Our Watchdog Social Media

Here’s the video of President Obama’s Google+ Hangout yesterday afternoon. It featured live questions from a few pre-selected individuals, as well as questions gathered from YouTube. The difference between this event and debates featuring questions from the Internets is that Google did a decent job selecting the questions and questioners, and they were pretty good. Obama got some tough questions and followups about foreign aid, unemployment and drones, and not a single question about his electability, his wife’s underwear or whether he should fly coach instead of using Air Force One. Here’s an interesting fact about the drone question:

For Obama, it was a significant departure from his cautious avoidance of the subject in the past. Since he has begun to shift into campaign mode in 2012, Obama has spoken often about his success in fighting Al Qaeda and its affiliates. But he hadn’t been asked directly about the drones this year until Monday.

In other words, a few people hanging out on a social media site are able to ask questions that the professional press won’t. The drone question was at about 26:30 if you’re interested.

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80 replies
  1. 1
    Egg Berry says:

    As I said yesterday, we should replace the White House Press Corpse today with people like these.

  2. 2
    amk says:

    Some gopolitico hack had a butt-hurt over this WH’s FU to these msm idjits.

  3. 3
    JPL says:

    BBC online has a good article on the drone question
    and The Guardian highlighted the extradition of the TVShack founder.

    I have to admit that I was not familiar with O’Dwyer and unfortunately, the President evaded the answer on that particular case.

  4. 4
    Rhoda says:

    That’s not surprising; people generally are straight forward and ask real and substantive questions when given the opportunity.

    Meanwhile, it’s instructive to review how the village responded to this:

    W.H. to journalists: You’re obsolete
    By JOSH GERSTEIN | 1/27/12 5:26 PM EST
    The White House’s drive to embrace new media and technology will achieve nirvana next week as President Barack Obama participates in what his aides are proudly billing as the “first completely-virtual interview from the White House.”
    __
    Yes, that’s right. We journalists are now entirely superfluous and irrelevant. The White House can solicit questions directly from the public and no third-party involvement is required. Max Headroom would be proud.

    If they did their jobs, maybe people would have more respect for journalists and journalism. Instead of having the ombudsman for the NYTimes wondering if a journalist should call a lie a fucking lie!

  5. 5
    MattF says:

    Some people… actually want to hear about policy. Weird.

  6. 6
    amk says:

    @Rhoda: yup, that was the over-paid fucker I was talking about.

  7. 7
    Egg Berry says:

    @Rhoda:

    We journalists are now entirely superfluous and irrelevant.

    Now?

  8. 8
    wilfred says:

    We. Are. A. Nation. At. WAR.

    Of course we can’t question the President about war stuff. Besides, they’re wogs, not white people, or Israeli settlers.

    Trouble makers, blogs, what.

  9. 9
    JPL says:

    It would be wonderful if the President answered questions like this once a month.
    The Guardian had this article of importance for some of us. definitely OT

  10. 10
    Face says:

    Max Headroom would be proud.

    OK, I’m old enough to know who Max Headroom is/was, but I dont understand how this reference makes sense in this context. WTF?

  11. 11
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Yes, that’s right. We journalists are now entirely superfluous and irrelevant.

    I feel your pain, you worthless stenographer hack.

  12. 12
    Amir Khalid says:

    Here’ a journo’s perspective. News organizations compete with each others — Did we scoop them? Did they scoop us? — so they measure themselves against each other. The goal has become to win news cycles on a given story, or at least not lose them, rather than to inform the news consumer. Going off on a tangent to pursue a different story, laudable though it might be in an ideal world, distracts from this chase. So more and more, every news org converges on the same few stories.

    This what it’s like inside the media corps bubble: reporters learn to ask the questions whose answers their editors expect to see in the stories they file about the particular thing deemed by unspoken consensus to be the main subject. So twenty reporters show up at the press briefing all jostling to ask the same few questions, and write down the same few answers. And that’s your stenographic news media.

    Editors got that way because they were indoctrinated the same way, back when they were reporters. It’s curious but true: a career in journalism doesn’t really give a news editor any better insight into what the public wants to know than any random (reasonably informed) member of the public has to begin with.

