Links 8/1/13

Queen’s ‘WWIII speech’ revealed BBC

Strangest Idea Ever for Charging Your Mobile Phone Bloomberg

3D printers can pay for themselves in under a year ComputerWorld. Bogus assumption. Would you really have gone out and bought the stuff you’d print? It’s only a “saving” if these were expenditures you would have made otherwise.

Working in the Shed Matt Gemmell. Funny I don’t have this problem for the most part. My big time waster is getting involved in the comments section, and that’s not like going and looking at celebrity websites or Facebook.

Keystone XL’s Goose is Cooked OilPrice

Commodity supercycle in rude health despite shale Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

What’s Behind the New Chinese Crackdown? New York Review of Books

Italy Banks Bad Loans Underline Southern Europe Malaise Bloomberg

$11bn hole found in Greek finances Guardian

Big Brother is Watching You Watch:

I am Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of the Guardian – the news org that broke the story of NSA surveillance of US citizens Reddit (Deontos). An online Q&A

Revealed: NSA program collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’ Guardian. The big news yesterday.

US spying comes under fresh attack Financial Times. And more ripple effects.

NSA Spying Directly Harms Internet Companies, Silicon Valley, California … And the Entire U.S. Economy George Washington

With Grand Bargain 2.0 coming, Grand Bargain 1.0 talks still going Daily Kos (lydia)

Obama and GOP Speak Same Language: Corporate Tax Cuts = Jobs Glen Ford (diane)

Tax Repatriation to Pay for One Time Investment in Infrastructure Jon Walker, Firedoglake. I need to shred this proposal, such as it is, but Obama has been talking about this for a while. This is old wine poured in one big new bottle.

Wildcatting: A Stripper’s Guide to the Modern American Boomtown Buzzfeed (lydia)

Larry Summers and the End of Political Shame TripleCrisis

Fed views economic growth as ‘modest’ Financial Times. Stocks ended down a little. Even though the Fed actually mentioned labor participation (!), I suspect the impact of the rate rise on mortgage rates and the housing recovery is a bigger worry. If they can get mortgage rates down a bit more, or housing looks not too badly impacted, I suspect they won’t change course.

The US student loan problem – facts, charts, thoughts Walter Kurtz. A good one-stop shopping post, mainly charts

Obama defends Larry Summers against charges he is unfit to be Fed chairman The Hill. One of my buddies claims that the Summers boomlet has just about peaked, that Obama has done this sort of thing (defend someone before he abandons them) before. But I think the real pissiness is that the set up is for Geithner or some other Rubinite to come in as the “see it’s not Summers” option, when it’s clear that Yellen is the best candidate save that she’s not a finance toady, and being a finance toady is all Obama cares about.

Senators Ask Why JPMorgan Execs Won’t Be Punished For Involvement In FERC Investigation Huffington Post

Morgan Stanley predicts buy-to-rent boom Housing Wire

Fortunes favour the old MacroBusiness. The housing boom as a wealth transfer to the older generation.

Petition to McDonald’s against forcing employees to use payroll cards SumOfUs. I’d rather see a petition agains their low wages, but this will help workers too. Please sign.

Judge Rejects Fed’s Cap on Debit Card Fees New York Times

SAC Seen Skating on U.S. Move to Impose Death Penalty Bloomberg

What Would You Have the President Do? Part I, Necessary First Moves, What Would You Have the President Do? Part II, Getting to Full Employment, and What Would You Have the President Do? Part III, Doing Some Economic and Social Justice Joe Firestone, New Economic Perspectives. This is a really good series following on to the Michael Hudson posts on the horrific Obama kickoff speech on how he was finally going to do something – really! – for what is left of the American middle class. A lot to chew on but very much worth your time.

The housing “recovery” is a total sham Dave Dayen, Salon

Michael Lewis: Did Goldman Sachs Overstep in Criminally Charging Its Ex-Programmer? Vanity Fair. OMG, if you have any doubt that Goldman was insanely over the top in its behavior, this should clear it up. Plus Aleynikov sealed his fate by talking to the FBI. Please if you have not seen this video Don’t Talk to the Police, please watch it and circulate it.

