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Sunday, October 31, 2010

WSJ - Outsourcing is Good

truth-or-comfort.jpg

So OUTSOURCING has nothing to do with the HOLLOWING OUT of American JOBS?

SURE it doesn’t.

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President Obama’s Dangerous Campaign Against Outsourcing

By Bob Evans
Information Week
October 28, 2010

Conventional wisdom (also known as uninformed speculation) has long held that OUTSOURCING decimates American employment by shifting “our jobs” to another country and leaving nothing in its wake but rising rates of joblessness and EVERYT-SHRINKING PROSPECTS for career growth, individual prosperity, and U.S. competitiveness.

In this scenarioa favorite for tub-thumping politicians and out-of-touch labor leaders looking to demonize corporations and PIT “the working class” against “management” - amoral or even immoral business executives gleefully fire thousands of Americans and greedily hire thousands of lower-cost workers in other countries to prop up profits and fatter year-end bonuses.

According to this hallucination, these piggish executives ship “our jobs” overseas even though they know full well that those actions will undercut their companies’ ability to compete, slash product quality and customer service, and eventually turn America into a third-world basket case, a barren wasteland filled with 300 million louts incapable of creating anything, producing anything, or caring for ourselves.

Well, it turns out that that depiction of outsourcing and of the citizens of the United States of America is not only grossly insulting but also wildly inaccurate.

According to this hallucination, these piggish executives ship “our jobs” overseas even though they know full well that those actions will undercut their companies’ ability to compete, slash product quality and customer service, and eventually turn America into a third-world basket case, a barren wasteland filled with 300 million louts incapable of creating anything, producing anything, or caring for ourselves.

Well, it turns out that that depiction of outsourcing and of the citizens of the United States of America is not only grossly insulting but also wildly inaccurate.

-And, those workers at U.S.-based subsidiaries of foreign corporations earn significantly more - 31% more - than do their counterparts at competing firms based in the U.S.

In his Journal guest editorial on outsourcing and politics that highlights Slaughter’s work, former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen writes that

“when U.S. firms hired lower-cost labor at foreign subsidiaries overseas, their parent companies hired even more people in the U.S. to support expanded operations.”

Cohen continues:

“Between 1991 and 2001, employment at foreign subsidiaries of U.S. multinationals rose by 2.8 million jobs; during that same period, employment at their parent firms in the U.S. rose by 5.5 million jobs.

“For every job ‘outsourced’ to India and other foreign countries, nearly two new jobs were generated here in the U.S”

And as if that weren’t enough of a repudiation of outsourcing’s evil nature, Cohen piles it on with this additional insight: “Those new U.S. jobs were higher-skilled and better-payingfilled by scientists, engineers, marketing professionals and others hired to meet the new demand created by their foreign subsidiaries. . . .

“If Congress enacts legislation to stop American companies from outsourcing, foreign governments could do the sameחand that could put at risk millions of high-paying jobs in the U.S.”

Our president, as well as many members of our Congress from both parties, have chosen to gloss over these types of findings out of fear of angering an American public deeply concerned with employment issues. We should push our elected leaders to respond with facts and self-interested wisdom, rather than playing to voter fears with talk of punishing the “fat cats” who ship “our jobs” overseas.

Earlier this week, I wrote about a compelling suggestion offered to President Obama from Cisco CEO John Chambers and Oracle president Safra Catz for how the administration and Congress could rationally entice U.S. corporations to repatriate the approximately $1 trillion in foreign earnings that those companies are currently holding outside the U.S. to avoid having the taxman plunder up to $350 billion of that total (see Global CIO: Oracle And Cisco Join Forces On $1-Trillion Idea).

In that column, I praised the proposal from Chambers and Catz and suggested that more executives from the IT industry, as well as from the corporate customers gaining so much value from the IT industry, should make their voices heard on policy issues of strategic concern.

Few issues could be more vital to U.S. economic interests and to the competitive capabilities of American companies than the need to gain a clear-eyed understanding of outsourcing, and to help the American public understand the reality of cross-border employment dynamics in a truly global economy.

As Cohen writes in his conclusion, “President Obama has succumbed to this temptation, warning that we should not tell U.S. companies that they will be treated the same ‘if you create a job in Bangalore, than if you create one in Buffalo.’

