Thursday, February 26, 2009
No, no, Jesus fucking Christ no
Whazooowawell? That's the only intelligent thing I could think of to say to this:
Sinanian said he is currently looking into an ASUC senator who may have advocated for a particular side during the recall, in violation of the bylaws.I actually have this info, too. There's a certain senator (let's just call him "J.M." for privacy) who was really strongly opposed to it. He would write op-eds and campaign and such.
Why on Earth would it be a violation of the By-Laws for a Senator to be an advocate in an election? What next? "Investigation revealed that Student Action Senators were campaigning on behalf of the Student Action party for the general election. OMFG!!!"
The unprecedented recall election of ASUC Senator John Moghtader concluded Tuesday, but voters may have to wait up to a week before results are released.Er, no. The delay is because the By-Laws require the delay, in order to facilitate the Student Action/CalSERVE agreement not to hold each other responsible for campaign By-Law violations. That delay takes us to next Tuesday, so the results probably won't be available by Friday, unless the Elections Council Chair has changed her mind since last night. A further delay for dealing with the AirBears issue may extend it to Thursday.
The delay in determining election results is in part because votes have not yet been sorted by the technical staff, who must review voter data before a tally can be made, said ASUC Elections Council Chair Emily Liedblad.
ASUC Attorney General Michael Sinanian said the results could be available by tomorrow at the earliest.
. . .
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
And far more important than any of this other nonsense is the proposal for commercial revenue and expense sharing between the ASUC and GA. Let me preface all of this with the reminder: Graduate students pay nothing to the Senate, but have full voting rights there. Keep that in mind when measuring the fairness of the proposal. (One of the resolved clauses claimed, perhaps ironically, that the goal was for "commercial activity revenue to be shared as equally and fairly as student fees currently are.")
The basics of the proposal is to have any commercial revenue available beyond $274,000 be given to the GA, up to the proportion of students who are graduate students. In exchange, the GA would pay a proportion equal to the proportion of commercial revenue they get for Attorney Fees, the Legal Defense Fund, and elections (unless the current MOU's amount, 12% or the proportion of grad students who vote, is higher).
Mysteriously, the revenue sharing and expense sharing aspects are provided in different bills. The expense sharing aspect is contingent on the revenue sharing, but the reverse isn't true. I certainly hope the ASUC will pass both bills or neither, but the only reason I can think of for keeping the bills separate is that they won't.
The minimum dollar amount means the ASUC is invariably giving more money to the GA then the GA is contributing in expenses. This doesn't itself make it bad, but I just want everyone to be clear on this point. The GA argues that, with this agreement, graduate students will suddenly care about making money from commercial activities, and since they're so much smarter and stay around so much longer, their investment will provide a huge boost to commercial revenues. Anyone familiar with graduate students knows this is utter nonsense. (The ASUC's pathetic ability to interest undergraduate students is huge compared to the GA's ability to interest grad students)
(Two other aspects involve making the ASUC Auxiliary's monetary information available to the ASUC and GA and limiting the rate at which the Auxiliary increases spending. I believe this means they'll need the agreement of the university administration and the Store Operations Board to get it passed)
Remember that the GA is far more proficient at advancing its own interests than the ASUC Senate. That's how free representation occurred, how they reduced their elections bill, and how they've gained more power with every MOU. That's why this proposal needs to be approached with suspicion and caution. As I noted, I don't buy that the GA can actually do anything special to boost revenues (which hover around $0 right now, I believe), so I feel like they're trying to piggyback on any eventual turnaround to get credit.
The proposal isn't horrendous, though the minimum amount is a way to insulate themselves from having to pay the consequences of any failure, while ensuring they'll be able to reap any benefit. What I would suggest to the Senate, which I'm pretty sure will eventually agree with the proposal, is to go through the budget and find every line item that could be considered to be a benefit to both undergrads and grad students and try to add it to the list of things on which expenses will be shared. I'm not really hoping for a "fair" outcome, because the free ASUC representation issue eliminates any possibility of that. So saying this is better than the current process doesn't really make sense (unless you're in the GA!). Still, the ASUC needs to grow some and stand up for undergrads for a change, and extract as much as they can from the GA when making these kinds of agreements, because that's exactly the way the GA approaches the ASUC.
. . .
News from the Elections Council:
Turnout: 3786. If folks didn't care before, they probably still didn't care. Under normal circumstances, I would say this looks horrible for Moghtader, but given his poor showing when presenting his case last Friday, I actually think a high turnout number would have been even more ominous for him. The recall needs 2/3 of the vote, but I'm far more interested in finding out how many people went through the effort to vote, only to abstain on the only question.
The cost of the election is being estimated at $20,000, with the general election coming up estimated at $35,000. (The filing period starts on Monday!) The Publicity Coordinator for the election seems confident that he can plaster the campus with publicity and boost turnout from last year (he should have said "last election" and made beating the recall turnout his goal). My only recommendation is that he find a way to avoid including announcements of the programs that the ASUC has done during the year and/or is putting on at the time of elections in the campus-wide e-mail he's planning, because I think that's enormously shady. In fact, aside from giving permission to use the system, I don't think ASUC elected officials should have any say in the content of that e-mail.
The Elections Council is planning on waiting until next Tuesday to count results after all. In fact, the chair says they're expecting a delay until Thursday on account of "the AirBears issue." The AirBears issue is that for about 9 hours on Monday, folks could vote using AirBears, which is prohibited in the By-Laws for some reason (I've heard two very different ones). She wants to look at the data and find out how many did, and whether it's enough to possibly affect the election. If so, she wants to find a way to link those who did vote using AirBears to their votes (though not their identities).
First of all, if this is possible, it's a flaw in the system. Being able to attach votes to IP addresses compromises the closed ballot. But more importantly, the Elections Council will never be able to get away with not counting the AirBears votes, and I don't even understand why she would want to. I don't think the voting rules can even be read to place an obligation on voters. It's the job of the Elections Council to make it impossible, not the voters to avoid doing it. As I understand the voting program, a person who voted from AirBears would not be able to vote from another computer, and would have no notification that such a vote might be invalid. Someone could probably ask the Judicial Council to give the Elections Council the okay to announce the results regardless of the AirBears issue, and then results should come out Tuesday.
