Links 9/9/11

BBC l (hat tip reader Jim Haywood and Buzz Potamkin)

Reuters (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Consumerist

Mother Jones (hat tip reader Francois T)

(hat tip reader Externality)

Wired (hat tip Greg G)

Reuters (hat tip Matt BH)

Lawrence Wright, Bloomberg (hat tip reader Paul S)

Tom Engelhardt (hat tip reader Andrew K). My sentiments exactly.

Michael Froomkin

Financial Times

Abigail Field

Time (hat tip reader Deontos

McClatchy (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Bloomberg

Financial Times (hat tip Joe Costello)

Bloomberg (hat tip Buzz Potamkin). This is really important, both that banks are suing and that some cases are getting class certification.

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44 comments

  1. Re cigarettes and the WTO:

    While smoking is a bad addiction, globalization “treaties” are a far worse one. Let’s break our addiction to the WTO.

    Re IP:

    Here’s quite a commentary on the real nature of IP law:

    Newspaper content, Gibson said in an interview last year, had hidden value waiting to be unlocked through litigation under the copyright act, which allows $150,000 in damages per violation. “We believe there to be millions, if not billions, of infringements out there,” he said.

    So the real “value” isn’t intrinsic to the content, but is a Kafkaesque fabrication of the IP law itself, which sets up a purely artificial basis to sue for purely legally-invented (not actually real) “damages”.

    It’s a typical corporate toll booth, where one produces little or no value but seeks to extract.

    As for any actual value produced by print media, how much of that is free riding on the 1st Amendment and all the ways mass media is possible only on the built foundation of society? I wouldn’t have brought it up, but since they’re the ones insisting on a mercenary relationship, and trying to undermine their own benefactor amendment through their attack on Fair Use, then Work to Rule rules must apply. We must always regard and treat all elements of the system the same way they do us.

    1. aet

      “We must always regard and treat all elements of the system the same way they do us.”

      No – not unless that is to “our” benefit – for that is what “they” do, too.

      Better: turn a cheek, and ask them kindly to hit that one too.

      As to trade, copyright, or patent law and today’s useful inventions, here’s an article which may be of interest:

      Like it or not, accept it or not – we ARE all in this together.

      1. not unless that is to “our” benefit

        Well duh.

        Sorry, I would’ve thought that was a given. I forgot that doesn’t work with some people around here.

        Like it or not, accept it or not – we ARE all in this together.

        Yes, we the people are in this together against history’s most vicious criminal assault, and you’d better accept it whether or not you like it. That does mean we have to sacrifice lots of obsolete sacred cows, like your reformism where it comes to IP.

        Like it or not, you have to accept that IP will never again be anything but a corporate rent and a weapon of corporate aggression. So there’s no reason to continue supporting any aspect of it at all. All reasons are against it. The entire concept has to be thrown out.

        Here’s an alternative framework that will blow your mind.

        It’s not perfect, and is insufficient so long as the corporate IP regime exists. But it demonstrates principles that could replace the system regime.

    2. wunsacon

      >> So the real “value” isn’t intrinsic to the content, but is a Kafkaesque fabrication of the IP law itself, which sets up a purely artificial basis to sue for purely legally-invented (not actually real) “damages”.

      Nice observation/summarization, attempter.

    3. wunsacon

      Attempter, check this out:

      “Samsung’s tablet didn’t keep enough distance from the Apple design, the judge said. While the back of the Galaxy is different from Apple’s registered design, the important feature is the front, which is nearly identical, she said.”

      Amazing! How is someone supposed to make one tablet that looks “different enough” from another, when it’s clear customers:
      – want the LCD display to be as big as possible
      – want the case to be as small as possible
      leaving no room for a border <– the only way to distinguish the front.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Apple is a computer brand.

        Is there a type of apple called Computer?

        If so, then you can eat a Computer while surfing on your Apple.

      2. As you say, that’s just another example of how pretty much every IT “innovation” is really no innovation at all but just a matter of who got first to a pre-existing trough.

  2. Bill

    The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Redux, by Noam Chomsky

    This is a much expanded version of the essay that recently appeared at TomDispatch.

  3. Jim Haygood

    Shocking: Amazon’s handshake deal in California ‘could lay the groundwork for a national online sales tax law. Amazon and major brick-and-mortar retailers such as Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble agreed to lobby Washington over the next 11 months for an Internet sales tax law that applies across 50 states.’

    Instead of warring against taxes on interstate sales, Amazon will now lobby for them. Turncoats!

