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View Diary: GOP, Ryan and Medicare: Just what were they thinking? (106 comments)

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  •  If I can jump to conclusions about strategy... (5+ / 0-)
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    Pluto, johnva, dhshoops, Ckntfld, cybersaur

    Here's an interesting thought I've been having: The highlighting of the Ryan Plan (not the drafting of the bill itself but the Republican embrace of it) is a pretty clear example of Republicans buying in to the bullshit Overton Window argument: If you demand a lot, you'll at least get some of it!  Yeah, or you come off looking extreme, trying to gut a program that has the support of more than half of your own party.

    And I would argue this as well: Republicans seeing Obama as "weak" and as "a compromiser" played in to their thinking as well.  I'm not trying to say it was a conscious decision by the White House, but if Obama is more aggressive with Republicans, as many here want him to be, I don't know if the Ryan Plan would have ever gotten nearly the play it has.

    (I realize now that this sounds like 11D Chess stuff, but I'm not trying to say that this is exactly what Obama wanted, just that there are a lot of positives that come from treating your opponents respectfully)

    •  What's (1+ / 0-)
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      The highlighting of the Ryan Plan (not the drafting of the bill itself but the Republican embrace of it) is a pretty clear example of Republicans buying in to the bullshit Overton Window argument: If you demand a lot, you'll at least get some of it!  
      "bullshit" about that? It's been working exactly just as you describe for a long time now---working very well for them indeed. They grab for a mile, then "compromise" with the Dems for a half or three quarters.

      Not a speck of "bullshit" about it. The Overton Window is real, and it works like a charm for the Plutocracy and their Rethug and DINO agents in D.C.

      Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

      by drewfromct on Tue May 24, 2011 at 08:33:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here's why I call it bullshit: (0+ / 0-)

        I think that there are some cases where it works... But there are ways it can back fire too: Looking at the HCR debate, the OW argument would suggest that Obama should have asked for more... Then, when he inevitably compromised, it would have turned in to want he origninally wanted.

        First of all, that's just political bullshit: Disguise what you really want in order to get it... It's a shitty (morally speaking, not saying it isn't sometimes effective) tactic when Repubs use it, and I'm not going to get mad at Democrats for not buying in to it.

        And the Ryan Plan shows the danger in OW thinking: You ask for too much, and you risk the danger of outright failure.  See Clinton's HCR for another example.  If Obama goes for single payer, maybe you're right, maybe he gets a strong public option... But also his chances of not getting anything done increase.

        It's a problem inherent in our political process: You will never get all of what you want.  Republicans use the OW (a concept that was pretty much created by conservatives) to try to advance their ideology... And I'm glad that Dems aren't buying in to it.

        •  Hold on. Are you saying that *negotiating* (2+ / 0-)
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          drewfromct, wsexson

          the way it's been done for thousands, yes thousands, of years, is "bullshit?" You might want to recalibrate your take on human morality and civilization . . .

          •  No (0+ / 0-)

            and you know it.  The bill was negotiated on for over a year.  That's a good thing.  I am saying this: By using the strategy that you would want him to use (I assume, ask for single payer so that you can eventually work your way down to a public option), I believe that chances for passing anything would also go down (similar to what happened to Clinton).  I am saying that there are risks to demanding too much.  I am saying that this isn't fucking buying a house, this is trying to craft good legislation, and if the president wants to say what he thinks on an issue and then work to try to get that vision passed, that's A OK with me.

            Our problem is with Republicans: I think that we can agree that if Republicans were as reasonable as Obama has been, the country in general would be a lot better off.  So do we want Obama to counter the extremism with more aggression, with more demands?  That is a strategy that could work, but it is also one that could backfire, especially, and it pains me to say it, considering the president's race.

            To put it simply, I think a lot of people look at it this way... "Republicans are taking hostages!  What a deplorable strategy... Why doesn't Obama use it?"

