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Chernynkaya On February - 20 - 2011

Hello! Here is a roundup of some of the most interesting items from a very few of my favorite sites. I hope you find them interesting!

What Conservatives Really Want

By George Lakoff

George Lakoff is an American cognitive linguist and professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written extensively of how Progressives need to frame the issues, and the ways in which the Right is so effective at doing so. I think he is on to something. He offers concrete suggestions—for example, instead of talking about “entitlements” we need to re-frame that and use the term government “services” or “necessities.”

The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.

The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting and on and on.

Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don’t think government should help its citizens. That is, they don’t think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.

But where does that view of individual responsibility alone come from?

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family.

Wisconsin: The First Stop in An American Uprising?

I think the jury is still out as to the spread of protests here in the US, but I think we should do everything in our power to support them and to keep up some momentum. And that’s where I am grateful to the Egyptians for schooling us in how it’s done! But as much as I admire the uprisings in the ME, I am personally more concerned about the dire situation here in the US. I don’t want to allow myself to get caught up in overseas movements when there is do much to do here. Not is not an either/or, of course. But we do tend to be easily distractible.

Meanwhile, another protest movement aimed at protecting the poor and middle class is in the works. Cities around the country are preparing for a February 26 Day of Action, “targeting corporate tax dodgers.”

Learning from the UK

The strategy picks up on the UK Uncut campaign, begun when  a group at a London pub—a firefighter, a nurse, a student, and others—came up with an idea that is part flash mob, part sit-in. In an article published in the Nation, reporter Johann Hari tells the story of the group’s frustration about government cutbacks. If Vodafone, one corporation with a huge back-tax bill, paid up, the cutbacks wouldn’t be needed. The group spread the word over social media, and held loud, impolite demonstrations. The idea quickly went viral, and flash mobs/sit-ins materialized at retail outlets across Britain, shutting many of them down.

House approves dramatic cuts in federal spending in 235-189 vot

The Dems had better get their messaging in order ASAP! And stop the disreputable meme that the US is BROKE! We are absolutely playing right into their hands.

In a rare early morning weekend vote, the House approved an aggressive plan Saturday to eliminate dozens of federal programs and offices while slashing agency budgets by as much as 40 percent, drawing out more than $60 billion in deficit savings.

Yet Boehner’s victory could prove ephemeral as he faces staunch opposition from Obama, who vowed to veto the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who declared it “draconian.”

The Senate is expected to take up its version of the spending measure the first week of March, just before a March 4 deadline for when the current funding resolution expires. With Democrats pushing to keep spending at 2010 levels for the remainder of this year, the two sides begin a grueling negotiation process more than $61 billion apart.

Related stories:

Congress, Obama brace for showdown as government shutdown looms

In Wisconsin and Washington, budget battles reshape political landscape

Ezra Klein on What the budget says about America

For the first time in a long while, I disagree with Ezra—NO, we do not need to cut entitlements! Fuck you. (But some really cool graphs on where the money is spent.)

The G.O.P.’s Post-Tucson Traumatic Stress Disorder

Frank Rich:

If the next step in this declension is less face time for Palin on Fox News, then we’ll have proof that pigs can fly. But a larger question remains. If the right puts its rabid Obama hatred on the down-low, what will — or can — conservatism stand for instead? The only apparent agendas are repealing “Obamacare” and slashing federal spending as long as the cuts are quarantined to the small percentage of the budget covering discretionary safety-net programs, education and Big Bird.

An opposition this adrift from reality — whether about Obama’s birth certificate, history unfolding in the Middle East or the consequences of a federal or state government shutdown — is a paper tiger. It’s a golden chance for the president to seize the moment. What we don’t know is if he sees it that way. As we’ve learned from his track record both in the 2008 campaign and in the White House, he sometimes coasts at these junctures or lapses into a pro forma bipartisanship that amounts, for all practical purposes, to inertia.

The comments on this OP-ed are really depressing.

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

59 Responses so far.

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  1. Redemption Song II says:

    Thanks for posting this, Cher. I read Lakoff’s article with great interest.

