Fascinating piece about Recession's impact in Hollywood - MUST READ!

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    Feb 23, 2012 12:56 PM GMT
    By Hilary de Vries

    THE $26 billion foreclosure settlement deal announced this month arrived in the final throes of Hollywood’s annual awards season. It also arrived too late for my neighbor, a screenwriter and director who moved out of her two-bedroom house the week before last, after her bank foreclosed on the property.

    There had been no “For Sale” sign, no telltale rental tenant, no evidence of anything untoward in our canyon neighborhood, an enclave of writers, directors and actors. I saw nothing until the night I stood on my front steps, my heart in my mouth, and heard her sobbing scream — “I’m 47 years old, and I am going bankrupt!”

    Now she is gone, another “statistic,” as she put it when I went next door to say goodbye as the movers loaded the last of her belongings. Her eviction follows that of our mutual neighbors, actors on a well-known soap opera forced out of their house in a foreclosure in a driving rainstorm four days before Christmas. Their dark, vacant houses, emblazoned with the public notices taped in the windows like shameful scarlet A’s, are holes in the hidden, fraying social fabric of Hollywood, where a vast majority belong not to the 1 percent but to the 99.

    Of the 11 million Americans under water on their homes and facing foreclosure, more than two million reside in California. None of the Hollywood guilds keep records of how many of their members are among them, but several unions and charitable performing arts foundations report an increase in members applying for emergency housing assistance. When two of my three immediate neighbors have been foreclosed on, there are undoubtedly untold screenwriters, actors, directors and others quietly, invisibly struggling to keep their homes.

    Beyond the hype that culminates in the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, Hollywood is contracting, battered by the same economic forces reshaping the rest of the country. Moviegoing attendance hit a 16-year low last year. The industry is beset by rapidly changing business models: the free fall in DVD sales unmitigated by digital streaming, the independent film market that is a shadow of its former self. It all adds up to less. In Los Angeles, the number of television dramas produced last year dropped by 11.5 percent; reality shows were down 1.8 percent and sitcoms, 12.8 percent. On the feature side, the number of movies filmed here declined by an enormous 26.4 percent in the final quarter of last year.

    What is less visible is the human toll of all that downsizing — the working actors, directors, writers and others like my foreclosed neighbors, trying to maintain their guild memberships, their health insurance, their mortgages. In the industry’s perverse social code, where appearances are everything, such private struggles are kept well hidden not only from public view but also within the industry itself. Failure is an affront to the accepted logic that, no matter what, Hollywood remains a lodestar of self-invention.

    “People have no idea what’s going on in Hollywood now,” a prominent industry blogger told me recently when we met at what had been a favorite industry watering hole, empty that night. “There’s so little work, everyone is living off the money they made in the ’90s,” she added. “But they’re acting like nothing’s changed.”

    What I heard in my neighbor’s screamed confession was the cracking of Hollywood’s social code, which insists that no matter the private terrors, one is always “great!” We are in foreclosure, we are screaming in the night, but we are awesome in the light of day and on our Facebook pages.

    I wasn’t friends with my neighbor, but I have lived in Los Angeles long enough to know the accepted mores. When we said goodbye, I didn’t tell her I had heard her that night. She told me she was worn out from two years of wrangling with her bank, one of those named in the settlement deal. She was moving on, she said, moving in with a friend in some other neighborhood. In her Twitter feed, there is no mention of her foreclosure or even her move.

    But I am left feeling what I feel too often now in Los Angeles, an inchoate, uneasy impermanence, where it is possible to feel untethered from even the seasons. It’s what I felt when I saw my other neighbors, the soap-opera actors, evicted with their crying child, their soaked belongings crammed into the back of a borrowed van, their dark, empty house with the holiday decorations still in the windows. It is their faces I see when I read about the foreclosure crisis and the multibillion-dollar settlement that will do nothing to restore my neighbors to their homes. Or to themselves.

