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Monday, June 26, 2006 - 9:34amSanction this postReply
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A truly great quote.



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Monday, June 26, 2006 - 12:29pmSanction this postReply
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> I find it interesting that those trying to maintain the purity of the philosophy end up making it incredibly difficult for people to simply acknowledge her ideas. It's like they don't want anyone to believe any part of it, or to credit any of the ideas, unless they accept it all without criticism

Joe, it's possible to want to maintain the purity of the philosophy (in the sense of not wanting to see it misrepresented, bastardized, turned into something it is not) without making the mistakes of many people associated with ARI. Or without vilifying or looking down on anyone who disagrees with the philosophy, doesn't understand it, hasn't studied it well.



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Post 2

Monday, June 26, 2006 - 6:16pmSanction this postReply
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..... It's like they don't want anyone to believe any part of it, or to credit any of the ideas, unless they accept it all without criticism."



This is the comparison to faith I was trying to make on another site a week or so ago. From this I perceive a lockstep mentality which pervades the arena at times and which will send up all kind of red flags to those of us who have been subjected to it before.

I can accept being wrong in my thinking and ideas, but I will not tolerate someone who tells me I am wrong simply because they say so.

L W




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Post 3

Monday, June 26, 2006 - 7:24pmSanction this postReply
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Interesting quote. I acknowledge Rand's ideas, good and bad, working in my life. However I work off other's ideas also. I do not call myself Objectivist for multiple reasons, but the biggest reason I stay away is that while I agree with maintaining the proper noun identity of the name of the philosophy, I have no interest in the potential social/political aggravations involved with those few who confuse proper noun with personal identity.



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Monday, June 26, 2006 - 8:57pmSanction this postReply
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I just call myself the 'darkhorse' of Objectivism, because most of what I accept is what is espoused in Objectivism, and the rest simply follows from its basis. To me, it's not a matter of faith, it's a matter of discussion of facts.

-- Bridget



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Post 5

Monday, June 26, 2006 - 9:03pmSanction this postReply
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I think the biggest hurdle for me to join the ranks of Objectivist is that I just don't want to be associated with some of the people and happenings in the Objectivist circle. I'd be ashamed. Yep, I am a big snob. ;-)



Post 6

Monday, June 26, 2006 - 10:51pmSanction this postReply
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I think there is tremendous truth to the quote.  Its no wonder why some people think of objectivism as a cult.  Although that is far from the truth and an outright stupid impression, the way some people place their faith in Ayn Rand's thinking is no different than the way some people place their faith in the bible.  Objectivism is about ethics and reason- it isn't about dogma.  Reason is open to the questioning process, faith is closed mindedness.  It is truly a tragedy the way certain "objectivists" actions have come to blemish the spirit, purpose, and image of objectivism.



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Monday, June 26, 2006 - 10:54pmSanction this postReply
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Great quote.  Objectivism is reason.  It is the opposite of faith.  It is a process of thinking based on fact, not a belief based on hearsay.  It must be taught as a tool for reasoning, and not as unquestioned dogma.




Post 8

Monday, June 26, 2006 - 11:30pmSanction this postReply
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What I draw from the above discussion -- and pretty much everywhere else -- is how much the ARIans have been illegitimately allowed to poison this Who is an Objectivist? debate. It's very similar to when various good and rational people try to debate the important issues of "moral sanction," "toleration," and "open vs. closed system." I think it's vitally important to the health and prosperity of the Objectivist and classical liberal community that these evil or cult or deviant or pseudo Objectivists not be allowed to wantonly define various crucial words and set the terms of the debate.




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Post 9

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - 12:39amSanction this postReply
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Thanks for the quote, Robert. And thanks to everyone else who said kind things about it.

Phil, I agree.  There's nothing wrong with trying defend the philosophy from being bastardized or misrepresented.

I think there is a problem, though.  As the quote said, I think people reasonably want to describe themselves as Objectivists not only because it communicates a lot (to the right circles), but also in acknowledgment of Rand's achievements.  But then you have people who say that Objectivism is whatever Rand wrote, and so you have to agree with her on everything or you're not an Objectivist.  Then the standard becomes complete acceptance.  If someone has an actual different view (on potentially some very derivative issue), they have to try to argue that Rand would agree with them, instead of arguing for what's right and wrong.  They have to look for Rand quotations, instead of making their arguments.  It stops being about ideas, and becomes conforming to a religious text.

