Jeffco Recall Petition Drive Kicks Off Wednesday

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

That’s the word from Jefferson County school board recall organizers Jeffco United For Action:

YOUR 1ST CHANCE TO SIGN THE PETITIONS!

Petition Kick-Off Event

Wednesday, July 8th
Doors Open: 5:30 pm
Program Starts: 6:00 pm

Jeffco Fairgrounds, Rodeo Arena
15200 W. 6th Ave Frontage Rd
Golden, CO 80401

Come join us on Wednesday, July 8th, as we rally to recall the Jeffco School Board Majority!

After the huge protest rally against the Jefferson County school board’s right-wing majority at the end of May at Littleton’s Clement Park, attended by some 2,500 Jeffco residents, the biggest challenge for organizers was reportedly booking a venue large enough to handle the expected demand for recall petitions and instructions. Recall organizers will have 60 days from approval of the petition language, expected Monday or Tuesday, to gather the required 15,000 signatures for each of the three Jeffco board members being recalled: Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams. However, there’s a more practical need to get the required signatures in much sooner, to ensure the recall appears on the regular November election ballot along with the two open seats held by outgoing progressive minority members.

To that end, look for innovative signature gathering tactics like “sign and drive” events at high visibility locations around Jefferson County, and friendly door-knockers fanning out across Jeffco neighborhoods in the next few weeks. One thing we know about recall petition campaigns from recent experience is that they are high drama affairs–and right-wing supporters of the Jeffco school board majority, which includes large and well-funded media and field operative capabilities, will be out in Jeffco neighborhoods too with the goal of making mischief. This should motivate petition gatherers both paid and volunteer to be on their very best behavior at all times: to include ignoring hecklers and trackers no matter how much of an ignorant asshole they are, no smoking including weed, and probably get that haircut you were considering before you hit the pavement.

thursdayprotestsOn the upside, it’s possible we’ve never seen anything quite like the community’s anger–not to mention simple awareness–over this school board, as indicated by polling that looked at the viability of recalling the board majority after two rather shocking years of basically continuous bad earned media. In at least one case, last year’s ill-fated “review” proposal of AP history curriculum for various Glenn Beck-style political aims, we’re talking about one of the biggest media events in Colorado politics since Gary Hart set sail on the Monkey Business–covered by news outlets literally across the globe. This is not the manufactured outrage campaign of some political press shop, but the legitimate anger of ordinary Jefferson County citizens over what’s happened to this school board since far right candidates rode the Amendment 66 backlash to victory in 2013. You couldn’t buy that for a billion dollars, and this recall campaign wouldn’t have a prayer of succeeding if it wasn’t real.

With that in mind, there’s a plausible scenario in which getting these signatures in time for November’s ballot will not be a problem.

Vulnerable Mike Coffman Lays Low As Challenge Looms

Mike and Cynthia Coffman. And dog.

Mike and Cynthia Coffman. And dog.

For the last two weeks, a member of the Coffman family has dominated political headlines in Colorado, though not the Coffman most people think of. When we last left off with GOP Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, he was vowing to repeal Obamacare in the wake of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and hurrying to pivot to “jobs and the economy” in response to the court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage equality–but still not getting anything like the press his embattled wife was receiving.

Which we fully assume he considers to be a good thing.

Just before the “Coffmangate” blackmail scandal involving Rep. Coffman’s spouse Attorney General Cynthia Coffman broke open in the middle of June, Mike Coffman’s remarks on a radio talk show comparing the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Middle Eastern terrorist group ISIS made the rounds with no small degree of controversy. But since then, we’ve seen very little in the way of earned media for Rep. Coffman beyond those brief statements, regarding either the overbudget Aurora VA hospital has had spent so much time grandstanding on as an election issue, or anything else.

And naturally, he’s had nothing to say about his spouse’s political implosion.