“That may play well in Buffalo,” continues Cohen. “But that fact is that for every job outsourced to Bangalore, nearly two jobs are created in Buffalo and other American cities. That’s a good deal for Americaand something our president . . . should understand.”

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Posted by Elvis on 10/31/10 •
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bloggers Read This

The $105 Fix That Could Protect You From Copyright-Troll Lawsuits

By David Kravets
Wired
October 27, 2010

Call it ingenious, call it evil or call it a little of both: Copyright troll Righthaven is exploiting a loophole in intellectual property law, suing websites that might have avoided any trace of civil liability had they spent a mere $105.

Thats the fee for a blog or other website to register a DMCA takedown agent with the U.S. Copyright Office, an obscure bureaucratic prerequisite to enjoying a legal “safe harbor” from copyright lawsuits over third-party posts, such as reader comments.

There’s no better time to become acquainted with that requirement.

Founded in March, the Las Vegas-based Righthaven has begun buying out the copyrights to newspaper content of the Las Vegas Review-Journal for the sole purpose of suing blogs and websites that re-post, or even excerpt, those articles without permission. The company has SETTLED about 60 of 160 cases for a few thousand dollars each, and plans to expand its operations to other newspapers across the country.

Many of its lawsuits arise, not from articles posted by a websites proprietors, but from comments and forum posts by the site’s readers. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a website enjoys effective immunity from civil copyright liability for user content, provided they promptly remove infringing material at the request of a rightsholder. Thats how sites like YouTube are able to exist, and why Wired.com allows users to post comments to our stories without fear that a single user’s cut-and-paste will cost us $150,000 in court.

But to dock in that legal safe harbor, a site has to register an official contact point for DMCA takedown notices, a process that involves filling out a form and mailing a check to the government. An examination of Righthavens lawsuits targeting user content suggests itҒs specifically going after sites that failed to fill out that paperwork.

“The DMCA is a good deterrent from being sued,” says Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Complying with conditions of eligibility for the safe harbor is a good thing to do. It probably will prevent somebody from suing you in the first place.”

The EFF is defending political community site Democratic Underground from a Righthaven suit stemming from a users posting of four paragraphs from a 34-paragraph Review-Journal story on Sharron Angle, the Republican Nevada candidate for Senate entitled ғTea party fuels Angle. The brevity of the excerpt, and the fact that the post links back to the original story, gives Democratic Underground a strong fair use defense. But had it registered with the Copyright Office, it wouldnԒt even have to make that argument.

Opsahl doesn’t believe any of the sites Righthaven has sued had a designated agent, though not all of the cases involve user posts. (Righthaven did not respond to inquiries for this story.)

If you run a U.S. blog or a community site that accepts user content, you can register a DMCA agent by downloading THIS FORM (.pdf) and sending $105 and the form to Copyright RRP, Box 71537, Washington, D.C., 20024.

Opsahl and other experts note that failing to qualify for the DMCA safe harbor still leaves you with fact-based defenses from a lawsuit, including the defense, supported by some case law, that infringing third-party posts aren’t your responsibility.

Ben Sheffner, a Hollywood copyright attorney and the man behind the must-read blog COPYRIGHT AND CAMPAIGNS, says there is a reason the DMCA demands a takedown agent, which is supported by a recent court ruling.

“The idea is you need to make it easy for copyright owners to locate who you send infringement notices to,” he says. “They shouldn’t have to go hunting around.”

SOURCE

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Social Networks Give Rise To Internet Law Specialty

By Walter Pacheco
Orlando Sentinel
November 1, 2012

The next time you log into FACEBOOK, Twitter or any other social media network, keep in mind that anything you post could be used as evidence in a lawsuit.

That’s the message that experts in Internet law, a complex and new emerging aspect of the legal profession, are trying to get across to consumers.

Adam Losey, an attorney with Foley & Lardner’s Orlando office, runs the IT-LEX website, which explores issues concerning technology and the legal system. He says any number of things from a person’s digital trail could possibly land them in a court.
“The information overload started hitting the tipping point around the new millennium,” Losey said. “But that amount of information is staggering now that there are so many different ways people communicate on the Internet or electronically.”