Antidote du jour (martha r):


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  1. Jim Haygood

    A Venezuelan lesson in how ordinary folks can enrich themselves by currency arbitrage:

    A 27-year-old trade analyst from Caracas said she earned six times her monthly salary by traveling in April to Lima, where a business swiped her credit card and gave her $1,600 cash, charged at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar. When the analyst returned to Venezuela, she sold the dollars at the street rate of 29-to-1, enough to pocket 25,000 bolivars after paying off her credit card and travel expenses.

    The dollar shortage has helped the bolivar’s street rate weaken 70 percent in the past year to 31.5 per dollar. That’s led to a more than 400 percent spread between the two exchange rates.

    Consumer prices climbed 39.6 percent in June from a year earlier, the fastest pace among 103 economies tracked by Bloomberg. The central bank’s scarcity index was 19.3 percent in June, meaning that one out of about every five consumer staples was out of stock at any given time.

    Anyone can see that trips abroad to arbitrage parallel exchange rates constitute economically useless activity. Less obvious, but more important, is the effect of chronic inflation and shortages. Under these conditions, people make constant shopping trips to search for scarce goods and hoard consumer staples against the certainty of price increases.

    Needless to say, there is no better way to cripple an economy than by instigating the populace to spend hours per day defending themselves against a government which refuses to perform one of its most basic functions, the provision of a stable currency.

    Argentina also has parallel exchange rates, but the spread is not as wide, and limits on credit card charges abroad have been imposed to limit the kind of arbitrage Venezuelans are doing.

    1. F. Beard

      against a government which refuses to perform one of its most basic functions, the provision of a stable currency. Jim Haygood

      “Stable” is in the eye of the beholder so government should allow alternative currencies good for the payment of private debts only and abolish government privileges for the banks. Then government would not have to come behind the banks and clean up their messes and harm the value of its fiat in the process.

      Again: Private money can be issued as shares in Equity and all these troubles related to usury and un-enthical purchasing power creation avoided.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Speaking of ‘repairing the damage,’ pre-opening futures indicate a likely record high in stocks today.

      Standard first-of-the-month seasonality. But let’s call it the ‘Snowden rally’ just to tweak Obugger’s nose.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I suppose Goldman’s equity-backed private money is worth a lot more these days.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It will trickle down, one of these days.

      This is how it works:

      1. banksters fatten on EZ money
      2. they hire free-lancing slaves, under our Just-In-Time-Slavery system to haul our Fat Lords of the Universe around.
      3. Free-lancing slaves then spend $ on junk food and other stuff to satiate their junk brainwashing addiction habits.
      4. The economy is stimulated.

  2. fresno dan

    “The inflated sale prices present a serious problem for rehabilitating the community. Ninety percent of these properties are tied up in mortgage-backed trusts for large sums (“When you look them up, you’re just so amazed,” Szymoniak says), and the trustees don’t want to book the losses. So instead of selling off the old inventory, they hold onto it, hoping in vain for price appreciation or just wanting to avoid the reckoning. “If you have to keep investors thinking that you have a $300,000 property,” Szymoniak remarked, “and you want to carry it on the books for as long as you possibly can, then you don’t put it on the market, you just hold it back, and you let it go on forever.”

    The housing “recovery” is a total sham Dave Dayen, Salon

    Tax revenue foregone, actual homeowners in the area harmed, and I’m sure when these places have to be demolished, the taxpayer will foot the bill. All sham all the time…

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      ‘The taxpayer will foot the bill.’

      People forget that taxpayers can die financially.

      It’s not correct to assume a government can just tax when it needs money – taxpayers can be financially dead or they can just move out.

      What happens to an empty city or country with no living citizens except tax-raising bureaucrats?

      Does its currency make a sound?

  3. CB

    On the web, there are several excellent articles by criminal defense lawyers. One of the writers says a colleague believes half the people in jail wouldn’t be there if they had kept their mouths shut.

    Obama may be a classic in reverse pyschology: whatever you want him to do, flog the opposite. I tried this once on a friend. I had bought an item I thought would be perfect for her but she’s one of the reflexive you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-dos. So I told her about my purchase and strongly advised her not to. She must have gone out right after I left because she had it–and loved it–next time we talked. Some people are like that, you can’t approach directly. I believe Obama is another. Gave himself away with his panagyric to Summers.

