The Instigator
HandsOff
Pro (for)
Losing
25 Points
The Contender
brittwaller
Con (against)
Winning
50 Points

Liberals ought to be more optimistic about opportunities for success in the U.S.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/21/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,769 times Debate No: 3324
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (25)
Votes (17)

 

HandsOff

Pro

I used to be annoyed by liberals and their deeply pessimistic attitudes with regard to one's chances for success in this country. It seems to me that, for the most part, they have a contempt for our capitalistic society and believe it stifles opportunity rather than offers the most access to it. I do not wish to argue whether liberals are correct in their critiques of capitalism. It's just that I've become acquainted with some very bright liberals on this site, and I'm starting to worry that their own prospects for success are being compromised by their despairing outlooks. If it is true that we get what we expect in life, I'm not so sure the liberals are on a path to economic advancement.
brittwaller

Con

Thank you for posting this, HandsOff. I look forward to a good debate.

There are a few arguments I will be offering as rebuttals. I cannot pretend to speak for "liberals" as a group (except in the most general sense,) but only for myself and a few friends and acquaintances. But, as HandsOff has spoken of generalities in his first comment, which formally should be ignored (unless he wants to allow me debate supplements in the comments section, in which case the debate might never end) but which I choose to allow on the grounds of his good intent, it should not be a problem even if I do speak more broadly than is usual.
Although most of my views would classify me as liberal, I personally try to avoid that label. "Liberal" isn't so much of a political philosophy now as it is a stereotype (which I will let go, as I may have to use the label "conservative") for those that allegedly want: more taxes, bigger government, institutionalized socialism, peace, free rides, a society of godless and immoral (or amoral) robots, to save trees by embracing them, and have their hearts release blood onto any nearby surface. We can go ahead and add the poor and most modern intellectuals to that list. Regardless of the truth-value of the preceding statements, I venture it is fair to say that this is what conservatives think of when they speak of liberals.

1.1)Optimism or pessimism is a matter of temperament, not politics, philosophy, or reason. Even then, one can be a cheerful pessimist or a gloomy optimist.

1.2)Either way, there is little to no correlation between temperament and "strictly economic" success, excluding the polar extremes of self-destructive behavior and complacent arrogance.

Example: A pessimist and an optimist both go to a job interview. The pessimist is more qualified than the optimist, but *thinks* he will not get the job. The optimist is less qualified, but *thinks* he will get the job. Other things being equal, which would any reasonable employer hire? The candidate which is more qualified, I would think.

1.3)"Ought" implies "can," and if someone is by temperament an optimist or a pessimist, it is futile to say that they "ought" to be different from what they are.

2)Differently, if pessimism/optimism were not a matter of temperament, but of circumstance, and one is a pessimist, *why* should they necessarily change their outlook? "In the game of life, a man can only lose so many hands before he begins to think that losing is the natural consequence of his playing."

3)If most liberals are pessimists, as you claim, it is not only on account of their economic situation, though that may be part of the equation. A chief difference between liberals and conservatives: liberals do not equate success with purely economic success. The debate is on economic success, I understand, but it had to be said. I am not claiming that HandsOff said differently, either; just making a general observation from my own experience.

4)What you mistake for pessimism may in fact simply be a kind of existential melancholy, a longing for something different and better but is unachievable, per the masses of very poor liberals. The poor and uneducated are trapped in the cycle of poverty, and while some may get out, the large majority do not. To paraphrase Warren Buffet: 'Is there class warfare in this country? Of course. My class won.'

5.1)Now, I do not consider myself an optimist or a pessimist, but rather a realist. And the reality is not good for myriad people, regardless of their political persuasion or whether they are optimistic or pessimistic.

5.2)Regarding HandsOff's statement, "It seems to me that, for the most part, they have a contempt for our capitalistic society and believe it stifles opportunity rather than offers the most access to it."
Contrary to popular belief, I am not a socialist, but I am contemptuous of the modern form of capitalism we have in our society; that of corporate welfare, crony capitalism, corporatism, and the culture of conspicuous consumption and consumerism that it promotes. At present, individuals are nothing more than consumers. If they choose not to be a consumer, they are automatically worthless to capitalists. Capitalism is fine; it is our "brand" that disgusts me.

