Fascism?

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Aquarian, Oct 21, 2003.

  1. Aquarian
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    Aquarian Member

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    I can't believe I'm cross posting from yahoo... but wanted to see responses to this not from the yahooligans...

    Edit: This is not my post below, I just found it on yahoo. Just to be clear.

    Original message

    Re: Scary
    by: jananda00

    American Teeters Towards Facism

    The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983) left us this definition of the form of government the German democracy had become through Hitler's close alliance with the largest German corporations and his policy of using war as a tool to keep power:

    "fas-cism (fbsh'iz'em) n. A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."

    Here are a few other points that illustrate the trend.

    1) Fascism has learned from democracy the value of popular support for national policies, and it seeks to manufacture popular consent by a mixture of propaganda and intimidation. For this purpose the existence and use of modern mass media is essential.

    2) Fascism thrives best as a system of permanent mobilization for war. ["We will not see the end of the War on Terrorism in our lifetime." (Cheney) ]

    3) Fascism appeals to emotion rather than reason, fanaticism rather than skepticism; and requires the systematic discrediting and undermining (through propaganda and intimidation) of skeptical or rational thought about its goals and methods. [We see this vividly demonstrated on these boards.]

    4) In addition to an external enemy, identification of the enemy within is also helpful in achieving the intimidation of dissent. There is no middle ground, no area given for discussion or inquiry or negotiation. Polarization of discussion into Black and White points of view is the method, with the goal of undermining all dissent and scapegoating dissenters. ["You are either with us or against us." (Bush)]

    5) The fascist state is necessarily totalitarian, invalidating all competing values or social associations besides itself. By contrast, the democratic state is pluralistic: recognizing the fact that in a free society the loyalty of the individual to the state may often conflict with loyalties to family, church, or one’s own conscience. The success of fascism requires the fusing and blurring of all these interests into the identification of the individual with the leader and the state.

    6) The fascist acceptance of inherent inequality and exploitation naturally results in the theory and practice of government by an elite: some men are born to rule, others to obey. ["I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation." (Bush)]

    7) Relying on authority and obedience, fascism attracts not only those who want to command, but also those who want to obey. In every society there are those who would rather follow and obey than think for themselves and assume responsibilities. The unwillingness to undertake the direct responsibilities for political outcomes required for the health of democracy is one of the chief psychological conditions necessary for the spread of fascism.

    8) The tendency of fascism is to empower the rich and the powerful to become richer and more powerful at the expense of the poor and the powerless.

    9) Economically, the interests of fascism are fused with the interests of corporations [as in the US by the selection of Bush's cabinet, the staffing of regulatory administration with those who were previously corporate lobbyists, and source of contributions].

    http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0316-08.htm
    http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a367e89fb33c6.htm

    Imho the most important of these characteristics is #7. Fascism cannot occur without the consent and participation of the members of the society. We have all often wondered how such a fate could


    Posted as a reply to: Msg 1 by sylentlaughter
     
  2. 5stringJeff
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    5stringJeff Senior Member

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    Well I'm not surprsied that some commie bastard from Yahoo thinks that Bush is a fascist. I'd like to dismiss her out of hand, but since you posted this to get our opinions, here they are, point by point:

    1. Propaganda and intimidation. I'm assuming many lefties would call the GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) one big propaganda campaign, and the Homeland Security level an intimidation machine. IMO, nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, we were attacked, and we are now taking the war to the belligerents. Secondly, the color coded security levels are there to keep people informed, not to scare them. And the comment about "mass media" is laughable; with the advent of the Internet, freedom of speech and opinion is at an all-time high. Trying to stifle news or spread rumors as news would be difficult, if not impossible. (unless you're spreading the urban legend about a 5 cent tax on e-mail!)

    2. A permanent mobilization for war. I think that, Cheney's comment notwithstanding, the GWOT will be mostly over when a) Sddam is dead or captured, b) OBL is dead or captured, and c) Iraq and Afghanistan have stable, functioning governments. It will probably take a while (my guess is ~3 years). In contrast, Hitler and Mussolini were bent on conquering its neighbors and imposing their rule over those people - something America has not done.

