Monday Open Thread (2009-03-23)

Here is your open thread for Monday March 23rd, 2009. You may post random links and off-topic discussions here. Also, if you have an idea or a topic you’d like to see covered in an article, please make it known.

Be sure to also check out the forums, and get your word in the user-driven discussions there!

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    Robert says:

    It looks like we are getting closer to inflation. Another $1 trillion bailout of banks.

    I hope the inflation does not get nasty and creates a run on the dollar. Because this would be far more dangerous than the housing bubble. Money bubble could be a nasty thing as well.

  2. 2
    johnnybigspenda says:

    I have heard a lot of talk on SB about the pre-cursor to the turn around being reduced inventory levels. Even if this is not exactly what we’ve all been looking for, it sure seems like a step in the right direction… could be the first robin of spring?

    February existing home sales rise by 5.1 percent
    Monday March 23, 10:30 am ET
    By Alan Zibel, AP Real Estate Writer
    Existing home sales rise 5.1 percent in February; prices plunge 15.5 percent

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of existing homes rose from January to February in an unexpected boost for the slumping U.S housing market as buyers took advantage of deep discounts on foreclosures.
    The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of existing homes grew 5.1 percent to an annual rate of 4.72 million last month, from 4.49 million units in January. It was the largest sales jump since July 2003.

  3. 3
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: johnnybigspenda @ 2 – Locally the volume was down. Those are national numbers.

    March apparently will be higher that February or January–but that should be the case anyway. The number will still be relatively anemic.

  4. 4
    johnnybigspenda says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 3

    I hear you on the local vs. national… i guess I’m just being optimistic… the turn around has to start somewhere (it won’t be here first for sure). Even if its not a ‘turn around’ per se and things just flatten out… that would be better than the current MO. I like that it was a large jump (relatively speaking the largest since July 2003) and that it was not expected. Definitely better than more of the same…ie. worse than expected, and accelerating into negative infinity.

    If we are infact, ‘behind the curve’, we could actually be in a very unique situation here in Seattle. I mean, if markets around the country all start to exhibit a certain pattern of ‘signs’ as they emerge from the ashes, we will then have a roadmap to follow… we may be able to avoid buying in too early as prices are still falling. Just thinking positive. I’m sure many will say that ‘too early’ is somewhere around 2015.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: johnnybigspenda @ 4 – Locally the month to date sales are over 524 for King County, which is above whatever it was at this point last month. Many sales occur at the end of the month, so I have little concern that the sales will be over 700, vs. 674 and 661 for the prior two months. I will note that March 2008 was up about 350 units over the then dismal February figure, so I don’t know if we’re going to see that kind of an increase (even on a percentage basis). Also, I expect the median to be down from February.

    The pendings should also probably show an increase over February when the numbers are released. The median list price on those has been holding relatively steady throughout the month, but at a lower level than February’s closed median.

    Numbers from NWMLS sources but not guaranteed.

  7. 7
    johnnybigspenda says:

    I don’t expect a turn around in Seattle for another year… i think we are about that far behind the rest of the country. Just good to see that the rest of the country is showing some sign that they may want to divert from going directly to the morge and maybe stop by the emergency room to see what can be done.

    The Yahoo article was about the country, not CA specifically. In the article it stated “The median sales price plunged to $165,400, down 15.5 percent from $195,800 a year earlier. That was the second-largest drop on record.”

    I can see how houses in the higher rungs being foreclosed on would be a bad sign, but I don’t see that median price moving up nationally. I also don’t think its a bad thing when volume picks up… MOS will drop possibly quicker than many think if volume keeps picking up.

  8. 8
    Scotsman says:

    RE: johnnybigspenda @ 7

    I agree, but others are focusing on the month to month increase, not the year over year change. My reason for the post is simply to remind folks that things aren’t always as they seem at first glance, and even the numbers behind seasonally expected month to month increases might not be what you think.

    With both heavy manipulation and the expected seasonal increase I don’t think any of the data for the next couple of months will be that valuable. We won’t really know where we’re at until late summer. And like you, I don’t think things will improve significantly by then, if at all.

