Increasing oil supplies won’t lower gas prices only reducing U.S. demand can according to Obama and the AP

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 24th, 2012

Week in Review

On the one hand gas prices aren’t high (see Rising gas prices aren’t as bad as you think).  On the other hand they are.  But there’s nothing the president can do about it so quit your bitching (see FACT CHECK: More US Drilling Didn’t Drop Gas Price [Higher fuel economy won’t lower gas prices according to AP] by JACK GILLUM and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press, posted 3/21/2012 on ABC News).

U.S. oil production is back to the same level it was in March 2003, when gas cost $2.10 per gallon when adjusted for inflation. But that’s not what prices are now.

That’s because oil is a global commodity and U.S. production has only a tiny influence on supply. Factors far beyond the control of a nation or a president dictate the price of gasoline.

Funny.  When the stimulus failed it was the stimulus wasn’t big enough.  But when we only increase oil supplies a little and it doesn’t influence the world price of oil they don’t say the increase in supply wasn’t big enough.

The late 1980s and 1990s show exactly how domestic drilling is not related to gas prices.

Seasonally adjusted U.S. oil production dropped steadily from February 1986 until three years ago. But starting in March 1986, inflation-adjusted gas prices fell below the $2-a-gallon mark and stayed there for most of the rest of the 1980s and 1990s. Production between 1986 and 1999 dropped by nearly one-third. If the drill-now theory were correct, prices should have soared. Instead they went down by nearly a dollar.

Figures don’t lie but liars figure.  Talk about twisting the facts to support your Democrat president.  For what they say the data doesn’t support the data DOES support during the previous decade.  Following the 1973 Oil Crisis.  When OPEC placed an embargo on oil shipments to the U.S. and other Western nations that helped Israel in the Yom Kippur War.  Oil prices soared.  Bringing a lot of non-OPEC producers into the market.  To cash in on those high prices.  And while they were increasing oil production from the mid-Seventies to the mid-Eighties they flooded the market with oil.  Which also coincided with a reduction in demand in the U.S.  Who switched from gas-guzzlers to little cars with ‘sewing machine’ engines.  Tiny four cylinder engines.  This explosion in supply and reduction in demand caused the 1980s oil glut.  Causing oil prices to plummet.  Which kept gas prices low throughout the 1980s oil glut.

So when oil supply goes up gas prices come down.  In the 1980s that increase in oil supply came from outside of the U.S.  But it lowered gas prices nonetheless.  If an increase in U.S. production can match the increase of the non-OPEC producers during the Eighties then gas prices will come down, too.  But NOT increasing oil production will only increase gas prices in the face of increasing oil demand.

Unlike natural gas or electricity, the United States alone does not have the power to change the supply-and-demand equation in the world oil market, said Christopher Knittel, a professor of energy economics at MIT. American oil production is about 11 percent of the world’s output, so even if the U.S. were to increase its oil production by 50 percent — that is more than drilling in the Arctic, increased public-lands and offshore drilling, and the Canadian pipeline would provide — it would at most cut gas prices by 10 percent.

By this logic then there’s no point in trying to improve fuel economy.  Yet we do.  For when it comes to gasoline everything on the demand side of the equation can lower gas prices.  But nothing on the supply side can.  President Obama says we can inflate our tires.  Get a tune up.  Increase CAFE standards (force auto makers to increase the miles per gallon their cars can get).  Move into electric cars and hybrids.  If we do any of these we can bring down the price of gasoline.  But if we flood the market with new domestic oil it won’t do jack squat.  Go figure.

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Government as Usual, Making a Bad Financial Situation Worse

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 8th, 2011

The Federal Debt is Bad; what we’re Adding is Worse than can be Imagined

If you thought the debt was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet (see U.S. funding for future promises lags by trillions by Dennis Cauchon posted 6/7/2011 on USA Today).

The government added $5.3 trillion in new financial obligations in 2010, largely for retirement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. That brings to a record $61.6 trillion the total of financial promises not paid for.

