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February 8, 2010

You will recall that the conservatives who ruled Greece up to the crisis have been accused of lying to the EMU and “cooking their books” – that is, reducing the reported public debt levels.

In today’s Der Spiegel (German version) we learn that Goldman Sachs helped the Greek government in its “embellishments” via the use of “complex financial instruments” – cross-currency swaps. The swaps allowed the Greek government to report a lower Euro debt by exploiting cross-currency exchange rates. billyblog

Euro Falling, US Recovery Under Threat

The G7 achieved nothing over the weekend, the IMF is stuck on the sidelines, and the Europeans are sitting on their hands at least until a summit on Thursday. There is a lot of trading time between now and then – and most of it is likely to be spent weakening the euro further.

The UK also faces serious pressure, and there is no telling where this goes next around the world – or how it gets there.

There may be direct effects on the US, as our banking system remains undercapitalized. Or the effect may be through making it harder to export – one of the few bright spots for the American economy over the past 12 months has been trade. But this is unlikely to hold up as a driver of growth if the euro depreciation continues.

Some financial market participants cling to the hope that the stronger eurozone countries, particularly Germany, will soon help out the weaker countries in a generous manner. But this view completely misreads the situation.

Secret summit of top bankers

THE world’s top central bankers began arriving in Australia yesterday as renewed fears about the strength of the global economic recovery gripped world share markets.

Representatives from 24 central banks and monetary authorities including the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank landed in Sydney to meet tomorrow at a secret location, the Herald Sun reports.

Organised by the Bank for International Settlements last year, the two-day talks are shrouded in secrecy with high-level security believed to have been invoked by law enforcement agencies.

Speculation that the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Dr Ben Bernanke, would make an appearance could not be confirmed last night.

Suckers, suckers, all around.
And blood funnels.

76 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    February 8, 2010 8:24 am

    Here’s an article that rips into the Chicago contingent of team “<o" in analysing recent failures.

    America: A fearsome foursome

    • cometman permalink*
      February 8, 2010 9:51 am

      If Obama has “lost control of the narrative”, he doesn’t have to look much farther than his retard chief of staff to figure out why. Pissing off the base that put you there is not very smart politics. I still can’t fathom why he picked that asshole, but when he made Rahm his very first pick IIRC for his new administration I felt a lot better about not voting for him.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    February 8, 2010 8:50 am

    More on Greece from Zedge

    Deutsche Bank And Unicredit Pull Out Of Greek Repo Market, Cease Lending Against Greek Collateral

    Bailout rumor refusal – check, bank/country run – check, collateral pulls – check. If anybody tells you there is everything in common between Greece and Lehman/AIG, believe them. The latest escalation in the Greek crisis comes courtesy of Greek daily Banking News which notes that the latest nail in the Greek coffin comes from formerly major Greek players, Deutsche Bank and Unicredit, which over the past 2-3 weeks have ceased accepting Greek collateral and have pulled out of the Greek repo market altogether.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 8, 2010 10:20 am

      I caught a brief report on the BBC News about Greece over the weekend. According to the douchebag they were interviewing, Greece had a history of promising reform and austerity measures they didn’t follow through with. Their problems were supposedly the result of not privatizing all their national industries to the satisfaction of the oligarchs. A truckload of virtual steel toed boos was hurled after seeing that one.

  3. cometman permalink*
    February 8, 2010 9:40 am

    Nice post. I liked that Billyblog article. Haven’t read him before that I remember but he brings up a lot to think about. His point about the changing the terminology to meet ideological needs is a good one – I’ve noticed over the last year or so that lots of people seem to have lots of definitions for what “Keynesian” really is. To put it more simply than maybe it should be, I’ve always thought that Keynesian economic policies were what was used during the New Deal but I’ve definitely seen the freemarketeers describe some ideas as “Keynesian” that sound like they are straight out of the Milton Friedman playbook.

    His thoughts about deficits and debt and that a sovereign nation can always pay its own debts by creating more of its own money are interesting too. The other guy I’ve read a lot who thinks along similar lines is Marshall Auerbach. It makes sense up to a point, but the question I have is if the government starts printing money to pay off its debts, doesn’t that just make the money that’s in my wallet worth less? And that would be OK up to a point too as long as wages rise eventually. But if the government just prints a bunch of money which is then captured by the oligarchs, I don’t see that as getting us out of the problem – it’s just recycling the problem all over again.

    Articles like that one really show the ephemeral nature of money in general. Can’t quite get all my thoughts about this in order, but I think this is a very important concept. Money is only useful so long as everyone is playing by the same or fairly similar rules. When everyone is playing by different rules or the rules are so difficult to understand that nobody really knows what is going on or there simply aren’t any rules anymore everything starts to break down. Over the last several decades the oligarchs have gotten the idea that life can be made better for everyone through the wonders of high finance. It simply hasn’t worked – it’s made a relative few extremely rich while people starve on the streets in front of glittering skyscrapers funded by money that wasn’t ever really there. Unregulated capitalism based on finance is an abject failure and until people remember that it is labor which creates wealth we will continue on this cycle which is disastrous for the majority of people. A dollar bill isn’t going to cut down a tree, turn it into lumber and build a house with it. The banksters who wail that the sky is falling are only trying to save their own parasitic hides. If finance fails, sure things would get difficult as the inevitable readjustment occurs. But it might get better for a lot of people too. What would happen if the failure of finance and neo-liberal economic policies made it so the US couldn’t subsidize the food production of big agribusiness and dump it on third world countries for less than those countries can produce it themselves? All those people who were thrown off their land as a result might be able to make a living again. There are plenty of people who know how to grow food and actually make things in this world but they can’t compete with the huge conglomerates who can survive off of the low margins finance makes possible. The parasitic finance class who can’t do anything but play casino games with fiat money are afraid that too many people are catching on to the scam they’ve been running.