  9. 9
    EconE says:

    By Robert @ 1:

    It looks like we are getting closer to inflation. Another $1 trillion bailout of banks.

    I hope the inflation does not get nasty and creates a run on the dollar. Because this would be far more dangerous than the housing bubble. Money bubble could be a nasty thing as well.

    Good to see you back with your daily inflation fear mongering.

    See you tomorrow…will yours be the first post again?

    Tell us how cool it will be again to have everybody’s savings wiped out. Pleeeeeeze!

  10. 10
    Mikal says:

    RE: EconE @ 9 – What percentage of this country is saving money?

  11. 11
    EconE says:

    RE: Mikal @ 10

    Gee…I dunno Mikal.

    Perhaps you’d like to ask our resident hyper-inflationista.

  12. 12
    patient says:

    By Mikal @ 10:

    RE: EconE @ 9 – What percentage of this country is saving money?

    I would think a pretty large number of baby boomers have moved their deflated but still substantial 401ks into savings. It would be soooo cool if it gets wiped out leaving them with no funds to retire. We who still go to work would have to pay for our parents, way cool. But again, the likelyhood of significant inflation is very small, so I can’t say I’m worried about it.

  13. 13
    jon says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 5 – That is an interesting theory, but the data does not support it.

    If the mix of houses for sale was shifting to the higher end, then one of two things would have to happen. Either total inventory would have to increase or else the ratio of lower end to higher end would shift. Neither of those is likely given the breakdown of listing into quartiles:

    Inventory is flat, and the 25th percentile has stayed the same. If the fraction that is lower end was dropping to make room for higher end foreclosures, then the 25th percentile cutoff would shift up. There is room in the data for a shift from mid-priced to high-end, but we don’t know the reason for such a shift if it exists.

    (If the newer data this will be posted later today changes that picture, then this comment may not make sense after that.)

  14. 14
    Mikal says:

    RE: patient @ 12 – There are alot of baby boomers with little savings. There aren’t that many people in this country that have saved money. The average credit card balance per household is well over $10,000. Most people will be happy to inflate that away along with the value of their house.

  15. 15
    EconE says:

    RE: Mikal @ 14

    The “people” may be happy, but the banks won’t.

    You think Chase, BofA et al want to be paid back with hyper-inflated dollars?

    Guess who else has GIANT cash reserves that nobody wants inflated away?

    Major insurers such as St. Farm, Farmers etc.

    Do you notice how AIG seems to be the only large insurer in the limelight? Have you sat back and asked yourself why?

  16. 16
    Mikal says:

    RE: EconE @ 15 – Really, wouldn’t all the dead wieght be valued in a more positive light. It would fix their books also. The government also owes alot more than the few sound insurance companies.

  17. 17
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    By EconE @ 15:

    Do you notice how AIG seems to be the only large insurer in the limelight? Have you sat back and asked yourself why?

    Their exposure isn’t due to their traditional insurance role, but what were you thinking? I’m not following.

  18. 18
    jon says:

    RE: EconE @ 15 – “You think Chase, BofA et al want to be paid back with hyper-inflated dollars?”

    Yes. As long as they have the cash to pay back depositors, they don’t care. Deflation would destroy every bank. That’s why the Fed will never allow deflation to happen again, because the Fed is actually owned by the banks.

    It is the depositors that would be impacted by hyper-inflation.

  19. 19
    Robert says:

    RE: EconE @ 9

    Hey – Actually my prediction is that the Fed will be successful with fighting deflation within 6 months or maybe 9 months at the most. The prices of real estate in Seattle will continue to fall for the next year or maybe even year and a half. The inflation will start creeping in.

    There is lots of money that is supplied by the Fed. So there is some risk of high inflation. But the highest probability is that there will be just a small inflation – maybe 5-6%.

    If the inflation gets to become too high – then the Fed will be successful in curtailing money supply.

    The current US administration know that low inflation – but an existing one – is key to economic growth. The Fed can increase and decrease supply of money to maintain price stability.

    So basically all of the implosions we hear about will become uninteresting very soon. Very soon – means one to two years from now for me.

