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Open Source Program To Give Voters More Active Role In Government

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the new-ways-to-express-your-internet-rage dept.

Government 60

An anonymous reader writes "Argentinian political activists are developing an open source program that will allow voters to direct their representatives on how to vote on certain issues by giving voters a platform to debate and vote on issues themselves. Started as an accompaniment to and a fundamental feature of a new political party in Argentina, Democracy OS is not designed to be anonymous (i.e., no secret ballots, no anonymous comments). 'Fortunately, the software isn't yet being used to gather real votes, just to gather public feedback.' Critics see this program as yet another iteration of Germany's Pirate Party, which could not engage enough voters in its own open source program, Liquid Feedback, to gain any meaningful policy direction from their constituents. German newspaper Der Spiegel once called the movement 'a grassroots democracy where no one is showing up to participate.'"

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Silence is deafening (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46934877)

A few hundred "activists" who ahve the word "Democracy" in their organization's name are not interested in democracy.

that will allow voters to direct their representatives on how to vote

Not really.

Re:Silence is deafening (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46937087)

Having representatives is a characteristic of a Republic, not of a Democracy. In a classic Democracy the citizens discuss and vote directly, with no middleman who is only there to fill his pockets. The Republic was a useful hack (since it worked, often badly) before we could use mass communications, but now it should die. 'Should' as in 'it'd be great if', not as in 'the powers that be will allow it.'

Re:Silence is deafening (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46937265)

NO, it can't die. It's not just a problem of communication.

Not all citizens have the time and the will to read through complicated law proposals, study the connected issues in technical and social matters and make an informed vote.

Many will simply not care(which is what is happening with these experiments.

Reality is that most people like the idea of being in a democratic republic but they really don't care and are quite happy if someone else takes the burden of decision from them and chooses in their place.

There's a minority of people who would really like to decide for themselves, but in democracy minorities are irrelevant.

Voter fatigue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46940669)

The problem you're describing is called "voter fatigue". If we're ethically on board with direct democracy but our main practical concern is voter fatigue, then one of the frequently-suggested solutions is delegated voting [wikipedia.org] .

"Ha ha, oh wait!" you say. "If we're going to assign delegates, then it's back to representatives again!"

The difference between a direct e-democracy with delegated voting, and a republic, is that the moment one of those delegates pisses you off you can pick their replacement. There is no "lesser evil", there is no election cycle, and everyone is represented by someone they actually like.

Mod parent up: delegated voting (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 3 months ago | (#46945607)

Hadn't heard of the delegated voting idea before. Very interesting!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

Personally, I think we also need better tools for collective sensemaking about important public and private issues, like I led a workshop on here:
http://barcamp.org/w/page/4722... [barcamp.org]

Open Source Voting is a good first step ... (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 4 months ago | (#46934881)

Now if only Congress would actually be responsible and listen to its constituents.

--
If progress is advancement, what is congress ?

Re:Open Source Voting is a good first step ... (0)

Nimey (114278) | about 4 months ago | (#46935463)

They do listen to their constituents. It's just that their constituents are the people who can afford to donate thousands to millions of dollars to their election campaigns. You're the sucker that provides the fig leaf by voting for them.

Re:Open Source Voting is a good first step ... (0)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 months ago | (#46935657)

I think it's called the "separation of powers". Corporations get to choose who you may vote for, but can't vote, you don't have a say on who you can vote on but you may choose from those the Corporations considered good enough for you.

Re:Open Source Voting is a good first step ... (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#46936523)

I think it's called the "separation of powers". Corporations get to choose who you may vote for, but can't vote, you don't have a say on who you can vote on but you may choose from those the Corporations considered good enough for THEM.

FTFY.

Change human nature first and good luck with that (4, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 4 months ago | (#46934935)

All such schemes have the same flaw which is that only a small minority of people have the interest, time and intelligence to understand the issues to a deep enough level to actually make their vote matter more than a random toss of a dart. Hence, that minority controls the process and pretty soon begins to exclude anybody who doesn't fit in with their groupthink, defeating the whole purpose.

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46934987)

The purpose of democracy is to maintain social peace through the illusion of control the pleb believe to have over their lives. We will always be govern by a elite clique, it is natural, but for as long as enough peoples bother to go vote there will be social rest. And that is valuable.

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46939467)

That sounds like the purpose of an Oligarchy, if a Democracy is legitimate in practice the plebs do have control.

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 4 months ago | (#46935021)

Change human nature, and you won't need a government. Everybody will cooperate.

