20 Questions For Ben Bernanke

Tyler Durden's picture

A game of 20 questions with the Fed Chairman...

1. The rescue packages in 2008-2009 were all aimed at restoring CONFIDENCE to the financial system.  Yet from 2001 to 2011 the DXY is down 41.5 and gold is up 473%. Does this not equate to a loss of confidence in the US monetary system? If not how would you explain this phenomena?

2. In March of 2009 you said the ONLY reason you care about Wall Street is because of the affect it has on Main Street. You wanted to become Fed Chairmen to make things better "for the average person". You have been Chairmen since 2006, do you believe you have accomplished your goal? And if so how?

3. In March of 2009 you stated that "many mistakes were made leading up to the crisis of 2008", chief amongst them was "enormous amounts of savings has flowed into the United States, and some other industrial countries. That savings has come from China and East Asia. It's come from oil producers. And it has-- and hundreds of billions of dollars, it has come into our financial system. And, you know, that would be great if we took that money and invested it wisely, and got a high return. But instead, our financial system-- didn't-- didn't do a good job"  What has changed since you made that statement? Is money being invested wisely.....getting a high return?

4. You believe that confidence in the financial system, is one of the most if not the most important aspect in creating a lasting recovery. Yet 2 years after the recession ended and the banks have been stabilized, the recovery remains tenuous at best. Could this be because "average people" do not trust a regulatory system that did NOT hold banks and the people therein accountable for their bad/fraudulent behavior leading up to the financial crisis of 2008?

5. What do you consider to be the mandates of the Federal Reserve? Is the "wealth effect" not the 3rd mandate of the federal reserve?

6. You have stated that you believe high food and fuel prices to be transitory. Can you define transitory? And define what you believe to be a return to normalcy for food and fuel prices.

7. In March of 2009 you stated that for QE1 the Fed was printing money. However, you have stated that QE2 is not printing money. Can you define the difference?

8. The recession has been over for 2 years. Yet job gains have been anemic. Why do you think this is? And how long until Americans will see a more normalized unemployment rate?

9. The disclosed portfolio of Maiden Lane I assets includes various eurodollar and interest rate swaps indicative of hedging. Does the Federal Reserve hedge its broader $2.7 trillion SOMA Balance Sheet? And if so how? If not, why not?

10. Has the Federal Reserve ever invested in domestic or international equity markets? If so, which Wall Street broker does the Fed use to conduct equity market interventions?

11. In the June 2003 FOMC Transcript Vince Reinhart disclosed that the Fed had sold derivatives on instruments held by the Fed's balance sheet: "the Desk sold options on RPs for the weeks around the century date change that totaled nearly $0.5 trillion of notional value." Has the Fed since then engaged in selling of derivatives on RPs or any other Fed assets? If so, which Wall Street institution does the Fed use as a broker to transact through?

12. The president recently announced that he will pursue oil "speculators" blaming them for the nearly 50% jump in Crude. Yet a simple correlation shows that broad commodity indices correlate nearly 100% with the size of the Fed's assets. In light of this do you side with the president and blame speculators for the surge in energy prices, or believe this is some collusive cabal acting independent of the surge in free liquidity?

13. A quick look at your most recent balance sheet indicates that "Other Federal Reserve Assets" hit an all time high of $125.6 billion in the week ended April 20. Can you provide a break down of what these "assets" consist of?

14. A prevailing theme of over 80% of recent Permanent Open Market Operations has been the prompt refunding of Primary Dealer "On The Run" (just auctioned off) Treasurys back to the New York Fed, with the Fed purchasing up to over the old SOMA limit of any given CUSIP within a month of auction. Can you explain how this is substantially different from outright monetization of up to a third of any given issue? Can you also explain and quantify what the economic benefits to the Primary Dealers are from participating in such a process? Does the Fed keep track of how much in Mark To Market gains and losses are incurred by taxpayers as a result of the POMO reverse dutch auction? How much money have Primary Dealers made by "flipping" bonds from the Treasury back to the Fed?

15. At the time QE2 is over, the Fed's balance sheet will be just over $2.8 trillion. The DV01 on that amount of holdings will be about $1.5 billion, or in other words a 1% rise in interest rates will be three times greater than the Fed's total capital of $52.6 billion as of April 20. Does the Fed only have a capital buffer for a 33 bps rise in rates? What happens if rates increase by more? What is the basis by which the Fed's total capital account is calculated?