    This is what it looks like for you, the news consumer: twenty stories about the same thing from twenty media outlets, all from pretty much the same angle and including/omitting pretty much the same sets of facts.

    We talk a lot, here and elsewhere, about how the pressures that the new information order exerts on the business model of news organizations as they’ve existed throughout most of the 20th century. But the competitive pressures that results in journalistic conformity, rather than the differentiation that news consumers value, aren’t helping either.

  13. 13
    balconesfault says:

    I’ve never been a big fan of term limits for Congressman … imo creating laws is a very complex process that takes a substantial amount of experience to do right, and where some backslapping and camaraderie among opponents is actually healthy for getting stuff done.

    On the other hand – it may well be that we need term limits for our media pool. I’m not sure what Jake Tapper’s or even Bob Schieffer’s experience does for them at this stage, and clearly the backslapping and camaraderie in that industry is pretty much antagonistic to us actually getting quality output.

  14. 14
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    But but but teleprompters and tire gauges and birth certs and whitey tapes and n#ggers in the White House and blaaaaaaarrrrgh……..

  15. 15
    edmund dantes says:

    My favorite thing is when you read articles in multiple places, and you can tell that they took a large portion of it from the AP or Reuters pool story.

  16. 16
    Kirbster says:

    I thought some of the questions were a little too “well, what about my personal situation?”, but in general, it was more informative than the typical WH presser. I’d like to see this cut-out-the-middleman-and-take-it-to-the-people interview as a monthly thing.

  17. 17
    CaptainHaddock says:

    Personally I thought Bush did a better job when he did this. Oh, wait…

  18. 18
    Rusty says:

    Where were the teleprompters?

  19. 19
    Donut says:

    Fuck Josh Gerstein in the nose. What an asshole.

  20. 20
    Bulworth says:

    Obama got some tough questions and followups about foreign aid, unemployment and drones, and not a single question about his electability, his wife’s underwear or whether he should fly coach instead of using Air Force One.

    So Google didn’t take Michelle Malkin’s questions?

  21. 21
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Kirbster:
    Depending on how typical someone’s personal situation is, a question based on it could actually yield an answer of interest to a lot of other people i.e. a newsworthy answer. And it could very well be a question that no one in the press pool would have thought to ask.

  22. 22
    Bulworth says:

    @Donut: That is the most awesome comment I have ever seen.

  23. 23
    jibeaux says:

    @Face: Doesn’t make any sense to me either.

  24. 24
    Benjamin Franklin says:

    Well, the questioners were selected, after all.

    The vast majority of the population is more interested in American Idol, than stodgy old news.

    In defense of the Media, they ask questions enquiring minds want to know, and I’m not being ironic. Murdoch’s Rags just belch up what will sell. It’s the same for most Media. They have a product they must sell.

  25. 25

    Oh, the irony. The Gingrich campaign is being sued by the writer & publisher of “Eye Of The Tiger,” which they’ve been using in campaign ads and at campaign events and political rallies for YEARS.

    Keep in mind, these are the same events where Gingrich goes on about how poor kids don’t want to work “unless it’s illegal.” Perhaps Gingrich should stop stealing songwriter’s copyrighted material and get to work writing his own theme song? Just a thought.

  26. 26
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Donut:

    Fuck Josh Gerstein in the nose.

    Ouch.

  27. 27
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Benjamin Franklin:
    The questions were selected from public submissions, yes, but apparently not by a veteran news editor. A news editor, trapped in his newsman’s box, might have picked the questions that seemed most like what he would expect his reporters to ask.

  28. 28
    Benjamin Franklin says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    A news editor, trapped in his newsman’s box, might have picked the questions that seemed most like what he would expect his reporters to ask.

    Or, what will sell the fishwrap. It is a culture of professionals.
    It’s like the culture of physicians, or lawyers. They have the answers, and no one is better anointed for their tasks.

  29. 29
    kd bart says:

    Non journalists don’t worry about maintaining access.

  30. 30
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @edmund dantes:

    That was very obvious last week when the “Judge Orders President Obama to Hearing in GA” debacle. The Judge did no such thing, but AP created the false headline and the rest of the morons just ran with it, never once checking to see what actually happened. That pissed me off to no end.

