Archive for the ‘Max Baucus’ Category

by Pete Talbot

And here I thought Sen. Max Baucus was retiring from the U.S. Senate so he could spend more time in Montana with his lovely, young wife.  He’s even building a home in the Bozeman area.

It looks like I was wrong.  The blogs are awash with the news that Max will most likely be the next U.S. Ambassador to China.  I won’t link to them all — they range from kudos to criticism — and you’ve probably already read them.  Here’s the NY Times story, though.

Now China will be his legacy since tax reform is off the table and the Affordable Care Act isn’t exactly being warmly embraced.

The big question: who will be appointed by Gov. Bullock as Baucus’ place holder until the 2014 election?

Ahh, to be a fly on the wall in those smoke-filled back rooms (although not as smokey as they used to be thanks to anti-tobacco trends).  Who to pick: Lt. Gov. John Walsh, Brian Schweitzer, Pat or Carol Williams, one of our Tier-B women (Juneau, McCulloch, Lindeen)?

Now former Baucus/Obama staffer Jim Messina is being mentioned.  How the hell did he get in the mix?

And if Bullock appoints Walsh, who will he then appoint as lieutenant governor?  (Bohlinger?  That would be ironic, n’est pas?)

I’m sure all these questions were hashed out and answered many months ago by the powers that be.  The rest of us are just along for the ride.

UPDATE: It’s official.  Obama nominates Baucus for Ambassador to China position.  Max’s appointment should sail through Senate hearings.

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by Pete Talbot

Or so says the Washington Post.

“Who’ll be your whipping boy now?” asked my wife.

Still Max.  But I have a lot of questions.  Was it the public outcry on his latest actions the led to his retirement?  You know, his no vote on the expanded background checks for gun buyers and his comments on the health care “train wreck.”  The pundits say he did these things because he’s up for re-election in 2014.  Now he says he’s not running.

I get an email from Max’s organization every other day asking for money.  And he already has something like $6.5 million in his war chest.

So either he took a poll recently that said his numbers were in the crapper or he’s been playing at this super-secret campaign strategy to hold the seat in Democratic hands.  I suspect the former.

I guess it could be something else, like his health, but they say the guy runs miles everyday, so that probably isn’t it.  Then there’s this, from a source at ABC News: He has recently been remarried and “is finally happy,” the friend said. “At 72, he can still have a life. It’s harder to do that at 79.”

And the most shocking thing of all: The likely Democratic candidate to succeed him would be former governor Brian Schweitzer, sources said.

Where the hell did this come from?  It’s been said that these two guys don’t like each other very much.  Again, from the Post: ” … Schweitzer, a popular figure who at times has feuded with Baucus over local political issues in the Big Sky state. In February, Schweitzer hinted at a potential run in a Facebook post.”

Since I don’t follow Schweitzer on Facebook, this is news to me.  I thought Brian was busy trying to take over the Stillwater palladium mine over there in Columbus.

So much subterfuge, so little time.

Was Baucus really grooming Schweitzer for the seat all the time? Was this to keep potential Republican (or Democratic) rivals at bay. It seems to have worked on the Republicans with the two candidates, so far, being no-names: Corey Stapleton and Champ Edmunds.

This political insider crap drives me crazy, if that’s what it is.  I’m sure details will emerge over the next few weeks.  Personally, I’d like to see Denise Juneau run for the seat.

by Pete Talbot

My background gets checked all the time: for jobs, when I buy insurance, leave or enter the country, try to get a loan or apply for a credit card.

Background checks for gun buyers aren’t that big a deal. No one is limiting their choice of weapons or trying to take any away.

And 90 percent of Americans believe that expanded background checks are OK. Some of that 90 percent must live in Montana, right, Max?

If it were me, I’d support a ban on assault weapons and 30-plus-round clips. But I understand Max’s trepidation on this. The last time Max did anything controversial – and he probably didn’t realize it at the time – he voted for the Brady Bill.  The bill came about after President Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady, and a Secret Service agent and DC cop were wounded in an 1981 assassination attempt.

The Brady Bill was finally signed into law by President Clinton in 1993.  Many Republicans supported this legislation. Yet, Ax Max signs showed up around the state.

Next year,  he’s up for re-election, and Ax Max signs still haunt him.

I don’t expect Max to support ammo clip or assault weapon legislation but still, he’s against expanded background checks? C’mon Max, do you really need the votes from folks who think background checks are a radical infringement on their 2nd Amendment rights?  You’re worried about Republican candidates Corey Stapleton or Champ Edmunds?  You’ve already got $6.5 million in campaign funds in the bank.  No Republican challenger can come close to raising that kind of money.  You should be more worried about a primary challenger who would vote the correct way on expanded background checks.

Max always says: “My job is to stand up for Montanans, they are my employers.” I would venture that his employers are big pharma, insurance, finance and now the NRA.  Prove me wrong, Max.

max-amgen

“What is the best policy for Montanans and people across the country lies at the heart of every decision Chairman Baucus makes,” said Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Baucus. “It’s as simple as that.”

By JC

I’m not going to dissect this story. What with all the hoopla over at Pogie’s Place, and Pete’s article below, it seems that there is a crack in the dem distortion field that protects incumbent, yet corrupt, politicians from the scrutiny they deserve.

In this case, Senator Baucus once again has been caught with his pants down, getting serviced by the health care industry — this time by Amgen and its lobbyists. It’s the usual story of revolving door crony capitalism: former Baucus Chief of Staff goes back to work in the industry, lobbies his former boss and plies him with campaign contributions, then manages to insert last minute provision benefiting company into the ram-rodded fiscal cliff bill with Sen. Amgen’s Baucus’ approval.

The story originated with investigative reporters at the NY Times, and has spread all over (half a million hits for “Baucus + Amgen” at google already) the internet, but as Mark over at PoM notes, “All corruption that has ever been reported on Montana office holders has originated out-of-state, and local media like Lee newspapers ignore it unless it gains s national traction.”

Yawn, just another day at the local Baucus corruption media newsline, relegated to a LTE submission.