    All the talk that the Fed will be unsuccessful about stimulating economy etc. is all a bit of a fish. After the Fed is successful – it will be back to business. The recession will likely be over in one to two years time as well.

  20. 20
    EconE says:

    RE: jon @ 18

    Those banks will want to scoop up deflated assets first won’t they?

    Then sell them back to you and start the process all over again perhaps?

    Sell the homes cheap so that people can start “putting their equity to work” with HELOCs again after a couple years?

    We’ll see.

    RE: Robert @ 19

    That’s a much more “balanced” response.

    Of course we will try to “inflate” our way out of it and ultimately will probably succeed is my guess. How soon will it happen remains to be seen.

    Much better ways to ride the inflation wave other than housing IMHO.

    We’ll see how quickly peoples 401k’s (and jobs) come back…not many want to commit to 30 years of debt in the current environment…especially not at current asking prices.

    The smartest sellers this season will be the ones that reduce their asking prices first while still expecting any potential offer to come in significantly lower than the new reduced asking price. Just my 2c on that one.

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 17

    I’d like to see what they have on their books…too bad it’s not that easy.

    I’m just gonna sit back and watch what happens to them (or whatever MNC might own them) for now.

  21. 21
    jon says:

    RE: EconE @ 20 – “Those banks will want to scoop up deflated assets first won’t they? ”

    Not just banks, but anyone that has cash. That may be why asking prices have been going up the last few weeks. The lower priced bargains are being bought up leaving the overpriced stuff behind. They are then converting them to rentals to serve the market of people with busted credit or who are waiting for a sign of a market bottom.

  22. 22
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: jon @ 18 – The banks would care because with inflation comes higher interest rates, and higher interest rates reduce the value of long term debt holdings (beyond the inflation effect).

  23. 23
    David Losh says:

    RE: Robert @ 1

    OK, I read the report early this morning and have kind of watched during the day how the stock market reacted. I kept thinking of how stupid people are.

    In the article you posted they used the word choreographed and staged to describe the way the package was presented. I used the word package as in a gift, a present, given to banks so they will start lending again.

    On the new post for the novice home buyer we see the two champions of mortgage debt chiming in immediately. The system wants to create new debt to off set the old debt. Refinancing your way into old mortgage values with new loans.

    Let’s not forget that housing prices are over inflated. Cars are $30K and obsolete, because gasoline and coal can be replaced. New home construction should hit a lower price point while builders unload the inventory of raw land they own.

    There is nothing catastrophic in any of the deflation. It is simply a change. There is nothing to build inflation on. The only hope for inflation is if credit is allowed to expand as it has the past ten years. I don’t see banks, lenders, or investors rushing in. I don’t see consumers taking on more debt.

    But then I kept thinking of how stupid people are.

  24. 24
    Hugh Dominic says:

    RE: Robert @ 1
    Some very good points in the Economist piece below on why deflation remains the bigger fear:

    “Central banks have mostly given up trying to target inflation via the money supply. Instead, they study the “output gap” between total demand and the economy’s potential to supply goods and services, determined by such things as the labour force and capital stock, as well as inflation expectations. When demand exceeds supply, inflation rises. When it falls short, inflation falls, and in the extreme becomes deflation.”

  25. 25
    JJL says:

    Question: How many months of consecutive increased home sales and increased prices would indicate a turn around in the real estate market?

  26. 26
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: JJL @ 25 – With seasonal factors that’s hard to say, but having six months of consecutive price increases probably isn’t ever a good thing unless perhaps from April to September when seasonal factors would suggest a rise. Since 1/1/06 the King County median has only gone up once five consecutive months (or six if a tie counts), and that was back in early 2006. So three is not enough and six too many. I’m not sure that’s a trend I would look at.

    Volume would probably be a different matter, given how pathetic it’s been.

  27. 27
    jon says:

    RE: Hugh Dominic @ 24 – “Some very good points in the Economist piece below on why deflation remains the bigger fear:”

    What that article neglects to mention is the vast amount of deficit spending that the Obama administration is planning. Once that kicks in, there won’t be an output gap, and once people get used to that money flowing there will be entrenched interests to see that it never stops. So right now deflation is indeed the more immediate fear, but it will be a distant and pleasant memory when the streets are filled with people whose income depends on $1T annual deficits.