This gap between spending commitments and revenue last year equals more than one-third of the nation’s gross domestic product.

The current outstanding U.S. debt is $14 trillion and change.  So, in addition to that debt, the U.S. has to borrow an additional $61.6 trillion sometime in the future.  Meanwhile they debate deficit reduction in Washington.  And the Obama administration is desperately trying to get the Republican-controlled House to raise the legal debt ceiling.  By a whopping $2.4 trillion.  You don’t have to be a whiz kid to see that something bad financially is coming this way.

Medicare alone took on $1.8 trillion in new liabilities, more than the record deficit prompting heated debate between Congress and the White House over lifting the debt ceiling.

Social Security added $1.4 trillion in obligations, partly reflecting longer life expectancies. Federal and military retirement programs added more to the financial hole, too.

It’s those social democracy things.  The same things that are bankrupting countries in the European Union.  Free health care.  And free pensions (with everyone living longer people are collecting far, far more than they ever paid into these programs).  Which just goes to show that free things are very expensive.

The $61.6 trillion in unfunded obligations amounts to $527,000 per household. That’s more than five times what Americans have borrowed for everything else — mortgages, car loans and other debt. It reflects the challenge as the number of retirees soars over the next 20 years and seniors try to collect on those spending promises.

Imagine yourself living as you are.  Working hard to pay your bills (mortgages, car loans and other debt).  And then adding another mortgage to the mix for a magnificent half-million dollar home.  Only without the home.  Just the mortgage payments.  If you’re not good at imagining that’s okay.  Because you’ll be living it within 20 years.  Can it get worse?

The government has promised pension and health benefits worth more than $700,000 per retired civil servant. The pension fund’s key asset: federal IOUs.

Why, yes.  It can.  While you struggle to pay these enormous bills you can think about this.  Your civil servants.  The people that work for you.  They will be making about $173,000 more in retirement than you.  Their boss.  That ought to put a smile on your face.  And a skip in your step.

Here Comes National Health Care

And it’s going to get worse.  Because national health care is coming (see Study Sees Cuts to Health Plans by Janet Adamy posted 6/8/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

A report by McKinsey & Co. has found that 30% of employers are likely to stop offering workers health insurance after the bulk of the Obama administration’s health overhaul takes effect in 2014.

The findings come as a growing number of employers are seeking waivers from an early provision in the overhaul that requires them to enrich their benefits this year. At the end of April, the administration had granted 1,372 employers, unions and insurance companies one-year exemptions from the law’s requirement that they not cap annual benefit payouts below $750,000 per person a year.

But the law doesn’t allow for such waivers starting in 2014, leaving all those entities—and other employers whose plans don’t meet a slate of new requirements—to change their offerings or drop coverage.

Bill Clinton lost the 1994 midterm election because he campaigned as a moderate and governed as a liberal.  With Hillarycare being the poster child of his liberal agenda.  Barack Obama lost the 2010 midterm election because he campaigned as a moderate and governed as a liberal.  With Obamacare being the poster child of his liberal agenda.  The people spoke.  Then.  And now.  They don’t want national health care.  That’s why Hillarycare failed.  And why they watered Obamacare down to be something short of national health care.  But Obamacare will serve its purpose.  It will kill the private health insurance market.  Setting the stage once and for all for national health care in the United States.

In surveying 1,300 employers earlier this year, McKinsey found that 30% said they would “definitely or probably” stop offering employer coverage in the years after 2014. That figure increased to more than 50% among employers with a high awareness of the overhaul law.

The Obamacare legislation was something like a thousand pages long.  Guaranteed to confuse.  In fact, it was so confusing that Democrats voted for it without reading it.  Republicans read as much of it as they could.  And because they saw what was in it they voted against it.  Those who take the time to read it don’t like it.  Including the 50% of employers surveyed.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in a March 2010 report, found that by 2019, about six million to seven million people who otherwise would have had access to coverage through their job won’t have it owing to the new law. That estimate represents about 4% of the roughly 160 million people projected to have employment-based coverage in 2019.

