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April 17, 2006

Amanda Marcotte—
Posted by Patrick at 10:26 PM * 42 comments

of the weblog Pandagon—is my hero for the day.

Comments on Amanda Marcotte--:
#1 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 10:51 PM:

Personally, I've always taken the "Anger is a gift" view of things...

So the WATB's at the WaPo can't deal with it? They've never been able to deal with it. Sounds like a personal problem to me.

#2 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 11:55 PM:

I'm amazed that, despite having gone through a complete staff turnover, Pandagon still manages to hit the nail on the head, with attitude.

Amanda, kicker of butts, does it again.

#3 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:04 AM:

I read through the article and although I agree about most of the points, several of them, well, anger me.

And that doesn't mean I have no sense of humor. Getting angry when I am the target of a joke, however, may be a bit of a giveaway. It's not a sense of humor if you only laugh at others - it is simply meanspirited-ness.

And it doesn't mean I'm uncool. Ad hominem attacks upset me, and my social ineptness has no bearing either way. Nor connected, as such, with my attractiveness, or lack thereof - and ridiculing the question isn't particularly fair methodology. ("...who really wants to admit to that?")

The on that really got me going, however, was stupid enough that I'm having trouble thinking clearly enough to refute it properly.

Anger muddles your thinking - it does. No reasonable being would deny this - and if you're angry, you are not reasonable. It slows reaction time, in some cases as much as alcohol. It causes people to behave irrationally, frequently to the point of murdering other human beings. Like all emotions, it has it's place, but remember that the assumption you start with don't change unless you are willing to examine them, and anger is simply not conducive to admitting mistakes or otherwise confused thinking.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:26 AM:

"Anger muddles your thinking - it does. No reasonable being would deny this"

From which we can reasonably conclude that anger "muddles" David Manheim's thinking.

Whether all human beings are wired exactly like David Manheim is another question, and probably not a question on which David Manheim's opinion is determinative.

Hint: When you find yourself typing phrases like "no reasonable being would deny this", it's time to check for feathers.

#5 ::: Things That Ain't So ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:43 AM:

The comment that amused (and saddened) me was the one about Saddam taking down the twin towers.

How soon we forget the facts of the case. Osama directed that action, not Saddam, and there wasn't an Iraqi among the terrorists. In fact, 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudis, as is Osama.

Sorry, it truly is a most inconvenient fact for certain political parties.

#6 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:43 AM:

Right-wing talk of liberal anger has, for a long time, seemed to me one of these carefully-considered abuses of valid ethical precepts, like a wife-beater telling their victim to turn the other cheek. These people don't believe in ahimsa; they want their enemies to be spineless, that's all, and that the argument is made tells us something of what they think of us. Any group that takes Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to their bosom, that glorifes war, that actually starts wars and makes excuses for the behavior, needs to consider the friggin' tree-trunk in their own eyes before worrying about anything in ours.

#7 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:30 AM:

"Things That Ain't So":

9/11 changed everything; then 9/12 changed 9/11.

#8 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 07:33 AM:

David Manheim: Anger muddles your thinking - it does.

Sometimes it does, sure. Sometimes it focuses the mind.

I don't have much of a temper. It hardly ever gets lit off, but when it does I guess it can be pretty impressive and there are times when I apparently rise to heights of Precision Expression that even I marvel at. That sounds like bragging or something but I don't mean it that way. It's just that sometimes I'm shocked at how much muck is blown out of my head when my fuse gets lit and we get some sort of detonation.

I don't deny that anger can strangle expression sometimes, but sometimes it clarifies things.

#9 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 07:36 AM:

Kip W: 9/11 changed everything; then 9/12 changed 9/11.

One of the biggest laugh-out-louds for me in "The Aristocrats":

"...the tragedy of January third..."

#10 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:31 AM:

When you find yourself typing phrases like "no reasonable being would deny this", it's time to check for feathers.

While psychology is a pretty fuzzy science, there is a whole world of things out there that no reasonable being would deny. And Alan Sokal is their prophet.

I would argue that the debatable portion of this is what do we mean when we say anger? Are we talking about a hot rage? Something that is just shy of a physical assault? Then I think that David is probably correct. That being said, just because someone is just plain odious doesn't mean I have to get my blood pressure all off kilter.

#11 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:38 AM:

Anger can muddle your thinking, just like any other emotion can, but it doesn't neccessarily have to muddle your thinking.

while moonlighting as a life coach, I've found that sometimes people feel some emotion that really has nothing to do with what's going on in the moment, other than they got reminded of some event that happened in the past.

