Article 43

 

Friday, April 01, 2011

Cell Phone Tracking

It’s Tracking Your Every Move and You May Not Even Know

By Noam Cohen
NY Times
March 26, 2011

A favorite pastime of Internet users is to share their location: services like Google Latitude can inform friends when you are nearby; another, Foursquare, has turned reporting these updates into a game.

But as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts.

The results were astounding. In a six-month period from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It TRACED HIM from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin.

Mr. Spitz has provided a rare glimpse - an unprecedented one, privacy experts say of what is being collected as we walk around with our phones. Unlike many online services and Web sites that must send cookies to a user’s computer to try to link its traffic to a specific person, cellphone companies simply have to sit back and hit record.”

“We are all walking around with little tags, and our tag has a phone number associated with it, who we called and what we do with the phone,” said Sarah E. Williams, an expert on graphic information at COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY’S architecture school. “We don’t even know we are giving up that data.”

Tracking a customers whereabouts is part and parcel of what phone companies do for a living. Every seven seconds or so, the phone company of someone with a working cellphone is determining the nearest tower, so as to most efficiently route calls. And for billing reasons, they track where the call is coming from and how long it has lasted.

“At any given instant, a cell company has to know where you are; it is constantly registering with the tower with the strongest signal,” said Matthew Blaze, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania who has testified before Congress on the issue.

Mr. Spitz’s information, Mr. Blaze pointed out, was not based on those frequent updates, but on how often Mr. Spitz checked his e-mail.

Mr. Spitz, a privacy advocate, decided to be extremely open with his personal information. Late last month, he released all the location information in a publicly accessible Google Document, and worked with Zeit Online, a sister publication of a prominent German newspaper, Die Zeit, to map those coordinates over time.

This is really the most compelling visualization in a public forum I have ever seen,Ӕ said Mr. Blaze, adding that it shows how strong a picture even a fairly low-resolution location can give.Ӕ

In an interview from Berlin, Mr. Spitz explained his reasons: “It was an important point to show this is not some kind of a game. I thought about it, if it is a good idea to publish all the data - I also could say, O.K., I will only publish it for five, 10 days maybe. But then I said no, I really want to publish the whole six months.”

“In the United States, telecommunication companies do not have to report precisely what material they collect,” said Kevin Bankston, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who specializes in privacy. He added that based on court cases he could say that “they store more of it and it is becoming more precise.:

“Phones have become a necessary part of modern life,” he said, objecting to the idea that “you have to hand over your personal privacy to be part of the 21st century.”

In the United States, there are law enforcement and safety reasons for cellphone companies being encouraged to keep track of its customers. Both the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration have used cellphone records to identify suspects and make arrests.

If the information is valuable to law enforcement, it could be lucrative for marketers. The major American cellphone providers declined to explain what exactly they collect and what they use it for.

Verizon, for example, declined to elaborate other than to point to its privacy policy, which includes: “Information such as call records, service usage, traffic data,” the statement in part reads, “may be used for marketing to you based on your use of the products and services you already have, subject to any restrictions required by law.”

Sense Networks, a company that uses data from AT&T, uses anonymous location information “to better understand aggregate human activity.” One product, CitySense, makes recommendations about local nightlife to customers who choose to participate based on their cellphone usage. (Many smartphone apps already on the market are based on location but that’s with the consent of the user and through GPS, not the cellphone company’s records.)

Because of Germany’s history, courts place a greater emphasis on personal privacy. Mr. Spitz first went to court to get his entire file in 2009 but Deutsche Telekom objected.

For six months, he said, “there was a Ping Pong game” of lawyers letters back and forth until, separately, the Constitutional Court there decided that the existing rules governing data retention, beyond those required for billing and logistics, were illegal. Soon thereafter, the two sides reached a settlement: “I only get the information that is related to me, and I don’t get all the information like who am I calling, who sent me a SMS and so on,” Mr. Spitz said, referring to text messages.

Even so, 35,831 pieces of information were sent to him by Deutsche Telekom as an encrypted file, to protect his privacy during its transmission.

Deutsche Telekom, which owns T-Mobile, Mr. Spitzs carrier, wrote in an e-mail that it stored six months of data, as required by the law, and that after the court ruling it immediately ceased storing data.

And a year after the court ruling outlawing this kind of data retention, there is a movement to try to get a new, more limited law passed. Mr. Spitz, at 26 a member of the Green Party’s executive board, says he released that material to influence that debate.