So let’s crunch some numbers.  Private insurers can’t cap benefits below $750,000 per person per year.  Some 6-7 million people will lose their insurance because of Obamacare.  So if the government has to pick up the costs for half of the lower amount (3 million) of these people consuming $750,000 each that comes to…$2.25 trillion.  That’s a lot.  Now let’s say the 160 million who have employment-based coverage lose it.  And that half of them need $750,000 in benefits.  That comes to…$60 trillion.  How about that?  That’s about the same as the amount of the government’s unfunded financial liabilities. 

So, in addition to the $14 trillion or so in debt, there may be another $120 trillion that we’ll have to borrow.  And that’s a little more than the $2.4 trillion the Obama administration is desperately trying to get the House to approve.  And warn about dire consequences if the Republicans refuse to do so.  This reminds me of that scene in Jaws where Chief Brody was throwing out that chum to attract the shark.  It worked.  The shark appeared.  Only it was a lot bigger than Brody thought it’d be.  He told Captain Quint, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”  Because fighting a $120 trillion debt with a $2.4 trillion dingy is going to lose the battle.  And by ‘lose the battle’ I mean the United States will end up like Greece.  Only without anyone big enough to bail her out.

OPEC not increasing Oil Production, no Help for Depressed Economies

That’s some pretty doleful news.  Maybe there’s a white knight rushing to the rescue.  Perhaps the economy will rebound and go gang busters.  Maybe the United States will grow itself out of this debt sinkhole (see OPEC Keeps Lid on Oil Production Targets by The Associated Press posted 6/8/2011 posted on The New York Times).

OPEC decided on Wednesday to maintain its crude oil output levels and meet again within three months to discuss a possible production increase.

The decision was unexpected and reflected unusual tensions in an organization that usually works by consensus.

Saudi Arabia and other influential oil-producing nations had pushed to increase production ceilings to calm markets and ease concerns that crude was overpriced for consumer nations struggling with their economies.

To quote a line from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, they have a better chance of playing pickup sticks with their butt cheeks.  The moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico put pressure on supply.  Then the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa added more.  The recession had kept oil down for the last year or so.  But with supply being squeezed that wasn’t going to last.  It’s back up.  With an assist from Ben Bernanke.  Whose quantitative easing devalued the dollar and sparked some inflation.  For we buy and sell the world’s oil in U.S. dollars.  So consumer prices are up.  While high unemployment and flat wages continue to make life hard for the American consumer.

Those opposed were led by Iran, the second-strongest producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries…

Iran and Venezuela came to the meeting opposing any move to increase output, which would have probably lowered prices for benchmark crude from the present levels of around $100 a barrel.

But OPEC powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which favors prices of around $80 a barrel, wanted higher production levels — and served notice that it was prepared to raise production unilaterally, to close to 10 million barrels a day from its present daily production of about 8.7 million barrels.

How about that?  Our enemies want to keep the price of oil up.  While our friends want to bring it back down to $80 per barrel.  Yet the Obama administration demanded that Mubarak step down from power in Egypt (a move the Saudis did not like as Egypt was anti-Iran and kept a lid on radical Islam like the Muslim Brotherhood) while doing nothing to help the democracy movement in Iran.  And Obama himself has a close and personal relationship with the Venezuelan dictator.  Hugo Chavez.

Policies like these will do little to bring the price of oil down.  Or make the economy rebound and go gang busters.  So there’s little hope of the U.S. growing its way out of their unfunded financial obligations. 

Monetary Policy doing more Harm than Good

And it doesn’t help to have Big Government Keynesians trying to fix things (see Sizing up the Fed’s few options by Cyrus Sanati posted 6/8/2011 on CNNMoney).

At the time the Fed began its second round of quantitative easing, inflation was low, so Bernanke felt comfortable instituting a program that would see $600 billion injected into the economy. After all, how much inflation can $600 billion cause when the country has a national debt load of $14 trillion and a personal debt load of $30 trillion?