16. As a result of rising interest rates, the principal repayments of agency MBS and agency debt (the mandate of QE "Lite") have ground to a halt. In fact, in the most recent POMO schedule, the QE Lite component was a QE2 low $17 billion. If rates continue to rise (an indication of QE2's failure according to some) the QE Lite mandate will be rendered irrelevant. Does the Fed model for what interest level will end the process of principal repayments on its agency portfolio?

17. The Fed is expected to continue the QE2 Lite mandate of keeping the size of its balance sheet constant, which means rolling maturing Treasurys. As of April 20, the Fed held $119 billion in Treasurys maturing in under a year. Assuming the full amount is "rolled" this is roughly one fifth of the full amount of of Treasurys to be purchased under QE2. If so, will replacement Treasurys be purchased in the open market and what maturities will the Fed be focusing on?

18. Recently the San Francisco Fed compared QE 2 to 1961's Operation Twist whose purpose was to halt the exodus of gold as an interest rate arbitrage vehicle from the US to Europe. Is the Fed conserned that gold is once again being transferred offshore? Does the Fed have a "fair value" estimate for what the price of gold should be under the Fed's current view of the economy?

19. The Fed focuses on CPI to inform its decision about the prevailing rate of inflation in the US. In the US, food and energy components of CPI are deminimis, accounting for under 20% of the overall inflation gauge. Other countries, particularly China whose currency is pegged to the dollar, and whose monetary policy has a major impact on the US as well, have a CPI where food and energy account for nearly half the overall inflation metric. Is it this discrepancy that the Fed will attribute the paradox of China tightening rates (and having done so for nearly half a year now) while the US continues to rely on a ZIRP policy and is still loosening via daily POMO operations? At what point will the Fed consider this parallel tightening and loosening for the world's two largest economies, whose currencies are pegged, problematic?

20. In prior FOMC transcripts, Alan Greenspan indicated that gold had historically been used by the FOMC to gauge inflation expectations. Is it still used in that capacity, and if so what does it tell the Fed about where the market believes inflation is headed?

21. Bonus question: Per Frank-Dodd, the Fed is now regulator of all banks. Yet banks are still allowed to circumvent Mark To Market accounting. How comfortable is the Fed that the financial information provided it by the MTM-exempt institutions is credible, the institutions are actually risk-free, and that the Fed is conducting prudent monetary policy in the absence of real time financial data?

22. Bonus Bonus question: the Fed's primary market-valued liability: the USD has plunged to multi year lows. Yet the Fed's primary market-valued asset: Treasury bills continue to trade in a range and as recently as some months back traded at all multi year highs. To what do you attribute this fundamental mispricing?

h/t Lizzie363

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hugovanderbubble's picture

Spain is in default.


Europe is a maze.

Popo's picture

Bonus Bonus Bonus Question:   Which branch of government has the sole right to initiate spending?   Since you have been Chairman of the Federal Reserve, where has the majority of taxpayer supported spending originated?    What is your view of the constitutionality of the largest spending package in American history being initiated via the Treasury in conjunction with the Federal Reserve  (and not in the House of Representatives)?

Careless Whisper's picture

Bonus question: Mr. Bernank a recent study from Columbia University says it will take at least 18 minutes to stop inflation. Are you still sticking with your estimate of only 15 minutes?


66Sexy's picture

20 answers from Ben Bernake..


"I dont recall. I dont recall. I dont recall. Hmmm. I dont recall. I dont recall.I dont recall. I dont recall. I dont recall. Hmmm. I dont recall. I dont recall.I dont recall. I dont recall. I dont recall. Hmmm. I dont recall. I dont recall.I dont recall. I dont recall. I dont recall. Hmmm. I dont recall. I dont recall."