In any case, if dems were really concerned about their politician’s corruption, they’d take quick notice, and begin casting a wide net for a replacement for Max (with all due respect for Ellie Hill’s distancing herself from the race). While Max’s last election victory (a 73%-27% shellacking of Bob Kelleher–one of his campaign managers called it “the easiest job I’ve ever had”) was basically a “gimmie” that the republicans ceded by not putting up a candidate, one can be assured that they smell blood on the water this time ’round.

And Baucus’ revolving door, that is emblematic of everything wrong with Congress, is certain to be his achilles heel. Acquiescence (i.e. lesser of two evil arguments) is acceptance at this point. Dems who willingly support Baucus will have to explain how they can overlook his corruption. The cognitive dissonance  MT Dems are going to experience over Max is going to be the single-most interesting part of the primaries lead-up, and the election should he make it to the generals.

I’ll leave you all with a small clip from Bill Moyers talking with a Congressman about this issue:

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by Pete Talbot

Pogie, over at Intelligent Discontent, has a post up on Sen. Max Baucus’ re-election bid.  To date, it has generated over 150 comments, so it must be an issue that many people are following, closely.

(The only post of Pogie’s that has received a higher volume of comments was on gun violence, but that subject is guaranteed to bring out more nuts than a Tea Party convention.)

Pogie says that despite Max’s flaws, unless there is a viable challenger in the primary who can go on to beat the Republican in the general election, he’s supporting Max.

Now I have great respect Pogie (Don Pogreba) and his site – I often go to Intelligent Discontent first when I open my laptop – but I’m not ready to concede his point.  And I planned to comment at his site but since my comment was going to run longer than his post, I thought I’d try something here at good ol’ 4&20.

I appreciate Pogie’s concern, having just read an article in the Washington Post about how Republicans are eating their own — the subject being how far-right candidates win in the primaries only to lose in the general elections.  Could this happen to the Democrats in Montana if a more progressive candidate won in our primary?

It’s possible.  But maybe, just maybe, voters are fed up with candidates who take a stand only after they’ve taken a poll, and who receive more in special interest campaign contributions than the GDP of most African nations.

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by Pete Talbot

I’m on my quarterly visit to the Magic City, which always gives me pause for reflection.

Consider this a sort of stream of consciousness open thread.

Things are booming, relatively speaking, in Billings.  I tend to stay in the west end of town, with occasional visits to the Heights and Lockwood.  Construction, both commercial and residential, is on the upswing.  Miles-and-miles of ubiquitous six-foot-tall white plastic fence line 32nd Street West, separating the new subdivisions of apartments, condos and single-family homes.

The energy boom at the Bakken Play, and Wyoming coal and methane fields, is helping to fuel the Billings economy.  And when I tell the in-laws that I’m not all that excited about the Keystone XL Pipeline, well, I might as well be telling them I’m here for their guns.

I was told once that Billings got its nickname ‘Magic City’ because of its amazing economic growth from its early days as a little railroad town.  It was also mentioned, although not in the Chamber of Commerce brochures, that Billings has magically hung around through numerous boom-and-bust cycles, like the petroleum bust in the early 1960s.

We’ll see how the current boom treats Billings denizens in the not too distant future.

Since I’m a dead tree edition junkie, I read the Billings Gazette while I’m here.  It’s not that much larger than the Missoulian, which surprises me since Billings is about twice the size of Missoula.  As a matter of fact, the Sunday and Monday Billings papers had as many Missoulian bylines in them as Gazette bylines. Interesting.

A Sunday AP story that caught my eye was this one on Sen. Max Baucus gearing up for a 2014 re-election bid.  Good idea, Max, since you’re going to have a tough time raising any campaign money for this Senate race (snark).

To be honest, Max has done some good stuff lately: his work on the Rocky Mountain Front, his support of women’s health care and reproductive rights, his call for a quicker withdrawal from Afghanistan …

Not sure that cancels out the debacles of the deficit super committee he served on or health care committee he chaired, his earlier support of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, his sh*t-eating grin as he stood next to George W. Bush during the signing of the tax breaks for millionaires bill …

So it disappointed when I read this line in the story:

“Baucus continues to be the main funder of the state party and its candidates, making a primary challenge nearly impossible for anyone seeking institutional support.”

Way to further democracy, state party and its candidates.

Rumors abound that Gov. Schweitzer is the logical candidate to challenge Baucus, although Schweitzer adamantly denies this.  It’s also common knowledge that Baucus and Schweitzer aren’t the best of buddies.  I’m not sure who I’d support in a Baucus/”Coal Cowboy” primary, though I’m leaning Schweitzer.  I know where Montana Cowgirl stands.  The comments there weren’t particularly kind toward Max, either, but then again, it is a rather Schweitzer-centric site.

Schweitzer is definitely more of a maverick and Montana loves a maverick.  Still, what I’d really like to see is someone who will dramatically shift the paradigm — call for the public financing of elections, reign in lobbyist influence, promote economic and environmental sustainability — someone to really shake things up.

So it’s always good to take the pulse of the Magic City.  As I’ve said for the umpteenth time, as Billings goes, politically, so goes the state of Montana.  Maybe the 2012 elections will give me some indication as to where Billings is headed but I don’t believe it’s ready to embrace any radically shifting paradigms as yet.

by Pete Talbot

Baucus pulls a Rehberg

The rhetoric was pure Rehberg but it came from the mouth of Max Baucus.  On the heels of the State of the Union address, the first comment from our congressional delegation was Max blasting Obama for not ramming through the Keystone XL pipeline.

Granted, it was just a local TV news snippet and I’m sure the station was looking for the most controversial quote, but Max gladly provided it.

He joins the ranks of Joe Leiberman, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln as party skanks.  Montana Republicans should be grateful that Max Baucus is their senior senator.

Baucus says he’s “quite disappointed” that Obama didn’t reference the pipeline.  Here’s the link to the 10 p.m. newscast.  Max is about four minutes in.  Viewing not recommended for those with a queasy stomach.