  4. Christopher Fay

    We should start a petition that any Fed Head nominee from Obama is unacceptable. Sadly the safest thing is for Obama to lame duck as soon and as thoroughly as possible.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      This is how the game is played, when you are asked to make a decision:

      1> candidate A
      2> candidate B
      3> candidate C
      4> none of the above
      but rarely
      5> the office should be eliminated.

      Unstated, but implicitly, you are asked to affirm the system.

  5. David Lentini

    Of course our corporatocractic press won’t print the truth about the failings of the economy and the lies used to try to fool the public about the real state of the economy. To tell the truth would be to expose the failure of our meritocracy and the “great” centers of learning and research that created our ruling classes.

    Another dead zone of reporting is the apparently growing scandal around Michelle Rhee, the Grand Dame of the school reform movement. The investigative reporter John Merrow did a rather positive film about here for PBS recently, but later uncovered evidence calling her claims of turning around the schools in D.C. and Baltimore into question. Now, of course, no one will touch his story.

  6. petridish

    RE: Michael Lewis/Vanity Fair

    From the article on Serge’s final GS interview questions:

    “The first: Is 3,599 a prime number?

    “Serge quickly saw there was something strange about 3,599: it was very close to 3,600. He jotted down the following equations: 3599 = (3600 – 1) = (602 – 12) = (60 – 1) (60 + 1) = 59 times 61. Not a prime number.”

    Is (602 – 12) GS magic math??

    1. Bert Markgraf

      Hm, answered this earlier but my post has disappeared. The entry should read “(60 squared – 1 squared).” This is a difference of two squares which can be factored as the first minus the second times the first plus the second.

    2. Jim Haygood

      No. The expression should be (60 squared minus 1 squared).

      Duh … superscript.

      Evidently copy editing has fallen into disuse, even at Vanity Fair

    3. zephyrum

      (602 – 12) is supposed to be (60² – 1²), but apparently the superscript formatting was lost.

      1. zephyrum

        Let’s try that again…

        (602 – 12) is supposed to be (60^2 – 1^2), but apparently the superscript formatting was lost.

        The fact that ² shows up as a superscript-2 in the comment preview but not in the posted comment is a Naked Capitalism site bug, fwiw.

  7. Jeff N

    We have a 3D printer where I work. So far we’ve “printed” a non-functional crescent wrench, and some bracelets.

  8. Schtubb

    Thanks for the Aleynikov article link.

    It seems clear that:

    – Goldman has the FBI doing their bidding, overzealously.
    – The prosecution and the jury did not understand the charge or its technical details.
    – Aleynikov is being punished by his former employer for leaving and taking a better offer.
    – And, yeah, you should never fill out confessions – just shut up and ask for your lawyer.


    If he indeed did copy his employers Subversion repository, which contained proprietary code, that’s potentially theft. And if it’s theft it doesn’t matter how valuable the code is or isn’t, or what Aleynikov’s motives were for taking it. He let himself be vulnerable to the charge, and Goldman can maginify the value to crush him.

    (I tend to believe him when he claims he was aching to re-write the system from the ground up — this is what most programmers want to do with any legacy system. It isn’t always the right thing for the company, but the ache is completely.)

    The Goldman appropriation of open source code is actually potentially illegal itself, however. If they were using GPL’d ( code, AND were intermingling their code with the GPL’d code, a completely legitimate legal argument could be made that the Goldman HFT code base was now itself GPL’d, since it was now a derived work of the GPL’d code. (Stripping off license headers does not change that – that’s just a half-baked attempt to hide the crime.)

    If someone knows the details of the source licensing here I’d love to see it. Or point me to the legal docs and I’ll dig through it.

    But until that case was made in court, Aleynikov should not have been surprised to have this happen to him. But he clearly was.

    1. Ted

      If they were using GPL’d ( code, AND were intermingling their code with the GPL’d code, a completely legitimate legal argument could be made that the Goldman HFT code base was now itself GPL’d, since it was now a derived work of the GPL’d code. (Stripping off license headers does not change that – that’s just a half-baked attempt to hide the crime.)