    It is especially important, to my mind, that he’s made explicit the conservative attact against women as a class: indeed, from demanding that rape victims not be called “victims properly-so-called” until a (largely male) judiciary finds in their favor, to twisting the words of Rep. Speier (who didn’t “admit” to having an abortion, but instead offered the painful decision she and her husband had to make faced with a wanted, but health and possibly life threatening, pregnancy as an example why sweeping anti-abortion legislation is draconian) the conservatives are on the move to put women in their place. For conservatives, patriarchy rules and, to that extent, they are in no way morally superior to “them over there”; indeed, they are arguably of a piece with the Taliban and other masculinist hegemony writ large.


  2. Chernynkaya says:

    Perhaps a clearer example of what Lakoff is talking about?

    Let’s start with an example, the slogan, “No tax cuts for millionaires.” First, “no.” As I have repeatedly pointed out, negating a frame activates the frame in the brains of listeners, as when Christine O’Donnell said, “I am not a witch,” or Nixon said, “I am not a crook.” Putting “no” first activates the idea “Tax cuts for millionaires.”

    Next, “millionaires.” Think of the TV show “So You Want to Be a Millionaire” or the movies “Slumdog Millionaire” and “How to Marry a Millionaire.” To most Americans, being a millionaire is a good thing to aspire to.

    Then, there is “tax.” To progressives, taxes are forms of revenue allowing the government to do what is necessary for Americans as a whole -- unemployment insurance, Social Security, health care, education, food safety, environmental improvements, infrastructure building and maintenance, and so on.

    But the conservative message machine, over the past 30 years, has come to own the word “tax.” They have changed its meaning to most Americans. They have been able to make “tax” mean “money the government takes out of the pockets of people who have earned it in order to give it to people who haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it.” Thus, “tax relief” assumes that taxation is an affliction to be cured and a “tax cut” is a good thing in general. Hence, conservatives make the argument, “No one should have their taxes raised.”

    The conservative slogan activates the conservative view of taxes. But the progressive slogan, “No tax cuts for millionaires,” also activates the conservative view of taxes! The progressives are helping the conservatives.

    The conservatives have a superior message machine: Dozens of think tanks with communications facilities, framing experts, training institutes, a national roster of speakers, booking agents to books their speakers in the media and civic groups and owned medias like Fox News and a great deal of talk radio. Their audience will hear, over and over, “No one should have their taxes raised.”

    There is no comparable progressive message machine. But even if one were to be built, the Democrats might still be using messages that are either ineffective or that help the conservatives. Why?

    AND many more here:


  3. Chernynkaya says:

    @PW and Cyrano-- a neat tangential topic about Lakoff’s ideas was recently in this post:


    • PocketWatch says:

      Cher -- Interesting! I always viewed corporal punishment by parents as a replacement for the far worse things that COULD have happened if the behavior in question wasn’t stopped.

      Getting hit by a car while running in the street is FAR worse than a spanking or a bap in the head by a concerned parent.

      Never looked at it deeper than that.

      • cyrano1 says:

        PW: Me either. The one and only time I swatted one of my kids on the rear was the time my three year old daughter ran into the street. She insists 40 years later that I didn’t alter her view on life through my impulsive fearful response. And I’m a parent who like many of those in my generation was regularly smacked around and vowed to never re-visit that tradition on the next generation.

        Which leads me to reflect that it was our smacked around generation which marched in the streets for civil rights legislation. Hmmmm. Maybe we should have smacked our own kids around so they’d be less inclined to sit out the injustices we’re facing today? They tend to “discuss” rationally but don’t appear to take action? :roll:

        • Chernynkaya says:

          @Cyrano-- I just published the daily Planet vol 2 and if I may call your attention to this?

          The Top 14 Student Activism Stories of The Year

          I hadn’t heard about all of these either. I think it’s significant that we didn’t see much about them.