On the other hand

In light of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, both Baucus and Tester are pushing for a Constitutional amendment that would regulate campaign spending.  This will be no cakewalk as it takes two-thirds of both chambers and three-quarters of the states (38 states?) to ratify the amendment.  Maybe just making our elections publicly financed would be easier, although I’m sure that, too, would end up in SCOTUS.

Of course Rehberg likes the idea of unlimited corporate influence in elections.  He believes there just needs to be more “sunlight” (or transparency) in campaigns, which mens a five-minute scroll of all the contributors at the end of a sixty-second negative hit spot on TV.  Yeah, right.  Like we can’t already figure out where all the millions of dollars are coming from.

It will be interesting to see how aggressive Congress is in advancing this amendment and how accountable members will be to citizens (and by citizens, I don’t mean corporations).

Update: Here’s Pogie’s take on Rehberg and Citizens United.

By JC

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Update #2 (this is an update from the original Kos post linked to below):
This is from a statement from Stewart Rhodes of Oathkeepers regarding Republican Denny Rehberg as a target of recall, who also voted for NDAA.

Here in Montana, while we will go after all three violators of the Bill of Rights, I will place special emphasis and “focus of effort” on Denny Rehberg, since he is so fond of wrapping himself in the flag and claiming to be defending the Constitution while his votes do the exact opposite. In that sense, Rehberg is much like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two Republicans who, right along with Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman, are leading a sustained and relentless assault on our Bill of Rights.
———–

Do people really believe it is appropriate for our Senators (or Rep) in Montana to cast votes that take away constitutional rights?

Well, many in Montana and across the country don’t believe so. Jonathan Turley, at the TurleyBlog — the foremost legal blog commenting on civil rights in the country — makes a fine example of what many Montanans are doing in response to Max and Jon’s (and should be doing to Denny, too) ill-advised votes for indefinite detention of american citizens:

…Now Montana citizens have decided to try another approach given the non-responsive attitude of our leaders — they are moving to remove their two Senators from office over their votes in favor of indefinite detention powers.

Montana is one of nine states with recall laws. The other states are Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Eighteen states have recall laws, but most do not apply to federal officers.

Montana Code 2-16-603, on the grounds of physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of certain felony offenses. [sic]

Presumably, they are arguing that voting for an unconstitutional measure that allows for indefinite detention of citizens constitutes both a violation of the oath of office and incompetence. Usually official misconduct does not include policy differences, though voting for potentially authoritarian powers would not be viewed as good conduct in a free nation.

The move by the Montana votes shows something that I found in doing speeches around the country: there is no difference in red and blue states in citizens (1) fed up with our current two-party monopoly and dysfunctional politics and (2) opposed to the loss of civil liberties in this country.

It seems that occasional 4&20 commenter William Crane and others are behind this effort:

Montana law requires grounds for recall to be stated which show conformity to the allowed grounds for recall. The draft language of the Montana petitions, “reason for recall” reads:

“The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees all U.S citizens:
“a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…”

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA 2011) permanently abolishes the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, “for the duration of hostilities” in the War on Terror, which was defined by President George W. Bush as “task which does not end” to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

Those who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have attempted to grant powers which cannot be granted, which violate both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

The Montana Recall Act stipulates that officials including US senators can only be recalled for physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense. We the undersigned call for a recall election to be held for Senator Max S. Baucus [and Senator Jonathan Tester] and charge that he has violated his oath of office, to protect and defend the United States Constitution.”

…Montana would be the first recall drive to be launched as a result of the vote for the NDAA military detentions provisions.

Ah, it’s a fine day when the “principled left” believes that a dialog about the electeds stripping Constitutional rights from citizens needs to take center stage! As to Turley’s point above about the “two-party monopoly”, Denny should be taking his licks for his vote, also.

Update with thought exercise: What will the election for Senator look like if both candidates have active petition recalls against them? And what might happen if the petitions actually lead to a vote before the general election next year? And who might the fill in candidates be if both recalls succeeded? Who might replace Max?

by Pete Talbot

I know, I know, there are a few minor primary and general elections on tap for 2012.

Still, the other day Sen. Max Baucus’ name came up in conversation.  A couple of the folks present were shocked to hear he might re-up in 2014.

Since I received a fundraising letter from him a few weeks ago and then an invitation to his 70th birthday party just a couple of days ago (with a campaign remittance envelope attached) I guess he’s a-runnin’.

He could be just amassing funds to distribute to various Democratic campaigns across Montana and the nation but hey, I’d just as soon donate directly to those campaigns as have Max decide who should get my money.

Here are some recent Montana posts on Baucus — one favorable and one not so favorable.

I’m thinking that Max is about as vulnerable as he’s been in what will be close to 40 years in Congress. What think you, oh gentle reader?

 

 

By JC

In a dark opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, Senators Max Baucus, Patty Murray and John Kerry invoked the specter of a failing America in their opening salvo as the next chapter of right wing hostage taking shapes up:

“…No one has ever gone into a debate pledging that China and India should own this economic century because we can’t make our democracy work here at home.”

But here we are with exactly that scenario. America is in decline as the international economic juggernaut after having ruled most of the last century. Yet there are three emerging economies–China, India and Brazil–that are ascendant, and together will outcompete America for strategic resources like oil, minerals and intellectual competence.

Yet three democrat senators invoke rhetoric intended to harken back to the good ole Clinton days that “allow us to continue shining bright in the world.” This is all so eerily similar to Baucus’ irrelevant call for bipartisanship in the health care fights two years ago, where he irrationally thought he could get 80 votes for his health care plan. Today’s political landscape is even more polarized, yet Max and his two dem cohorts think that they will succeed this time around? It’s delusional thinking.

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By JC

Max Baucus, after  his recently appointed role to the super committee saddled with finding 1.2 to 1.5 trillion dollars in deficit reduction, conducted an interview with the Helena IR (Google cache) editorial board and revealed some thoughts about how he’s likely to proceed:

[Baucus] noted that the Bush tax cuts also are set to expire at the end of 2012, and if Congress wants to prevent that from happening, it would need to reach some sort of bargain – hopefully one that reforms the tax code to make it simpler, better for the economy, and able to generate the revenue needed to put the country’s fiscal house in order.