“I want to show the political message that this kind of data retention is really, really big and you can really look into the life of people for six months and see what they are doing where they are.”

While the potential for abuse is easy to imagine, in Mr. Spitz’s case, there was not much revealed.

“I really spend most of the time in my own neighborhood, which was quite funny for me,” he said. “I am not really walking that much around.”

“Any embarrassing details? The data shows that I am flying sometimes,” he said, “rather than taking a more fuel-efficient train. Something not that popular for a Green politician.”

SOURCE

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Hill eyes phone-tracking policies

By Tony Romm
Politico
March 30, 2011

Capitol Hill is taking new interest in the ways AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile track their own customers’ whereabouts.

Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), co-chairmen of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, sent letters Tuesday to the four wireless providers, asking them to detail at length how they collect, use and store cell phone location data.

The letters follow a story in The New York Times this week that revealed the extent to which Deutsche Telekom the German company that seeks to sell T-Mobile to AT&T ֖ had stored data on the whereabouts of Malte Spitz, a Green Party politician. The Times discovered that Deutsche Telekom had tracked the German lawmaker’s longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times over a six-month period.

Cell phone providers typically track the location of a customer’s iPhone, BlackBerry, Android or other device as a means of servicing calls with the closest cell towers. Experts told the Times that providers and phones perform similarly when users access their e-mail accounts.

But the extent to which Deutsche Telekom had tracked Spitz has prompted Markey and Barton to ask AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile to explain their own collection practices.

In the letters sent Tuesday, the members ask each company’s CEO to “describe the policies and procedures your company utilizes to comply with Section 222 of the Communications Act.” That provision, which Markey authored, requires “express prior authorization of the customer for use, disclosure of or access to the customer’s location information for commercial purposes,” according to the letters.

Markey and Barton also ask the telecom giants to explain how each uses and stores the data and for how long. They request to know “any other mechanisms” deployed to take note of location, such as “how frequently the customer checks her e-mail,” and why. They also inquire whether any location details are used for marketing purposes, and if the companies make it a “common practice . . . to inform the customer when data is being collected and how this data is being used.”

The letters asked AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile to respond within 15 days, or by April 19.

The members interests in the issue comes at a time when members of Congress are eyeing a host of issues in the realm of cell phone privacy. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), for one, is preparing legislation that would set new rules for cell phone location tracking as it relates to law enforcement.

SOURCE

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Judge OKs Warrantless Cell-Site Data in Landmark Privacy Case

By David Kravets
December 18, 2012

Federal prosecutors may introduce cell-site data obtained without a warrant in the retrial of a District of Columbia drug dealer who was the subject of one of the Supreme Courts biggest electronic privacy decisions in decades.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the District of Columbia is a victory for prosecutors who are shifting their focus to warrantless cell-tower locational tracking of suspects in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that law enforcement SHOULD ACQUIRE PROBABLE-CAUSE WARRANTS from judges to affix GPS devices to vehicles. (.pdf) Just after the high court’s January decision, the FBI PULLED THE PLUG on 3,000 GPS-tracking devices.

Huvelle’s ruling came as part of pretrial proceedings in the prosecution of Antoine Jones, the previously convicted drug dealer whose conviction and life sentence was reversed by the Supreme Court which found the government’s placement of a GPS tracker on his vehicle was an illegal search.

Until the Supreme Court ruled in Jones case, the lower courts were mixed whether the police could secretly affix a GPS device on a suspect’s car without a warrant. And despite Huvelle’s ruling, the lower courts are still divided about whether a probable-cause warrant is required to obtain cell-site data.

Lawyers for Jones maintain that the authorities should have obtained a probable cause warrant for the data, saying they government “seeks to do with cell site data WHAT IT CANNOT DO with the suppressed GPS data.”

But Huvelle sidestepped the Fourth Amendment argument and declined to analyze whether the Supreme Court’s ruling in Jones case has any bearing on whether cell-site data can be used without a warrant.

Instead, she focused on a doctrine called the ”GOOD-FAITH EXCEPTION,” in which evidence is not suppressed if the authorities were following the law at the time. The data in Jones’ case was coughed up in 2005, well before the Supreme Courts ruling on GPS.

“The court, however, need not resolve this vexing question of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, since it concludes that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies,” she wrote.

Monday’s decision was first reported by Mike Scarcella of The Blog of Legal Times.