And other times, they feel some emotion that has everything to do with what's going on in the moment, but may need to be uncovered so they can act on it clearly. They may feel sad, but further discussion reveals that underneath the sadness they are angry but have suppressed it for some reason.

Once uncovered and clarified, emotions are basically our brain's way of telling us something. Anger often translates into "No. Enough is enough", which can give the person the focus they need to stand up to whatever is making them angry.

I can't say I've had the experience of a right winger saying to the left "you're angry" as a way to dismiss the left's argument, but I don't get out much.

The tricky part of coaching is that emotions aren't "right", but they are "true". Being angry doesn't mean your argument is correct. It just means that's how you truly feel. I know plenty of nutjobs in the media who feel angry and are wrong in everything they say.

If someone on the left is angry and some critic ignores valid arguments and instead responds simply with "you're angry", then I'd suggest they respond with something simple, like "Yeah? So what?" and not let it make them loose focus of what's right.

#12 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 09:39 AM:

I think we're getting muddled here between anger and rage. In rage, you lose control, and thus, of course, your thinking is muddled.

No reasonable person would dispute that in "anger leading to a loss of control and muddled thinking," one's thinking is muddled. Any reasonable person could dispute that all anger leads to such a result; for example, I consider myself a reasonable person, and I'm frequently angry, but it only muddles my thinking occasionally. If I punch the wall and leave my own blood on it, yeah. If I think about the Bush administration...not usually.

If anger always muddles your thinking...well, I'd say that's a personal problem, and the answer is therapy. Been there; done that.

There's also a problem with the meaning of 'muddle'. All emotion influences thinking; that's why experiments are double blinded if possible: the experimenter needs to be able to evaluate the data without being influenced by hir desire to see a particular result. But in my opinion one's thinking is only "muddled" if one does NOT make such allowances or take such precautions. One of these is the application of rigorous logic.

And the reason the Right thinks anger automatically muddles thinking? They don't believe in rigorous logic, and in many cases are unfamiliar with it. Therefore they assume—wrongly—that our thinking when we're angry is as muddled as theirs is all the time.

#13 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 10:15 AM:

Alright! So when's the next ML slam-dance party?


#14 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 10:20 AM:

Yeah, the Left is angry.

As opposed to the Right, which is shivering, pants-crapping terrified.

They've got all three branches of government*, the media, the churches, and the Fortune 500. Yet they still whimper like a toddler at the Monsters Under The Bed, whether the Monster of the Day is uppity blacks, uppity women, Arabs, Mexicans, environmentalists, child molesters, drug dealers, Communists, or Quakers.

And frightened people are very, very dangerous. Much more dangerous than angry people.

* Well, two and a half. The courts are still trying to hang in there.

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 11:01 AM:

Let me suggest that there is a standard in these matters, and it was set nearly three centuries ago:

Hic depositum est corpus
Huyus Ecclesiae Cathedralis
Ubi saeva indignatio
Cor lacerare nequit
Abi Viator
Et imitare, si poteris
Strenuum pro virili
Libertatis Vindicatorem

Obiit 19 Die Mensis Octobris
A.D. 1745 Anno Ætatis 78

W.B. Yeats' translation:

Swift has sailed unto his rest.
Savage indignation there
cannot lacerate his breast.
Imitate him if you dare,
world-besotted traveller, he
Served human liberty.

#16 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 11:21 AM:

"Indignation" is probably the best word for what I, and I assume other people, feel about the Bush administration. I don't actually hate Bush. (I don't hate anyone, but my feelings for him come as close to hate as I get.) I do feel that he is unjust, mean, and unworthy, which is the definition of the word "indignation" if I understand it correctly.

Frustration is another feeling I get.

Sometimes anger is there as well.

I'd take any of those over depression and fear any day. Depression and fear impede action. They close down will power. Anger, indignation, and frustration are calls to action. They are unsettling. They require you to do something even if it is only posting on a blog.

#17 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 11:42 AM:

A fast googling doesn't turn up Amanda Marcotte's piece about Darfur. Assuming it was a real article rather than something invented by the WashPost, did she have an idea of what could be done about the genocide, or was it a demand to get angry and pressure politicians to Do Something?