    They were all working professionals with many credits to their names. And they may be again. But their banks wouldn’t bet on it. And I’m not sure the town does either. People still come to Hollywood with dreams of reinventing themselves. But the reality is much crueler and not so different from that in the rest of the country, where millions do not dream of reinvention but simply long to become who they used to be: people not forced from their homes in the driving rain or crying in the night that they are going bankrupt.

    On Sunday, I will watch the Academy Awards with my absent neighbors in mind. I will remind myself it is winter. But tonight I will stand on my front steps, the air sweet with night-blooming mountain laurel, and I will not hear my neighbor scream.

    Hilary de Vries is an author and screenwriter.

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    Feb 23, 2012 2:30 PM GMT
    Great piece showing the human toll of the foreclosure crisis and how no one is immune from the banks' predatory business model.
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    Feb 23, 2012 2:55 PM GMT
    Imagine if all Americans who have been foreclosed upon just up and moved back into their homes which were stolen from them.

    Call it National Move-In Day.

    Millions of now homeless people and families involved in the largest coordinated pushback against banking industry greed, crime and ill got profits.

    Sadly, it will NEVER happen.
  • Trepeat

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    Feb 23, 2012 3:39 PM GMT
    Haaretz, that actually sounds like one of the most brilliant, bold, self-empowering ideas that I`ve ever heard. To me, that seems like the sort of grand gesture that would actually push this movement against the financial meltdown to full-on revolution. You may be on to something.
  • CuriousJockAZ

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    Feb 23, 2012 3:42 PM GMT
    That really was an interesting piece. Thank you for posting it. I hadn't really thought about it before, but after reading this I am even more thankful that I escaped L.A. in 2003, after 20 years of living there. It's a land where thousandaires are trying to act like they are millionaires -- and they go broke doing it -- and deep in debt. I can only imagine how the recession has impacted all of the people out there who were driving cars they couldn't afford, living in homes they couldn't afford, wearing clothes they couldn't afford, and eating in restaurants they couldn't afford. I have no doubt that the rude awakening has not been pretty. I have friends who were once living high in the Hollywood Hills who are now living in an apartment. At least they are not homeless --- yet anyway. Not that this isn't a scenario that has been played out in every city in the country, but in a city like L.A. in which appearances are everything, it had to be especially humbling.
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    Feb 23, 2012 3:51 PM GMT
    Occupy Our Homes (an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street) has been fighting back against disclosure though it hasn't received much media attention.
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    Feb 23, 2012 4:01 PM GMT
    Christian73 saidGreat piece showing the human toll of the foreclosure crisis and how no one is immune from the banks' predatory business model.


    As much as I can empathize with the human costs, your views are just assinine - so what - foreclosures have nothing to do with the fact that hundreds of thousands of people bought houses that they couldn't afford and took on loans they couldn't repay? icon_rolleyes.gif . Yes, the world would be so much better without those banks and their predatory business model that [Gasp!] requires people to repay money that they borrow! icon_rolleyes.gif
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    Feb 23, 2012 4:07 PM GMT
    CuriousJockAZ saidThat really was an interesting piece. Thank you for posting it. I hadn't really thought about it before, but after reading this I am even more thankful that I escaped L.A. in 2003, after 20 years of living there. It's a land where thousandaires are trying to act like they are millionaires -- and they go broke doing it -- and deep in debt. I can only imagine how the recession has impacted all of the people out there who were driving cars they couldn't afford, living in homes they couldn't afford, wearing clothes they couldn't afford, and eating in restaurants they couldn't afford. I have no doubt that the rude awakening has not been pretty. I have friends who were once living high in the Hollywood Hills who are now living in an apartment. At least they are not homeless --- yet anyway. Not that this isn't a scenario that has been played out in every city in the country, but in a city like L.A. in which appearances are everything, it had to be especially humbling.


