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Meet the new boss, same as....?
May 15, 2013 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Dystopia 2.0 "...while spending millions bending the political process to pad their bottom lines, they’ve remained far more popular than past plutocrats, with 72 percent of Americans expressing positive feelings for the industry, compared to 30 percent for banking and 20 percent for oil and gas." by Joel Kotkin (wiki) referred to previously as "America’s leading cheerleader for suburban sprawl" has taken the "creative class" to task before.
posted by victors (46 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
My working theory is the less you depend on a company the less you are prone to loathe them for their activities.
posted by charred husk at 8:59 AM on May 15, 2013


Gee, their relative popularity couldn't have anything to do with the fact that padding their bottom lines doesn't come at either the expense of the planet or the taxpayers? It's not like I think Mark Zuckerberg is on the side of the little guy, but how you make your money counts for something. And "spending millions bending the political process to pad their bottom lines" is really just par for the course amongst CEOs.

Grind dat axe, Joel.
posted by dry white toast at 9:01 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


... the fact that padding their bottom lines doesn't come at either the expense of the planet or the taxpayers?

Both factually wrong and illustrative of not having read even the first paragraph of the first link.
posted by DU at 9:02 AM on May 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


This part is good:

Mark Zuckerberg, in particular, is pouring money into a new advocacy group, Fwd.us, with a board consisting of big-name Valley luminaries, to push “comprehensive immigration reform” (read: letting Facebook bring in a cheaper labor force). In a remarkably cynical move, Fwd.us has separate left- and right-leaning subgroups to prod politicians across the political spectrum to sign on to the bill that would pad the company’s bottom line.

I ain't clicking past the first page of the thing though.
posted by bukvich at 9:14 AM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ya know what suddenly occurred to me, reading the first link? What we need is a constitutional amendment, tying the tax rate on earnings and capital gains to the ratio between the wealthiest entity and the poorest. In other words, x is how rich it is possible to get in this country, unless the poorest person's net worth comes up to y.

It wouldn't make it impossible to get rich, but it'd make it impossible to get richer unless you made sure the window of net worth moved with you.
posted by Mooski at 9:18 AM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


It wouldn't make it impossible to get rich, but it'd make it impossible to get richer unless you made sure the window of net worth moved with you.

Unless you include everyone on Earth, you just like mega-dupled the rate at which America uses up the world's resources. And if you DO include everyone on Earth, I predict complete resource exhaustion in like 2 weeks.

We need to stop seeing economic growth, from the personal level on up, as being an absolute good.
posted by DU at 9:22 AM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


And "spending millions bending the political process to pad their bottom lines" is really just par for the course amongst CEOs.

If all the CEOs jumped off a bridge...?

(OMG, think we could convince them to do that?)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:22 AM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I agree with toast.

The article rhetorically questions why Americans don't dislike tech moguls more., and I think the answer has to be they don't yet hurt Americans, at least not directly. The environmental problems are outsourced to the developing world, unlike resource extraction here in the states (gulf oil spill, fracking), so most Americans don't care. The tax dodging is frustrating, but no different from every other major corporation and apparently something Americans in general don't feel strongly enough about to even raise much outrage when unpopular companies do it. Tech companies provide desirable goods and services without directly hurting consumers.

I can still conceptualize most tech companies as "they want to make my life better and get rich doing it" without much cognitive dissonance. Whereas when I think about oil and gas companies I think "wants to get rich selling something I depend on and doesn't care if it ruins my health and my habitat" or when I think banks I think "wants to get rich by ignoring laws and manipulating a system I only dimly understand to seemingly make imaginary money appear out of the aether and when they mess up the government bails them out."

I don't think I'm alone in that. (Of course depending on how evil FB, Google, et al. get with users' data we may see a shift towards "wants to get rich selling my info and doesn't care if they provide a good service while doing so" but I haven't seen that shift yet except among a 'net-saavy subclass of users, and they just use Tor or whatever.)
posted by Wretch729 at 9:23 AM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


We need to stop seeing economic growth, from the personal level on up, as being an absolute good.

