ZeraLand, USA

On the Nature of "Nation"

Notes on the Use of Categories


This blog addresses the concepts of Nation, which involve several interconnected topics. I am using ‘categories’ to divide this into several topical blogs.

‘Const. Review‘ is a review of the United States Constitution. It is subdivided into multiple “readings“. I take the name from the legislative “reading” process. The ‘First Reading‘ is introductory. It covers the actual text of the Constitution with added numbering and some formatting, but minimal editorializing – except for the Preamble, which is too short to go without comment. The ‘Second Reading‘ is an interpretation from 18th century linguistics to 21st century language, with annotations. The ‘Third Reading‘ will be full-blown commentary.

August 31, 2011 Posted by | Personal Notes | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Article I Sec 2


Section 2 deals with the composition of the House of Representatives:

Section 2

(Clause 1)

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

Suffrage (voter eligibility) for electing a Member of the House of Representatives is the same as eligibility for voting to elect a member of the equivalent state chamber. In other words, the states determine voter eligibility for electing a Representative. Representatives have two-year terms.

(Clause 2)

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

I admit that when I got to the second “who shall not”, I got lost in the double-negatives for a moment. I even went back to the image of the written document to verify the wording. The tautology can be tricky, so in plainer wording:
Someone cannot be a Representative unless they:

  • have attained at least twenty-five years of age; and
  • have been a citizen of the United States for at least seven years; and
  • are, at the time of election, a resident in the state in which elected

Besides a bit of confusion, another consequence of the double-negative is that this is not an exhaustive list of qualifications. Other requirements can be added, but these must also be met. For example: if a state decided that its representatives must have resided in the state at least ten years, or be a landowner, it would not violate this clause.
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August 30, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution | , , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Article I Sec 1


Section 1

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

The authority to write new laws and amend old ones is assigned to Congress. Congress is divided into two chambers: a Senate, and a House of Representatives. This seems pretty simple and straightforward, but there are a few lines of thought that bear upon it.

Line-Item Veto

The Line Item Veto Act of 1996 (104th Congress, S.4/H.R.3136) gave Clinton42 the power to delete portions of appropriation bills that Congress had agreed to.

SEC. 2. LINE ITEM VETO AUTHORITY.

 (a) IN GENERAL– Notwithstanding the provisions of part B of title X of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, and subject to the provisions of this section, the President may rescind all or part of any dollar amount of any discretionary budget authority specified in an appropriation Act or conference report or joint explanatory statement accompanying a conference report on the Act, or veto any targeted tax benefit which is subject to the terms of this Act if the President–

 (1) determines that–

(A) such rescission or veto would help reduce the Federal budget deficit;
(B) such rescission or veto will not impair any essential Government functions; and
(C) such rescission or veto will not harm the national interest; and

 (2) notifies the Congress of such rescission or veto by a special message not later than ten calendar days (not including Sundays) after the date of enactment of an appropriation Act providing such budget authority or a revenue or reconciliation Act containing a targeted tax benefit.

The authority was aimed specifically at budget bills, but I do not consider that relevant to the Constitutionality of it. It was authored by republicans and supported primarily by them. It was a cuts-only approach that overwhelmingly favored conservative ideology, and I am profoundly glad that we never found out how a republican President would abuse such power.

A Presidential line-item veto would be an authority that just begs to be abused.

It was ruled unconstitutional in 1998, but the point I want to make here is that it gave the President a legislative power. A power specifically allocated to Congress by the Constitution.

Negotiation and compromise are essential to democracy. It is the difference between democracy and totalitarianism. For the President to be able to modify the compromise reached by the Congress invalidates the entire process and corrupts democracy.

Signing Statements

Presidential Signing Statements have been around for a long time, but Bush43 used it ruthlessly to functionally alter legislation to his liking – thus making them a de facto exercise of legislative power. It represents, in my opinion, the same corruption of the democratic process represented by the line-item veto. The American Bar Association reached the same conclusion. Signing Statements have also been used to infringe on the authority of the Judicial Branch.

Delegation of Legislative responsibilities to the Administrative Branch.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 deeply convoluted the legislative process by granting the President authority to raise Revenue through borrowing. It then turns around and allows Congress to challenge the actions they authorized, forcing a veto or a default. This was a purely partisan political move intended to shift responsibility (and political backlash) from Congress to the President. It was a contemptible perversion of the constitutional separation of powers.

That’s a lot to read into a one-liner.

<= Preamble
Article I, scc 2 =>

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August 23, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Article I


Article I

Article I of the Constitution of the United States defines the Legislative Branch of the federal government: Congress. First among the co-equal branches: This is the original text, with reformatting and the clauses numbered.

