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Cooling the Melting Pot

The failure to recognize black culture is racist.  Recognizing and integrating black culture is now a form of racism: 

ATLANTA - A white Arkansas team’s win in a national “stepping” contest has sparked a fierce controversy over whether the integration of a once exclusively black college tradition constitutes a form of cultural theft.

“What has happened is black youth culture, what people would call hip-hop, sort of made black culture . . . appealing to all kinds of people,” said Walter Kimbrough of historically black Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark., an expert on black Greek life.

Not The Onion.

Entitlement Generation

Listening to oldsters complain about everyone under 30 as "entitled" is getting old.  Who caused the current Great Recession/Depression 2.0?  Oldsters.  Who got the big bailouts?  The grey beards.  Who sucks up nearly 50% of the federal budget through entitlement programs?  It ain't the under-30 set.   Entitlement Generation  

If "kids" are unmotivated, who can blame them?  While not part of the Gen Y, I certainly relate more to the young than to the old.  

How can anyone look at what the Baby Boomers banksters and politicians have done to the economy and not become demoralized?  The average age of a United States Senator is 62.  Look at how those old men behave.  I saw more maturity at last week's kegger.

How can a young person remain motivated when she sees Social Security taxes taken from his paycheck - knowing g-damned well that she'll never have that money given back to her?  

Meanwhile, old people remain at the top of the Ponzi Scheme due to unions and age-discrimination laws.  Companies are unable to get rid of unproductive employees because - under union contracts negotiated by the oldsters - seniority trumps competency and efficiency.  Companies that want to rid themselves of older workers have to conduct expensive statistical analyses to protect themselves from disparate impact lawsuits.  Simply firing too many old people - even if for a good reason - is enough to justify a lawsuit.  Thus, the guy who hasn't had a fresh idea in 10 years remains among the highest paid.

In academia, old people have lifetime tenure - and they're not going anywhere.  Old academics who earn $150,000 or more rarely teach or write.  Instead, they outsource all of that work to - young - graduate students - who earn $8/hr.

The Entitlement Generation is you.

Are Frivolous Lawsuits Extortionate?

Today the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an extremely interesting civil RICO case.  Bixler v. Mineral Energy and Technology Corporation (METCO) (CA10) (here).  While the entire case is worth reading, one point of intellectual dishonesty needs highlighted:

Plaintiffs assert that defendants’ litigation tactics wereextortionate, with the purpose of coercing them to accept defendants’ allegedlyfraudulent acts. We have refused to “recogniz[e] abusive litigation as a form ofextortion [because doing so] would subject almost any unsuccessful lawsuit to a colorable extortion (and often a RICO) claim.”

Slip op. at 11-12.  The panel cited Deck v. Engineered Laminates, 349 F.3d 1253,1257 (10th Cir. 2003) (here), which contained this discussion:

Although the alleged conduct is certainly reprehensible, it does not in itself constitute extortion under § 1951. Section 1951(b)(2) defines "extortion" as "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right."


Extortion is the antithesis of litigation as a means of resolving disputes. To promote social stability, we encourage resort to the courts rather than resort to force and violence.

The Deck opinion is intellectually bankrupt, because extortion does not require force or violence.  Let's pull out the handy United States Attorney Manual for an explanation of the federal extortion statute: "Did the defendant use or attempt to use the victim's reasonable fear of physical injury or economic harm in order to induce the victim's consent to give up property?"  

These days, there aren't many classic Hobbs Act extortion cases.  Gone are the days when the mob breaks your legs as punishment for failing to pay for protection.  Today, a classic extortion case involves the David Letterman scenario: Give me money or I'll tell the world about your affair.  Revealing David Letterman's secrets would cause him economic harm, and thus courts are willing to say that Mr. Letterman has been extorted.

A frivolous lawsuit is an economic harm.  It will require you to spend time and money defending it.  It is philosophically indistinguishable from the David Letterman scenario.  Yet rather than addressing the tough issue of whether a frivolous lawsuit should not be extortionate for some other reason, the court instead seemed to imply that the extortion statute only covers violence.