    Somehow though, I suspect that these ideas are not what these bankers are discussing at their secret meeting this week.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 8, 2010 10:39 am

      If those banksters are discussing labor it is most likely only about where it can next best be exploited at near zero wages. They are absolutely parasites. Places like Haiti and Mexico are perfect examples where banksters financed big corporate factory jobs, luring people off their small farms and into the urban ghettos. Then, all too quickly those jobs and factories were whisked off to China and elsewhere in Asia, leaving the locals jobless, landless, homeless and hungry. The non symbiotic parasitism will continue until the hosts learn to stand up and shed themselves of these ticks and fleas.

      On the nature of money these days and the lack of regulation and guidance, I’m reminded of what it was like as a youngster playing chess or monopoly with my much older siblings. They made up a whole other set of rules for their little sister making a fair game impossible. The rules could change on the spur of the moment, making Baltic more valuable than Park Ave when I happened to land on it. Reminds me of dealing with Bank of America and Citigroup.

      The banksters, their so called regulators and their accomplices in Congress have conspired to no longer comply with the agreed upon rules. They make up the rules for us peons with their fees and interest rates as the spirits of profitability move them. Yes, this is exactly what it was like playing Monopoly with my siblings all those many years ago.

      I think it has come time to flip the board.

      • cometman permalink*
        February 8, 2010 11:54 am

        Amen. Flip it over, crush the pieces with a nine pound hammer and fire the debris into the sun.

        I spent the weekend trying to get my taxes straight only to find out that somehow I owe the state instead of getting a refund and fighting with the home insurance company who sent me a letter telling me the rates were going up based on some questionnaire my wife filled out about how our house was constructed 105 fucking years ago. None of these costs are astronomical but neither are our salaries and now it looks like the vacation I was planning and had been saving for for a long time will have to be postponed. Of course maybe we’ll make it up because my wife switched from crappy health insurance to even crappier insurance with a bullshit health savings account in order to save a little $$$. As long as nobody gets sick at least.

        We’re all getting nickel and dimed to death by these bastards.

  4. cometman permalink*
    February 8, 2010 10:28 am

    So Caribou Barbie didn’t like it when Rahm used the word “retard” but when Limbaugh used the exact same word to describe the exact same people it was perfectly fine. All of which goes to show that Sarah Palin is a fucking retard.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 8, 2010 10:44 am

      She is absolutely a motherfucking retard who sounds exactly like a chicken as one grasps it by the head and flings it in circles hoping for eventual decapitation.

      • artemis54 permalink
        February 8, 2010 3:13 pm

        Oh c’mon. What do you really think?

      • cometman permalink*
        February 9, 2010 10:29 am

        Haha! Does Stephen Colbert read the cephaloblog? He seemed to concur with our assessment of the Killa from Wasilla last night. Video at the bottom of this link in case anybody missed it.

  5. cometman permalink*
    February 8, 2010 10:55 am

    This post from zerohedge favorite Rosenberg does a good job of explaining the current predicament and it sounds like one giant game of chicken among the central bankers.

    First the governments bail out the banks who were (are) basically insolvent. Then these governments, especially in Europe, see their balance sheets explode and face escalating concerns over sovereign default.


    Now, the ball is put back onto the banks because many have exposure to the areas of Europe that are facing substantial fiscal problems right now.


    In a nutshell, toxic assets have basically been swept under the rug in the hopes that we will outgrow the problem. Leverage ratios across every level of society are still reaching unprecedented levels as the public sector sacrifices the sanctity of its balance sheet in its quest to stabilize the dubious financial position of the household and banking sectors in many parts of the world.


    The bottom line is that even if the fiscally-challenged countries of Europe do not end up defaulting, or leaving the Union, the reality is that they will have to take draconian measures to meet their financial obligations. Devaluation was the answer in the past in Greece but it cannot rely on that quick fix this time around without leaving EMU and if it did, then that could make it even harder to service its Euro-denominated debts — at least not without a restructuring. And, if Greece did attempt at a debt restructuring, rest assured that Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland would be next — we are talking about a combined $2 trillion of potential sovereign debt restructuring that would more than triple the $600 billion direct cost of the Lehman bankruptcy.

    Government took on private debt making their own problems even worse. Hoping that the world would inflate its way out of this was really a ridiculous prospect. Creating another bubble so that the bad debts of the last one would appear small is stupid beyond belief. Nobody wants to be the first to change course and see their money devalued because then they are at a distinct disadvantage. As the first commenter to that post mentioned, even if you devalue and make exports cheap, who are you going to sell them to if one country after another has to go through the same process? Of course when it all comes crashing down the vultures from the banks will be there to “fix” it all again.

    Unless we get meaningful systemic change in the way business is conducted, it won’t just be third world countries where everyone works to pay off the banks for the bad decisions made by somebody else.

    Time for a Debt Jubilee if you ask me. Declare all bets off and start over again.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 8, 2010 1:50 pm

      Pam Martens has an excellent article today which speaks to the theme of your post and my comment above alluding to the fact that the banks will clean up no matter what happens to the rest of us. She makes the case plainly and simply that there is absolutely zero incentive for banks to do the right thing and until there is they will continue to rake it in using other people’s money.

      This point is key and something rarely mentioned over the last year or two:

      Investment banks that arrange these initial public offerings of new companies or merge together existing ones are now located within the “too big to fail,” publicly traded commercial banks. But they used to be private partnerships and put their own money at risk when bringing a new company to market. When their own money was at risk, there was a far greater due diligence done to ensure the company would be viable. That’s gone now. There’s no incentive to be vigilant. It’s OPM: other people’s money to throw down on the casino table.

      And the sucker in that casino is all of the rest of us.

      The only way a system this riddled with conflicts of interest and contempt toward its own customers’ interests could have survived this long was by grabbing that huge depositor base of money from the commercial banks and then trading it into oblivion. The newest patsy in this grand bank heist is the taxpayer who is replenishing the empty vaults.

      The old mantra of buy and hold for the long term is no more. As she mentions in the article, the only way financial reps get paid is by the fees they generate so churn and burn becomes the new operating procedure. And if customers won’t churn and burn their own accounts on a broker’s advice, the investment bank will do the churning and burning itself through high frequency proprietary trading with borrowed money which can and has sent many modest investment portfolios spiraling into the toilet.

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 8, 2010 7:53 pm

        Martens does it again. Damn, it is worse than I thought and I thought it was bad. Again I’m reminded that we have been witness to a massive coup d’etat and swindling of extraordinary width and depth.