Section 1

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section 2

    • The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and
    • the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
  1. No Person shall be a Representative who shall not
    • have attained to the Age of twenty five Years,
    • and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States,
    • and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
  2. When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
  3. The House of Representatives
    • shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers;
    • and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section 3

  1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of
  2. Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
  3. No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have
    • attained to the Age of thirty Years,
    • and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States,
    • and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
  4. The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
  5. The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
    • The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation.
    • When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside:
    • And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
    • Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States:
    • but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Section 4

    • The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof;
    • but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

Section 5

    • Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members,
    • and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business;
    • but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day,
    • and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
  1. Each House may
    • determine the Rules of its Proceedings,
    • punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour,
    • and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.
  2. Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings,
    • and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy;
    • and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.
  3. Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn
    • for more than three days,
    • nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section 6

    • The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services,
      • to be ascertained by Law,
      • and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.
    • They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest
      • during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses,
      • and in going to and returning from the same;
    • and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
  1. No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected,
    • be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time;
    • and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Section 7

    • All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives;
    • but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
    • Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States:
    • If he approve he shall sign it,
    • but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.
    • If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered,
    • and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.
    • But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.
    • If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it,
    • unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
    • Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States;
    • and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him,
    • or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Section 8

  1. The Congress shall have Power To
    • lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises,
    • to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;
    • but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
  2. To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
  3. To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
  4. To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
  5. To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
  6. To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
  7. To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
  8. To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
  9. To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
  10. To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
  11. To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
  12. To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
  13. To provide and maintain a Navy;
  14. To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
  15. To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
    • To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia,
    • and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States,
    • reserving to the States respectively,
      • the Appointment of the Officers,
      • and the Authority of training the Militia

      according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

    • To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States,
    • and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be,
    • for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–And
  16. To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Section 9

  1. The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
  2. The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of
    • Rebellion
    • or Invasion

    the public Safety may require it.

  3. No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
  4. No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
  5. No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
    • No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another;
    • nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.
    1. No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law;
    2. and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
    • No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States:
    • And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any
      1. present,
      2. Emolument,
      3. Office,
      4. or Title,

      of any kind whatever, from any

      • King,
      • Prince,
      • or foreign State.

Section 10

  1. No State shall
    • enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation;
    • grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal;
    • coin Money;
    • emit Bills of Credit;
    • make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts;
    • pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts,
    • or grant any Title of Nobility.
  2. No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress,
    • lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws:
    • and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States;
    • and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Congress.
  3. No State shall, without the Consent of Congress,
    • lay any Duty of Tonnage,
    • keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace,
    • enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power,
    • or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. First Reading, Const. Review | , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Preamble: secure Liberty


“secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”

Securing the Blessings of Liberty in perpetuity requires diligence, perseverance, and activism.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
– John Philpot Curran

It is not enough to haul out the words and dust them off in fits of irritation or defensive patriotism. People do not come out of nowhere to infringe or revoke a right or liberty. The average citizen does not have the time or resources to exercise complete vigilance alone.

The Free Press has been the designated primary watchdog of our liberty, but that segment of our society has been failing in it’s diligence. Watchdog organizations have emerged, but they lack penetration in the general public awareness.

We need a properly functioning Free Press to help preserve our Liberty. The catch is that it cannot be a government agency, nor can it be controlled by special interests seeking to distort the public perception – because it is just as important to be vigilant over the behavior of businesses and religious activism as it is to watch over government.

But vigilance is not enough.The Founding Fathers were well-educated. In developing our Constitution, they analyzed many governments – both past and contemporary – looking for the strengths that made governments successful, and weaknesses that let them fail.

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment.
Brown v Board of Education

What is the purpose of education? This question agitates scholars, teachers, statesmen, every group, in fact, of thoughtful men and women. The conventional answer is the acquisition of knowledge, the reading of books, and the learning of facts. Perhaps because there are so many books and the branches of knowledge in which we can learn facts are so multitudinous today, we begin to hear more frequently that the function of education is to give children a desire to learn and to teach them how to use their minds and where to go to acquire facts when their curiosity is aroused. Even more all-embracing than this is the statement made not long ago, before a group of English headmasters, by the Archbishop of York, that “the true purpose of education is to produce citizens.”

If this is the goal—and in a democracy it would seem at least an important part of the ultimate achievement—then we must examine our educational system from a new point of view.
Eleanor Roosevelt

The role of the Citizen is paramount in a successful democracy – one that protects the liberties of its citizens. But this requires a well-educated citizen. One who understands the strengths and weaknesses of government, and the principles of good governance. A Citizen who is engaged in the political process.

<= general Welfare
Article I =>

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August 15, 2011 Posted by | Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution, Preamble | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Preamble: promote general Welfare


“promote the general Welfare”

Promoting the general welfare of the country does not necessarily mean providing for the general welfare:

  • It means creating the conditions under which the general population – We the People – can prosper and flourish.
  • It means protecting the environment in which we live.
  • It means maintaining a stable and balanced economy that offers opportunity for all.
  • It means taking actions to ensure that the needs and necessities of all can be met, though not necessarily by the State directly.
  • It means to ensure that the People are treated fairly in commerce and employment.