Then again, a more charitable reading of Deck would be thus: Inciting fear in someone by threatening to file a frivolous lawsuit does meet the "force, violence, or fear" element of the extortion statute.  However, filing a frivolous lawsuit against someone is not "wrongful."

Whoa.  Perhaps that is what the Deck panel was actually saying:

We recognize that litigation can induce fear in a defendant; and it would be fair, at least in other contexts, to characterize as "wrongful" the filing of a groundless lawsuit, particularly when the plaintiff resorts to fraudulent evidence.

[W]e join a multitude of other courts in holding that meritless litigation is not extortion under § 1951. See, e.g., United States v. Pendergraft, 297 F.3d 1198, 1208 (11th Cir.2002) ("threat to file litigation against Marion County, even if made in bad faith and supported by false affidavits, was not `wrongful'" within the meaning of term in § 1951).

How does that make you feel, knowing that the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (along with nearly ever other Federal Circuit Court of Appeals) believes that filing a frivolous lawsuit is not "wrongful"?

The Decker panels addresses one policy concern of a contrary holding:

Whenever an adverse verdict results from failure of the factfinder to believe some evidence presented by the plaintiff, the adverse party could contend that the plaintiff engaged in extortionate litigation. Comfortable that the adjective "wrongful" in the extortion statute was not intended to apply to litigation, we hold that Plaintiff's allegations of bad-faith litigation do not state the predicate act of extortion.

Id. at 1258.  Yet couldn't that be said of malicious prosecution, as well?  After all, a prevailing party in any lawsuit could file a lawsuit for malicious prosecution.  The prevailing party would almost always lose.  Thus, lawyers rarely file malicious prosecution lawsuits.  

The floodgates of litigation would not swell open if lawyers who filed frivolous lawsuits were held accountable under the Hobbs Act.  Those would be loser cases that would almost never be worth filing - much like malicious prosecution and abuse of process lawsuits.

That the panel is more concerned with protecting lawyer who file frivolous lawsuits than they are with the victims of lawsuits is yet another testament to the lawlessness that our legal system has created.  If I show up - sans lawyer - and demand payment for the photographs I have of you cheating on your wife, then I'm a federal felon.  If I file a frivolous lawsuit against you, most judge won't even care.

The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class

Whoa. Wish I had seen this video on Sunday morning rather than Sunday night, as it's really important stuff; and a hard sell for your Monday morning. It's an hour long, though the first 6 minutes is an intro and fluff. (The video will auto-play at the six-minute mark.)

UPDATE: Same theme; shorter video:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

How Autistics View the Rest of Us

The Wall Street Journal has a very interesting piece that flips the autism script: We are the abnormal ones, and this is how they perceive us.  The entire article is interesting, although this paragraph personally resonated:

"The thing about being autistic is that you gradually get less and less autistic," she says, "because you keep learning, you keep learning how to behave. It's like being in a play; I'm always in a play."

People are not that complicated - except you.  If I know someone's age, race, sex, and income, I can tell you she shops; what brands and styles of clothes he wears; and what kind of car he drives.  I can predict when you'll have a life crisis, and what will cause this crisis.  

(Given Crime & Federalism's readership demographics, your crisis will be caused by status anxiety and jealousy.  You'll see people whom you view as inferior to yourself and ask: "Why does he have so much more than I do?"  You won't look at the hundreds of people just like you who didn't make it in life.  This is due to narcissism.  Instead of viewing yourself as having so many things in common with others that you can be stereotyped, you'll be convinced of your own uniqueness.   You will not realize the illogic of your position: If you are unique, then why are you comparing yourself to others, and measuring your success or failures based on measuring sticks of status, wealth, and accomplishment that others created?  Instead of embracing your own individuality - which you consciously proclaim, but what of your subconscious? - you'll obsess over people who did slightly better in life than you.  And it will ruin you and any chance you had at living an authentic life.)

In any event, a fascinating article.

No, No, No. Don't Talk About Joe.

Those who have studied revolutions and imagined starting their own have no doubt been following these types of stories:

Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.

Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.

Warm, outgoing and prone to the positive, Ms. Eisen has worked much of her life. Now, she is one of 6.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer, the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948. That is more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s.