There's two easy solutions.  One is for everyone to renounce their Objectivist ties and background, and just promote it as their own personal philosophy.  I wonder how these people would react to authors writing about Objectivist ideas, and not attributing any of it.  No, I think they'd be upset.  I think they'd argue that it is in fact Objectivism that's being promoted, even though there are slight differences.

The other easy solution is to ignore them, use your own best judgment, and move on.  They try to make that choice more difficult by denouncing you, trying to discredit you, and demanding that anyone who feels that they owe Objectivism or Ayn Rand should immediately denounce you as well.  Loyalty and respect pitted against loyalty and respect.

How depressing!




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Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - 2:21amSanction this postReply
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FYI...

Will Thomas will address the topic "Who Is An Objectivist?" at The Atlas Society Summer Seminar next week. Will has given me a bit of a preview of his talk, and I think the fresh considerations he raises will help untangle this perennial question.

I'll present a related talk, "The Anatomy of Cooperation," in which I will discuss the ethics of associating with non-Objectivists and "pseudo-Objectivists" -- and if and when such associations constitute a "moral compromise."




Post 11

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - 7:40amSanction this postReply
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Robert,

These are the issues facing most "Objectivists"; a most excellent agenda.

w




Post 12

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - 2:28pmSanction this postReply
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Joe -- Excellent quote! And at the Summer Seminar my "State of the Culture" talk on mature Objectivism will address some of these issues as well, not just problems with orthodoxy but with the emotionalists as well.



Post 13

Friday, January 19, 2007 - 9:53pmSanction this postReply
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Closed system approach
---------------------------
Resists any changes or new interpretations
Insists on complete adherence
Purges any signs of deviation
Honors the original creator
Insists upon only one true school of thought

Open system approach
---------------------------
Looks to expand the philosophy
Open to finding errors or new interpretations
Accepts higher levels of variation
Brings in new creators
Spawns new schools
Will probably make errors and be messy

Perhaps the optimal approach to the spread of Objectivism arises out of both of these approaches working at the same time. Perhaps they each supply important needs for sustenance and spread of the Objectivism that one alone could not.

Having Rand's ideas all written or recorded isn't enough. Because she is gone, perhaps keeping her voice alive needs a closed system organization wiwth followers and a whole set of structures that give new energy and fresh expression to her work. And who spend a lot of energy policing against any variations, any drift away from the original: Keepers of the Standard. One might have questions on how best way to do this, both in style and effectiveness, but the basic need seems apparent.

The other need is for the system to be able to grow and change. There should always be that force from the Keepers of the Standard, reminding the explorers of the basic premises. That tension acts as a reminder to change carefully. Just to stay alive requires growth and change. But exploration that goes to far in the wrong direction can be fatal - loss of identity, lack of integrity, death by diffusion. Often new applications and understandings will have no where the quality or brilliance they would have if Rand were alive to help. So, there has to be toleration for variation that would not be acceptable in a closed system. It goes without saying that there is good exploration and bad.

It is clear that some balance is best – if the orthodox wing is too strong it restricts growth and overall spread of Objectivism in one way, but where too much exploration there will be damage to the quality and power of Objectivism in another way.

Participants will self-select for what personal balance they want and therefore what organizations fit best. Availability of a reasonable selection of Objectivist variations (providing they don't go anywhere as far as Libertarianism) provides a wider net of attraction for new comers.

So, here is my question. If there is any merit in this view what might we do differently?

--------
Exclaimer: Nothing mentioned here is meant to imply there aren't moral issues to be resolved. And it doesn’t mean there aren’t principles to be applied in ensuring the balance is rationally derived - as opposed to being an accident of memetic evolution.




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Post 14

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - 11:19pmSanction this postReply
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Steve,

I don't agree with the position that we need a balance, and I'll explain why in an upcoming article.  But for this topic, there's a lot more to be said than just taking these two approaches.

For instance, the "closed system approach" tends to lead to literalism and a-contextual interpretations of Rand's writings.  It's as if every statement she made was written by god himself, and must be accepted at face value.

The requirement for 100% agreement leads to a nasty side-effect that all of her ideas are treated as exactly equal in value and importance.  There's no hierarchy of knowledge or values.  There's simply acceptance or not.  This has another effect, which is that every disagreement is fundamental.  It's all or nothing, and what we would think of as a minor disagreement is the equivalent of completely disagreeing with every aspect of the philosophy.

The focus is always kept on whether someone agrees with her, and not whether their ideas are correct.  This creates a filtering process for new ideas that says "Does this agree with Rand's ideas" instead of "does this correspond to reality".