Agreed - I use the term 'net worth' as a variable here because I'm not creative enough to come up with a quantifier for self actualization.

I'm going to have to spend a few hours doing the math, but I'm not sure super-consumption is automatically the result. Mind you, I literally thought about it ten minutes ago, and it's not like I'm the first person or even the ten-thousandth to have thought about it or something similar, so it may be a really silly idea.
posted by Mooski at 9:29 AM on May 15, 2013


If you work in IT, it's nice to know Facebook's largest political ambition is to lower your salary and remove job security. Makes some decisions on which horse to back in emerging sectors easier.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:30 AM on May 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


Wretch729:
I can still conceptualize most tech companies as "they want to make my life better and get rich doing it" without much cognitive dissonance. Whereas when I think about oil and gas companies I think "wants to get rich selling something I depend on and doesn't care if it ruins my health and my habitat"
Not all tech companies, though. Consider Microsoft and Adobe, two companies that receive quite a bit of hate. What makes them different?

The difference is that people have to PAY THEM MONEY in order to receive products or services that are needed. "I have to pay $300 just to do what I want to do? Fuck you, Micro$oft!" "A $300 gas bill? How much money do you guys make? Screw you, Columbia Gas!"

Compare that to Facebook and Google who are magic internet fairies that make various useful things appear for free! And Apple that creates products that "enrich you life"... but you don't actually NEED that iPod to live your life.
posted by charred husk at 9:32 AM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Both factually wrong and illustrative of not having read even the first paragraph of the first link.

Which? This one:

When Steve Jobs died in October 2011, crowds of mourners gathered outside of Apple stores, leaving impromptu memorials to the fallen businessman. Many in Occupy Wall Street, then in full bloom, stopped to mourn the .001 percenter worth $7 billion, who didn’t believe in charity and whose company had more cash in hand than the U.S. Treasury while doing everything in its power to avoid paying taxes.

Sorry, what am I missing?

Again, not pretending Zuckerberg, Jobs et al are paragons of corporate virtue. The influence this group is exerting on immigration reform to their obvious self-interest should rightly be scrutinized. But by using an obviously flimsy comparison, Kotkin quickly reveals himself not as making a serious critique, but continuing to grind his own personal axe. Mostly he comes off as someone who is bitter at the success of people he doesn't like.
posted by dry white toast at 9:44 AM on May 15, 2013


Consider Microsoft and Adobe, two companies that receive quite a bit of hate. What makes them different?

The difference is that people have to PAY THEM MONEY in order to receive products or services that are needed.


No, people hate Adobe because the experience of using their products has gotten worse and worse and worse and worse over time. Horrible load times, shitty UIs, the worst goddamn installers known to man. And for a while people hated Microsoft because it used anticompetitive behaviors to monopolize certain markets, and the result was that web developers had to pander to IE 6 for waaaaay too long when other technologies had already overtaken them.

I don't mind paying for software. If there was a social network which for $5 a month would do all the things I like Facebook to do but removed all of the shit Facebook sucks at/forces on me, then I'd pay that money. I'd also pay for a decent search engine as powerful as Google but without the "being part of Google" bit. It's not even about them selling my data; it's about how their desire to sell my data results in products that are maybe 20% useful and 80% "tell me about your hometown, Usul." It leads to bad design is all.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:45 AM on May 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Rory, can you explain what you mean by that Dune reference?
posted by oneironaut at 9:48 AM on May 15, 2013


If all the CEOs jumped off a bridge...?

They're CEOs! Obviously they know what they're doing. That's why they deserve the big bucks.
posted by straight at 9:51 AM on May 15, 2013


Rory Marinich:
No, people hate Adobe because the experience of using their products has gotten worse and worse and worse and worse over time. Horrible load times, shitty UIs, the worst goddamn installers known to man. And for a while people hated Microsoft because it used anticompetitive behaviors to monopolize certain markets, and the result was that web developers had to pander to IE 6 for waaaaay too long when other technologies had already overtaken them.
Yes, but after all this crap from Microsoft and Adobe people kept using their products the same way I don't really have any choice but to get my gas from Columbia Gas. The crappy behavior/products is magnified when at the end of the day you have to give them money anyways.