“Part of the solution here is reforming the tax code,” he said.

So Baucus is willing to “prevent” the Bush/Obama tax cuts from expiring if the tax code is reformed. Ok, so he’s waffling on his talk last year about letting the tax cuts for the rich expire. Well, what do you expect from a gumby? Here’s what Max had to say then about an amendment he was offering to extend middle income tax breaks:

Our amendment says:  Let’s make the middle-class tax cuts permanent.

And our amendment says:  Let’s not allow tax cuts for middle-class Americans to be held hostage to tax cuts for those who make the very most.

Anybody on the left here think that reforming the tax code during another economic hostage “crisis” (like the debt ceiling hike) is a good thing? Yes the tax code needs to be reformed, but it should be done in the light of day in the regular order, and not done behind closed doors by a 12 member “super committee,” a committee that now presents itself as a large target to lobbyists and campaign dollars from the oligarchs.
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By JC

If you’ve been paying attention to all the hoopla, you’ve heard by now that the House passed a draconian bill to address the looming crisis over the debt ceiling. I’m not going to go into details. Pogie put up a nice summation of what is going on over at ID, and I’ve got some comments about what’s going on there.

As part of the discussion over there, Steve W. mentions that there will be a protest at Rep. Rehberg’s Missoula office at high noon on this friday in front of Rehberg’s office at 301 E. Broadway.

While showing solidarity against Rehberg’s vote is a good thing, I still feel that everybody left of center should be aware that part of the right wing strategy here is to suck democrats into some kind of vote against Medicare and/or Social Security and Medicaid so as to blunt the effects of them having gone on record as wanting to privatize Medicare with their budget vote in the spring.

Republicans would love nothing better than to be able to turn the tables on dem candidates by showing them to have voted against Medicare, S.S. and/or Medicaid on the debt ceiling vote.

And of course, we have no way of knowing what will be in the final debt ceiling bill, and how our two dem senators will vote. Which is why I’d like to suggest that folks turn out in droves to the protest at Rehberg’s office and carry signs telling Baucus and Tester to keep their hands off of Medicare, S.S. and Medicaid cuts.

For those who want a bit more meta on the debt ceiling story from the left, George Ochenski has a great article “Dear Democrats” over at the Missoula Indy. And he puts my sentiments very clearly:

“When I hear Obama say Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all part of what might have to be chopped in his secret deal-making with Republican leaders, deep resentment wells up in me. And I am not alone.

…there are a handful of Democrats, including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who say they will never renege on Social Security. But it’s a very tough thing for Democrats who want to keep faith with the party’s working-class base when their President is so obviously willing to give in to outrageous Republican demands…

So here’s the simple message to Democrats: We are watching and we are fed up with you selling us out. Your choice at this juncture is equally simple: Listen up—or lose.”

I’ve appended a version of the email alert that went out in Missoula today about the rally after the jump.
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by jhwygirl

Thought I’d update a post I did last week, given that the Senate took another vote on ending ethanol subsidies – this one an amendment from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

A 73 – 27 bipartisan vote moved forward a repeal of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, to be included in the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011.