. . .
Senate After-Action Report
The Senate meeting only took 3 hours, today. (Less, really, since they never start on time) There are two really big stories, one about the election, and one about the GA's latest attempt to get more money from the ASUC. I'll go into them in their own posts.
This was probably the least contentious Senate meeting I've been to, at least among the Senators. I got to see the crazy person who was screaming about nonsense that had been mentioned to me before. (My notes literally say "Rodriguez yields to crazy person" when Senator Claudia Rodriguez yielded time to her to ask gibberish of the Elections Council Chair) The most significant accusation (aside from the stunning revelation that Cal has 70,000 grad students and post-docs) was that eliminating polling places was the way Student Action and BEARS-United got votes. Yes, BEARS-United.
As a heads-up, the ASUC intends to push hard to raise our fees next year for the Lower Sproul/Multicultural Center/legacy making referendum, a fee increase which I understand will reach triple digits (though raising it in phases is the typical approach). Apparently they're going to push so hard that the finance officer told the Senate to consider the enormous spending such an effort will take. As I've mentioned before, I think the ASUC using resources to push for an election result is terrible ethics, even if technically legal when done before it makes it to the ballot. I don't intend to be around for the fight, though, so it's not my problem.
. . .
A few more
Along these lines, I've got a few more e-mails. One is very similar, by the same person to the same lists. Another, more worrying one, comes from Anurati Mathur, and appears to have been sent to EAVP e-mail lists.
Hi you all,The analysis with respect to the rules is probably the same (the most significant one being that there's no one really to hold reponsible), but using the tools of ASUC offices to push for a recall of an ASUC Senator is enormously unethical, in my opinion.
As you know, the events of the last few weeks on campus have created an uproar not only concerning the safety of students on campus, but also the role of elected officials in partaking in or inciting such altercations.
John Moghtader, a current ASUC senator, was involved in the violence that ensued. To hold our elected officials accountable is our responsibility, and to that end, 5 Boalt Law School students have drafted the following petition to remove John from office (1000 signatures are required to begin this process as per ASUC bylaws). You all know where I stand on this issue, but if you feel similarly, I highly encourage you to visit: www.no2hate.org, read the text, and sign the petition.
Please publicize this on your organization's listserves, your websites, your Facebook status/site, and your status messages on gChat and any other venue.
Please remember that now that the petition is active, it's up to its supporters to gather the required number of signatures ASAP.
PS: You can contact the law students directly at [e-mail here].
PPS: If you choose to notify your friends, please do not forward my e-mail, but rather, write your own. Thanks.
. . .
So someone finally sent me one of the pro-recall e-mails. It's from while they were still gathering signatures, from a Michelle Nguyen, "Shadow Co Coordinator" for REACH, to a bunch of e-mail lists (Bridges, REACH, Raza, PASS, SASC):
Subject: urgent!! we need 100 more signatures to recall senator John MoghtaderWhile I don't think it's an appropriate use of ASUC resources, it would be difficult to call it a violation of any rules. Since it's before there even was a recall election going on, it would be tough to say it was taking action in favor of a proposition that didn't exist yet. Regardless, since the ASUC Senate itself can put questions on the ballot, the prohibition on using ASUC resources for propositions probably can't be read to prevent trying to get things onto the ballot in the first place. SUPERB and the Heuristic Squelch have certainly attempted (successfully) to put propositions on the ballot in recent years. Even if it were prohibited, who would be responsible? The proponents who don't exist yet? The groups who had their e-mail lists used in this way, without any indication they had to give permission? Does Nguyen speak for any group here? Does making excessive use of exclamation marks and repetitive 'please'es violate the By-Laws or only basic decency?
I'm so sorry for the spam but we need 100 more signatures so that the group can submit the petition tonight!! JUST ONE HUNDRED MORE!!! spam your FB friends!! email like mad crazy right now!!
Hope you all are doing well and are ready for finals. I just wanted to let you all know about an incident that happened on Nov 14th that can not be left alone & forgotten. We as UC Berkeley students need to stand up as a COMMUNITY and fight for what is right.
On Nov 14th there were violent attacks towards two Palestine students. If you did not hear about it PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read this link to learn more.
Basically an alumni senator, a CURRENT senator and another person (all males) attacked two Palestine students. ONE WOMEN and ONE MAN. This incident was completely messed up and it should not be happening on our campus.
Please take time to read the the blog, to know more about what happened.
Right now they're trying to recall the current senator because do we really want someone like him to represent our student body?
go here to sign the petition, it will take you like a minute!! please please please!!!
please forward like mad crazy to your list serves and tell all your friends. !!!
thanks for reading!! & peace easy!
. . .
One down, one to go. JSU is going to avoid a hearing, it seems.
"I'm going to enter a settlement with the (Jewish Student Union)," ASUC Attorney General Michael Sinanian said today.He is? Not the ASUC? Does this mean he filed the suit in his capacity as an ASUC member, rather than as Attorney General? In any case, he can't unilaterally settle, and needs permission from the Judicial Council to do so.
Sinanian said the statement from the group questioned the efficacy of holding the recall election rather than directly urging a vote either way.Those two statements mean two different things. If the former, then JSU did nothing illegal, and has nothing to agree to be censured for. In fact, I'd be disappointed if the settlement said anything to indicate that student groups can't criticize the processes of the ASUC. I'm hoping for a settlement more along the lines of "JSU acknowledges that the wording of the resolution could be interpreted as an endorsement of a particular position in the election" or some such nonsense.
"It wasn't about a candidate," he said. "To have a full-blown hearing is to unnesessarily elaborate on their actions,"
. . .
On being tone-deaf
The IAC/JSU charges are turning out to be a hilarious PR move. If you thought claims of antisemitism were bad before, it's a whole new ballgame now.
Everyone and their mother is bitching about "why didn't the other groups get charged," although none of these people felt the need to point to those other groups' e-mails and provide a basis for such a charge.
Things haven't been helped by Mike Sinanian's extremely loose explanation for the charges. He could have come out with a claim that "these groups took a YES or NO position on the recall, and no evidence of any other groups doing the same has been provided to me." Instead of pushing the "endorsement" aspect of the By-Law, though, he pushed the "action" aspect.