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:01 PM:

Joe J: Even hatred of the corrupt, dishonest, and criminal in positions of power has a long sanction:

'My charges upon record will outlast
The brass of both his epitaph and tomb.'
'Repent'st thou not,' said Michael, 'of some past
Exaggeration? something which may doom
Thyself if false, as him if true? Thou wast
Too bitter — is it not so? — in thy gloom
Of passion?' — 'Passion!' cried the phantom dim,
'I loved my country, and I hated him.

-- Byron, 'The Vision of Judgment'

#19 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:18 PM:

it's time to check for feathers.

I'm sorry, my parser is stuck on this one and cannot extract the intended meaning.

#20 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:21 PM:

Amanda (who I had the pleasure to meet two months ago) has been a hero of mine for some time now. She has the uncanny ability to write very reasonable posts that drive your average rightwing wingnut completely blind with rage.

--But I still miss Jesse.

#21 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:28 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz: The WaPo article claims to cite a Darfur piece by Maryscott O'Conner, not (At least as far as I bothered to read) anything by Amanda Marcotte.

#22 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:29 PM:

Greg: Turkey? I'm guessing.

"The apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it." Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Resistance. Works for me.

#23 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:58 PM:

Fragano Ledgister: That's an excellent quote, but it doesn't convince me that there is value in hate. That's not to say I couldn't hate someone. I just would rather not settle for hate since it too often leads to violence. Anyway, there's more than enough hate going around now. I don't need to add to the supply.

A thought occurred to me concerning anger. To care about something, you have to be able to react emotionally to what happens to it. For example, I care about my country. If good things happen to it, I'm happy. If bad things happen, I'm angry or sad. If I didn't care at all, I wouldn't feel anything at all.

If liberals are angry, it means we care about America. The more we are angry, the more the welfare of the country matters to us. Amanda Marcotte is right. You can't dismiss this passion as sour grapes. It's too intense for pouting. Only people who care deeply and are deeply concerned can be this angry.

#24 ::: Ariella ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:20 PM:

I think we should remember that the only useful purpose for being angry in published form is to make others angry for the same reasons. If we really want to change what's wrong with the world, we need to be in the business of converting people. The unsuspecting schmoe who wanders into a room full of scowling and snarling people may very well leave in a hurry and go looking for more convivial company.

In my opinion, the best vehicle for anger is dark humour. Ever noticed how many of the best political attack ads are funny?

#25 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:32 PM:

Joe J: Hate, at its best, is anger focused on a target (in the case of Junius, made to speak by Byron, George III. I'm not advocating (nor was Byron) hatred as a mode of thought or being, but saying that some anger becomes hate -- hatred of the evils done and of the evildoers.

#26 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:37 PM:

I think anger can be great motivation ("Anger Is Fuel"). That said, I've also had problems with the anger vs. rage dichotomy at points in my life (as P&T may recall), and eventually spent a number of years in therapy and 12-step groups learning to deal with that and other issues.

In hindsight, my problems were:

1) I didn't know how to use anger effectively.


2) I didn't get angry early enough, or often enough.

That last sounds counterproductive, but it's true. I stuffed the small angers inside, I kept my mouth shut, I didn't rock the boat, until it all reached a critical mass where the latest shitheaded statement or action by my friends or opponents would make me explode in (sometimes literally) screaming outrage.

Expressing my anger in smaller ways, quieter ways, might have made a difference. Maybe. (Though I tried that a few times, for the period I'm thinking of, and it didn't make any difference; all the dire consequences I tried to warn against two years in advance came to pass anyway. But it would certainly have been better for my own sake.)

#27 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Fragano Ledgister: I see your point.

Ariella said: "In my opinion, the best vehicle for anger is dark humour."

Dave Chappelle comes to mind. So does George Carlin.

#28 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:18 PM:

I don't know. . . these days, it seems like humor doesn't get through either- they laugh it off and go back to what they were doing.

Maybe I'm too damn bitter to be funny, these days.

#29 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:24 PM:

What I've found in coaching folks is that the words "anger", "hate", "rage", and similar, are all dealt with the same way. Help them find out why they're feeling that way, help them figure out what (if anything) they can do to get back to their center, and help them relate to the emotions their feeling so they're more conscious of what's going on with themselves.

What is often on the other side of these emotions for people I've coached is a sense of clarity that something isn't working for them anymore and they've had enough.

As for "hating" someone, the flip side of that is sometimes simply the wake-up call that you don't want that person in your life anymore and you have the right to uninvite them.

#30 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:51 PM:

How I sincerely wish I could uninvite Bush from my life.

#31 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:54 PM:

I did use the key word "sometimes"

#32 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:57 PM:

Lenora, thanks. Here's the article, and it recommends some sensible courses of action, though I don't know whether they'd be enough.