  31. 31
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Amir Khalid: The prerecorded questions were obviously selected, and the questioners “hanging out” were selected, but it seemed the live questioners were allowed to ask anything, including follow-ups.

    I thought is was pretty good event.

  32. 32
    Cat Lady says:

    @JPL: Just when I thought Downton Abbey couldn’t get any better, they dream up a perfect foil for Dame Maggie. I can’t wait to see her costumes.

  33. 33
    jibeaux says:

    @Southern Beale: According to this chart, Newt should be pretty safe choosing campaign songs from the ouevre of Fred Thompson or Chuck Norris. http://www.facebook.com/photo......38;theater If he wants to improve those offerings, it looks like his best shot is to endorse the wacky weed.
    Fortunately, the Eye of the Tiger people haven’t found out about me yet. I often sing it to wake up my family in the morning, as well as the Weird Al version.

  34. 34
    Nom de Plume says:

    We journalists

    Stop right there. Don’t ever be self-referential ever again. You should be like a baseball umpire: utterly faceless and unnoticed until you screw up. That’s your fucking job. Now shut your fucking gob.

  35. 35
    John S. says:

    What a whiny fuck that Josh Gerstein is. I haven’t clicked over to Politico in ages, and now I remember why. Their “reporters” are little more than paid hacks who illicit brilliant comments such as “the price of gas is high because Obama is mean to big oil.”

    No wonder this country is in such dire straits.

  36. 36
    Pat says:

    “Judicious” is now defined as judge, jury and executioner. It’s not like hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed by US drones or anything. Can benevolent still be hip?

  37. 37
    RRoss says:

    @Rhoda:

    Did this tool even WATCH Max Headroom? Did he know the ‘hero’ of that show was a crusading journalist who fought corporate control of the news media? You know, just like he isn’t?

  38. 38
    RRoss says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Why should he have to pay for content, he’s just SHARING and that makes it ok, right?

  39. 39
    curiousleo says:

    Off topic:

    Is there going to be another “jobs thread” anytime soon? I ask b/c a friend of a friend posted on fb about some teaching gigs. If you’re a bilingual (spanish/english) certified elementary & middle school teachers two school systems in NC are hiring. One place is hiring immediately and one for the fall.

  40. 40
    General Stuck says:

    OT

    On MSNBC, I just heard a Gingrich supporting senior in FL say that Newt is the only one that will protect his medicare. This is your country.

  41. 41
    Yutsano says:

    @curiousleo: Drop a note to Tom or Sarah. They seem to be coordinating those lately.

    And I know Microsoft is on a hiring binge right now.

  42. 42
    bago says:

    @kd bart: This. A Thousand times this. None of the questioners will ever go to a Georgetown cocktail party, and as a result they tend to ask policy oriented questions that might impact their lives. For deep policy analysis you are still going to require people like Seymour Hersh to build up relationships and cajole / use anonymnity, but in general, give the impression that they are interested more their next paycheck / invite than investigations.

    Now you have to understand, the management, the people who own stock and have a vested interest in their company staying in town and making money are going to naturally select reporters who exhibit these qualities.

  43. 43
    slag says:

    Am I the only one who thought Obama did a surprisingly good job on the drone question? I’m still not convinced. But it was clear he took the issue seriously. I like it when people take issues seriously, especially when those people are the President of the United States.

  44. 44
    Steve Finlay says:

    Your statement that Google did “a decent job” selecting the questions is an intolerable, hypocritical lie. The top questions were about one of the most important economic and social disasters of today: drug prohibition. This policy is not a joke. It wastes $70 billion of government money per year, makes the US the world’s biggest jailer by an enormous margin, kills 50,000 in Mexico, makes organized criminal gangs and terrorists insanely rich and powerful, and has destroyed virtually all civil rights in the US. Google simply ignored all the questions about this topic, and wasted most of the time on trivialities.

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Benjamin Franklin:

    The vast majority of the population is more interested in American Idol, than stodgy old in what big corporations tell them is news.

    Fix’d. I think the questions that were asked last night show that Americans are interested in what the administration’s policies are, but news organizations aren’t bothering to answer those questions because they’re too busy digging through Michelle Obama’s underwear drawer.

