be where Perry is directing many of his campaign resources.



Sad, whiny stuff from the Apple Dumpling Gang. (Case in point, what does Perry {or any political candidate for that matter} have to gain by talking with this group?)

Note: edited to clean up prose.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

HoustonVotes rebuttal

I linked to a story regarding the accusations by Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez that progressive advocacy group Texans Together had engaged in voter fraud (and the reporting on the same issue by Texas Watchdog and BlogHouston) in yesterday's Noise Machine so it's only fair to note that the group has issued an official response to the charges which I'll reprint in full here:
HOUSTON, TX August 26, 2010 – On Friday, August 27 at 10:30 a.m. at the Historic Magnolia Ballroom located at 715 Franklin (at Milam), Houston Votes will answer and refute the reckless allegations made by Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar, Leo Vasquez on Tuesday, August 24. Leo Vasquez made reckless and false allegations against Houston Votes, the organization, in an apparently coordinated, partisan effort to suppress voter registration and to intimidate citizens into not voting. Sadly, this type of shameful tactic has worked all too well in the past. Houston Votes is committed to non-partisan voter registration and helping register the over 600,000 citizens eligible to vote who are not even registered.

Nothing about the charges, just attacks of partisanship against Republicans from a group that claims to be "non-partisan"*. Ah well, when I find a story on the press conference I'll link to it as well. Hopefully they have an answer for the "thousands" (Leo Vasquez's word) of inaccurate voter registrations. That or proof that Vasquez is full of it, either way.

*By non-partisan, we mean funded by Democrats but hoping no one notices. (See: Bill White Texas Tribune for more.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Noise Machine (08/25/10)

Nothing to see here......

It's a good thing this vote fraud issue is overblown isn't it? Otherwise blogging such as this might mean something. Kudos to the reporters and bloggers involved.

Despite all else, build the train. (And if you run out of money in the process then scream for a taxpayer bailout. I know where you can get some votes.)

I give you....the crater. To public pressure that is.

Cue anger....

Worst.Conspiracy.Ever. Bil Oil should be ashamed of itself.

Dedicated juice for the TMC. An idea long in coming.

Will the inevitable in Texas Politics finally happen? All signs point to yes.

Suggesting a cut to Perry's sacred cows is most certainly a political move, but one I support heartily.

It appears we will have Ronnie Earle to kick around some more. I put it at -500 that DeLay skates.

And finally....

The thing you need to know about the "Political Class" is this: They're NOT American Royalty, they only THINK they are.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get this narrative straight....

The Anti Wal*Mart groups, strung together on shoe-string budgets, railing about "keeping THOSE people out" and horrified at the thought of racism in the suburbs, are a group of "concerned citizens" only looking to ensure the pastoral quality of life in the Heights.

In other words: Old South Conservatives*.

The Wal*Mart however, is an evil conglomeration of minority shoppers and *gasp* people who look different and don't wear designer labels. They're working to destroy the fabric of Middle America and have our children co-mingle with children who's parents buy Geranimals for them to wear instead of Polo for Kids.

Ruffians all.

Those video reports of the anti-Wal*Mart meetings have been whiter than a Tea Party gathering. The main difference being that the Anti Wal*Mart-ers signs have been spelled correctly. Which just goes to show that the Caucasian wings of both parties have something in common. What that is we leave up to you to decide.

Until then: The Revolution will be fought with half-truths on websites!!!

(And ChronBlog will always be there to set the proper narrative, and identify the good guys for 'ya)

*Out-manned, out-gunned, out-monied, and back @ home in the Democratic Party?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Enjoy your weekend.... (UPDATED!)

Friday is my 12-yr wedding Anniversiary, so I won't be blogging until next week.

Until then have a great weekend and here's a little grist for the mill....

There's been an ethics complaint sworn out against Terry Lowry, it's not on-line yet but some good Samaritan saw fit to mail a copy of the letter to my house outlining the charges. It was an unsigned envelope with a font adress, no handwriting. (In case you're wondering)

I'll have more on this next week, but I've given Mr. Lowry a chance to respond before going into further detail.

So far it hasn't been listed on the ethics commission's on-line website I'm not sure what (if anything) that means.



(Metro announces $49M budget shortfall, KHOU staff,
The Metro Transit Board announced on Thursday that Metro will have a budget shortfall of $49 million this year.

The board blamed a decrease in ridership and lower tax revenue for the shortfall.