    3. "Fascism appeals to emotion rather than reason..." True enough. But I don't see that in the US, unless you think that everyone who recites the Pledge or sings God Bless America is a fascist brainwasher. And if you want to talk about "systematic discrediting and undermining (through propaganda and intimidation) of skeptical or rational thought," check out the Senate Dem's blocking of Bush's judicial nominees.

    4. I think she is misquoting Bush. When he made this statement, he was talking to the international community, not Americans. And I have yet to see anyone jailed for vocalizing dissent against the GWOT.

    5. "The fascist state is necessarily totalitarian, invalidating all competing values or social associations besides itself." Where in America is this illustrated? I haven't seen anyone forced to listen to Bush speeches in church, or to disown their families to sell their soul to the GOP, or to violate their own conscience in serving in the GWOT. While this may be a true statement, it is not seen in this country.

    6. First, I think this is another Bush misquote - I'd love to know the contet in which this statement was made. Second, I don't know many people who believe in the "inherent inequality" of people - unless one is debating for 'affirmative action.'

    7. I agree that it is a pity that more people aren't politically involved. I would love to see hundreds of thousands of people out there working to get this person or that person elected, debating the issues of the day, etc. Maybe it's just because I am a political junkie! :) But everyone agrees on this - I don't understand how we are all of a sudden fascist just because more people aren't voting or participating in the political process.

    8. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Bush's tax cuts actually increased the minimum salary one must earn in order to have to pay taxes in the first place, through measures like the child tax credit. In other words, Bush has taken poor people off the tax rolls. As far as income parity, I don't know the latest stats, but I would imagine that, because the gov't is letting the upper income earners keep more of their salary, that income inequality would naturally rise. But are the poor actually gettin poorer? Again, I don't know the answer, but I know lots of poorer people that can afford a pimped-out Honda Civic.

    9. The ultimate goal of fascism is to install gov't control over the corporations in the country - much like communism. Why corporations would donate to such a cause, I don't know. But as far as corporate CEOs/lobbyists/executives becoming part of the executive branch of the gov't, don't you think that the people who have worked in the industries all their lives would be competent to regulate these industries?

    I know, long post...
     
  3. Aquarian
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    Thanks for your thoughtfull comments Jeff. A couple comments:

    item 1. Well said. That's our best protection, can't imagine what the situation would be if there weren't as many news sources.

    item 2. I felt from the get go that the administration was setting up an atmosphere of 'perpetual war'. Just my personal reactions to statements made in 2001. cheney's quote above, and others like:

    Bush, Sept 16, 2001 - "This is a new kind of, a new kind of evil... And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while. And American people must be patient." (comments on returning from Camp David)

    Bush, White House, Nov. 2, 2001- "This is not an instant gratification war."

    They never said 'perpetual war' of course, but the timetable, even the specific goals that would signify and end, were left open.

    item 4. He was speaking to the international community, true, but I'd have to say there were at least shadows of implication that it's meaning applied to citizens as well. Especially in light of the following denouncing of dissenter as un-american or unpatriotic. No one's been jailed or silenced for this, but there has been some backlash such as the incident in the NJ (I think) mall where a man was asked to leave because of his 'give peace a chance' shirt. Hard to imagine that happening in America previously...

    item 6. was quoted in the book "Bush at War" (Bob Woodward), Washington, D.C., Sep. 2001. Haven't read so can't guess at the context.


    item 8. Can't speak to the exact figures on poverty, or even close offhand, but I don't live too far from some of the more slum like areas in Atlanta and it ain't pretty. If the gap between the rich and the poor widens too much there will be revolt, and there's a lot more poor than rich. This has been proven time and again through history, if I still had my cards from debate class I'd cite them :). I often say if it wasn't for the creation of the middle class and TV we'd have seen the revolt already.

    item 9. I'd say that people who'd been in the industry a good bit would be competent to regulate the industry, the question arises over whether they would regulate it in favor of the consumer or their old co'workers/ interest on the stock they still have etc. I think Daimler-Benz made out ok making cars for hitler, but that's just a belief (not researched).