However, Article I, section 8, clause 1 states: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States”

It sounds more socialist than anyone would care to admit, but I think that it illustrates the problem of semantic change when trying to make literal interpretation of something written in an earlier age.

So which is it, promote or provide? A bit of both, I believe. Promote whenever possible, provide when there is no alternative way of meeting a need of the general population.

<= provide common Defense
secure Liberty =>

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August 15, 2011 Posted by | Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution, Preamble | , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Preamble: common Defense


“to provide for the common defence”

Such a simple idea, turned complicated as the populations of the world grow and technology becomes more capable and pervasive.

Common defense began as simply repelling invasion and protecting commercial shipping. The threats and responses were fairly simple and obvious.

Things have changed since then. The borders, once vague and distant to most citizens, are now well defined and significant in everyday life. The population of our country has grown to fill the once wide open spaces and stress once plentiful resources.

Where we once depended on the help of powerful allies, we have now become the powerful ally. The diplomacy of common defense has changed. Even the terminology has evolved, from common defense of individual States to national defense of a united country.

The art of warfare has changed dramatically with the ability to kill more efficiently and at greater distance than could have been imagined at our Founding.

No longer is it necessary to invade a country to do it harm. Weapons can be used from a great distance. A small few with potent weapons can cause the harm it once took armies to inflict.

Merely defending our borders is insufficient to the task of the common defense. As force can be projected from a distance, so must our defenses be projected beyond our borders. To do this requires the support of allies and the careful management of the balances of power and influence.

Thus, the national defense now encompasses the collection of Intelligence, the liberal use of Diplomacy, the projection of Military Strength, and the reluctant use of Military Force.

<= domestic tranquility
general Welfare =>

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August 15, 2011 Posted by | Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution, Preamble | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Preamble: domestic Tranquility


“to insure domestic Tranquility”

Society works best when there is peace in the streets. When people do not fear for their lives or their property or their jobs or their rights, they are free to live and love and work and pursue their happiness as befits a citizen of a more perfect union. But domestic tranquility does not come easily, perhaps least of all in a country a diverse as ours.

E Pluribus Unum. From Many, One. The great theory of the Melting Pot has been the crucible in which this country has been formed. The need to work and live with those who had been traditional adversaries, overcoming differences and achieving understanding in the process, the establishment of equality and toleration, these things are milestones on the road to domestic Tranquility. These are things that the government must encourage.

<= establish Justice
common Defense =>

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August 15, 2011 Posted by | Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution, Preamble | , , , , | 1 Comment

Constitution of the United States – Preamble: establish Justice


“to establish Justice”

I think there are two aspects to justice as cited in the Constitution:

1. Direct establishment of Justice: A system of laws, courts, and enforcement covering federal law, Constitutional rights, and interstate issues. Overcoming the limitations of state jurisdiction is an important part of federal law enforcement.

2. Indirect establishment of Justice. To make sure that state laws and enforcement comply with the Constitution and federal laws.

The American system of Justice has been the envy of much of the world. Protecting the integrity of that system is critical to the success of the country.

Roosevelt and Bonaparte both were “Progressives.” They shared the conviction that efficiency and expertise, not political connections, should determine who could best serve in government. Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States in 1901; four years later, he appointed Bonaparte to be Attorney General. In 1908, Bonaparte applied that Progressive philosophy to the Department of Justice by creating a corps of Special Agents. It had neither a name nor an officially designated leader other than the Attorney General. Yet, these former detectives and Secret Service men were the forerunners of the FBI.
History of the FBI

The Progressive Era saw a move from political to professional law enforcement, but in the 21st century that is being reversed by conservatives moving back to political enforcement. This is a trend that needs to be stopped.

<= more perfect Union
domestic Tranquility =>

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August 15, 2011 Posted by | Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution, Preamble | , , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Preamble: a more perfect Union


“To form a more perfect Union”

The Articles of Confederation that got us through the Revolutionary War proved to be a temporary arrangement, inadequate to the demands of the post-war nation.

With the weak federal government unable to force compliance from the states, individual states proved unwilling to honor requests of money to pay off the war debt. Other requests were likewise stalled or ignored. The states became contentiously competitive. The viability of the country came into question.

A strong federal government was needed to bring discipline, consistency, and even a sense of national identity to the country. A strong central government was necessary to keep the Union from falling apart. It was needed as a mechanism to enforce the Constitution.

The trick is to keep from crushing the sovereignty of the individual states.

The trick is to learn from the past so that we can improve in the future.

I like the phrase “more perfect”. Perfection implies that no change is necessary. By definition, perfection cannot be improved upon. But without change, you have stagnation, and stagnation leads to decay and ultimate failure. Authors have explored various possible utopias for centuries, and they all seem to end in failure. It is my view that the real utopia is not a destination. In my opinion, the real utopia is a culture that continues to work to improve.

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Ulysses, Sir Alfred, Lord Tennyson

<= Preamble
establish Justice =>

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August 15, 2011 Posted by | Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution, Preamble | , , , , | Leave a comment

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