The European civil war: #Brexit edition

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….everybody loses in a war (The Last Tercio, by the great Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau )

In a long and remarkably constructed piece of erudition in The American Mind, a publication of the Claremont Institute, Professor Angelo Codevilla, a true scholar of international relations and historical precedent, considered what he refers to as a “cold civil war“, the product of a new American revolution.

In so doing, he also inadvertently describes the current state of play with Brexit.

Consider these excerpts. It’s not difficult to spot the Remainers, and the unelected Euro elite of Selmayr et al

…“men too often take upon themselves in the prosecution of their revenge to set the example of doing away with those general laws to which all alike can look for salvation in adversity, instead of allowing them to subsist against the day of danger when their aid may be required.” (quoting Thucydides)…

.…This is our revolution: Because a majority of Americans now no longer share basic sympathies and trust, because they no longer regard each other as worthy of equal consideration, the public and private practices that once had made our Republic are now beyond reasonable hope of restoration. Strife can only mount until some new equilibrium among us arises….

…The logic that drives each turn of our revolutionary spiral is Progressive Americans’ inherently insatiable desire to exercise their superiority over those they deem inferior. With Newtonian necessity, each such exercise causes a corresponding and opposite reaction. The logic’s force comes not from the substance of the Progressives’ demands. If that were the case, acquiescing to or compromising with them could cut it short. Rather, it comes from that which moves, changes, and multiplies their demands without end. That is the Progressives’ affirmation of superior worth, to be pursued by exercising dominance: superior identity affirmed via the inferior’s humiliation. It is an inherently endless pursuit.  The logic is rooted in disdain, but not so much of any of the supposed inferiors’ features or habits. If it were, the deplored could change their status by improving. But the Progressives deplore the “deplorables” not to improve them, but to feel good about themselves. Hating people for what they are and because it feels good to hate them, is hate in its unalloyed form…..

…As Thucydides pointed out, once people cease adhering to “those general laws to which all alike can look for salvation in adversity,” partisan solidarity offers the only immediate hope of safety. And that, in turn, is because “those general laws” are by, of, and for the good of all. Once people no longer see any good common to all, justice for each becomes identical with advantage. The only good or justice that prevails is the good or justice of the stronger. As Plato points out in Book I of The Republic, far from being a rare phenomenon, this is mankind’s default state.   Hence, among us as well, subjection by force is replacing conviction by argument. Here too, as contrasting reactions to events fan antagonisms into consuming flames like a bellows’ blows, victory’s triumphs and defeat’s agonies’ become the only alternatives…

…..This forced the recognition that there exists a remarkably uniform, bipartisan, Progressive ruling class; that it includes, most of the bureaucracies of federal and state governments, the judiciary, the educational establishment, the media, as well as major corporate officials; that it had separated itself socially, morally, and politically from the rest of society, whose commanding heights it monopolized; above all that it has contempt for the rest of America, and that ordinary Americans have no means of persuading this class of anything, because they don’t count.  As the majority of Americans have become conscious of the differences between this class and themselves they have sought ever more passionately to shake it off. That is the ground of our revolution….

…The rulers are militantly irreligious and contemptuous of those who are not. Progressives since Herbert Croly’s and Woodrow Wilson’s generation have nursed a superiority complex. They distrust elections because they think that power should be in expert hands—their own. They believe that the U.S Constitution gave too much freedom to ordinary Americans and not enough power to themselves, and that America’s history is one of wrongs. The books they read pretend to argue scientifically that the rest of Americans are racist, sexist, maybe fascists, but above all stupid. For them, Americans are harmful to themselves and to the world, and have no right to self-rule….

…..The ruling class’s “resistance” to the 2016 election’s outcome was the second turn. Its vehemence, unanimity, coordination, endurance,and non-consideration of fallback options—the rapidity with which our revolution’s logic has unfolded—have surprised and dismayed even those of us who realized that America had abandoned its republican past.  The “resistance” subsequent to the election surprises, in part, because only as it has unfolded have we learned of its scope prior to the election. All too simply: the U.S government’s upper echelons merged politically with the campaign of the Democratic Party’s establishment wing, and with the media. They aimed to secure the establishment candidates’ victory and then to nullify the lost election’s results by resisting the winners’ exercise of legitimate powers, treating them as if they were illegitimate….