JW n FL's picture

Boehner says “Lazy Un-Employed Scumbags are to Blame for the Recession” I am paraphrasing a lil. http://goo.gl/8ep0F

Boehner: "Can't pay your student loan? Face it your parents were lazy and you couldn't afford college. The world needs ditch diggers and you were born into a family of them. Can't pay your mortgage? Your house was too expensive and you couldn't afford it. Your taxes going up too much? That's what you get for electing a democrat president. Never had a job after you got a degree? You learned nothing in school and you're lazy. I didn't get to be a congressman by watching jersey shore or playing xbox. You think there's no jobs for you? There used to be. There was when I was your age. You don't have fee time because you have to work all days of the week for 16 hours a day and you don't get paid hourly? Thank the unions. They made decent jobs so out of price range of the average American company that they can't hire anymore people and the works' gotta get done. These unions... I tell you they won't be happy till no one in America has a job. And health care? Don't get me started on health care- doctors study their entire lives and they barely make enough to live and yet Obama, who had his entire life handed to him on a silver plate wants to cut their pay. You know that's gonna do? Increase costs- the average persons going to have to work even harder just to see a doctor. "


Taibbi: "With mounting unemployment what do you think is the possibility that we'll see an Egyptian style uprising of the youth? Should we be worried?"

Boehner: "It's not going to happen in the US. The kids here are too fat, too lazy, to addicted to TV, fast food, cheap credit, and facebook. I have news for you- there are plenty of jobs out there- the unemployed don't want them. Today's college student feels entitled to make at least $24 right after college. When they find out they can collect unemployment they would rather do that. You know the average college educated unemployed person is collecting $60k a year? The CATO institute did a study- and I mean, you and me we're hard workers we could just sit around and live, but these kids today- that's all they've been doing their entire lives. I'm not worried for this country- there are a few of them who actually want to work, take Mark Zucker(sic). You don't build a site like facebook out of thin air- it takes talent and hard work. I went to a community college and all I saw were people sitting in front of computers typing away, their eyes were fixed. Probably just facebooking away."



Boner says that the young ones are to, too busy facebooking to care to participate in a "Day of Rage" here in the U.S.! I say Popiecock!

here is some food for thought..

Michigan, Police have been downloading info from cell phones during stops since 2006! http://goo.gl/qIM4I

Military Helicopter Exercise startles Miami residents http://goo.gl/itJiJ (YouTube Video) BlackHawks flying downtown Miami at Night. (why do they only practice with the BlackHawk Evac's from the Bank of America Building?

Is something happening soon that would require a full on evac from the B or A Building? seems fishy..

nope-1004's picture

I bought more physical silver today.  That's my answer to all 20 of these questions.


Blythes Master's picture



THE bonus question:

I said this awhile ago, before TD praised some schlep for saying it on a conference call...


"The only method of protest is to stop paying taxes and storm the Bastille, er Audit the Fed."


Finally, someone else said what I've been thinking all along.


To wit; If the Fraud, er Fed can monetize the debt away at will....then someone PLEASE explain to me why they have to confiscate our money through taxation?


A simply logical argument that when/if the masses put 2 and 2 together, the ponzi is over.

Ferrari's picture

Because the government has most of the cops and all of the prisons is why I pay my taxes.

Shocker's picture

Heres a Question. We allowed all this stimulus and free money to be pumped into this economy, so why are so many companies laying off? You would think with all this basically free capital everything would be going crazy... umm guess not.




The Navigator's picture

Because ALL of the bailout money went to the banking industry, and to no other industries. Free capital for the banksters, fee capital for everyone else.

myshadow's picture

I'm not fan of the speaker, but this post is an april fool's joke.

AnAnonymous's picture

At least, this guy is not lazy at spouting cheap propaganda.

Zucker is a hard working US citizen who built up Facebook out of nothing and the unemployed are a lazy bunch spending all their time on Facebook. Laziness is a factor in the success of Facebook. What a tool. US miracle that people can spit cheap propaganda like that and still be publicized.

ZFiNX's picture

a few broken fingers ought to loosen his tongue.

disabledvet's picture

no.  you'll need more than that.  of that i am certain.  you could "send in a woman."  look at what NBC did to Greenspan.

ZFiNX's picture

I will remember to only click 'save' once from now on.