    Yes CJ - it was indeed a haunting piece and I felt that it should be posted. I originally put it in the more active All Things Gay but it was moved there.
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    Feb 23, 2012 4:22 PM GMT
    riddler78 said
    Christian73 saidGreat piece showing the human toll of the foreclosure crisis and how no one is immune from the banks' predatory business model.


    As much as I can empathize with the human costs, your views are just assinine - so what - foreclosures have nothing to do with the fact that hundreds of thousands of people bought houses that they couldn't afford and took on loans they couldn't repay? icon_rolleyes.gif . Yes, the world would be so much better without those banks and their predatory business model that [Gasp!] requires people to repay money that they borrow! icon_rolleyes.gif


    The banks that are owed the mortgages crashed the economy resulting in less employment prospects and refused to renegotiate those loans, even when they didn't have the actual mortgage note, engaging in systemic fraud via "robo signing." All of this was done by private companies, not Fannie & Freddie. icon_rolleyes.gif
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    Feb 23, 2012 4:23 PM GMT
    riddler78 said
    Christian73 saidGreat piece showing the human toll of the foreclosure crisis and how no one is immune from the banks' predatory business model.


    As much as I can empathize with the human costs, your views are just assinine - so what - foreclosures have nothing to do with the fact that hundreds of thousands of people bought houses that they couldn't afford and took on loans they couldn't repay? icon_rolleyes.gif . Yes, the world would be so much better without those banks and their predatory business model that [Gasp!] requires people to repay money that they borrow! icon_rolleyes.gif

    Erm, and just who advised they do that (big mortgages)? The bank mortgage 'specialist' who piously states that they only have the well-being of the client at heart?

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    Feb 23, 2012 4:34 PM GMT
    Christian73 saidThe banks that are owed the mortgages crashed the economy resulting in less employment prospects and refused to renegotiate those loans, even when they didn't have the actual mortgage note, engaging in systemic fraud via "robo signing." All of this was done by private companies, not Fannie & Freddie. icon_rolleyes.gif


    Did you miss the fact that the robo-signing hurt the banks themselves given that these are legal agreements that no longer have validity? Fannie and Freddie as you also correctly point out played a massive role in buying up these mortgages from private companies supplying the liquidity to them and allowing for much larger loans and much cheaper prices than previously available.

    That you absolve entirely personal responsibility for individuals borrowing more than they should have in this is beyond ridiculous. It's not even remotely believable that buyers had no responsibility and completely ignorant of the fact that the large private lenders have also sustained heavy losses in making loans that people aren't able to pay - and the writedowns that have ensued.

    meninlove said Erm, and just who advised they do that (big mortgages)? The bank mortgage 'specialist' who piously states that they only have the well-being of the client at heart?


    Have I ever got a bridge to sell you if you actually believe that this is what others thought. Do people not have any responsibility for the decisions they make? It's not like they didn't know how much money they were borrowing. It's also not like banks didn't ultimately take massive losses on these mortgages either.
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    Feb 23, 2012 4:39 PM GMT

    "Have I ever got a bridge to sell you if you actually believe that this is what others thought."

    The words are the words of English but the sense is no-sense.

    So, people are not to trust the banker they go to for financial advice. Banks spend millions and millions advertising that you can trust them. Advertising works, or businesses wouldn't pay for ads.

    Blaming customers for taking the advice of their financial institution is too easy.

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    Feb 23, 2012 4:41 PM GMT
    Read this Riddler, our Conservative gov't steps in:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-17/canada-tightens-mortgage-lending-rules-to-curb-record-high-household-debt.html
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    Feb 23, 2012 4:50 PM GMT
    meninlove said
    "Have I ever got a bridge to sell you if you actually believe that this is what others thought."

    The words are the words of English but the sense is no-sense.

    So, people are not to trust the banker they go to for financial advice. Banks spend millions and millions advertising that you can trust them. Advertising works, or businesses wouldn't pay for ads.

    Blaming customers for taking the advice of their financial institution is too easy.