6)Concerning "chances for *personal* economic success": I have already said I am not a pessimist or an optimist, but really, I probably should be an economic Schopenhauer. I am disabled and cannot work, own no assets or real property, have no wealth, and have no inheritance coming. Barring me winning the lottery or something similar: Tell ME I ought to be more optimistic about my chances for economic success. That is as "personal" as I can be.

Britt
Debate Round No. 1
HandsOff

Pro

Thanks Britt.

"1.1) Optimism or pessimism is a matter of temperament, not politics, philosophy, or reason"

I would argue that both are a matter of attitude versus temperament. Temperament is something one is born with-- more of a natural predisposition. Whereas attitude is an orientation of the mind resulting from experiences, opinions, biases and conclusions based on reason-- all of which are typically used to arrive at one's political and philosophical positions. So I hold that it is possible to link one's political philosophy with his tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic in attitude with regard to specific issues. For example, it is safe to say that conservatives, in general, hold a pessimistic view of welfare as an effective way to deal with the poor-- regardless of their natural temperament.

"1.2)Either way, there is little to no correlation between temperament and "strictly economic" success..."

That might be true, but I believe most would agree there is definitely a correlation between ATTITUDE and economic success. And I would also argue that one of optimism is preferable to one of pessimism. For example, success often results from one's willingness to put forth constant and continual effort in pursuit of success. It's reasonable to say it would be much more difficult for one to put forth such effort if he believes his effort will undoubtedly end in failure. Conversely it is reasonable to say a perpetually optimistic person is more likely to continue through a multitude of failures until his optimism is fulfilled. So in your example of the job interview, though I cannot prove optimism will help a less qualified person beat out a more qualified person, I can say with confidence that a relentlessly optimistic candidate is more likely to continue applying for jobs and going on more interviews until he gets hired.

"1.3)"Ought" implies "can," and if someone is by temperament an optimist or a pessimist, it is futile to say that they "ought" to be different from what they are."

Again, neither pessimism nor optimism are products of temperament but of attitude. Since attitude is more persuadable to change than is temperament, it is within reach that one might reverse his attitude of pessimism or at least mitigate it with the proper influences. For example, one could have a pessimistic attitude toward investing in the stock market, and then later become quite optimistic after taking a course on investing. So one can and "ought" to reverse an attitude of pessimism if it will serve him to do so.

"2) ....*why* should they necessarily change their outlook? "In the game of life, a man can only lose so many hands before he begins to think that losing is the natural consequence of his playing."

"why should we change?" Because life is a numbers game. Yes, I am admitting that success requires some luck in addition to hard work. But I also know that luck comes to those who work hard and stay in the game. Optimism is the key to perseverance. It is what keeps us moving forward after multiple failures. Once we become pessimistic and are intellectually and emotionally convinced we were born to lose, there is not sense in continuing. It is, as you say, futile. Keeping a positive attitude is the only way to get passed a string of losing hands (to keep with your analogy) without walking away.

"3)If most liberals are pessimists, as you claim, it is not only on account of their economic situation, though that may be part of the equation."

I believe the reason for economic pessimism on the part of liberals is irrelevant. I just want to make sure we agree that liberals in general hold that attitude. I will assume that you are in agreement because you did not refute it in your 1st round argument-- other than to suggest such pessimism could be referred to as "existential melancholy" (paragraph 4).

"The poor and uneducated are trapped in the cycle of poverty, and while some may get out, the large majority do not."

If I were a betting man I'd say it is likely that the ones who did get out did not see themselves at "trapped" and sustained a belief that it was possible to move ahead.

"I have already said I am not a pessimist or an optimist."

The debate resolution is not aimed at you in particular, but liberals in general. But I appreciate your views, especially those on corporate welfare and conspicuous consumption.

"Barring me winning the lottery or something similar: Tell ME I ought to be more optimistic about my chances for economic success."