See also, "How a New Jobless Will Transform America."  Millions of desperate people whose problems are not largely their own fault?  A looting overclass of Goldman Sachs bankers and Wall Street politicians?  A feeling of hopelessness caused by Barack Obama's betrayal of his every promise to bring home, and effectuate change?  

Check, check, check, check, and check.  

Revolutions are always started by one seemingly-smart event that is understood as material only in hindsight.  Joe Stacks lit a match, but he didn't set the powder keg off.  Or did he?  

Has anyone else noticed that the government and corporate-controlled media have begun burying the Joe Stacks story?  The government doesn't want people talking about Joe Stacks.  Corporations don't want people talking about Joe Stacks.  Too many people sympathize with Stacks, and are beginning to realize that we live in a fascist state. 

Fascism is the merger of the corporation and the state.  When Goldman Sachs gambles with taxpayer money, is that not fascism?  When the CEO of General Motors - a government-owned company - earns $9 million a year, is that not fascism?  When the same union corporations who bankrupted the car companies are given billions more from taxpayers, how is that not fascism?

We live in a fascist state.  Whom we vote for is irrelevant.  Many voted for Barack Obama, who ran on a platform of hope and change.  Many have realized that voting for Obama was a meaningless act, and that we live in a fascist state rather than a democracy.

What happens when millions more people realize that democracy has failed them? 

How Wall Street Makes Money

Why is Wall Street making record profits when the rest of America is suffering?  Why does no one care?

The only reason such apathy exists, however, is because there's still a widespread misunderstanding of how exactly Wall Street "earns" its money, with emphasis on the quotation marks around "earns." The question everyone should be asking, as one bailout recipient after another posts massive profits — Goldman reported $13.4 billion in profits last year, after paying out that $16.2 billion in bonuses and compensation — is this: In an economy as horrible as ours, with every factory town between New York and Los Angeles looking like those hollowed-out ghost ships we see on History Channel documentaries like Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes, where in the hell did Wall Street's eye-popping profits come from, exactly? Did Goldman go from bailout city to $13.4 billion in the black because, as Blankfein suggests, its "performance" was just that awesome? A year and a half after they were minutes away from bankruptcy, how are these assholes not only back on their feet again, but hauling in bonuses at the same rate they were during the bubble? 

The answer to that question is basically twofold: They raped the taxpayer, and they raped their clients.

Read the whole thing.

The Joe Stacks Problem

The problem with Joe Stacks is that even people who disagree with what he did, understand why he did it.

When terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11, there was not just universal condemnation: There was universal confusion.  "How could they attack us," Americans asked?  How many children died because of revolutions the CIA started?   How many Palestinian children died because the United States supports Israel?  As immoral as 9/11 was, it most certainly was not incomprehensible.  Yet Americans were - and remain - incapable of comprehension.  "Why," they still ask.

When Joe Stacks flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, Americans were outraged...sort of.  Unlike with 9/11, there was no universal condemnation.  Many believed that Mr. Stacks was a patriot rather than a terrorist.

Even scarier is that, almost to a person, people said: "What that guy did was wrong.  But I can at least see why he did it."

Still more scarier is that it's hard not to understand Joe Stacks.  The United States is allegedly a democracy.  Many people elected President Barack Obama in order to see change.  Obama has changed nothing.

Instead, the military-industrial complex enriches private contractors.  Wall Street is making record profits off of a crisis they caused.  Pharmaceutical companies enrich themselves due to government-granted monopolies.

The ballot box has been a failure.  Obama is a shill for the power elite.  He and his inner circle are already planning on ways to cash in once they are out of office.

The November 2010 elections might mean the ouster of Democrats, and a blow against Obama.  As I've said to my Republican and populist friends, who are hopeful for reform: Then what?

No one has an answer for this question...Then what?  Start asking people.  No one has an answer.

The Republicans will change nothing.  The rich and well-connected will continue enriching themselves at the expense of the dying middle class.

Even today, a majority of Americans believe that the Federal Government does not govern by the consent of the governed:

The founding document of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  Today, however, just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 61% disagree and say the government does not have the necessary consent. Eighteen percent (18%) of voters are not sure.

My question, for you, is: Once millions of Americans realize that Washington D.C. is incorrigibly corrupt, and that voting means nothing...Then what?