        So if Wall Street is not properly allocating capital to viable companies, it’s not rewarding its shareholders or customers, remind me again why taxpayers are spending trillions to save it?

        Why indeed. Pirates and thieves, all of them.

  6. cometman permalink*
    February 8, 2010 11:11 am

    This just makes me want to go ballistic for so many reasons – In a Message to Democrats, Wall St. Sends Cash to G.O.P. Time for a smoke before I start kicking small dogs and children.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 8, 2010 1:09 pm

      When the stupid puts me at a loss for words, it’s nice to have David Michael Green to give a voice to my frustration.

      The layers of the American political pathology are so multiple and so deep, it’s sometimes hard to know where to start.

      It’s not so much that we’re a country with problems. Every country has its challenges, and compared to much of the rest of the world I’d take our particular batch hands-down. It’s just that so many of ours are self-inflicted.

      Still, looking out across the panoply of peril, all the unfortunate ways in which we get it wrong as a society, I can’t help but think that what’s at the bottom of the stack, providing a foundation for the rest, is a profound national stupidity. Maybe it’s my professional bias as an educator, but I often think that our biggest single problem is our (often willful) ignorance. Moreover, that’s the single national characteristic that enables so many of our other maladies. If only we would allow ourselves to think, it seems to me, so much of the inanity that passes for normal in our politics [like the entirety of the discussion in the NYT article above-Cman] would be laughed off the stage, and we’d all sure be a lot better off for it.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 8, 2010 1:23 pm

      White hot anger indeed. It does make one want to burn a poker to the molten stage and pop a banksters balloon with it. Leave the poor puppies and children alone! You can take out a retard though. ;P

      There will be no end to the outrage it seems. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! I liked your idea above of wiping the slate clean and starting over. The banksters here will never ever agree to it though and the government will only continue to cover their bad bets.

  7. cometman permalink*
    February 8, 2010 1:18 pm

    Just noticed from this Chris Hedges piece that Aafia Siddiqui has been convicted. That, despite the fact that she wasn’t tried on terrorism charges but for he role in an incident where she puportedly opened fire on US military personnel despite the fact that none of them were hurt and she wound up with a couple bullets to the stomach. And this after being held in a secret prison by the US for five years. From the many articles I’ve read on this incident, it sure appears that after her treatement by the US, Siddiqui is not entirely in her right mind anymore. And yet she’s now facing up to 50 years in prison while those who did this to her are still walking free among the rest of us somewhere.

  8. Stemella permalink*
    February 8, 2010 1:42 pm

    Adding insult to the injury, hot vomit to the nausea, and ultimately, rat piss to the catshit,

    Credit Suisse to nearly double U.S. wealth advisers

    “Credit Suisse says its focus on serving only the very rich — individuals with assets totaling at least $10 million”

    “For the past three years, in the midst of the worst environment in decades, we doubled the size of our business,” said DeChellis. “We’ve been able to take advantage of some of the dislocation.”

    Credit Suisse has “aggressive growth plans” this year, Paul Simons, co-head of Credit Suisse’s U.S. private bank, said in a separate interview.

    The bank added 50 advisers in 2007, 120 during turbulent 2008, and roughly 50 last year — more than doubling its advisory force over three years.

    “Last year we grew when there weren’t a lot of wealth managers that did,” said Simons, adding that he expects to continue recruiting advisers this year.

    Ou est la guillotine? Cherchez la guillotine.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 8, 2010 2:03 pm

      Motherfuckers. Dammit I am surly today – been dropping a lot more f-bombs than usual. But ferchrissakes, what else can you do when you read drivel like that first paragraph you quoted? Of course they’re making more money as all these fucking crooks take their ill gotten gains and park them in secret Swiss bank accounts. Haven’t seen that there were any terrible consequences as a result of the very, very few accounts the Swiss had to disclose a while back. So why wouldn’t they keep doing it? Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  9. cometman permalink*
    February 9, 2010 9:08 am

    I will never be able to quit smoking as long as people like this exist. Things like this make me want to keep smoking out of pure spite.

    Alyssa Burrage says she was smoked out of her new $405,000 condominium.

    Burrage, a 32-year-old advertising company employee with a history of asthma, had smelled cigarettes when she first visited the bright, parlor-level condo in Boston’s South End in 2006 with her real estate broker. But the broker, she alleges, assured her that the owner must be a smoker and the stench would disappear.


    Today, in what tobacco law specialists call one of the first lawsuits of its kind to go to trial in Massachusetts, a jury is scheduled to decide whether Burrage’s real estate broker is liable for damages.

    So you have asthma and you smell cigarette smoke a condo you’re thinking about buying and the agent admits that smokers had lived there. Here’s a hint retard – DON’T BUY THAT CONDO. Of course the first thing that would have convinced me not to buy that condo was that it was priced at $405,000 in a condo market that was grossly overbuilt and was taking a nosedive. The article doesn’t mention what this dumb woman’s condo is valued at today but if I were the lawyer going against her in court I’d sure as hell find out.

    Burrage, who has leased her condo out since she left the building in May 2008, says she dislikes confrontations and is hardly an antismoking crusader.

    Still owns the condo huh? Sounds like somebody overpaid for some real estate, couldn’t unload it for at least what they paid for it and is looking to make up for the loss through a lawsuit. Dislikes confrontation and hardly an antismoking crusader? I guess that explains why she sued everyone she could think of including the poor bastards who had been living there before she got there and were smoking in their own damn homes for fuck’s sake.

    Burrage also sued the two men in the downstairs condominium – Edward J. Allan, who owns the two-story garden-level apartment, and Michael Schofield, the smoker who has lived with Allan for 13 years – and the condominium association. All three defendants settled with Burrage out of court yesterday, according to Burrage’s lawyer, Colleen C. Cook.


    … Schofield agreed to pay Burrage a settlement yesterday because it was less expensive to do that than to pay for his defense at trial…

    Weaseling cash out of your neighbors because it’s cheaper just to pay than to fight for something they were doing legally. Ain’t America great?