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (3, Insightful)

s.petry (762400) | about 4 months ago | (#46935317)

I agree, but the "Open" system is a proposal for a cure instead of requesting maintenance of the status quot. As someone mentions below, the issues we currently have are only partially related to an clique of self appointed 'elites' running politics. The bigger problem is that information is excluded and muddied so that people have no sense of reality.

In an "Open" forum I would happily debate Obama, or Biden, or anyone else on foreign Policy for example. I'm not the best or only example either, I can think of many that would do just as well. Stefan Molyneux (even though he's Canadian) and Ron Paul immediately come to mind. If people debated in a controlled forum and saw two sides of a debate, they would automatically be more educated. Currently they only get one side of a debate on nearly all issues of importance.

For example, how many people would vote for Common Core knowing the complete issue? I have yet to hear any media station talk about the copyright issues, lack of educators on the boards controlling content, lack of ability for educators to influence change in content or curriculum, and how the majority of that information is trademarked and can not be changed. If people knew the rational arguments against, it would not be taken so lightly. What they have today is nothing from media on why it's bad, just that "some [insert ad hominem] is against it".

Surely I would agree that not every issue would be voted on by every member of the public. It's impossible for everyone to have enough knowledge about every subject to do so, especially when it's not all of our full time jobs to read and process this type of data. It is a politicians job, and look at how many House and Senate members claim ignorance or simply abstain from voting on issues when it's their full time job.

Having enough debate would surely draw interest, and we would have better than we have now which is only an Oligarchy, Fascism, or Despotism depending on how you are grading our current Government.

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 4 months ago | (#46937877)

For example, how many people would vote for Common Core knowing the complete issue? I have yet to hear any media station talk about the copyright issues, lack of educators on the boards controlling content, lack of ability for educators to influence change in content or curriculum, and how the majority of that information is trademarked and can not be changed. If people knew the rational arguments against, it would not be taken so lightly. What they have today is nothing from media on why it's bad, just that "some [insert ad hominem] is against it".

Indiana was discussing the reasons why common core was bad. The state also stepped away from the program.

Could it be worse than a dictator though? (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 4 months ago | (#46935367)

If someone seriously built a hyper-democracy ap, when revolutions happen, they could just install the proper hardware/software and the people could vote on things at centralized locations. It would likely be better than a straight dictator. If there are problems with majority tyranny, you could do tweaks to certain variables. No one needs to install it right off the bat. You just need to make it, and then let it run for 10-30 years successfully before someone trying it to use in a country.

You'd start it as a "voter education ap" in the USA. You'd track politicians, their campaign promises, and if they lived up to them. You'd have to open source people to read through bills to know what they mean, then you say which politician voted on them. Then you'd have issues that politicians side with. I think if people just had the information of "What did the incumbent vote for in his office, what did this guy actually do?" People would be educated about their politicians for a better vote than just being lied to on television ads.

Look at how the Internet desperately tries to rally around stopping SOPA and now Comcast's attack on net neutrality. If there was a website that was the voice of people on the Internet who also lived in the USA(hard part validating people), you could have it write the senators on the most upvoted issues with the most upvoted comments.

One thing you'd need is "factional voting" where different factions like dems and reps read the same article and comments, but one faction only sees upvotes/downvotes from its self by default. So even if there are opposing views, one dominant force can't drive it down. It'd be a lot like reddit.com or digg.com otherwise.

Re:Could it be worse than a dictator though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46935575)

Sounds good....so who's willing to build this, and can they do it for free?

Re:Could it be worse than a dictator though? (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about 4 months ago | (#46936055)

This mentality makes me sad. More people will pay money to vote for an American Idol candidate on their own time than will vote for free in a presidential election with legally-mandated free time off work to do so.

It's no wonder that our government is so screwed up.

Re:Could it be worse than a dictator though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46939557)

I'm in the market for this kind of project, I'm sure there are others.

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 4 months ago | (#46935501)

If only.
The problem is that only a few people have the intelligence and skill, and they do not have the time and/or the interest.
Random wackjobs have all the time in the world, but none of the intelligence and skill.

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 months ago | (#46935691)

The difference to now would be what exactly? Except that politicians only get to hear one side of the story, i.e. what the lobbying groups want to tell them.

Of course only people who are interested in an issue would participate in the discussion. And yes, you'd have the uninterested who neither know anything nor care at all about the subject, just like you do now. They would do what they do now, vote according to their favorite party's line.

the main difference would probably be that there will be TWO sides at the table and people who WOULD be interested actually COULD inform themselves and make an informed decision for a change.