The shortfall has slowed spending on Light Rail construction, and the board was asking Metro staff to develop other ways to cut costs.
Mark Greenblatt blasted this out on Twitter about an hour before the story hit the website.

It should be noted that local anti-rail activist Tom Bazan has been predicting (and tracking) this for years.

I'm sure this news will dominate the weekend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

S%*@ That Authoritarian Says

Thank goodness for America ruling party practices such as branding the opposition as demagogues & unpatriotic rogues*, criticizing their supporters while courting the same interests and directing the pressure and threat of the State toward those opposed to the priorities of the ruling faction are only things that are done in "those" countries right?

*Yes, I'm looking at you as well Republicans.

The Noise Machine (08/18/10)

Rain, rain, rain.....

"If only Texas were Blue" say the InterLeft (All while decrying the other side for playing "politics")

Remember those eerily authoritarian Audi "Green Police" ads that ran during last year's Super Bowl? Life imitates art?

Ummm...About that Biz tax....

I've said this many times before and I'll say it again. I love helping animals, it's animal PEOPLE that are usually the problem.

Put me squarely on the side of the new KUHC. Houston's needed a dedicated Classical Music station for quite some time now.

Remember the term: dedicated taxes and expect it to play a rather large role in the next Lege.

and finally.....

There's no voter fraud in Texas. Nope, none at all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Worth the Premium

Let's be honest. There's a lot of stuff on the market today that's marketed as "premium" that's not really worth the extra money for most people. "Premium" gasoline, "Premium" coffee you name it. Most of it is the product of good marketing convincing people that they have to have the best. It's fake-luxury at it's finest.

That being said there are a few things in life that are worth paying extra in order to get 'premium' quality.

Foremost among these is charcoal. Buy the sub-par stuff one time and you'll see what I mean. Stick with Kingsford* or, better yet, hardwood charcoal. You won't regret it.

*Dear FTC**: No, I haven't received anything free for this post, nor I been financially rewarded for saying Kingsford charcoal is superior. I buy my own weekly at the store thank you very much. (That being said, if someone from Kingsford wants to talk a sponsorship deal....hey, I do a LOT of grilling.)

**Thanks to commenter EdT for the free copy editing, unfortunately I hit the "delete" key on the comment instead of "accept" on that comment.

The Noise Machine (08/17/10)

Just the facts ma'am....

Get your story straight. Otherwise you look dishonest.

OK, is Houston going to be World Class because we'll now have a dedicated classical music station or do we slip on the World Classiness scale because we're losing indie-rock college radio? I never can keep up with the moving scale.

Professional Wal-Mart "killers" are lurking about. Of course, OUR grassroots group has no connection to them.

Imagine that, A positively perfect Apple review from the ChronBlog's tech shop. What's next? An anti-death penalty editorial?

Sales Tax Holiday this weekend. Time to watch people freak out over saving 8.25%.

The new "Lawrence Marshall Clobber Line?"

And finally.....

Texas Watchdog has more on that voter fraud some swear isn't happening.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Momentum killer

Should Republicans lose the Texas House in November, they've got no one to blame but themselves.

(Garland lawmaker admits he doubled-billed for travel, Jay Root, AP via ChronBlog)
A Texas state representative who rails against the evils of runaway government spending admitted Monday that he has pocketed thousands of dollars in taxpayer money for travel expenses that his campaign had already funded.

Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, faced with findings from an investigation by The Associated Press, acknowledged in an interview that for years he has been submitting the same receipts — for luxury hotels, airline tickets, meals, fees and incidentals — to both his campaign and to the Texas House of Representatives.

He has also been collecting thousands of dollars in state mileage reimbursements for travel in vehicles for which his campaign has shelled out more than $100,000 since 2000.
You could say something such as "not smart" or "idiot" or any number of other descriptors for this and be within your rights. "Hypocrite" is another one that comes to mind, Rep. Driver being one who rails against Government waste of taxpayer dollars while contributing to it at the same time.

Then there's this: Joe Driver is a member of the Independent (snicker) Conservative Republicans of Texas. Thus proving that joining a group with a zero bar height for entry is the political equivalent of anonymous oath-taking. Fortunately for Rep. Driver, founding member State Sen. Dan Patrick has already appeared to leave this group behind, having done zero with it since it's very public unfurling. Hey, he got the Tea Party folks on his side right?

Just for fun though, let's review the icROT "Contract with Texans"
We give our word to be fiscally accountable,
limit the size of government,
and fight for free market principles.