SuperRay's picture

Bonus bonus bonus bonus question:  Mr. Bernanke, are you really as big an asshole as you clearly appear to be, and do you have any idea what the real world even looks like?

cowdiddly's picture

Bonus question #_. Since you have taken your station, I detect a hint of silver color in your beard. Since we cannot believe anything that comes directly from your mouth and your voice has been so, shall we say shaky of late, are we to look for facial expressions/features for hints on the direction of economic policy.Is this in any way attibutable to your subconcious views and are you using a Grecian formula to hide it.?

tawdzilla's picture

Bonus question:

Ben, You may have been acting without consequences thus far, but the Karma Police will knocking at your door one day soon.  I'm not worried about you, your day of reckoning will come.  I'm worried about the future generations you have chosen to enslave through debt bondage.  Why have you found it necessary to line the pockets of a handful of pump n dump machinists, at the expense of the dollar and the republic? 

Follow up question: After you are done destroying the dollar and the republic, do you have any ideas on a replacement for either one?  Surely, you must have some chicken scratch on the back of a cocktail napkin stored in the top drawer of your desk (maybe next to the Braun beard trimmer with #3 attachment, your BSB engraved hand mirror, and your minty fresh breath spray.) 

P.S. I do have to give you credit for one thing...as sloppy and reckless as you are with the dollar, I would've guessed your beard would look tattered and disheveled by now.  To the contrary, you have preserved your beard in a tidy and well-kept manner.  If you treated the dollar with half as much respect as you treat your beard, we might have had a snowballs' chance in hell.              

chopper read's picture

'P.S.'  ...too funny!  :)

dogismyth's picture

Question:  Now that you have gang-raped and ass fuc#ed most americans, will your wife still give you a blow job?

Montgomery Burns's picture

Anyone who has to ask is obviously not married.

I am Jobe's picture

Loved your questioning. Keep it up. I think the ZH team needs to start the inquisition and make this live and watch Ben sweat like a pig. Hang the biatch and shut down the FED. Why not get Ron Paul to question this guy. TV is getting to boring these days and would love to watch Ron grill Ben all day. No fucking media allowed to question the Idiot Ben.

mendigo's picture

my favorite, but I think he would argue that he did not actually "spend" the money

But hasn't the net affect of QE2 been to fund the federal spending - is it not irresponsible and dishonest to fund federal spending in this manner?

Henry Chinaski's picture

Congratulations, Dr. Bernanke, on being honored as Time Magazine's 2009 Person of the Year.  Do you think you can follow up that great honor with a Nobel Prize like President Obama?

French Frog's picture

Some wonderfully probing and precise questions in that list of 20 but somehow i would be amazed if any journalist(s) in the audience dare to be not only THAT bold to ask them but also SO bold to dare to refute any full-of-half-baked-truth answers by TheBernank.

Still, there's hope, is there?

HK's picture

+100 French Frog, the MSM is soooo controlled that the press conference will be more like a tea party, anyone being obnoxious will not be invited back.  However, if you're looking for hope, we might want to forward the questions to Ron Paul for his next little chat with the Bernanke.

HK's picture

I just took a nap and while sleeping, both Chevy Chase and Johnny Carson came to me in my dream and revealed how the Bernanke will answer those questions:






jal's picture





tellsometruth's picture

I want to know this from Washington's Blog: http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/

"Please list the banks and other entities and individuals which own the Federal Reserve, and their percentage of ownership"


    I also want to no what governments/nations/little corners of the world do not have a central bank...can anyone provide any information with good sources please?





RockyRacoon's picture

More fuel for the fire from By Richard Band at MartketWatch:

5 tough questions for Ben Bernanke

Here are some questions Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke should be forced to answer when he faces the press after Wednesday's meeting.
Read more: 5 tough questions for Ben Bernanke.

TruthInSunshine's picture


Here's are a few more questions I would suggest:

  • Mr. Bernanke, what is the historical normal rate of interest in the United States?
  • Mr. Bernanke, do you believe a low interest rate implemented for any significant period of time creates speculation, asset class bubbles, malinvestment, and other market disequilbriums? If no, why? If yes, could you please elaborate as to how this 'plays out?'
  • Mr. Bernanke, do you believe that the low interest rate policy implement by The Federal Reserve since 2008 has caused or contributed to, in whole or part, speculation, asset class bubbles, malinvestment, and other market disequilbriums? If no, why? If yes, could you please elaborate as to how this manifested itself?
  • Mr. Bernanke, do you see The Federal Reserve implementing policies that return interest rates in the United States to historically more normal interest rates? If so, when?
  • Mr. Bernanke, is there any risk that the types of assets now held on the balance sheet of The Federal Reserve could fall in value in any significant way that would cause the Federal Reserve to either have to borrow money, raise more capital in another manner, require U.S. taxpayer assistance, or not be able to otherwise meet its financial obligations?
  • Mr. Bernanke, you had previously told Congress that the Federal Reserve would "not monetize the federal deficit," yet The Federal Reserve has been and is still buying 50 billion worth of treasury notes per month, which constitutes 70% of all treasury note issuances. How is this "not monetizing at least 70% of U.S. government deficit spending?"
  • Mr. Bernanke, you had said that The Federal Reserve was printing money back in 2009 in several interviews, including one on '60 Minutes.' However you now say that The Federal Reserve "is not printing money," and in fact, you said that in another '60 Minutes' interview this year. I have brought those two interviews with me and can play them for you and everyone here if you'd like to see them; it won't take more than a minute or so to watch the relevant parts of your statements then and now. How do you reconcile these two contradictory statements?
  • Mr. Bernanke, you and other members of The Federal Reserve have stated that your policy of Quantitative Easing has contributed significantly to global inflation, including inflation in commodities, such as those related to energy and food. Many notable economists, such as Jim Grant and Laurence Kotlikoff, disagree with that assessment, and in fact, they claim there is data available which shows a direct and highly proportional relationship between Quantitative Easing and a rise in commodity, food and energy prices. Are you correct and are they wrong? If so, what data can you provide that supports your position?
  • Mr. Bernanke, The Federal Reserve has supported policies that allow banks to essentially pay savers little to no interest, and interest that is far less than even The Federal Reserve's own official rate of inflation. Does this policy punish savers and the fiscally responsible American Savers, does it subsidize large financial institutions, including what many have deemed 'Too Big To Fail Banks,' and is this a healthy policy to maintain in lieu of America's large deficits and large national debt? As a follow up, shouldn't prudent monetary policy essentially do the opposite of this policy, by encouraging and rewarding savings, and discouraging and penalizing speculation?
  • Mr. Bernanke, does or has the Federal Reserve ever directly or indirectly purchased equities, equity futures or options on equities - or any other intruments bearing on or related to equities? If so, which broker-dealer has the Federal Reserve used to purchase such equities, equity futures or equity-related instruments?
  • Mr. Bernanke, has The Federal Reserve ever intervened in dealing between The Treasury Department and market participants, including but not limited to negotiations between The Treasury Department and AIG and its counter-parties, and has The Federal Reserve advised The Treasury Department as to what course of action to take with respect to the rate or amount of monies counter-parties to AIG or any other financial actor would or should receive via taxpayer-backed 'bailouts?'
  • Mr. Bernanke, there are several alternative metrics that have developed by academic sources that show inflation running at a much higher 'core rate' than what The Federal Reserve has proclaimed to be the case, and this would include a project known as "a billion price points" by the Massachussets Institute of Technology. Is it possible or even likely that The Federal Reserve understates core inflation, either because its methodology is flawed, or for any other reason?
  • Mr. Bernanke, does The Federal Reserve have the intent to preserve the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency now and in the future? If yes, what measures are you taking and will you take to see this polocy objective achieved? If your answer is no, please elaborate on what the intent is?
  • Mr. Bernanke, does The Federal Reserve have the intent to strengthen the U.S. dollar? If yes, what measures are you taking and will you take to see this polocy objective achieved? If your answer is no, please elaborate on what the intent is?
  • Mr. Bernanke, should any financial institution or bank be allowed to get to a position where it alone or in conjuction with other entities represents a systemic threat to the U.S. or global financial system? Are there any such entities that exist today? If so, can you name them? If you can't name them, why can't you name them? If your answer is no, what did you do and what are you doing now to ensure that no such entities exist?
traderjoe's picture

I got one: why does a sovereign country borrow it's own currency at interest from private corporations?

Please detail the shareholdings and dividend payments of the Fed.

TruthInSunshine's picture

That's a fantastic question, actually.

The reporter who would ask it on live television would die in a tragic accident soon thereafter.

RighteousRampage's picture

As unpalatable as it may be to pay interest to the Fed, I wouldn't exactly trust our elected politicians (or their UST appointees) to directly manage a theoretically unconstrained fiat money supply.  Overall credibility would be lower in such an environment, and both interest and inflation rates substantially higher.  Besides, this way, the Fed can take the fall if things get really ugly (wouldn't be the first time) and the US Gov. will live on.  