With that, prosecutors are legally in the clear to use Jones phone location records without a warrant. Among other things, the government wants to use the records to chronicle where Jones was when he made and received about four months of mobile phone calls in 2005.  The records show each call the defendant made or received, the date and time of calls, the telephone numbers involved, the cell tower to which the phone users connected at the beginning and/or end of the call and the duration of the call.

The authorities only had to show that such information was ғrelevant to an investigation to get a judge to authorize Cingular to turn them over. No probable cause was needed.

According to the authoritiesԒ application to a judge for the data:

Knowing the location of the trafficker when such telephone calls are made will assist law enforcement in discovering the location of the premises in which the trafficker maintains his supply narcotics, paraphernalia used in narcotics trafficking such as cutting and packaging materials, and other evident of illegal narcotics trafficking, including records and financial information,Ӕ the government wrote in 2005, when requesting Jones cell-site data.

That data was not introduced at trial, as the authorities used the GPS data instead.

Even so, the Obama administration claimed that the high courtҒs GPS decision was wholly inapplicableӔ when it comes to cell-site data.

The administration noted that the high court said the physical act of affixing a GPS device to a vehicle amounts to a search and generally requires a warrant. But when the government merely compels a third-party service provider to produce routine business records in its custody,Ӕ the government wrote, no physical intrusion occurs, and the rule in Jones is therefore wholly inapplicable.Ӕ (.pdf)

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Posted by Elvis on 04/01/11 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Loosing Our Way

By Bob Herbert
NY Times
March 25, 2011

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldnt be, and didnҒt used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.

The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nations wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.

This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.

A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether.” Despite profits of $14.2 billion $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States - General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.

As The Timess David Kocieniewski reported, “Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”

G.E. is the nation’s largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obamas Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.

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Posted by Elvis on 03/29/11 •
Section Dying America
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Housing’s Double Dip

4-sale.jpghousingbubble.jpg

By Mike Whitney
Information Clearinghouse
March 27, 2011

The housing market is now in full retreat. This week, the Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes plunged nearly 17 percent in February to a 250,000 annual pace. That’s a record low. At the same time, the median price fell 8.9 percent from February of last year. The news comes on the heels of Monday’s equally-dismal report that showed existing home sales dropped 9.6 percent in February. These are Depression era stats and builders know it which is why they’re unloading homes as cheaply as possible. It’s been 5 years since housing prices peaked in July 2006, and the market is still nowhere near the bottom. In fact, the rate of decline is accelerating. This is shaping up to be the worst spring in history.

If you want to know where the housing market is headed, keep an eye on inventory. That’s the whole ball of wax. When inventory balloons, prices go down. At present, inventory is rising (8.9 month’s supply) which means that prices have further to fall. But these figures don’t include the vast SHADOW INVENTORY that the banks are holding off-market. Many analysts think there could be another 5 to 6 years of inventory stacked up on bank’s balance sheets. The Wall Street Journal’s Mark Whitehouse takes an even grimmer view. He thinks the backlog could be in the vicinity of 9 years. Here’s a clip from his article in the WSJ:

“Banks’ vast pile of foreclosed homes doesn’t appear to be diminishing. That’s a troubling sign for the future of the housing market.

Back in April, this column tallied up all the foreclosed homes sitting in banks’ inventory, as well as the “shadow” inventory of homes in the foreclosure process or on which owners had missed at least two mortgage payments. At the time, we reported that at the current rate of sales, it would take 103 months to unload it all.

Over the past six months, that number has actually risen. Banks managed to pare down the shadow inventory, but largely by taking possession of foreclosed homes. As of September, they owned nearly 994,000 foreclosed homes, up 21% from a year earlier. The shadow inventory stood at 5.2 million homes, down 7% from a year earlier. Grand total: 107 months of inventory.

The numbers aren’t exactly comparable to the April analysis, as the providers of data have changed. The inventory data now come from RealtyTrac, the shadow inventory data from LPS Applied Analytics, and the sales data from Core Logic. But no matter how you slice it, the housing market faces almost nine years of foreclosure hangover..

The mountain of foreclosed homes casts a long shadow.” ("Number of the Week: 107 Months to Clear Banks’ Housing Backlog”, Mark Whitehouse, Wall Street Journal)

If this glut of homes was suddenly dumped onto the market, prices would go into freefall and the banks would be swallowed up by the red ink. That would force the Fed would to initiate another bailout. (which Bernanke definitely does not want) So the banks are releasing homes in dribs and drabs while concealing the number of non-performing loans they’re holding from shareholders. It’s all a giant coverup.