Have fun Democrats y'all deserve your chuckles on this one.

My prediction though is that Rep. Driver will still win, the 'straight party' balloting in Garland should see to that unless, that is, he does the honorable thing and resigns. That's what you should require of him Republicans, that he resign. After all it's the "principled Christian" thing to do.


If you're reading this blog and not following the the series on weatherization stimulus by Texas Watchdog reporter Mark Lisheron I have one question for you...

Why not?

Lisheron's trials and trevails uncovering the seemingly flawed weatherization plan has been some of the best local reporting to come down the journalism pipe in years.

Now go and get caught up.

There was a time....

(Uncertainty creates level of inactivity, Jeannine Aversa, AP via ChronBlog)
The Federal Reserve has little power left to lift the economy out of its rut. Congress, with an election looming, has no appetite for more stimulus. Shoppers are reluctant to spend, and businesses are slow to hire.

Let’s face it: There is no easy or imminent fix for the flagging recovery.

That an opinionated lede* such as this would immediately shuttle a piece to the opinion pages. At least it would mean a trip back to a copy editor for re-write. That it's been presented as "news" tells you much of what's wrong with the newspaper industry today, how far they've fallen, and why other news sources (ones that are up-front about their bias) are garnering a larger share of the news consuming public.

*Regardless of whether or not the opinion's valid, which this one is, it's still the writers opinion as to why these things are happening.

The obvious problem is....

('Gang safety zones' growing in Texas, Cindy Horswell, ChronBlog)
Those enjoined are not only barred from committing crimes but also from associating with each other, going out in public after 9 p.m. or possessing a cell phone in a car. Then there are prohibitions against predictable gang activity: wearing gang clothing, making gang signs or possessing aerosol paint cans.

...Not everyone wearing a red cap or carrying an aerosol paint can around is a member of a gang, and you're relying on the restraint of local authorities to ensure they are.

That's a real problem (if you haven't been paying attention to the overcriminalization of American society lately.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

A 2fer

The Apple Dumpling Gang (also known as the ChronBlog editorial board*) has gotten so bad that I rarely mention them. However, today's twin efforts deserve special recognition.

Typically they either re-hash previous NY Times editorials or give Lisa Gray free-reign to overuse exclamation points in what should be a mature sounding board. Today they did both.

Congratulations on reaching new depths of suck.

*It's been said many times, many ways, but the best option would be to shutter America's worst Ed board and redeploy the money and resources to the metro desk.

What a waste...

It's not like this stuff comes along every day.....

(Officials uncrate Scotch whisky, which was on ice for 100 years. AP via ChronBlog)
A crate of Scotch whisky that was trapped in Antarctic ice for a century was finally opened Friday — but the heritage dram won't be tasted by whisky lovers because it's being preserved for its historical significance.

Step One: Wrangle a job working in the preservation lab.

Step Two: Decide if viewing Scotch as a historical object is today's sign that the Apocalypse is upon us.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Political winds....

What does it take to go from Runner Up "Porker of the Year" to "Taxpayer Hero"?

Nothing from a legislative, earmark standpoint. So it must be that the subject in question is no longer running in a primary race against one of the group's favorite candidates?

There be no building here!

Galveston City government appears to be ready to scrap a years-planned West Beach development project in large part to concerns about it's being in violation of terms for the receipt of anti-erosion funds.

Wouldn't a better idea be to place the onus for anti-erosion efforts on the developers who want to build in a high-erosion zone? You shore it up, or you lose it when your customer's lawns become public beaches. Caveat Emptor and all of that right?

Piling on....

On top of $8 Billion for the Renew Houston funding plan (with a drainage and flood control plan to follow, we promise!*) the city is also planning to tack on an additional drainage fee that will add.....well, we're not sure exactly WHAT it's supposed to add since we've been told that Renew Houston is the cure for what ails us? The linked ChronBlog story does mention that this tax "fee" has been a priority of Mayor Annise Parker since her days on City Council. She's also pushing for no exemptions, which means that schools, non-profits, and other groups would have to pay as well. Ouch. Tying this fee to the success of the Renew Houston bonds referendum could be the dagger in the heart of the plan.

*The dirty secret about Renew Houston is that they don't really have a drainage plan, just a "give us money" plan. Now the City is jumping on doubling up without a plan either.

