Thursday, October 14, 2010

Last Call

Poor, poor Republicans.  If only Obama wasn't so mean, the Republicans would surely stop attacking him 24/7/365, right David Brooks?

David Brooks: I don’t like the influence of money any more than the next person. It magnifies transparency and unreason. The people who give tend to be tribal in their affiliations and they hate people who compromise and stray from party orthodoxy. The way to rise to leadership in Congress is through fundraising and so it is generally the most partisan who make it to the top.

But the leaders of neither party have the moral authority to criticize the other on this score. To do so means ignoring the mote in your own eye. And it is depressing to see Obama and others going off on this jag. There must be other ways of firing up the Democratic base. Is there no substantive issue they can talk about?

Because to David Brooks, anonymous donors buying elections with hundreds of millions of dollars with no limit and no disclosure is not an susbatantial issue because "both sides do it."

Only if Brooks wasn't such an intellectually lazy gimboid, he'd know that Democrats are the ones pushing for more disclosure, which was...surprise!...blocked by the GOP and the DISCLOSE Act went poof.  He'd also realize that just short of half of us are particularly concerned about this, so it might in fact be a "substantive issue".

Brooks dismisses the evidence wholesale, and he's doing it because he's either beneath him to check, or his job to kill the idea that it matters.

Either prospect is disturbing.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Digby looks at Forclosuregate and asks:

Has even one national Republican said anything about this?

Could someone in the press find it in themselves to ask one of them about it?

"Hahahahaha no" and "Hahahahahahahaha no", respectively.   Republicans want to stay far, far, far away from this as possible especially now, because somebody might figure out that all this crap originated back when they were in charge of the damn country.  The Village is being directed to cover for the banks, but they're having a devil of a time doing that when local foreclosure nightmare stories pop up daily.  The Democrats are scared, but this is normal.  Some of them have enough balls to say something (Grayson, Franken, etc.)  Most of them are not sure what to make of this.

What to make of this is that the largest holder of mortgages right now, you know the mortgages that are potentially screwed because there's no clear title of chain, is the federal government.

There's a reason behind all this foot-dragging.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 21

Your assignment tonight is Gonzalo Lira's excellent explanation of the foreclosure crisis, which begins thusly:

I swear to God Almighty: Mortgage Backed Securities are America’s Herpes—the gift that keeps on oozing.
Price tag on this mess, as I said, will approach the trillions. Floor level? $250 billion or so for starters.

Meanwhile the anti-foreclosure revolution has begun in California, one break-in at a time.

Olive drab camo and berets for everyone!

Keep On Knockin' But You Can't Come In

Via Barry Ritholtz comes this foreclosure nightmare story right here in nearby Floyd County, Kentucky.

A Wheelwright man has filed a lawsuit against Bank of America, alleging agents working for the bank repossessed his home by mistake and refuse to pay for any damages other than the replacement of locks.

According to court documents, Christopher Hamby arrived home on Oct. 5 to find the locks on his doors changed and physical damage to his property from winterization chemicals placed in the plumbing and various lines cut at the residence.

The lawsuit also names A1 Preservation and Richard Spurgeon, who owns the business, as agents acting for Bank of America who wrongfully participated in the actions that Hamby alleges took place.

Hamby said that he does not have a relationship with Bank of America, including any type of mortgage agreement, and that the defendants had no legal right to come on his property. Hamby also said that he has had conversations with various agents for the defendants in the case and they acknowledged they wrongfully entered and damaged his property due to the mistaken belief that his property was in default and subject to repossession. The defendants allegedly offered to pay for a locksmith to repair the damage to the doors but have denied any other form of compensation.

Expect a hell of a lot more of these stories to surface very, very quickly.  America is figuring out that the last five years or so has been the largest financial shell game in history, and finally, finally we may be ready for the torches and pitchforks.

Home invasion, indeed.

When I Go To Extremes

A new poll from The Hill shows some rather depressing figures about which party is seen as being "dominated" by extremists, but the only thing extreme here is the hippie punching.

This result comes from The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll, which found that 44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists.

The revelations in a survey of 10 toss-up congressional districts across the country point to problems for Democrats, who are trying to motivate a disillusioned base and appeal to independents moving to the GOP ahead of the Nov. 2 election.

The polling firm Penn, Schoen and Berland conducted the survey, contacting 4,047 likely voters by phone between Oct. 2 and Oct. 7. The margin of error for this sample is 1.5 percent.

More than one in every five Democrats (22 percent) in The Hill’s survey said their party was more dominated than the GOP by extreme views. The equivalent figure among Republicans is 11 percent. 

Results for independent voters reflected the larger sample. Forty-three percent of likely independent voters said the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, compared to 37 percent who thought the GOP had fallen under the sway of extreme views.

Honestly, America?  The Democrats are dominated by extremists?   Do some research, people.  Christine O' Donnell?  Carl Paladino?  Rand Paul?  Any of these folks ring a bell?  Jim DeMint?  Michele Bachmann?  Virginia Foxx?