Well, in my opinion, you are one of the most eloquent and masterful debaters on this site. Unless you have a greater talent, I would feel strongly optimistic about a career in journalism. I am in no way trying to minimize your particular disability, but I sincerely believe that in this day and age the disabled are more capable than ever before. Thanks to the internet, one does not have to leave home to pursue a college degree, go to work, or even have s face-to-face conversation. Last year my daughter completed her eighth-grade school year online. Her teacher never left the house.
brittwaller

Con

1)"Temperament is something one is born with-- more of a natural predisposition. Whereas attitude is an orientation of the mind resulting from experiences, opinions, biases and conclusions based on reason-- all of which are typically used to arrive at one's political and philosophical positions. So I hold that it is possible to link one's political philosophy with his tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic in attitude with regard to specific issues."

-Agreed; however, one cannot deny the impact of temperament on attitude, and both influence individual behavior and thought. Attitude in itself is a result of experience, opinion, bias, and conclusions based on reason, and these in turn derive from one's environment - their social position and their economic standing, among other things. If these factors have always had negative consequences for an individual, it is only logical that they develop a negative - a pessimistic, or even cynical - worldview, regardless of whether it is temperament or attitude that is claimed to be primarily responsible.

"That might be true, but I believe most would agree there is definitely a correlation between ATTITUDE and economic success..."

-You may believe and most may agree, but do you have any evidence to support this? Even if pessimism and optimism is a function of attitude and not temperament, there is scientifically no reason for supporting one position or the other. Further, many people are often guilty of "optimism bias":
"Optimism bias is the demonstrated systematic tendency for people to be over-optimistic about the outcome of planned actions. People tend to see the future through "rose-colored glasses," as the saying goes. Optimism bias applies to professionals and laypeople alike....
'In a study in search of the brain regions responsible for optimism, researchers noted that "humans expect positive events in the future even when there is no evidence to support such expectations.""
- http://en.wikipedia.org...

"It's reasonable to say it would be much more difficult for one to put forth such effort if he believes his effort will undoubtedly end in failure."

-I disagree. Regardless of optimism or pessimism, people (including pessimistic liberals) still go to work, try to and do advance, and speak out for their causes. Whether or not this person or that person thinks that they will or will not succeed is irrelevant of the reality of any particular situation and its eventual outcome.

"Perpetual optimism" or "relentless optimism" are only examples of realistic naivet´┐Ż, and the same would be true of perpetual pessimism - both are equally objectionable points of view. It is possible that a relentlessly optimistic person may continue through a multitude of failures until his optimism is fulfilled, or on the other hand, until he is broken and becomes a pessimist, whereas the pessimist who was more qualified got the job in the first place. Optimism is not what is called for to overcome this, it is perseverance, a fully different quality, and I argue that neither the optimist or the pessimist are more or less likely than one another to persevere.

"For example, one could have a pessimistic attitude toward investing in the stock market, and then later become quite optimistic after taking a course on investing. So one can and "ought" to reverse an attitude of pessimism if it will serve him to do so.

-Excellent example. Unfortunately, if one's economic circumstances prevent a person from investing (or from even taking the class) there is no reason for optimism. The old saying is that one has to spend money to make money, which I consider a truism, especially in this context; if there is no money to spend in the first place, what reason is there for optimism in making money, or achieving economic success?

2)""why should we change?" Because life is a numbers game. Yes, I am admitting that success requires some luck in addition to hard work. But I also know that luck comes to those who work hard and stay in the game..."

-"Luck" is nothing more than a modern euphemism for Fortune; the luck you describe sounds more to me like inherited social and/or economic standing. However, I agree that life is a numbers game. Of course, you have to 1) be able to play the game, and 2) stay in the game if you fail one or more times. There are many that do not have the resources or ability to do either. If one can play, it is completely possible for them to be a pessimist and still persevere in the face of adversity, as pessimism and perseverance are not mutually exclusive.

3)"I believe the reason for economic pessimism on the part of liberals is irrelevant."

-I think the reason that a person is pessimistic is completely relevant. If pessimism/optimism is a product of attitude as you claim, it most certainly is, as attitude comes from experience, etc., which derives from environment, etc. (see Point 1) Again, *if* p./o. are a result of attitude, who would be more likely to develop either view: rich kid born in the Hamptons, with economic success virtually preceding their existence, or poor kid born in the ghetto of X city?
I also do not hold that liberals in general hold a pessimistic attitude. It is your observation that they are pessimistic, while it is my observation that they are simply realistic.