(As the quote in the story points out, JSU says they were opposed to the election as a whole, not to any particular side. It might make for the first determination of fact by of the Judicial Council in a long time if it goes to a hearing)
So now Sinanian is viewed as antisemitic (because he filed these charges) and pro-Moghtader (because he wanted to kill the recall election). And while filing these charges will piss off any previous fans on the pro-Moghtader side, I don't think anyone on the anti-Moghtader side actually wanted to see JSU (or even IAC) have to deal with this kind of thing, so he won't be getting any new fans. The list of friends is getting really narrow for him...
. . .
It's about time
It's about time I start pissing people off. I was afraid I wasn't doing things correctly.
I think I somehow became a friend of the supporters of the recall, judging from the complaints I'm getting. This is odd, because I voted against it. My assessment of it as being hypocritical and dishonest hasn't changed. But the reality is that I make do with the information I get, and the recall supporters have been much more willing to provide solid information.
So when folks complain about me being out to get the Jews while overlooking CalSERVE's horrors, it's silly. So, to be clear, no, I don't have the capacity to force the Attorney General to do anything. I wasn't his source for at least one, and probably both, of the e-mails he's basing his suits on. And I think folks know that if I wanted to actually see groups lose their sponsorship, I would have filed the suits myself.
You see, I actually feel obligations to do things. When I have information of possible violations of the By-Laws, I tell the folks in charge of that kind of thing. I refer to it as ethics, but you can call it whatever you want. The fact that I carry out those obligations doesn't mean I'm suddenly in favor of the consequences. Not everyone bases their behavior pattern on the accomplishment of specific goals, whatever the means. I realize this is difficult for many to understand, because to many people (many more people than I used to think), getting what they want is of the utmost importance, and nothing else matters. It twists the mind, and suddenly things fit neatly into categories of "friendly" and "hostile" to those goals.
The recall is an example of this. While they can insist all they want that it's about the fight, this is only partially believable. Yes, if there wasn't the fight, there'd be no recall, but if the roles had been reversed, I don't believe the people leading the charge for the recall in this case would be anywhere to be found. The folks who start the petition would coincidentally be folks with strong Zionist views. You certainly wouldn't see SJP members reverently reading the police report to the Senate as if it's the ultimate authority on truth.
These concepts of morality, justice, ethics, etc. are all utter nonsense unless you actually apply them as goals themselves, rather than restrictions or justifications of means. If you're asking "How can I get what I want while remaining moral?" you're asking the wrong question. That's not the view of a moral person, it's the view of a person who is chained by morality. There's an enormous difference between the two.
. . .
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The Attorney General of the ASUC is not a "lawyer."
It's important to distinguish two different issues here. The use of student group e-mail lists is a separate issue from student groups taking a side. I'm not sure how broadly Sinanian intends to read "take action positively or negatively." A publicly usable e-mail list where members shoot e-mails back and forth discussing the recall would probably not be a violation, even if the group is ASUC-sponsored. ASUC groups can hold forums for candidates, for instance.
An e-mail list that is controlled by the leadership which only allows one side to use it, on the other hand, could be more reasonably read as positive or negative action.
. . .
Axes and stuff
The charge sheet against IAC and JSU was accepted. I don't know why they're both on the same charge sheet, because they seem like pretty different cases against different groups, each of which can't be punished for the actions of the other.
. . .
Editorial, in which The Daily Cal takes the position that nuclear weapons development in UC labs was a policy specific to the Bush administration. More specifically, now that Bush (president from 2001-2009) is out of office, we can move away from "Cold War-era" (the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991) national security policies.
. . .
Monday, February 23, 2009
I'm hearing rumors that folks are able to vote over AirBEARS, which is prohibited in the By-Laws for reasons which remain mysterious to me. I'm not really in a position to confirm this, but if anyone can, let us know.
Update: After getting her okay, I can say that the information comes from Jane Park, who says that the she's hearing about it from folks. If anyone else can confirm as well, that'd be handy. The Elections Council has been told.
. . .
On these cases, JSU may have a defense, despite how much it looks like "officially taking a position." A careful read of the resolution shows that it could be read as being opposed to the concept of the recall election in general rather than an appeal to vote no on it. The hefty discussion on fees supports this. Given that it was written after the election was already scheduled (and the money will be spent anyway), this may be a weak claim, but it's probably supportable. I don't know if there was a meeting or something which could shed more light on it.
The IAC e-mail is harder to defend based on its content. The use of "we" in the subject line makes it sound unambiguously like a plea from the IAC leadership to its members to vote no on the recall. I imagine the defense will have to be more technical and about how the mailing list is controlled. If anyone can use it, I suppose one could argue that Solin's appeal was independent of any official IAC capacity.
. . .
Forget to vote
Or don't. I noticed the voter agreement we have to agree to in order to vote includes:
If I feel that I am being campaigned to illegally, I understand that I have an obligation to report it to the Elections Council prior to being allowed to vote from any legal unsupervised online network.Seriously? The By-Laws require this, but is requiring people to agree to be enforcement agents of the ASUC in order to vote consistent with voting rights?
. . .
Attorney General Michael Sinanian attempts a turn-around jumper and will, in fact, file charges based on these endorsement-like things. The charge sheet itself merely accuses IAC and JSU (but not BCR) of taking postive or negative action on the recall election without an in-depth discussion of why.
Both the IAC and the JSU have circulated e-mails using their mailing lists, which clearly demonstrate an action being taken on their part on the recall election. These actions may be viewed as either positive or negative depending on the standpoint of the observer, but it is an 'action' nonetheless and liable for being pursued as a violation according to the above-cited sections from the By-Laws.Note that this is not being filed as a campaign violation, and thus the opponents of the proposition are not on the hook. Instead, it is charging the student groups directly for violating the requirements for ASUC-sponsored organizations, which means the only remedy is a loss of sponsorship. I would expect the Judicial Council to either find a way to conclude that this is not a violation, or determine that revoking sponsorship is too extreme (perhaps because this is the first recall election in ever, so no one understood the rules), but who knows.
