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My setups tools system appears to be broken beyond recovery. And no doubt my attempts at recovering it have made it worse.

Now I'm looking for the "nuke the site from orbit" option.

I've already done a "Complete Removal" of python-setuptools in Synaptic

Here's where I am currently at:

$ easy_install
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/usr/local/bin/easy_install", line 9, in <module>
    load_entry_point('distribute==0.6.10', 'console_scripts', 'easy_install')()
  File "/usr/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/pkg_resources.py", line 299, in load_entry_point
  File "/usr/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/pkg_resources.py", line 2229, in load_entry_point
  File "/usr/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/pkg_resources.py", line 1948, in load
ImportError: No module named setuptools.command.easy_install

$ ls /usr/local/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/
distribute-0.6.8-py2.6.egg  nose-0.11.2-py2.6.egg  nose-0.11.4-py2.6.egg            setuptools.pth
easy-install.pth            nose-0.11.3-py2.6.egg  setuptools-0.6c9-py2.6.egg-info
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So for lack of other options I have reformatted the machine.

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