  46. 46
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Steve Finlay:

    I’m sorry, but no one really cares. If you couldn’t get marijuana legalization passed in California, it ain’t happening anytime soon, because the vast majority of people don’t give a shit about drug policy.

    Ranting about how drug policy is way more important than obscure topics like unemployment, health insurance, and the ongoing war in Afghanistan isn’t going to convince anyone.

  47. 47
    Jim C says:

    One of the questioners is my next door neighbor.

  48. 48
    captnkurt says:

    Any chance there’s a transcript? @ work, so no ‘Tubing for me.

  49. 49
    amk says:

    @Steve Finlay: don’tcha paultards have your own whiny blogs ?

  50. 50
    Steve Finlay says:

    I am an economist and (usually) a Liberal voter in Canada. Ron Paul looks good in some ways, but his economic ideas are crazy and his apparent support of human rights generally turns out to be merely states’ rights. Far more people care about drug policy than you think, and those who do not care simply do not realize how much it is costing them. The economic costs are massive; do your research. Drug prohibition is actually a major CAUSE of unemployment (it goes along with corporate sociopathy surprisingly well), and of the war in Afghanistan.

  51. 51
    Judas Escargot says:

    @General Stuck:

    On MSNBC, I just heard a Gingrich supporting senior in FL say that Newt is the only one that will protect his medicare. This is your country.

    He might be thinking of Medicare Advantage, which the Gingrich House passed back in 97. PPCPA eliminated some of the subsides (aka “kickbacks to insurance companies”), suddenly making those plans unprofitable. Many insurance companies cancelled their plans, or are planning to. It’s the chief (coherent) complaint I hear from seniors about PPCPA IRL.

    Of course, you could replace that subsidy by letting the young and healthy buy into Medicare to satisfy the mandate… but that would be teh Soshulism. Can’t have that.

  52. 52
    gwangung says:

    I am an economist and (usually) a Liberal voter in Canada

    No, you’re a wanker who prefers to scold people rather than get them going in the right direction.

    What you say may be true (or it may not be), but you sure as hell have no empathy for other people and their problems.

  53. 53
    Billy Rae Valentine says:

    @Steve Finlay:

    people might take you more seriously if you didn’t come off as an irrational jerk or foaming-at-the-mouth lunatic.

    how emotional. you jumped right in and called the blog author a liar? because he has a different opinion on the questions than you do? how adult. how fair. pppttbbht.

    the regulars here dismissed you by the end of the first sentence. i’m newer here but even i recognize a pointless trolling rant.

  54. 54
    Gust Avrakotos says:

    Where is professional Drone Schizophrenic Cole when you need him? Love to watch him get all wild eyed ranting about Drones. I’m sure this story will push his buttons. Like dangling a string in front of a cat.

  55. 55
    Pat says:

    @42 – yes, you’re the only one. He used the drone question to criticize the NYT for a claim it never made. Would have been nice to hear an explanation of how drone strikes that have already killed dozens of women and children are advancing US interests in the region.

  56. 56
    Gust Avrakotos says:

    @Pat: Proof? Clearly you have seen the bodies yourself and verified they were innocent civilians yes?

    By making these unsubstantiated claims you are only helping make Obamas point so on behalf of him I thank you.

    Let me remind you all Obama said was the nytimes article was “overstated”.

  57. 57
    Steve Finlay says:

    You have a good point; I’m very angry and it showed. The drug policy questions clearly earned their position at the top of the list, and there was no excuse for stifling them – which is what Google did. So I apologize for being so angry in my posting; nevertheless, there is good reason for it.

    When you refer to other people and their problems, consider the fact that drug prohibition (selectively enforced on the basis of race) is what gives black males such a high chance of ending up in jail. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have had their lives destroyed this way. It was (and is) of course hypocritical: Alcohol is equally or more dangerous as a substance, but is treated totally differently.

    Then, once these hundreds of thousands of people are in jail, they are no longer earning money and are no longer able to buy anything. This contributes significantly to unemployment. Even worse, they become “employed” by the private prison industry, which becomes a subsidized competitor to other businesses, thus taking away more jobs.