In discussions about the suit, he took the position that any use of an organization's mailing list by any member would be a violation, which I doubt would hold up in general. An open mailing list where any member could send an e-mail to the list taking any position would almost certainly not be a violation, since the ASUC itself allows folks on either side of the proposition to use its resources to communicate a position on the election (e.g the Voter Guide, guest announcements in the Senate, etc.). In the particular cases, the JSU apparently issued a resolution, which is close to an endorsement, while the IAC e-mail could be read as an endorsement as well. I don't know the IAC's mailing list practices, so I whether it's a leader using her position as leader to take a side or simply a leader acting as a member and sending an e-mail will probably make a difference. (This is why I suspect that Tommy Owens' e-mail to the BCR list could not be marked as a violation by BCR)
. . .
If this story is accurate:
The ASUC Elections Council will begin tabulating the results immediately following the election, but officials doubt that the final vote will go uncontested.then the Elections Council plans on going against an advisory opinion by the Judicial Council:
Fifth, the Judicial Council was asked if the tabulation procedures specified in Title IV, Section XV of the By-Laws apply to special elections and if the requirement to wait until the good faith filing deadline for elections violations is still valid. As we have stated that a recall is a proposition, the tabulation procedure specified for propositions applies and the good faith deadline holds.That means that, if the Elections Council wanted to follow that opinion, they would wait until next Tuesday before counting. It was an advisory opinion, and thus nonbinding. This means results will come out before the good faith deadline for filing Judicial Council suits expires, as opposed to typical elections. It also remains to be seen how exactly tabulation will be executed. (Will they gather folks in a big room to announce it, as with regular elections? Will they just let some people know? Which people? Etc.)
. . .
Sunday, February 22, 2009
John Moghtader's latest suit was rejected. I dunno if he has any more planned.
. . .
The Daily Cal's Editorial Policies
I've had a few chats in the past few days about The Daily Cal and how it handles its opinion page. Yaman Salahi, a recognizable SJPer, tells me that when he was writing an op-ed for The Daily Cal on Nov. 18 and when Dalia Marina wrote an op-ed last Friday, The Daily Cal specifically asked them not to provide a narrative or specifics of what happened at the Eshleman brawl.
I asked The Daily Cal, but Editor-in-Chief Bryan Thomas declined to discuss the specific case, citing a "standard procedure not to comment on the specific procedures for each piece in the paper, but instead outline our general policies." No explanation for why this is the standard procedure was included, which I'm aware is also standard procedure for most organizations, though I think folks ought to be able to articulate the reasons for their procedures.
While a vague description of their op-ed policy was mentioned, nothing in it really explains why such a narrative was prohibited. ("There is often a back-and-forth between the writer and the opinion page editor about the content of the writing. The intent is not to change or shape the opinion in any way, but to make sure the content abides by our editorial standards and fits within our guidelines.") What those standards and guidelines are, or how they fit in to this case, is left as an exercise to the reader, I guess.
It's clear that making accusatory factual statements is not prohibited. John Moghtader's op-ed accused Oscar Mairena of having what I assume would be called a bigoted status message during a Senate meeting. Mairena denied this, and The Daily Cal has issued a correction to the op-ed piece on the topic.
It's also clear that The Daily Cal does not universally fact-check their pieces. ("All content presented as fact in the Daily Cal goes through a fact-checking process. When verification of assertions of fact are made impossible by circumstance, the statements will be clearly attributed. This holds true in both news articles and opinion pieces.") It took me about 30 seconds to write an e-mail asking Mairena about Moghtader's claim, and I got a response in 10 minutes. This particular claim seems to be on the easy end of the fact-checking spectrum, but wasn't checked.
Given the Daily Cal's position, I don't really have much choice but to accept Salahi's version of events. We're left speculating why they won't allow this particular set of factual claims to be made in an op-ed. Salahi's view is:
I believe the Daily Cal is worried about a lawsuit and is thus abridging students' abilities to comment on what happened that night. I can understand why that would apply to me, because I only have second-hand information, but I don't understand why that would apply to Dalia, who was on the scene.It's no secret that Moghtader has been threatening lawsuits left and right, but Thomas points out that The Daily Cal gets lawsuit threats weekly, so they ought to be prepared to deal with such things.
This is an excellent time to remind folks of my biggest concern with The Daily Cal, which is that they appear disinclined to rock the boat. They seem to be the last people to uncover anything that could be considered close to a scandal, and do very little to pursue such issues. It feels like they simply allow themselves to be used as a mouthpiece for various folks. It's this kind of low-impact journalism which makes me wonder just how willing they are to take on well-connected, powerful interests. That's why Salahi's claims seem to fit very well within the pattern they've defined themselves by in recent years.
. . .
Due to an accident of fate around 7 years ago, I ended up on the Israeli Action Committee mailing list. I'm still there, so I still receive e-mails such as this one:
[Iaclist] URGENT! We need your help!It does look like IAC might be hovering near the "Endorse, fund, or otherwise take action positively or negatively on campaigns for propositions in ASUC elections" prohibition for ASUC-sponsored groups. Whether or not it's a technical violation of their obligations, I think it's ethically quite tacky to use resources derived from their existence as an ASUC group to take sides in an ASUC election. I wouldn't be enormously surprised to find this kind of thing going on in many ASUC-sponsored groups on both sides.
Dear IAC Members,
This Monday and Tuesday, there will be a recall election to kick pro-Israel senator John Moghtader out of the ASUC Senate. The slanderous and vague accusations made against him are a baseless and pathetic attempt by anti-Israel groups to silence the strongest pro-Israel senator. Protect our voice in the senate and remember:
VOTE NO this Monday or Tuesday at
Thank you so much, and remember to do the right thing and VOTE NO,
Israel Action Committee Co-chair
I forwarded it to the Attorney General, who did not feel it warranted action.
Update: Berkeley Hillel is claiming the Jewish Student Union has also taken an official position against the recall. As is disturbingly common, the statement references approaches for removing a Senator, none of which actually exist:
If students believe that recent events have affected Senator Moghtader's ability to serve appropriately in his elected position, then a proper method of addressing those concerns is through processes stipulated in the constitution for this specific purpose, such as impeachment or a "vote of no confidence."They even say "stipulated in the constitution" about procedures which are unambiguously not stipulated in the constitution. I don't entirely understand why everyone keeps referring to such nonexistent procedures. (Dalia Marina's op-ed references the invisible "impeachment" procedure as well) Where do these people get their information? And given the availability of the primary source (DOC), why don't they use it?
