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With so many questionable loans on the books (the FBI estimates that mortgage fraud increased 10-fold from 2001 to 2007), it’s no wonder that our current housing market has been plagued by a sharp upsurge of people who are simply walking away from their mortgages because they no longer see the prospect of making a killing on their homes. According to two recent studies, these so-called “strategic mortgage defaulters,” an innocuous name for deadbeats who can afford to pay off their mortgages but choose not to, make up a far greater share of the market’s woes than we generally assume….Most of these defaulters share a few common characteristics, most notably that they stay current on all of their debts and then suddenly without warning stop paying only their mortgages. This group also characteristically (though not exclusively) took out their mortgages in 2006 or later and hence have seen no appreciation in the price of their homes, which means they are most likely to owe substantially more than their houses are worth. That’s an especially common situation among those granted loans which required no down payment, or only a small one. These borrowers, who have little to lose by defaulting, are not the people you see profiled in media stories who go into foreclosure because they have lost their jobs, or didn’t understand the steep terms of their mortgages, or have big health care bills to pay off.–“Mortgage Deadbeats Plague Home Market,” Steven Malanga, Real Clear Markets
The debate about the impact of the Internet on democracy is barely a decade old, but it has already sowed great confusion in the minds of academics and practitioners alike. It doesn’t help that both of these concepts represent complex, multilayered, and abstract ideas that do not lend themselves to easy or precise measurement. We have little choice but to reach for the best readily quantifiable proxy, which usually only obfuscates the relationship further….One particular assumption made by many of us early in this game was that cyberspace would provide the breathing room that civil society (and especially civil society in authoritarian countries) needed to operate. Armed with cheap and easy-to-use tools for fundraising, accessible ways of self-publishing, and effective platforms of mobilization (first MySpace, now Facebook and MeetUp), civil society organizations could transcend the resource gap and institutional inefficiencies that had plagued their work in the past; they would be leaner, faster, and stronger. It’s only now that we discover that leaner doesn’t always mean louder, particularly for civil society organizations with controversial (at least by local standards) agendas. Although the Internet may have made many of their peripheral activities easier, it has often made their core activities–such as advocacy and awareness-raising–more difficult and less effective.–“The Internet: A Room of Our Own,” Evgeny Mozorov, Dissent
It is difficult to communicate the global awfulness of A New Literary History of America, the pretension mixed with smarmy demotic knowingness, the preposterous glorification of pop culture, the constant deflation of serious cultural achievement by means of sociological analysis. Perhaps the first thing that should be understood is that, despite its title, it is only incidentally concerned with literature. A fair percentage of its approximately 200 chronologically arranged entries purports to deal with literary texts or figures. But the whole focus, the whole tone and gestalt, of the book is on extra-literary phenomena. An entry for 1982 is devoted to explaining how “Hip-hop travels the world”: “Perhaps hip-hop’s greatest contribution is the ease with which it inhabits contradiction.” It is hard to argue with that.–“Harvard’s latest PC travesty,” The New Criterion
Books that literary southerners think should be more famous than they are;
Mariah Carey’s bad side is now her good side;
debating the artistic merit of Conan the Barbarian ;
casting call for a celebrity chef’s hand double;
Quan h?, a form of Vietnamese traditional love song, declared a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”
Number of people who attended the World Grits Festival, held in St. George, South Carolina, last spring:
The brown bears of Greece continued chewing through telephone poles.
In Peru, a 51-year-old activist became the first former sex worker to run for the national legislature. “I’m going to put order,” she said, “in that big brothel which is Congress.”
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“Civilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually live — do we not? — in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.”