Blind to blind trusts (UPDATED)

Joe Holley of ChronBlog files a *ahem* curious account of Bill White's 'ethics reforms' the candidate proposed as a planned attack on Rick Perry....
White said he would require senior staff in the governor's office to file yearly personal financial statements with the Texas Ethics Commission, limit contributions from bidders on state contracts, and require the governor to disclose debts and gifts every six months, as well as information about all the governor's assets.
That bolded part is mine, and reads like an alternative writing of this as reported by the Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater:
Finally, White outlined measures to increase financial disclosure from both the governor and his senior staff. He said he would disclose information about all assets, a contrast to Perry who uses a so-called "blind" trust to hide his assets and conflicts of interest.
Based on the press release (quoted above) it's pretty clear that the staffers of the Bill White campaign how no idea of the workings, purpose or methods of a blind trust. Interesting that ChronBlog editors felt it useful not to include that bit of detail is it not?

UPDATE: OK, so based on this Chron Texas Politics blog post by Peggy Fikac it appears that Bill White doesn't understand what a blind trust is or how it works.
"People know a lot less about Rick Perry's income, assets and debts than they do mine. That's a fact. As governor, I would not hide assets in a blind trust," White said after speaking to the broadcasters group.

"Rick Perry knew the assets he put in the blind trust," White said, including a partnership with the late Ric Williamson, whom Perry named Texas Transportation Commission. Together they pushed the now-withered Trans Texas Corridor.
That lack of knowledge of financial workings doesn't exactly inspire confidence in a candidate whose touting his "business experience" does it? Not to mention the "Bill White: Smartest guy in the Room" meme that news outlets such as the Texas Tribune and ChronBlog has been pushing.

NOTE: A friend of mine made the suggestion that Bill White knows full well how a blind trust works. What he's thinking is that you, the Texas voter, are too stupid to know that. That could be the most likely scenario.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Notes from Texas House District 135 (UPDATED)

Just a quick pop back into the political realm of blogging to make note of something I found to be unusual.

The Harris County Republican Party is holding a "Meet and Greet" on Wednesday, August 11th for State Representative Gary Elkins.

Rep. Elkins is running unopposed in the November election. (Even the Libertarians didn't field a contender.)

Given the questionable status of HCRP finances doesn't even a small expenditure on an unopposed candidate seem like a waste of time, effort and money that could be spent on candidates in actual races?

All Elkins needs to win is one vote. Heck, his family could go to the polls, pull the lever and win it for him. I'm willing to be they wouldn't cost a couple of hundo while doing it.



David Jennings or, as you might know him Big Jolly dropped by and explained it in the comments. It was a good explenation so I wanted it high-lighted on the main post:

I can clear that up for you. It is all about the Judicial candidates. They cannot campaign together unless it is at a party sponsored event such as this or a non-partisan event such as the League of Women Voters Meet and Greet on Sept 18th. Dumb rules and mostly preaching to the choir type of campaigning (almost all of the attendees will be regulars on the meet/greet circuit) but it is something.

Plus, these things don't cost the party anything - attendees buy their own food/drinks, the eblasts are free, and the candidates pay for their own handouts. Also, it helps keep the choir motivated.

My response as follows:
OK, but why not group them together with a candidate who has something to benefit from this?

I understand the judicial angle, just not the inclusion of a candidate with no opposition. Seems like a lost opportunity to me unless you're specifically targeting a judicial district that's wholly in the confines of Elkin's district that is.

I get the judicial angle, I really do, and I freely admit to not being privy to the intricacies of politicking. Campaigns and party politics are not my thing. It just seems to me that there are better ways to spend your time, even if there's a secondary goal?

Ah well, now you see why I'm not a political strategist and content with the title of "World's worst blogger". Back to sports blogging and working in real life.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Time off is good. (UPDATED)

It's time for HCA to go on a long, long hiatus. Real life, football season, the paying job, the sorry state of ChronBlog, and a general weariness rejecting comments from anonymous idiots who aren't sharp enough to understand sarcasm have sucked my will to blog.

If, for some odd reason, you feel you need to know how I feel about things I'll still be updating my Diigo feed, and will be moving it to the top for easy reading. That will be like a daily "noise machine" but without a comment feature which means less work for me. If you're REALLY sick you can follow me over at 3CB where I'll be spending a lot of time writing about football and other sports that probably don't interest you.

Until then: You stay classy Harris County.

UPDATE: Fortunately, I've been 'reassigned' at work rather than "laid off", which means that irregular blogging, at least, might appear from time to time.

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