Racketeers are finally sued

Would you agree that justice is calling the RIAA and others?

…[through] concerted efforts and cartels, control or attempt to control the channels of creation, distribution, and sale of musical works throughout the United States and the world. They are not artists, songwriters, or musicians. They did not write or record the songs. For a number of years, a group of large, multinational, multi-billion dollar record companies, including these [record labels], have been abusing the federal court judicial system for the purpose of waging a public relations and public threat campaign targeting digital file sharing activities.


As part of this campaign of their sham litigation program, the [record labels] enhance the intimidation factor by actually filing suit in a number of instances with no prior warning. These suits are designed to attract media attention, and often do, as stories emerge of [record labels’] suits against the elderly, disabled, technologically clueless, and other vulnerable victims.


[The record labels’] litigation campaign, its preceding demands, and illegal investigations, are part of a concerted pattern of sham litigation.

Praise the lawyers for phrases alone as they challenge ‘concerted efforts and cartels’ wishing to ‘control or attempt to control the channels of creation’. People. These are the days for putting the end to that.

Pick up the event at TorrentFreak.

Obama Gearing Up

Obama’s budget is more than spending:

“I realize that passing this budget won’t be easy. Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington. I know that the insurance industry won’t like the idea that they’ll have to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries. I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this:

“So am I.”

[video]

THE massive mortgage

Think hard:

“You have to have a place to park at home, a place to park at work, and a place to park at retail establishments. In an absurd ‘market distortion’ cars have a right to housing and people don’t.”

Hustling Hidden Trillions

Don’t think for one minute that Geo. Bush or John McCain promoted giving Social Security to Wall Street because it’s a good idea for America. People are being paid to build rhetoric and ply bias. The prize is huge.

But the pain is greater. We forget that families and children will be terribly hurt.

Forlorn and Taken

Elie Wiesel lost everything to MadoffAsked what punishment he would like to see for Mr. Madoff, Mr. Elie Wiesel said: “I would like him to be in a solitary cell with only a screen, and on that screen for at least five years of his life, every day and every night, there should be pictures of his victims, one after the other after the other, all the time a voice saying, ‘Look what you have done to this old lady, look what you have done to that child, look what you have done,’ nothing else.

“This was a personal tragedy where we discovered all of a sudden what we had done in 40 years — my books, my lectures, everything — was gone.”

Doin’ The Doable

Even judged by its own yardstick, the trickle-down approach has failed to deliver: Rather than getting richer, we have been slowly impoverishing ourselves.

While incomes at the very top have soared to levels beyond imagining even a generation ago, the average inflation-adjusted income of the bottom 90 percent of earners was lower in 2006 than it was back in 1973. And since 2000, the median income of all Americans has actually slipped, proof that tax cuts for the rich do not create general prosperity.

Today, more and more of us do not have enough money to live on without going into debt. For each dollar of equity people gained in their homes from 1980 to 2006, they borrowed two—and while a portion of that is accounted for by poor decision making, much has to do with the sheer impossibility of making ends meet.

This should come as no great surprise.

For anyone born after, say, 1970, the world has been shaped by Ronald Reagan’s remaking of government’s relationship with private interests—a vision of lower taxes, less regulation, and maximum economic leeway for those at the top. In this view, the pursuit of wealth is the warp and weft of America; everything else will follow.

By contrast, the preamble to the Constitution tells us the nation’s reason for being in 52 words that can be reduced to six principles: society, justice, peace, security, commonwealth, and freedom. Individual riches don’t make the list. They are a product of American society, not its guiding purpose.

David Cay Johnston, Fiscal Therapy: Getting the economy back on its feet, giving taxpayers a break, saving your retirement fund and your kid’s college tuition? Done.

And it won’t cost you a penny.

  1. Quit Cooking the Books
  2. Make the Superrich Pay Their Share
  3. End Legal Tax Cheating
  4. Invade the Caymans
  5. Wean Wal-Mart (and the Yankees)
  6. Cut Off the Utility Scam
  7. Ground the Private Jet Exemption
  8. Demolish the Mansion Deduction

The Other Blame

From a Harvard advisory boutique:

Why does President-elect Obama have to invest a likely trillion dollars to renew, well, pretty much the entire industrial base of the economy – to seed new auto, energy healthcare, education, finance, and agricultural industries (to name just a few)? Because today’s crop of apathetic, risk-averse venture investors didn’t.