Losey’s specialty is new to Orlando, and he’s expanding the field through his website, in part by sponsoring annual writing contests with up to $5,000 in cash for law students interested in pursuing technology law.

Losey, who served as adjunct professor at Columbia University teaching electronic discovery, lectures on technology law at his alma mater, the University of Florida, and at Florida A&M University’s law school in Orlando. He also has talked about Internet legal issues at conventions of the Florida Bar and at the Orange County Bar Association.

“Getting lawyers involved in technology law is important for the field because rules defining e-discovery and other aspects of Internet law are constantly getting revamped,” he said.

Avid Facebook and Twitter users post hundreds of images and comments on their personal social media sites. While users expect a certain level of privacy, social media sites are often very much open to outside inspection.

Insurance companies prowl the Facebook and Twitter accounts of clients who file accident and personal injury claims against them. Attorneys also monitor and download massive amounts of data from them and other Internet sites as possible evidence.

But a seemingly endless stream of electronic data also could at least in some instances ח cripple a case.

A federal judge in August dismissed charges against Armando Angulo, a fugitive Miami doctor indicted in one of the nation’s largest cases against Internet pharmacies, in part because prosecutors said maintaining more than 400,000 documents and two terabytes of information was too expensive for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“It’s the most exciting time to be a lawyer because the law is struggling to keep up with changes in technology,” Losey said. “In some cases, lawyers will help create laws based on the problems encountered with the developing technology.”

In 2011, a U.S. Magistrate in the Southern District of New York approved the defendant’s request to use technology-assisted review in a case involving labor disputes. The software searches thousands of electronic documents for information relevant to the case, reducing the time and money spent on gathering electronic discovery.

The stakes in cases involving defamation law can be much higher because of the worldwide reach of the Internet.

“The old rules still apply whether the possibly defamatory comment is written in a letter, made in a phone call or posted on the Internet,” said Fort Lauderdale attorney Dana McElroy, a lawyer whose firm represents the Orlando Sentinel and the Sun Sentinel. “But now, the liability is potentially broader because of the jurisdictional issue. Those comments are accessed worldwide and stay online forever.”

Miami attorney Tom Julin said “it is critical for lawyers to understand how social media works and how the rules are because they will encounter it in their cases.”

Some already are making lucrative careers from Internet cases, with many companies specializing in data mining for attorneys.

Some attorneys work to rebuild reputations soiled on the Web.

Their services produce large amounts of content about their client tagged with popular search keywords that Google will latch onto instead of embarrassing or negative information already on the Internet.

“There is so much written about social media and technology these days that I see a lot of attorneys boast about being experts on the subject on their websites,” Julin said. “It’s not clear to me that they are legitimate experts in that field, but there is certainly money to be made in it.”

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Socialism

What a Joke!
The Rich Are Winning the US Class War: Facts Show Rich Getting Richer, Everyone Else Poorer

By Bill Quigley
Huffington Post
October 26, 2010

Socialism? What a Joke! The rich and their paid false prophets are doing a bang up job deceiving the poor and middle class. They have convinced many that an evil socialism is alive in the land and it is taking their fair share. But the deception cannot last - facts say otherwise.

Yes, there is a class war - the war of the rich on the poor and the middle class - and the rich are winning. That war has been going on for years. Look at the facts - facts the rich and their false paid prophets do not want people to know.

Let Glen Beck go on about socialists descending on Washington. Allow Rush Limbaugh to rail about “class warfare for a leftist agenda that will destroy our society.” They are well compensated false prophets for the rich.

The truth is that for the several decades the rich in the US have been getting richer and the poor and middle class have been getting poorer. Look at the facts then make up your own mind.

Poor Getting Poorer: Facts

The official US poverty numbers show we now have the highest number of poor people in 51 years. The official US poverty rate is 14.3 percent or 43.6 million people in poverty. One in five children in the US is poor; one in ten senior citizens is poor. Source: US Census Bureau.

One of every six workers, 26.8 million people, is unemployed or underemployed. This “real” unemployment rate is over 17%. There are 14.8 million people designated as “officially” unemployed by the government, a rate of 9.6 percent. Unemployment is worse for African American workers of whom 16.1 percent are unemployed. Another 9.5 million people who are working only part-time while they are seeking full-time work but have had their hours cut back or are so far only able to find work part-time are not counted in the official unemployment numbers. Also, an additional 2.5 million are reported unemployed but not counted because they are classified as discouraged workers in part because they have been out of work for more than 12 months. Source: US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics October 2010 report.

