Bay State Bombshell

Scott Brown’s defeat of Democrat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts has sent waves of dismay, and of jubilation, around a polarized and divided nation.  The stunning political upset offered at least one lesson of a non-partisan nature.  Coakley’s nonchalant campaign reaffirmed the old maxim — never take your opponent for granted!

How Coakley slipped into complacency after winning the December 8th Democratic primary is easy to understand.  Since I lived on Boston’s Beacon Hill in the early 1970s, Massachusetts has remained a decidedly one party state.  The idea must have seemed preposterous that a little known state senator from the marginalized GOP could defeat the Democratic machine and claim Ted Kennedy’s seat.  And yet Brown managed to ride a wave of anger and resentment against the D.C. establishment.

“Here the people rule,” the motto engraved at the Capitol Building, is likely to produce chortles or sneers nowadays, rather than patriotic heartthrobs.  In rating Congress, public approval for job performance has long been abysmally minimal.  Nauseating spectacles issuing from inside the beltway do not help, like last December’s “Cornhusker kickback” to Sen. Ben Nelson.

In 2006 the Democrats rode another wave of ire, generated by widespread loathing for the modus operandi typical of homesteading Federal politicians.  Two years later, riding such a wave of disgust, young Senator Barak Obama made history from astride his surfboard of hope.

Since Vietnam, beginning with Jimmy Carter, one election cycle after another has seen adroit political operatives capitalize on electoral angst.  We the indignant voters are expected to play our role in a democracy limited to ping-ponging back and forth between two fraudulent and dysfunctional political parties.

For those of us who have not lowered our expectations to the point of despair about the nation’s future, our civic horizons need to broaden.  We must first recognize the futility of trying to put a derailed political system back on the tracks by alternating between a Democratic and a Republican version of the Federal Government — which (to paraphrase Ronald Reagan) comprises not part of the solution, but part of the problem.  A political system demeaned by bad leadership from corrupt political parties is worse than worthless for the purpose of restoring America the Beautiful under God and the written Constitution.

Can mental illness afflict a collective?  Maybe so.  If the American electorate really believes that a GOP surge in 2010 will turn the country around, then the populace is suffering from that form of insanity defined as repeating the same process over and over and expecting a different result.

If Catholics believe that we can start reestablishing the Judeo-Christian character of America by electing a pro-abortion politician from the Bay State who wants to waterboard helpless captives, then we need a reality homily.  Our real situation is this:  With the Democrats in power, the country declines at a steep angle; while the Republicans lead us down a slope sometimes less steep.  Indeed there is much to be said for tactical delay.  But neither the steep nor the gradual rate of national decline offers rational hope for the country’s long-term future.

There is some consolation in the fact that ours has not been the only democracy subject to deceptive hopefulness.  In ancient Athens, where democracy began, orators lacking wisdom mislead the people into an almost fatal act of folly in 215, B.C.  Locked into the epic Peloponnesian War with Sparta, the Athenians bolstered their hopes via a novel but irrational adventure: they voted to invade the distant island of Sicily.

Likewise Senator elect Brown wants to use enhanced interrogation techniques to defend the American Empire, while doing little to stop the abortion holocaust here at home.  In Congress, most members of his party are gung ho in foreign affairs, but exhibit Laodicean lukewarmness in fighting the all-important culture war.

Even the great theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are subject to distortion.  And yet, in its unsullied form, hope is an exceptional and meritorious quality of American populism.  In the United States we have higher expectations than, say, the body politic in France, Germany, Italy or the UK (the big four of the European Union).  There, citizens tend to be more cynical and jaded about their countries’ susceptibility to salutary reform.

In the early 1990s, for example, a great populist upsurge coalesced in this country around the principle of rotation in office (a reform movement unique to the USA among post-WW II Western democracies).  Our hope was that by forcing new blood into the U.S. Congress, we could cleanse and democratize the Legislative Branch.  Until struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995 (U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton), the term limits movement constituted the most realistically hopeful initiative from the grass roots since Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.  Prior to that, the Populist / Progressive reforms of pre-WWI showed the nobility in our national character.