    Meanwhile I’m going out for a cigarette while I still can without getting sued.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 9, 2010 9:29 am

      Sounds like you nailed her real intentions. It makes me feel surly too how people who already have plenty of money to blow on overpriced real estate can get away fucking over people further down the ladder. Lesson #1 in America. Crime pays.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 9, 2010 10:20 am

      Looks like I’m going to need a lot of smoke breaks today. Now it’s third hand smoke that’s going to kill us all.

      ….a US study says third-hand smoke — tobacco residue clinging to surfaces — is also bad for you.

      When a cigarette burns, nicotine is released in the form of a vapor that collects and condenses on indoor surfaces such as walls, carpeting, drapes and furniture, where it can linger for months, said the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

      So if you’re somebody with a furniture licking fetish….BEWARE!!!!!!!

      So we can rip the tops off mountains to get at the coal, continue building gas guzzling automobiles which belch out unhealthy fumes all over the place, bomb the living shit out of countries with depleted uranium which sticks around for centuries and will seriously fuck you up, create huge dead zones in the oceans from pollution, etc etc etc and we aren’t going to do jack shit about any of this. But it’s the third hand smoke that’s going to get us. Not sure which burns worse – putting a lit cigarette out on your arm or the stupid coming from the anti-smoking crusaders.

      • cometman permalink*
        February 9, 2010 11:03 am

        Son of a bitch this dumbass study is everywhere today – on the science sites, on yahoo, on news sites. WTF?

        • Stemella permalink*
          February 9, 2010 11:26 am

          Here’s someone in Canada who takes umbrage with the study too

          Third-hand smoke, first-rate nonsense

          • cometman permalink*
            February 9, 2010 11:44 am


            The point at which your activism goes from being an attempt to protect people from harm to a plot to make life harder for people with a weakness, is the point you should probably call it quits.

    • triv33 permalink
      February 10, 2010 8:56 am

      What a bunch of total fucking bullshit! I swear, if it weren’t for modern forensics and the probability that I would be sued, I’d track her down and mail her a bag of my hermetically sealed exhaled smoke. That’s right, I lit up and started smoking furiously halfway through reading and I don’t intend to stop. Money grubbing, lying, crusading, confrontational scum. Oh, fuck her sideways.
      We’re expecting another foot or so of snow here, so I’m a tad cranky…

      • cometman permalink*
        February 10, 2010 10:24 am

        Ha! I actually did blow smoke in the faces of some bratty kid and his dad one time at a ball game several years ago when they were haraguing me about putting out my cigarette. I was promptly escorted from the ballpark but it was totally worth it :)

        • triv33 permalink
          February 10, 2010 10:57 am

          Oh, um…I’ve done spiteful measures myself. :P Why, just now I’ve sent my husband out walking in a nor’easter in search of Marlboro Reds. I told the sumbitch to go last night, but did he listen? No. I might feel worse if he was a non-smoker.

  10. Stemella permalink*
    February 9, 2010 9:37 am

    Here’s a couple of articles about recent developments in tech and materials that could change our lives to a certain degree, maybe for the better?

    Painless Plasma Jets Could Replace Dental Drills.

    Based on past history, the combination of the words painless and dentist brings a smile to my face.

    Spray-on liquid glass is about to revolutionize almost everything

    This new material resulting from nanotechnology could be a huge benefit in reducing the need for so many nasty toxic solvents used in current industrial films and coatings. It could also reduce the need for many nasty industrial and household cleansers. The latter may make it less easily accessible to us thanks to the household cleanser lobby and dealers. Typical.

    Liquid glass spray is perhaps the most important nanotechnology product to emerge to date. It will be available in DIY stores in Britain soon, with prices starting at around £5 ($8 US). Other outlets, such as many supermarkets, may be unwilling to stock the products because they make enormous profits from cleaning products that need to be replaced regularly, and liquid glass would make virtually all of them obsolete.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 9, 2010 10:38 am

      Neat-O. That first one sounds like a neutron bomb for teeth.

      That liquid glass sounds really interesting. The article mentions that it’s safe to breath. Maybe it’s so slick it can’t stick to anything inside you and passes right through?

      I think I’m going to buy a bottle and spray it all over people who complain about third hand smoke sticking to their belongings. Problem solved!

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 9, 2010 11:19 am

        hahahaha Oh c-man, I don’t mean to laugh at your surlyness, but that is too funny. It probably would work to coat their belongings! As to the safety of breathing the stuff, I don’t know about that. I’d wanted it tested on many many rattuses first. Silica inhalation tends to lead to silicosis, buy maybe the particles are so small they don’t settle in the lungs like larger silica or asbestos. It is neat that it does breath though, allowing air transfer once applied, like Gortex. We can all be cinderallas now with glass coated slippers. :)

        • cometman permalink*
          February 9, 2010 11:47 am

          I wasn’t planning on being this surly again today but I got smacked in the face with retarditude this morning on my way to the sports page and it hasn’t let up yet ;)

          • cometman permalink*
            February 9, 2010 1:23 pm

            Ok I’m a little less surly now after reading some of the comments from that smoking lawsuit article. There are some who feel that the real estate agent should be responsible for divulging whether the neighbors smoked or not to which I have to ask, how in the hell is a real estate agent supposed to know the personal habits of everyone in the neighborhood of the property they’re trying to sell?!?!? Xrist almighty. But most of the comments were running against this stupid stupid woman. My favorite:

            I’d like to light one up at Alyssa’s door (and I don’t even smoke). Get over yourself honey and go move under a rock (preferably one that falls from 40 feet).


  11. Stemella permalink*
    February 9, 2010 9:51 am

    Here’s Felix Salmon’s take on the Greek Vampire Squid connection

    How Greece hid its borrowing in the swaps market

    and the English version of the Der Spiegel article on which it’s based

    How Goldman Sachs Helped Greece to Mask its True Debt

    and here is Stiglitz discussing the issue.

    Apparently Stiglitz is consulting with the Greek government. He thinks they should let the gamblers fail. I tend to agree strongly.
    Greek crisis intensifies as Joe Stiglitz calls for Europe to ‘teach the speculators a lesson’

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 9, 2010 10:03 am

      And it appears Germany and the EU will be taking Stiglitz’s advice. Details are still unclear, but the roulette players on Wall Street are having a spree.

      a senior German ruling coalition source said euro zone governments have decided in principle to help debt-burdened Greece and that various options were being considered.