    Typical US right-wing response - blame the victim, not the predator who created the mortgage terms. If the lending institution offered the loan, and accepted the risk, then they approved these homeowners. The banks weren't being robbed, no gun held to their head.

    But yeah, blame the 99% who were told these mortgages were OK, who were given them, they didn't seize them illegally. And were assured they met lending criteria, because the lending institutions control those, not the borrowers.

    But again, typical Republican response: blame the masses, not the manipulators who created this mess. Could it have something to do with the fact that the manipulators contribute untold millions to Republican campaigns, whereas the masses contribute much less? Our US government - bought and paid for.
  • CuriousJockAZ

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    Feb 23, 2012 4:58 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    Typical US right-wing response - blame the victim, not the predator who created the mortgage terms. If the lending institution offered the loan, and accepted the risk, then they approved these homeowners. The banks weren't being robbed, no gun held to their head.



    This mentality could just as easily be turned around -- and rightfully so -- to say that no one held a gun to the borrowers head to NOT READ the terms of the loan and SIGN on the dotted line to get the loan. I'm not saying there were not predatory lenders out there giving loans to anyone with a pulse. However, sorry, but at the end of the day the responsibility rests on the borrower. Millions of borrowers took out loans on homes they ultimately could not afford. Many of these borrowers took advantage of "stated income" loans and blatantly lied on their loan applications. Granted, many institutions probably looked the other way and allowed this to happen. However, regardless, the responsibility ultimately rests on the individual borrower mis-stating their income and thereby getting loans for homes they could not ultimately afford. My point is that there is plenty of blame to go around, but much of it rests with the borrowers themselves who took advantage of the system. Mostly what created this mess was greedy Americans taking advantage of the system. That, combined with greedy lenders, was the recipe for a perfect storm of sorts that culminated in the mortgage meltdown.
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    Feb 23, 2012 5:20 PM GMT
    Of course, realtors often try to get buyers to spend as much as they can as realtors' commissions are calculated (a percentage) on the selling price of a home.
    So better not listen to realtors, either. Right, Curiousjock?
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    Feb 23, 2012 5:24 PM GMT
    meninlove said
    "Have I ever got a bridge to sell you if you actually believe that this is what others thought."

    The words are the words of English but the sense is no-sense.

    So, people are not to trust the banker they go to for financial advice. Banks spend millions and millions advertising that you can trust them. Advertising works, or businesses wouldn't pay for ads.

    Blaming customers for taking the advice of their financial institution is too easy.



    Ah so it's your position that customers and buyers have no responsibility? People believe that bankers do things out of the good of their hearts ignoring centuries of evidence to the contrary?

    No, deflecting responsibility from buyers and consumers is the easy way out. It's not like there weren't consistently those who pointed out that real estate values were overvalued or "crazy". Many of these people were also speculators and knew that they couldn't afford the payments - which incidentally were also transparent.
  • CuriousJockAZ

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    Feb 23, 2012 5:24 PM GMT
    meninlove said Of course, realtors often try to get buyers to spend as much as they can as realtors' commissions are calculated (a percentage) on the selling price of a home.
    So better not listen to realtors, either. Right, Curiousjock?



    Actually, unless the client is paying cash, it does the realtor no good to try and get a client into a house they cannot afford because -- especially in today's lender market in which banks are far stricter about home loans -- they would end up not qualifying for the loan and it would all end up in one BIG waste of everyone's time. However, at the end of the day, it is the BUYERS responsibility, NOT their Real Estate agent's, to know their financial situation and purchase a home they can afford.
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    Feb 23, 2012 5:50 PM GMT
    riddler78 said
    meninlove said
    "Have I ever got a bridge to sell you if you actually believe that this is what others thought."

    The words are the words of English but the sense is no-sense.

    So, people are not to trust the banker they go to for financial advice. Banks spend millions and millions advertising that you can trust them. Advertising works, or businesses wouldn't pay for ads.

    Blaming customers for taking the advice of their financial institution is too easy.