  58. 58
    Nick says:

    You know what’s bullshit? Obama repeatedly dodging the medicinal marijuana questions. These are always the highest on the whitehouse.gov website in terms of hits. The only thing that makes sense is that Obama is caving to big pharma in stopping weed. Just like Obama caved to big pharma when crafting his signature healthcare legislation.

    ps-I am a die hard Obot, btw. But Obama’s leading the charge in the war on drugs is his greatest failure as president.

  59. 59
    PeakVT says:

    @balconesfault: My proposal is that no journalist should live in DC. They should only serve there for a limited time. After that they get rotated back home to do local reporting until they regain their perspective.

  60. 60
    PeakVT says:

    @Nick: He’s not caving to big pharma. That’s ridiculous. He’s studiously avoiding a topic that would make him very unpopular with a lot of otherwise Democratic parents, who don’t want their kids to do drugs. And since he is a blah person, the right would immediately try to link him with the worst aspects of the so-called gang culture. Not that they haven’t tried that, but the lie would get a lot more traction if he were to back any big change in the nations drug laws.

    Pro-legalization campaigners need to focus on state and local governments, where the rubber meets the road for small-time possession. That’s the weak point right now, with the budget pressures they are facing.

  61. 61
    Steve Finlay says:

    With respect to ending drug prohibition, Obama might be doing a Roosevelt: “I know you’re right. I want to do it. Now make me do it.” But I think that is an over-optimistic interpretation.

  62. 62
    Nick says:

    To be fair, “hasn’t been asked about drones this year” probably means “in 2012,” that is, this month.

    Still bad, absolutely. But it could be 37 times worse.

  63. 63
    boss bitch says:

    @Steve Finlay:

    I’m glad it was ignored. Pres.Obama has been asked about it several times and each time he gives the same answer. Asking again will do what exactly?

  64. 64
    Nellcote says:

    @PeakVT:

    Pro-legalization campaigners need to focus on state and local governments, where the rubber meets the road for small-time possession. That’s the weak point right now, with the budget pressures they are facing.

    This. A congress that changed the actual drug laws would be good too.

  65. 65
    Steve Finlay says:

    @boss bitch: True – we already know where he refuses to stand. That refusal to stand is going to bite him in the ass far harder than he thinks.

  66. 66
    Rathskeller says:

    @Steve Finlay: jesus fuck, are you saying that you won’t vote for Obama because of his stand on medical marijuana?

    I might have a stroke. I wish you single-issue idiots would really, truly just go away forever. it’s a big complex world, with some real fucking problems in it.

    do you have access to weed? yes, you do. enjoy. is America’s drug policy unfair, schizophrenic, and harmful to minorities? yes, it is. please, just shut up.

    ETA – whoops, typo

  67. 67
    Cain says:

    PeakVT has a great point. You want to hit the local governments. Allow them to make it legal, and then tax it.

    If they make enough money off of it, they can tell the federal govt to piss off if they threaten anything.

    BTW – I dont’ know if you caught it but Obama DOJ made it legal internet gambling. So a lot of states are relying on that for money. We can do the same for marijuana.

  68. 68
    4tehlulz says:

    @Steve Finlay: HAHAHAHAHAHA

    OBAMA WON’T LEGALIZE THE HERB LET’S VOTE FOR THE GUY THAT WILL TAKE AWAY MY HEALTHCARE

    HAHAHAHAHA Really, are you a Sully sockpuppet? Jesus.

  69. 69

    […] journalists have their ability to affect discourse on the Internet too. At Balloon Juice, mistermix describes the questions Pres. Obama received from Google+ users: The difference between this event and debates featuring questions from the Internets is that […]

  70. 70
    otto says:

    I love how he went all Leslie Knope on the answer to the woman about H1B visas.

    “Yes, I will do something about that pit. We will fill it. Give me your husband’s resumé and I’ll get him a job.”

  71. 71
    wrb says:

    href=”#comment-3017118″>Steve Finlay:

    The drug policy questions clearly earned their position at the top of the list, and there was no excuse for stifling them

    If America was ready to relax drug prohibitions, state initiatives that do so would be passing.

    Obama can’t relax them by himself. Those questions would only benefit the anti-drug forces, by drawing attention to Obama’s moderation on the issue, helping the right replace him with someone more fiercely anti-drug.

    It isn’t the time.