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (1)

Chozabu (974192) | about 4 months ago | (#46937085)

Sure - that is a big problem with "Direct Democracy"
The idea of "Liquid Democracy" is that people can select representatives in various different areas (and they can select sub-representatives, etc)

At least that's my take on it, and what I am implementing in a distributed F2F manner as a plugin for RetroShare dubbed "Mesh Democracy":
http://www.chozabu.net/blog/?p... [chozabu.net] or straight to a screenshot http://www.chozabu.net/blog/wp... [chozabu.net]

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about 3 months ago | (#46939021)

The idea is you allow people to delegate their votes by topic to other people, who may be experts or may simply delegate again, upwards in a tree. You can change your delegations (sort of like revoting in the election) at any time or simply cast a vote on a particular proposal directly yourself. At initialisation time everyone starts out with their votes for all topics delegated to their local elected representative, so it's backwards compatible.

Re:Change human nature first and good luck with th (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46939285)

Human nature can change when the blame is moved from "corrupt politicians" onto themselves.

Imagine these slogans: "this proposition will make the lives of group X better and yours worse; vote against!". Even if this is total manipulation, after a few rounds people may start to smarten up, because the next time they complain that "nothing is done", the proposition and its vote count will be pointed at. The next question is: how did you vote? If you voted against the thing that you moan about not being done, you can go fuck yourself. This is the interesting part: people don't like being told to go fuck themselves, so they'll start working on how to reduce the incidence of that.

They could swing the other way: vote for something that makes their lives better in the short term, just to get fucked in the long term, by, say, hyperinflation. They might vote some money printing for a little while, which will fuck them up soon enough, but this time they won't be able to blame the government. The government will then explain basic economics (again, as they would have explained that in the first voting round), and after a while the people will vote for the money printing to stop. They'd do so with a heavy heart, because money... but they'd be that little bit more rational from there on.

The ones that will keep blaming others for their fate will become a minority after a few rounds of cutting the branch underneigh everybody's feet.

open for hope/change (0)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 4 months ago | (#46934975)

or not.

Information (1)

RichMan (8097) | about 4 months ago | (#46935025)

The first requirement for a better democracy is
not more votes on issues
not more debates
it is more infomation.

What is needed is puiblic access to all the background information -

Who initiated the bill?
What is the problem it addresses?
How does it address the problem?
What are the side affects/other problems that get created or are not covered?
What are the costs?
Who bears the costs?
How will the costs be paid?
Who benefits?
Who loses?
What other problems are there in the area?
Does this impact any other laws or rights?

All that should be presented as full background information on every line item in all bills.
Without that information the representatives should say "not enough information to vote".
So we as people should demand all that information be made public on every line item.

Re:Information (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#46935053)

That's too complicated, we've simplified it. All we need to know is which Party initiated it.

Re:Information (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 months ago | (#46935709)

The one that did it for less money. Duh.

good job... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46935039)

Look, the /. team now has broken the login mechanism. Good job. Never change a running system, idiots.

Re:good job... (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 4 months ago | (#46935257)

Either you forgot your password or are having local issues, I can log in just fine (as can many others, easily demonstrated by looking at names in posts).

Sample code snippet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46935095)

10 FUND REELECTION CAMPAIGN
20 GOTO 10

This is code is freely redistributable.

Re:Sample code snippet (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 months ago | (#46935721)

for the first time I wish code was copyrighted and no licenses were granted...

Someone already tried in 2008 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46935137)

metagovernment.org

Holy shit (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 4 months ago | (#46935153)

Electronic direct democracy could bring about the next great advancement in human civilization. It would finally free us from democracies that are just various degrees of oligarchy. In China and the US for example the democracy is not much more than skin-deep.

If a party that rules via EDD wins an election, they will make their country a trailblazer of progress and citizens of other countries will want to follow suit. Countries would soon vote for mincome and begin the transition away from capitalism, unleashing the full potential of our technology rather than using it as a prop in a silly game with the very serious consequence of transferring practically all excess wealth to the elite.

Re:Holy shit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46935229)

Electronic direct democracy could bring about the next great advancement in human civilization.

It could also be hell. Where a popularity contest decide of who live and who die. I don't trust the idiots that use twiter, and neither should you.

Recently some Jew said 'nigger' in the privacy of his home. Because of this, dozens of niggers are now publicly calling for extermination of Jews on twitter. Do you want to give direct democracy to such idiots?

Re:Holy shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46937119)

[...] Jews on twitter. Do you want to give direct democracy to such idiots?

They can cut their own dicks for all I care.