Both Montana Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus voted in support of repeal.

~~~
Found this spreadsheet which shows that of all U.S. corn production, 28.7% ends up in our gas tanks.

by jhwygirl

I signed up some time ago for google news alerts on Jon Tester. The stories stacking up there lately are not something I like to see given the amount of personal time and effort I put towards his campaign. I mean, I was making calls for Jon Tester back when the reply was “Jon who??” Someone needs to say something, so here goes.

Banking reform passed congress last year and was signed into law. It was some pretty weak stuff. It was forward moving, I can give it that….but the banks also didn’t whine too much.

Until now.

Banking reform included implementation of limits on bank card swipe fees. Those debit cards? They cost retailers – and by association, consumers – pretty hefty fees. Banks want a delay in implementing limitations on these swipe fees.

Our Senator Jon Tester? He has been trying to delay implementation of this aspect of banking reform by introducing his own legislation. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid was none too please, but did agree, recently, to give it a floor vote.

Want to know how I’d like my Senator Jon Tester to be handling this issue? Take a read of Senator Dick Durbin’s open letter to Jamie Dimon, CEO and President of JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Seriously. Read it. Frankly – I hope Senator Tester reads it. Durbin dismantles banking’s argument against implementation bit-by-bit.

Who else is wanting to see delayed implementation of swipe fee limitations? Who’s championing Sen. Jon Tester’s legislation? The Heritage Foundation.

Whining about losing rewards? Wow. Talk about priorities.

Senate returns next week. The showdown on these fees is inevitable. Interestingly, last night the New York Post reported that Jon Tester is so hell-bent for getting these banks a delay in limiting their swipe fees – that he’s pushed to attach his Heritage-approved legislation as a rider to the Economic Development Reauthorization bill.

Roll Call confirms the rider story: “The provision is likely to come up as a rider on one of two noncontroversial bills, according to industry lobbyists. And with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle supporting the delay, the outcome is still very much up for grabs.”

Now is the time to contact both Senator Tester and Senator Baucus.

And meanwhile – media? While I appreciate you pointing out that Sen. Tester is doing something that we here in Montana pretty much didn’t elect him to do, it’s not really fair that all you pull out of Rehberg is that he “hasn’t taken a position on this yet.”

Seems to me that’s pretty incompetent of Rehberg – and given he’s challenging Tester and he, too, is in congress, Montanans deserve an answer…and a more visible push to get it from him.

Given all the opportunity of late with flooding, surely getting at him again with what his position is on swipe fees isn’t too hard. Same with Baucus. Inquiring Montanans want to know.

By JC

Thought a little JibJab humor might cheer everybody up. Well, everybody but all those who’s dreams rested on DREAM.

Commentary by JC

Baucus’ “Health Care Reform Provision Is Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules”

I knew it would eventually come to this. Today’s headlines all over the media and blogosphere blaring out the news that the legal arguments against the mandate are beginning to advance in court. The battle against Obama’s health insurance reform act, and Baucus’ part in it are going to fuel right wing and tea party clamoring for repeal, but for all the wrong reasons.

And of course, we’ll be getting a basket full of the following ostrich mentality:

“Administration officials told reporters last week that a negative ruling would have virtually no impact on the law’s implementation, noting that its two major provisions – the coverage mandate and the creation of new insurance markets – don’t take effect until 2014.”

My goal here isn’t to take the debate about the individual mandate on again, or offer my opinion about its constitutionality under the Commerce Clause. I in no way support, or have supported the mandate. And I am on record in hundreds of comments here and at LitW about my opposition to the mandate.

Instead, I’m going to continue on with the line of reasoning I put forth about why the mandate, as constructed by Baucus and signed into law by Obama, is another step in the wrong direction for progressives and civil libertarians. Given that there now is movement on the mandate’s constitutionality, which most agree will put the provision before the Supreme Court before it ever gets implemented, it is time to start looking for alternatives, as there will be a huge drive to “amend” (read as “repeal” in some form or another) the bill in an increasingly overt conservative environment in Congress and the White House.
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By Duganz

I’ve been quite busy this week with work and a family illness, so I haven’t had time to update anyone on responses from Sen Max Baucus, Sen. Jon Tester, and Rep Dennis Rehberg about my simple question: “Why are we fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?”

So far it’s been seven days, and not much has happened. This is the scorecard:

  • Baucus: Sent a form letter the day after my post went live.
  • Tester: No response so far of any kind.
  • Rehberg: No letter, but (for some reason) is now following me on Twitter.

That’s it. That’s the amount of response I’ve received from my simple inquiry into why we’re pissing away money and lives on armed combat in two countries that never attacked us. At all.

I know my hopes were idealistic, but regardless of that they were from a place of honest concern for this country and its people.

But still, it’s been a week and…nothing. It’s like high school again, I keep waiting for girls to call me (in this scenario played by the Three Wise Men) and they never do. The difference is that this time it isn’t about my weight or acne––they just don’t care.

Tester and Rehberg could have at least had someone in their intern pool send me a form letter. I don’t agree on most things with Sen. Baucus, but at least he was willing to placate me with a carrot on a string––”See it? See the carrot? Yeah. Good. That’s me caring about your opinion. No. No. You don’t get to eat the carrot. It’s just there to placate your juvenile desire to have your opinion matter. So you stay here and keep chasing that carrot you myopic, hayseed piece of shit…”

Well, anyway, after a week of patiently waiting for my BlackBerry to receive thoughtful letters from Rep. Richy Rich, Sen. Tester and (more than a slapped together form letter) from Sen. Baucus, democracy is dead to me.

How pathetic of a country do we now live in where only one elected official out of three can take the time to have an intern press “send” on an email? I wasn’t asking much, and I got even less. While some of you may say that it’s only been a week, and that they are busy men (this country ain’t gonna destroy itself––we’ve got conflict to fund, and tax cuts to bicker about, and health care reform to destroy after all), this is not the age of men on horseback shuttling parcels across an untamed land. It’s 2010 and information flows at such a rate as to be almost too much to process.

A week and only one form letter only vaguely addressing my question in that it uses the words “Iraq” and “Afghanistan.” My god, what the hell’s the point of a representative democracy if no one can take the time to care about those they represent?

If you care to read the Baucus email, click here: Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Unemployment benefits expired for millions of Americans at 12 a.m. Wednesday morning while congress debates whether to spend $56.4 billion for the near 10% of Americans that are unemployed or $700 billion in tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans?

Each week, more millions will be added to that number of people that will have no source of income. Think about what that’s doing for the economy.

I’m of the mindset that President Obama has already compromised on the tax issue by saying he’s willing to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts to ninety eight percent of Americans. It shows some sensible restraint with regards to deficit spending. At a time when our government can’t afford to expend money without great assurance that virtually 100% of it returns back into the economy, keeping more money in the hands of ninety eight percent of Americans is a smart thing to do.

GOP Senators, on the other hand, have said that they are going to filibuster the current tax cut proposal to hold out for tax cuts for America’s richest 2% even though it is going to increase the deficit. They won’t talk START treaty, they won’t talk unemployment benefits.

Baucus, for his part, is once again sitting high. He’s the Democrat’s representative in the Group of Six put together by Obama.

Yeah…..

Baucus has also brought a bill to the floor last night that will extend unemployment benefits for one more year.

So I got a little panicky….

….but I’m breathing a bit of a sigh of relief tonight – because Baucus’ bill is the product of the Gang of Six, and it extends tax cuts to 98% of Americans. It extends Making Work Pay credit, the research and development credit, and lower tax rates on investment income.

Sure sounds like compromise to me.

If Obama or if any of our representation in Washington thinks that extending $700 billion in tax cuts for the top 2% wage earners in America is a “deal” well, they have the wrong idea of how to cut a deal. The current proposal includes tax cuts for businesses and investment income. It extends cuts to 98% of America. What’s to grump about?

Rabble Rouser Republicans like Boehner, McConnell and Cantor have, for the most part, toned down their rhetoric (although they were reluctant to do so as they were doing so):

One can’t help but to see how much the Sun Tan Man seemed to love the limelight, with Cantor a close close second. Yet we have yet to see offer of a compromise.

Big Swede likes videos. I don’t know how to capture this one (but a friend-of-4&20 has offered to work on it), but I hope he (and those folks up in Washington) can see this video from NBC’s KECI Missoula. What would they tell this man if they were standing there?

What will they tell 10% of America?

Would Boehner stand there with his my way or the highway and tell that Montanan that he’s without any income in the middle of winter? 3 weeks before Christmas?

I dare him.

~~~~~
(Big Swede? I don’t know why you can’t post under your Big Swede name. I can’t figure it out, but it isn’t because of any setting here.)