            •  1) No, I don't know anything of the kind. (1+ / 0-)
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              You keep spraying invective on the very concept of hardball negotiating, so I don't think I misread your take on it.
              2) As far as I can tell, virtually no negotiations took place at all. Not with anyone who was actually negotiating in good faith, that is, so that let's out all Republican involvement. The talk regarding this bill was all about hostage taking--by the Blue Dog/centrist Dems, mostly.
              3) If you think "crafting good legislation" doesn't require negotiating as I would call it, you should probably not look into the history of any meaningful legislation this country has ever passed. Do you honestly think, for example, that the Civil Rights Act was passed without some serious amount of "horse trading", threats, and/or "negotiation"?
              4) It may well be deplorable, but the fact is, it has also worked for the Republicans. I think what you are seeing is our desperation to get anything decent passed. Politics is definitely a place where the end can justify the means, unless you think a politician's morality is more important than the rest of the country's well-being.
              5) You assert that backfiring is possible, but we have no evidence of that. If one's strategy and/or tactics is/are not working, one must change it, or accept losing. I don't see much good legislation coming out of Congress--I haven't for 30+ years--so I think a Dem change in strategy and tactics might finally be warranted to get some.

              •  These are valid points (0+ / 0-)

                But I still disagree overall, and here's why:

                Part of the success of the ACA is the fact that it was passed at all.  Some look at that as wishy washy thinking, but that ignores history: Presidents have tried and failed at HCR in the past.  If Obama hadn't even tried, if he had put more focus on environmental or economic issues, we probably wouldn't even be debating health care at this point.  You say "I think what you are seeing is our desperation to get anything decent passed."  Are you saying that the ACA wasn't even decent?  The main failure people usually refer to is the lack of a public option.  This ignores the fact of the non profit option, which the CBO estimates will serve almost the same function as a weak public option.  It also ignores the fact that the health insurance industry would still be alive and well, even with a PO.  Here is how I look at it: With the ACA in place now, you can fight for adding a PO and fight for single payer in the states.  There is no point, as a progressive, in tearing down the ACA, even if it doesn't solve the root problem: It's still a great building block for the future.

                And now to the point of general strategy... As far as I can see it, the strategy you want the president to use is to basically be the progressive hero that FDR was: Stand up to the banks, attack Republicans, always fight for the most progressive deal possible.  Certainly, Obama is no FDR... But FDR was no FDR after just three years either.  He actually was accused by some to the left of him for giving in to corporate interests.  FDR was able to both project himself as a strong progressive and get results for two reasons: a) The national mood made sense for him to do so: The combination of the Great Depression and having 70-75 Democrats in congress at any given time made for a pretty favorable climate.  And b) He was a masterful politician, more so than Obama.

                But would FDR's strategy work today?  Maybe, if Obama was good enough... Or maybe Obama demands too much, doesn't get anything done, becomes unpopular, and then it's Republican control of government again starting in 2012.  It's a tricky issue, and it's one that modern day Democrats pretty much inherently have a lot more trouble with than Republicans: To get things done requires staying elected, staying elected means staying popular, and maintaining popularity requires unfortunate concessions.  That's politics, and like I said, Republicans deal with it a lot better than Dems, though that's possibly because they're more prone to straight up lying.

                One final point: "The talk regarding this bill was all about hostage taking--by the Blue Dog/centrist Dems, mostly."  Again, this is how our political system is set up: The base of Obama's plan was something progressive Democrats could get behind, so he didn't worry about courting their vote.  If the bill ever became watered down so much that progressives abandoned it, that would have been the wrong strategy... But it didn't.  It was a good bill that good Democratic politicians voted for.  I strongly believe that it will be looked at in the future as a success, and an entirely Democratic success at that.