4)"If I were a betting man I'd say it is likely that the ones who did get out did not see themselves at "trapped" and sustained a belief that it was possible to move ahead."

-Even if one has escaped, it does not necessarily mean that they weren't a pessimist, for the pessimist can believe that it is *entirely possible* to get out, just highly unlikely. As I think we agree that it is only a minority that do get out, the statistics verify that economic pessimists, if they are pessimists, of this kind are somewhat justified, if anyone is, in regard to their stance. From that perspective pessimism may even be the most rational view to hold, except possibly cynicism.

5)"The debate resolution is not aimed at you in particular, but liberals in general. But I appreciate your views, especially those on corporate welfare and conspicuous consumption."

-I understand, but I can only speak of my views as I know them and of others' views as I perceive them. Where you see pessimism, I see realism, for the most part.

6)"Well, in my opinion..."

First, thank you. You yourself have an excellent writing voice and are a great debater. It's funny that you should mention journalism; that was my original major in college. You are quite correct in your assessment of the potential capabilities of many of the disabled in today's world, but I am not quite at the extreme that many are, I admit. It is only those that have it the worst off, with no foreseeable, or even possible, change for the better in store that can claim true pessimism (opposed to the pessimism that I call realism) as their right. This would be perpetual pessimism, objectionable but reasonable in this case; I allow that Bill Gates (or someone similar) can be perpetually optimistic to avoid contradiction. They would even expect someone to try and take that from them - would they not be fully correct, per our current debate?

Back to you, HandsOff

Britt
Debate Round No. 2
HandsOff

Pro

"If these factors [of one's environment] have always had negative consequences for an individual, it is only logical that they develop a negative - a pessimistic, or even cynical - worldview."

Regardless of what is responsible for the formation of one's attitude, it does not change my point that attitudes can be changed with the proper influence.

"Even if pessimism and optimism is a function of attitude and not temperament, there is scientifically no reason for supporting one position or the other."

I think most would take this claim for granted based on our own personal experiences in a variety of areas (career, sports, dating, etc.) that there is a strong correlation between positive thinking and success. But if you need scientific research to back it up, I'd recommend the work of Dr. Martin Seligman who has done much research and written many books on the subject. http://en.wikipedia.org...

"Whether or not this person or that person thinks that they will or will not succeed is irrelevant of the reality of any particular situation and its eventual outcome."

With this statement you're basically saying that if a person walks into a job interview beaming of confidence and optimism because he thinks he will succeed, he will not (in most cases) have an advantage over one who shows signs of pessimism and the resulting lack of confidence. I (and I'm sure most readers) would strongly disagree. Common sense and personal experience suggest otherwise. Also, you have offered no evidence to support your claim that there is no relationship between the way one thinks and the way he performs. Links to additional studies supporting my claims to the contrary can be found here: http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu...

"It is possible that a relentlessly optimistic person may continue through a multitude of failures until his optimism is fulfilled, or on the other hand, until he is broken and becomes a pessimist, whereas the pessimist who was more qualified got the job in the first place. Optimism is not what is called for to overcome this, it is perseverance, a fully different quality...."

Perseverance is a product of one's endurance. Again, common sense dictates that people are less likely to endure multiple attempts at progress if they see little or no hope for success. It requires great endurance and the optimism from which it results to persevere. Your 1st round claim that "In the game of life, a man can only lose so many hands before he begins to think that losing is the natural consequence of his playing" suggest the relationship between optimism (or lack of) and endurance.

"I also do not hold that liberals in general hold a pessimistic attitude. It is your observation that they are pessimistic, while it is my observation that they are simply realistic."

Pessimistic and realistic attitudes are not mutually exclusive of one another. In other words, if you are correct that liberals are realistic, it does not disqualify them from being pessimistic. Pessimism is the quality of having a negative expectation of outcome, regardless of whether said expectation is a realistic one.

"pessimism may even be the most rational view to hold, except possibly cynicism."

It certainly may, but we are only arguing whether such a view would be beneficial or detrimental to success.

In closing, I believe my argument is anchored by two important points which my opponent has not adequately disputed:

1) Liberals are typically pessimistic in their attitudes toward opportunities for success in the U.S.