There's nothing positive about any of this, and so no reason at all to seek "balance" between them and the open school.

The open school can have its own problems.  Some variants of the open school may be so wide open, there's nothing resembling Objectivism at the end.  How about an Objectivism that promotes self-denial and sacrifice?  Or an Objectivism that promotes emotionalism or faith?

Again, there's nothing to balance here.  There's nothing positive in these approaches.

But maybe that's because the two "approaches" are actual a plethora of approaches that are falsely lumped in together.  Perhaps there are other approaches that are useful, and don't need to be "balanced".

For instance, how about contextual approach to understanding Objectivism?  Not taking each word as a given, but understanding it all in the context of the rest of the system and of reality.  And a hierarchical approach, point to some aspects as absolutely critical, and others as derivative and so up to modification given a different context or even finding possibilities of error.  Or how about taking the initial writings by Rand and placing them at the center of an Objectivist school of thought, but adding additional works or secondary sources as a supplement.  These approaches aren't a balance between two irrational approaches, but are completely new approaches.




Post 15

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - 3:11pmSanction this postReply
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Joseph,

I've not explained myself well enough. We may still disagree, but at this point I have to be clearer before that could happen.

Ethnologists were talking about how some male birds showed a high degree of 'faithfulness' to their mate whereas others were more 'philanders' - they approached this issue not from the perspective of morality - obviously, since these are birds - but rather from the perspective of which approach would leave the greatest number of viable offspring. That is, which approach made the greatest contribution to the success of the species under question? The faithful male shares work with his mate and his offspring were more likely to survive, being better protected and better fed. But the philandering males left far more offspring. It turned out that a math formula was established showing a 'balance' between the two approaches provided the optimal promotion of this species.

Please take from this, that my use of the word 'balance' does NOT mean changing your ideas about their approach or positions. It means that there are effects that may or may not be intended that will effect the future spread of Objectivism. They happen not inspite of your ideas about open systems or theirs about closed systems but because they both exist.

I was not making a statement about which 'school' of Objectivism is right in any way. (I believe that the open school is the correct one.)

I was talking about an evolutionary view of schools of thought seen over a long period of time. Always tricky since I believe that volition is the most important agent at work.

Imagine that personalities were dropped from the equation and imagine that what was left was an 'orthodox' branch of Objectivism that worked to maintain a closed system but was friendly to other schools, just wanted them called something else. Maybe they decided to name the 'pure' form of Objectivism "Randianism" in honor of Rand and to let Objectivism go unchallenged as an open system as long as it didn't vary in the, say, 5 to 10 key principles (which were enumerated). I can, in a kind of science fiction sort of way, imagine them seeing themselves as keeping the roots of Objectivism strong and preventing the open systems from getting nutty - and encouraging and liking what the open system people were doing. Staying in this fiction, I can see the open system people looking at the "Randians" for input on new ideas as to their relation of the body of Rands actual words - kind of like all were in the same large boat as opposed the ugly masses of mystics and thug-apologists.

It is a view from an imagined future place - asking, "what would have generated a faster spread of the basic ideas without there becoming trashed?" It assumes that good and intelligent people will differ in their opinions.

Now, I need to come clean. I have a motive in this. I would like to see the disagreements between different factions of Objectivism exist in a less emotional, less divisive fashion. I know that there are clearly limits to what is practical to expect in this area. But if you believe in ideas, you have to believe that people can make choices that generate change.

I believe if we could all consider the possibility that in making our choices we end up supporting a faction that isn't the only one that will further Objectivism we might be able to be more effective. The ability to see a positive in another faction doesn't invalidate disagreements or choices a person has made. It can just take some of the unhelpful emotional charge away.

I want to argue for ways to introduce more benevolence among Objectivists.



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Post 16

Thursday, January 25, 2007 - 3:04amSanction this postReply
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Steve,

I think I sort of understand your point about balance.  Basically, each side may provide some benefit to the movement, and you'd like those benefits to be acknowledge by both sides.  Is that about right?  The balance is in pursuing both sets of values.  If that requires two different groups doing things in different ways, but both values are achieved, then that's a kind of balance?

At a very abstract level, I can see the merits in your thoughts.  But I still have a problem when I get more concrete.  Can't both sets of values be pursued by a single group?  For instance, I'm rather orthodox (but not literalist) in terms of Objectivism, while trying to expand into new territory.  I confront crackpots who want to mix their own crazy ideas into Objectivism, while also confronting cultists who ignore truths because Rand didn't say them (or say them clearly enough).