But the world moves on: just today, Mike Coffman’s name was mentioned again as one of the most competitive races in the Mountain West for 2016. Roll Call’s Rothenblog:

Coffman’s decision to seek re-election puts a wrench into Democratic plans to take over his open seat. But that doesn’t mean the party will give him a free pass. President Barack Obama won the 6th by 6 points in 2012 and 9 points in 2008, but Coffman easily dispatched former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff, 52-43 percent, in 2014. State Sen. Morgan Carroll has been mentioned on the Democratic side but the field is still fluid. As far out of reach as this race seems for Democrats, it’s probably the type of district the party has to win in order to get the majority in 2016…

After Andrew Romanoff’s unexpected shellacking at the polls in 2014, the second win for Rep. Coffman over resurgent Democratic opponents since his congressional district was remade into a closely divided battleground in 2011, conventional wisdom might have declared him safe. But the CD-6 electorate in 2014 seems to have almost uniquely punished Romanoff for running an uninspiring centrist campaign, sending him to defeat by a greater margin than overlapping Democratic candidates in other races. In 2012, low-budget underdog challenger Joe Miklosi came far closer to defeating Coffman than Romanoff did, a result that demonstrates the potential in this district for a candidate who can turn out the Democratic vote–or at least not demotivate base Democrats like Romanoff did with his milquetoast “balance the budget” message. And above all, the difference in the electorate between the 2012 presidential elections and last year’s midterms gives Democrats hope that 2016 may be the year Rep. Coffman’s number comes up.

Bottom line: Mike Coffman has proven a resilient incumbent, able to reinvent himself in dramatic fashion to appeal to a very different electorate than the hard-right conservative voters who originally elected him to Congress. But he has also benefited circumstantially from weak opponents, and a strong “Republican wave” in 2014. A combination of his starkly opposed past positions on the issues, continuing predilection for embarrassing verbal diarrhea like the ISIS/VA crack or his declaration in 2012 that President Barack Obama “is just not an American,” and the growing possibility of the right challenger in the right year, means that no matter how handily he was re-elected in the last election, Rep. Coffman remains vulnerable in the next one.

That perennial vulnerability is why Coffman chose not to run for the U.S. Senate next year, with his negatives potentially attracting much more attention in that marquee statewide race. His best career option, as we long expected he would decide, was to fight to hold CD-6–considered vital to either side’s aspirations for control of Congress.

The problem is, in 2016 Democrats may finally have the right combination of circumstances and human capital to take Coffman out.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (July 2)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218Happy day after Canada Day! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Republican presidential primary campaigns in Colorado are setting up shop:

Campaign season, no doubt, is officially here, as Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul announced state campaign leaders to oversee their quest for votes for president in what’s likely to be a key swing state next year.

Fiorina’s picks are state Rep. Perry Buck of Windsor and businesswoman Heidi Ganahl of Boulder. Paul chose former state Sen. Scott Renfroe from Greeley and state Sen. Owen Hill from Colorado Springs.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is in Aspen mouthing scary foreign policy slogans:

“I think [Iran’s leaders] are religious Nazis with an end-of-days view of their religion, and they’re dangerous as hell,” Graham said, adding a nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous than the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, although he has a plan for dealing with ISIS as well.

Rawr!

Department of Veterans Affairs officials are now saying there may never be a detailed account of why the troubled Aurora VA hospital project is more than a billion dollars over budget. You’d think we could ask the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, Mike Coffman about this, but he was apparently unavailable to grandstand comment for today’s story.

► The U.S. Supreme Court has sent a lawsuit challenging the 1992 Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights back to district court for reconsideration–the latest maneuver in a long fight to determine if the constitutional requirement to establish a small-r republican form of government has been usurped by convicted felon tax evader Doug Bruce’s labyrinthine creation.