As for being willing to pay for a social network or a search engine - I think you may be in a minority but I don't think either of us can speak authoritatively on that.
posted by charred husk at 9:52 AM on May 15, 2013


Rory, can you explain what you mean by that Dune reference?

It was originally "tell me more about your hometown", which Facebook asks me every single time I log in. And then I realized it sounded like a Dune phrase and was like "lol hey Dune!" I acknowledge that there's no thematic connection between Dune and Facebook whatsoever.

I think you may be in a minority but I don't think either of us can speak authoritatively on that.

A number of people I know are getting very enthusiastic about App.net, which is a for-pay Twitter replacement. But for-pay social networks runs into the problem of, people won't use it unless their friends use it, so unless a whole glut of people start paying for it all at once the project won't get off the ground.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:58 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


As for being willing to pay for a social network or a search engine - I think you may be in a minority but I don't think either of us can speak authoritatively on that.

I pay for a slacker.fm subscription, despite that I can acquire all the music I want from other online sources. The convenience, discovery and management services provided by the service make it worth it.

It's why I pay to rent movies on Amazon, and pay for Netflix Streaming.

Free services are going away, and paywalls are slowly going up. Google and the other ad providers aren't paying enough to support them - it's completely destroyed the newspaper industry. Going online hasn't replaced any of the lost revenue; paid subscriptions are the only way forward.

Some stuff will remain free, if the ad revenue is there: Gmail will survive, Reader will not. If you depend on a service, you will have to pay for it one way or another. The ad-based web is in serious decline, and probably wasn't a sustainable model for most online enterprises to begin with.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:01 AM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't progressives be happy that these companies are creating millions of jobs in countries whose poor people are much, much poorer than poor Americans? Yes the working conditions are bad but it's still a huge improvement for those workers over not having those jobs at all.

As an American citizen, I certainly like American jobs. But from a principles standpoint, it seems hypocritical to be concerned about poverty, inequality, and social justice...but then want to keep all the jobs in the US, or, which is the same thing, to elevate environmental and labor standards in other countries to first-world status, because then there would be zero incentive to hire poor people over there.

If 10 Chinese workers who would otherwise live on the verge of starvation could be hired for the cost of one American working in American conditions, morally shouldn't we prefer that the 10 be hired?

The same's true about immigration reform. Why should IT professionals who already happen to be living in America be favored over immigrants? And yes, of course those immigrants may work for less... if they didn't, they would not be hired. And they want to be hired. It's their ticket to a better life.
posted by shivohum at 10:07 AM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm no fan of FWD.us, but Facebook never made any pretensions about not being evil. And looks like the bit of evil they're doing with their lobbying activities is costing them some street cred and employees.

During the SOPA hearings I watched five media executives and Congress gang up on a lone representative from Google. The Valley is playing catch-up with respect to political influence. Apple spends less money on direct lobbying than, say, Kraft Foods. Moving data centers and satellite offices into key districts is a pessimistic but necessary step toward this goal, one that everyone else has already figured out.

All I'm saying is that if I want to rage against some industry, I'll look first at one of these guys.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:16 AM on May 15, 2013


Why should IT professionals who already happen to be living in America be favored over immigrants?

They're not immigrants. They are here specifically to undermine wages and worker protections, and then go home once management doesn't need them anymore. At least with outsourcing, they were helping to build local businesses and raise the standard of living of the community. No such benefit here.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:16 AM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes the working conditions are bad but it's still a huge improvement for those workers over not having those jobs at all.

I got zero issues with giving a job to someone who is not from the United States. What I got issues with is paying poverty wages (by any measure) to anyone while making so much money yourself that you literally cannot spend it.