          • cyrano1 says:

            Cher: Thanks! And of course it’s significant! Would Rachel lose her job if she did a running segment on media ignored protests throughout our own country? It has to start somewhere, right? I even think some of MSNBC is starting to rub off a little on some of the rest of them (except Fox, of course)

            There certainly weren’t any cameras around when we marched against the Iraq war were there? We all have video cameras and we can send in footage. We just need a large venue to air them instead of sharing within our own closed loop.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Questinia is our resident psychiatrist. Harvard educated no less (I believe). Of course, she is also completely nuts! (Right, Q?) And that’s why we REALLY love her POV!! Her mind is light years ahead of mine.

  4. PocketWatch says:

    Cher -- bringing the discussion about Lakoff up to the top…

    I believe we all “spend” our votes, just like we spend dollars. We invest in one side or the other, depending on emotions, not rationality. With that in mind, we are faced with a “free market” (not-so-free it turns out, since we are ALL captured by language from one side or the other and the MSM andother sources) in which to spend our franchise.

    I find it strange that liberals and progressives act mainly in an Adam Smith style of more-or-less rationally looking at issues, weighing pros and cons, and coming up with a stance. Conservatives, on the other hand, are, in the main, waiting for that “strong leader” to tell them what to do and think about any given issue… unquestionably, even if what they are told to “spend” their vote on is clearly against their own interests, and all based on emotion rather than fact or analysis.

    Yet, it is conservatives and the right which claim to be oh so analytical -- the adults in the room. (There is a phrase that is a classic ‘framing’, BTW)

    • Chernynkaya says:

      PW if that is the case (and I believe it is) then the Left will always be at a disadvantage, because we are not talking on an emotional level--or as Lakoff would say, at a “moral” level.

      From George Lakoff:

      If there is a teachable communicat­ion moment for President Obama, this is it. Bring back “empathy” -- “the most important thing my mother taught me.” Speak of “empathy” for “people who are hurting.”

      Say again how empathy is basis of democracy (“caring for your fellow citizens”), how we have a responsibi­lity to act on that empathy: social as well as personal responsibi­lity. Bring the central role of empathy in democracy to the media. And make it clear that personal responsibi­lity alone is anti-patri­otic, the opposite of what America is fundamenta­lly about. That is the first step in telling our most important untellable truths. And it is a necessary step in loosening the conservati­ve grip on public discourse.
      For videos of the president speaking about empathy, Google: Obama Empathy YouTube and Obama Empathy Speeches.

      The mainstays of conservati­ve Christian activism — the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition — are launching a new campaign to protect the wealthy from tax increases, according to Roll Call. The tax hikes, they say, are a ‘family values issue.’”

      It’s not logical, but what this shows is the value of solidarity on the Right. The Dems have done better lately, which is part of the reason the 111th Congress ended up producing the greatest volume of progressiv­e achievemen­ts in over 40 years, but there’s still no comparison­.

      I think lying to your own supporters is ultimately a counterpro­ductive move in political advocacy, but obviously it can have short-term benefits.

      The larger point is about cooperatio­n. To move forward on the progressiv­e agenda, I think we’re going to need advocates to spend less time on “their issue” and more time on cooperatin­g against the Right. (But I digressed there.)

      • PocketWatch says:

        Cher -- the Left (whatever THAT is… I find the entire spectrum of progressive thinking to be fairly diverse, to say the least, sort of like a salad without a theme) will be at a disadvantage as long as the “names” of the left don’t listen to Lakoff or his like.

        As soon as they do, I sincerely believe that we can start to change things for the better.

        My uncle was the captain of an aircraft carrier during the VN conflict. He once told me it takes 5 miles to make a 180 degree turn. We need to move the ship, and it will take gargantuan effort and focus. Can we focus that much and for as long as it takes?

      • PocketWatch says:

        Cher -- “Framing” is not necessarily lying… It is finding that singular way of saying something that resonates with the emotions you are trying to evoke. Facts and framing do not have to be inconsistant, if I get what you meant by lying. (?)

  5. cyrano1 says:

    Lakoff in my view is absolutely right. Simplicity at the expense of a broader understanding: the mindset of individual responsibility versus shared responsibility in ourselves and towards our fellows. While I’d like to think we can follow his advice and re-frame the message for broader appeal to conservatives, the infrastructure for message delivery (our MSM) belongs to those we’re trying to re-train.