    This could easily shape up to be another big business vs. small business issue. Retailing giants such as Amazon have the resources to register for, and program their systems to collect, the hundreds of different sales tax rates (including local ones) in the 50 states. But currently, small businesses are not obliged to collect tax on interstate sales, if they have no out-of-state physical presence.

    Are the retailing giants going to let the small players keep their safe harbor? I’ll believe it when I see it. The alternative — registering for sales tax certificates and filing quarterly returns in 50 states — is unthinkable for small businesses.

    Amazon is a great retailer. But if they insist on collecting sales tax at the confiscatory rates which apply around here, then it makes more sense to shop locally. Goodbye, Scamazon — if you want to align with the Big Biz-Government axis, I’m outta here!

    1. aet

      Seems to me that your opinion of Amazon is directly proportional to the degree it enables you to dodge your taxes.

      1. Jim Haygood

        No. As stated, small businesses without a physical presence are not obliged to collect out-of-state sales tax. (Rather, the recipients of goods are required to file and pay use tax.) That’s not ‘dodging taxes.’

    2. LeeAnne

      Shipping services are the logical agents for collecting sales taxes on consumer goods; shipping services like DHL, FedEx and USPS that already have the IT in place to do that. They can forward the taxes from the consumer to the taxing agencies.

      It was never fair to brick and mortar businesses for Internet retail to be tax free. Its another generational fault in the economy.

      Tax collecting and forwarding is probably just an add-on to the IT in place in these companies that is probably for sale to multinationals for their marketing. Its information on trading trends that should be shared public information.

      Now there’s a logical public/private enterprise; setting up a private tax collection system with the cooperation of local municipalities all over the world.

      Its a good way for accurately tracking trends.

      1. Jim Haygood

        That’s thinking creatively, LeeAnne. You’re probably quite right that shippers — or other IT entrepreneurs — will provide online sales tax calculation, collection and remittance for a fee.

        You too can become a tax farmer — let’s go for it! Maybe Jesus will take us out to lunch. :-]

          1. Mel

            In pre-revolution France, tax collection was privatized. You could contract with the royal court to pay them the taxes owed by a district, and get the right to collect in that district. Whatever you collected beyond what you paid was profit.

            For etymology of “farmer”, Wictionary gives
            From the German Farmer, from the French fermier (“farmer”), from the Old French ferme (“farm, rental”), from the Medieval Latin ferma, firma (“rent, tribute, food, feast”), from Old English feorm (“rent, provisions, supplies, feast”).

            Note the strong financial angle.

          2. David

            From Wikipedia:

            “Tax farming was originally a Roman practice whereby the burden of tax collection was reassigned by the Roman State to private individuals or groups. In essence, these individuals or groups paid the taxes for a certain area and for a certain period of time and then attempted to cover their outlay by collecting money or saleable goods from the people within that area.[5] The system was set up by Gaius Gracchus in 123 BC primarily to increase the efficiency of tax collection within Rome itself but the system quickly spread to the Provinces.[6] Within the Roman Empire, these private individuals and groups which collected taxes in lieu of the bid (i.e. rent) they had paid to the state were known as publicani, of whom the best known is the disciple Matthew, a publicanus in the village of Capernaum in the province of Galilee. The system was widely abused, and reforms were enacted by Augustus and Diocletian.[7] Tax farming practices are believed to have contributed to the fall of the Roman empire.[8]”

            Welcome to feudalism!

          3. Doug Terpstra

            From Gillen D’Arcy Wood’s intro to Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities:

            Farmers-general were the provincial social climbers of the ancien regime, mostly wealthy but title-less landowners who purchased the right to collect taxes for the king, and used that court appointment to gain entrance to Parisian society. The farmers-general were a particular target for revolutionary rage after 1789.

            IOW, Jim’s business opportunity may prove very shortlived.

      2. Dave of Maryland

        Collection by delivery companies is a complete non-starter.

        People will simply refuse delivery.

        Which is why no one will do Cash On Delivery (COD). When packages are refused, the shipper – not the shipping company – loses.

        Nice to know you’re all Braniacs.

    3. Foppe

      Amazon is a great retailer. But if they insist on collecting sales tax at the confiscatory rates which apply around here, then it makes more sense to shop locally.

      The double standard at work here is a bit jarring. You don’t mind them destroying local business, but if they charge the same taxes, you’ll grudgingly return to those local retailers?

      1. Dave of Maryland

        Locally you’ve got a grocery store, a drug store, a shoe store, and a couple of big box stores. And a couple of drive-throughs.

        Not a lot more than the general stores of 150 years ago. Why do you think Sears, not to mention UPS, exists?