  28. 28
    JJL says:


    Would that be volume in $ or volume in number of sales.

    Also, in studying prices what would be a better indicator, average sales price or median sales prices, or would you compare them to each other to establish a trend?

  29. 29
    patient says:

    JJL, I would recommend that you look at the Case Shiller index. When the trend for about six months is up and supported by decent volumes it would be a reasonable assumption that some sort of turning point is reached, IMO.

  30. 30

    It doesn’t always sync together. At the end of the run up leading to July ’07, there was a long period of sales dropping, inventories rising, but so were prices. Some of us knew that “somethings gotta give” that that pattern couldn’t hold, and that prices would soon fall. I was probably a year too early in calling the top, but i think it’s wise to look at year over year stats, like Feb 09 compared to Feb 08,07,06, etc, and then the other months, and if we see 4-6? months of increasing year over year sales( total number of house sold that month) and inventory of unsold homes decreasing , and both median and avg sold price slowed down in decline, then we’re close to the bottom. For example, if the median home price in Seattle was 400,000 in August 07, and 350 in August 08, and then 345 in August 09, and inventory is shrinking and sales are increasing, odds are good that the bottom is there or quite close.

  31. 31
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: JJL @ 28 – I was trying to say that price wouldn’t be a particularly useful indicator of a trend because too few months doesn’t tell you much, and too many could indicate an overheated market. Whether to concentrate more on mean or median is probably dependent on what market you’re in–high or low price.

    I don’t think much of trying to time the market, but volume probably tells you a bit more but only as to regards as to when we’re out of the current mess.

  32. 32
    JJL says:

    The C-S report is a terrible report to establish current trend. Not only is their data 2-3 months old, they don’t use all home sales.

    I am compiling my own charts from the NWMLS stats going back 11 years for Snohomish County.

    I wanted to know from you “critical thinkers” what data on my charts will establish a trend and which data I should be comparing.

  33. 33
    JJL says:


    So I’m understanding you correctly, I should be comparing:

    1. Median Home Price
    2. Inventory numbers
    3. Sales Prices

    And compare the 3 against each other…. like the stars lining up. ;)

    Once I graph my data I want to be looking at the right indicators to determine a change in the market.

    What you say is correct about the rising inventory and rising prices in 2007 as it took a while for falling prices to establish themselves in the numbers.

  34. 34
    patient says:

    JJL I humbly diagree with you. CS is to me the best measure for value trends and to spot market turn arounds. It’s interresting to have people who disagree though. if you hang around long enough we will be able to determine which was more reliable nwmls or CS trends as indicator.

  35. 35

    RE: JJL @ 33

    No, not sales prices alone but sales volume as well, for example if 400 homes were sold in March 08 and 425 homes were sold in March 2009, AND there were 10,000 homes listed for sale in march 2008 and 9500 in March 2009, and you do this for 4-6 months it should be some kind of an indicator, especially if you factor in median home price/median income and /or median home price/median rent and compare that to it’s long term historical pattern. It’s not an exact science, and. as Yogi Berra said ” Predictions are hard to make, especially about the future,” ..but people aren’t going to continue to buy houses they can’t afford.

  36. 36
    David Losh says:

    RE: JJL @ 33

    There is no formula for Real Estate.

    As an example there is what’s called the freeway off ramp factor. A person buys a property in the middle of nowhere and BAM the Highway Department decides to build a new off ramp for the Wal Mart that while be built.

    There again the is the sewage treatment plant, or corrections facility factors.

    That’s what makes Real Estate local. Remember it all has to do with location.

    The other thing is that the value of Real Estate never changes. Housing is a factor of the Consumer Price Index. Talking about Real Estate like it was the stock market is fruitless.

  37. 37
    deejayoh says:

    Aubrey posted results of the Queen Anne High condo auction on his blog:

    All 12 Queen Anne High School condominiums up for auction yesterday drew successful bids and are under contract, according to the Seattle Condo Blog.