      The Dow Jones industrial average gained 151.00 points

      • cometman permalink*
        February 9, 2010 12:05 pm

        The z-hedgers are reporting that the German deal is off and the previous reports may have been the Germans running something up the flagpole to see what the reaction in the markets would be. Guess they didn’t like what they saw.

        Meanwhile the speculators have $8 billion in bets down against the euro. That sum may seem small compared to the bailouts the banks have received and the bonuses they have paid themselves, but once upon a time that was considered a lot of money.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 9, 2010 11:00 am

      What a racket. Goldman makes a big profit brokering this shady deal which eventually blows up and contributes to causing a financial crisis, and then the speculators, a group which I can only assume includes some Goldies, cash in again by shorting the currency of the country they set up in the first place.

      Absolute insanity. What’s it going to take to hold any of these bankers accountable, even if it’s only by regulation so they can’t continue making these kind of deals? Driving entire nations’ economies into the ground hasn’t been enough yet.

      Hopefully the EU will keep listening to Stiglitz.

  12. cometman permalink*
    February 9, 2010 11:33 am

    The senility of the old gray lady has evidently reached the terminal stage. We’ve been hearing rumblings that Obama and the Democrats will make a push to gut social security and here’s the NYT adding fuel to the fire with one of those editorials they don’t have the balls to attache their names to. How does one even attempt to reconcile these mind-numbingly contradictory statements?

    From the beginning of the editorial:

    …the cold economic truth is this: At a time of high unemployment and fragile growth, the last thing the government should do is to slash spending. That will only drive the economy into deeper trouble.

    So we shouldn’t cut spending because it will hurt the vulnerable. Ok I’m with you. So what is the solution? Why, it’s slashing the benefits of the vulnerable!

    And then there is Social Security. What is needed is a combination of benefit cuts and tax increases that preserve the program’s essential nature — a contract under which the young support the old via taxes and the rich help the poor via a benefits formula that favors low- income beneficiaries. One sound approach would be to link benefit levels to life expectancy, so that as people live longer, future benefits would be modestly reduced while payroll taxes that support Social Security would be modestly increased.

    The longer you live, the more you’re just going to have to get used to eating cat food.

    Slashing the bloated defense budget of course was not an option.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 9, 2010 1:27 pm

      You know what? We are so fucked.

      I saw another trial balloon floated on that same thing on the accursed CNBC where bimbo of the hour asked Larry the Cane toad whether the Administration would fess up and admit the only course of action was to cut all those entitlement spending programs like Medicare, Social Security, extending retirement age etc. He croaked some innanities but essentially concurred. And as with the gray lady, there was zero mention of an inkling of a thought of cutting any guns and bombs spending.

      The poison

      The antidote

      • cometman permalink*
        February 9, 2010 1:41 pm

        The head banging muppets were awesome!!!!!! Thanks for that one :)

  13. cometman permalink*
    February 9, 2010 1:36 pm

    Chris Floyd has a good rundown of recent events at Britain’s Chilcot Inquiry and finishes with a flourish.

    O that the universe was not cold and indifferent, with no avenging furies to drive these bloodstained, sanctimonious wretches into soul-rending storms of madness and remorse. But there is not even an earthly venue where the scurrying servitors of power can receive even a modicum of justice. All we have are a few locked-down, buttoned-up, quasi-secret panels of worthies here and there now and then, to cause, at most, a moment or two of embarrassment before the servitors walk free to line their pockets and heap themselves with honors. Their only punishment, I suppose, must be to be what they are: the stunted, deadened husks of a full humanity that they have lost and will never recover.

  14. cometman permalink*
    February 9, 2010 2:37 pm

    Have we mentioned this here before? Evidently Ireland passed a law against blasphemy which went into effect on Jan. 1st of this year.

    On that same date Atheist Ireland published this list of 25 blasphemous quotations containing one from cephaloblog favorite Frank Zappa.

    And now the Oonagh Young gallery in Ireland is showcasing an exhibit of blasphemous art which runs through the end of February. Sound quality isn’t that good and the accent is pretty thick, but I bet they’re saying something goddamned hilarious in that jingle at the beginning and end of the clip.

    All of which goes to show what a slippery slope it is when a country starts by banning smoking. Now it’s cursing. Can prosecuting lecherous old leprechauns for staring too long at young ladies’ jumpers be far behind? :P

    • cometman permalink*
      February 9, 2010 2:44 pm

      Ok that jingle is really goddamned Jesus H(ilarious)!

      The lyrics were one of the 25 blasphemous quotations:

      Jaysus oh Jaysus, as cool as bleedin’ ice, With all the scrubbers in Israel he could not be enticed, Jaysus oh Jaysus, it’s funny you never rode, Cause it’s you I do be shoutin’ for each time I shoot me load.

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 10, 2010 6:58 am

        Aie. ‘Tis nothin like the sweet smell of blasphemy in the mornin’
        Sweet Jaysus, Merry n Josef Aie. that was fabulous! :D

  15. Stemella permalink*
    February 10, 2010 7:03 am

    I watched Herzog’s “Wheel of Time” last night. Phenomenal movie. That last scene of the sole monk in the center of the universe of pillows resonated and will stay with me. Truly a beautiful and moving film. Thanks for recommending it.

    And with that I have to trudge to the outer trenches for the next couple of days. I’ll check in when I can. For those in the snowzones, stay safe and hang in there. It looks like a Noreaster from icy hell.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 10, 2010 8:53 am

      Glad you liked it. The next film of his I want to see is Where the Green Ants Dream. I may make a night of it and get Peter Weir’s “The Last Wave”. Haven’t seen that one in years but it sounds like it would go well with the Herzog film.

      Just noticed while I was getting that link above that Herzog did a movie last year called My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? based on a guy with some Oedipus issues who murdered his mom. Herzog directed (yay) but David Lynch produced it (booooooooo). Now I can’t figure out whether to watch it or not :P

      Funny thing lately with the weather. The midcoast Atlantic has been getting pounded but we haven’t had a flake up here in the north for weeks. Yesterday it was close to 50 degrees. Not sure if we’re supposed to get any snow tonight or not.