Inflation has jumped in the last three months at a much faster pace than historical averages. The consumer price index rose by 6.1% annually during the April quarter, and core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose by 2%. Such an accelerated move in inflation would be explainable if there was strong economic growth, but that’s not the case.

Higher prices without economic growth.  We saw this in the Seventies.  Under Jimmy Carter.  His treasury secretary, Paul Volcker, raised rates to reduce inflation.  Interest rates soared.  But he tamed inflation.  And he didn’t do it with quantitative easing.  He did it by doing the exact opposite.  Bernanke could learn a lesson from Volcker.

“If you’re Bernanke and you are seeing this rapid acceleration in core inflation and a high unemployment rate, you got to be thinking to yourself, ‘Gee, my models aren’t working right,'” says Drew Matus, senior U.S. economist at UBS Investment Research. “This should cause more caution in the part of the Fed and it is this caution that will keep them from doing QE3.”

Yes.  The models don’t work.  They’ve never worked.  And never will.  Because monetary policy is not the be all and end all of economic activity.  Think of it this way.  Say there is a restaurant not doing well.  The Keynesian would help that restaurant with monetary policy.  It would lower prices on the menu.  To make the menu items cheaper (like making money cheaper to borrow from a bank).  The only problem is that this restaurant has problems.  People aren’t going there.  The food is bad, the service is poor and it’s dirty.  Lowering the menu prices isn’t going to fix those problems.  So lowering prices is not going to bring the people back.  Just as making money cheap to borrow won’t bring the consumers back to the market.

People need Disposable Income and Responsible Government

Unemployment is high.  A lot of people have no jobs.  Or disposable income.  Meanwhile, prices are going up.  Leaving even less disposable income.  Businesses aren’t going to borrow cheap money to hire people to expand production.  Because current production levels are already in excess of current demand.

People need disposable income.  Inflation is taking that money away from the people.  And two things are driving inflation.  High oil prices (demand greater than supply).  And bad monetary policy (a devalued dollar increases the price of oil and everything else).  We need to fix these things.  We need to drill.  We need to increase American production of oil.  And we need to stop printing money.  We need to do these two things ASAP.

Then we need to address the insanity of spending money we don’t have.  And stop it.  Sooner or later, we have to address entitlements.  Actually, later may no longer be an option.  With $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities in the pipeline.  And with Obamacare potentially adding another $60 trillion.  That’s just too much.  Trying to pay this will kill economic activity.  It will require more taxes, more borrowing and more printing.  Everyone of which will increase the cost of doing business or investing.  Which will ultimately kill jobs.  Giving people even less disposable income.

Benjamin Franklin warned, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”  That’s why they designed the republic to have disinterested, responsible people between the treasury and the people.  But that was then.  When disinterested, responsible people were in government.  Perhaps not everyone, but enough to keep the republic solvent.  Today most serve themselves.  The treasury is just a tool to buy votes.  And to hell with the consequences because most of them will be dead by the time the republic ends.

So don’t expect them to do the right thing anytime soon.  Because doing the right thing will not make their lives better.  Only ours.

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The Deepwater Horizon Accident Destroyed the American Oil Industry, but not the Gulf of Mexico

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 20th, 2011

Still no American Offshore Oil Production in the Gulf of Mexico

This is the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.  The beginning of the world’s greatest environmental catastrophe.  And the ‘day the music died’ for American oil exploration. 

But was it really that bad?  Sure, it was.  There was loss of life.  Eleven men died on that platform.  Brave men working the hard and lonely life of offshore oil production.  Their families no doubt suffering the greatest loss from this catastrophe.  So, in their honor, and everyone working the oil fields, let’s take a glimpse into that life.  And see what it was like in the beginning.  When we first went offshore oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  In the Jimmy Stewart movie Thunder Bay.   

That was then.  That movie had a happy ending.  The shrimpers, fishermen and oil men all lived happily ever after.  Together.  Today, the government itself is after the oil men.  And I doubt even a great American like Jimmy Stewart could stop what’s happening.