The median household income for whites in the US is $51,861; for Asians it is $65,469; for African Americans it is $32,584; for Latinos it is $38,039. Source: US Census Bureau.

Fifty million people in the US lack health insurance. Source: US Census Bureau.

Women in the US have a greater lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related conditions than women in 40 other countries. African American US women are nearly 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Source: Amnesty International Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.

About 3.5 million people, about one-third of which are children, are homeless at some point in the year in the US. Source: National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

Outside Atlanta, 33,000 people showed up to seek applications for low cost subsidized housing in August 2010. When Detroit offered emergency utility and housing assistance to help people facing evictions, more than 50,000 people showed up for the 3,000 vouchers. Source: News reports.

There are 49 million people in the US who live in households which eat only because they receive food stamps, visit food pantries or soup kitchens for help. Sixteen million are so poor they have skipped meals or foregone food at some point in the last year. This is the highest level since statistics have been kept. Source: US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Middle Class Going Backward: Facts

One or two generations ago it was possible for a middle class family to live on one income. Now it takes two incomes to try to enjoy the same quality of life. Wages have not kept up with inflation; adjusted for inflation they have lost ground over the past ten years. The cost of housing, education and health care have all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries. In 1967, the middle 60 percent of households received over 52% of all income. In 1998, it was down to 47%. The share going to the poor has also fallen, with the top 20% seeing their share rise.  OBAMA’S CHALLENGE: REVERING A DECADE OF MIDDLE CLASS DECLINE, Mark Trumball, Christian Science Monitor, January 25, 2010.

A record 2.8 million homes received a foreclosure notice in 2009, higher than both 2008 and 2007. In 2010, the rate is expected to be rise to 3 million homes. Sources: Reuters and RealtyTrac.

Eleven million homeowners (about one in four homeowners) in the US are “under water” or owe more on their mortgages than their house is worth. Source: “Home truths,” The Economist, October 23, 2010.

For the first time since the 1940s, the real incomes of middle-class families are lower at the end of the business cycle of the 2000s than they were at the beginning. Despite the fact that the American workforce is working harder and smarter than ever, they are sharing less and less in the benefits they are creating. This is true for white families but even truer for African American families whose gains in the 1990s have mostly been eliminated since then. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, THE STATE OF WORKING AMERICA

Rich Getting Richer: Facts

The wealth of the richest 400 people in the US grew by 8% in the last year to $1.37 trillion. Source: Forbes 400: The super-rich get richer, September 22, 2010, Money.com

The top Hedge Fund Manager of 2009, David Tepper, “earned” $4 billion last year. The rest of the top ten earned: $3.3 billion, $2.5 billion, $2.3 billion, $1.4 billion, $1.3 billion (tie for 6th and 7th place), $900 million (tie for 8th and 9th place), and in last place out of the top ten, $825 million. Source: Business Insider. SOURCE MEET THE TOP 10 EARNING HEDGE FUND MANAGERS OF 2009.

Income DISPARITY in the US is now as bad as it was right before the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s. From 1979 to 2006, the richest 1% more than doubled their share of the total US income, from 10% to 23%. The richest 1% have an average annual income of more than $1.3 million. For the last 25 years, over 90% of the total growth in income in the US went to the top 10% earners - leaving 9% of all income to be shared by the bottom 90%. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, THE STATE OF WORKING AMERICA 2008.

In 1973, the average US CEO was paid $27 for every dollar paid to a typical worker; by 2007 that ratio had grown to $275 to $1. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America. http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/2008/03/SWA08_Wages_Figure.3AE.pdf

Since 1992, the average tax rate on the richest 400 taxpayers in the US dropped from 26.8% to 16.62%. Source: US Internal Revenue Service. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/07intop400.pdf