      Modifying GPL code and using it internally is consistent with the GPL. Distributing a modified version of the GPL code without (at least providing a way to get) the source code is the violation.

      So, if GS sold modified GPL source code, they are stealing the code illegally. If they use it internally, they are free to modify it however they want and are under no obligation to release their modifications.

      Stripping the license headers is offensive, and disgusting, but I don’t know if it is illegal. Probably not, at least so long as they don’t distribute the software.

      Also, and I hate to say it, it does sound like he stole proprietary source code and knew he was doing it.

    2. ChrisPacific

      I realize the subject is not something I should laugh at, but I loved this part:

      during which time he sent himself, through a so-called “subversion repository,” 32 megabytes of source code from Goldman’s high-frequency stock-trading system. The Web site Serge had used (which has the word “subversion” in its name) as well as the location of its server (Germany) McSwain clearly found highly suspicious.

      That’s right up there with the ‘upload virus’ button in Independence Day. (For those who don’t get the joke, Subversion is the name for an industry standard open source version control tool. Using it as about as sinister as running Windows on your PC).

      Michael Lewis turns a phrase as well as ever:

      …as he had in his possession computer code which in the wrong hands could be used “to manipulate markets in unfair ways.” (Goldman Sachs presumably used it to manipulate markets in fair ways.)

      I can remember raising my eyebrows at that phrase when I saw it in the indictment as well.

      Aleynikov strikes me as a bit naive. Certainly he seems to have had no idea how badly his employers would react if they found out about his little dodge (which I agree seems to have been a genuine theft even if it was harmlessly intended). Here’s another good quote:

      “I think the engineering problems are much more interesting than the business problems,” he says. “Finance is just who gets money.”

      While I completely understand where he is coming from (personally if I was earning enough to afford anything I wanted, then interesting work would be much more important to me than more money) this viewpoint is utterly unsuited to Wall Street.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Housing boom – wealth transfer to the older generation….

    Well, older homeowners yes, but not older renters with savings.

    Don’t worry though. Under Oh-Baba-Mama-Don’t-Care, all seniors will be subsidized by younger, healthier boys and girls.

    But the young do get something in return – they are subsidized in auto insurance by mature, slower and hopefully safer drivers (at least those who are not completely senile yet, so we are talking about healthy, competent middle-aged drivers).

    1. Lambert Strether

      No. To some classes of people, many of whose members are no longer young. It’s a ridiculous over-generalization to say that “the older generation” as such is getting a wealth transfer from housing. Worse, having set two generations at odds with each other — which is what generational analysis intrinsically does (see Andrew Sullivan) — you foreclose any possibility of bringing classes of people who are not yet old/no longer young together around their values and interests. Generational categorization is an excellent tool of strategic hate management for exactly that reason.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        You gain some and you lose some; at the end, it is better to forget the generation thing.

        Or maybe I should say, forget the generation thing, because, or precisely because, you gain sometimes and you lose some times, first of all.

        Secondly, everyone is young once and hopefully (or maybe not for some people) will live to be old one day.

        1. annie

          my ‘come on’ meant as reply to lambert ‘s ‘no etc.’ denying the obvious for sake of some generational pacifism.

      2. optimader

        “..Generational categorization is an excellent tool of strategic hate management for exactly that reason..”

        yes and a few self limiting considerations

        1.) old people die, and any benefit accrual takes a step change to zero –simultaneously assets are disposed of, usually to younger people;

        2. be patient, young people get old they get to convert time to money;

        3. ultimately it is not a zero sum game.

  10. docg

    First of all it’s not a 3D Printer. What a dumb name. It’s a Replicator. Courtesy of the geniuses that gave us Star Trek. Secondly, this is something I thought of years ago and should have patented, except I had no idea how to actually make one or how to go about patenting anything. If Einstein were still around maybe he could have helped me.

    I had this idea of something like a Microwave oven, hooked up to the Internet. You put a blank in it, click the mouse and some product you’ve ordered from someone in Greece or China materializes in the Microwave, rearranging the molecules in the blank. I don’t mind someone using my idea, because let’s face it, when it comes to a business head I don’t have one. But I DO resent them not using “Replicator,” which is obviously what it is.