    The condos went for an average of 31 percent below the last known prices and 43 percent below their original list prices, according to the report.

    Also posted that Lumen is sposta be going up for auction soon.

  38. 38
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    By David Losh @ 36:

    That’s what makes Real Estate local. Remember it all has to do with location.

    I only attended two days of my college course on Greek and Latin word roots before dropping out because of boredom. But “local” and “location” probably have the same root–apparently “loc” or “loco” which means place.


  39. 39
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: deejayoh @ 37 – I don’t get that. That would indicate that during the marketing time they only dropped the prices 10-15% before resorting to an auction?

  40. 40
    jon says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 22 – I’m sure the former WaMu folks wish they could be worrying about the impact of inflation on their long term bond holdings.

  41. 41
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 38

    Catholic Schooling.

  42. 42
    Scotsman says:

    Good discussion of the latest bailout. Short story, it looks like the taxpayer gets stuck with the bill.
    Surprise, surprise, but very clever the way it’s set up. Click the “ticker” link to start, then back to the

  43. 43
    David Losh says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 42

    The curious thing today was there is a definite shift in terms from toxic loans to toxic assets.

  44. 44
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: David Losh @ 43 – Huh? What do you think the acronym TARP stands for?

  45. 45

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 44:

    RE: David Losh @ 43 – Huh? What do you think the acronym TARP stands for?

    Total A_hole Rescue Plan? Totally Arbitrary Rescue Plan?

  46. 46
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    I thought it was Bad Asset Relief Fund.

  47. 47

    …Or the
    Corporate Responsibility Action Plan (CRAP)?

  48. 48
    Scotsman says:

    Sorry guys, it’s the Taxpayer Anal Rape Plan. Just wait, you’ll see…

  49. 49
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    Scotsman, I’d agree. The changes made to TARP by Congress increased the risk to taxpayers by a staggering amount. I was undecided on the original plan proposed by Paulson, but Congress in it’s infinite stupidity made it too risky to be acceptable. They also managed to make it ineffective. It makes the old joke about the opposite of progress appear sadly true.

  50. 50
    David Losh says:

    No it was a subtle move in the past few weeks. Congress is talking about assets rather than loans.

    A housing unit is a tangible, real, three dimensional asset. You can sell it, or rent it, it has a consumer base.

    If you are a corporation you have assets. You have hard assets and intangible assets. If your corporation is built around paper profit, if you are selling financial services rather than automobiles, then you have worthless assets.

    I’m beginning to think that banking institutions rather than just being insolvent are toxic. The parent company of Washington Mutual is suing the FDIC. It’s the parent company and Washington Mutual is an asset that was seized. They want thirteen billion dollars more than what has already been paid, but I can’t imagine how that measly little amount will make the parent company whole.

    To fore go the rambling I have a question: Does any of that make sense?

  51. 51
    voight-kampff says:

    david losh @ 50

    I think it is just semantics
    the loan vs the asset
    the loan doesnt exist without the asset but the asset exists without the loan ( I think that is what you are describing?)
    when an investor buys the “toxic” loan they get the asset too… right?
    plus alot of securities backed by credit card debt, student loans or auto loans are also “toxic” and will be able to be purchased under Obamas public/private plan.( the plan seems like more of the private gains and social losses.)

    So David…what is the asset in a student loan?… could congress make a “subtle” change from buying student loans to buying student brains ( I kid ;-)

  52. 52
    Scotsman says:

    This is priceless- when will the people wake up?

    Goldman (GS) gives the government a bunch of its crap assets as collateral to secure a loan from the gov under the first bailout plan. Now that executive pay is a hot issue, GS is going to repay the loan so that it is out from under government control.

    It is going to repay the loan with a small non-diluting stock sale and… the insurance money it got from AIG. AIG, of course, got the money to remain solvent and pay insured demands… from the government!

    So GS sold crap to the government for good money, boosted its stock price by clearing the balance sheet, then paid the loan of with more government money.

    AIG is the governments laundry for bailout money to Ben and Tim’s friends. And of course the taxpayer gets stuck with the bill when the inevitable losses roll in.