                •  Health insurance reform was not (1+ / 0-)
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                  my main concern going into this Presidency, but even if it was, a public option (as it turned out to be called) would have been the very least I would have expected from a Democratically-controlled House, Senate, and Presidency. Personally, I think there were some bigger fish to fry that could have gone a long way to solving a lot of our concerns--campaign finance reform, filibuster rules changes, reestablishing the rule of law by vigorously pursuing the scofflaws of the previous regime, tax code changes, and climate change issues were all higher on my list of things I wanted from those two years, some of which would have made it a whole lot easier to get things done in the future. The Dems in power chose to focus instead on health insurance reform, and then spent most of their entire Congress trying to wrangle a few votes from recalcitrant centrists and fishing for bipartisan cover for whatever came out of committees. While the President can only partially be faulted for that, but as de facto head of the Democratic Party, he does indeed bear responsibility, especially given his near-obsession with placating those who seek to destroy not just him, but the country.
                  I disagree that it actually is a building block for the future, mainly because it can be torn down the instant Republicans regain control of the Presidency and the legislative branch. In fact, if the SC decides to, they can judge the whole thing unconstitutional and it will be wiped off the map anyway. I am hugely willing to be proven wrong. I hope I am. The fact that the Republicans are thisclose to repealing the New Deal, for goodness' sake, does not fill me with optimism.
                  As far as negotiations go, we have just under 200 years of evidence of the success of "my" style of negotiation in our full-fledged 2 party system government, and just over 2 years of doing things "Obama's way." I think I'm on fairly solid ground when I say that the former method can be relied upon to get good results.
                  Lastly, equating what "progressive Democrats" want and what "Democratic politicians" voted for is not a valid point, since there are maybe a handful of progressive Democrats in office, by my calculations.
                  We will never know what could have happened if Obama worked harder, smarter, or whatever for a more liberal agenda; what seems obvious to me, though, is that he isn't the Democratic President I want right now--he doesn't show me that he wants the same things I want.

                  Thank you for engaging civilly, as I hope I have as well. It's becoming rarer even here.

                  •  Yeah, I can agree with a lot of what you say. (2+ / 0-)
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                    belindapope, bryduck

                    You're first paragraph especially.  It may have simply been better for Obama to have spent his political capital elsewhere... Get a lot of smaller issues out of the way.  But, the way I look at it, the 09-10 congress still shouldn't be considered a failure, the way many here believe it to be: It was probably a more progressive congress than any president has presided over in the last century, save FDR and LBJ (who also had significantly larger majorities than Obama).  I've made this point quite a few times on these boards, and some Obama detractors have made the point: That's not saying much... The direction are country has shifted to the right, we need an even stronger push to the left.  Perhaps... But I think that this misses the larger point: Since Democrats embraced progressivism, the only sessions of congress that we have had more progressive legislation than 09-10 was when we had more Democrats.  I think that this historical perspective is key: Many thought that FDR's policies didn't go far enough in his first few years, but those people missed the larger point: He got things started, then after more Democrats got elected, he strengthened what he started.  I am not saying Obama is better than FDR... Though I would say I think he has the potential to be a better president than any since.

                    And that's why I don't share the pessimism of your second paragraph: I think that Dems will stand tall for the ACA, and I think it will slowly get more popular with time.  Some republicans and independents with preexisting conditions will begin looking at it in a new light.  Those on the left will begin to see the large amount of good it does as well, and they will begin to see why it is worth vigorously defending against Republicans: Single payer as policy in VT, and hopefully soon CA, would not become realities had the ACA not been passed and more importantly, would they cease to be realities were the ACA to be repealed.  That is how I look at the ACA: It would be a disaster if it were to be fully repealed, therefore it is at the very least a solid bill, if not a progressive's dream.

                    I also truly don't believe that the New Deal is "this close" to being torn down... Because that is not what Republicans want: SS and Medicare are too popular even with Republicans.  Republicans, simply, want SS and Medicare to be weakened significantly enough to the point where public opinion, or at the very least Republican opinion, turns sour on it.  They think that by demanding a complete gutting, they will at least get significant enough cuts in to weaken it... And once it is weakened, it won't matter that it was a Republican idea to do so in the first place.  So far, you must admit, Obama has stood up to Republicans on this issue.  His proposed budget may not be a progressive's dream, but it shows that he strongly believes in the strength of our basic safety nets, at his rhetoric to that point so far has been excellent.

                    That is why I believe this presidential election will be key, more so than '08.  That election was about general change; specific issues were never really at the forefront.  Change was a winning issue for Dems: They were going against an unpopular incumbent party.  If Democrats, and progressive activists like us on this site, can keep the focus on those issues, the issues of preserving the pillars of our society, Republicans will lose big.  Obama will have a mandate that hopefully ensures greater success than in 09-10.  So far, Democrats have been on the attack, and with election season only just starting up, that is a very good sign.