As we move into the second decade of the 21st century, we can draw hopefully from the wellsprings of fundamental reform.  But the forlorn hope associated with ping-pong politics, is a snare and a fraud.  Instead of table tennis as a metaphor for hope, perhaps football will cast a brighter light for our political reflections, given that the upcoming Super Bowl is currently impressing itself upon our national consciousness.

Football is a game often won in the fourth quarter.  Unlikely scenarios for victory provide the suspense that makes the gridiron like a Shakespearian stage.  Alas, however, reform that restores the country and brings our nation back from sin and apostasy, is looking about as likely as the old “Hail Mary pass” in the last seconds of the game.  But the chanciness of success is academic for the team that is running out of time but still hoping to score the winning touchdown.  It is surely worth the effort.

As the postmodernist regime consolidates its grip on America, it is a waste of effort to look to Congress for solutions, or to the Federal Courts which constitute a major portion of the problem, or to the Presidency, as the dashed hopes associated with Obama and his immediate predecessors indicates.  Tempus fugit, time is flying, while one last legal recourse remains.

The Article V “convention for proposing amendments” has been in the play book (in the  Constitution) for more than two centuries.  It is time for the convention to come off the bench and enter the game.  The convention, bequeathed to us by the Framers, is our best hope of circumventing the plutocracy and oligarchy which dominate and deprave the nation’s Capitol City.

Nor should the pedagogical implications be scorned.  In stark contrast to incumbent reelection schemes, a constitutional convention would be a temporary assembly exhibiting the beauty of real representative democracy to our posterity and to onlookers world wide.  As observed in the Cooley Law Review, by the founder of one of the nation’s top law schools, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan, Thomas E. Brennan:  “In an Article V amendatory convention the people of the states are brought together in their most sovereign capacity.  Such a convention would be an awesome and august assemblage.  It would bring a new, responsible dimension to American politics.”

[For more on the constitutional convention as a genuine hope for radical turnabout in the nation's course, see "Insurrection of Suede," the fourth chapter of Treatise on Twelve Lights, 2010 edition.]

By

writer, retired history teacher, practicing cradle Catholic, lecturer for Knights of Columbus, council 1379. Knight of the Month, October 2008, February 2009.

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  • goral

    An observation made by G.K. Chesterton of the Moslem God – Allah, makes a connection to the unforgiving desert landscape of the inhabitants. He only shows mercy to those whose tent is well stocked and their prayer mat ready.
    So it is with politics, we are a country with two left coasts. That is the primary reason nothing works. The heartland has a more balanced outlook. They are less cynical because the two party approach to them is workable. On the left coasts it’s not because the pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-religious morass is too thick to see through.

    Give me a person I could vote for with the Democrat label and I will. I find many for whom I could vote in the Republican tent. Brown is a good start in a state that got a tingle up their leg when Obama spoke. Now these same voters have a tinkle down their leg when Brown speaks. That’s excellent politics and we need more of it.
    Spare me the references to Republican water-boarding and other tortured language. We only posses so much sympathy, when criminals get the bulk of it innocents get the least.

    Which party was well represented in the March for Life?
    We Catholics should not be tied to a party specifically but Palin, Brombeck, Reagan and Stupak do send a tingle up my leg.
    Where’s God’s party? Not at Notre Dame! Not at BC! Not at Georgetown!
    And you’re looking for it in Congress?

    Yes, most voters do play this political ping-pong. I play handball against the wall because there’s no democrat within five hundred miles of New Eng. who’s worth more than one cartridge.

  • sonjacorbitt

    Intrigued by the “convention for proposing amendments.” Maybe another article with more specifics?

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    Please click the auhor’s name to see his other articles, Sonja.

  • wootie88

    If Brown is the lesser of two evils, what’s wrong with voting for him?

  • GaryT

    Goral,
    the Republican party is not what it once was.
    The Republicans now favor big government, they merely differ with the Democrats on what special interest groups should get the pork.

    Reagan Republicanism believed in small government – the belief was in the people.
    This is the point of the Tea Party movement – to steal the Republican party back. Rather than ask questions like “should faith based groups receive federal money?”, the real question should be “Why is the govt. picking my pocket? Why can’t I decide for myself which causes I give my money?”