► Former GOP congressional candidate and radio host Jeff Crank says it’s time to investigate Cynthia Coffman’s role in the alleged blackmailing of state GOP chairman Steve House:

Now, I just say this. If this happened, Cynthia Coffman, the Attorney General, needs to resign. She’s a Republican, and she needs to resign. Because if this happened, she either at worst, participated in it, and at best, was a witness to it, in her office – in your office, in the Attorney General’s office of the state of Colorado. It’s uh — this is what needs to be investigated. Not whether Steve House did this, that, or the other thing.

► Almost everyone agrees that Colorado needs more federal judges, and sooner not later.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Thursday Open Thread

“We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

–George Orwell

IUD Funding Not A Done Deal After All

UPDATE: Statement from Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado:

It is disgraceful that Republican Colorado Senators this session voted to leave low-income teenagers and young women without access to contraception that will help them achieve their goals and stay financially independent. Funding for the program expired today – that leaves a huge gap for hundreds of thousands of young women in Colorado.

The long-acting reversible contraception program (LARC) is recognized as a critical part of making Colorado #1 in preventing teen pregnancies (by 40%) and reducing abortions (35%). A relatively small investment of $5 million in LARC would have saved an estimated $50 million in Medicaid and public assistance programs.

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment is searching for alternative funding to continue this vital service. Planned Parenthood is committed to supporting all programs like LARC that help teenagers stay in school and give them the opportunity to succeed.

—–

IUDs.

IUDs.

A story from KUNC community radio last month announced that a highly successful program to provide IUD contraception to low-income women in Colorado would be renewed for another year, despite the refusal by Republicans in the Colorado legislature to authorize public funds to continue the program:

Despite state lawmakers failing to pass a bill to fund the effort, a program to provide long acting reversible birth control to young, low-income women in Colorado is being extended for another year.

The long acting contraceptives, according to state figures, have helped cut teen pregnancy rates in the state by 40 percent. Abortions have gone down too…

[Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment Executive Director Larry] Wolk does want to come back to the state Legislature in 2016 and try to get the $5 million needed to again fund the program through the state – and even expand it to more clinics that serve lower income young women.

“It’s good public investment,” said Wolk. “It’s not fair that we have to keep going to the private or foundation community to fund something that is saving the state money.” [Pols emphasis]

But according to a press release today from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the lack of public investment in the Long-Acting Reversible Contraception program is a problem–making the previous declaration of victory problematic:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment continues to search for funding for its successful Colorado Family Planning Initiative. To date, there is engaged conversation and expressed interest, yet no firm commitment. [Pols emphasis]

“We are working closely with our partners who believe in this initiative to find the funding necessary to continue providing contraceptive choices to young women across Colorado,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer for the department. “Making sure Colorado women have access to safe and effective contraception is an investment in their futures and ours.”

There’s reportedly still a possibility that private funds will come through to continue this program, perhaps on a reduced scale depending on how much they can get. But the situation could still affect single women in the interim if funding isn’t locked in soon, and in either case illustrates the uncertainty involved with trying to fund an important public health program of this kind with fickle private contributions. As CDPHE executive director Larry Wolk says, this is a program that saves the state tax money in the end, so to refuse to fund it as Republicans in the legislature did this year was textbook pennywise and pound foolish.

Coffmangate: Let The Resignations Begin

Marilyn Marks, Becky Mizel.

Marilyn Marks, Becky Mizel.

Today, two principal figures in the Coffmangate extortion scandal announced their resignations from posts in the Colorado Republican Party, following the vote last week by the party’s executive committee 22-1 to support embattled chairman Steve House. The first resignation was that of elections crackpot activist Marilyn Marks, exiting the state GOP’s Elections Oversight Committee. From her scathing, if a bit muddled and agitated resignation letter dated today:

I sincerely regret that I cannot serve effectively on this committee to help mitigate the escalating risks to Republican candidates as we move toward 2016. I cannot advance the righteous cause of the party where leadership provides inconsistent policy guidance with frequent embarrassing reversals and re-­‐reversals of direction on issues of election quality. I have wasted much valuable time that should have been devoted to 2016 election security in attempting to recover from erratic changes of policy direction from Chairman House…