The US has the greatest inequality between rich and poor among all Western industrialized nations and it has been getting worse for 40 years. The World Factbook, published by the CIA, includes an international ranking of the inequality among families inside of each country, called the Gini Index. The US ranking of 45 in 2007 is the same as Argentina, Cameroon, and Cote d’Ivorie. The highest inequality can be found in countries like Namibia, South Africa, Haiti and Guatemala. The US ranking of 45 compares poorly to Japan (38), India (36), New Zealand, UK (34), Greece (33), Spain (32), Canada (32), France (32), South Korea (31), Netherlands (30), Ireland (30), Australia (30), Germany (27), Norway (25), and Sweden (23). Source: CIA The World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html

Rich people live an average of about five years longer than poor people in the US. Naturally, gross inequality has consequences in terms of health, exposure to unhealthy working conditions, nutrition and lifestyle. In 1980, the most well off in the US had a life expectancy of 2.8 years over the least well-off. As the inequality gap widens, so does the life expectancy gap. In 1990, the gap was a little less than 4 years. In 2000, the least well-off could expect to live to age of 74.7 while the most well off had a life expectancy of 79.2 years. Source: Elise Gould, “Growing disparities in life expectancy,” Economic Policy Institute. http://www.epi.org/economic_snapshots/entry/webfeatures_snapshots_20080716/

Conclusion

These are extremely troubling facts for anyone concerned about economic fairness, equality of opportunity, and justice.

Thomas Jefferson once observed that the systematic restructuring of society to benefit the rich over the poor and middle class is a natural appetite of the rich. “Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to...the general prey of the rich on the poor.” But Jefferson also knew that justice can only be delayed so long when he said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

The rich talk about the rise of socialism to divert attention from the fact that they are devouring the basics of the poor and everyone else. Many of those crying socialism the loudest are doing it to enrich or empower themselves. They are right about one thing - there is a class war going on in the US. The rich are winning their class war, and it is time for everyone else to fight back for economic justice.

Bill Quigley, Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights; Professor, Loyola New Orleans

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Posted by Elvis on 10/26/10 •
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Collapse Of Western Morality

By Paul Craig Roberts
October 20, 2010

Yes, I know, as many readers will be quick to inform me, the West never had any morality. Nevertheless things have gotten worse.

In hopes that I will be permitted to make a point, permit me to acknowledge that the US dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, fire-bombed Tokyo, that Great Britain and the US fire-bombed Dresden and a number of other German cities, expending more destructive force, according to some historians, against the civilian German population than against the German armies, that President Grant and his Civil War war criminals, Generals Sherman and Sheridan, committed genocide against the Plains Indians, that the US today enables Israel’s genocidal policies against the Palestinians, policies that one Israeli official has compared to 19th century US genocidal policies against the American Indians, that the US in the new 21st century invaded Iraq and Afghanistan on contrived pretenses, murdering countless numbers of civilians, and that British prime minister Tony Blair lent the British army to his American masters, as did other NATO countries, all of whom find themselves committing war crimes under the Nuremberg standard in lands in which they have no national interests, but for which they receive an American pay check.

I don’t mean these few examples to be exhaustive. I know the list goes on and on. Still, despite the long list of horrors, MORAL DEGREDADTION is reaching new lows. The US now routinely tortures prisoners, despite its strict illegality under US and international law, and a recent poll shows that the percentage of Americans who approve of torture is rising. Indeed, it is quite high, though still just below a majority.

And we have what appears to be a new thrill: American soldiers using the cover of war to murder civilians. Recently American troops were arrested for murdering Afghan civilians for fun and collecting trophies such as fingers and skulls.

This revelation came on the heels of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s alleged leak of a US Army video of US soldiers in helicopters and their controllers thousands of miles away having fun with joy sticks murdering members of the press and Afghan civilians. Manning is cursed with a moral conscience that has been discarded by his government and his military, and Manning has been arrested for obeying the law and reporting a war crime to the American people.

US Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican, of course, from Michigan, who is on the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, has called for Manning’s execution. According to US Rep. Rogers it is an act of treason to report an American war crime.

In other words, to obey the law constitutes “treason to America.”

US Rep. Rogers said that America’s wars are being undermined by “a culture of disclosure” and that this “serious and growing problem” could only be stopped by the execution of Manning.

If Rep. Rogers is representative of Michigan, then Michigan is a state that we don’t need.

The US government, a font of imperial hubris, does not believe that any act it commits, no matter how vile, can possibly be a war crime. One million dead Iraqis, a ruined country, and four million displaced Iraqis are all justified, because the “threatened” US Superpower had to protect itself from nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that the US government knew for a fact were not in Iraq and could not have been a threat to the US if they were in Iraq.