Re:Holy shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46935269)

Also, that make you a cryptoanarchist terrorist. LOL... "Unleashing the full potential of our technology". Why do you think they want to outlaw bitcoin? They are getting there, slowly but surly. Go to fast and you will spoke the plebs.

Technology is there to serve the rulers. If it is not, then it is not good. Therefore only bad peoples use it.

The only way to ensure more freedom is though more gun ownership. When peoples protest with a rifle slung on their shoulder, the rulers listen. Without mean to violence(not violence, but mean to violence) you have no power. It is a waste of time to listen to anyone that has no power. Peoples with rifles are not confined to "free speech cage". They have power. They are listened. They change the world.

Re:Holy shit (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 4 months ago | (#46935351)

Guns are not that important in a practical sense, although they do have a big visual impact. They're not much more useful against a modern, mechanized army than your bare hands. Which on the flip side, means that your bare hands are very nearly as good. Once you have the sheer numbers, their weapons will eventually run out of ammo, fuel, or in a worst-case scenario, get stuck in our guts. They know this and will know when to surrender.

Re:Holy shit (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 3 months ago | (#46938687)

They're not much more useful against a modern, mechanized army than your bare hands.

Which explains the easy victories our modern, mechanized army had in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Oh, wait...

Bombs and tanks and all the mechanization are pretty useless for controlling a population. You need human beings on the ground to do the controlling. Those human beings can be shot at. So if you don't want to be controlled, there are two options: 1) be prepared to shoot at the controllers, or 2) be prepared to die at the hands of the controllers, and hope that they or those who give them orders get sick and tired of killing you.

Re:Holy shit (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 months ago | (#46938837)

How much longer will there be conventional human soldiers, rather than power-armored soldiers or android drones?

That would be interesting (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#46935161)

if they could publicly display requests for how to vote from all constituents, and then compare that to how they actually vote.

magna carta two won't happen (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about 4 months ago | (#46935311)

The guys on top will never give up power unless they are forced to!

Re: magna carta two won't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46944873)

The top dogs seem to be quite versatile in catering to the needs of their corporate masters. Those bottom feeders will undoubtedly extend their services beyond mere top or bottom option and they won't bite the hand (or penis) that feeds them.

Lack of anonymity (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 4 months ago | (#46935339)

Democracy OS is not designed to be anonymous (i.e., no secret ballots, no anonymous comments)

That helps to avoid problems with anonymous trolling (the online disinhibition effect [wikipedia.org] or "Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory"). It also would help to avoid outright floods from foreign agents in discussions on foreign policy-related issues. On the other hand, if ballots are secret, then it is troubling that political lobbying by individuals (as opposed to corporations) is not held anonymous, and if people's voting choices are exposed, there can be a chilling effect. Is there no perfect balance here?

Re:Lack of anonymity (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 months ago | (#46935777)

It could be done similar to how voting works, just in reverse: Instead of putting an anonymous envelope in the box, you take one out. You go to some federal office where you show who you are, then you get to pick a random envelope containing your personal username and password. Create a law that makes it not only an offense to inform someone about your username but also make asking for it a criminal offense (so nobody can be sensibly pressured into revealing his "online persona").

Of course that idea needs some work, but I think it's a start to work from.

Re:Lack of anonymity (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 4 months ago | (#46935833)

You go to some federal office where you show who you are

I don't think this is a workable solution. One of the reasons for low voter turnout in the US is that going to a special location to vote is burdensome (and some employers won't allow their employees to leave work to vote). The future surely has to be online.

Re:Lack of anonymity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46936195)

The future is voting day being a mandatory two day holiday. Workers are not allowed to work both days, they must take one of those days off.

Re:Lack of anonymity (1)

cHALiTO (101461) | about 3 months ago | (#46938785)

That's more or less how it is in Argentina. Voting is usually done on one day, typically a sunday, and is mandatory, secret and anonymous. Also, companies are required by law to let you go to vote, and usually voting is done in local schools and public places (libraries, etc). Everyone has a designed voting place defined based on your current address (I, for example, usually get to vote in a primary school 4 blocks away from my home).
Results are generally ready by that night or the next morning.

Re:Lack of anonymity (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#46941051)

It's similar in most places I know. Elections are usually held on Sundays when most people are off work, and if you have to work, your employer has to allow you to go vote (he may require a proof from the election commission that you really went to vote and didn't just use it as an excuse to goof off)

Re:Lack of anonymity (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#46940959)

You'd have to do that ONCE, not every time there's something to be discussed. If your right to participate in a democracy is not worth spending an hour of your day off at a federal office, you better abstain from voting altogether anyway.