                    People are quick to dismiss any discussion of Obama's strategy as "11th Dimensional Chess" or whatever, but consider this: Obama campaigned on being a reasonable politician that would try to restore a sense of honor to the White House, a sense of honor that had all but vanished during the Bush administration.  He campaigned on bipartisanship... "Reaching across the aisle."  "We are more similar than we are different."  This sounds great in a speech, but as we've seen, with the modern day Republican party, it doesn't really work.  To put it another way, Obama campaigned on ending political bullshit, and Republicans responded by throwing as much bullshit on him as they could.  You could say that he should have abandoned that strategy immediately, that he should have fought Republicans with a little shit of his own, but we will see how it plays out.  I think that his persistance will win out in the long run.

                    Because here's where we get back to the Overton Window.  The way I see it, these two things are true: The Ryan plan getting the coverage that it is is a result of Republicans trying to use the Overton Window to their advantage.  The Ryan plan also, if used correctly by Obama and Democrats, can bring about a massive defeat of the Republican agenda.  It is being reported more and more: The privitization of Medicare has become a huge issue: Most Republicans just don't know what to say about it.  It is a hugely unpopular issue, and it is a direct result of Republicans trying to push the Overton Window (like I said, a conservative concept to begin with) too far to the right.

                    And that's why I don't have too much doubt that you, and most progressives, will come around for Obama... Hell, he's too good a campaigner for us not to.  He'll remind us of the good he's done, the defeats we've had, and his vision for the future.  Who the hell knows what the Republican vision for the future is going to be?  Romney or Pawlenty probably won't get too extreme during the general (though they'll have to be in the primary), but if a Santorum or a Bachmann gets nominated?  No way a progressive's telling me they miss the chance to vote against one of them.

                    And that's where I'll make my final point: You say "We will never know what could have happened if Obama worked harder, smarter, or whatever for a more liberal agenda; what seems obvious to me, though, is that he isn't the Democratic President I want right now--he doesn't show me that he wants the same things I want."  You are focusing, I think, too much on optics... Basically, the reason Obama doesn't usually come off as being a progressive hero is simple: To get things started, he doesn't need to be... In fact, I would argue that it would be a poor strategy to do so.  That's the unfortunate fact of American politics today.  Progressives like to complain that Obama doesn't fear losing their votes, but they miss the fact that that is because, in this country, for this point in time, he is more than progressive enough.  All my favorite politicians are Democrats (save Bernie Sanders), our great progressive minds favor Democrats... Krugman, though certainly critical of Obama, also admits that Obama's stated positions are generally good ones... He just buys into the OW argument a little too much as well: Brilliant economic mind, good-not-great political mind, in my opinion.  Richard Trumka is, by all accounts, good friends with Obama, and they've been meeting regularly since the Wisconsin debacle started.  When these people, when Anthony Weiner or Keith Ellison or my current favorite politician, Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak, if they start souring in a significant way on Obama, I will probably have started losing my faith as well.  But for now, I am not so pessimistic.  I am going to fight hard to get Obama get elected, and I hope that, in doing so, I can highlight the truly good things that he has done and the good that he is planning on doing.  It's a simple fact: The larger his victory, the more he can get done.

                    And thanks right back... Conversations like these are why I started commenting here.

                    •  I hope so. I really do. (Obviously, I think.) (0+ / 0-)

                      My fear is that the Rs will Rickroll us again. They threaten something massive and then "compromise" for something less. Something like, "Ok, Ok, we hear you! We won't try to kill off SS. But you have to admit there is fat to be trimmed elsewhere, so let's gut those things."
                      When, of course, there hasn't been any fat in any social service programs for decades. And Obama will swallow it in his haste to be above partisanship and then pressure Reid to go along.
                      Has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it?
                      For me, optics is all I get from Obama, so naturally I've focused on them. My health care costs have gone up every year he's been in office (I know, I know, they have for many years before that as well!), and there is no real end in sight for that. And I have insurance. And that's regarding the policy item we passed!
                      You see things turning around, I don't. I simply don't see how having a visionary in the Oval Office helps us at this point in time, and I've been given no reason to think otherwise. I've been disappointed ever since I heard his acceptance speech in 8/08; not enough urgency, not enough bite. Losing in 2010 was a final straw for my faith that things will work out before I'm dead (and I'm only 48.) After that, why should I care, pragmatically? I'm not that altruistic!
                      As I said above, I hope you're right and I'm wrong, though.