  11. Lambert Strether

    The Dayen article on FL housing is interesting, and shows how the view on the ground is very very different from what the political class sees from its islands of prosperity in DC, Manhattan, Silicon Valley, the Gold Coast, and Hollywood. This paragraph caught my eye:

    The inflated sale prices present a serious problem for rehabilitating the community. Ninety percent of these properties are tied up in mortgage-backed trusts for large sums (“When you look them up, you’re just so amazed,” Szymoniak says), and the trustees don’t want to book the losses. So instead of selling off the old inventory, they hold onto it, hoping in vain for price appreciation or just wanting to avoid the reckoning. “If you have to keep investors thinking that you have a $300,000 property,” Szymoniak remarked, “and you want to carry it on the books for as long as you possibly can, then you don’t put it on the market, you just hold it back, and you let it go on forever.”

    This is “the big shitpile” that Atrios used to talk about, back in the day. Nobody AFAIK knows how the big the big shitpile really is, or who (as in named individuals) actually owns it. Maybe somebody a lot smarter than me about finance can explain.

    * * *

    These are moldy, abandoned houses in a tropical climate. And we’re carrying them on the books at full value? Does that work because Magic of the Marketplace? No?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Didn’t they change the accounting rule around 2007 or 2008 so they could carry them at full value?

      1. F. Beard

        The accounting is bogus anyway since with government deposit insurance, a legal tender lender of last resort and the lack of a government-provided risk-free fiat storage and transaction service, the Liabilities of the banking system as a whole are virtually meaningless. Whatcha gonna do? Use your mattress instead of the banks?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I hope you’re still around for one more comment.

          I guess they did change the accounting rule then.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Wolf Richter at The Testosterone Pit has another good article on the bogus housing recovery:

      “Wall Street Engineers Newest Frankenstein’s Monster For Housing”

      They’re going to blow everything up again.

      Housing Bubble II is upon us. With a twist. This time it is the big money that jumped into it, drove up prices, and moved affordability out of reach for first-time buyers. Now that the risks are piling up, driven by vacancy rates in that space of 50%, while interest rates are rising globally, the big money is starting to get antsy. Time to shift risk to someone else. It’s the kind of impeccably timed Fed-induced Wall Street engineering that we have seen so many times before. It will work out for a while, and then someone else will end up holding the bag.

    1. F. Beard

      “The only way ZD strategists could survive would be if they could recognize their opponents,” Hintze said. “And even if ZD strategists kept winning so that only ZD strategists were left, in the long run they would have to evolve away from being ZD and become more cooperative. So they wouldn’t be ZD strategists anymore.” from [bold added]

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Evolution seems to say, tentatively, that animals appeared before plants, instead of vegetation appearing before creatures of the sea.

  12. Skeptic

    Don’t Talk to the Police

    Congrats to NC for calling attention to this video. Cooperating with the cops or government apparatchiks could cost you big time. Their career is Number One and comes way before your rights. The cop is particularly compelling, ready to really do you in. Keep in mind also that, in many cases, your lawyer will have the same mindset, looking out for Number One. the lawyer.

    Your “case” is red meat to all these people, looking to see how much they can get out of it.

  13. WorldisMorphing

    [“A new Eos report by the American Geophysical Union, “Peak Oil and Energy Independence: Myth and Reality”, argues that global crude output has been stuck on a plateau of around 75m barrels per day (bpd) since 2005 despite enticing returns. “Global net oil exports from oil-exporting countries have peaked and are in decline.”

    The output of the big five oil majors – Exxon, BP, Total, Chevron and Shell – has fallen by 26pc over the past nine years, despite a relentless hunt for new fields. The North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska are all wasting away. Expenses keep ratcheting up as fields move further out to sea in the Atlantic, drilling deeper through layers of salt. Theoretical reserves are meaningless. What matters is the break-even cost.

    Eos said flows from the world’s existing fields are falling at 5pc a year, and it is questionable whether shale or tar sands can easily step into the breach. “Production from these unconventional sources is difficult and expensive, and has a very low energy return on investment. Simply stated, it takes energy to get energy,” it said.