When other countries attempt to enforce the international laws that the Americans established in order to execute Germans defeated in World War II, the US government goes to work and blocks the attempt. A year ago on October 8, the Spanish Senate, obeying its American master, limited Spain’s laws of universal jurisdiction in order to sink a legitimate war crimes case brought against George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama, Tony Blair,and Gordon Brown.

The West includes Israel, and there the horror stories are 60 years long. Moreover, if you mention any of them you are declared to be an anti-semite. I only mention them in order to prove that I am not anti-American, anti-British, and anti-NATO, but am simply against war crimes. It was the distinguished Zionist Jewish Judge, Goldstone, who produced the UN report indicating that Israel committed war crimes when it attacked the civilian population and civilian infrastructure of Gaza. For his efforts, Israel declared the Zionist Goldstone to be “a self-hating Jew,” and the US Congress, on instruction from the Israel Lobby, voted to disregard the Goldstone Report to the UN.

As the Israeli official said, we are only doing to the Palestinians what the Americans did to the American Indians.

The Israeli army uses female soldiers to sit before video screens and to fire by remote control machine guns from towers to murder Palestinians who come to tend their fields within 1500 meters of the inclosed perimeter of Ghetto Gaza. There is no indication that these Israeli women are bothered by gunning down young children and old people who come to tend to their fields.

If the crimes were limited to war and the theft of lands, perhaps we could say it is a case of jingoism sidetracking traditional morality, otherwise still in effect.

Alas, the collapse of morality is too widespread. Some sports teams now have a win-at-all-cost attitude that involves plans to injure the star players of the opposing teams. To avoid all these controversies, let’s go to Formula One racing where 200 mph speeds are routine.

Prior to 1988, 22 years ago, track deaths were due to driver error, car failure, and poorly designed tracks compromised with safety hazards. World Champion Jackie Stewart did much to improve the safety of tracks, both for drivers and spectators. But in 1988 everything changed. Top driver Ayrton Senna nudged another top driver Alain Prost toward a pit wall at 190 mph. According to AutoWeek (August 30, 2010), nothing like this had been seen before. “Officials did not punish Senna’s move that day in Portugal, and so a significant shift in racing began.” What the great racing driver Stirling Moss called “dirty driving” became the norm.

Nigel Roebuck in AutoWeek reports that in 1996 World Champion Damon Hill said that Senna’s win-at-all-cost tactic “was responsible for fundamental change in the ethics of the sport.” Drivers began using “terrorist tactics on the track.” Damon Hill said that “the views that I’d gleaned from being around my dad [twice world champion Graham Hill] and people like him, I soon had to abandon,” because you realized that no penalty was forthcoming against the guy who tried to kill you in order that he could win.

When asked about the ethics of modern Formula One racing, American World Champion Phil Hill said: “Doing that sort of stuff in my day was just unthinkable. For one thing, we believed certain tactics were unacceptable.”

In today’s Western moral climate, driving another talented driver into the wall at 200 mph is just part of winning. Michael Schumacher, born in January 1969, is a seven times World Champion, an unequaled record. On August 1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix, AutoWeek Reports that Schumacher tried to drive his former Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, into the wall at 200 mph speeds.

Confronted with his attempted act of murder, Schumacher said: “This is Formula One. Everyone knows I don’t give presents.”

Neither does the US government, nor state and local governments, nor the UK government, nor the EU.

The deformation of the police, which many Americans, in their untutored existence as naive believers in “law and order,” still think are “on their side,” has taken on new dimensions with the police militarized to fight “terrorists” and “domestic extremists.”

The police have been off the leash since the civilian police boards were nixed by the conservatives. Kids as young as 6 years old have been handcuffed and carted off to jail for school infractions that may or may not have occurred. So have moms with a car full of children. See THIS for example.

Anyone who googles videos of US police gratuitous brutality will call up tens of thousands of examples, and this is after laws that make filming police brutality a felony. A year or two ago such a search would call up hundreds of thousands of videos.