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    If I were still a voter in Massachusetts, I would certainly have held my nose and voted for Brown. Voting has today become primarily a choice between the lesser of two evils, in that the two major parties offers us choices between unprincipled candidates who make campaign promises cynically.

    It is hard not to conclude that candidates for Congress have a conscious intent of breaking their pledges once elected or reelected. In a society that is degenerating morally, politicians’ oath to support the Constitution seems not to bind them in conscience. I witnessed this perversity first hand during the 1990s from my vantage point as GOP state committeeman.

    And yet we are, I believe, duty bound as citizens to cast our ballot, even if we have ceased to believe that our vote counts for much, or that representative democracy works anymore. At the same time, it is surely our patriotic duty to keep an open mind about how to use the playbook the Framers bequeathed to us, specifically Article V of the Constitution.

    It would be foolish to exclude or downplay an Article V convention in the forlorn hope that ping-ponging between two corrupted political parties will yield better results next time around. Or that the constitutional formula for a radical upgrade should be put on hold while we waste our civic energies in fine-tuning an engine whose block is broken.

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  • billwalker

    The only fact the author fails to mention is that according to the Congressional Record all 50 states have submitted 750 applications for an Article V Convention. Photographic copies of the texts of the applications can be read at http://www.foavc.org. The number of applications is some 20 times the number required for Congress to issue a convention call as mandated by the Constitution. Thus far, however, Congress has refused to obey the Constitution and issue the call.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    Mr. Bill Walker refers to negligence on the part of Congress. In so many ways do members of Congress exhibit negligence that they consistently tank in public approval ratings.

    Historical experience indicates that Congress is so intent on monopolizing the amending process that neither the House nor the Senate has set up clerical procedures to keep track of Article V applications from the States. Studied negligence is not uncommon on Capitol Hill. In this case they consider it undesirable to have the Senate clerk and/or the House clerk keep an accurate and readily verifiable count of state applications for a convention.

    In a revealing article and panel discussion two decades ago, Political Scientist Frank Sorauf found that the powers that be in the House preferred to maintain a nebulous situation with uncertain ground rules so that if ever applications did reach the total of 34, then Congress would have “flexibility and freedom to reject the applications as invalid.” Sorauf had earlier coined the term, “the politics of uncertainty,” to describe the way Congress plays to its own interest in leaving the con-con route undefined. As Antonin Scalia put it in 1979 while still a law school professor: Congress “likes the existing confusion, because that deters resort to the convention process. It does not want amending power to be anywhere but in its own hands.”

    If the foregoing is an accurate portrayal of how Congress has and will continue to perceive the Article V process, then how can Mr. Walker’s hopes for a convention call based on some 750 applications to date be anywhere near realistic?

    Congress refuses even to keep track of applications by the States. Getting the U.S. Senate and House to go where they are obviously loath to tread will be tough enough should we secure 34 contemporaneous applications squared away on the same subject matter. It strikes me as preposterous to believe that, in the process of totaling up applications, Congress might embrace the counter-intuitive notion that subject matter is irrelevant. If in my lifetime they call the convention after suddenly acknowledging that 750 applications in 220 years on a host of subjects requires them to issue the call, then, sir, I will eat 100 pages of the Congressional Record.

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    I don’t think Bill was hopeful at all. I think he was just mentioning the number to point out that we are faced with an intransigent ruling class.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    Mary Kochan’s comment begs the following questions. Is the organization you co-founded, Mr. Walker, motivated mainly to expose Congress as unwilling to perform its constitutional duty? Or does “Friends of an Article V Convention” (FOAVC) aim to see an Article V convention actually convene?

    I am familiar enough with FOAVC to believe that the latter is indeed its objective. Thus I think we need to urge constituents to lobby their legislators in a direction that accords with common sense.

    To argue the irrelevancy of subject matter in petitions for a convention is, in my view, neither plausible nor politically wise. The Framers were men or erudition and wisdom. How could they have written Article V in the expectation that applications on opposing or unrelated subjects should all be lumped indiscriminately together?