The Ecosystem doing just Fine in the Gulf of Mexico

They predicted the end of the world for the Gulf waters.  The oil spewing from Deepwater Horizon was going to kill everything in that ecosystem.  So they predicted.  But the dire predictions of doom and gloom, as usual, have proven more hysteria than fact (see BP Oil Spill: How Bad Is Damage to Gulf One Year Later? by Bryan Walsh, Time, posted 4/19/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Yet nearly a year after the spill began, it seems clear that the worst-case scenario never came true. It’s not that the oil spill had no lasting effects – far from it – but the ecological doomsday many predicted clearly hasn’t taken place. There is recovery where once there was only fear. ” A lot of questions remain, but where we are now is ahead of where people thought we’d be,” Safina says. “Most people expected it would be much worse.”

Good news indeed.  And there’s more.

Yet the damage does seem so far to have been less than feared. Take the oil itself: scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated last August that much of the oil had remained in the Gulf, where it had dispersed or dissolved. Many environmentalists attacked the report for underplaying the threat of large underwater oil plumes still active in the Gulf, yet later independent scientific studies indeed found that oil had largely disappeared from the water. Turns out we can thank bacteria. Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; University of California, Santa Barbara; and Texas A&M University traveled to the site of the blown well and found that microbes had digested much of the oil and methane that remained in the water. By autumn, the levels were back to normal. “It’s very surprising it happened so fast,” John Kessler, an oceanographer with Texas A&M, told me earlier this year. “It looks like natural systems can handle an event like this somewhat on their own.”

Is Mother Nature mocking us?  Is she taunting, “Is that the best you can do?”  For it would appear she is.  Here we all were, wrought with worry about oil in the water.  Both of which Mother Nature created.  During our time on this planet.  And long before man began adapting nature for our own needs.  And now, despite all the doom and gloom, the water appears just fine.  As is the stuff that lives in it.

The Gulf’s valuable fisheries also seem to have escaped the worst damage. John W. Tunnell Jr., the associate director of the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M, estimated in a report that the region’s shrimp fisheries would rebound to normal within two years, while blue-crab populations would be back to normal this year and commercial fish species such as red snapper and grouper largely escaped any negative impact. (Oyster beds, hit hard by the oil, might take up to a decade to recover, however.) It’s possible that the lengthy moratorium on fishing in much of the Gulf during the worst days of the spill – when up to 84,000 sq. mi. (217,600 sq km) were off limits – may have even given some fish species a much needed break from exploitation, allowing them to recover in population.

You know, that’s not bad.  For America’s worst environmental catastrophe.  And the shrimpers and fishermen are going to escape unscathed, too.  A year or two of loss revenue?  The slush fund President Obama shook down BP for will more than cover two years of lost revenue.  And the shrimpers, fishermen and oil men may very well all live happily ever after.  Just like they did in Thunder Bay.

The Environmentalists have Never been Right

You know, this is not surprising.  Because environmentalists are a bunch of fear mongers who haven’t a clue of what they’re talking about.  They’re not scientists.  They’re activists.  Even their ‘scientists’ are activists.  For no matter how wrong they are with their catastrophic forecasts, they just keep shoveling their doom and gloom.   But we should believe them this time.  Because this time, their models are better.  And this time, their ‘science’ is better.  Sure, they may have been a little off before.  But this time they got it right.  This time it’s for real.

So when it comes to forecasting, let’s take a look at some of these oldies but goodies of yesteryear (see Eight Botched Environmental Forecasts by Maxim Lott posted 12/30/2010 on FOX NEWS).

1. Within a few years “children just aren’t going to know what snow is.” Snowfall will be “a very rare and exciting event.” Dr. David Viner, senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, interviewed by the UK Independent, March 20, 2000.

2. “[By] 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots…[By 1996] The Platte River of Nebraska would be dry, while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers.” Michael Oppenheimer, published in “Dead Heat,” St. Martin’s Press, 1990.