    Ah so it's your position that customers and buyers have no responsibility? People believe that bankers do things out of the good of their hearts ignoring centuries of evidence to the contrary?

    No, deflecting responsibility from buyers and consumers is the easy way out. It's not like there weren't consistently those who pointed out that real estate values were overvalued or "crazy". Many of these people were also speculators and knew that they couldn't afford the payments - which incidentally were also transparent.


    When an entire industry engages in systemic fraud, as the financial services and mortgage industries did in the 2000s, it ameliorates responsibility for many customers, particularly given how many poor Americans and people of color where talked into subprime loans when they qualified for prime loans.

    There really is nothing you won't defend. icon_rolleyes.gif
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    Feb 23, 2012 6:01 PM GMT
    Christian73 said
    riddler78 said
    meninlove said
    "Have I ever got a bridge to sell you if you actually believe that this is what others thought."

    The words are the words of English but the sense is no-sense.

    So, people are not to trust the banker they go to for financial advice. Banks spend millions and millions advertising that you can trust them. Advertising works, or businesses wouldn't pay for ads.

    Blaming customers for taking the advice of their financial institution is too easy.



    Ah so it's your position that customers and buyers have no responsibility? People believe that bankers do things out of the good of their hearts ignoring centuries of evidence to the contrary?

    No, deflecting responsibility from buyers and consumers is the easy way out. It's not like there weren't consistently those who pointed out that real estate values were overvalued or "crazy". Many of these people were also speculators and knew that they couldn't afford the payments - which incidentally were also transparent.


    When an entire industry engages in systemic fraud, as the financial services and mortgage industries did in the 2000s, it ameliorates responsibility for many customers, particularly given how many poor Americans and people of color where talked into subprime loans when they qualified for prime loans.

    There really is nothing you won't defend. icon_rolleyes.gif


    Given what passes as only the most basic understanding of a loan transaction that you have, I think it's a little unwise for you to cast aspersions here. When you speak of systemic fraud the fraud that was perpetrated wasn't and didn't result in people being "duped" into borrowing - they did that all on their own.

    The banks didn't select these homes for people. The banks didn't set the prices on the homes. This was done by borrowers. It was also borrowers who also agreed to the loan payments that they would need to make.

    Do you blame a bookie who offers credit to a gambler who lost it all? I think they all share the blame but it's really disgusting how you absolve the gambler of any responsibility in this whatsoever. What a screwed up value system you must have where you don't believe in personal responsibility.
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    Feb 23, 2012 6:11 PM GMT
    riddler78 said
    Christian73 said
    riddler78 said
    meninlove said
    "Have I ever got a bridge to sell you if you actually believe that this is what others thought."

    The words are the words of English but the sense is no-sense.

    So, people are not to trust the banker they go to for financial advice. Banks spend millions and millions advertising that you can trust them. Advertising works, or businesses wouldn't pay for ads.

    Blaming customers for taking the advice of their financial institution is too easy.



    Ah so it's your position that customers and buyers have no responsibility? People believe that bankers do things out of the good of their hearts ignoring centuries of evidence to the contrary?

    No, deflecting responsibility from buyers and consumers is the easy way out. It's not like there weren't consistently those who pointed out that real estate values were overvalued or "crazy". Many of these people were also speculators and knew that they couldn't afford the payments - which incidentally were also transparent.


    When an entire industry engages in systemic fraud, as the financial services and mortgage industries did in the 2000s, it ameliorates responsibility for many customers, particularly given how many poor Americans and people of color where talked into subprime loans when they qualified for prime loans.

    There really is nothing you won't defend. icon_rolleyes.gif


    Given what passes as only the most basic understanding of a loan transaction that you have, I think it's a little unwise for you to cast aspersions here. When you speak of systemic fraud the fraud that was perpetrated wasn't and didn't result in people being "duped" into borrowing - they did that all on their own.