In any case, the WashPost piece was unfair to put all the emphasis on anger, There's thought going on, not just hostility-dumping.

#33 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:07 PM:

Ad hominem attacks upset me,


"Don't listen to anything Fred Singer says about climate because he's funded by the oil companies" upsets you?

"He lied to us about TANG, he lied to us about Niger, he lied to us about Saddam's links to 9/11, so I don't trust him about Iran" upsets you?

"The Washington Times is a Unification Church-funded newspaper, and FoxNews is the propaganda arm of the GOP" upsets you?

Or did you mean "insults"?

#34 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 05:15 PM:

Joe J: There are a few people in this world I hate. I didn't settle for it. They took the time and effort to earn it. I don't enjoy it, but I'm not sure that I am wired to avoid it.

When grievous injury is done, over long time, and with intent, there ain't enough christian love in me to survive forever, there comes a time I can no longer forgive; absent repentance and penance.

Sooner, or later, hate comes into the picture. It's not the first reaction, nor yet the last (there have been some I've hated whom I no longer hate, they have passed from all but memory, and the memory is one of faint sadness. I can't explain that, but that's how it goes), but it's what is.

I take it into account when dealing with them.

#35 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:16 PM:


I don't think David Finkel saw himself as writing a political story with I think he set out to write a story whose subtext is this-is-a-strong-willed-woman-with-issues-who-is-a-few-hoppers-short-of-a-full-carload.

He's done this before, with a short-order cook in Utah as his "subject," last January 31:

>[Utah Town Has Question About President: 'What's Not to Like?']( Author: David Finkel Date: Jan 31, 2006 Start Page: A.01:To get to the place where they like George W. Bush more than any other place in America, you fly west for a long time from Washington, then you drive north for a long time from Salt Lake City, and then you pull into Gator's Drive Inn, where the customer at the front of the line is ordering a patty melt. "Patty melts! No one makes patty melts anymore," she is saying to the counterman, Ryan Louderman, who knew she wasn't local as soon as he heard the sound of a car being locked. "Can I get it without onions?" she says. "And can I get mustard? On the side? Dijon mustard?"...

>"No onions? With mustard?" says Orton, who voted for Bush in 2004 and 2000. "Oh, God, we get some weird ones" -- but she cooks it anyway, as requested, and passes the non-patty melt out to the woman, who takes a bite, declares it "fabulous" and wraps up the rest to go. She's on her way to a ski resort. She is going to be lifted by helicopter to the top of a mountain with untouched snow, and then she is going to ski down....

>"Dijon mustard," Louderman says as the woman drives away. "I don't know what Dijon mustard is. Don't care to find out, either."...

>In Randolph... where Bush received 95.6 percent... the mind-set is even more specific to a place that seems less a part of the modern United States than insulated from it. It isn't just mustard, but everything....

>Terrorist threats? That's anywhere but here. Iraq? That's somewhere over there.... [Orton] turns off the "open" sign and starts adding up the day's receipts. It isn't much. She netted $10,000 last year, if that. She has no savings. She has no retirement plan. She works seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Her last vacation was a quick trip last Thanksgiving to see her in-laws.... Somewhere out there are the sounds of chattering terrorists, and shivering homeless people, and helicopters ferrying soldiers, and a president rehearsing a vitally important speech. Here in 71.5 percent Utah, though, and 95.6 percent Randolph, and 100 percent Gator's, the only sound is of a believer explaining why, come Tuesday night, she doubts she will bother to listen.

>"I don't think there's anything he could say that would make me dislike him," she says.

Finkel, of course, says: "You can't tell anything about what I think from the article. You can't tell anything about me other than that I am male and write for the *Washington Post.*"

#36 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 09:15 PM:

Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:07 PM:
Ad hominem attacks upset me,
[clipped out the examples of argument ad hominem]
Or did you mean "insults"?

Well, I don't know about the other poster, but ad hominem arguments like you described do anger me. Broken rhetoric always annoys me when I spot it. It annoys me greatly when it's used with awareness that it's broken (i.e. sophistry) and it ratchets up into anger when it's paired with the frustrating feeling that I'm not going to be able to explain to anybody why the previous statements were worthless and should be ignored.

Furthermore, "ad hominem attacks" could easily be read with a different meaning than "argument ad hominem".