    Using a rule of thumb that 4pc global growth requires a rise in oil supply of 3pc, Eos concluded that the world will need another 17m bpd within five years unless we find a way to change our habits fast.
    and now the funny part…
    To the consternation of the authors, the report was cited by the BBC this week as evidence that peak oil production is a myth. “Where they got that idea escapes us,” said co-writer Jim Hansen. “]

    … and you guys thought you couldn’t count on me to cheer you up…

    Leaks I’d really like to hear right now are of a TV producer revealing his marching orders…we can start with the BBC …yep, the BBC…

    1. WorldisMorphing

      Quote from:
      “Commodity supercycle in rude health despite shale”
      The Telegraph.

    1. optimader

      your tax dollars at work.
      I wonder, did they at least do something constructive and offer a recipe?

      1. optimader

        BTW, FWIW.. if you live at sea level, what the heck do you need a pressure cooker to cook lentils for??

  14. rich

    Corporate Sell-Outs Exploit a Secret New Gimmick
    August 1, 2013
    by David Sirota

    To know Greeley has it right, just consider the career of one of the architects of this scheme, Max Baucus.

    The retiring Montana senator is the senior Democrat on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee. In that position, he hasn’t used his power to rid the tax code of corporate-written loopholes, subsidies and handouts – the public record shows that he has used his power to riddle the tax code with those expensive giveaways. In exchange for embedding those handouts in the tax code, Baucus has been rewarded handsomely with campaign cash to the point where he has been famously labeled “K Street’s Favorite Senator.” That label is particularly appropriate considering a recent dispatch from The New York Times showing that “no other lawmaker on Capitol Hill has such a sizable constellation of former aides working as tax lobbyists.”

    In light of such a record, the notion that Baucus has built the anonymous submission system in order to help challenge K Street is, in a word, absurd. Having spent so much political capital enriching his corporate donors and lobbyists at the expense of taxpayers, he is retiring with one last gift to those benefactors – a secrecy system designed to let them rewrite the tax code from scratch in a way that most serves their interests.

    1. CB

      When Bob Dole was in the senate, he was known as the king of special tax breaks. It’s a dirty job, but apparently someone has to do it.

  15. Ed S.

    RE: Fortune favours the old article

    Rant alert.

    Frequent articles and studies about intergenerational “unfairness” and how the “old” are taking advantage of the “young” are nothing more than a smokescreen meant to hide that the issue isn’t the intergenerational but that the monetary and fiscal policies of the past 40 years have impoverished many people.

    Let’s take them one by one (US, not Australia, focused)

    1) “Declining home ownership” – true, but why? In inflation adjusted terms, selling prices of houses today are basically the same as they were 40 years ago (excluding certain geographic anomalies – e.g. Palo Alto or Detroit. What hasn’t kept up with inflation are the typical person’s wages. Note that the discussion is NEVER about increasing wages – it’s about “making housing affordable”

    2) Health Care Costs – Medicare recipients (in the US) are effectively protected from the cartelization and rent extraction perfected over the last 40 years by the medical industrial complex. Others – not so much. Again, the that the discussion is NEVER about eliminating the economic rents and monopoly positions in the medical industrial complex – it’s about how “younger” people are getting screwed through an intergeneration transfer.

    3) Tax Burden – over the last 40 years, the burden has shifted from a balance between wage income and income from capital to a huge preference (lower rates) for income from capital. Of course “younger” people are paying more than “older” people did – it’s the result of the shift. The discrimination is against wage-earners (of any age). Note that that the discussion is NEVER about equalizing the tax rate on income irrespective of source.

    4) Education – while not mentioned in the article, cartelization of education and the shifting of the expense from society at large to recipients occurred over the last 40 years. Education has become a rent extraction racket rather than THE way to improve society at large. Once again, yes, the “young” are getting screwed, but note that the discussion is NEVER about reducing the cost or spreading the cost – it’s about making the rent extraction bearable (aka “affording college”).

    The solution, as always, is that “older” people should get less (the centerpiece of the Romney/Ryan economic plan). Remove the extractive schemes, the rackets, and increase wages and all of the “intergenerational” issues go away.

    Enough already about intergenerational warfare – the issue is class warfare.

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