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 12, 2010 8:12 am

        Weir and Herzog are my two favorite contemporary directors and those two films are of their best. I haven’t seen them in a long time too, but they will compliment each other perfectly, in a down undah and dreamtime way.

  16. artemis54 permalink
    February 10, 2010 7:22 am

    Speaking of rhetorical flourish, and tangential to the religious theme, here’s Stephen Fry taking on the Catholic church.

    I would recommend this clip to all the village atheists scattered around the net. If you are going to go head to head with the church, cheap and cheesy antinomianism won’t do. Do it like Stephen, in Latin.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 10, 2010 8:55 am

      That was great. The white haired woman the camera kept panning to looked like someone had just taken a piss in her blood of xrist.

      • artemis54 permalink
        February 10, 2010 11:07 am

        That’s Ann Widdecombe, the Anita Bryant of Kent. She left the C of E for Rome when the former voted to allow women priests!

    • triv33 permalink
      February 10, 2010 11:05 am

      Now, that’s one I have to pass along, I know a few people who will really get a kick out of that. From the opening with Oscar Wilde to closing with telling them to redeem themselves by divesting themselves of their obscene wealth…us recovering Catholic School kids can’t get enough of that stuff.

  17. cometman permalink*
    February 10, 2010 9:24 am

    Guess all that money from the financial industry that started to go to republicans recently has gotten the attention of “<0". Remember those "fat cats" whose bonuses were obscene just a few days ago? Now "<0" doesn’t begrudge them at all. And he even throws in a sports metaphor so we poor dumb rubes can understand why.

    President Barack Obama said he doesn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay.

    The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question that while $17 million is “an extraordinary amount of money” for Main Street, “there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well.”

    “I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

    Hey dumbass. You want to know the difference between a professional athlete and a Wall Street crook? The professional athletes have unions so the corporate douchebags who own most sports teams these days can’t just pay them a pittance and rake in all the profits from others’ labor for themselves. Like Wall Street bankers do. Sure athletes are overpaid, but now that pro sports have been corporatized like every other aspect of society and are awash in billions of revenue (yet can still manage to get the public to pay for building their places of business by claiming they are some kind of civic necessity for a “world class” city to have) the athletes who actually play the game (ie who produce the product up for sale) should get their fair share. And of course pro athletes aren’t generally rewarded for failure. You don’t produce results on the field and you don’t get a big contract to begin with. And if you fuck up that contract can be voided or suspended as Gilbert Arenas and Dante Stallworth can attest to.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 11, 2010 7:43 am

      So “<0" 's attempt to placate the bankers didn't go over too well yesterday. He was ripped for it in on one website after another. Here's but one example – It’s Official: President Obama Is the Biggest Pussy To Enter White House Since James Buchanan.

      But wait, “<0" has got even more! Bloomberg tosses a little more wood on the fire today as “<0" touts his freemarketeer bona fides:

      President Barack Obama said he and his administration have pursued a “fundamentally business- friendly” agenda and are “fierce advocates” for the free market, rejecting corporate criticism of his policies.

      “The irony is, is that on the left we are perceived as being in the pockets of big business; and then on the business side, we are perceived as being anti-business,” Obama said in a Feb. 9 interview in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands tomorrow.

      Often when you see a paragraph like that last one what follows is something to the effect of ‘If you’re being criticized from both sides you must be doing something right’. But not with “<0". No need to worry "God's Work", Squobama is with you and he wants to make it clear he can be located right next to that Blackberry with your mistresses phone numbers on the left front side.

      “You would be hard-pressed to identify a piece of legislation that we have proposed out there that, net, is not good for businesses,” he added. He predicted that legislation he will sign this year would cut corporate taxes by about $70 billion.

      Guess what you tonedeaf moron – they’re still going to give their money to republicans anyway and now people are going to dislike you even more.

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 12, 2010 8:21 am

        It is pretty amazing how badly Squobama’s handlers are controlling his message after their near perfect advertising campaign before the election. In the end it is a good thing they have grown inept at it., It’s better the truth become more obvious to the general public sooner than later. They are pulling back their own curtains exposing their little wizards’ blowing all that smoke and pulling the levers.

  18. cometman permalink*
    February 10, 2010 9:30 am

    Beware of people claiming to have worked for Goldman Sachs. Rather than it being a testament to their financial soundness, they’re probably just trying to rip you off, like the real Goldies would.

    It was a storybook tale of second chances and rediscovered love, and Benjamin and Jane Wolff told it often. They also talked of his once high-flying investment career at Goldman Sachs, of the times he rubbed elbows with the likes of Martha Stewart and Warren Buffett, and of the lucrative investment deals he was pursuing in retirement. But then in 2005, the story line received a jolt: A Barnstable County sheriff’s deputy seized the Cape Cod cottage in foreclosure proceedings, and the couple soon disappeared.

    Due in court this month on police charges of defrauding a handful of bed and breakfasts over the summer, it appears the Wolffs had set out from the Cape four years ago on a house-hunting tour that turned into a nomadic odyssey of cheating one landlord and innkeeper after another, staying without paying at rented homes, extended-stay hotels, and upscale inns, according to police, public records, and interviews with people who encountered the couple.


    Ben had once worked at a Chicago brokerage, said a former business partner, Robert Kamphuis. Goldman Sachs has no record he ever worked for that firm…

    Still waiting for somebody to prosecute the real Goldsuckers….

  19. cometman permalink*
    February 10, 2010 9:54 am

    Semiconductor research shows fractal patterns in quantum particles.

    Yazdani’s team originally set out to understand how doping a gallium arsenide semiconductor with manganese atoms could convert it into a magnet and “turn on” electrical conductivity in the compound. After team members at the University of California-Santa Barbara added manganese atoms to the lattice structure, the researchers used specially designed scanning tunneling microscopes at Princeton to visualize the electron states in the material.

