Lawyerin'

“Tumblr founder David Karp’s development of the platform’s reblog feature — which requires that comments be posted on users’ own streams, rather than on traditional comments sections — means that nasty or otherwise ill-advised comments show up on your own property, rather than on someone else’s. On Tumblr, you own your trolling. “It’s such a small thing,” Olin says. But it “makes a world of difference.””
“[We err in] believing that prestige, pedigree, and power make people different from the bell curve which describes the species on any measure you care to name.”

vicemag:

Right now, those numbers come from computers. A handful of mutual and hedge funds use proprietary computerized algorithms, and these programs perform the vast majority of stock trades. They hedge stock prices up and down in accordance with formulae based on previous market activity. The stock market is just a conversation between these computers, an economic debate in a UN of Skynets. For a modest management or processing fee, you too can own stocks, and then you can watch the nightly news and see your investments jump up and down, rolling and pitching like hapless little boats. It’s very exciting.

These computers will twitch the numbers up and up and then they’ll collapse and you have nothing. And then the computers will twitch the numbers back up again. If you sell at the right moment, and if you have at least several hundred thousand dollars of equity in the market, then your kids can go to college and you can retire. If you wait too long, act too soon, or have too little, then you can just work into your grave.

You’ll be lucky if you even get crumb of the computer-sliced pie. The top one percent of wage earners captured 92 percent of the income from all those sparkly new jobs and, as of 2007, the top 10 percent controlled approximately 90 percent of outstanding stock. So unless you happen to be incredibly wealthy, these numbers are just passing you by. “Economic recovery” is euphemism for the return to a status quo that nearly broke the nation’s back. The numbers may well be good for the US economy. But the US economy probably doesn’t work for you.

Articles like this are why I like Vice so much (even with its flaws sometimes).

I’ve long thought that the biggest single problem in the world is the failure of “moral imagination”—the inability or unwillingness of people to see things from the perspective of people in circumstances different from their own. Especially incendiary is the failure to extend moral imagination across national, religious, or ethnic borders.

If a lack of moral imagination is indeed the core problem with America’s foreign policy, and Ron Paul is unique among presidential candidates in trying to fight it, I think you have to say he’s doing something great, notwithstanding the many non-great and opposite-of-great things about him (and notwithstanding the fact that he has in the past failed to extend moral imagination across all possible borders).

The Greatness of Ron Paul - Robert Wright - The Atlantic.

Whether or not you support Ron Paul, this is a really sharp observation and something we all should be doing more of.

“This plutocratic fantasy is, of course, just that: no matter how smart and innovative and industrious the super-elite may be, they can’t exist without the wider community. Even setting aside the financial bailouts recently supplied by the governments of the world, the rich need the rest of us as workers, clients, and consumers. Yet, as a metaphor, Galt’s Gulch has an ominous ring at a time when the business elite view themselves increasingly as a global community, distinguished by their unique talents and above such parochial concerns as national identity, or devoting “their” taxes to paying down “our” budget deficit. They may not be isolating themselves geographically, as Rand fantasized. But they appear to be isolating themselves ideologically, which in the end may be of greater consequence.”
“On one hand, isn’t it great that, as Friedersdorf wrote, our “decentralized networked-era culture” makes a movement like this possible, and as Salmon wrote, “the sentiment behind Occupy Wall Street has resonated worldwide,” as a result. But on the other hand, we live in an age where I can carry a sign expressing a non-partisan, seemingly inarguable message at a peaceful protest, unknowingly have my photo taken and disseminated around the world, and subsequently be fired as a result, all within a matter of days. What are the implications of this for a democracy founded on free speech ideals? Are these “teaching moments” like mine going to dissuade people who have jobs they want to keep from expressing their opinions, however benign?”

cheatsheet:

A lot of boomers have become insufferably smug and complacent.

Paul Campos explains why baby boomers are clueless about Occupy Wall Street.

Some nice quotes in this one, including: “Since I went to law school in the 1980s, the cost of legal education has quadrupled in real terms, thereby ensuring most current law students will graduate with six figures of debt from law school alone. Meanwhile legal employers are downsizing and outsourcing, to the point where the ratio between new lawyers and new jobs for lawyers is approximately two to one. And most of the new jobs don’t pay enough to allow even those who are lucky enough to get them to pay their educational debts.”