My experience with Chairman House in election public policy matters is consistent. His policy is unfailing inconsistency. No matter which policy he adopts and asks me to submit to officials, the position will be reversed if officials object. [Pols emphasis]

…Most troubling is the fundamental philosophy House expressed to me several weeks ago in the context of the party’s future policies for election security. He stated that the job of the party is to represent both the voters and the official stance of the Republican election officials in suitable compromises. He stated that our positions must be acceptable to election officials, implying that the Republican party is to represent the government in dealing with the voters. Such backwards philosophies will only lead to more conflict with House and more episodes of his approving, then disapproving and then disavowing the work of the Committee. I cannot be effective in such an environment. The work of the Committee is to promote oversight of elections, not to represent the interests that the government may have in denial of the problems.

Marks’ letter of resignation was addressed to Becky Mizel, the chair of the Elections Oversight Committee and also chair of the Pueblo Republican Party. You’ll recall that Mizel, a longtime malcontent within the Colorado GOP and one of the cabal of GOP officials led by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman who allegedly threatened Steve House with reprisals if he didn’t resign, was the lone vote cast against House on the GOP executive committee last Friday. A short while after her own resignation, Marks posted to Facebook:

Becky Mizel resigned today as Chair of the Election Oversight Committee of the Republican state party. I had just done the same a bit earlier in the day. We were following the direction of Chairman House in submitting comments to the Secretary of State on Watcher rights and responsibilities with the Republican Party position. He then disavowed our association with the party…

We haven’t heard if Mizel has also resigned as chair of the Pueblo Republican Party, but in the aftermath of Friday’s vote, she couldn’t be more isolated. At this point, Mizel’s continued leadership of Pueblo Republicans is a detriment to that party’s efforts there, since it’s clear that Mizel cannot work effectively with the state party’s chairman. It’s what happens, as the saying goes, when you strike at the king but don’t kill him.

It’s widely believed that Marks’ agitation about “threats” to fair elections in 2016 were a big part of her alienation of Steve House. Marks’ unreasonable and strident posturing on election issues has made her a pariah on both sides of the aisle, but Republicans humored her for long enough to leave her deeply entrenched–and ready to formulate red-on-red conspiracy theories over basically any quibble. As for Mizel, it’s easy to find fellow Republicans willing to assign the label of “batshit crazy” to her, not to mention Democrats–which helps explain why she was so ready to team up with Tom Tancredo to frag the state GOP’s leadership.

Where do these resignations leave the other principal (employed) actor in the “Coffmangate” drama, Cynthia Coffman?

Not looking real good, that’s for sure.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (June 30)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218We hope your abbreviated holiday week is…well, abbreviated! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Presidential candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky is holding a big-ticket fundraiser today in Denver with Colorado’s budding (pun intended) marijuana industry:

Paul becomes the first major-party presidential candidate to publicly court donations from the pot industry. Though legal weed businesses owners have been active political donors for years, presidential candidates have shied away from holding fundraisers made up entirely of marijuana-related business owners.

Paul has joined Democrats in the Senate to sponsor a bill to end the federal prohibition of marijuana for medical reasons. The senator also backs a federal drug-sentencing overhaul.

And at $2,700 a throw, they’ll be paying top dollar for Sen. Paul’s time.

► Speaking of the weed, Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is kicking off his own presidential campaign. Christie drew jeers from Colorado politicos on both sides of the aisle after he vowed to shut down our state’s retail marijuana industry–and before that, Christie helped sow dissent within the Colorado Republican Party by backing eventual loser Bob Beauprez in last year’s gubernatorial primary. All told, we don’t see Christie carrying our state in next year’s caucuses.

► Also, Ted Cruz says you can ignore the U.S. Supreme Court when you don’t like what they say! That seems certain to end well.