    Finding themselves confronted with complex spatial patterns of electron waves, the scientists realized that the patterns they saw were in fact those predicted for electrons on the brink of localization. In these patterns, the majority of the electrons are distributed across the surface of the semiconductor in a series of interconnected “puddles” that resemble fractals — self-similar shapes that repeat themselves on increasingly smaller-length scales. Fractals commonly are associated with objects in nature, such as coastlines or snowflakes, but they have never before been seen for quantum particles.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 12, 2010 8:28 am

      In reading the article before I’ve had nearly enough coffee I had a Homer Simpson moment:

      Mmmmmm, Manganese-doped gallium arsenide ;)

      That is pretty freaking amazing. Those fractal patterns are everywhere. They are probably the answer to life, the universe and everything and god particles too. If a god particle ends up looking like a fractal rendition of Blankfein’s face, though, all bets are off. See? I definitely need more coffee.

      • cometman permalink*
        February 12, 2010 9:29 am

        Ha! I think you’re getting the Higgs boson confused with the Sachs moron.

  20. cometman permalink*
    February 10, 2010 10:42 am

    This is going to sting. After years of paying low wages and manipulating the yuan to create a huge trade surplus, it looks like China may be done with the bluster and is actually starting to change course. Good post about it from the z-hedgers with some good links to follow. First the Chinese are going to get rid of the shaky US assets they’ve been accumulating.

    Dollar-denominated risk assets, including asset-backed securities and corporates, are no longer wanted at the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), nor at China’s large commercial banks. The Chinese government has ordered its reserve managers to divest itself of riskier securities and hold only Treasuries and US agency debt with an implicit or explicit government guarantee. This already has been communicated to American securities dealers, according to market participants with direct knowledge of the events.

    We’ve discussed the fact that China doesn’t need the US nearly as much as the US needs China because they have a vast untapped domestic market to sell goods to. And it looks like they’re going to start tapping it. But they aren’t going to find some other country with even lower wages to produce cheap crap that their underpaid workforce can actually afford in order to do it. They are going to shrink their trade surplus by, wonder of wonders, raising the wages of their workforce so they can afford goods made in China. What a fucking novel concept!

    Now a billion new people aspiring to the level of consumption that the US has enjoyed will likely not be good for the planet as a whole. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if China punks the US in this regard too and starts adopting more environmentally sound policies on their own. I doubt that huge desert currently expanding in China has escaped their notice entirely. One thing about the Chinese – as tight lipped as they can be about what they’re up to, they sure seem like they have a long term plan to improve their nation and they have been carrying it out. Meanwhile as the US continues to grasp for short term gains to benefit the oligarchy alone, we are fast turning the whole country into a rust belt populated with fast food counter jockeys.

    I liked the little zinger Durden threw in:

    One thing is certain – China will now focus on doing precisely the opposite of what America would urge Chinese authorities to do, in order to establish itself as the focal point of negotiating leverage and increasingly humiliate the Obama regime.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 12, 2010 8:32 am

      Overnight the Chinese decided to up the ante and are tightening up their lending. Consequentially the dollar and volatility indexes are back up and gold and oil are going back down, messing with Helicopter Ben’s weak tea exit strategy.

      The American response? Barry is going to pay a visit to the Dolly Llama next week.

      • cometman permalink*
        February 12, 2010 9:12 am

        Well sending the dollar up is definitely not what the oligarchs in the US wanted. “<0" is going to have to get a little lower than just a bow this time if he wants anything from his trip to Asia. Make sure you bring the kneepads with you Barry.

  21. cometman permalink*
    February 10, 2010 11:19 am

    More bad news for labor. The EFCA is dead in the water despite all those campaign promises from the Democrats to pass it right away if only they could get the majority back. Now it looks like the appointment of labor lawyer Craig Becker to the National labor Relations Board, of one of the few decent nominees “<0" has proposed for anything, will not go through.

    But as David Macaray points out the Dems had enough votes to get him through but sat on their hands and did nothing.

    True, the Republicans had played games by stalling the vote for five months, but the Democrats had the 60 senators necessary to avoid the procedural roadblock of a filibuster and, once over that disgraceful parliamentary hurdle, had more than enough votes to carry the nomination. At least they did until Massachusetts elected Scott Brown, a Republican.

    Makes you wonder whether “<0" and the Dems were ever serious about appointing this guy at all. Judging by the amount of lip service we've been given on just about everything else, it's probably safe to assume Becker's nomination was nothing but lip service too in order to get the union vote.

  22. cometman permalink*
    February 11, 2010 9:30 am

    Here’s one from Niall Ferguson where he predicts the Greek financial crisis is just the beginning of a sovereign debt crisis that will spread throughout the Western world. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.

    What does annoy me to no end is another example of the probably deliberate misuse of the term ‘Keynesian’.

    What we in the western world are about to learn is that there is no such thing as a Keynesian free lunch. Deficits did not “save” us half so much as monetary policy – zero interest rates plus quantitative easing – did.

    Where in the hell did Keynes ever argue that governments could rack up as much debt as they wanted for as long as they wanted on stupid shit and never suffer any consequences? I’m no PhD in economics but I’m pretty sure Keynes argued for temporary specifically targeted deficit spending to jump start an economy that was in trouble. The US is in trouble because it continued its massive deficit spending even in better times by wasting money on the war machine and handing out tax cuts for those who didn’t really need them, then took massive amounts of bullshit private debt onto its books and on and on and on with one stupid decision after another. Ferchrissakes even “<0"'s stimulus wasn't that large compared to the whole we're in and even that paltry stimulus was in large part tax cuts and not actual spending.

    I'm liking this Ferguson guy less and less all the time.

  23. cometman permalink*
    February 11, 2010 1:30 pm

    Interesting post about China’s debt burden. Looks like their actual debt is a lot more than they publicly acknowledge.

    Did China accomplish the impossible? Did it generate almost 9% growth and maintain low debt to GDP ratio even as its export plummeted by 20%? What about claims that the torrent of investment in China has come without too much leveraging? After spending half a year looking into the debt level of local government investment entities– some 8000 of them– my conclusion is no. As in the past, the Chinese government just ordered banks to lend to investment companies set up by both central and local governments.