…Partisan “dirty tricks” are unremarkable. But when networks within government and those who occupy society’s commanding heights play them against persons trying to unseat them, they constitute cold civil war against the voters, even coups d’etat. What can possibly answer such acts? And then what? These people, including longstanding officials of the FBI and CIA, are related to one another intellectually, morally, professionally, socially, financially, politically, maritally, and extramaritally. Their activities to stop the anti-establishment candidate, and president—in this case, Trump…

…The revolutionary import of the ruling class’ abandonment of moral and legal restraint in its effort to reverse election results cannot be exaggerated. Sensing themselves entitled to power, imagining themselves identical with legitimacy, “those general laws to which all alike can look for salvation in adversity“—here the US Constitution and ordinary civility—are small stuff to them….

…In 1919, a member of the Russian Duma had asked: “Comrade, is this just?” Lenin famously answered: “Just? For what class?” Forty years later, in similar circumstances, Fidel Castro delivered the dime store version: “Within the revolution, everything. Against the revolution, nothing.” In 2018 our ruling class, in unison, set out to destroy all but the biological life of a political adversary. It substituted vehement assertion for truth, cast aside argument, foreclosed questions, celebrated its own deed and vowed to persist in it. Asked whether what they were doing was right, Senators Booker and Hirono answered directly—the others did so indirectly—that this was the right way to proceed with a person whose jurisprudence was so objectionable. Whether they know whose footsteps they are following matters little.  What matters a lot is that our ruling class does not deal and will never again deal with their opponents as fellow citizens. Theirs was a quintessentially revolutionary act, after which there is no stepping back.  The “resistance” worked. You may have won the last election, said the ruling class. But we’re still in charge. Indeed, they are. And they might stay that way. But human nature ensures that people reply, and repay….

….By dropping all pretense of ruling for the common good; by presuming that they embody the law (Laws-R-Us); by instituting various kinds of boycotts (Institutions-R-Us); by using the strongest, most motivating language toward opponents; by inciting all manner of violence; by death-gripping their privileges; by using their positions’ powers in government and social institutions at or beyond their extreme edge; the people who occupy the government’s and society’s institutions continue to remove whatever deference the institutions (by the authority of which they rule) had inspired. They increasingly stand before their opponents, naked. By daring their opponents to capture these positions in any way possible, and to use them in the same way, they threw down a gantlet that is now being picked up….

…Unattainable, and gone forever, is the whole American Republic that had existed for some 200 years after 1776. The people and the habits of heart and mind that had made it possible are no longer a majority. Progressives made America a different nation by rejecting those habits and those traditions. As of today, they would use all their powers to prevent others from living in the manner of the Republic…

So much of it is specifically American, and refers to that republic’s unique and thus far extraordinarily durable Constitution. Not unlike Britain’s own unwritten but hitherto adhered to rulebook. Yet the pathological behaviour exhibited by the losers since Trump’s election reflects exactly the hate driven refusal of the snubbed Remainers.

Codevilla ends his piece by quoting Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. I’ll go with Robert Bolt in his masterly, and timeless,  A Man For All Seasons:

William Roper: So now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast. Man’s laws, not God’s. And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law – for my own safety’s sake.

 

War stories…. World War Two edition (4)

The old man lived alone in a council flat. Access in and out was tricky, and he was, as the saying goes, becoming ‘off his legs’. He was 90 years old, and totally with it mentally.

I asked my usual question: “what did you do in the war?”

This certainly animated him. He told me that he’d been a gunner on an escort vessel in the North Atlantic, escorting the merchant navy convoys, that prior to this policy of escorting, had been decimated by a ruthless and highly effective U-boat campaign. It had clearly been very tough out there, often in 30 foot waves, freezing cold, and at risk of being torpedoed at any time, but he was exhilarated just talking about it.

“Did you actually see any Germans?”, I asked. He laughed and said very rarely, but there was one occasion in particular that sprang to mind. Depth charges had hit their mark, and the German submarine had to surface. The sea was relatively calm. The crew came out on deck and put their hands in the air, attempting to surrender. We Brits were generally pretty chivalrous about that sort of thing. Lots of crews did surrender.

“What did you do?” I asked, wondering how they transferred them on to the ship sitting much higher than the German crew.

“I shot them all. They’d been trying to kill me”.

Ouch. 

It all brings to mind the legendary Curtis LeMay, a pilot himself who led from the front, who masterminded the incredibly brutal – but possibly necessary – bombing of Japanese cities in World War 2:

Killing Japanese didn’t bother me very much at that time… I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal…. Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you’re not a good soldier.

Truly, one man’s war crimes are another man’s good soldiering. The dilemma is with us to this day.

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…what would you do?

Appeasement 2018, and DH Lawrence

The insult ‘Hitler’ has been casually tossed around in 21st century politics for years, with each use  provoking the most cringing of faux outrage, and simultaneously  diminishing the power of the comparison. Similarly, the term ‘appeasement’ has been invoked for all sorts of decisions ranging from pragmatic to cowardly, with numerous references to Neville Chamberlain’s deluded performance of 1938.