3. “Arctic specialist Bernt Balchen says a general warming trend over the North Pole is melting the polar ice cap and may produce an ice-free Arctic Ocean by the year 2000.” Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 1972.

4. “Using computer models, researchers concluded that global warming would raise average annual temperatures nationwide two degrees by 2010.” Associated Press, May 15, 1989.

5. “By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” Life magazine, January 1970.

6. “If present trends continue, the world will be … eleven degrees colder by the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age.” Kenneth E.F. Watt, in “Earth Day,” 1970.

7. “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.

8. “In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” Ehrlich, speech during Earth Day, 1970

In case you’re wondering, they were wrong on all of these predictions.  And sea life?  Even America’s worst oil catastrophe couldn’t kill it off.  You’d think the people making these predictions would be a little embarrassed today.  Not so.  FOX asked them.  They’ll admit that they weren’t 100% correct.  But they say they were still pretty damn close.  And their work is still relevant.

Particularly fascinating about this wild-ass guessing that they call science is this statement by Dr. Paul Ehrlich, author of “The Population Bomb” and president of Stanford University’s Center for Conservation Biology about the trend of global temperatures (see Item 6 above).

“Present trends didn’t continue,” Ehrlich said of Watt’s prediction. “There was considerable debate in the climatological community in the ’60s about whether there would be cooling or warming … Discoveries in the ’70s and ’80s showed that the warming was going to be the overwhelming force.”

Ehrlich told FoxNews.com that the consequences of future warming could be dire.

So the scientific consensus that chose cooling over warming was wrong.  They should have been warning us about the end of the world due to global warming, not global cooling.  There, I’m glad we cleared that up.  For awhile there, in the Seventies, we were living in fear of the wrong fear.  Boy, is my face red.  From embarrassment.  Not cooling.  Or warming.

The lesson learned?  Don’t take any investment advice from an environmental scientist.  Because their track record proves that they’re not very smart.  And that they’re pretty bad guessers, too.

Global Cooling Elbowing its way past Global Warming in Chicago

Or maybe the dumb environmentalist scientists were right after all (see Temperatures Lowest For Time Of Year Since 1940s posted 4/20/2011 on CBS Chicago).

Not only has Chicago dealt with chilly rain, hail and even snow this week, but temperatures Tuesday were at their lowest for this late spring date since the 1940s…

In the early evening hours, just walking a few blocks along the streets of Chicago felt like going out to sea in an open boat during a rainstorm in northern Canada. Anyone walking against the wind was blasted continuously in the face with cold droplets of rain, and given the strength of the winds, an umbrella was as good as useless.

Score one for the dumb guys in the Seventies.  They were right.  It’s getting cooler.  The glaciers must be on the move in northern Canada, pushing that arctic weather ahead of them.  Gee, I wonder what will happen when this new ice age slams into the global warming front.  I can’t say for sure but I’ll bet it’ll be a pretty windy day.  Probably best not to schedule any golf when that happens.  I don’t play well on windy days.

Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie

The good news is that the Gulf of Mexico is fine.  The bad news is that the Obama administration has killed the American oil industry for no good reason.  All for the insanity that is global warming.  Or Cooling.  Or Change.  Whatever we’re calling the impending climate disaster heading our way these days.  We’ve acted and made horrible energy policy decisions based on a bunch of ramblings from these pseudo scientists.  And it is killing our economy.  For as Jimmy Stewart said in Thunder Bay, “Without oil this country of ours would stop.  And it’d start to die.”

So we’ve stopped drilling.  But China hasn’t.  Brazil hasn’t.  In fact, we’ve invested in the Brazilian oil industry.  While China works with Cuba to drill for oil in our backyard.  The Gulf of Mexico.  So their economies will grow.  While ours continues to limp along in the recession that just never ends.  As gasoline shoots past $4/gallon once again.  This energy shortage will drive inflation.  Making the basics of life more expensive.  Leaving us with less disposable cash to enjoy life.  Lowering our standard of living.  This in the world’s largest economy.  Well, largest for now.

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie.

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