In one of the most recent of the numerous daily acts of gratuitous police abuse of citizens, an 84-year-old man had his neck broken because he objected to a night time towing of his car. The goon cop body-slammed the 84-year old and broke his neck. The Orlando, Florida, police department says that the old man was a “threat” to the well-armed much younger police goon, because the old man clenched his fist.

Americans will be the first people sent straight to Hell while thinking that they are the salt of the earth. The Americans have even devised a title for themselves to rival that of the Israelis’ self-designation as “God’s Chosen People.” The Americans call themselves “the indispensable people.”

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Posted by Elvis on 10/21/10 •
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Mortgage Morass

By Paul Krugman
NY Times
October 14, 2010

American officials used to lecture other countries about their economic failings and tell them that they needed to emulate the U.S. model. The Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, in particular, led to a lot of self-satisfied moralizing. Thus, in 2000, Lawrence Summers, then the Treasury secretary, declared that the keys to avoiding financial crisis were well-capitalized and supervised banks, effective corporate governance and bankruptcy codes, and credible means of contract enforcement. By implication, these were things the Asians lacked but we had.

We didn’t.

The accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom dispelled the myth of effective corporate governance. These days, the idea that our banks were well capitalized and supervised sounds like a sick joke. And now the mortgage mess is making nonsense of claims that we have effective contract enforcement - in fact, the question is whether our economy is governed by any kind of rule of law.

The story so far: An epic housing bust and sustained high unemployment have led to an epidemic of default, with millions of homeowners falling behind on mortgage payments. So servicers the companies that collect payments on behalf of mortgage owners - have been foreclosing on many mortgages, seizing many homes.

But do they actually have the right to seize these homes? Horror stories have been proliferating, like the case of the Florida man whose home was taken even though he had no mortgage. More significantly, certain players have been ignoring the law. Courts have been approving foreclosures without requiring that mortgage servicers produce appropriate documentation; instead, they have relied on affidavits asserting that the papers are in order. And these affidavits were often produced by robo-signers, or low-level employees who had no idea whether their assertions were true.

Now an awful truth is becoming apparent: In many cases, the documentation doesn’t exist. In the frenzy of the bubble, much home lending was undertaken by fly-by-night companies trying to generate as much volume as possible. These loans were sold off to mortgage trusts, which, in turn, sliced and diced them into mortgage-backed securities. The trusts were legally required to obtain and hold the mortgage notes that specified the borrowers’ obligations. But its now apparent that such niceties were frequently neglected. And this means that many of the foreclosures now taking place are, in fact, illegal.

This is very, very bad. For one thing, it’s a near certainty that significant numbers of borrowers are being defrauded, charged fees they don’t actually owe, declared in default when, by the terms of their loan agreements, they aren’t.

Beyond that, if trusts can’t produce proof that they actually own the mortgages against which they have been selling claims, the sponsors of these trusts will face lawsuits from investors who bought these claims claims that are now, in many cases, worth only a small fraction of their face value.

And who are these sponsors? Major financial institutions - the same institutions supposedly rescued by government programs last year. So the mortgage mess threatens to produce another financial crisis.

What can be done?

True to form, the Obama administrations response has been to oppose any action that might upset the banks, like a temporary moratorium on foreclosures while some of the issues are resolved. Instead, it is asking the banks, very nicely, to behave better and clean up their act. I mean, that’s worked so well in the past, right?

The response from the right is, however, even worse. Republicans in Congress are lying low, but conservative commentators like those at The Wall Street Journals editorial page have come out dismissing the lack of proper documents as a triviality. In effect, they’re saying that if a bank says it owns your house, we should just take its word. To me, this evokes the days when noblemen felt free to take whatever they wanted, knowing that peasants had no standing in the courts. But then, I suspect that some people regard those as the good old days.

What should be happening? The excesses of the bubble years have created a legal morass, in which property rights are ill defined because nobody has proper documentation. And where no clear property rights exist, its the government’s job to create them.

That won’t be easy, but there are good ideas out there. For example, the Center for American Progress has proposed giving mortgage counselors and other public entities the power to modify troubled loans directly, with their judgment standing unless appealed by the mortgage servicer. This would do a lot to clarify matters and help extract us from the morass.

One thing is for sure: What we’re doing now isnt working. And pretending that things are O.K. won’ convince anyone.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/17/10 •
Section Dying America
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