By Duganz

I remember sitting in my high school computer lab when we started shocking and awing Iraqi civilians, and soldiers into oblivion. Some of my classmates were cheering. I was 18 so I could only think of Johnson, Nixon, and the story my Dad’s plan to run to Canada when he got his draft number (just a few months before the end of the Vietnam draft).

We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for over nine years, and in Iraq nearly eight years. The cost of the wars has exceeded $1 trillion. Nearly 100,000 American troops have been wounded, and thousands have died.As for civilians of those two nations, thousands are dead, homeless, or slowly descending into a mindset wherein bombs are a fashion statement.

All those years, all that money, and all of those wounded human beings and I still have yet to get a sound reason for this question I’ve had all along: “Why are we fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?”

It’s a childish question, I know. But it is nonetheless relevant. The Left has laid blame on reactionary tactics (Afghanistan), and corporatism (Iraq). The Right is quick to beat the purity drum with a ratta-tat-tat roll for FREEDOM! FOR! ALL! The Left arguments may be true, we may be in these conflicts for empty reactionary reasons and our ongoing desire to burn dead dinosaurs. I don’t know.

As for the Right’s reasoning, well, I don’t know how an occupation creates freedom. And I mean that literally. How are people free if armed soldiers are walking around telling them what to do?

I ultimately want to believe the best in all people, even former President George W. Bush. I want to believe that he got bad intel, and that he stretched facts for pure reasons (it ain’t likely, but I want it to be true). I want to believe that we are still losing lives and money for the cause of freedom, even if I feel that war is a misguided means to an end when it comes not from the people, but from an outside force.

But, hell, it’s probably just imperialism and greed.

I want answers to why this has happened, and why it’s still going on. I’m Cruise in A Few Good Men. I want the truth (and, sadly, my government seems to think more like Nicholson).

So I decided to email Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Max Baucus, and Rep. Dennis “Denny” Rehberg that one simple question: “Why are we fighting wars Iraq and Afghanistan?”

I didn’t put anything else in the email. Just the question; no slant or bias. I could have asked how any of them sleep at night knowing they could save lives, or if each flag-draped coffin means something to them. I could have asked Baucus if his nephew dying changed his mind.

I only used those eight simple words.

For those of you who have never emailed our national representatives, the easiest way is through the email forms available at their websites (links above). You give some personal info (most likely for future mailers), select a topic from a pre-made list, and then you’re free to write a little message.

But here’s something interesting:

At Tester’s site you cannot select Afghanistan as a topic, but you can ask about Iraq; Baucus apparently wishes to avoid talking about either (regret those votes Max?) as neither war is an available topic so I chose “foreign policy”; Denny is the only one providing an option for both under the heading “WAR.” I’m not lying. His topic list has the word “WAR.” Just like that. In CAPS. Like it should be proceeded by a grunt and the words “Good god, y’all. What is it good for?”

My emails have been sent. I’m waiting for responses.

I’ve been waiting for nearly ten years. I’ll post the responses as they come in.

***

Update (5:20pm): I posted this on Twitter at approximately 5:10pm MST. Rep. Rehberg’s account is verified. Sen Tester’s is not. It’s possible that Mr. Smith can infact no longer go to Washington, but Mr. Duganz can go to the internet.

By JC

We might as well have an open thread up about the election. So instead of talking about the particulars of each race and ballot issue, I think it might be instructive for folks to get into the grist of the issue:

How did Democrats, after two solid elections that took control of Congress, and a landslide victory for the presidency two years ago, manage to lose control of the message and the agenda, and gave it all back to the republicans and the t-party?

The search for a pariah could begin with Max Baucus. In a post at Slate, and making the rounds in the Montana blogosphere (LitW and MtCowgirl already are on this one) the finger pointing has begun:

Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. Unless you’re talking about the 2010 elections, in which case the list of scapegoats for likely Democratic losses is long and growing…

Max Baucus. Health care might not have happened without Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. Then again, it might have happened a lot faster. Over the course of four months in 2009, Baucus made one compromise after another—scrapping the public option, killing the employer mandate—in order to attract Republican votes that never materialized. That gave Republicans time to demagogue the bill and ate up valuable time on the congressional calendar—time that could have been used to pass legislation like immigration reform or an energy bill (which, of course, would probably have hurt Democrats, too).”

Had Baucus not gone on his fools errand looking for 10-20 republicans to sign on to his health insurance bill, and instead worked for a public option and not alienated the progressive base by such acts as having activists and leaders arrested in chambers, maybe the base would have stayed energized and worked harder to turn out the coalition of voters that swept Max and Obama into office.

Jes’ sayin’…

That August recess last year really kicked the air out of the progressive base with the t-party having time to get organized and begin to demagogue Baucus’ bill, and from there everything else the dems tried to do. Of course, that little antic with Robert Gibbs ostracizing the “professional left” didn’t help much either. Of course, I advocated kicking the republicans while they were done, so as to solidify the dems around the progressive wing of the party, but no…

Thoughts? Have at it!

by jhwygirl

Goddess Bless Vice President Biden, an everyperson’s working Joe. Such a regular guy, he commuted from Delaware – by train – to DC daily during his multiple terms as senator….while his wife worked and his kids went to public school.

I’m not happy with the current economic situation, but I’m old enough to remember how it was in the early 80’s. It was crap. For quite a while. And Reagan wasn’t handed the crap that Obama was before he even turned the keys on the White House.

THE FACTS ARE that George W. Bush took a $237 billion surplus and turned it into a $1.3 trillion deficit. George and his band of thieves left us bankrupt in every sense of the word. While, again, I have great concern over the current situation, my concern lies more with the everyperson, and not the top 2% that would benefit from extending the Bush tax cuts – which did not create jobs, btw.

Republicans, though can’t seem to keep to their contracts with America. Those tax cuts were set to expire because they were known to be creating a deficit when they were approved.

Let’s say that again: The Bush tax cuts were known to be creating a deficit when they were implemented.

Also again: The Bush tax cuts did not create jobs.