And more importantly, if the "two approaches" are both flawed, then how valuable are their values.  For instance, the literalist camp of Objectivism might be considered as maintaining the purity and stability of the system, but they're really perverting it on their own.  The words will be left for future generations, but the meanings are twisted and taken outside of contexts.  They encourage rote memorization and loyalty to a creed, instead of comprehension to an idea.

Same with the wide-open camp of Objectivism.  They have people mixing religion and Objectivism, or "adjusting" Objectivism to be more palatable to outsiders, or any other distortions.  While they in theory allow for new ideas, the new ideas are completely disconnected from Objectivism and so don't in any way grow the philosophy.

Again, there's no balance there, or any desire for it.  The values are distorted or destroyed by the defects.  That's why you'll have a hard time trying to convince one camp that the other has benefits as well.  Whatever values there might have been are perverted. 

Even if there are actual values (the open approach is usually not the "wide open" approach, for instance), the two camps are in a zero-sum kind of situation.  The closed system people require absolute acceptance and dismiss all other ideas as not Objectivism.  The open approach wants to innovate and grow the philosophy.  Their goals are opposed.  If the philosophy grows, the closed system people lose.  If it doesn't, the open system people lose.

I think the only way to overcome this is by breaking out of this zero sum game.  Your suggestion about Randianism vs. Objectivism comes a lot closer to a real solution since it creates an opportunity for the goals to stop being in conflict, and the benefits of both can suddenly be appreciated on both sides.




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Post 17

Thursday, January 25, 2007 - 4:19amSanction this postReply
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The original context of Joe's quote heading this thread can be found by clicking here.

I don't think that whether someone calls themselves a Transcendental Idealist is so interesting as getting into learning exactly and ever more fully what Kant's philosophy was and then formulating for oneself what is right and wrong and formulating correct solutions to the philosophic problems he was trying to solve. Ditto for Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.

I should perhaps mention that Transcendental Idealism is the name that Kant chose for his philosophy. The name stuck, and no one succeeded in kidnaping the name to cover something other than Kant's philosophy as he wrote it. Similarly, Objectivism is the name that Rand chose for her philosophy. When I use that name, with the capitalization, I mean nothing different than the philosophy of Ayn Rand as she wrote it. Well, no, that is nearly correct, but not quite. I should explain a little further.

In 1976 Rand wrote the following of a new 12-lecture course that Leonard Peikoff had prepared in consultation with her: "Until or unless I write a comprehensive treatise on my philosophy, Dr. Peikoff's course is the only authorized presentation of the entire theoretical structure of Objectivism, i.e., the only one that I know of my own knowledge to be fully accurate." This series of lectures was titled The Philosophy of Objectivism. These lectures were recorded, then heard for several years around the country in a controlled social format---no pirating---by groups of people who paid to hear the lectures. I heard the recorded lectures and took 50 pages of notes. The recordings included Q&A following the lectures, and Rand participated in these (once she had recovered well enough from a major surgery). It was stated at these lectures, and through years after, that Peikoff would work the lectures into a book. This he completed in 1991.

That book is Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. It is. The book is indeed true to the content of his lecture series which were, by Rand's own statement, an accurate presentation of her philosophy. Fortunately, Peikoff references his statements in the book to Rand's own published writings. This is a help in checking for oneself how truly it expresses Rand's philosophy. The diligent reader will find that some of Peikoff's references in OPAR are to the Appendix of the expanded 2nd edition of Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (Appendix added in 1990). This Appendix is a transcription of oral remarks of Rand in a seminar setting, not ideas that Rand had published. The reader can judge well enough how settled these ideas were in Rand's mind, how well they fit with other ideas she did publish, and how far they are true to reality.

Reading Rand's works and Peikoff's OPAR is not difficult. Nonetheless, by the nature of serious philosophy, a general preface is in order (from Henry Fielding):

And now reader---bestir thyself---for though we will always lend thee proper assistance in difficult places, as we do not, like some others, expect thee to use the arts of divination to discover our meaning, yet we shall not indulge thy laziness where nothing but thy own attention is required; for thou art highly mistaken if thou dost imagine that we intended when we begun this great work to leave thy sagacity nothing to do, or that without sometimes exercising this talent thou wilt be able to travel through our pages with any pleasure or profit to thyself.