This is from Bloomberg:

“The number of homes in foreclosure rose to a record 2.2 million in January, according to Lender Processing Services Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida. About 23 percent of homeowners with mortgages had NEGATIVE EQUITY in the fourth quarter, meaning their home-loan balances were higher than the value of their properties, CoreLogic Inc. said in a March 8 report.”

Prices are falling, home equity is drying up, foreclosures are at record highs, and the incentive to ”WALK AWAY” and let the bank take the mortgage-loss has never been greater. All of the mortgage modification programs have been a total failure. The Fed purchased $1.7 trillion of garbage mortgage-backed securities (MBS) from the banks, but hasn’t lifted a finger to help homeowners. All of the pain from the $8 trillion housing bubble has all been shunted onto the backs of ordinary working people.

Present policy continues the same pattern of relentless class warfare. Since Bernanke announced his bond purchasing program (QE2) in November, the Fed has bought $440 billion of US Treasuries notes from the banks. This has pushed equities up nearly 15 percent which (according to the Fed’s flow of funds report) makes it look like consumers are rebounding from the deep losses they experienced during the financial crisis. But the figures are misleading. The wealthiest 5 percent of Americans control more than half of all the nation’s financial assets whereas the bottom 50 percent have almost none. So the uptick in stocks doesn’t improve their situation nearly as much as a boost in home values. When housing prices go up, homeowners are more apt to spend which increases economic activity and stimulates growth. The New York Fed just released a working paper last week which showed that “Between 2000 and 2007, consumer borrowing added an annual average of about $330 billion to the cash they could spend; by 2009, consumers were diverting $150 billion away from potential spending in order to reduce the debts they had built up. This represents a remarkable $480 billion reversal in cash flow in just two years.” (NY Fed)

So housing prices are critical to getting the economy back on track. But in a time when all the gains in productivity are upwardly-transferred to management, workers are more dependent than ever on rising asset values in order to increase their consumption. That’s why consumer spending will stay flat until housing prices go up.

Obama’s unwillingness to seriously address the housing crisis has extended the period of household deleveraging and added to economic sluggishness. He needs to force the banks to negotiate cramdowns (principle reduction) and keep more people in their homes. That’s Job#1. Then he needs to boost fiscal stimulus to lower unemployment and increase demand for housing. The Fed’s quantitative easing (QE2) can’t fix this problem. It can buoy stocks and lower long-term interest rates, but it can’t create jobs, patch household balance sheets, or stabilize housing prices. This week’s plunging new home sales proves that Bernanke’s strategy is a flop. It’s time to move on to Plan B.

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Posted by Elvis on 03/28/11 •
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Return Of The Robber Barons 2

greed.jpg

Billionaires Flourish, Inequalities Deepen as Economies “Recover”
The bailouts of banks, speculators and manufacturers served their real purposes: the multi-millionaires became billionaires and the later became multi-billionaires.

By James Petras
March 24, 2011

According to the annual report of the business magazine Forbes there are 1,210 individuals and in many cases family clans ֖ with a net value of $1 billion dollars (or more). There total net worth is $4 trillion, 500 billion dollars, greater than the combined worth of 4 billion people in the world. The current concentration of wealth exceeds any previous period in history; from King Midas, the Maharajahs, and the Robber Barons to the recent Silicon Valley Wall Street moguls of the present decade.

An analysis of the source of wealth of the super-rich, the distribution in the world economy and the methods of accumulation highlights several important differences with major political consequences. We will proceed to identify these specific features of the super-rich, starting with the United States and follow with an analysis of the rest of the world.

The Super-Rich in the US: Greatest Living Parasites

The US has the most billionaires in the world (413), better than one third of the total, the greatest proportion among the big countries in the world. A closer look also reveals that among the top 200 billionaires (those with $5.2 billion and more) there are 57 from the US (29%). Over one third made their fortune through speculative activity, predators on the productive economy and exploiters of the property and stock market. This is the highest percentage of any major country in Europe or Asia (with the exception of England). The enormous concentration of wealth in the hands of this tiny parasitical ruling class is one reason why the US has the worst inequalities of any advanced economy and among the worst in the entire world. Speculators do not employ workers, they secure tax loopholes and bailouts and then press for cuts in the social budget, since they do not require a healthy, educated workforce (except for a tiny elite). In 1976 the top 1% held 20% of the wealth; in 2007 they commanded 35% of total wealth. Eighty percent of Americans own only 15% of the wealth. The recent economic crises, which initially reduced the total wealth of the country, did so in an uneven fashion Ӗ hitting the majority of workers and employees worse. The Bush-Obama bailout led to the economic recovery, not of the economy in generalӔ, but was confined to further enhancing the wealth of the billionaires which explains why the unemployment/under employment rate has hardly moved, why the fiscal debt and trade deficit grows and the state lowers corporate taxes and slashes federal, state and municipal budgets. The ֓dynamic sector composed of parasitical capitalists employ few workers, exports no products, pays lower taxes and imposes greater cuts in social spending for productive workers. In the case of the US, billionaires, their wealth is largely accrued via the pillage of the state treasury and productive economy and via speculation in the information technology sector which houses one-fifth of the top billionaires.