  4. LeeAnne

    That Indonesian dog story sounds like a propaganda plant. American dogs would never do a thing like that.

  5. LeeAnne

    and likewise, this one just in time for 9/11

    Police update meats found in accused shoplifter’s pants
    Posted: Sep 07, 2011

    D’IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) –

    D’Iberville Police arrested a man at Winn Dixie Tuesday who they say was trying to leave the store with two lobster tails in his shorts, among other meat products.

    Nathan Hardy, 35, is accused of shoplifting. Store employees said he tried to walk out of the grocery store without paying for items that he had stuffed into his pockets. Those items included two lobster tails in his front pockets, two bags of jumbo shrimp, and a pork loin, which was stuffed into his waist band.

    Police originally reported that the lobsters were whole, live lobsters.

    When officers arrived at the store, they said Hardy tried to run, but fell.”

  6. Pelle Schult

    Re: insect resistance to Monsanto’s Bt-toxin expressing corn, the food safety expert quoted here actually gets it right.

    Development of Bt toxin resistance in multiple insect species is the expected result here. Any biologist could have predicted that outcome. You can’t escape evolution.

    All of Monsanto’s plant transgenes rely on a crude, ancient (25 years old, an epoch in the molecular biology/genomics era) design. To be fair, no one else has really discovered a better alternative than the CaMV 35S promoter for expressing high levels of a transgene in (just as important) all the tissues of a plant (e.g. leaves, roots, flowers, shoots and more specialied subtypes such as different bits of the vasculature).

    Monsanto can’t really control how much Bt toxin gets expressed in their crops. They can’t up the dose without almost certainly triggering the plant’s innate defense mechanisms (RNAi) and silencing the transgenes.

    Monsanto is following the same model as the banks and big Pharma: get a flawed product to market, destroy the competitors, extract as much rent as possible, and cash out before the market collapses.

    If there is anything good here, it’s that there isn’t another BT toxin-like transgene in the wings.

    1. To be fair, no one else has really discovered a better alternative than the CaMV 35S promoter for expressing high levels of a transgene in (just as important) all the tissues of a plant (e.g. leaves, roots, flowers, shoots and more specialied subtypes such as different bits of the vasculature).

      The much better alternative is to disallow GMOs completely.

      They don’t increase production even in the short run

      and are a complete disaster socioeconomically, politically, and environmentally. And all IP in plants is a rational and moral abomination.

      Saying and doing according to all that is what’s fair.

  7. On the top headline, I was excited because I thought it read:

    “Drunk Swedish ELF found in apple tree near Gothenburg”

    Sigh. I think I just wanted it to be true more than anything. Will keep on dreaming.

  8. steve

    Drunken elk in Sweden–

    Every fall you get a few drunk bears staggering around small towns in Wisconsin after gorging on fermented apples.

  9. LeeAnne

    Much as I am in sync with Tom’s attitude about memorializing 9/11, he isn’t careful with facts IMO:

    “Spectacular as it looked and staggering as the casualty figures were, the operation was hardly more technologically advanced than the failed attack on a single tower of the World Trade Center in 1993 by Islamists using a rented Ryder truck packed with explosives.”

    Not only is there no consensus on the exact ingredients of the explosive planted in those buildings, but the evidence was carted away and no investigation (makes me shudder) permitted.

    Tom’s certainty that its ‘hardly more technologically advanced than the failed 1993 attack …’ rings a bit disingenuous.

  10. TulsaTime

    9/11 OBSERVANCE – ALL THE WORST IN AMERICA

    And it will drag us down that well worn path to more war and more destruction. It appeals to all the worst qualities in the US, the red-neck patriotism, the exceptionalism, and the rich getting richer.

    Our police state awaits us, with midnight abductions and secret detentions and trials. I can’t decide if the witch hunts will just be for muslims or gays or both. The networks of their supporters will be swept up too.

    land of the free was nice while it lasted…

  11. Doug Terpstra

    The short version of O’s jobs speech has it about right: the unilateral destruction of SS and Medicare, but it short-shrifted the new rigged trade pacts and corporate tax cuts. And this is before the “negotiation-capitulation” act even begins.

    John Nichols of The Nation veal pen called the speech “inspired”, but IMO, this was arguably Obama’s worst performance ever—a hollow speech from a teleprompter, recited by an empty suit. Apart from the decidedly neoliberal substance of the speech, I was genuinely surprised by how contrived he sounded: mechanical emotion, stilted body language, orchestrated gestures, and hollow voice. Ditto for his staged, stone-faced exit, which he couldn’t make fast enough. He’s lost his juice. For the first time I felt sorry for him, like someone who really wanted to shed his skin and beg the earth to swallow him. It’s interesting to watch the speech with sound off:

    Pitiable and despicable at the same time, Obama makes Herbert Hoover look like a sainted over-achiever.