In any case, I can't confirm the JSU resolution independently from the Hillel newsletter, so I suppose it's possible they're misinterpreting something.
Update 2: Tommy Owens has used the Berkeley College Republicans mailing list to call for a no vote as well. It's probably a lot closer to legal on the BCR side of things, though it has always seemed to me that it should count as "Using ASUC authority, facilities, funds, or resources, including Eshleman Hall, for campaign purposes, including for long term or bulk storage of campaign materials," a campaign violation. In the past, though, I think such mass e-mailings have been allowed, though I don't recall if those involved ASUC student groups.
. . .
Friday, February 20, 2009
The Elections Council distributed a Voter Guide (PDF) with the Daily Cal today, and in a rare occurrence, showed some sense of efficiency by bundling an announcement about the upcoming Regular Election filing period with it.
The anti-recall side looks absolutely horrendous on page 3, where a 7-paragraph pro-recall statement is followed by a 2-line response that basically says "nuh uh!"
Speaking of the pro-recall piece, it goes on at length about the Eshleman incident which, as we all recall, wasn't identified in the original petition. I think claiming university authority is on their side shows both weak principles and deep hypocrisy. It also sounds the same sexist alarm that all of their "they hit GIRLS!!!" whining has.
. . .
Last week's Senate meeting was filled with crazy people, apparently. I guess this doesn't seem enormously unusual.
In other news, it turns out that the Senate doesn't really know what words mean, or what they're for. Take the amendment to the By-Laws to allow the Elections Council Chair to eliminate polling places with Senate consent (there were two other similar changes):
During any Regular ASUC Election, polling places shall be located at the following locations, unless if in the event of a recall election, the Elections Council determines that it is excessive to operate any of the following locations. In such a case, a polling location may only be eliminated with the consent of two-thirds of the entire Senate.Regular ASUC Elections aren't recall elections. Recalls take place in Special ASUC Elections. So the rules specifying what goes on in a Regular ASUC Election don't apply to a Special ASUC Election.
(Folks have concluded from Judicial Council opinions that all the rules apply to special elections, for some reason, but there's nothing the opinions asserting the general applicability of Regular Election rules to Special Elections. Indeed, a later opinion makes clear that the original opinion only applied to the specific section on propositions and, I would assume, campaign rules. Why a section which specifically identifies itself as being for Regular Elections would be understood as applying to Special Elections remains a mystery. The Elections Council had absolute discretion on the locations and times of most of those polling locations, and I'm not sure this bill has changed that)
So the "unless" statement doesn't even make sense. They're allowing exceptions to rules that aren't even relevant. A literal reading of the section means that the number of polling places for a Regular Election can be reduced by the Elections Council, but only if there happens to be a recall election.
. . .
I asked Oscar Mairena about John Moghtader's claim that he had "fuck heterosexuality" as a status message. Mariena says he wrote "end heterosexism" in relation to Prop 8.
. . .
A few other notes
I want to address two things raised in the comments sections below. The first is that I'm not sick of the recall election. I think it's an important discussion that should be had. What I'm sick of is the fact that this discussion doesn't actually take place.
This leads me into the second thing. In two recent comments, accusations were made by anonymous commenters which would be important and worth investigating and reporting on. I am completely willing to do this. But I can't investigate on the say-so of an anonymous commenter who provides no evidence, and this is the level of accusation I'm sick of.
The people making these accusations are either shameless liars or utter cowards. I say this every year about the membership of both CalSERVE and Student Action. If you're in one of these parties, I'm talking about you, specifically. Not that "other guy" in the party you don't really interact with who seems to be some kind of keyboard warrior. I mean you. Either you're making these accusations up, or you don't want them to actually be investigated. Why not? Do you not want your name associated with it? Why would that be? I don't see anyone as being in any danger for making an accusation that's true. California is one of the safest places in the world to do so. In short, what the fuck is wrong with you people? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing when it would be so simple to take a stand against it? I'm not talking about some vague stand that won't affect some conflict a few oceans away. I mean the opportunity to make real change locally. It may not be as sexy as halting genocide, but it has the distinct advantage of being something you can actually do to promote justice.
I would love to investigate those accusations, but to do so, the people making them need to grow some balls and put some evidence forward. This can be an e-mail, a recording, a letter, pretty much anything. It can even be the credibility of the person making the accusation, in which case that person has to have the courage to identify herself. If folks don't have the ability or willingness to put together some means of announcing things, I'll do it for them. My e-mail is over there on the sidebar, and I'm always willing to expose these things publicly without cowering in fear in a corner. But publishing an unsupported anonymous accusation is not only unethical, but it's potentially illegal. So please, people. Stop being pathetic cowardly shit-feeders and start coming forward with information that can make a difference in a meaningful, responsible way.
And the reason you, person in CalSERVE/Student Action, are responsible, even if you're not making the accusations yourself, is that you have the power to stand up and denounce it when it goes on in your party. You have connections to these people, and probably know them. They're likely your friend. It's your obligation as a friend to try to convince them to speak up for justice in a manner that is itself just. Until you do, people will think less of you, and rightly so.
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In other news
A quick look through the comments on this article suggests that John Moghtader has kicked off the 2009 ASUC Election Season, as the anonybots are shifting towards the wide-eyed crazy statements about political parties we've come to expect.
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Pistols at Dawn
Dueling Op-Eds. I think the best line in either piece comes from the intro to Dalia Marina's piece:
When I think of the ASUC senate, I picture intelligent, articulate, well-intentioned students whose concern is the well-being of our campus.I don't know if that was supposed to be the killer line, but it certainly had me launching a roflcopter.
Moghtader and his friends dispute what happened next, but with numerous witness testimonials, UCPD's investigation concluded in a recommendation that Moghtader be charged with assault and battery with an enhancement of a hate crime.Pointing to the UCPD as if they should be trusted with factual determinations has been one of the most important symbols of disingenuousness on the part of SJP. Deference to police authority is not something one typically associates with SJP, and I hope the next time they bitch about the police doing something, folks point to this episode.