BRICԒs: The New billionaires: Exploiting Labor of Nature

The leading emerging capitalist countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) hailed by the mass media for their rapid growth over the past decade are producing billionaires at a faster rate than any bloc of countries in the world. According to the latest data in Forbes (March 2011), the number of billionaires in the BRICs increased over 56% from 193 in 2010 to 301 in 2011, exceeding that of Europe.

The high growth of the BRICs - has led to the concentration and centralization of capital, in every case promoted by state policies which provides low interest loans, subsidies, tax incentives, unrestricted exploitation of natural resources and labor, the dispossession of small property owners and the give-away of publically owned enterprises.

The dynamic growth of billionaires in the BRICs has led to the most egregious inequalities in the world. Among the BRICs, China leads the way with the greatest number of billionaires (115) and the worst inequalities in all of Asia, in sharp contrast to its Communist past when it was the most egalitarian country in the world. An examination of the source of wealth of Chinas super rich reveals that it has resulted from the exploitation of labor in the manufacturing sector, speculation in real-estate and construction and trade. China has surpassed the US as the worldҒs biggest manufacturer in 2011, as a result of the super-exploitation of labor in China and the growth of parasitical financial capital in the US.

In contrast to the US, Chinas working class is making significant inroads into the profiteering of its manufacturing and real estate elite.As a result of working class struggle, wages have been growing between 10% and 20% over the past 5 years; protests by farmers and urban households against state sanctioned evictions by real estate speculators have exceeded 100,000 per year.

The wealth of Russian billionaires on the other hand resulted from the violent theft of public resources (oil, gas, aluminum, iron, steel, etc.), developed by the previous Communist regime. The great majority of Russian billionaires depend on the export of commodities, pillaging and devastating the natural environment under a corrupt and deregulated regime. The contrast in living and working conditions between the western oriented billionaires and the Russian working class is largely the result of the siphoning off of wealth to overseas accounts, offshore investments and extraordinary personal luxuries including multi-million dollar real estate. In contrast to ChinaҒs industrial elite, Russias billionaires resemble the parasitical ґrentiers found among Wall Street speculators and Persian Gulf sheiks.

IndiaҒs billionaires are a combination of old and new rich drawing their wealth by exploiting low wage industrial workers, dispossessing slum and tribal peoples, as well as from diversified holdings in real estate, IT and software. Indias billionaires accumulated their wealth through their class-kin linkages to the very corrupt higher echelons of the political class, securing monopolies via state contracts. IndiaҒs high growth over the past decade (averaging 7%) and the upsurge in billionaires upward to 55 by 2011, are both linked the neo-liberal policies of deregulation, privatization and globalization, which have concentrated wealth at the top, undermined small scale producers and dispossessed tens of millions.

Brazils billionaire class has expanded rapidly, especially under the leadership of the Workers Party, to 29, up from single digits a decade earlier. Today over two-thirds of Latin AmericaҒs billionaires are Brazilians. The centerpiece of Brazils super rich wealth is the financial-banking sector which has benefited enormously from the monetary, fiscal and neo-liberal policies of the Lula Da Silva regime. Billionaire bankers have been the principle beneficiaries of the agro-mineral export economy which has flourished over the past decade, at the expense of the manufacturing sector. Despite claims by Workers Party leaders, the class inequalities between the mass of minimum wage workers ($380 per month as of March 2011) and the super-rich continues to be worst in Latin America. An analysis of the source of wealth among Brazilian billionaires reveals that 60% accrued their wealth in the finance, real estate and insurance (FIRE) sector and only one (3%) in the capital or intermediary maufacturing sector. BrazilҒs boom in economic growth and billionaires fits the profile of a colonial economyђ: heavy in conspicuous consumption, commodity exports and presided over by a dominant financial sector which promotes neo-liberal policies. Over the course of the past decade despite the populist political theatrics and paternalistic poverty-programs sponsored by the center-leftӔ Workers Party, the major socio-economic outcome has been the growth of a class of super-richӔ billionaires concentrated in banking with powerful links to the agro-mineral sectors. The free-market high growth financial-agro-mineral class has degraded the manufacturing sector, especially textiles and shoes, as well as capital and intermediary goods producers.