    The banks didn't select these homes for people. The banks didn't set the prices on the homes. This was done by borrowers. It was also borrowers who also agreed to the loan payments that they would need to make.

    Do you blame a bookie who offers credit to a gambler who lost it all? I think they all share the blame but it's really disgusting how you absolve the gambler of any responsibility in this whatsoever. What a screwed up value system you must have where you don't believe in personal responsibility.


    I do believe in personal responsibility but you do not believe in corporate responsibility or responsibility for the executives who set the agenda for these predatory companies.

    The banks do, indeed, select the homes for those people when they approve the mortgage amount, and they set the loans up to fail in many cases by issuing subprime loans with adjustable rates to borrowers who would otherwise qualify for prime loans.

    There is extensive evidence of bankers and mortgage brokers lying to borrowers, particularly African American families, about what they could afford. In fact, the business model was based on fraud.
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    Feb 23, 2012 6:23 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    meninlove said
    "Have I ever got a bridge to sell you if you actually believe that this is what others thought."

    The words are the words of English but the sense is no-sense.

    So, people are not to trust the banker they go to for financial advice. Banks spend millions and millions advertising that you can trust them. Advertising works, or businesses wouldn't pay for ads.

    Blaming customers for taking the advice of their financial institution is too easy.

    Typical US right-wing response - blame the victim, not the predator who created the mortgage terms. If the lending institution offered the loan, and accepted the risk, then they approved these homeowners. The banks weren't being robbed, no gun held to their head.

    But yeah, blame the 99% who were told these mortgages were OK, who were given them, they didn't seize them illegally. And were assured they met lending criteria, because the lending institutions control those, not the borrowers.

    But again, typical Republican response: blame the masses, not the manipulators who created this mess. Could it have something to do with the fact that the manipulators contribute untold millions to Republican campaigns, whereas the masses contribute much less? Our US government - bought and paid for.


    I’ll steal rickrick's favorite term …. BULLSHIT Bob, get off this ‘right wing’ crap of yours and you might just might have some credibility once in a while. EVERYONE is to blame in this one.

    I worked in residential for Coldwell Banker in Santa Monica in the earlier days of this feeding frenzy before moving completely over to commercial.

    So, Bob, you’re telling me that someone held a gun to the buyer’s head as they went head to head with 40 -50 other ‘like minded’ buyer through six or seven rounds of multiple offers and the ‘guy with the gun’ forced them to write these sweet syrupy letters to the home sellers with family pics of course regarding why their offer should be accepted versus another buyer(s).

    So the guy with gun forced them to outright lie (and you know I seldom ever use that word) on loan apps and feloniously modify copies of tax returns and W2s? So it’s the big bad Repub with the gun to their head that did this Bob? Jesus Fucking Christ Bob, get OFF this ‘ring wing’ shit once in a while.

    Where I worked, I absolutely guarantee you that it was not Republicans doing this, well maybe 5% of them. I worked right in the middle of this …. the epicenter ….. every day ..... all day. The shit I went through trying to get a buyer's offer accepted with those folks calling me every couple of hours asking if we did it. The threats of lawsuits from the buyers if we lost (I seldom lost). Don’t you dare tell me that the buyers THEMSELVES weren't heavily responsible for what happened.
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    Feb 23, 2012 6:31 PM GMT
    And the above were well educated smart people. I’m mean shit, I had an average closing price of $1.2mil for residential and quite a bit of this was in the valley (30% cheaper). These folks knew damn well what they were doing.
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    Feb 23, 2012 6:42 PM GMT
    Riddler, you debate like a 6th grader.

    "Ah so it's your position that customers and buyers have no responsibility?"

    Too lame to reply to, but for you...

    Of course they have a responsibility. Nowhere have I said they don't. However, they cannot shoulder all the blame as you'd like.



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    Feb 23, 2012 6:44 PM GMT
    Christian said, "I do believe in personal responsibility but you do not believe in corporate responsibility or responsibility for the executives who set the agenda for these predatory companies. "

    Bingo.