    I’m reminded of Everett Dirksen (1896-1969), the Senator from Illinois who led a drive over six years which persuaded 33 States to apply for a convention on the subject of apportionment of state legislatures. Had he lived another year, and his formidable powers of persuasion elicited just one additional application, the campaign might have changed history.

    But it was also Dirksen who said that “the rule of reason should apply in every case.” Had he campaigned instead on the curious theme that the threshold had already been crossed hundreds of applications previously, I doubt the illustrious Senator would have gotten three applications, much less 33.

  • billwalker

    I have been asked by Mr. Struble to make a “rejoinder” regarding his comments above which is the following:

    He is correct regarding the fact that “neither the House nor the Senate has set up clerical procedures to keep track of Article V applications from the States.” He is correct this is deliberate as proven by these summary applications or records of Congress seen here at: http://foa5c.org/file.php/1/Amendments/071_cg_r_03369_1929_HL.JPG ; http://foa5c.org/file.php/1/Amendments/CR%20127%20%20%20Pg%2021538%20%20Yr%201981-Summary%20of%20Applications.JPG . The fact that Congress is able to summarize applications clearly shows that it is more than capable of clerical recording, that in fact it knows precisely how many applications have been submitted and where they are located in the records and can, if it desired, retrieve the records immediately or within a short period of time.

    FOAVC has dug out the record the applications for the first time in history such that they are in a public file which can be examined by anyone. We have discovered 750 applications from the 50 states. We suspect there are more but currently lack funding to conduct any further research.

    As to Mr. Struble’s comments of “flexibility and freedom to reject the applications as invalid,” that came to an end with the second federal lawsuit filed by me in 2006. My two federal lawsuits were the first in United States history to deal directly with the obligation of Congress to call an Article V Convention as mandated by the Constitution. My second lawsuit, Walker v Members of Congress was appealed to the Supreme Court. Under court rules, the defendant, in this case the United States, is required to acknowledge whether or not there are any “perceived misstatements of fact or law” presented by the plaintiff, myself as to what constituted the terms of a convention call and what obligation Congress had to it and to what effect federal law had on those members of Congress for not doing so. Under the terms of federal law, the Solicitor General of the United States acted not only in that official capacity but also as attorney of record for all members of Congress who were sued individually in the suit. Under the terms of federal law in this capacity he therefore acted under the instructions of Congress just as any attorney would act under the instructions of any client. The Solicitor General officially waived any response meaning that under the terms of applicable federal law he perceived no misstatements of fact or law in my lawsuit.

    The Solicitor General of the United States in his official capacities admitted the following stated by me were correct as to fact and law in that (1) a convention call was peremptory (a legal term meaning the Congress had no choice in the matter); (2) that 567 applications had been received by Congress (this was the figure available to me at the time of the lawsuit but of course has risen since); (3) that a convention call is based on a simple numeric count of applying states with no other terms or conditions; (4) that to refuse to call the convention by the members of Congress was a violation of their oaths of office; (5) that to violate their oaths of office was and is a violation of federal criminal law. See: http://www.foavc.org/file.php/1/Articles/FAQ.htm#Q9.1 .

    As to my expectations of a convention call being therefore realistic, I would point out that the Supreme Court on four occasions in four separate court rulings stated Congress must call if the states apply. Moreover as no one in the public actually knew how many applications existed, the absolute proof that Congress is, in fact, violating the Constitution has never been known until we began publishing these applications in 2008. This a very unique situation. When someone usually says the government is violating the Constitution, it becomes a matter of opinion with both sides able to point to evidence supporting their claim. In this instance, mathematical proof exists to demonstrate the point as well as official admission by the government in public records that such a violation has and continues to occur. Hence, unlike all efforts previously the Congress is, for the first time, faced with the facts regarding the applications rather than speculation or misinformation together with its own official admission it has and is violating the Constitution.