The BRICs are producing more,and growing faster than the established imperial powers in Europe and the US but they are also producing monstrous inequalities and concentrations of wealth .The socio-economicconsequences have already manifested themselves in increasing class conflict especially in China and India, as intensive exploitation and dispossession have provoked mass action. The Chinese political elite seems to be the most conscious of the political threat posed by the growing concentration of wealth and is in the midst of promoting substantial wage increases and greater local consumption which seems to be lowering profit margins among some sectors of the manufacturing elite. Perhaps the historical memoryђ of the cultural revolutionӒ and the Maoist legacy plays a role in alerting the political elite to the political dangers resulting from capitalist excessesӔ associated with the high levels of exploitation and the rapid growth of a class of politically connected kinship based billionaires.

Middle East:

Over the past decade the most dynamic country in the Middle East has been Turkey. Led by a liberal democratic regime of Islamic inspiration, Turkey has led the region in GDP growth and in the production of billionaires. The Turkish economic performance has been presented by the World Bank and the IMF as a model for the post dictatorial regimes in the Arab world ֑high growth, a diversified economy based on the growing concentration of wealth.Turkey has 35% more billionaires (37) than the Gulf and North African states combined (24). The ґsecret of Turkish growth is the high rates of investments in diverse industries and the intensive exploitation of labor. Many Turkish billionaires(14) derive their wealth via ґconglomerates, investments in diverse manufacturing, finance and construction sectors. Apart from the ґconglomerate billionaires, there are ґspecialist billionaires who have accumulated wealth from banking, construction and food manufacturing. One of the reasons Turkey has rebuked and challenged Israeli power in the Middle East is because its capitalists are eager to project investments and penetrate markets in the Arab world. Apart from the highly Zionized US political system, the ruling elites and publics in Europe and Asia have looked favorably on TurkeyҒs opposition to Israels massacres in Gaza and violation of international law on the high seas. If a modern liberal Islamic regime can grow rapidly through the rapid expansion of a diversified class of the super-rich,so does Israel, a modern neo- liberal-Judaic state based on the rapid growth of a highly diverse class of billionaires. Israel with 16 billionaires is a country with the fastest growing class inequalities in the region-with the highest per-capita billionaires in the world҅ Israels ғgrowth sectors, software, military industries, finance, insurance and diamonds and overseas investments in metals and mining are led by billionaires and multi-millionaires who have benefited from Zionist induced financial handouts from the US pillage of resources from the ex USSR and transfer of funds by Russian-Israeli oligarchs and though joint ventures with Jewish-American billionaires in software corporations, especially in the ԓsecurity sector. IsraelԒs high percentage of billionaires at a time of sharp cuts in social spending puts the lie to its claim to be a social democracyђ in the midst of Arab sheiksdoms.ђ As a matter of record, Israel has twice as many billionaires (16) as Saudi Arabia (8) and more super-rich than the entire Gulf countries (13). The fact that Israel has more billionaires per capita than any other country has not prevented its Zionist supporters in the US from pressing for additional 20 billions in aid over the next decade. Unlike the past,today Israels wealth concentration has less to do with its being the biggest recipient of foreign aid ...IsraelҒs handouts is a political issue: Zionist power over the Congressional purse. Given the total wealth of Israels billionaires a five percent tax would more than compensate for any cut off of US foreign aid. But that is not about to happen simply because Zionist power in America dictates that the US taxpayers subsidize IsraelҒs plutocrats by paying for their offensive weaponry.

Conclusion

The economic crisesӔ of 2008-2009 inflicted only temporary losses to some (US-EU) billionaires and not others (Asian). Thanks to trillion dollar/Euro/yen bailouts, the billionaires class has recovered and expanded, even as wages in the US and Europe stagnate and living standardsђ are slashed by massive cutbacks in health, education, employment and public services.