    Again, thank you for your insightful comments. Looking forward to the next round :)
     
  4. Bry
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    Bry Member

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    See also "Fascist America! Great job BUSH VOTERS" thread in the Iraq War Topic. Your post was almost identical to that, Aquarian,though it was somewhat old. Jeff's response there was pretty similar too.

    And as I said there, I thought labling America "fascist" was a bit sensationalist, though there is no denying that the parallels are considerable and worrisome (at least for me). Keep in mind as I reply to jeff's post that I am not specifically defending the use of the word fascism regarding the USA.

    It is true that Hitler himself took a page out of the propaganda machine which had its beginnings in the US, in the successful attempt to whip the masses into an anti-German frenzy. The American attitude had long been largely pascifist and tending toward neutral regarding the troubles of Europe, and without the manipulation of the media, it is doubtful we ever would have entered the first world war. Hitler makes specific reference to this in Mein Kompf, and correctly attributes the German defeat in that war to the superior manipulation of media in the "democracies", and he swears not to make the same mistake. (And history shows he didn't, the Second World War was last strategically, but the propaganda machine of the nazis improved upon our own, and it would seem we haven't hesitated to take a few pages out of their books. There is considerable evidence that the Nazis actually sacrificed the entire 6th Army at Stalingrad in order to provide the flagging will of the Greman people with a new rallying cry. Not so different from the use of Sept. 11th, if you ask me, though I am aware that this is an interpretation, and am not asking for replies on this specific point. jeff starts his story with Sept. 11th, for example, while I start my story in the early twentieth century. Sept. 11th was not an unprovoked attack without history, but was (what should have been long looked for) a response to decades of abusive world policies. Color coded security levels MAY be used to instill fear without reason. jeff says it is merely to inform, but I'm thinking about an old tale about the little boy who cried "wolf". The potential for abuse is unquestionable, while the reality is always open to interpretation. As for the quantity of information available to us, of course the rumors are unavoidable. There are very few real "Secrets" in the world, though the amount of time one might need to spend reading the same story from fifteen different sources and trying to establish a middle ground is mind boggling (not to mention flawed, because contrary to popular mythology, the middle ground is NOT always the closest to the truth.) Manipulation of the media is always a game of percentages, but that doesn't mean it can't be skillfully and effectively done. A single ideologically bent source like FOX has a tremendous impact on the general opinion because 1. it's easy for those of us who don't have all day to compare sources, and 2. it's entertaining. (Fox gives us the proverbial spoon full of sugar to make us forget all about the medicine. )


    In other words, the hawks couldn't have prayed for a better result than having left both Saddam and OBL at large, haunting the dreams of good Americans everywhere. There are already reports that the ranks of Al Qaeda are swelling. Are you familiar with the idea of terrorist cells? I know you are, and it is as functional for them as it is for our manipulation of the media to generate mass fear. Take the idea of terrorist cells to a new level: not only is there no direct communication between cells, but there is no single organizer. Once the idea is out that the US need be fought, the possibility of any number of individuals organizing their own little terror workshops is enormous. A terrorist movement works precisely because it is headless. They aren't stupid. If we ever catch OBL, the thousands who have already dedicated themselves to his cause will not suddenly say, "oh well, I guess it's time to go home." We are not killing the monster, we are fueling it's fire. And if we can't assume that they are stupid, why should we assume that we are? The hawks in our government know the inevitable result of their actions, and they are looking forward to it. As for Hitler's vision of conquering the world, that has become outdated. Here again, it was an American innovation that proved the downfall of Germany. We realized that physical domination was not necessary, if only we could let loose the corporate dogs. The idea here is no less "fascist" than Hitler's: our domination is more total than theirs could ever have dreamed of being.