Now for the real poop behind those tax cuts that Boehner and his buddies – you know, guys like Dennis Rehberg? – are out there saying need to be extended: If you are married making less than $237,000 a year? Or single, making less than $200,000 a year? You will actually pay less in taxes. So small businesses? Benefit. Middle class? Benefit.

Tax payers? $1.45 billion less in deficit spending.

Yep – that’s right, extending the Bush tax cuts will double the U.S. deficit, while benefiting the very very top of the income earners in the U.S.

~~~~
Today, Joe Biden told Boehner and his buddies what he thought of their economic ideas. You can read it here. It’s a damn good version of take-your-idea-of-economic-stimulation-for-the-rich-and-shove-it.

And Max? If you are out there, paying attention? I hope you read that link above – because if you really want to extend tax cuts to the middle class – and I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m betting a whole lot of us Montanans don’t make more than $250,000 – you’ll take your position as chair of the Finance Committee and quit the nonsense, spread the word, and END THE BUSH TAX CUTS.

Thank you.

by jhwygirl

Congress has set a new record. With a big ole’ kick in the keister from every Senate Republican and one Democrat – Ben Nelson of Nebraska – congress failed to pass an unemployment extension bill at at the highest unemployment rate in history.

Senator Tester, for his own part, had proposed to cut $25 per week from benefits to save $6 billion per year.

All while nearly 10% of this nation – and certain states are higher than that – are having trouble putting food on their tables.

Unemployment benefits expired nearly a month ago. By the time congress gets back to work, two million U.S. workers will be without benefits. Every economist recognizes that this will drive the economy into further dearth.

Welcome to Hooverville

This is a congress that managed to preserve a tax loophole that benefits wealthy money managers at private equity firms and other investment partnerships. They also derailed an effort to end widespread tax avoidance by owners of small businesses organized as S-corporations.

So here’s a proposal for congress, and here’s a proposal I pray that just one of our delegation will bring forward. Maybe Tester should be the one, considering he was the one who proposed cutting $25 from unemployed Montanan’s supper tables. So here it is: Let’s have one of you bring forward a proposal – you deficit hawks you – to cut your own pay. Let’s start with 3%…see if that pays for unemployed benefits for the 2 million without unemployment.

If that doesn’t work, how about 5%? Will that will hurt you? With 10% of Americans unemployed. With 54% underemployed?

7.2% of Montanans are unemployed. Representative Rehberg? The House is on the floor right now looking for solutions. How about you actually do something useful (after spending all that $ over the last 10 years) and give a hand-up to 7.2% of Montanans and 10% of Americans?

Is it too much to ask?

Shame on you all.

by jhwygirl

Was just doing some checking on where finance reform is, given that it was just about 2 weeks ago when the Senate Finance committee voted to move the thing forward. Come to find that Senate Agriculture has been tasked with hammering out something on derivatives, given it reached a bit of an impasse in Senate Banking & Finance.

What’s Agriculture have to do with finance reform? Derivatives. Futures. Agriculture has a long history of dealing with these things – I’ve said before around here that if we can darn well regulate pork futures, we can darn well regulate banking – so it does make sense

As a very brief history on (let’s say) pork futures, the U.S. started regulated these commodities (their future market) back after the Great Depression. Lawmakers realized that food was a basic necessary element of our nation – our security – and it was determined that stability was needed in the food sector to keep America safe. Stable. Economically viable.

Makes sense, right?

Who’s in Senate Agriculture? It’s Chaired by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, with Sen. Saxby Chambliss as Ranking Member.

I’ll let ya’all deduct your own meaning from that.

Who else is in Senate Agriculture? Why our very own Senator Max Baucus.

And..just a guess here, but it looks like the derivative issue might just settle into the Subcommittee on Production, Income Protection and Price Support. Who’s on that? Senator Max Baucus.

Do NOT delay contacting Sen. Baucus immediately to tell him that you support finance reform. Let him know that effective regulation of derivatives is key to real finance reform.

This stuff just moved over to Senate Ag on Friday. It doesn’t appear that the website has anything up yet for information on its assigned task.

Sen. Jon Tester has stood very strong, up front, in the Senate Banking & Finance, even going on the attack against lobbyist that are trying to kill reform.

Let Baucus know you expect the same.

by jhwygirl

I wrote here just the other day of what many view as the galling move by WellPoint to increase health insurance rates of 34 million people across 8 states.

That increase will help increase profits by an estimated 7% for this year. This, from a company that made $4.7 billion in profit off of $60 billion in sales.

Stop, take a breath and read that again.

Not gonna happen here? Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana controls 75% of Montana’s health insurance market share. And now here comes The Missoula Independent reporting that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana has recently sent out notices of rate increases, as high as 43%.

Apparently this is an anomaly that perhaps we shouldn’t be worried about:

Tim Warner, the company’s senior director of external affairs, says most rate hikes this year fall between 10 and 20 percent, on par with recent years.

Make sure you read that last paragraph with a heavy dose of sarcasm, folks.

Make sure to read that Indy link – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana put out a notice on February 10th telling its customers that their health insurance rates (not their cable costs, or their internet costs – all things that people can really do without) would be going up by as much as 43% on April 1st.

State auditor’s office spokesperson Jackie Boyle said that while they lack any authority to crack down on the rate increases, “anybody who has bought into a health insurance product from our company and there’s a premium increase that high, they really should…contact us so we can work with them to see if there’s a better solution.”

The Indy’s Matthew Frank is looking for Montanans that have gotten these rate increase letters. If you can help him out with that, check out that post and give him a holla. This story deserves thorough investigative coverage.

~~~~~~~~
I haven’t given up on expecting some real reform. After last week’s WellPoint showdown in the Senate, with the rate increases meeting press release on the eve of this past week’s bi-partisan health reform summit, patience is wearing pretty thin with those that know something has to be done.

Think me crazy if you will, but these reckless increases by health insurance corporations only serve to make me renew my calls for a public option. Here in Montana, there is no competition, and competition is key to affordability.

Think about this, readers: If Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana just put out notices raising rates as high as 45% – and it is (fact) the state’s largest insurer – it makes sense that other minor insurers will be following.