It's not about being American, or a CEO, or an IT worker or a server in a restaurant. It's about being human, and being paid enough for what you do that you can live like a human.
posted by Mooski at 10:18 AM on May 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


The union bit is interesting. I'm a software engineer (though I'm not working for one of the big guys), and my coworkers are the most anti-labor crowd I've ever met. In an office full of generally-leftist folks, I'm amazed at how much contempt there is for unions. I've had to stop having conversations about it, because the vitriol is so intense and it's such a waste of time to try to change anyone's mind. Yet, at the same time, our benefits get worse with every passing year, no one has seen a raise anywhere near a COLA in four years, and they've outsourced half our QA team. These all seem like catalysts that would make people at least consider organizing, but there's something in the lizard-brain of tech workers around here that insists every man is an island, and unions both consist of and create lazy parasitic human beings. Weird. I wonder how much of it is tied to what Kotkin is saying here.
posted by Mayor West at 10:20 AM on May 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


: "We need to stop seeing economic growth, from the personal level on up, as being an absolute good."

So everyone can get back to oppression and warfare as the means for growing their slices of the economic pie?
posted by mullingitover at 10:21 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]



shivohum: If 10 Chinese workers who would otherwise live on the verge of starvation could be hired for the cost of one American working in American conditions, morally shouldn't we prefer that the 10 be hired?

Really? By "American" conditions, you mean what? If we pay exploitive wages to Americans it's not okay?, but it's okay to pay exploitive wages to non-Americans? Although, on the surface, this is a tempting argument, I catch a whiff of something unsavory about it.

Our standard of living can be supported only by exploiting those with a lower standard of living. They can't be advanced without threatening our "way of life".

Is this really our only road to progress, civilization, and enlightenment? We live the good life, but only because we can find somebody to do the scut work....hey, somebody's gotta do it.
posted by mule98J at 10:23 AM on May 15, 2013


It's about being human, and being paid enough for what you do that you can live like a human.

What's live "like a human"? Do you mean live like a citizen and worker in a developed country -- with good prospects for higher education, good healthcare, vacation days, labor and environmental regulations, and the rest of it? Because if that's the standard, no one's going to hire people in third world countries. And that results in those people being screwed over permanently.

Is this really our only road to progress, civilization, and enlightenment? We live the good life, but only because we can find somebody to do the scut work....hey, somebody's gotta do it.

And then they build up capital and become advanced, and build infrastructure, and their wages and standard of living go up, and they start enjoying their built-up wealth, and they pass on the scut work to someone else. It's not perfect, but it's the best system anyone has yet devised for national wealth building. Japan did it, South Korea and Taiwan did it, China is doing it.
posted by shivohum at 10:29 AM on May 15, 2013


Mark Zuckerberg, in particular, is pouring money into a new advocacy group, Fwd.us, with a board consisting of big-name Valley luminaries, to push “comprehensive immigration reform” (read: letting Facebook bring in a cheaper labor force). In a remarkably cynical move, Fwd.us has separate left- and right-leaning subgroups to prod politicians across the political spectrum to sign on to the bill that would pad the company’s bottom line.

Mark Zuckerberg: activist backlash mounts against political advocacy group. Facebook founder's group, Fwd.us, attracts ire of high-profile Silicon Valley backers displeased with anti-environment links
posted by homunculus at 10:33 AM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's live "like a human"? Do you mean live like a citizen and worker in a developed country -- with good prospects for higher education, good healthcare, vacation days, labor and environmental regulations, and the rest of it? Because if that's the standard, no one's going to hire people in third world countries. And that results in those people being screwed over permanently.

Disagree. It's possible to pay someone a living wage for a job and still have that wage be competitive vs the same job domestically (whether that's a net negative for a person living in the United States is a separate argument). The bottom line always finds the bottom line, and that's part of the problem. Businesses do what they do: maximize profit and restrict expenses. When businesses discover that buying off government is cheaper than paying a living wage, we all get screwed over.
posted by Mooski at 10:52 AM on May 15, 2013


I'm a software engineer...and my coworkers are the most anti-labor crowd I've ever met....our benefits get worse with every passing year....These all seem like catalysts that would make people at least consider organizing, but there's something in the lizard-brain of tech workers around here that insists every man is an island, and unions both consist of and create lazy parasitic human beings.