        •  Well, yeah (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WheninRome, milton333, wsexson
          Looking at the HCR debate, the OW argument would suggest that Obama should have asked for more... Then, when he inevitably compromised, it would have turned in to want he origninally wanted.
          That is, indeed, exactly what Obama should have done. The fact that he deliberately chose not to raises far more questions about Obama's competence and/or motives than it does about the effectiveness of the OW.

          Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

          by drewfromct on Tue May 24, 2011 at 09:26:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'm recently hearing about the (1+ / 0-)
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          Overton Window. But that's beside the point. Old fashioned dickering would assume that there are extreme positions at the outset and a meeting somewhere between the two. The public option is a case in point. If Obama really wanted it, he wouldn't have ceded it off the bat. Neither would he have given over the re-importation of drugs [I can't believe I'm even typing this, re-importation? The whole concept is insane.]

          I would have started with the dismantling of for profit health insurance, possibly the eminent domain taking of certain formulae of widely used and necessary drugs and gone from there. That would have awakened the drug companies. The gov't has every right to commandeer that which it deems necessary in an emergency or that threatens its well being. Right now the fact that one can't buy something from a drug company overseas because the FDA deems it unreliable is ludicrous and rather unconstitutional, and it certainly isn't anything resembling free trade.

          •  "If Obama had really wanted it, (0+ / 0-)

            he wouldn't have ceded it off the bat."

            Obama fought for the public option from the beginning of the HCR debate.  He ceded it when he saw that it wasn't going to pass through the senate.  Was that the right move?  Should he have risked scrapping the bill in order to save the PO?  I would argue no.  The bill was debated on for over a year... It was time to pass what could be passed.

            You say "I would have started with the dismantling of for profit health insurance, possibly the eminent domain taking of certain formulae of widely used and necessary drugs and gone from there. That would have awakened the drug companies."  Right, and you would have been laughed at for your naivety, and HCR would probably have been dead before it began... That's your starting point to sell your plan to the American people?  Dismantling the health insurance industry?  

            Don't get me wrong... That's the position that, in the end, I would like to see: The concept of "health insurance" done away with, replaced with a single payer system.  But if I were the president, would I come right out and say that?  "I'm trying to destroy the insurance industries."  No, of course not: it's a terrible strategy.  That's the problem with progressive politics: It's easy to champion a far right position and get away with it, the optics of championing a far left position get a lot dicier...  Obama, so far, has mostly championed centrist and center-left policies, and there are still a significant number of people that think he is a socialist or a marxist or whatever.  If he actually were to start coming out in favor of socialist policies (Dismantling the for-profit insurance industry to be replaced with a government system is most surely a socialist policy) we on this site would love it, and Obama would maybe gain the support of a few more on the left... But he would also lose even more support from the middle.  Fine you say, who needs the mushy middle anyway?  Well, to get their policies enacted, Democrats do.  It's the inherent shittyness in American politics, especially at the presidential level: The people you need to court the most are in the middle, so being to far in one direction or the other and continuing to get elected is no easy task.

            •  this is not in evidence, (0+ / 0-)


              Obama fought for the public option from the beginning of the HCR debate.

              In fact the contrary is the truth. We had Cheney-esque/energy meetings of the big corporate parties, big Pharma, big Ins, and Big Med Admin and no seat at the table for many of the proponents of the other side of the issue. Rahm made the deal with big Pharma outside of Congress, done deal, fuck you, goodbye, the end.

              I also disagree that Obama is center left. He is center right to center. His "overton window" is precisely there. So we ended up with the Republican blueprint and they are screaming mad about it, because of Obama's "Democrat" label. We have mandates to buy commercial insurance and no public option, but we compromised. GMAFB.