But while we genuinely seem to be lacking a new Hitler (pace Trump haters), appeasement is indeed on the prowl. Here is DH Lawrence, back in the late 1920’s, pondering the flaccid state of the nation and its so-called intelligentsia between the wars. It is taken from the chapter entitled The End of Old Europe (primarily relating to Hitler’s rise to power), in Paul Johnson’s invaluable Modern Times. Read it, history really does repeat itself.:

They want an outward system of nullity, which they call peace and good will, so that in their own souls they can be independent little gods…little Moral Absolutes, secure from questions….it stinks. It is the will of a louse

Photograph of D.H. Lawrence and Frieda Lawrence in Chapala, Mexico, 1923
Lawrence – prototype hipster?

Harsh words, but remarkably apposite to much of what we see today. So the reason why the Second Amendment is under attack again in the US (ha!), why Israel is criticised for defending its borders (not that I’m supporting excessive force), why the national armed forces are intended to be subsumed into an amorphous inchoate EU force etc, is so that wet middle class people far from the action can “in their own souls…be independent little gods”. That kind of sums up a certain bien pensant leftie to me. The absolute peak of such appeasement in recent times has been the utterly ineffective Iran Deal, created primarily to give Obama (and the hapless John Kerry) some sort of artificial legacy. The ‘will of a louse’ indeed.

To be honest, writing blog posts like this always feels a bit smug and a bit sour – it’s not something that gives you much pleasure – but we live in difficult times, and Lawrence’s quote is just too good to ignore.

It’s probably the best thing he wrote.

 

 

War stories…. World War Two edition (3)

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The Heldenplatz and the Hofburg today

 

This elderly lady was actually a sort of a colleague of another one of my patients. She was a 94 year old nun, still bright and active. The nuns lived in a convent by the North Sea, in an enclosed order. A very happy and tranquil group. They’re still there today.  She spent her days – when not in prayer etc – making greetings cards. These were decorated with dried flowers which she flattened by placing them between the pages of a book and sitting on it for a while.

As a young girl, her father was a big cheese policeman in the town where she lived. She was used to big civic events and tagging along.

One day her father took her and the family to a huge public meeting, and she was introduced to the star attraction, shaking his hand. The atmosphere was apparently buzzing, big things were happening, the children were told.

The date? 15th March, 1938

The location? The Heldenplatz in Vienna, still there in front of the remarkable Hofburg Palace.

The event? The culminating rally of the Austrian anschluss

The star attraction? Adolf Hitler.

Yes, that Hitler. Six degrees of separation indeed.

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80 years ago this month…

 

 

War stories…. World War Two edition (2)

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Buried in the jungle

I’m trying to find the quote from an old writer about the things that a fulfilled man must do with his life. It included going to war**, yet many people who have been in actual combat found it horrible and suffer still, despite the intensity of the experience and the irreproducible camaraderie induced by your lives being dependent on each other. They are a smaller group than everyone who actually served in uniform- for every single combat marine in the US Pacific campaign there were about 19 other members of the armed forces in logistics, engineering, supplies, catering, transport and so on.

So this is the second, in a short series

The Chindits in Burma, 1943 –

At the time of writing, today’s patient is still alive – 99 going on 100. A tall distinguished looking fellow, he had a relatively ordinary job back in civilian life, and is pretty healthy, despite the need for various operations. He is always quite happy to reminisce about his time in Burma with the Chindits.

If you want to know how tough these guys were, and what they suffered behind enemy lines, mostly in the jungle, read John Masters’ quite extraordinary – and horrific – account of having to shoot their own wounded. My man has numerous stories – fighting naked because of the damp and the ever present dysentery (this is different from their slightly crazy founder, Orde Wingate’s, propensity for wandering around naked); waiting for air drops knowing that the Japanese would also benefit from these clues to their location; having, amazingly, colleagues killed by an airdrop landing on them; hand to hand fighting with knives, in the jungle; blowing up Japanese installations when you’re a long, long way from safety….how do you return to ‘normal life’ after experiences like these?

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..it might look nice, but…

And they were pretty effective, not just for morale at a time when Japan was looking like a most formidable enemy. This excellent account of the 1943 Operation Longcloth tells you what you need to know. Although David Stirling started developing the unique capabilities of the SAS in 1941, Wingate’s not dissimilar long range, behind enemy lines work – with the added challenge of much larger numbers of men – was pioneering and not universally accepted. As he said at the time “If we succeed, we shall have demonstrated a new style of warfare to the world”.