My tiny little sample is a bit different, I haven't encountered much outright hostility to the idea of a union (though I know it's out there), more disbelief that they're an option and indifference. In any case, I think a software engineers' union would look very different the autoworkers' unions, for instance. No one would tolerate seniority based promotion or strict micromanaging work rules.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:16 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Come on now people! Hate doesn't need a reason. Now let's all hate together!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:23 AM on May 15, 2013



I'm a software engineer...and my coworkers are the most anti-labor crowd I've ever met....our benefits get worse with every passing year....These all seem like catalysts that would make people at least consider organizing, but there's something in the lizard-brain of tech workers around here that insists every man is an island, and unions both consist of and create lazy parasitic human beings.


Cooperatives are the way to go. Worker owned businesses.
posted by srboisvert at 11:40 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unions have done a terrible job of artriculating a value proposition for IT professionals.

They build examples from employees of monopolies and of employers who can't outsource or offshore to a material extent (government and schools fit in both categories) or from models of para-professional and skilled labor work that don't fit well for IT professionals (nursing, telephone linemen and techs).

A union that could figure out an organizing and collective bargaining strategies that was a good fit for the assets and vulnerabilities of the IT professional workforce could do very well indeed, I think.
posted by MattD at 11:49 AM on May 15, 2013


Silicon Valley is an interesting social experiment.

1) Zuckerberg really is more representative of the narcissistic sociopath of the character that represented him in the movie, than not.

2) Bill Gates, for all the good he has done with the Gates Foundation, also burdened the entire globe with Windows - causing untold misery, frustration, privacy loss, and financial/business disaster for millions of people. He outright stole the technology that kept MSFT alive

3) Steve Jobs was a miserable SOB who got rich via intimidation and marketing genius.

4) Eric Schmidt lies through his teeth as his company sucks your personal information dry (add Zuckerberg to this claim).

5) Venture Capitalists? Largely sheep and followers with cash. Occasionally some of their 1000s of gambles pays off big, and they look like heroes because what? They made a pile of cash? What do you expect in America, where cash is king.

6) Larry Ellison? John Chambers? same Look at Ellison's "America's Cup" fiasco - costing average San Franciscans millions of $$$ to watch, what, FOUR $8-10M boats race on the Bay. Why not put that money into education? Look at Zuckerbergs $100m gift to New Jersey schools - a PR stunt to repair his reputation after the movie "Social Network" told the truth. The fallout around his investment has been a stupid joke, with little results. Zuckerberg just threw money out there, like putting on a new suit.

Silicon Valley is a perfect example of hubris gone mad - of the evil of excess power, and cash. Take Palo Alto as one example - a city that can't get out of it's own way; try getting anything done in that town; try being a kid in one of their pressure-cooker high-schools. Go listen to the hubris of the long-timers there who want to keep "affordable housing" out of their now-precious city.

Add to all this that most tech mavens continue to support the massive importation of H-1B's that have all but taken over the Valley, bringing along with them their cultural preferences for treating women like chattel, and subordinate employees like slaves.

There's enough cash in the place to create a patina of "all is well". It's a beautiful region, anchored by one of the most physically beautiful cities in the world, San Francisco (fast being bought out and turned into one big "Upper East Side" by wealthy international investors - i.e. much of the local charm of the place disappeared a long time ago...families are leaving in droves; the public schools suck, etc.).

As far as stimulating the economies of places like China, India, etc. Give me a break! Sure, millions of workers in those countries now have a little more than a pot to piss in - that's a break from their former condition - but, please don't get all holier than thou about why these blood-sucking tech magnates went to those place in the first place - i.e. to save money, because money, it turns out, to the tech magnate sector is WAY more important than people.