              •  I'll just disregard the "fuck you" (0+ / 0-)

                and focus on the substance: Obama gave speech after speech, time after time, defending the idea of a public option.  He compared it wonderfully to public universities.  He made a lot of good, substantive points about the concept.  He did his best to sell the idea to the American people.

                So now let's look at what he did with congress: I'll admit it.  He gave up on the public option.  He said the bill + PO is great, but just the bill is also good.  But did he do it because he is corrupt, as you seem to think?  Or because he knew that fighting for it in congress would require even more time, and after a year of debates it was time to pass a bill?  Was Anthony Weiner a traitor when he withdrew his single payer amendment?  Or is he excused because he saw the political realities?  I don't look at the simple fact that Obama had meetings with insurance companies as proof of his corruption.

                And a final point: "We have mandates to buy commercial insurance and no public option, but we compromised."  Actually, there is the nonprofit option that the CBO says accomplishes basically the same task as the public option (ie, driving down costs).  Also, the ACA is responsible for single payer being a reality in this country right now, in VT and hopefully CA soon.  We did compromise... We compromised to get a good bill passed.  That's politics, and in this case, it worked out just fine for our side.

                •  the fuck you was not directed AT you, (0+ / 0-)

                  please read it within the sentence in which it appears.

                  Oh and Obama tried to disown that he supported the PO just recently, although we know he campaigned on it. Weiner had to cool his jets.

                  The only logical fix to the portion of GDP healthcare gobbles, is the public option. Everybody knows it. The only alternative is ever increasing insurance and medical costs and an ever increasing population who won't be able to get any medical services whatsoever, which is the Republican plan.

                  All states had the ability to enable their own POs at any time, including the time before ACA was introduced. And the bill has many holes, including the ability to get waivers which was in there, but not in the signed ACT and it had to be added back in. It also lacks the non-severability clause which fast tracked it to be considered in various courts.

                  It is sloppy. But it's the best this congress of the corporatocracy could muster without pitchforks being brandished in their general direction.

                  •  You're totally right about that, apologies. (0+ / 0-)

                    I misread it... Ah the internet, where the values of inflection are truly highlighted...

                    Could you show a quote from Obama where he "disowns" the PO?  No doubt, he has tried to downplay its significance: This is politics, and he lost on the issue, so he's going to downplay that loss... But has he said "The PO is a bad idea" or anything like that?  Also, you're still ignoring the nonprofit option... The CBO has said that it performs the same basic function as a public option (albiet a weak public option), and I haven't seen any evidence that tells me that the CBO is wrong.

                    Actually, I would argue the only "logical fix" is a single payer system... Though I'm assuming you agree.  Here's the thing though: Without the ACA, single payer in VT would not be happening right now.

                    I agree that the bill is sloppy and has holes... But there is also very little of it I would change, only things that I would add.  In your last paragraph you acknowledge the sad reality: It was the best bill that could have been passed through congress.  But that doesn't make it a failure.

        •  And It is You Who is the Problem (1+ / 0-)
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          It's "morally superior" thinking like that that got the Republicans as far as it has.  Politics is war.  You have to use all your weapons.  Most of them are not pretty.  But, in politics, it's all about winning, and nothing more.  Until more squemish Democrats like you realize this, the Democartic Party is doomed to continue limping along when it should be the dominant party in this Country for the next 50 years.

          •  I don't want to call you the problem... (0+ / 0-)

            But, since you fired the first bullet...

            First of all, for someone who I'm sure would call themselves a progressive, you sure don't shy away from using violent imagery with regards to politics...

            But that's not the point... This is: Did you follow Obama's campaign at all?  Did you ever listen to what his speeches were about, the substance behind the rhetoric.  The kind of thinking you describe -"Politics is war" "It's all about winning, nothing more"- is the exact kind of thinking that Obama campaigned against.  Republicans responded to this with throwing as much political bullshit as they could, and you are repeating their kind of thinking ("Politics is war" sounds like a pretty shitty idea to me... It's the kind of thing a politician says when he excuses himself of doing something wrong).

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