2) An attitude of pessimism is typically disadvantageous in summoning the courage, confidence and endurance required to make success most likely.
brittwaller

Con

"Regardless of what is responsible for the formation of one's attitude, it does not change my point that attitudes can be changed with the proper influence."

-Yes, attitudes can change, "with the proper influence," an enormous qualifier in this context. My point is that if the factors that are responsible for an individual's attitude being negative in the first place continue, and "the proper influence" is not provided, there is no reason to expect change from that person. Also, "the proper influence" is quite a vague expression.

"I think most would take this claim for granted based on our own personal experiences in a variety of areas (career, sports, dating, etc.) that there is a strong correlation between positive thinking and success."

-I counter that the correlation you speak of is no greater than that of pessimism and failure. If a person *thinks* they are going to win all of the time, they are bound to be correct at least some of the time. Conversely, if a person thinks that they will lose all of the time, they are bound to be correct at least some of the time. My overall idea is that a person can be either an optimist or a pessimist, and, excluding the extremes self-destructiveness or an air of complete superiority, a person's attitude does not conclusively influence the outcome of a given event. Regardless of what they *think* the decision is in the end out of their hands.

"With this statement you're basically saying that if a person walks into a job interview beaming of confidence and optimism because he thinks he will succeed, he will not (in most cases) have an advantage over one who shows signs of pessimism and the resulting lack of confidence. I (and I'm sure most readers) would strongly disagree."

-As I understand it, optimism and pessimism are products of our inner-self and not immediately recognizable (outside of the extremes mentioned above) to others, especially to strangers meeting for the first time at a job interview. When you speak of pessimism in this sense, it sounds more like self-sabotage, which is neither a product of, nor exclusive to, nor synonymous with, pessimism.
Further, confidence is not the handmaiden of optimism. It is completely possible for the pessimist to be confident - his confidence is simply that he will not win, regardless of any other factors, including the fact that he may be the preferred candidate and end up succeeding. "Confidence" would be defined as "self-assurrance" in this context (American Heritage Dictionary, Third Ed.) and self-assurance can swing equally in either direction.

"...[Y]ou have offered no evidence to support your claim that there is no relationship between the way one thinks and the way he performs."

-I never said there was no relationship between these things. My claim is that there is no relationship between what a person internally *thinks* will happen and the actual outcome. I can be as optimistic as I want to about any number of things, but that doesn't mean that any of them are ever going to happen. On the other hand, I can be as pessimistic as I want about a number of things, but it doesn't mean that any of them will not happen. My own forecast for outcomes of events per my internal monologue does not influence those events one way or the other. It simply sounds like wishful thinking; see also my point above on optimism bias.

"Your 1st round claim that "In the game of life, a man can only lose so many hands before he begins to think that losing is the natural consequence of his playing" suggest the relationship between optimism (or lack of) and endurance."

-Not so. I didn't say he would quit playing from losing multiple times, only that he would eventually begin to expect to lose. Even if perseverance were a product of optimism, which it is not (the "pessimistic liberals" you describe are still out there, *trying* to succeed, persevering in the face of adversity - whether they triumph or not is a different matter, still unrelated to how long they endure or persevere), it still has no necessary connection to whatever result is eventually reached. "I am going to drill for oil on this acre of land until I find it, which I will do," said the tycoon. He then proceeded to drill that acre for the rest of his life - unfortunately to no avail. He was optimistic and persevered, but did not succeed.

"Pessimistic and realistic attitudes are not mutually exclusive of one another. In other words, if you are correct that liberals are realistic, it does not disqualify them from being pessimistic. Pessimism is the quality of having a negative expectation of outcome, regardless of whether said expectation is a realistic one."

-You mistake my meaning. I am presenting "realism" as a holistic way of viewing things clearly, rationally, and without optimistic or pessimistic bias, as opposed to a dualistic optimistic/pessimistic outlook where realism is a kind of middle-ground with overlap from both o. and p. Instead of saying "the glass is half-full" or "the glass is half-empty," is it not better to say "There is [X] amount of liquid in the glass"? Differently, if the realistic expectation is indeed negative, would what you call pessimism not be justified?

"In closing, I believe my argument is anchored by two important points which my opponent has not adequately disputed:

1) Liberals are typically pessimistic in their attitudes toward opportunities for success in the U.S.