The venture economy is failing investors, entrepreneurs, the economy, and society.

And has for many years.

The U.S. ranks sixth among 40 countries for innovation. Our development sector are merely cherry picking and have put a burden on both game theory and human nature.

Desupervising Perverse Compensation

William K. Black, he Two Documents Everyone Should Read to Better Understand the CrisisWilliam K. Black is a white-collar criminologist and former financial regulator with much research on what causes financial markets to become profoundly dysfunctional.

The FBI has been warning of an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud since September 2004.

It also reports that lenders initiated 80% of these frauds.

When the person that controls a seemingly legitimate business or government agency uses it as a “weapon” to defraud we categorize it as a “control fraud” and the “weapon of choice” is accounting.

Control fraud causes greater financial loss than all other forms of property crime.

Control fraud epidemics can arise when financial deregulation and desupervision and perverse compensation systems create a “criminogenic environment”.

“The FBI correctly identified the epidemic of mortgage control fraud at such an early point that the financial crisis could have been averted had the Bush administration acted with even minimal competence.”

The Two Documents Everyone Should Read to Better Understand the Crisis

U.S. Regulatory Principles

As posted on the White House blog, Obama had some strong words for people who have been misrepresenting an overhaul of regulations:

Let me be clear: The choice we face is not between some oppressive government-run economy or a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism. Rather, strong financial markets require clear rules of the road, not to hinder financial institutions, but to protect consumers and investors, and ultimately to keep those financial institutions strong. Not to stifle, but to advance competition, growth and prosperity. And not just to manage crises, but to prevent crises from happening in the first place, by restoring accountability, transparency and trust in our financial markets. These must be the goals of a 21st century regulatory framework that we seek to create.

1. Enforce strict oversight of financial institutions that pose systemic risks

2. Strengthen markets so they can withstand both system-wide stress and the failure of one or more large institutions

3. Encourage our financial system to be open and transparent, and to speak in plain language investors can understand

4. Supervise financial products based on “actual data on how actual people make financial decisions”

5. Hold market players accountable, starting at the top

6. Overhaul our regulations so they are comprehensive and free of gaps

7. Recognize that the challenges we face are global

Kudos for Taj Mahal Blues

Taj Mahal inducted into Blues Hall of FameI roamed into a Lombard Street party in San Francisco forty years ago and began slapping my knees to the blues of Taj Mahal. During a pause, he walked into the kitchen to retrieve two tablespoons and showed me how to use ’em. A wonderful evening.

Taj Mahal, a two-time Grammy winner, will soon be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

“The blues is played everywhere. There’s no place I’ve been where they don’t have blues or aren’t interested in blues.”

Night has been lost

NASA Earth at NightDarkness is hard to find.

The 24-hour day has arrived.

The night sky has been disintegrated.

Nothing twinkles in the heavens anymore…

A photon soup floods village and cities, drowning out the view of the stars. Insects, birds and other animals are getting confused, ecosystems are suffering and even humans are being harmed, both physically and culturally.

Wasted ineffective light“We know about the adverse health effects of noise, but with light we are just beginning to understand the connection.

“Despite climate change, the economic crisis and high electricity prices, thousands upon thousands of new light sources are constantly being added to the mix… practically increasing from one night to the next.”

Light smog: “Unless we create dark sky zones, a truly dark sky will not be found.”

Er, everybody maybe but I

British Psych. Society reports:

People can recognize in just ten seconds whether one person has the hots for another.

Researchers also noticed:

A key finding was less accuracy when judging the romantic interest of females compared with males, just as the researchers had predicted.

So that explains it.

But 10 seconds is nothin’ in the race for a sexual cue.

People accurately judge men’s sexual orientation in 50ms!

Genius of each

Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each. – Plato

Ending trickles

Christian Science Monitor:

Warren Buffett paid 17.7 percent of his income in total taxes. His secretary, who made $60,000, paid 30 percent of hers. While making more than $60,000 per hour, the tax rate for America’s top 400 is just 17.2 percent, and they don’t pay that.

How did we end up with this sorry state of affairs?