A person who cannot tolerate the word "Palestine" in discourse, or the Palestinian flag on campus, does not belong in a body which requires full freedom of speech for all students.SJP cannot tolerate flagpoles without Palestinian flags on them, and can't tolerate symbolic walls without writing "Free Palestine" on them. I don't know why this is, but I guess I just don't have a whole lot of sympathy for SJP's bitching on this topic.
I would like to believe UC Berkeley is a place where disrespect, intimidation and violence are not acceptable ways of expressing one's opinions and are certainly, not the kinds of actions our student leaders would perform.Again, "respect" is not something I associate with SJP, though perhaps their history has colored my views. But the real flaw of this statement is the idea that ASUC Senators are "student leaders."
Sadly, it is those unacceptable expressions that have led us to where we are now, into a corner where we must waste thousands of dollars to remove a Senator who was implicated in a hate crime-something the Senate should have prevented by impeaching him after SQUELCH! removed him from its party last semester.Hmm... So the Senate should have prevented this by doing something they have no authority to do after waiting for the go-ahead from the leadership of a political party? Or am I reading that incorrectly?
John Moghtader has repeatedly demonstrated he is not fit to represent our community.I don't think he ever really claimed to. That's how proportional representation works.
For more information about the recall campaign, you can visit www.no2hate.org.I guess you could go there, though right now I see it telling me that the election was last month.
Let's move on to John Moghtader's op-ed.
As the wise Fergie once articulated, "No no no no baby, no no no no don't lie. What you gonna do when it all comes out, when I see you and what you're all about? Stop, st-stop st-stop stop stop lying."... ... ...
The recall petition was distributed using dozens of CalServe listserves and the petition itself, which was written by an SJP member, reads like a roster of CalServe party members.Does it really? The names on the petition were never made available, which, while ridiculous, makes Moghtader's claim a bit tough to buy. It actually reads like a roster of random letters (PDF).
For a party that talks about protecting student fees, CalServe has no problem blowing $25,000 amidst of a budget crisis.In fairness to CalSERVE, they don't really talk a lot about protecting student fees when it comes to ASUC stuff. In fact, they seem to be big fans of spending money.
The CalServe candidate for ASUC President is going to be Oscar Mairena, whose chat status during a contentious Senate meeting earlier this year was, "Fuck heterosexuality and Free Palestine." It's no wonder they're trying to recall me...Because Moghtader is straight? If true, though, that is a pretty funny story. (Update: Mariena says not true)
While the Daily Cal endorses me, SJP and CalServe are the ones who have hijacked the student body and are holding it hostage for $25,000.How does this hostage situation work? Is the student body bound and gagged in a basement somewhere, until someone pays $25,000? I guess you could argue the mechanisms of the ASUC have been hijacked and will now cost the student body $25,000, but the Senate has control of what those mechanisms are, and so Senators can't really complain all that much. I doubt the recall would have ever happened had the Senate made the trivial extension of the petition process specified in the By-Laws to apply to recall petitions after someone pointed out that the By-Laws don't address recalls at all (and yes, that someone was me), but they were too busy passing bills that said "Go Bears!"
The situation is quite simple: Those trying to recall me did not want me elected in the first place. If elections were held again today, I would receive as many votes as I did last spring. Oddly, this election requires that I get drastically more votes to keep my seat than I did to win it originally. That, along with the fact that CalServe-SJP can waste so much of your money by telling lies, means we're dealing with a backwards, unfair and illogical process.I'm in total agreement that it's a backwards, unfair and illogical process, and would love to sponsor a Constitutional amendment to fix it. But I can't, because I'm not a Senator. What's his excuse?
You may be able to tell from this post that I'm just sick of public opinion wars on Cal. They're so incredibly stupid, and being the slightest bit informed reveals this to be true. Take a look at some Daily Cal comment sections on the recall to see what anonybots do to form public opinion, because it's ten times worse. The most pathetic part of it all is that people buy it. Instead of becoming informed, they decide to believe people they know they shouldn't trust to give them the whole picture. I can understand not caring enough to be informed, but then why would you care enough to take a position?
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I haven't seen this charge sheet, so I can't say anything too specific about it. It seems like he's arguing that the Judicial Council cases were decided incorrectly, and asking the Judicial Council to rule as such.
The ASUC bylaws state that a recall election must take place within two meetings of the recall election date set by the senate.If they do, it's an extremely new provision passed either today or last week, because until last week, there simply weren't any rules in the By-Laws dealing with recall elections. The Constitution requires that the recall election take place within two meetings of the Senate meeting setting the date (not within two meetings of the recall date, which doesn't seem to make sense).
It seems that Moghtader is also arguing that the Judicial Council can't invalidate an election before it happens. I'm not sure I see that in the rules:
Any student may petition the ASUC Judicial Council to void an election, on grounds of the integrity of the Elections Council, its mismanagement of the election, or the mechanism of the count, prior to the expiration of the Statute of Limitations stated in Article 13.5.While you could argue the past tense here demands that such a ruling take place after the election, I don't really think that's a supportable basis. Clearly, if an election just doesn't happen, it's been mismanaged, and the Judicial Council can hardly wait until after the nonexistent election to say so. In this case, the mismanagement was evident and had occurred before the election had even taken place, so I don't see why the Judicial Council would need to wait for the mismanaged, illegitimate election to take place before voiding it.
If the ASUC Judicial Council rules that there was mismanagement, or that there was an unpunished violation, the ASUC Judicial Council may void the election on the grounds that the mismanagement or the unpunished violation substantially affected the outcome of the election.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009
In what's becoming something of a tradition this year, Attorney General Sinanian ends up on the wrong side of an issue yet again:
ASUC Attorney General Michael Sinanian said due process for Moghtader was violated because the council was not fully filled.Given that the exact issue had been raised before and resolved the same way, I don't think it's the Judicial Council that needed to know better.
"There were only half the justices," he said. "(The Judicial Council) should have known better."
Sinanian was open earlier that he was taking Moghtader's side on these efforts to kill the recall because the recall cost a lot of money and was hard to put on.
Mr. Sinanian said the decision he made not to represent the ASUC was made because he opposes the recall. He wasn't politically motivated and was simply motivated pragmatically.I'm not sure it's really appropriate for the Attorney General to include "treat the rules in the most convenient manner for the ASUC" with his obligation to ensure that the rules are followed.