2) An attitude of pessimism is typically disadvantageous in summoning the courage, confidence and endurance required to make success most likely."

-Number 1 was not so much a point as an assertion of opinion: "I am also claiming that liberals tend to be more pessimistic, strictly by my own observations than do most others."

I think I did dispute your point adequately - 1) by claiming that liberals are not pessimistic but instead realistic and 2) you simply asserted this and let it be, with no evidence to support it except your "own observations." The burden of proof was on you to prove this claim, and you did not do that. Unless you want to allow unsupported assertions of personal observation to be admissible as evidence, in which case I still simply claim that liberals are not pessimists but realists, from my own observations and experience. As I am actually a "liberal," my observation should carry at least as much, if not more, weight than yours.

Number 2: A person can be a pessimist and still be courageous, confident, and enduring - possibly even more so than the optimist if the reasons for his being a pessimist in the first place are truly justified, per my arguments in the preceding rounds. HandsOff wants to ignore the reasons for one's "attitude;" this simply cannot be done in an argument such as this, as one's previous and current social/economic standing have more to do with chances for success than either pessimism or optimism.

In any case, I do not see where HandsOff has proven that "liberals ought to be more optimistic about opportunities for success in the U.S.," as he 1) did not prove that liberals are indeed pessimistic, and 2) did not conclusively show that even *if* they are pessimistic that there is any good reason, beyond being positive for the sake of being positive, why they ought to change their outlook.

Britt
Debate Round No. 3
25 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by brittwaller 9 years ago
brittwaller
I see. Thanks for clearing that up...
Posted by sadolite 9 years ago
sadolite
What am I talking about? One could ask the same question after reading this debate. Probably the most boring debate I ever read. The first 2 rounds just discussed endless angles on how to define optimism and pessimism. What I meant by the comment was while you two discuss how people feel about their futures, the people like me who get things done are making the world go round because we are to busy getting work done. "So quit your bitchen and get to work"

I am not referring to ether of you personally, I am referring to politicians who make dooms day speeches about the future if they don't get elected and other similar people with poor out looks on life.
Posted by brittwaller 9 years ago
brittwaller
The question remains: what does "quit your bitching and get to work!" have to do with ANYTHING that was in this debate? ^shrug^
Posted by sadolite 9 years ago
sadolite
HandsOff, Sorry I forgot to vote when I made my comment. I will vote for you now.
Posted by HandsOff 9 years ago
HandsOff
Not even Sadolite will vote for me. :(
Posted by HandsOff 9 years ago
HandsOff
I'm not a fan of any particular researcher. I just read of a few studies and found sufficient cause for their validity.
Plus I used to be a big fan of sports psychology, and I have experimented with optimism quite a bit myself. Optimism also helped me measurably when I was in sales. I would literally brainwash myself to toss aside all possibility of failure and to beleive I was the best at what I do. Thereafter, my words and non-verbals communicated the same to my prospect. It really does work. I assumed we had all gotten ourselves psyched up with optimism at one time or another.

http://www.maxmore.com...
Posted by brittwaller 9 years ago
brittwaller
What are you talking about sadolite?
Posted by sadolite 9 years ago
sadolite
I've never seen so many words say so little, I'll sum it up in 7 words for the able bodied person, "quit your bitching and get to work!"
Posted by Yraelz 9 years ago
Yraelz
I'm failing to see the scientific evidence on this one. Seligman is maker of positive psychology as opposed to the normal negative philosophy. It focuses around being happy which yes can factor into being optimistic. However it doesn't mean one can't be pessimistic and happy at the same time.
Posted by HandsOff 9 years ago
HandsOff
Yraelz,

"Oh, I do still contest that optimism and pessimism in themselves have a positive or negative effect"

If so you would be choosing your personal opinion over scientific evidence to the contrary. This does not sound like you. Has someone hijacked your computer?

My summary was not exclusively for you. I was looking for verification from all who have voted thus far. But a clear-cut "yes" or "no" on each of my 5 inferences would be more helpful in my understanding voter mindset.
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Derek.Gunn
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Vote Placed by Jamcke 9 years ago
Jamcke
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Vote Placed by Handout 9 years ago
Handout
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Vote Placed by eweb53 9 years ago
eweb53
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