    The advantage of having a record of applications as well as public admission is clear and obvious. Given that federal law dictates Congress gave instructions to its attorney of record it is obvious and provable that they instructed that attorney to waive opposition to the above statements. Remember, federal law mandated they respond if they perceived any misstatement. It is equally obvious the numeric number of applying states (50 in all) is well above the 34 states, 34 applications mandated by the Constitution. Hence, there is no question under the term of Article V which the government itself has admitted is the basis of a convention call which is a numeric ratio of applying states with no other terms or conditions, Congress is required to call a convention.

    As to contemporaneous and same subject. Mr. Struble is incorrect as these would be “terms or conditions” referred to above. As the government has admitted there are no terms or conditions, the contemporaneousness or the same subject cannot be the basis of the convention call. In sum, as the government admitted a call is “peremptory” that word excludes any excuse, reason or means whereby the peremptory action can be denied. It is a legal absolute. Further, an examination of the words of Article V prove why the two terms do not apply, “or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several States [Congress] shall call a convention for proposing amendments…” The language is clear. The intent of the applications submitted by the states is for a convention call, not a specific amendment. Nor does Article V place any time limits on the duration of applications.

    In U.S. v. Sprague, 282 U.S. 716 (1931) the Supreme Court stated, “The United States asserts that article V is clear in statement and in meaning, contains no ambiguity and calls for no resort to rules of construction. A mere reading demonstrates that this is true. It provides two methods for proposing amendments. Congress may propose them by a vote of two-thirds of both houses; or, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the States, must call a convention to propose them.” In short, the Court made it clear that unless Article V states it, it does not exist. Article V does not refer to, imply, state or otherwise deal with contemporaneous or same subject as to amendment proposals because the states are not empowered to propose amendments. That power is reserved to Congress and to an Article V Convention. Thus as the states cannot propose amendments, any language in an application becomes inoperative until a convention is called. At which time, that language becomes part of the agenda of the convention to consider in its decision as to what, if anything, it will propose. Therefore while an application may contain an amendment proposal complete with specific language, the only thing that matters is the state makes it clear it is applying under the terms of Article V meaning it is applying for a convention call.

    In a recent email, FOAVC co-founder Justice Thomas Brennan stated, “After all the operative words of the constitution are these: ‘The Congress … on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments.’

    Three things are clear. First, there is no mention of requiring a common subject matter. Second, there is no mention of contemporaneousness, or of any time limit. Third, and very telling, the constitution uses the plural “amendments.”

    Familiarity with the understandings of our constitutional forefathers tells us that they believed a convention would be a self governing assembly which would have the power to set its own agenda.

    It is fair to say that the founders believed that neither the petitioning legislatures nor the Congress which calls a convention have any authority or power to limit or dictate the subjects which might be discussed in the convention.”

    Given that Congress through its attorney of record has acknowledged the existence of the applications already and their obligation to call, I would say the only question left is to ask Mr. Struble which 100 pages of the Congressional Record he wishes to eat.

    In answer to Mary Kochan, our purpose is both. To expose the fact Congress has refused to obey the Constitution and through consequent public pressure bring about a convention call.

    As to Mr. Struble’s inquires regarding the Founders. I refer him to Federalist 85 and Alexander Hamilton who helped write Article V. Hamilton stated, “But there is yet a further consideration, which proves beyond the possibility of a doubt, that the observation is futile. It is this that the national rulers, whenever nine States concur, will have no option upon the subject. By the fifth article of the plan, the Congress will be obliged “on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States [which at present amount to nine], to call a convention for proposing amendments, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof.” The words of this article are peremptory. The Congress “shall call a convention.” Nothing in this particular is left to the discretion of that body. And of consequence, all the declamation about the disinclination to a change vanishes in air. Nor however difficult it may be supposed to unite two thirds or three fourths of the State legislatures, in amendments which may affect local interests, can there be any room to apprehend any such difficulty in a union on points which are merely relative to the general liberty or security of the people. We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.
    If the foregoing argument is a fallacy, certain it is that I am myself deceived by it, for it is, in my conception, one of those rare instances in which a political truth can be brought to the test of a mathematical demonstration. Those who see the matter in the same light with me, however zealous they may be for amendments, must agree in the propriety of a previous adoption, as the most direct road to their own object.”