    This morning watching CNN, two people were interviewed to answer the burning question of whether or not Wisconsin teachers should return to the classroom. Both responded that they should. Job neglect by self centered protesters all at the expense of frustrated parents! The real message that collective bargaining rights hangs in the balance was again not heard.

    Our MSM really is in control of the terms used to describe the message. That we have a small corner of MSNBC is nothing short of a miracle.

    • DawgBone says:

      The fact that corporations own the MSM makes me pessimistic about the future of our republic.

      Monopolistic control of information is the worst form of monopoly.

      New Zealand is nice this time of year …

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Cyrano--or Anyone: I have just been listening to the debate about WI on Morning Joe--and trying to analyze it from the way the issues are framed. But it’s subtle and difficult. I might give up, and yet, something about it is really bothering me!!

      If you like, see what you think. (If not, that’s ok too!)


      • cyrano1 says:

        Thanks for sending us to Morning Joe! The link didn’t work for me so I found the union discussion by googling Morning Joe and hit the video link.

        I loved the discussion -- even the issue Joe brought up later about closed shop practices which force those who don’t wish to join to participate -- and in addition, support candidates they don’t like because their membership fees go into the PAC contributions the majority endorse. I’ve been familiar with this issue for decades and expect the tension between the small minority and the far greater majority will always exist. The costs of collective bargaining? The loss of individual freedom when one is in the minority.

        Obviously Joe brought this up because he’s not a fan of unions, and his message to viewers who lack the fuller view, will be swayed against union practices through his argument.

        So, the real issue may be whether or not we feel the whole argument should be aired, or just that with which we agree?

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Cyrano--there was something disturbing to me about the whole framing of the discussion--especially form Bernstein--A Liberal! He used the same framing as a Repub (entitlements, etc.) I have to listen again to out my finger on it.

          • cyrano1 says:

            Cher: I just watched it again, and the entire video has been re-edited -- but the Bernstein piece is still intact. Yep, he definitely has the “entitlement” lingo down and has bought into the sweeping meme that social security and medicare urgently need fixing. Sooo, a huge chunk of the union discussion was derailed with unchallenged simplistic theoretical statements from Bernstein -- of all people!

            I think we always want the entirety of all issues to be discussed when any part of of them are used in arguments. And intent or time constraints make that either politically inadvisable or would drag out debate to intolerable lengths for an audience with little tolerance for content beyond the text version of a bumper sticker. Thanks for calling our attention to it!

            • Chernynkaya says:

              Cyrano-- I was working on the post so I didn’t get a chance to re-watch. They cut it?? Damn. Why? It was on the show! But I am glad you had the same reaction.

        • PocketWatch says:

          And let’s not mention the fact that Joe is a member of a very powerful union himself…

  6. Abbyrose86 says:


    I truly believe it is simpler than all that…they want POWER and their way or the highway…anything else is unacceptable and will result in their infantile and utter resistance.


    I certainly hope SO!….Americans need to wise up and wake up to the fact that they have been living in a dream world, one provided to them by Madison Ave and Hollywood, that just does NOT reflect the reality of the actual DATA and numbers! In UNITY we have strength to overcome our oppressors and YES we do have oppressors they are the corporate oligarchs, plutocrats or whatever word you like to describe them…but it all means the same thing…those who wish to CONTROL the world BY their own desire to own ALL the resources of the world in order to FOIST upon the world, THEIR version of HOW the world should be…I too, have had my fantasies of world domination….who hasn’t?

    HOWEVER, mine does not include a authoritarian and draconian methods to deal with those who are less fortunate…unlike the sociopathic powers that be…I don’t see those who aren’t the same as me, as my ‘lessors’ and don’t feel the need to control my subordinates. On the contrary…I feel the need to do away with those who feel they are better than everyone else. Perhaps there was method to Robespeirre’s madness???

    As far as the Ezra Klein…well we will save that for another day…

    AND as far as the GOP…it’s WAY too late and I’ve had too much wine to REALLY express how I feel about any of their ideas…I might have a coronary and end up in the ICU if I truly let go on what I think about their ideas.