  12. G3

    Some history and context for 9/11 from the anti-neoliberal,anti-empire Indian author Arundhati Roy’s “The Algebra of Infinite Justice”:

    (Note : this was written on Sept 29, 2011 , shortly after the attacks).

    It is chilling how much stripping context and reductive thinking could distort the whole debate with serious consequences (fortress America, stripping of civil liberties,normalization of permanent war etc).

  13. barrisj

    Full marks to Tom Engelhardt for stating the obvious: Ten years of victimhood and martyr fetishisation surely is enough for any civilised peoples. Especially as the consequences and exploitation of American feelings following the events of 11/9/2001 far, far outweigh the initial damage. Susan Sontag’s classic essay in the “New Yorker’s” first issue after 11 Sept. attempted to put it all into a rational perspective, and she almost invited a lynching party for her efforts.
    “Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.”.
    It was a remarkable essay, considering the emotions playing out at the time, and I have frequently returned to that issue to re-read her contribution, as it was prophetic.
    Also, the Engelhardt article also reference two other essays on “The Meaning of…”, one by Lawrence Weschler

    and the other by the Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman, who reflected on ihis “9/11”, which was the date in 1973 that the foul Pinochet – with the active collaboration of the arch-amoralist Henry Kissinger and Dick Nixon – violently overthrew the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende.

    From Weschler’s article: “For when you’re under murderous assault is precisely not the time to turn your entire political culture inside out. That’s what the terrorists want you to do, that’s what they are dying for you to do. But you’re supposed to resist that temptation.

    Instead, in thrall to the serpentine blandishments of fear, we spooked ourselves (or at any rate allowed our political class to spook us) into the grotesque disfigurations of the Patriot Act; the witch hunts aimed at Arabs and South Asian immigrants (many of them second- and third-generation American citizens); the botched invasion of Afghanistan; the calamitous Iraq fiasco; the preposterous fetishizations of Hallowed Ground and the Families and the Heroes; in sum, the hysterical deformation of virtually all of American politics, which in turn allowed the egregiously incompetent President George W. Bush that second term with its Katrina debacle, burgeoning deficits, and the whole clueless build-up to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”
    Dorfman: “If 9/11 can be understood as a test, it seems to me, alas, that the United States failed it. The fear generated by a small band of terrorists led to a series of devastating actions that far exceeded the damage occasioned by the original ordeal. Two unnecessary wars that have not yet ended, a colossal waste of resources that could have been used to save our environment and educate our children, hundreds of thousands dead and mutilated, millions displaced, a disgraceful erosion of civil rights in America and the use of torture and rendition abroad that ended up giving carte blanche to other regimes to flout human rights. And, last but not least, the bolstering of an already bloated national security state that thrives on a culture of mendacity, spying and trepidation..

    Can anyone seriously argue that America has emerged from the rubble of 11/9/2001 a better nation? A more united nation? A more understanding nation?

  14. Godwin

    At least someone is finally fighting back against corporate serfdom:

    This is going to be what it takes people. If the rule of law was just, or even applied, it would not be necessary.

    1. citalopram

      A federal judge already issued a restraining order.

      It would be glorious if this was a nation wide general strike. If we had 250,000 people doing something like this, then it would be party time.

  15. Valissa

    Markets tumble after ECB’s Jurgen Stark resigns

    There are numerous articles on this topic today, but I have selected this link for the combination of the stern Stark photo juxtaposed with commentary full of elite disdain for his actions.

    1. Jim

      That’s because many of those “elites” depend on the integrity of the EuroZone for their bloated salaries. I believe that only a Mexican bureaucrat makes more than a EuroCrat in Brussels.

  16. Valissa

    Tony Hayward in line for multimillion windfall after Iraq oil deal-

    Hayward, who quit BP 14 months ago following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, will be chief executive of Genel Energy PLC, which has oil reserves in Kurdistan.

    Tony Hayward has sealed a deal to exploit the oil fields of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, landing the former BP boss an expected windfall of around £14m.

    Hayward’s return to the oil industry was finalised on Wednesday as his new investment vehicle, called Vallares, agreed a merger with Genel Energy International of Turkey. The deal will deliver an estimated £176m windfall for Hayward and his fellow backers of Vallares, including Nat Rothschild.

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