    In short, the Founders viewed the matter as “mathematical” issue, that is the number of applying states, for the basis of a convention call and, as noted, the government agrees with them.

    As to Mr. Struble’s reference to apportionment. He mentions 33 applications for apportionment. His figure is incorrect. There are 39 applications for apportionment as shown in this table: http://foa5c.org/file.php/1/Articles/AmendmentsTables.htm#Table04. A note of explanation is required regarding the table. What most same subject advocates fail to state or possibly even realize as they’ve not had the record before them until FOAVC, is that if same subject is correct, which it is not (as admitted by the government and stated by one of the authors of Article V), then not only must the same subject of the specific application be counted but any additional applications by the states for a general, non-specific convention must be counted as well. The general applications are themselves a subject and due to their omnipresent nature of permitting discussion of all subjects therefore must be lumped together with each individual same subject in order to arrive at the total number of applications submitted by the states for any particular amendment subject.

    Given that Senator Dirksen had access to at least one summary in the Congressional Record and that it is clear such material would be readily available to him as a member of Congress (federal law permits members of Congress to request research by the Congressional Record staff on material contained in the Congressional Record) it is quite likely he was very much aware of the number of applications filed up to that time. Of course as the record shows apportionment applications continued to come in after his death along with an additional 308 applications from the states, nearly half the total number of applications submitted by the states.

    As to lobbying legislators “in a direction that accords with common sense” given that at least four issues have on their own merits achieved the 2/3rds mark, it appears Congress is intent on violating the Constitution regardless. I therefore believe that the effort should be entirely directed at people asking Congress to explain what gives them the right to veto the Constitution and demand they obey it as prescribed, meaning they issue the call based on the numeric count of applying states as the basis of that call as their own attorney of record admitted, as the Supreme Court has stated and as the Founders intended.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    Mr. Walker: Thanks for taking the time to compose the foregoing rejoinder. Your comment is roughly double the length of the article itself. Hopefully I’m not presumptuous in taking its bulk as flattering, or indicative of the weight you attribute to my critique of your position.

    I cannot help but admire the dedication and initiative you exhibited in filing the two Federal lawsuits of 2000 and 2004. The response must have been exceedingly frustrating, i.e. to get what amounts to the silent treatment from the Legislative and Judicial Branches of what is supposed to be the people’s government. The officeholder class has lots of ways, including the bureaucratic bum’s rush you encountered, to demean and dismiss citizens who try to hold public servants accountable.

    Your conclusion is thus understandable, if not acceptable, as articulated in the FOAVC website to which you linked your response: [http://www.foavc.org/file.php/1/Articles/FAQ.htm#Q9.1 ] “In fact, based on recent court rulings, it is likely Congress will ignore all applications no matter on what basis they are submitted….it is unlikely a new set of applications, however composed, will be obeyed by Congress any more than the last 750 (or more) applications ….”

    Here, IMHO, you are much too pessimistic. The two SG incumbents in 2000 and 2004, Seth Waxman and Theodore Olson, are unlikely to exercise much influence on future political opinion prevailing inside or outside of the DC beltway. Most Americans have not heard of either gentleman, and the plea of nolo contendere by some former SG is not likely to trouble the Federal Courts one way or the other, who are capable of overturning their own deliberate and express decisions. In 2003, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court (Lawrence v. Texas) reversed its earlier ruling upholding sodomy laws, as written by Justice Byron “Whizzer” White (Bowers v. Hardwick, 1986). If the Judiciary can violate stare decisis in prominent cases of its own, the passivity of former SG’s in obscure cases will pose no appreciable obstacle.

    Nor will Congress give a whit either. If they can trample the Constitution underfoot, e.g. by disregarding their obligations under Article 1, sec. 8, to issue declarations of war (a duty they have ignored since December 1941); then Congress is quite capable of trampling your case underfoot like so much straw. So I wouldn’t worry that by filing suit you created a sinister precedent, or that someday a promising campaign for a convention will run afoul of Walker v. United States.

    In my view FOAVC has done the country an historical service by researching the 750 or so applications for future reference. (FYI: However, I find that some of the images will not load with Firefox, but do fine with Internet Explorer).

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