    To obtain an independent estimate, I collected data from thousands of sources, including regulatory filings, bond-rating reports and press releases of government-bank cooperative agreements. I estimate local investment entities’ borrowing between 2004 and the end of 2009 totals some $1.6 trillion. The data are far from perfect because borrowing by low-level government entities and lending by small banks are difficult to track. Nonetheless, my evidence suggests that the scale of the problem is much larger than previous government estimates. At $1.6 trillion, the size of local debt is roughly one-third of China’s 2009 GDP and 70% of its foreign-exchange reserves.

    So basically, in addition to the 20% of official debt-to-GDP ratio, one has to add an additional 30%. We also have to add other debt that the central government guarantees, such as the nearly 1 trillion RMB in Ministry of Railway bonds and bonds issued by the asset management companies. All of this gives China a high debt to GDP ratio.

    This guy’s solution to the problem is to take all that debt, put it in one big basket, collateralize it, and sell it to the rubes. Considering how well similar practices worked out here, I’m thinking China will probably not follow the US model. And even if they did, you have to wonder who’d be willing to pony up to buy more of this type of thing.

    Found the link originally from this Naked Capitalism post. Yves Smith suggests that China would have to guarantee this debt before anyone would be likely to purchase it if that’s the route the Chinese chose to go. I may be getting something mixed up here but by guaranteeing the debt, some of which sounds pretty toxic, China would wind up basically having to print more money making their currency less valuable, which is the opposite of what most of the Western world wants them to do.

    Tough to figure out exactly what China is up to. More reading required.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 12, 2010 8:55 am

      I’ll bookmark that blog. It will be good to have the professor’s analysis and insight as things continue to heat up with China.

      Here’s some recent discussion of what China is doing in advance of their week long lunar holiday from the Financial Times

      China’s surprise monetary tightening shatters calm

      Adding to the mix of mayhem, the Greek bailout is still unresolved and now Dubai’s CDS has leapt and bounded to heights reminiscent of the clusterfuck last fall, indicating all is not calm on Palm Tree island.

      Good times, good times ;P

      • cometman permalink*
        February 12, 2010 9:24 am

        That article reminds me why I haven’t put a dime into the stock market in quite some time. With all the rampant speculation based on rumors from all over the globe, how is anybody supposed to figure anything out? But rumor and speculation is what drives the markets these days, not any underlying fundamentals.

        It sure sounds like China is being pretty savvy here. They have used some of the same practices as the West but rein things in before they get completely out of control.

  24. cometman permalink*
    February 11, 2010 1:33 pm

    Some encouraging news – India Defies Monsanto, Says No to GMO Crops.

    After the thousands of Indian farmers who have killed themselves because they can no longer make a living planting the crops that have been planted for centuries, it’s about time somebody stood up to these assholes.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 12, 2010 9:03 am

      Good for the Indians. American agribiz has been fucking over their farmers since they were the guinea pigs for the “green revolution” in the early 60’s where the Rockefellers and Fords got big payback for spreading the addiction to petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides.

  25. cometman permalink*
    February 11, 2010 2:40 pm

    I’m thinking this is the Larry Summers CNBC clip you mentioned above. I just watched it and so did Simon Johnson. Although later in his post he concedes it may be nothing but bluster, strangely enough he finds Summers words to be evidence that the “<0" administration is serious about cracking down on banks.

    To its credit, the Obama administration has in recent weeks taken a firmer position: The excesses of the past decade have to come to an end. This was evident three weeks ago in the new proposals announced by the president to constrain the activities of large banks, which went beyond anything the Treasury Department had proposed last summer.

    It was also evident in an interview that Lawrence H. Summers, the president’s chief economic counselor, gave to CNBC on Tuesday.

    The commenters there don’t seem to agree with Johnson’s sanguine outlook. Neither do I. Maybe Johnson hasn’t read the recent Bloomberg pieces where “<0" takes back all the mean things he said about the poor bankers yet?

    • cometman permalink*
      February 11, 2010 2:50 pm

      Nope. Johnson did read it and rightly calls bullshit. And I’m sure he’s aware of Summers’ past history. I guess when there is so little that seems to be changing, it’s hard not to grasp at straws sometimes. I find myself doing it too. I got a little excited about the Volcker stuff a couple weeks ago myself when I first heard about it.

  26. artemis54 permalink
    February 12, 2010 6:51 am

    Hilarious clip you will see floating around today: Lawrence O’Donnell lit into head Bush shill Marc Thiessen on Scarboroigh’s vaudeville show, calling him a liar to his face among many other things before Scarborough cut to an emergency break.

  27. artemis54 permalink
    February 12, 2010 7:31 am

    Speech from the Throne launching the BC parliamentary session.

    Bye bye Charlotte:

    The Aboriginal name of the Queen Charlotte Islands — Haida Gwaii — will be restored and utilized in all government documentation.

    British Columbia will join with Washington State in officially naming the area covered by the Georgia Basin‑Puget Sound ecosystem the Salish Sea.

    It goes on to mention that the constituent parts of the SS are still recognized. Well no duh. The Gulf of Corinth is still there within the Mediterranean.

    These are atmospherics no doubt. Still, the recognition of Haida Gwaii means something, as did the Olympic torch’s trip through the islands.

    A little more meat, though:

    Mining, oil and gas development and coalbed gas extraction will not be permitted in British Columbia’s Flathead Valley.

    Most welcome. The area – 600 some square miles – is almost entirely publicly owned and is the natural core of any westward expansion of Waterton National Park (yes yes yes!).

    The term “speech from the throne” always conjures for me an image of “the old bitch” as my friends on Skye call her delivering an adreess via some steampunk pa system from a gold plated toilet in Buckingham Palace.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 12, 2010 9:45 am

      That is encouraging. Maybe it’s just symbolic but it’s a symbol that these people aren’t just looked on as subjects but as people who have their own history.

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 12, 2010 9:50 am

        Since this thread is getting pretty long should I put up a new open weekend thread post, unless you have something lined up?

        • cometman permalink*
          February 12, 2010 9:55 am

          I just emailed you about that actually. I’ve got nothing right now, not even a good pic, so go ahead and put something up.

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