#37 ::: anne ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 11:48 PM:

Elaborating on what I take to be roughly Chris Clarke's point:

Arguing ad hominem is fallacious when you're intending to attack a deductive argument. A deductive argument is sound or unsound, and which it is does not depend at all on who's making it... so arguing ad hominem is beside the point. It is a version of the fallacy of irrelevance.

Socrates is a man.
All men are mortal.
Therefore Socrates is mortal.

This argument is sound, and it remains sound whether it's made by me or Hitler or Tom Cruise. No information about the character, judgment, etc of the arguer affects its soundness.

Similarly, ad hominem attacks cannot show, by themselves, the truth or falsity of a statement of fact. Suppose Hitler says "All Jews are greedy." That's a false statement, and Hitler is a bad guy, but the fact that he says it does not by itself show that the statement is false.

BUT it's a different story when we're assessing the credibility of a statement of fact -- in particular, when we're trying to decide whose statements of fact we should trust. (Independent assessment of evidence is the best way to decide when to believe a statement of fact. But in most cases we're unable to independently assess the evidence -- we may not have access to it all, its assessment may require specialized knowledge, etc. We have to trust experts. So we have to have a good way to decide which experts to trust.)

It's highly relevant and prudent to consider whether we should believe the person who is the source of the statement of fact. For this purpose, it is a good idea to consider that person's track record of lying, spinning, having an interest in misleading you, allowing ideology to cloud their own factual judgment, getting their info from the wrong people, being dense, etc.

Now, just for clarity, suppose we discovered that the person has a bad track record -- they've lied a lot in the past, for example. What would this show? It would not show whether the current statement is TRUE. (As I said above, the ad hominem arguments cannot establish the truth or falsity of the factual claim under discussion.) But it would show that we shouldn't believe the statement just on the strength of this person's word.

#38 ::: anne ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 11:59 PM:

And, I meant to say, all of Chris Clarke's examples of ad-hominem-that's-okay are examples of that latter use of ad hominem. They're all examples intended to show that we should not take a given person/organization's word for something.

They're okay because that's their purpose, and because they offer highly relevant reasons why that person's word is unlikely to lead us to the truth on a given subject.

What's relevance?
This is okay:
Person X works for big pharma, so she is likely to mislead us about certain public policy issues in a way that benefits big pharma.

This is not okay:
Person Y reads dirty magazines and is ugly, so she is likely to mislead us about public policy issues.

But the reason the second example is not okay is just because the claim about Person Y is not relevant to assessing the trustworthiness of Y's statements about medical issues.

(Ok, taking my "critical thinking 101" hat off.)

#39 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 12:10 AM:

Well, I don't know about the other poster, but ad hominem arguments like you described do anger me. Broken rhetoric always annoys me when I spot it. It annoys me greatly when it's used with awareness that it's broken (i.e. sophistry) and it ratchets up into anger when it's paired with the frustrating feeling that I'm not going to be able to explain to anybody why the previous statements were worthless and should be ignored.

A courtesy note then: you may wish to avoid reading pretty much anything I write, as I find life too short to presume the best of habiitual liars on a continual basis.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I hope you don't avoid readiing my writing,but if what you say above is true, I'll almost certainly piss you off. I don't feel my arguments are sophistry. I make them in good faith and out of the hard-earned knowledge that we are up against people who deliberately lie for profit.

#40 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 09:42 AM:

Terry Karney: You make good points. I did come off as a bit sanctimonious, and I apologize for it. I suppose "settle for it" was the wrong phrase to use. The point I was getting at was that I disliked hate in other people, but most of all in myself. Hate benefits no one, not the person being hated or the person hating. As you made clear, hate is something you can enter into and then move beyond. I make a conscious effort to try to move beyond hate since it is so poisonous. I get the sense that many people don't get that far and just fall into hating as a way of dealing with adversity and injustice, which saddens me.

That said, I know I can hate someone, and I believe I may have hated people in the past, including myself. I'm not immune to hate as an emotion, but I am opposed to it. I deeply respect anyone who is able to see beyond hate, and I try not to judge people who do hate.

I hope that clarifies my position better. Thank you for your post.

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 09:03 PM:

oh look, a fish!

(exaxmple of non sequitor fallacy)

#42 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 01:20 AM:

I don't do hatred - more because I can't seem to muster it up then because of any great morality on my part. I have a hard time with anger too. One of the reasons I read Amanda regularly and admire her as much as I do is that she articulates her own anger so well - and thereby makes my own more accessible to me.

Plus she's from Texas, so you should listen to anything she says (See? Ad hominem works both ways!)

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