    • KB723 says:

      Abby, get some rest and maybe you can tell me more tomorrow. Best Wishes I have been trying to find the exit door for the last half hour… Maybe just stumbling around too many beers I take it…

    • PocketWatch says:

      What do conservatives really want?

      Depends on the conservative, I think.

      You have the “top” guys and strategists, like Karl Rove and so on, who are hired guns and mouthpieces that are truly sociopathic, IMO.

      Then there are the ordinary folk who generally just want to be left alone, have no interest in anything outside thier own lives, have less than a normal amount of curiosity, and have a mindset that says that ANYONE that tries to tell them what to do is bad. No thought about all the things that others have provided them, and they do indeed, like thier safety nets. Comfortable in ignorance, easy in their self-centeredness, and smug in knowing they are always right, no matter what the argument. Facts are bothersome things.

      Then there are the third type, the thinkers. They have actually thought out their stances and can logically make an argument.

      Each group wants different things. The first, power and money. The second, to be left alone by everybody. The third, a simpler government that works well and is easy to understand, and that gives them their money’s worth.

      Just guessin’ here…

      • Chernynkaya says:

        PW, while you may be correct in you assessment, that is not at all Lakoff’s point. He is really talking about getting to the root reasons why Liberals and Conservatives have different world-views. Personally, I think they do. And while some of that is speculative (in an armchair, pop/psych kind of way) he is most concerned with the fact that the way each side responds to messaging must take into account their world views. Do you disagree with Lakoff? Do you see any power in using words in a way that speaks to each group in the way that they can understand the issues?

        This gives a more complete explanation of Lakoff’s work:


        • PocketWatch says:

          Cher -- as to differing world views, we get into a more psychological realm.

          I somewhat naively think that the world is divided into two kinds of people… leaders and followers. I cannot count the number of times I’ve asked employees if they would like to become a manager. VERY FEW said yes. They just want to do thier work, get paid, and go home.

          I personally think that progressivism is a “thinking man’s” game, even for the rank and file, and that conservatism is for those that simply would rather be led. Plus, some folks just like the “strong leader” style of governing. It makes them comfortable. SO, again, I agree with Lakoff that there are basic and unshakable reasons why conservatives and progressives are different. But we have to win elections to get the society we want, don’t we?

          • Chernynkaya says:

            PW-- that is fascinating! As someone who cannot imagine saying “no” to becoming a manager, I think you are on to something there, about leaders and followers--although it is, to me, overly simplistic. Yet I really do get what you are saying. When put that way, the Left/Right schism makes sense. The term “sheeples” is often used to describe the Right, and I think there is some unconscious wisdom behind that term. That’s one of the things I also like about Lakoff’s (and others’) theory: that the Right needs and wants authoritarian leaders.

        • PocketWatch says:

          Cher -- I think Lakoff is right in all regards. He is addressing how the first group I mention above manipulates mostly the second group above. The third group and many Progressives and independents are “captured” by the language along with the MSM, which is why the right has been so successful.

          I have said elsewhere on this site that the left needs a good marketing firm, and this is why. Facts as facts are fine, but are not emotional. All decisions are emotional, which is why the Adam Smith school of economics is purely speculative. Studies have shown (I don’t have links, but they are probably out there) that even major decisions like buying a house or a car are ALWAYS emotion-based and not rational, i.e., looking at all options, rating the options, and acting according to the rating devised. Never happens. Even just money decisions are emotional.

          Point is, the left HAS to frame issues that get to voters’ gut and not their heads. In short, make it personal.

          If that happens, that second group can be heavily lobbied for votes, and the third group has something to chew on. Add those up, and elections can be won easily.

          (Again, all opinion, but based on experience and reasoning…)

      • Abbyrose86 says:

        GOOD points PW…and you are right to differentiate between those who have power and those who don’t.