  72. 72
    Pat says:

    @56 – here’s one conservative estimate of civilian drone deaths (Pakistan only) established after the victim’s identities were confirmed by name: http://www.thebureauinvestigat.....-Table.jpg

  73. 73
    Pat says:

    It is nice that he finally confirmed the deployment of drones in Pakistan though. Now maybe O can explain why he thinks that repeatedly dropping bombs on sovereign countries will prevent its citizens from plotting attacks against the US.

  74. 74
    Arclite says:

    I have my issues with this President. I also have my praises. But I really admire this. There were a lot of good, challenging questions, and the president knew that going in, and was willing to address them (although he punted on the marijuana question). I can’t imagine a Republican (other than Ron Paul, perhaps?) doing anything other than softball Fox News interviews. Can you? Bravo, sir.

  75. 75
    AxelFoley says:

    @Steve Finlay:

    I am an economist and (usually) a Liberal voter in Canada.

    Then what the fuck are you worried about our drug laws for? You trying to traffic some weed into the U.S.?

  76. 76
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Steve Finlay:

    I am an economist and (usually) a Liberal voter in Canada.

    Since you’re not an American, I will cut you a break, because you probably don’t know that there is very little the executive branch (aka Obama) can do without new legislation being passed by Congress. He is enforcing the laws that Congress has written. Those laws need to be changed before the DEA can change its policies.

    People who are ignorant about how federal law works love to talk about how Obama could totally refuse to enforce the laws that Congress has passed, but I am in the camp that says that giving the president the power to ignore laws is a really really fucking bad idea, even if those laws are bad laws.

  77. 77
    Mnemosyne says:

    One example: it would be a helpful step towards decriminalization and medical use if the FDA was allowed to move marijuana from a Schedule I drug (forbidden, no medical purpose) to Schedule II (strictly regulated). But in order to do that, Congress needs to change the Controlled Substances Act. Theoretically, the Secretary of Health and Human Services could de-schedule a drug if the FDA presented convincing evidence that its medical utility would outweigh the addiction dangers, but she could only do it if doing so would not violate any international treaties. Which it would. So now we’re back to square one.

    (And, please, pot fans, you really need to realize how silly you sound when you say things like, “Marijuana is totally not addictive — I’ve been smoking it twice a day for 20 years, so there’s no way it could be addictive!”)

    (Edited for clarity.)

  78. 78
    Warren Terra says:

    @RRoss:

    @Rhoda:
    __
    Did this tool even WATCH Max Headroom? Did he know the ‘hero’ of that show was a crusading journalist who fought corporate control of the news media? You know, just like he isn’t?

    Late to the thread, but pretty sure the hack in question has confused Max Headroom with Garry Trudeau’s parody character Ron Headrest – a digital avatar of President Ronny Reagan that invades peoples’ televisions to directly commune with them, rather than go through the media.

    He’s all wrong, not least because the amateurs asked some questions the professionals refuse to ask, and because Reagan lacked both the ability and the inclination to answer any hard questions, but if he’d gotten the details right his parallel would have been somewhat clever.

  79. 79
    Steve Finlay says:

    Mnemosyne is right: The executive branch (president) should not be able to ignore laws. (US presidents have a long history of doing so, but that does not make it right.) Nevertheless, the US president does have the ability to propose laws and submit them to Congress, as we have seen Obama do. Also, he can allocate resources within the executive. There’s no excuse for allocating so many resources to these bad laws.

    Re the Controlled Substances Act: Does the Act actually name the drugs? That would be weird (not impossible). More likely it names the schedules and describes what each schedule is meant for. If that is what it does (which would be rational), then which schedule to put a specific drug in is an administrative decision.

    I have no interest in arguing for the value of pot (if any). Certainly it is less addictive than most drugs, including alcohol, but that is unimportant. What is important is that prohibition of any drug, whether the drug is dangerous, valuable or both, is a really bad idea. It creates crime and corruption, and causes society to lose all control of the drug itself.

  80. 80
    Steve Finlay says:

    There is almost no one to vote for in the US. Yes, Obama’s continued support of prohibition is intolerable. So is his continued protection of torturers, and his continued endorsement of unlimited arbitrary detention in the name of protection against terrorism. But any alternative the Republicans come up with would do all the same things twice as much, and add ten other equally rotten policies on top of them.

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