“Top-ranking Obama administration officials, including the U.S. copyright czar, played an active role in secret negotiations between Hollywood, the recording industry and ISPs to disrupt internet access for users suspected of violating copyright law, according to internal White House e-mails. The e-mails, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, (.pdf) show the administration’s cozy relationship with Hollywood and the music industry’s lobbying arms and its early support for the copyright-violation crackdown system publicly announced in July.”

U.S. Copyright Czar Cozied Up to Content Industry, E-Mails Show | Threat Level | Wired.com

Rafer sez:
The problem is that she really was doing her job as it is defined by Obama and Congress. #occupycopyright

(via rafer)

“I do believe that we are now in uncharted waters when it comes to the dysfunction in our political system—and it is no longer a joking matter. It appears that as a result of several long-building, polarizing trends in American politics and culture, we have lost the ability to execute even the basic functions of government, much less solve the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. Thus, I am more concerned than I have ever been about the state of American governance.”
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
“[E]conomics is not a science that only describes, measures, explains and predicts human interests, values and policies — it also evaluates, promotes, endorses or rejects them. The predicament of economics and all other social sciences consists in their failure to acknowledge honestly their value orientation in their pathetic and inauthentic pretension to emulate the natural sciences they presume to be value free.”
Chin-tai Kim and Yeomin Toon, in a letter to The Financial Times via The New York Times.
“Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.”

Via the NYT.

Change we can believe inlaugh at really hard.

The August Day Plutocracy Would Love Us to Forget 

youngmanhattanite:

August 31st will mark the 101st anniversary of the most ‘radical speech’ an American ex-President has ever delivered.

Now, this means that our government, national and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests. Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics. That is one of our tasks to-day. Every special interest is entitled to justice - full, fair, and complete - and, now, mind you, if there were any attempt by mob-violence to plunder and work harm to the special interest, whatever it may be, and I most dislike and the wealthy man, whomsoever he may be, for whom I have the greatest contempt, I would fight for him, and you would if you were worth your salt. He should have justice. For every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protections to property, and we must make that promise good But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation. The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man’s making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being.

There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done.

We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that people may know beyond peradventure whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public. It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public-service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.

There’s much more and Teddy Roosevelt essentially called on his fellow citizens to smash the nation’s rich down to democratic size - to “destroy privilege” - in front of 30,000 people in Kansas.

On January 21, 2010, democracy as we knew it (or at least imagined it even if it didn’t work in practice) was officially killed by the Supreme Court. That should have been a day Americans rioted from every corner of the country.

And on August 11, 2011, Mitt Romney should have been pitchforked and stoned by onlookers in Iowa.

“The two-year-old recovery’s terrible tale of the tape: A 9.1 percent unemployment rate that’s probably closer to 16 percent counting the discouraged and underemployed, the worst income growth and weakest GDP growth of any upturn since World War II, a still-weakening housing market. Oh, and a trillion bucks down the tube. Oh, and two-and-a-half years … and counting … wasted during which time the skills of unemployed workers continue to erode and the careers of younger Americans suffer long-term income damage. Losing the future. Next, add in healthcare reform that Medicare’s chief actuary says will not slow the overall growth of healthcare spending. (Even its Obama administration godfather, Peter Orszag, warns that “more drastic measures may ultimately be needed.”) And toss in a financial reform plan that the outspoken and independent president of the Kansas City Fed says he “can’t imagine” working. “I don’t have faith in it all.” Indeed, markets continue to treat the biggest banks as if they are still too big to fail.”

James Pethokoukis, Reuters.

Whatever your political affiliation, it’s hard to argue that the current administration’s economic policies have had a long-term positive impact (setting aside any short term gains from inflating the economy with government cash).

“Generally economists cannot predict with precision the translation of spending to jobs, but when whole sectors are transformed it’s often the case that the new jobs are greater in number and higher in pay, because they require higher skill sets and lead to more corollary opportunities for productive work. (Think of the apps writers that the iPhone created work for, as an illustration.)”
Reed Hundt via TPM.
“Tort reform has long been totemic to the political right, which argues that the current system allows trial lawyers to seek extortionate settlements for alleged damages. That creates extra costs for business, encourages litigiousness and warps sectors of the economy. According to some assessments, the costs of the tort system are equivalent to almost 2% of GDP each year.”

The Economist.

Tort reform is something almost everyone, anywhere on the political spectrum, should be able to get behind. The costs, at this point, far outweigh whatever theoretical benefits the current tort system imposes in terms of loss prevention, across all kinds of tort cases (medical/legal malpractice, product liability, patent infringement, etc).