    • Dbos says:

      yep “off with their heads”

      • Abbyrose86 says:

        Truly there are some people who should not not be allowed power and privilege …the Koch brothers DO come to mind when I think of it…and off with their heads isn’t TOO far from what I’m thinking…as I said…maybe Robespierre had a point…OK…he took it TOO far, but…he had a point.

  7. Abbyrose86 says:

    Ok Cher…I’m officially disgusted. I don’t even know where to start!!!!

  8. Truth says:

    Cher, in order for you to see this message, I post it here: if you have a little bit of time could you make a post with only the Huff links? We could save it in media/HP as a research tool. Chase suggested this, and I think it’s an excellent idea.

    ***Edit: Please for the reference list, in case you want to do it, only links that you have previously checked. I read about half of the so called progressive link and got sick . The person had no clue and defended AH for everything. It looks as if someone has to throw the mud yet. Sigh.

  9. jkkFL says:

    YAY! Cher- this is really one of the things I’ve been wishing for.. a brief roundup with references!!

  10. intotheabyss says:

    174 bases around the world? More like any where from 800 to 1,000 bases around the world. Tom Englehart has done a fabulous job of documenting our expanding military empire.

  11. UpstateSC says:

    Great job Cher! Glad to hear you will do this every day.

  12. ParadisePlacebo74 says:

    Excellent set of articles! This is something that I would like to more of.

  13. KillgoreTrout says:

    Well done Cher. Professor Lakoff’s analysis is great. He is pretty much right on the money. I do have one point of contention with him though, his referring to these people as, “conservatives.”
    I think the people he refers to are way beyond classic conservatism. They have entered the territory of far right wing fanaticism. They seem to ignore, or misinterpret the phrase, “for the common good.”
    But as I say, he is right on the money when he mentions their obsession with personal responsibility.
    How often have we heard a person on the right say, “Well they just have to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?” What they don’t realize is, first one must have boots.

    • Abbyrose86 says:

      Good points Kilgore and I think you are definitely on to something.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Killgore-- that is a great catch. I agree. For someone to whom terms are paramount, he should know better. But I have been railing about the deficit issue for months now--the Dems are behaving stupidly and conceding the argument! Are there no strategists on OUR side? Can’t they hire someone like Frank Luntz for Christ’s sake?? WTF??

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        It does make me wonder. What really gets my blood boiling is that in such dreary economic times like we are experiencing, those law makers and well to do people on the right are not willing to give one iota of thought about making a few personal sacrifices.
        When I think of the way people during WWII made sacrifices for the common good of the nation, and then see the total unwillingness of those obscenely wealthy people in the present, it really makes me sad.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Even the Robber Barons of the 1890’s knew they owed society something. Andrew Carnegie, the Getty’s--jeez, at least they built some public spaces!

          • Abbyrose86 says:

            Indeed Cher…they realized they had a responsibility to society for achieving their great wealth…NOBLESSE OBLIGE!

            YET today, those same style robber barons, who have achieved such great wealth and power…don’t feel they owe ANYTHING back to the society which made their fortunes and lifestyle possible.

            It reminds me of something that happened before in history…hmm…when was it like that…I’m getting a vision of darkness…I’m visualizing a time where the masses were very ignorant and lived to make their masters happy and prosperous…these people believed those in power (kings) were better than they and had all the answers to life, and as such DESERVED to be treated with reverence…COULD it be called FEUDALISM?

            ARE we going backward to the “dark ages” where those in power thought they were given by their gods the power and might to have dominion over lessor people?

            I’m noticing a trend here….

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            There was a series entitled, “The Real History of America,” if i remember correctly.
            They made a great point about Carnegie. His cheaper, more efficient means of making steel created a surge of new growth, all across America.
            So much of our infrastructure, sky scrapers, railroads, bridges…etc, were/are dependent on the ready availability of steel. He did a monumental service to America. (and became a billionaire in the process)

      • ghsts says:

        They are both using the same polls as advisers, like in HC “our” side has adopted the same policies sans bashing. It would be futile to argue against the same policies they have adopted. In the end by letting the repugs take full credit for the slashes they will also take the heat as in WI.

  14. Great job. Looking forward to seeing more like this.

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