    Um, mud-stained flags on every SUV? The great thing about patriotism is how thoughtless it is, how undemanding of us. All we have to do is buy buy buy to keep our economy strong, and (so they tell us) we've won half the battle! And I don't see how blocking a judicial nomination is evidence of anything. As far as I'm concerned, Dems and Repubs are the same animals, and they certainly use the same tactics to get the graft coming to their teams' pockets. Part of the argument for saying that America is fascist, of course, is the implication that BOTH of the big parties are implicated i.e. Clinton and company were just as complicit in the ideology war as Bush and the gang. (He was just more clever at dissembling.)

    Thousands are or have been investigated, many jailed without access to council or family, nor charged. Racist attacks on any "arab-looking" person is growing (we the people are perpetrating the insanity, another aspect of fascism, that it be embraced and encouraged by the people). Racial profiling is the norm, not the exception. The enemy is among us, they tell us, and we are scared. How many times have I heard the phrase from American lips: "if you don't like it, get the hell out". Of course we are not at the level of the Nazi police state, but we are certainly progressing toward it.
    (continued)
     
  5. Bry
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    (from above)

    See above, "if you don't like it, get the hell out". It is true that politics in the US is becoming increasingly polarized. Then again, that's one of the innovations of the US: a two party system in which both parties are complicit. The disenfranchised are under the illusion that they can change something by voting for the other party, failing to realise that no change is actually accomplished in this way. Obviously, we have not arrived at the blunt extremes to which the Nazis arrived. We are much more subtle, but the signs are everywhere. Hell, I've even seen gasoline pumps in the US, now, that show you news clips while you pump your gas. (ironic, isn't it?) If that's not forcing propaganda down our throats, I don't know what is.

    I'd like to see the context of that quote too. And yes, the fact that we have the Kennedys and the Bushs is proof enough. In debating AGAINST affirmative action, we frequently run across arguments that point to the consistent inferiority of scoring on IQ tests by blacks. If that isn't a claim to "inherent inequality" I don't know what is (without wanting to raise that specter again, jim). Also, slightly less difficult to detect, from inside the system, almost all of the writing in the US media (and European media too, for that matter) is elitist. There is a constant underlying assumption (even from the left) that "we" are civilized and "they" are not. Civilization, of course, is characterized by stock markets, air conditioning, and a wide selection of chemically and genetically altered food stuffs in the supermarkets.

    hmmm. It's just another symptom. It's actually those that ARE participating that make the analogy with fascism possible, in that so many seem to participate blindly (on both sides of our two party system). On the other hand, to not participate can be (of course it is not always) a form of rebellion. Admitedly a rather weak form if other more positive actions are not taken simultaneously. See above also: it seems clear to me that there is no possibility for change within the system. Subconsciously, I think people feel that too, and are frustrated. They know their vote doesn't matter, therefore, why should they be bothered? Unfortunately, most don't turn their frustration to productive ends. I myself know I could do much more.

    -the recent "tax cuts" speak for themselves, and raising the bar for minimum eligible to pay taxes is not exactly impressive. I mean, they do increase the minimum wage once in a while, and inflation certainly takes its toll. BTW, have you looked at the tax books lately? What is the minimum you have to make in order to have to pay taxes? Could you live on it? I think it goes without saying that the lack of controls of campaign contributions means the rich have much more say in government than the poor. I simply don't see any room for argument here, though I know you'll try. That's just an example, though the priveleges of being rich are almost infinite, extending to access to quality lawyers, insiders information on investments, superior health treatment, superior education. (accept for the investment information, some of us believe these things should be equal for all, not the privelege of the rich.)