The entire lot of them have PR teams devoted to keep them looking good, generous, physically attractive, and powerful.

Let's put it this way, if every one of these assholes disappeared tomorrow, the world would not suffer one iota. They would be missed only to the degree that their posthumous PR machines kept churning out flattering books and dedications.

Are these jokers better than Caesar? Probably, but not by much.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:54 AM on May 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


The most irritating thing about offshoring in software development is that it actually generates terrible outcomes for the companies; so, they vacillate wildly between frantic offshoring to reduce costs and frantic onshoring to save projects. They "learn" the same lesson over and over, and each company seems hell-bent on learning the lesson themselves rather than from history.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:54 AM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's a simple fix for this: If you offer a product or a service inside the US then the entirety of your labor force must be paid according to federal US guidelines, including minimum wage and OSHA safety requirement.

On one hand minimum wage will never, EVER rise. But on the other hand there's no benefit to outsource the jobs since shipping from Bayou Labatre is much cheaper than from Dang Zhen.

Of course, that would require Congress to have some sort of spine. And we all know that's not going to happen any time soon.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:57 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you offer a product or a service inside the US then the entirety of your labor force must be paid according to federal US guidelines, including minimum wage and OSHA safety requirement.

Yes, this right here. But it's unfortunate that when we opened up our borders to imports and declared war on the middle class manufacturing workers, that we weren't able to get something like this in place ... that's about the only time that I can imagine we'd have had the political will to do so.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:03 PM on May 15, 2013


Our standard of living can be supported only by exploiting those with a lower standard of living. They can't be advanced without threatening our "way of life".

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937.

(And Down and Out in Paris and London, four years earlier.)
posted by Gelatin at 12:16 PM on May 15, 2013


[from wiki]

"Kotkin argues that the model of urban development as exemplified by pre-automobile cities such as New York City and Paris is outdated in many cases. Kotkin believes in a "back to basics" approach which stresses nurturing the middle class and families with traditional suburban development. He states that the current trend of growth of suburbs will be the dominant pattern around the world.[1] As a result, he believes rail transit is not always ideal for modern cities and suburbs."

What?


regularly sponsored and promoted by the Cato Institute

...ohhhh
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 12:20 PM on May 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


traditional suburban development

haha almost as awesome as traditional marriage
posted by clavicle at 12:31 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


traditional suburban development

Ah, yes, that ancient and noble tradition that traces its roots all the way back to 65 years ago.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:38 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


traditional suburban development

Oh, like the streetcar suburb? Or is that too traditional?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:27 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Coming from the City Journal should have been a warning. They are incredibly conservative.

Reading the piece, is seems to be a less "politicized" outgrowth of this article. Lovely picture attached to it. It appears his main beef with tech companies is that they funnel money to progressive causes.
posted by zabuni at 2:55 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


@Rory Marinich

please to tell me where "app.net" falls on this
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:22 PM on May 15, 2013


There is no question that Kotkin has an axe to grind, but there's also no question that "creative class" romantics (which, to some degree, includes me) could use some deflating and perspective on consequences, unintentional and otherwise.

Maybe this is the polemic version of Louis CK's "of course but MAYBE" take on slavery.

Regarding msft and adobe vs. google and facebook: the former are still and will always PRE-Web companies. Therefore, as others have insightfully said up thread, the way we think about them is different. The latters' offerings being seen as "free" and therefore somehow that translates in our brains to not caring as crassly about money. It not so much that we hate one and love the other, but we associate anything on Internet with Free Beer - that's our age showing. Moving forward, The perceived difference between Google and Exxon will evaporate.
posted by victors at 3:46 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The second half of this speech by Bruce Sterling at NEXT13 seems relevant.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 7:48 PM on May 15, 2013


New Government Documents Show the Sean Parker Wedding Is the Perfect Parable for Silicon Valley Excess: Nothing says, "I love the Earth!" quite like bringing bulldozers into an old-growth forest to create a fake ruined castle.
posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on June 4, 2013


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