► We’re not sure exactly how you celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday weakening the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate mercury emissions from power plants, but the energy industry’s always-enthusiastic surrogates are ready to try:

“It’s great the Supreme Court would be looking realistically at this. . . . Maybe somewhere along the line it will bring some common sense in terms of energy,” former Pueblo state Senator George Rivera said.

As a state senator, Rivera regularly voiced concerns about the higher costs of electricity resulting from the closure of coal-fired power plants and other government environmental mandates.

Translation: hooray mercury emissions? Fortunately, Colorado is already ahead of the feds in reducing mercury emissions, so yesterday’s ruling won’t leave our state choking. Sorry, other states.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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New Anti-Spam Countermeasures Installed

Readers have most likely noticed a large increase in the amount of spam posted to our blog in the last few weeks. We’ve just installed new WordPress countermeasures to deal with this problem, and we’re testing to make sure they work properly. If you have any trouble logging in or posting comments over the next few days, please email us at webmaster@coloradopols.com with a description of the problem.

Thanks for your patience, and for God’s sake, don’t buy anything from these jokers.

Cynthia Coffman Can’t Stop Copping To Blackmail

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Last Friday’s overwhelming vote by the Colorado Republican Party executive committee to support embattled chairman Steve House was, depending on how you look at it, the worst development yet in a two-week nightmare of boomeranging disaster for Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. Now that the coup attempt against House has failed to a complete extent even we could not have predicted, both sides of the dispute are trying their best to publicly make nice with one another. In news reports this weekend, House has shifted his description of the events that led to the crisis to a “family dispute”–which sounds somewhat less newsworthy than “attempted blackmail.” Likewise, Attorney General Coffman meekly wished House success in 2016 after the GOP executive committee voted to summarily reject her case for his firing.

Unfortunately for Attorney General Coffman, she made the mistake of granting another interview to 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman on Friday night, after blowing off Rittiman earlier in the week in favor of friendlier interviews with the Denver Post and CBS4’s Shaun Boyd. And Rittiman, true to his well-earned reputation for asking the hard questions without fear or favor, didn’t let Coffman off the hook:

[Coffman] says that the first same of a woman who now claims to be House’s mistress was mentioned after the group listed its concerns with House in the role at the head of the state party.

After being asked by 9NEWS political reporter Brandon Rittiman to explain to the public why that shouldn’t be perceived as political blackmail, [Pols emphasis] Coffman gave her thinking for dropping the woman’s name in conversation.

Coffman: “Honestly, it was a way to get his attention. It was a conversation to try and say we have concerns. And Steve was not listening to us. He was flippant about it. He showed no signs of taking seriously what we were talking to him about he seemed impatient and exasperated with us. And honestly it was a way to get his attention. And say ‘we know this.'” [Pols emphasis]
Rittiman: “Well that sounds almost like you’re using it as leverage though…”
Coffman: “No. I mean, Brandon you can read it that way if you want to…”
Rittiman: “I’m asking. You were there and I wasn’t.”
Coffman: “No. It was not. It was not. It was not intended that way at all.”

It's not a new concept.

It’s not a new concept.

As we’ve noted previously, Colorado law on criminal extortion is not ambiguous, and clearly specifies that making “a substantial threat” to “cause economic hardship or bodily injury to, or damage the property or reputation of” another person to induce them to “perform an act” “against their will” is a class 4 felony. Nothing that came out during Friday’s hearing of the GOP executive committee mitigates the severity of these allegations–not the possibility that the rumors of an extramarital affair by House were true, nor anything else Coffman invoked to justify her attempt to force House to resign.

And no matter how much Steve House, Cynthia Coffman, or anybody else involved in this story would like for it to go away, it’s not going to. The possibility of a felony crime committed or abetted by Colorado’s chief law enforcement officer is much too serious to be quashed by a vote of a state political party’s committee. As of Friday, trusted sources continued to assure us that the U.S. Attorney’s office “has the case.” Experts with prosecutorial experience tell us it’s routine, even expected, that a prosecuting attorney’s office will not confirm any disposition of a case referred to it until a decision to formally investigate has been reached. Until we hear the definitive answer to that question, we aren’t declaring Coffman or anyone else in the clear criminally.