    I think the opposite is true. Hitler and Mussolini both found their biggest early supporters in the very wealthy and the corporations. Fascism functions by pretending to act in the interest of the people when they actually act in the interests of the economy / corporations. Or, more precisely, fascism convinces the poeple that the interests of the corporations ARE the interests of the State, and that their patriotic duty is to surrender their rights as workers and put the shoulder to the grindstone. Fascism is the exact opposite of communism. In pre-war Europe, there was social unrest everywhere. The Unions and Syndicates were very powerful, and increasing in power, and the rich were simply afraid. Hitler and Mussolini were a couple of bullies that offered to whip the masses into shape. Their first moves were against organized labor, in favor of the comporations. The same can be seen here in the US, though of course more subtley. Here, we've just made everyone bosses big and small, each with his own precious, paragraph-long job title for which he sacrificed a decent work schedule, decent pay and decent benefits. The rights of the worker in the US are diminishing, and even faster in western Europe. How many times has a friend come to me and said "Hey, I got a raise at work!" Only to clarify that he isn't actually making more money, but that his responsibilities and work load have increased, and his job title has gotten a little longer. Studies consistently show that each year Americans work more hours, more days, and take less vacation. You think it's just because they like to work? Can't think of anything to do with their free time? And no, those that spend their lives running corporations are NOT the ones competent to regulate industries. It is a conflict of interest, pure and simple. They are the ones most likely to make it things as easy for the corporations as possible, at the expense of the people.

    Anyway, that's all. Thanks for your posts, jeff and aquarian.

    Respectfully,
    B.
     
  6. Isaac Brock
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    Isaac Brock Active Member

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    Hmmm... I've always wondered about the whole idea of fascism in the current US political incarnation and world sociographical scene.

    Although, I would hardly view the US as becoming some giant nazi-like power hungry maniac, one does have to pose the question whether the US is headed towards fascism-lite.

    I think much of this debate about fascism has been, respectfully, off its mark in terms of figuring out what exactly fascism is. I don't like the dictionary definition of fascism as I don't believe it embodies what fascism truly is. Fascism is not a simple movement, it is a complex movement and hardly ubiquitous in its iterations.

    I would define fascism as this as found in my Political Studies textbook by Matthew N. Lyons from university which I happen to agree wholeheartedly:

    Fascism is a form of extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates the nation or the race as an organic community transcending all other loyalties. It emphasizes a myth of national or racial rebirth after a period of decline or destruction. To this end, fascism calls for a "spiritual revolution" against signs of moral decay such as individualism and materialism, and seeks to purge "alien" forces and groups that threaten the organic community.

    Fascism tends to celebrate masculinity, youth, mystical unity, and the regenerative power of violence. Often, but not always, it promotes racial superiority doctrines, ethnic persecution, imperialist expansion, and genocide. At the same time, fascists may embrace a form of internationalism based on either racial or ideological solidarity across national boundaries. Usually fascism espouses open male supremacy, though sometimes it may also promote female solidarity and new opportunities for women of the privileged nation or race.

    Fascism's approach to politics is both populist--in that it seeks to activate "the people" as a whole against perceived oppressors or enemies--and elitist--in that it treats the people's will as embodied in a select group, or often one supreme leader, from whom authority proceeds downward. Fascism seeks to organize a cadre-led mass movement in a drive to seize state power. It seeks to forcibly subordinate all spheres of society to its ideological vision of organic community, usually through a totalitarian state. Both as a movement and a regime, fascism uses mass organizations as a system of integration and control, and uses organized violence to suppress opposition, although the scale of violence varies widely.



    Now as that as the centre of my thesis, we must compare that definition to that of the current situation in the USA.

    1. Is the US celebrating its nation or race as community transcending all personal loyalties?

    2. Is the US promoting nation based programs to fight "moral decay" that it infringes on invidualism and materialism?

    3. Is the US trying to purge "alien" forces or groups that threaten its community?

    4. Is the US celebrating ratial superiority?

    5. Is the US seeking populist policies to activate its people against perceived oppressors and threats?

    6. Is the US promoting violence to control its populist and eliminate the opposition?

    I certainly have opinions, but I would like to hear from the people on the board first.
     