Ms. Hussain asked if he understood that because they have a current system that was in play, although if may be flawed, it couldn't be fixed before resolving this matter first, and with 1,000 signatures, they had to hold a recall election. Mr. Sinanian said that was why he decided to not support the Senate by defending them in the case.
But ASUC officials recognize that the drawn-out recall process has strained the enthusiasm of its supporters.Hmm... perhaps an actual less-enthused-than-before supporter would have been worth finding. The statement of a politician about his political opponents should not be described as "recognition."
"Those that were once very proactive about this recall election have died down in enthusiasm," said Student Action Senator Edward Nahabet.
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Monday, February 16, 2009
John Moghtader filed a charge sheet using a classic set of charges that folks from the Summer of '06 will find somewhat nostalgic. That's right, it's the "Not enough justices" charge.
In two cases, he refers to advisory opinions which were issued when there were fewer than 9 justices. Not only would the Judicial Council almost never be able to function in its role as defined by the Constitution if they don't meet when there are fewer than 9 justices appointed, but since the cases were nonbinding advisory opinions, couldn't he simply refile charge sheets when the Judicial Council makeup was different?
In the other cases, Moghtader takes the position that a quorum is 5 justices, no matter how many justices actually exist. That's exactly the same argument the Student Action Slate made in '06.
The Judicial Council rejected the charge sheets, taking the position that a quorum is a majority of currently appointed justices.
Somehow, Moghtader argues that his due process rights were violated in cases in which he wasn't even a party. He also argues that equal protection requires that he get a Judicial Council with nine members just like everybody else does. (Pause for laughter) Notably, he doesn't actually name such cases, because they'd be pretty hard to find. I'm not sure there has been a single one in half a decade or so.
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Thursday, February 12, 2009
The ASUC doesn't want YOU
The Judicial Council issued an advisory opinion that someone who canceled their spring registration can't run for Senator for the Fall semester. The Judicial Council concludes that the dude can't be elected when he isn't a student, using analysis I think is pretty clearly wrong. The Constitutional requirement reads:
In order to assume or remain in an elected, appointed, or confirmed position in the Association...and has conditions which the Judicial Council concludes the dude doesn't meet. But Senators don't "assume" their positions until the Fall Semester when their term begins, and the requirement says nothing about status at the time of the election.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Your mom is blank
The Daily Cal does a story on blank bills, after last week's editorial. This is really the wrong order, and when the editorial hit, it's not clear anyone really knew what they were talking about.
The story is a created one, it seems, since it doesn't seem like anyone has actually complained about the blank bills. If they have, they've done so too spinelessly for us to know about it.
One blank bill, entitled "A Bill to Amend the By-Laws to clarify the procedures for Recall Elections," was submitted at last Wednesday's meeting.I've left out her explanation of what the bill says, just to ask you to figure out the content of the bill from the title. We can probably guess it has something to do with changing the elections By-Laws, but those By-Laws don't mention recalls at all, so which procedures are being clarified are a mystery. If someone is only concerned about certain aspects of recall procedures, they have no way of knowing whether this bill is relevant to them.
"The title of the bill makes it clear what the content of the bill will be," [bill sponsor Christina Oatfield] said.
Cooperative Movement Senator Christina Oatfield, who sponsored the bill, said it will reduce costs for the upcoming recall election of Senator John Moghtader by eliminating unnecessary polling places and workers.I don't know how to get that from the title. The By-Laws currently have no instructions at all about polling locations, so there aren't any to eliminate, and there are dozens of other procedures that the title could refer to.
Since the start of the academic year, five bills have been submitted to the senate with little to no text beyond a title. A sixth, which moved reserve funds to the senate's contingency fund, was submitted with an empty dollar amount because the figure had not yet been provided by ASUC Finance Officer Madelaine Batac.I think there's a fairly obvious distinction here. Anyone who read that bill knew exactly what it was going to do: Move money from one account to another. The only thing unknown was the value, which would almost certainly end up changed in the Financial Committee meeting anyway. It's not really comparable to a blank bill whose topic could be any number of different things.
"There is nothing that explicitly prevents blank bills," said ASUC Attorney General Michael Sinanian. "(But) blank bills run counter to being transparent ... they indicate no discussion has taken place."Whether Public Notice requirements prevent blank bills is an open question, because no one who has complained has actually taken meaningful steps to answer it. But a bill can easily be proposed before discussion takes place, and this seems independent of whether it's blank or not.
"Just because you submit a bill with text doesn't mean that's what it is going to look like out of committee," said Moghtader, who sponsored a blank bill two weeks ago.This is just an excuse, not far from "he started it" in the hierarchy of excuses. It's true, the text may change in committee, but you can typically expect it to address the same issue. There's nothing here to philosophically square blank bills with Public Notice requirements. Moghtader's bill was even worse than Oatfield's, titled "A bill to amend the By-Laws." Does he really want to claim that such a bill is informative enough for the public to figure out what it's about?
Of course, not a single Senator actually mentions the public. Kifah Shah throws a few complaints out there, but they're only about how easy her job is, and not about maintaining transparency or an informed student body. This is a Daily Cal story, so some views might be missing, of course.
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Thursday, February 05, 2009
One more case
The Judicial Council has issued an opinion that the current procedure of picking replacement Senators, which is to give the seat to the last Senator eliminated, is appropriate because that's what the ASUC has been using and there's no reason to change it. Normally I'd complain about inertial law, especially when it can't really be squared that well with written law, but there weren't any consistent answers this time. That gives the seat to Bradley Froehle, and assuming he resigns as he has said he would, Marcus Caimi would be the next in line for a Senate seat.
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Wednesday, February 04, 2009
If you didn't like what last week's blank bill from John Moghtader said, no worries! Christina Oatfield has proposed another blank bill to amend the By-Laws.
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The ASUC shield
Yaman has an excellent post about what the ASUC really means for students. While I disagree with some of what he calls solutions, the post is definitely worth reading.
The first myth is an exceptionally important one, one that most people don't recognize, or plug their ears and shout bland platitudes when challenged on it. The ASUC has long served as a shield, wielded by the administration to protect themselves from the student body. Having a group of students that supposedly represents the student body is amazingly convenient for the administration, because it gives them a closed institution of students they can gain power in while pretending to respond to student concerns. The absolute deference to the ASUC Auxiliary's analysis that the Senate shows at their meetings is an example of this.