You know, this is where "The President Is Secretly X" crap is paying off for the GOP.  And surprise, the poll was done by our old friends Doug Schoen and Mark Penn.  As BooMan says, the goal here is to lay the foundation for the Mother of All Hippie Punching festivals after the elections.  Here's the money quote:

“That’s real trouble for Democrats,” said Jim Kessler, co-founder of the Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank.

“All the press coverage has been about how these Tea Party candidates are fringe ideologues, and there have been high-profile examples of them proving the point,” he added. “Yet, still at this moment, you have independents saying, ‘I think the Democrats are a little more extreme than the Republicans.' "

Third Way, ladies and gentlemen.  It's the hippies' fault!  Obama must go to the Center!   Obama will obey the Village Daleks!


New tag.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Hey, congressional Dems worried about motivating the base?

Take a cue from Rep. Alan Grayson here and his tough stance on the robo-signers and the foreclosure mills.

While you're at it, clean up the damn Chamber of Commerce, too.

Rand Paul's Taxing Ordeal

Another week, another Rand Paul "libertarian" position screwing over Kentucky's poor that he has to completely reverse himself on.  Evan McMorris-Santoro at TPM spells it out:

Kentucky's Republican nominee for Senate, Rand Paul, is running away from his past support for abolishing the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax, according to reports on the ground in the Bluegrass State.

The move is the latest walkback from the past for Paul, who started out the campaign as some kind of libertarian-tea party hybrid, unafraid to talk on national television about things like the problems he saw in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Since winning the nomination, however, Paul has headed in pretty much a straight line toward establishment Republican policies when it comes to his campaign rhetoric. The national sales tax shift appears to be part of that trend.

Some conservatives have long called for the abolition of the 16th Amendment -- which created the income tax -- and the creation of a national sales tax as high as 25 cents on the dollar in its place. They argue the sales tax would be more fair. Detractors say it would hit low-income taxpayers the hardest, pretty much undoing exactly what the progressive income tax structure was supposed to do in the first place. Paul used to be one of those who called for a national sales tax, according to reports, though now he claims he never was.

But Rand Paul's record  only had one weakness:  Google!

On Tuesday, the AP reported that Americans For Fair Taxation, a national sales tax advocacy group, sent reporters a written statement from Paul showing his support for the proposal:
"The federal tax code is a disaster no one would come up with if we were starting from scratch," Paul said in the statement. "I support making taxes flatter and simpler. I would vote for the FairTax to get rid of the Sixteenth Amendment, the IRS and a lot of the control the federal government exerts over us."
The AP reported that Paul's campaign "verified" the statement when asked about it. Paul didn't seem to keen to discuss it himself, however. He "declined to answer questions on the issue during a campaign stop," the AP reported.

Kentucky has been one of the hardest hit states during this economic disaster, and Rand Paul's prescription to fix it is a national sales tax, which of course would hurt those who have limited incomes and have to use that income to buy staples like food, not to mention there's a terrific argument that people who could afford to get by with purchasing little would choose to do so rather than pay 25% sales tax on big ticket items, which would of course reduce demand in our consumption-driven economy.

Talk about a job-killing tax, this one's about as bad as you can get.  Hurts the poor coming, hurts aggregate demand going.  Rand Paul suddenly no longer thinks this is a good idea like he did earlier.

Funny.  For a "maverick outsider" Rand Paul seems to know an awful lot about reversing his positions to take the GOP corporate stance time and time again.

If It's Thursday...

Via Zero Hedge, the Labor Department has been quietly fudging its stats every week, and has been doing so for quite some time now if you take a cumulative look.

Needless to say, the real numbers for weekly jobless and continuing jobless claims are a lot higher than what the BLS is telling us.

Today's numbers continue that trend. Every week, the previous week's numbers are revised upwards, and that's helping to hide some of the real damage.

That damage is pretty apparent in the continuing claims however. Food for thought.

Epic Too Shallow To Have A Depth To Be Out Of Fail

Last night's debate between Delaware's Senate candidates,  Republican Christine O'Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons, showed that outside the carefully managed sound bite factory of FOX News, O'Donnell is still just as much of a disaster as she was ten years ago on Bill Maher's show.  If even CNN is questioning her gravitas, it's over.

In one testy exchange, O'Donnell referred to Obama administration policies creating what she called "a culture of dependency" by expanding the number of people getting food stamps. Coons immediately tried to portray her as insensitive saying: "To simply denounce people as being dependent because they're applying for and receiving food stamps in the worst recession in modern times is frankly slandering people who are in incredibly difficult times."

O'Donnell interrupted, saying, "That's not fair. That's not fair of you to say that because that's not at all what I'm doing," and then counter-attacking by declaring: "I'm not the person who would cut the tax benefits of disabled and low-income citizens as you did as county executive."

The most serious problem for either candidate came when O'Donnell was asked to cite any specific recent Supreme Court rulings that she opposed.