Instructions to Vote is a fine idea (1)

Trachman (3499895) | about 4 months ago | (#46935965)

Instructions to politicians dictating what to vote for is a fine idea and a great tool to accountability. It will be even better when crowds of taxpayers will be directing how to spend taxes and what taxes to collect. That is when the democracy will start. Just think about it: The government knows income and expenses of every household with scientific precision. Voters, however, use the ballot system inherited from Helenic era.

Australia has tried this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46936217)

The Senator Online party has an identical concept and has been contesting Australian federal elections since 2007. No senators have yet been elected however.

http://www.senatoronline.org.au/

Loomio (1)

Absolutely.Geek (2913529) | about 4 months ago | (#46936273)

Check out https://www.loomio.org/ [loomio.org]

The New Zealand Pirate Party has been using it for a while now to debate policy etc...

Nice to see experiments in democracy (1)

gnoshi (314933) | about 4 months ago | (#46936343)

One of the challenges with any democratic system which has voluntary inclusion (e.g. optional voting) is that the voting constituents can be dominated by special interest groups. For example, a religious organisation with a sufficiently large following who are willing to follow the directions of leadership could sway a vote simply because there isn't an organised structure opposing them (so low voter turnout for an opposing position).
Another challenge is that if you have mandatory inclusion, then you can have people who are essentially uninformed on major issues (or worse yet, misinformed - although defining what is 'misinformed' in a challenge all its own) who are voting to determine an outcome. This can turn the entire process into a popularity contest where votes are won not by accurate information or genuine expert knowledge but rather by the most flashy campaigns or best scare tactics. An alternative outcome is that in the absence of good discussion on a topic, the outcome is 'tyranny of the majority' where widespread racism or other such 'isms' dominate.
Some possible interesting approaches could be things like 'citizen juries' where citizens are randomly selected (much like they would be for jury duty) and then are required to be involved in presentation of information on a particular topic and then vote on it. The challenge then becomes deciding how to choose what expert opinions to include or present, who presents, and so forth. Still, if it means there is a voting group for an issue who are not hugely affected by lobbying groups providing cash and threatening to withdraw support if certain things don't happen, maybe that would still be an improvement
Ultimately, getting people to engage is hard and the less people engage the poorer the outcomes will probably be from democracy, because the more poorly informed the decision making will be when choosing representatives (ignoring the question of who the representatives are actually representing).

All that said, it is great to see experiments with new models for democracy. Representative democracy made good sense when communication was limited, voting on issues was geographically challenging, and so on. Things have changed, and there are new challenges, but experimenting with ideas like these are a good start in the process of fumbling towards to a functional democracy.

Virtual Representatives (1)

Baby Duck (176251) | about 4 months ago | (#46936397)

The entire House of Representatives can be completely replaced by virtual entities. Each entity unconditionally votes according to the majority of its voting constituents. It's like an electoral college where each constituency is reduced to a single vote, yet without any human electors who could vote contrary to the majority opinion.

All bills introduced by the House are drafted by volunteers. Any citizen can volunteer. When enough citizens upvote a proposal, the bill automatically goes up for vote.

Re:Virtual Representatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46939709)

this isn't an awful idea

Direct Democracy + guaranteed representative (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 4 months ago | (#46936401)

I actually wanted to make a system like the Liquid Feedback system that would allow people to directly vote for things, or to choose someone to vote on their behalf. In this day and age, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to pick anyone you want as your representative and be guaranteed that they can vote on your behalf no matter how many others do or don't pick that person to represent them. Non-participants would have to get a vote as well, which would have to default to whatever they'd actually vote for, so that the system is consistent with reality. Even without changing any laws, such a system could be used to coordinate a choice of candidate (the system could act as a political party consisting of the entire nation), and could be used to craft proposals better and more efficiently than our House/Senate system (then we'd just need to convince an appropriate politician to introduce the proposal).

However, I anticipated lethal quantities of apathy for this system (starting with myself I suppose).

Re:Direct Democracy + guaranteed representative (1)

Chozabu (974192) | about 3 months ago | (#46940421)

I started work on such a system: http://www.chozabu.net/blog/?p... [chozabu.net]
Completly Distributed too (based on Retroshare)

No one showed up (1)

Air-conditioned cowh (552882) | about 4 months ago | (#46936579)

German newspaper Der Spiegel once called the movement 'a grassroots democracy where no one is showing up to participate.'"

They were obviously astroturfing by not showing up to participate.

Yes you can... (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about 4 months ago | (#46936627)

Yes you can, you spineless, greedy sons of bitches.

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