The Japanese were the most brutal of opponents, as everyone knows these days – although I believe that Japanese schools still play down the extent of this – and compared to urban fighting in Europe against opponents with possibly similar values, the risk of capture was too much to contemplate – hence Masters’ impossible decision – not unlike ISIS in recent times. To quote John Hutchin, a veteran of the campaign, on how he was left behind by his fellow soldiers suffering from exhaustion with three days’ rations and a clip of ammunition.

“I’ve only got one nightmare left, and that is being left”

Hutchin in fact made it, but many didn’t. To contemplate that as my patient does, and the near impossible nature of their mission, from a vantage point of  74 years later, as one heads for centenarian status is something that I – as someone who has never been to war – can barely comprehend.

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A risky airdrop

 

**though this quote from Ilya Radozhitskii’s  campaign memoirs, relating to Napoleon’s disaster in Russia, resonates here:  A military career, thus, occasionally presents experiences that do not exist in civilian life. The war reveals all of the human horrors and miseries that make our souls tremble, but they also elevate us amidst these dangers. He who has not been to war has not learned how to despise death. The ordinary tribulations of civilian life are nothing compared to the calamities of war where neither sighs nor tears could change anything. Their source soon runs dry and the warrior’s heart hardens like steel with which he brings death to the enemy.

War stories…. World War Two edition (1)

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A 400kg bullet ridden bronze nazi eagle, anyone?

When I graduated in 1986 I spent a lot of time as a junior doctor admitting elderly patients to hospital. So if my patient was 90 they were born in the Victorian era, and the men would frequently have served in the First World War, with the stories to go with that. The last WWI veteran of the trenches, Harry Patch, died in 2009. They’re all gone, along with their astonishing oral histories.

These days the average Second World War veteran is 90ish. There are still plenty of them, but they’re disappearing rapidly. A few years ago in the US, it was estimated that they were dying off at 600 per day.  So when I get in a patient – male or female – in their late 80’s or 90’s, I always ask them what they did in the war, and they certainly have stories to tell.

I thought I’d summarise just a few of them. These remarkable pensioners are living history. Bear in mind that these are the most ordinary and unassuming of elderly citizens, living out their retirements without much money, in an average British town. You would not notice them in the street.

The Battle of the River Plate, December 1939

Here’s the Wikipedia summary:

 The German panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee had cruised into the South Atlantic a fortnight before the war began, and had been commerce raiding after receiving appropriate authorisation on 26 September 1939. One of the hunting groups sent by the British Admiralty to search for Graf Spee, comprising three Royal Navy cruisersHMS ExeterAjax and Achilles (the last from the New Zealand Division), found and engaged their quarry off the estuary of the River Plate close to the coast of Uruguay in South America. In the ensuing battle, Exeter was severely damaged and forced to retire; Ajax and Achilles suffered moderate damage. The damage to Admiral Graf Spee, although not extensive, was critical; her fuel system was crippled. Ajax and Achilles shadowed the German ship until she entered the port of Montevideo, the capital city of neutral Uruguay, to effect urgent repairs. After Graf Spee’s captain Hans Langsdorff was told that his stay could not be extended beyond 72 hours, he scuttled his damaged ship rather than face the overwhelmingly superior force that the British had led him to believe was awaiting his departure.

My patient was on HMS Ajax, I think. He recalls the early skirmishing and the battle, but his fondest memory was something different. When the ships got into neutral Montevideo – which then and now had various links with Britain, the sailors all piled into the bars to get hammered. The surviving crew of the Graf Spee did the same thing. After all, they had 72 hours to kill.  With the tension out of the situation he recalls just how jovial it was, and how well the Germans and the Brits got along. A sort of “Christmas in the trenches” in sunny South America. He told me all this about 70 years after the event, and the memory was still vivid.

hl1The Graf Spee is still there. Its captain, Hans Langdorff, a decent man in the way he treated prisoners, shot himself 6 days later, lying on his boat’s battle ensign in a Bueno Aires hotel room. The bronze eagle from its stern has been salvaged, and to my knowledge, no-one knows what to do with it.

Avoiding the End of Days

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How easily we ignore this stuff

Two quotes, one old, one new, from smart experienced people. In fact, the very opposite of the mob of weekend warrior moral relativists currently besieging Twitter and various airports.

First up:

No party or ideological faction has The Solution because The Solution doesn’t exist. Much of the world beyond our shores is a wreck, and the best you can pull off right now is damage control.

Michael J Totten, The Tower, November 2016

Totten has been out there in the Middle East, at the sharp end. So have lots of people I realise, but whilst well travelled, I wouldn’t necessarily include various presidents, prime ministers, secretaries of state etc in that category. The article is terrific.