I'm not defending the actions of the Fed, just pointing out that the construct has merits as well. 



disabledvet's picture

indeed.  "God forbid if they were to monetize the debt or something!"

traderjoe's picture

Bullshit. The real juice isn't with the Fed, it's with fractional reserve lending - whereby private banks create money out of thin air and then lend it at interest for infinite gross margins. Especially lending to the sovereign? It's a fucking bonanza. Read Modern Monetary Mechanics (Chicago Fed) and the Credit River case. 

I'd like to see some citations about inflation and interest rates being higher. Bullshit. Our country experienced less inflation and even deflation before the Fed. 


Deflation benefits savers and the average citizen. And you really think there actually exists some theoretical restraints on the money supply after 3 quantitative easings? 



RighteousRampage's picture

I agree that some of the issue here reside in the dynamic created by fractional reserve lending.


Again, however, the alternative to such a system would be dramatically lower real growth (and thus lower living standards).  Monetary base creation through fractional reserve lending at least attempts (albeit not always successfully) to distribute funds to productive endeavors that have a chance of payback.  A hard money/commodity backed (i.e. gold) and/or non-fractional reserve banking system would be fundamentally limited and less flexible when it comes to monetary policy and international commerce.  One might argue that these constraints are healthy, but that is a different debate (and one that is likely worthwhile).


If everyone were determined to sacrifice a bit for the future, and played by the rules, you are correct that inflation and interest rates would not necessarily be higher, but real growth and international influence would be significantly curtailed, in my opinion.  


The problem ("as you so adequately put"), is choice.  And it seems that humans have a difficult time seeing through the now to choose the future.  



RighteousRampage's picture

To make my prior point a bit more lucid.  Most alternatives to the current system would require a nation to live within its means, which is great if everyone else did the same.  At the heart of the issue is power (and trust).  There are secondary order benefits to accelerating the velocity of money and commerce, which is effectively accomplished by the flawed system currently in place - it also allows for a projection of greater military and cultural influence than could otherwise be possible.  Would you accept a world in which the U.S. was a second rate power because other nations chose to cheat by borrowing from the future and we did not?





traderjoe's picture

To your last question - YES! F#ck the empire building.

RighteousRampage's picture

I would agree, so long as it meant we not subject to another's empire.  

traderjoe's picture

First, happy ZH anniversary.

IMHO, the key failing of economics is a belief that infinite growth is possible in a finite world. Second, that growth of GDP becomes THE measure of progress. That a 19" TV is growth over a 17" TV. But it ignores the impacts of debt, the increased skimming by the FIRE sector, etc. I wasn't around, but in the '50s/60's most families got by with one income and now two are required. Are we really better off?

RighteousRampage's picture

Thank you, TJ.


Just a quick counterpoint.  If you wanted to accept a standard of living of a 50's/60's family in today's world, you'd probably do fine on one income.  


Economically speaking, the crux of the issue is how to get the most production out of the people and leverage the national resources to maximum utility.  The downfall, in my opinion, is that it is human nature (augmented by societal prodding) to judge happiness relative to one's neighbors, which is why we all appear to be double-timing our way up a stairmaster.  

RighteousRampage's picture

Final point.  Deflation benefits savers, but discourages commerce and decreases monetary velocity.  Less transactions, less trust, lower overall standard of living, but probably more equitable (the flip side is that increasing monetary velocity encourages skimming and accelerates the transfer of wealth to those in closest proximity to the monetary great attractors - govt's, banks, etc.) 

Ned Zeppelin's picture

I've thought and written about the supposed logic behind the Federal Reserve, as being structured to be "above the political system" and therefore not as susceptible to temptations to manipulate monetary policy for the gain, I guess, of the majority.  Once you make that evil less likely, someone forgot that by lofting the institution beyond electoral control, they left open the barn door to the minority predator-owners of the Fed who have not hesitated to manipulate the system for their own gain.

So pick your poison, but I know the right answer is to end the Fed and change our monetary system to avoid problems created by both sides.

4horse's picture

. . . why does a sovereign country borrow it's own currency at interest from private corporations?


the only one

oogs66's picture

no chance these questions are asked - they should be, but won't be