Think about what that means – because every single taxpayer in this state – whether you have health insurance or not, whether you obtain it from your employer or whether you obtain it on the free market – all of you should be expecting another larger bill here sometimes in the future. That’s because as a taxpayer, you not only have your very own health insurance that you either pay for or you don’t, you are paying for all sorts of local, state and federal employee’s health insurance.

And they are pulling out of the same market (or lack thereof, as is the case here in Montana) as everyone else.

Expect that bill in the mail sometime before the next legislative session. At some point, the insurers start negotiation with the state. Probably Department of Administration. Will the state negotiate any impending 45% rate increase? Rates that have – by their own admittance as linked to above – normally increased between 10 and 20% annually over the last decade?

Seriously – imagine your heating costs or your mortgage or rent going up by 10 to 20% annually. Those kind of increases – let’s take gasoline as an example – strap this nation and bring it to its knees. Yet Montana Blue Cross Blue Shield puts that out there very matter-of-factually. That that’s OK…and here we are standing around debating the need for health reform.

The status quo is not acceptable when it comes to healthcare in this nation.

~~~~~~~
I hope I’ve sufficiently fired you up. Remember some main points: WellPoint, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and 45%. Now fire off an email, ever how brief, telling Sen. Tester, Sen. Baucus, and Rep. Denny Rehberg that you want real meaningful reform…and remind them (by mentioning WellPoint, Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana and that 45% figure) that you are watching.

Silence, in this case, is not golden.

by jhwygirl

You simply couldn’t even write this into a movie, unless it was some sort of sick comedy. No one would believe it.

Against the backdrop of a renewed call for health reform WellPoint/Anthem Blue Cross, based in Indiana, and a provider of health insurance in 14 states with 34 million customers – 8 million of them in California alone – has announced significant rate increases across 8 states.

WellPoint/Anthem Blue Cross earned $4.7 billion on $60 billion in sales last year.

The announced planned rate hikes as high as 39 percent in California and 34 percent in Indiana. Internal memos project an addition 7% profit in 2010 as a result of this newest rate increase.

What else do they show?:

WellPoint Inc.’s internal documents show the health insurer sought to raise rates in California to boost company profits and cover costs ballooned by executive salaries and corporate retreats, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman said.

Gutsy, huh?

Congress wasn’t too happy.

How much has WellPoint spend on lobbying?:

The largest spender among the insurance companies though was Wellpoint. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., the company spent about 4.7 million in 2009 on lobbying, 21 percent more than its K Street expenditures in 2008.

They also acquired a larger share of the California market (translate: decreased competition) by purchase of Blue Cross of California – by having its very own consumers pay for it in the form of higher premiums – and have continued, now, to increase profits at the cost of cutting services and raising rates. Not only that, they continue to siphon billions off of Blue Cross CA to other Anthem subsidiaries for “unspecified services.”

A White House report on Feb. 18 highlighted additional health premium increases last year in other places like Michigan, Connecticut and Maine that it said were five to 10 times higher than the growth rate in national health spending. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group Inc., Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc., the top U.S. health plans, were trying to preserve executive pay and profits “way over anybody’s estimates.”

~~~~~
There’s a group out there working on 1,000,000 calls to congress between today and tomorrow. If you aren’t incline to do that, maybe take a couple of links in this article and send it Baucus’, Tester’s and Rehberg’s way. Let ’em know your watching.

I will say – sometimes it can be fun to get a staffer up on the phone. Especially Rehberg’s, because you know they love taking calls on health reform.

Do remember – Always be nice.

by jhwygirl

Eight Democratic Senators can’t come to term with the facts that too much CO2 can kill you. That it’s unhealthy and dirty and increasing levels are killing us.

Montana Senator Max Baucus is on that list.

And yeah, you can darn well bet there’s a bevy of Republicans there too.

Over a year ago, the EPA came down with a ruling that CO2 should not be exempted in Clean Air Act review related to coal-fired plants. Conveniently, it has done so for….ever.

When you think about it, that’s probably why it isn’t clean…there’s been absolutely no incentive to clean the stuff.

I won’t harp any further on coal. It’s even getting old for a tenacious curmudgeon like me, so I’ll give it a rest (wherein I hear a “whew” from way beyond the hills.)

Here’s what those eight U.S. senators are trying to tell the EPA: “Yeah – of course there’s the Clean Air Act…and I know you have to regulate for it. It’s just that to regulate carbon, well, that’s a problem. So we want you to exempt carbon from that regulation.”

Translate: We want you to do what we want you to do. Clean Air Act? What’s that?

~~~~~
When will we have an America like this. Where we have the vision for the unseen? The guts to go for the dream? To be great?

{sigh}

by Pete Talbot

Montana’s Sen. Max Baucus isn’t all bad. He’s pro-choice, advanced good legislation on the Rocky Mountain Front and secured funding for the housing, education and medical needs of Montanans. He’s also been instrumental in helping many good Democrats get elected to office in our state.

So it is with some trepidation that I’ll be attending the Ax Max Campaign being presented in Missoula by Progressive Democrats of America. After all, “Ax Max” was the rallying cry of conservatives trying to unseat Max in his numerous, successful bids for the U.S. Senate. And compared to our Congressman Denny Rehberg, Max is a hardcore left-winger (but that isn’t setting the bar very high).

Now I’ve been a very vocal critic of our senior Senator. IMHO, he botched health care reform. He voted for W.’s tax cuts and an abysmal bankruptcy bill. He’s one of the top recipients of insurance, pharmaceutical and finance industry dollars. He … well, most of you readers know the list so I won’t repeat it here.

If he runs again in 2014, I’d love to see a strong primary opponent.

My friends on the left are going to say I’m being namby-pamby for failing to aggressively pursue the Ax Max Campaign. (I haven’t made up my mind, yet.)

My more centrist friends are going to accuse me of colluding with Republicans by giving them ammunition to attack the Senator.  After all, they’ll say, we could do worse than Max.

Be that as it may, here’s the info:

5-8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 28, Missoula City-County Library, 301 E. Main St.




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