What is striking about the recovery, growth, and expansion of the worlds billionaires is how dependent their accumulation of wealth is based on pillage of state resources; how much of their fortunes were based on neo-liberal policies which led to the takeover at bargain prices of privatized public enterprises; how state de-regulation allows for plunder of the environment to extract resources at the highest rate of return; how the state promoted the expansion of speculative activity in real estate, finance and hedge funds, while encouraging the growth of monopolies, oligopolies and conglomerates which captured ғsuper profits Ԗ rates above the historical levelђ. Billionaires in the BRICs and in the older imperial centers (Europe, US and Japan) have been the primary tax beneficiaries of reductions and elimination of social programs and labor rights.

What is absolutely clear is that the state not the market plays a essential role in facilitating the greatest concentration and centralization of wealth in world history, whether in facilitating the plundering of the treasury and the environment or in heightening the direct and indirect exploitation of labor .

The variations in the paths to billionaireђ status are striking: in the US and UK, the parasitical speculative sector predominates over the productive; among the BRICs ֖ with the exception of Russia diverse sectors incorporating manufacturers, software, finance and agro-mineral billionaires predominate. In China the abysmal economic gap between the billionaires and the working class, between real estate speculators and dispossessed household is lead to increasing class conflict and challenges, forcing significant increases in wages (over 20% the past 3 years) and demands for increased public spending on education, health and housing. Nothing comparable is occurring in the US , EU or in the other BRICs.

The sources of billionaire wealth are , at best,only partially due to entrepreneurial innovationsђ. Their wealth may have begun, at an earlier phase, from producing useful goods and services; but as the capitalist economies matureђ and shift toward finance, overseas markets and the search for higher profits by imposing neo-liberal policies, the economic profile of the billionaire class shifts toward the parasitical model of the established imperial centers.

The billionaires in the BRICs, Turkey and Israel contrast sharply from the Middle East oil billionaires who are rentiersђ living off rentsђ from exploiting oil and gas and overseas investments especially in the FIRE sector. Among the BRICs only the Russian billionaire oligarchs resemble the rentiers of the Gulf. The rest, especially Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and Turkish billionaires have taken advantage of state promoted industrial policies to concentrate wealth under the rhetoric of national championsђ, promoting their own interestsђ in the name of a successful emerging economyӔ. But the basic class questions remains: growth for whom and who benefits?Ӕ. So far the historical record shows that growth of billionaires has been based on a highly polarized economy in which the state serves the new class of billionaires, whether parasitical speculators as in the US, rentier pillagers of the state and environment such as Russia and the Gulf states or exploiters of labor such as in the BRICs.

Post Script

The Arab revolt can be seen in part as an effort to overthrow rentier capitalist clansђ. Western intervention in the revolts and support of the oppositionӔ military and political elites is an effort to substitute a neo-liberalђ capitalist ruling class. This new classӔwould be based on the exploitation of labor and dispossession of current crony-clan-kin owners of resources Major enterprises would be transferred to multi-nationals and local capitalists. Much more promising are the internal working struggles in China and to lesser degree in Brazil and the rural based Maoist peasant and tribal movements in India which oppose rentier and capitalist exploitation and dispossession.

James Petras, has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. In 1973-76 he was a member of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Repression in Latin America. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. He received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 03/27/11 •
Section Dying America
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Preying On The Job Seeker 6

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My cousin - a well-grounded, street-smart guy - called to encourage me to go into a telecom MLM business called ACN.  Since I’m a 25 year telecom veteran whose fear of layoff, and disgust of Corporate America is like a lot of others’ - he was excited to make me aware of this company. 

I’ll pass on this exciting opportunity. 

Remember - MLM IS MLM.

I’ll go for a LOTTERY ticket instead.

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ACN - American Communications Network Inc - International business opportunity or MLM sales scam?

By Crimes Of Persuasion

Multi level marketing scams often pretend to be residual income businesses. The distinction is whether they offer a viable product that can be effectively marketed for a profit. The key is to become educated on the company and the process. Keep reading and do your research.

You Won’t Believe This Opportunity!
Passive Residual Income from deregulation and long distance phone service

BEWARE - The money dries up when the recruiting stops.

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ACN - American Communications Network Inc - International business opportunity or MLM sales scam?

There is an mlm business called ACN - American Communications Network Inc - that offers an income opportunity from working at home offering local phone service, voip telephone (online phone service / ip phone services) and long distance phone service to mlm leads which you generate using their network marketing tips.

But is it a work at home business opportunity showing you how to get rich or a multilevel marketing business scam?