  7. Bry
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    Thanks for that insightful post, Isaac.

    I would only disagree with this paragraph:

    What you say certainly adds to the complexity of the question by elucidating more of the pecularities symptomatic of regimes that have come to be known as fascist. However, the preceding analysis was far from limited to a simplistic dictionary definition. It emphasized nine separate characteristics with I think did do some justice to the complexity of fascism as a concept, interrelating the participation of the population, identification and alienation of a foreign group or groups (in potentially rascist, sexist, and ideological terms), the complicity or (more strongly) the directing force of corporate interests, and the complicity of the media. Some of what you said, of course, does indicate additional directions, but much of what you said is a reiteration.
     
  8. Isaac Brock
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    My apologies if I seemed to trialize the current discussion, as that was not my point at all. I think you've all done a marvelous job in comparing fascism against its most ardent supporter ie 1930's and 40's Nazi germany and on second looking at my post, maybe i have missed the mark in what I hoped to bring up.

    What I really want to know is if the pre-conditions for fascism exist in the US and if the US is progressing towards a fascist state. In a sense, what I'm trying to get out of this is the "WHY" of fascism not the "WHAT". Why could the US be progressing this towards fascism in terms of a social and cultural motivators.

    If you think about it, many of the "symptoms" of fascsism can ironically be found in communism, so it is best to look at the situation as a socio-cultural movement. Too often is fascisms portrayed as a simple coup by the upper class, which I think is a VERY common (and in a cultural sense, dangerous) misconception.
     
  9. 5stringJeff
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    5stringJeff Senior Member

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    Bry,

    Sorry it's taken a while to respond.

    I disagree. OBL himself said that his three mian reasons for masterminding 9/11 were: 1. American troops on Saudi soil, which started in 1990; 2. American support for Israel, which was certainly not favored by any Arab countries, but nonetheless not "abusive;" and 3. the suffering of the Iraqi people through the US-led enforcement of the UN sanctions imposed after Gulf War I. While 9/11 did have history behind it, it is quite a stretch to start that history before 1948.

    I still think that, with the advent of the Internet, the only people who are going to be fooled by propaganda are the ones who let themselves get fooled.

    I think we've talked about the capitalist/socialist thing in a different thread. I still have yet to see people enslaved into working for a corporation.

    The only people I know of that have been jailed without access to counsel are non-citizens who are suspected or known to be terrorists. And where do you live that racial profiling is the norm? Racial profiling is outlawed - that's why 75-year-old grandmas have to take their shoes off before getting on an airplane, while foreign nationals just waltz on airplanes. And personally, I don't think that a little racial profiling is all that bad. If we know that terrorists are mostly Middle Eastern (BTW - that's much different than saying most Middle Easterners are terrorists) then if we are looking for terrorists, start with the Middle Easterners. And I have not seen any American Gestapo patrolling the streets at night - nor do I see any moves toward such a system.

    Yeah, I've heard it from a lot of people. I've even said it a few times - though mainly when referring to illegal immigrants. But is this the government's official (or unofficial) position? I don't think so. In fact, a story I read today from these boards talked about the Bush administration bringing in more immigrants, not less.

    I think that the Florida debacle erased the notion of "my vote doesn't count" from the minds of anyone who bothered to pay attention. In any case, there are get-out-the-vote drives almost year-round, there's the Moter Voter law (bad legislation, IMO, but still available), and many ways for people to get involved if they desire.

    The greatest thing about this country (IMO) is class mobility. If you are currently poor, you have the ability to get rich. If you are currently rich, you certainly have the ability to piss away your money and become poor. So the privledges of wealth, while enjoyed by the rich, are available to all - it just depends on how hard you are willing to work for it.

    Again, the government is in place to protect the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, not to protect the rights of corporations to do as they please. I personally cannot see how union power is diminishing, except for the unions like the NEA who are self-destructing because they refuse to give in to change (but I think that's a different thread). I don't see how the US gov't currently convinces people that "the of the corporations ARE the interests of the State." American society may say that... but that's different, and I don't buy it regardless.

    Anyway... hopefully that is a decent response... it took me a while to digest your post! :)
     

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