Second up is an oldie. A very oldie, from Frederick William, The Great Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia, in his fairly famous Political Testament, 19/05/1667. It is very relevant:

“One thing is sure. If you stand still and think that the fire is still far from your borders, then your lands will become the stage upon which the tragedy is performed”

They didn’t have airports or ISIS back then, but the Thirty Years War was about as bad as it gets. We seem to have tried complacency on the domestic front in the last 10 years or so, and I don’t think it’s working out too well.

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Frederick William. Tougher than he looks

Collateral damage is just fine?

It would be entirely reasonable to extrapolate from the Twitter and media hysteria of the last 24 hours, that the deaths of numerous civilians in Boston, Florida, California and elsewhere recently, notwithstanding the lineage that stretches back more than 15 years to 9/11, are only so much collateral damage.

That is to say that in some way, they are painful and regrettable, yes, but also acceptable. Acceptable if the alternative is taking some steps – which by necessity will have to be through a process of partially informed trial and error – which may curtail in varying degrees things that people have been taking for granted. In this case that means getting rid of a managed free-for-all in entering the United States, which is what we’ve had until yesterday, by and large.

It’s not an original observation, but everyone remembers and brandishes the names of Anders Breivik (massacre more than 5 years ago) and Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma bombing 22 years ago), yet who can name the Nice lorry mass murderer only 6 months ago? Who is sure about the names of the Berlin lorry attacker, or the murderers of Jacques Hamel? The truth is that as a society – in the US, Europe and the UK- we happily obsess about the evil people ‘like us’ perpetrate, and weirdly almost accept the regular violence of the ‘other’. We have become inured to the reality of Islamic fundamental terrorism – until it hits someone that we know.

As renowned sage Kevin D Williamson of National Review Online put it yesterday:

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Particularly when there are all the usual clues – migrant background (often the parents), minor criminal record, affinity with violence, dubious web browsing etc etc. Well Trump is ‘doing something’. In fact, he’s doing slightly less than he said he’d do, but no-one could say they weren’t warned. That fact in itself might explain the suspiciously large and well organised mob that descended on JFK in a very short space of time. It’s not that easy to get to in a hurry.

Whether it will help I don’t know. It is after all trial and error , and might take a long time before any benefits – if there are any – will emerge. But to quote @KevinNR again:

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People have occasionally lost sight of what an elected government’s primary duty is – the safety of its citizens. After that, other people’s citizens, if one can. They usually go together, but not always. Supranational bodies and the whole globalsim thing have blurred this essential definition.

That said, I can sympathise with people who argue their corner in disagreeing with this immigration policy, but I didn’t come across any such rationalists in the last 24 hours. In fact if you want rational (I do), then it’s back over to NRO, for two superb pieces dissecting the policy, the background and the government actions (1,2). Remember, NRO famously didn’t support Trump, and they still don’t, by and large.

The cynic in me says that this is just another bonanza for the Secretly Pleased Voters, for whom Trump remains the gift that keeps on giving. After all, talk is cheap.

Wounded spectators lie injured following an explosion at the Boston Marathon
Not quite 4 years – memories are short

Great landscapes: Paul Nash

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Romney Marshes in 1719
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All Saints, in the Romney Marsh

Nash is primarily famous for his brutal war art, such as The Menin Road, strangely elegant though that painting is. He was actually out there in Ypres, amidst the bombs, mud and carnage, ending up with an official war artist role. He became disillusioned quickly: “It is unspeakable, godless, hopeless. I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.”

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I think the advertising industry lacks a bit of class these days…

He died in 1946. After WW1 he got into illustrating, often with a surreal, abstract or expressionist edge, and painted plenty of rural scenes, of which this is one. In WW2 he was back as an official artist for a while, and all of his work is of great quality. As you can see, Shell liked it so much (they commissioned it) that they continued to use it for a funky travel advert 37 years later. Anyway, the great man is currently the beneficiary of Tate Britain exhibition.

Worth seeing.

 

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Paul Nash, The Rye Marshes, 1932. Tate Gallery

Heraclitus meets Donald Trump

From one of the awesome Victor Davis Hanson‘s outstanding and very readable history meisterwerks,   Ripples of Battle. Trump gets this, Hillary doesn’t, and nor does the UN. I think the US electorate are with Trump (and Heraclitus) on this, one of the reasons for my prediction of 6 months ago. Hanson, I should add, published it in 2003, two years after 9/11, and long before the Daeshbags of ISIS. A prophetic piece of work

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*
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#NeverHillary