You are supposed to earn extra income in this network marketing business offering telephone services in competition with the major telecommunication carriers.

With lots of phone service providers out there as competition, just how good are your odds that you will you be creating wealth and instant income from this PURPORTED RESIDUAL INCOME OPPORTUNITY?

Is it a MARKETING NETWORK SCAM OR LEGITIMATE WORK AT HOME JOB from a viable network marketing company that is successfully competing with the major telephone service providers?

Like many network marketing companies you will be asked by ACN to make a list of network marketing leads including your friends and family for your homebased business opportunity mlm lead generation efforts.

But apart from just mlm downline pep talks you have to ask whether they will provide you with network marketing training or online business ideas to back up the residual income business opportunity they promote?

I’ve heard of a products scam and even a companies scam but I can’t begin to tell you whether this is an example of successful network marketing or a selling scam?

Local phone providers and cable phone service companies don’t offer a network marketing system for earning extra income so could this be a success scam or a real direct sales opportunity?

American Communication Network could be the best network marketing company out there with an MLM compensation plan that makes it a high income business opportunity or an MLM fraud. To know for sure you have to do research on topics like communications scam, telecommunication provider, business opportunity scam and the company name on ACN mlm watchdog blogs and mlm forums discussing ACN.

Do they offer MLM training material? Do they provide you with network marketing strategies to ensure your success? Or will you be an MLM survivor of a networking scam?

SOURCE

FOX NEWS INVESTIGATION OF ACN RECRUITING PRACTICES

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ACN MLM Business - Opportunity Or Scam?

By Joshua Fuson Platinum Quality Author
Ezine

ACN, Inc, is a network marketing company that provides consumers low cost telephone service, internet, wireless service, as well as digital and video phones. They have built themselves into a well-known MLM company, and claim to be the worlds largest direct seller of communication products.

ACN has also gained much attention for their income opportunity, and there are some very real concerns about starting or participating in an ACN business. In this article, we will go through and give an unbiased review of the pros and cons of doing an ACN business, and see if ACN is a great business opportunity...or a great scam.

1. ACN - The Good

ACN was founded in 1993 by Greg Provenzano, Robert Stevanovski, Mike Cupisz, and tony Cupisz. They operate in 19 countries and have over 1,000 employees worldwide. The company itself has a pretty simple product line - low-cost telecommunication service, internet service (DSL, broadband, and dial-up) and other basic wireless services. They have experienced double-digit growth for the past few years, and claim to reap $500m in revenue annually. One of the more notable achieve of ACN is that they have gotten Donald Trump to publicly endorse them as a great business opportunity. So far, so good.

2. ACN - The Bad

Whether or not ACN is a good business opportunity, it is clear that Mr. Trump has no intention of starting an ACN business. Additionally, making RVP or SVP (the top positions in ACN) take considerably more work than finding 3 people...who find 3 people...who find 3 people...etc. etc.

The theory of growing an ACN business is that the representative will simply find a few people who are already using telecom service, and switch over to ACN because of the income opportunity. The picture is painted that the distributor can be paid off everyone in their neighborhood who has a telephone...which is most everyone. The problem comes with a marketing concept called positioning.

3. ACN - The Ugly

ACN, like many other MLM’s, teach their distributors to leverage their “warm market”, friends and family. However, when a new distributor comes talking to their friends and family about making a tremendous income with a business opportunity...and the distributor is not making any money...there is a credibility issue that occurs, and the distributor is positioned as a gopher for someone else’s business.

Growing an ACN business can be a great opportunity. They appear to have a good service, but there are plenty of companies that have great products, and many people that market great products never make a dime. There are also plenty of terrible products that generate millions of dollars in revenue (anyone remember the pet rock?) The difference is the marketer, and their ability to target their market effectively.

In closing, I would say that starting and developing an ACN business is lucrative if you know how to effectively use the telephone, the Internet, and other effective marketing tools. It is not a scam, but like any business, success will be determined by the skill-set of the marketer. ACN is definitely not a lottery ticket or a stock option - meaning, you do not just buy in and wait for a payout.

If someone does not have the first clue on how to market effectively, then I would suggest they either learn how to be an effective marketer, or else just use ACN as a way to save a few bucks on your phone bill.

SOURCE

More Preying on the job seeker articles:

[1] - [2] - [3] - [4] - [5] - [6] - [7] - [8] - [9] - [10]

Posted by Elvis on 03/27/11 •
Section Dealing with Layoff
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