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 1/25, 7:35am)




Post 18

Thursday, January 25, 2007 - 1:00pmSanction this postReply
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Joseph,

Yes, you understand my use of 'balance'. And you understand that my wish that different groups see some benefit coming from the other (while still disagreeing with them), would result in less unhelpful conflict and more benevolence, and help Objectivism as a movement.

You are right that both sets of values can, and are being pursued - to a degree - within both groups. You fight irrational attempts to add things to Objectivism that don’t belong. And I can only assume that there are differences of opinion, however small, in the way “closed” is to be understood and implemented in the other group. Yet there is a strong enough difference between the group’s approaches to warrant, nay, force two separate groups. That doesn’t mean that over the course of time, as Objectivism becomes more prominent, and more internal differences resolved, that it would not meld into a single group (containing some differing opinions – like biology is).

To say that both approaches are "flawed", as a whole, isn't how I'd say it. In a context of a movement we have a large number of individuals - each with ideas that vary from slightly to significantly different from one another. And we are all changing our ideas as we grow and learn. Different isn't the same as "flawed". There is a utopian or idealistic vision (not the best choices of words) of THE correct view that we all, rightly, work towards. But our arrival may never be fully realized - except way down the road in the distant future (as it is, for example, in the sense that there are now elements of the hard sciences that are only questioned, even on the detail level, by nut-cases). Both the orthodox and the most progressive of Objectivist schools (nut-cases excluded) are in agreement on the most basic principles. But not on many other principles – not by far. So, I’m not saying ‘flawed’ as much as I’m saying some disagreements are still in the works and reasonably so. Some of them may be false arguments; some may be carrying more heat than is helpful; and believing in man’s rational nature, I believe others will find a final resolution.

I am opposed to the same things you are: rote memorization, loyalty to a creed rather than an idea, cult of personality, mixing religion in, denying or ignoring a valid principle to achieve greater attraction to new-comers, etc. I've found nowhere that I disagree on specific actions or positions in this area.

I'm glad you see that what I'm aiming at as breaking out of the zero-sum view and finding the higher, more fundamental values all objectivists share - for the purpose of greater benevolence and increased efficacy in the spread of Objectivism.

I say that in the larger picture there is no zero-sum situation here. I see the zero-sum picture as an error made by both sides. To the extent Objectivism grows it is a success for both sides. I see things being done on both side that are good. In science there are still disagreements (what is the unit of selection in evolution - the gene, the individual, or the species?). But most parties hold to a common, higher value of biology. And each side understands that a friendly adversarial approach helps science. The more benevolence the more useful the collaboration, the quicker and easier each side is able to discover its 'flaws' and discard them.

I appreciate your response. (There is such a difference between honest, intelligent arguments against one's position and the hollow feel of empty rhetoric). I feel understood in this area.





Post 19

Thursday, January 25, 2007 - 9:52pmSanction this postReply
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Steve,
 There is a utopian or idealistic vision (not the best choices of words) of THE correct view that we all, rightly, work towards. But our arrival may never be fully realized - except way down the road in the distant future (as it is, for example, in the sense that there are now elements of the hard sciences that are only questioned, even on the detail level, by nut-cases).

I totally get the point about the nut-case disbelief in some "elements of the hard sciences." I'm thinking here of the Flat Earth Society and of the Young Earth Creationists. But let me ask you a poignant -- yet admittedly rib-jabbing -- question, Steve: What is it that is even more unquestionable than "hard science" is? I'll give you an admittedly-wily hint: It is that which got science off the ground in the first place.

;-)

Some of them may be false arguments; some may be carrying more heat than is helpful; and believing in man’s rational nature, I believe others will find a final resolution.
[Change of tone now] I really like what those words say, Steve.

I say that in the larger picture there is no zero-sum situation here. I see the zero-sum picture as an error made by both sides. To the extent Objectivism grows it is a success for both sides.
Okay, but please be clear as to in what sense you meant by Objectivism's "growing." For instance, if you mean growth in the sense of growing as a systematized philosophy, then to me this is saying what Joe was saying regarding the sides of debate being inherently flawed; in particular, the closed-system side. And, if you mean growth in the "social acceptance" sense (without change in the philosophy, per se), then it's the "open-system" folks losing out -- because then there would be more closed-system advocates.

In short, in order to make sense, you would have to mean that it grows in both senses at the same time. Perhaps that's what you meant, in the context that Objectivism is an objective value for all humans (ie. that any way you can get "the medicine" down their throats, they're better off for it).

Do you think that what I've said here is 100% accurate (even if not 100% precise)?

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 1/25, 9:54pm)




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