"Oh gosh, give me a specific one," she said, and when told the question required her come up with cases, O'Donnell responded, "I'm sorry," and promised to put the information up later on her website.
Coons quickly referred to the Citizens United ruling in January in which the court lifted some limits on corporate contributions to campaign spending.

The debate produced a few humorous moments, such as when Coons said O'Donnell's well-publicized statements from a decade earlier that she dabbled in witchcraft and questioned evolution theory were distractions instead of a substantive campaign issue.

"You're just jealous that you weren't on 'Saturday Night Live'," O'Donnell said, referring to the comedy show's satirical skit about her.

"I'm dying to see who's going to play me," Coons responded with a smile.

O'Donnell was blown out of the water.   You figure any Senate candidate should be prepared to discuss something like this, considering the Senate's job involves confirming Supreme Court justices.  You figure any Tea Party Republican would fall back on Roe v. Wade abortion ruling and say to repeal it if they didn't have anything else in the deck like the recent Citizen United campaign finance case.

Nope.  The woman was clueless.  Had no idea.  But that makes her a regular person, so we should celebrate her ignorance and elect her anyway, right?

Christine O'Donnell ha accomplished the near impossible:  she's made Sarah Palin look like a qualified policy wonk in comparison.  Hint to Tea Party candidates:  read up on the Judicial branch once in a while.  Hell, read, period.

She's done here.  So, Dems, can we move on to fighting other battles?  Because Christine O'Donnell is EPIC FAIL.

Attacking The Insurance Denial Of Service Attack

Don't think anyone will benefit from the endless socialist horrors of Obamacare?  Keep in mind by 2014 nobody can be denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions under the law, which is important, because one in seven Americans were denied health insurance over the last three years for exactly that reason.

The nation’s four largest for-profit health insurers denied coverage to more than 651,000 people over a three-year period, citing pre-existing conditions, according to an analysis of insurer data detailed in a Congressional investigation.

Between Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint, that averages out to a denial of coverage for one out of every seven applicants, according to an Energy and Commerce Committee memo about the investigation.

The memo, released by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak, both Democrats, touts provisions in the health care reform bill that address pre-existing condition denials.

But all politics aside, the investigation contains some interesting figures and information culled from thousands of pages of documents provided by the insurers. The memo points out, for instance, that since 2007, the number of denials on the basis of pre-existing conditions has risen each year, outpacing the increase in applications for insurance coverage.

That includes a quarter of a million Americans just last year alone, by just 4 insurers.  Children cannot be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions now, and all Americans will have that benefit by 2014.

But let's repeal it all and let insurance companies refuse to cover people, like the Republicans want.  And of course, the Republicans want to replace it with...surprise!...the same provisions to stop insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.  The difference is the Republicans want 100% of the credit for it.  Same provision, same benefit, just a different party.

Bunch of swell guys, huh?

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 20

McClatchy's Tony Pugh has a profile of two of the folks who brought Foreclosuregate to light:  a pair of regular folks with blogs.  Lisa Epstein of Foreclosure Hamlet and Michael Redman of 4closureFraud have been fighting the good fight for a while now, and now the country is taking notice.

For Epstein, who often helped her patients navigate disputes with their health insurance companies, the role of advocate wasn't new — but the thrill of a courtroom victory was.

"It was like something struck inside me, like this is what I'm compelled to do. I can be a nurse for people caught in this foreclosure crisis," Epstein said. "I remember thinking, 'I'm not an attorney, and there are definite obstacles, but maybe there's a role for me.' And I ran back to the hospital like I had wings. I felt like this is my purpose."

Within a year, she and Redman — who didn't know each other at the time — would leave their respective jobs to pursue their passion for helping others and exposing injustice in the foreclosure industry.

After meeting late last year at a foreclosure fraud seminar, they teamed up to become two of the nation's most influential civilian beat cops for the beleaguered foreclosure industry.

Equal parts agitators, activists and advocates, Redman and Epstein have made their presence felt in Florida and nationally through their respective websites, and

Under a sun-drenched sky last week, Redman proudly perused his Web log to see recent visits from the Internal Revenue Service, the Homeland Security Department, the Justice Department, Fannie Mae, the Housing and Urban Development Department and the CIA, among others. Someone from the executive office of the president took a recent look, too, he said.

Major banks also are peeping at Redman's frequent postings and snarky analysis of embarrassing documents that appear to show foreclosure industry fraud.

Last week, he posted a deposition from a clerk at one of four Florida law firms that the state attorney general is investigating on suspicions that they're using fabricated documents to evict thousands of homeowners. She told investigators that the firm's employees regularly signed affidavits without reading them and put incorrect dates on documents.

"This kind of stuff goes on all the time, and it's everywhere," Redman said.

Indeed it has.  Today we also learned that September was the first month foreclosure repossessions in the US topped the 100,000 mark.   That of course was before October became "all bets are off" territory with the disintegration of the housing market.

Here there be dragons, folks.  But it's good to know there are people out there committed to help us slay those dragons.


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