For various committees, a student or two is included for appearances, though that voice can just be ignored. Having that student come from a carefully managed ASUC makes it that much easier to avoid getting a student who decides to actually do something about an issue.
Perhaps the most obvious example of how the student body isn't represented by the ASUC can be seen from the simple turnout rate, which hovers around 30%. Where does the ASUC get the idea that it can claim to "speak for students" when the vast majority of students don't recognize the ASUC as their voice? Given that students can individually voice their opinions, and can form groups to voice those opinions in a coordinated fashion, the only reason to use the ASUC to voice an opinion is to claim the voices of those who choose not to speak that opinion.
It's for this reason that I don't think Yaman's "democratization" idea is a good one, because it will continue to be the case that the vast majority of students don't use this system, so it can't claim any more legitimacy than the ASUC can. And a quick survey of various online systems will show that a small group of like-minded people will quickly dominate any such system, blocking out other voices. ("The tyranny of people with too much time on their hands")
But coming to these conclusions typically requires paying attention to the ASUC for approximately a college career. By the time folks realize how broken the system is, it's time for them to move on, and the system perpetuates itself. (The only reason I'm able to run this blog is because I've been here for two college careers)
My own personal opinion is probably much closer to the administration's. I don't trust students to make responsible decisions, so the fact that the ASUC is under the administration's thumb doesn't bother me too much, aside from when fee increase season rolls around. But there are a lot of people who don't share my view who see the ASUC as something it's not.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Rent is high!
The Daily Clog refers to The Daily Planet's begging for funds as "kind of pathetic." In case you haven't heard because you're part of the problem, newspapers are going belly up around the country. I don't think The Daily Planet was ever profitable, and has been living off the O'Malleys' money since it was restarted, though I'm not sure if that's still the case. Asking for money a la NPR isn't all that ridiculous, in my opinion, especially considering the ideological goals Becky O'Malley espouses. Getting a bunch of donations from community members probably wouldn't create a huge issue with reporting objectivity, though it may.
Still, the Daily Cal is the last entity in the universe I would expect to take even the mildly condescending attitude that Ruby Elizabeth Lee does. The Daily Cal hasn't even been paying its already-subsidized rent. For those of you unfamiliar with The Daily Cal's relationship with the Store Operations Board and the ASUC, The Daily Cal rents its Eshleman offices from the ASUC (or, perhaps more literally, the ASUC Auxiliary) under agreements approved by the Store Operations Board. In years past, ASUC officials have tried to use this as leverage to influence The Daily Cal's editorial decisions and punish it for negative coverage. The Daily Cal had done a decent job in maintaining its independence through these fights, but they haven't shown the same independence when it comes to financial problems.
From the SOB reports to the ASUC Senate over the past semester:
The Daily Cal's General Manager, Editor-in-Chief, and two members of their Board of Directors, spoke to the Store Operations Board about the current fiscal crisis facing the newspaper and made a proposal for the ASUC to assist them through the crisis. The Board took their presentation very seriously, asked thoughtful questions about their current financial status and the prospects for the future. Then the Board went into closed session to discuss what if any terms they would want in an amendment with the Daily Cal. I was directed to take those terms, once agreed upon in open session, and to put them into a proposal. The bottom line is that the ASUC feels it has a vested interest in protecting one of the symbols of student independence on the campus, and had made an offer to the DC that would assist them through the term of their current contract, May of 2009.The irony is not subtle. One does not typically protect symbols of independence by bailing them out. This is doubly troubling as covering the ASUC and the university (which runs the ASUC Auxiliary) is a significant part of The Daily Cal's job, and taking handouts shreds their credibility as "independent."
Regarding business matters, the Auxiliary issued a letter to the Daily Cal regarding the terms and conditions the Store Operations Board approved for the paper. He wasn't sure the paper will be prepared to accept the SOB's terms. The idea was to keep the ASUC whole and not just give away the value for the rent that the Daily Cal would like to see student government forego.October 8:
The ASUC issued a letter to the Daily Californian offering terms to them regarding their request for relief from rent for the month of October and the remainder of the fiscal year.
Regarding the Daily Californian, the ASUC issued a letter to the paper. The Daily Californian has requested relief from rent for October and for the remainder of the fiscal year, which would amount to over $40,000. The Auxiliary offered terms to the paper in response to the paper's proposal, but the Daily Cal has still not responded.November 5:
Regarding the Daily Cal's proposal, Mr. Permaul said the Daily Cal has a proposal pending with the SOB to forego approximately $24,000 in rent the paper would have paid to the ASUC, along with not paying its maintenance and utility payments per week of almost $1,300. These are real reductions to the ASUC's revenues at that time when other ASUC revenues from their small businesses have been affected. This will be one issue they'll discuss on the SOB meeting on November 18. It was important for Senators to realize that this loss of revenue will have an actual, substantive affect. The Auxiliary had to pay utilities and maintenance. Since the Auxiliary won't be getting those dollars, the money for that will come out of whatever carryforward money the ASUC will use next year.December 3:
I presented to the General Manager of the Daily Cal the Store Operations Board proposal to relieve them of rent for the remainder of the fiscal year. The Board has asked the Daily Cal to sign a note with interest for the repayment of the deferred funds, as well as to increase coverage of the ASUC in its on-line edition. We hope to hear back from the Daily Cal before Friday.And there's the highlight: The SOB has asked for changes to The Daily Cal's coverage. It may seem innocuous, but the symbols are all present: The ASUC believes that it is in its best interest to have The Daily Cal covering it more, and will provide them subsidies to do so. How credible does that leave The Daily Cal's claims of independence?
Anyway, minutes are still haphazard, so I don't have any new news of what The Daily Cal said to that offer. Note that I saw little to no noisemaking by Senators during these reports.
The SOB is in a tough spot, too. They can't really kick The Daily Cal out, since they probably won't be able to find anything to replace it with. They won't get the money either way. Both sides are pretty much in position to play another game of chicken. I hope The Daily Cal at least puts its foot down by refusing any agreement which includes an editorial aspect.
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