    We’re being played for suckers… which we are. Hope and change, people, hope and change.

  53. 53
    David Losh says:

    RE: voight-kampff @ 51

    In the Savings and Loan Scandal there was a bank that had assets by lending on airplanes. When they opened the books they found those assets in a section of desert that had hundreds of junk planes, repossessed no doubt.

    Think of all the accounting that could go on within the bank doing commercial loans.

    Now what if you owned the bank that was doing a bang up commercial loan business? The money from investors paying depositors loaning money for the purchase and sale of airplanes. Maybe even having a few that flew, maybe even an airline company that had assets, maybe a hundred planes in the fleet. Of course only three or four planes were actually flying at the time, but the company had hundreds of planes!

    Now you own a bank and an airline with both hard and intangible assets. How about the company that actually is buying and selling the planes? They have hundreds to chose from, and don’t forget the parts supplier that has thousands of parts.

    Think of the possibilities today of all the corporations with international banking ability. I think we are talking about more than bad loans on some houses in California, Florida, and Nevada. I’m starting to think that there are huge insolvent companies that are the assets of the banks that are insolvent.

    I’m thinking our government is protecting our interests by shoring up corporations that have bulked up on paper profits that have absolutely no hard, tangible, assets attached.

    Oh, and student loans, take a look at the over all structure, say for a dentist, doctor, lawyer, accountant, a long list of practices that require further funding to get started. It gets very weird to start a career with a $250K to $500K debt load. How are those practices doing today?

  54. 54
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 52 – I really don’t understand all this concern people seem to have about AIG money going to GS (or banks in Europe). It’s not like we didn’t know that AIG was interconnected with other entities. In fact, that’s the very reason AIG was bailed out. And it’s not like we could have given them the money and said pay everyone other than GS. And that in fact would have been incredibly stupid, since we already had a stake in GS surviving.

    I can see why GS would want to get out from under government control. Even before last week that was obvious. Even before money started flowing to banks some banks said they wouldn’t take it because of concern over government interference.

  55. 55
    Scotsman says:

    Kary- copied from another site, a rant against GS. GS has no real contribution to the base economy, just paper shuffling, now at taxpayer expense. If it doesn’t bother you, OK, but get ready to open your checkbook.

    “Goldman Sachs created the crap that they sold to the world and then showed the boys and girls at AIG how to write bets on. Goldman Sachs was the biggest buyer of these one-way bets. They knew they were going to get paid off, because they created the crap and they created the game to insure the crap. So who did we turn to when it was time to bail out AIG . . . the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and a dozen of his cronies . . . along with Tim the Tax Cheat as the head of the NY Fed.

    So the final word is this. I am totally sick of hearing what a nice guy Ed Liddy is, and he’s doing this for $1, and he has no stake in this, and he is totally unbiased, and he only has the interests of the American people at heart. Do you really believe the crap about Ed Liddy coming out of retirement to work for free to turn things around at AIG? Do you really, deep down believe that? If you do, you are a Putz with a capital P.

    Ed Liddy was a Goldman Sachs Director right up until the day he resigned last September!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why do you think King Henry picked him? Why do you think Liddy is working for “free” . . . at least on the surface? Ed Liddy and the guys that appointed him . . . King Henry, Tim the Tax Cheat and Carney Frank should go to jail for this one. So why isn’t anyone talking about this? Because the boys and girls on CNBC and CNN and Fox all bow down to Goldman Sachs.

    Who has received twice as much AIG money as any other entity in the entire world . . . Goldman Sachs. What company received the most direct bail out money . . . in fact, five times more than any other company? The numbers are staggering and the dirty money trail all flows from and to Goldman Sachs.”

  56. 56
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    I’m not convinced that the activities of these companies didn’t contribute to the economy, but I do think something needs to be done about their size. Perhaps anti-competitive concerns are the only thing relevant to approving mergers for manufacturers, but these financial entities it needs to be more about size. I don’t believe regulating them will control them (although perhaps part of the solution), and I don’t see the ability to take them over being a viable solution either. The only solution is to limit them to a small fraction of their current size, so that their failure is insignificant.

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