Lawmakers in Congress have spent the past several decades systematically slicing the tax rates on America’s top income brackets. Their rationale? Lower taxes on the top, free up capital for investment, and boost productivity. In actual economic practice, those lower taxes have served instead to fuel speculation and increase budget deficits.

More than ever, America needs its ultrarich to chip in more.

Great Depression loses its record

the worst decade everOver the 10 years through January, an investor holding the stocks in the S&P 500, and reinvesting the dividends, would have lost about 5.1 percent a year after adjusting for inflation, the Worst Decade Ever. Yes, the Worst Decade Ever, deeper than the Great Depression.

The slump has further to go.

Pensions and retirements are following foreclosures, while jingoists still insist that coddling the rich for trickles and laissez-faire markets will drive consumer pocket money back to the malls. So much has not been said. So many are responsible, including the brochure-mechanics, from talk shows to investment parlors, that gummed nonsense about eternal up-markets on Wall Street.

No more loose

You know, they all said these events only happen once every hundred years. But we have “once every hundred years” events happening every year or two, which tells me something is the matter with the analysis.

Paul Volker’s very interesting speech.

You might ask how it went on as long as it did.

The grading agencies didn’t do their job and the banks didn’t do their job and the accountants went haywire.

I have my own take on this. There were two things that were particularly contributory and very simple. Compensation practices had gotten totally out of hand and spurred financial people to aim for a lot of short-term money without worrying about the eventual consequences. And then there was this obscure financial engineering that none of them understood, but all their mathematical experts were telling them to trust. These two things carried us over the brink.

… Obviously that hasn’t worked out very well.

We have to look at the accounting system. We have to look at the system for dealing with derivatives and how they’re settled. So there are a lot of systemic issues.

The main point I’m making is that we want to emerge from this with a more stable system. It will be less exciting for many people, but it will not warrant – I don’t think the present system does, either — $50 million dollar paydays in that central part of the system. Or even $25 or $100 million dollar paydays. If somebody can go out and gamble and make that money, okay.

But don’t gamble with the public’s money. And that’s an important distinction.

Fair Pay for Women, et al

Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 which will make it easier for people to get [to sue for] the pay they deserve — regardless of their gender, race, or age.

“Ultimately, equal pay isn’t just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it’s a question of who we are — and whether we’re truly living up to our fundamental ideals.

“Whether we’ll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something — to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time.”

To absorb bad news

Frank Rich:

No one knows, of course, but a bigger question may be whether we really want to know.

One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans’ reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news.

We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly “changed everything,” slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable.

Obama’s toughest political problem may not be coping with the increasingly marginalized G.O.P. but with an America-in-denial that must hear warning signs repeatedly, for months and sometimes years, before believing the wolf is actually at the door.

Shocked by the foreseeable” found at The Reaction blog.

Worry in the news

Don’t fall for distortions. Compared to the pie, the slice used for social programs isn’t where to strike the alarm.

Right now, the federal government spends about 9 percent of GDP on the three biggies, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, with the total roughly evenly divided between retirement and medical care. – Paul Krugman

There’s much we can fix before pulling social survival.

The trillion-plus Bush deficit, yes the Bush/Republican deficit, is 7 percent of the nation’s GDP plus interest payments on the debt alone is 14% of GDP. We spend more than 4% on war. Oh well… there’s much to do.

Public Begins Seeking

Motley Fool’s Tom Gardner asserts:

Hundreds Should Go to Jail

Hundreds? Yes, certainly. At least that many.

A year ago, John Thain was given a $15 million signing bonus to take over at Merrill Lynch; in 2008, the company posted losses of $27 billion. Today, Merrill is widely considered a bankrupt subsidiary of Bank of America. Yet this December, Thain lobbied hard to be paid a $10 million bonus. And why not? His predecessor, Stanley O’Neal, received a $160 million retirement package after posting writedowns of $8 billion in a single quarter.

“The law may not change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.” – Martin Luther King

Epidemic of Outrage

A little taboo candor at Salon:

… the Phelps affair asks us to feign anger at something we know is commonplace. A nation of tabloid readers is apoplectic that Brad and Jen divorced though half of all American marriages ends the same way. A country’s fetish with family values goes ballistic over Paris Hilton but spends billions on pornography…

…our narcotic of choice is fake outrage.

Can you explain it?