Even in the absence of criminal prosecution for this case of alleged blackmail, it’s worth reflecting today on the enormous damage done to the Colorado Republican Party in the last two weeks by this scandal. A party chairman only in his job for a matter of weeks was the subject of a sustained, determined character assassination attempt, led by the Republican Party’s biggest vote-getter in 2014. After ousting the previous chairman Ryan Call, who had alienated many grassroots conservatives over his occasional outbreaks of sanity and human decency, the Colorado Republican Party has descended into total backstabbing chaos. To the low information rank-and-file, this infighting is absolutely devastating to morale. Depending on which side of the divide major GOP donors found themselves, wallets are almost certain to close for the 2016 election cycle.

Politically, either in the near or long term it’s a career-ending disaster for Cynthia Coffman. Her judgment in the aftermath of this self-inflicted wound simply can’t be trusted–by political allies, or the voters who would ultimately elect her to something else. There’s a well-grounded argument to be made that after this incident, Coffman has no moral authority to continue to serve as Colorado’s attorney general.

Any way you stack what just happened here, it wasn’t worth the damage.

Get More Smarter on Monday (June 29)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218It’s been three days, and gay marriage still hasn’t destroyed your “traditional” marriage–really! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► LGBT rights advocates local and national are basking in the afterglow of Friday’s historic U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage once and for all. With this civil rights milestone achieved, the next logical step–stamping out discrimination against LGBT Americans–looms large:

Longtime gay-rights advocates such as political strategist Ted Trimpa contrasted Friday’s announcement with the memory of disappointment in 1992 when the state’s voters approved the anti-gay Amendment 2.

“Take that feeling and pair it with the joy of seeing the decision this morning,” said Trimpa. “It’s quite a journey.”

But he joined many others in cautioning that even in the wake of this legal victory, that journey still has miles to go.

“Over half the states in this country still allow a person to be fired, denied housing or denied services at a business, just because they’re gay,” Trimpa said. “So we’re all going to wake up and it’s like Alabama: Somebody could get married, take a marriage picture and put it on their desk — and get fired.”

Down the street at the Western Conservative Summit this weekend, a very different view of the same decision from GOP presidential hopefuls and religious right activists:

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the first presidential nominee to speak at the Summit, was among them. He thinks the ruling redefined marriage. If it’s not about procreative sex for the sake of stable family units, it’s not marriage. “Now we are faced with a society that says marriage has nothing to do with children,” he said. “If the family goes, there’s nothing left.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council — a conservative Christian lobbying group — followed up. He, too, objected to the Supreme Court’s ruling on moral grounds, reiterating that marriage is an institution defined as the union between one man and one woman for the purpose of child-bearing. “The Supreme Court does not have the moral authority to change what it did not create,” he said…

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee echoed that sentiment, but chose a different historical ruling for comparison. “Conservatives can do same thing that Abraham Lincoln did about the Dred Scott decision of 1857,” he said. “[Lincoln] simply ignored the ruling and said, ‘That’s not correct.’”

All of which casts the recent embarrassing fight over the Log Cabin Republicans’ exclusion from the Western Conservative Summit in sharp relief.

► Meanwhile in the Colorado Supreme Court, a major decision announced today striking down Douglas County’s controversial religious school voucher program.

► In case you missed it Friday, The Coffmangate scandal took a turn for the comedic after the Colorado Republican Party’s executive committee voted almost unanimously–22 to 1–to support chairman Steve House after nearly two weeks of a dissenting faction led by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman trying to force him to resign. Another round of damning blackmail admissions Friday by Cynthia Coffman may keep the story going despite House’s attempts to lead everyone in singing Kumbaya. Stay tuned…

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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