Thursday, October 21, 2010

Last Call

Foreclosuregate horror stories will continue to come out as more and more Americans realize their houses were stolen from them by the banks in order to cover institutionalized and widespread mortgage fraud.

Michael and Pamella Negrea have never been late on a mortgage payment in the 15 years they've owned their home in Eastlake. But they've been foreclosed on three times.

Martin and Kirsten Davis, meanwhile, lost their home in Cleveland to foreclosure two years ago. The reason: a mess that started when they accidentally paid 14 cents too little on their monthly payment.

And Michael Rendes of Berea had his mortgage sold last year to Bank of America. The bank foreclosed on him in November, after insisting for months that it didn't hold his loan and wouldn't accept his payments.

Tales like these portray the ugly side of the world of mortgage finance, a world embroiled in controversy amid claims of fraudulently signed foreclosure documents. As a result, many major banks have suspended foreclosures; state and federal officials are launching investigations; and experts everywhere fear this could wallop the limping economy again.

Indeed, the possibility that bank employees illegally "robo-signed" thousands of foreclosures without even reading the information shows the production-line mentality not just of foreclosures, but of the entire mortgage process. It's as simple as this: Many banks during the last decade or so have approved, closed, bought, sold and traded mortgages like baseball cards at a pace so dizzying that they couldn't keep up with their customers, payments or foreclosures.

Now, it's possible that thousands or even millions could have lost their homes in error.

Oh I know.  "All these people are deadbeats living in their homes for free!  They're all cheating the system while you worked hard to keep your home!  You should be outraged at these people!  They're all welfare cheats living off of taxpayer money!  The free market would never allow this to happen!  We want our money and those homes are rightfully ours!"

Sure they are.  And they have the fake paperwork to "prove" it, and enough of Congress in their pockets in order to make this happen.  Worst case scenario is the banks get TARP 2, and all these people get foreclosed on anyway, and our economy takes a double tap right to the frontal lobe.

They're about to get away with it yet again, folks.  And nobody gives a damn.

Bubble And Squeak Time, Part 2

Yesterday I mentioned Britain's austerity measures and the half a million jobs they will cost.  Britain's population is right at 20% of ours, so it would be the equivalent of cutting 2.5 million government jobs here.  As Brad DeLong discovers, the reality of what Britain is in for is far, far worse:

Shame on David Cameron. Shame on Nick Clegg. Shame on George Osborne.

Their shame would not be quite so great if they had a theory about what elements of spending will grow to offset their 9% of GDP planned fiscal contraction. Is the pound supposed to collapse and are exports than to surge? Is the prospect of rising unemployment in the U.K. supposed to greatly enhance business confidence and trigger a surge of private-sector investment? Is the 30-year gilt yield supposed to fall from 4% to 1% and that reduction in the cost of capital cause a surge of capital formation throughout Britain?

Of course not.  It's making average Brits pay for the banks.  And they are going to pay dearly.

[T]he scale of the cuts is...breathtaking. The police budget will fall by 20%. Spending on social housing will fall by three-fifths, with the difference to be made up from higher rents charged to tenants. Local council funding from central government will drop by 28%, a classic strategy in which ministers hope that voters will take their anger out on town halls instead of Whitehall. Spending on the arts will fall by a third. Nor will the damage be confined to the public sector. The government is a significant buyer of goods and services from private firms, after all. PwC, a consultancy, said the other day that it thinks that another half a million private jobs could go over the coming five years as a direct consequence of public-sector austerity, although the chancellor insists that his medicine will be good for the country in the long run.

So another half a million jobs gone.  Cuts that could cost the equivalent here of another five million jobs will be good for the country.  Sound familiar?  It's what the Tea Party wants to do here: slash government to the bone to pay for massive tax cuts for their corporate masters...only like Britain, the Tea Party will only make things worse as they run up red ink.

Keep a close eye on the UK.  The GOP here would love to do nothing more than to follow their draconian lead.

Paladino? Pala-Done-O.

The latest Siena University poll on the NY Governor's race shows a healthy number of Empire State residents have regained their sanity.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo has extended his lead over Republican
Carl Paladino to an overwhelming 63-26 percent among likely voters. With 69 percent of voters having an unfavorable view of Paladino, he is viewed far more unfavorably that Governor David Paterson, who is viewed unfavorably by 58 percent, according to a Siena College poll of likely New York voters released today.

Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer also have similar 30-ish point leads. Whatever enthusiasm gap is out there nationally, it's not the hell in New York.

The Clock Just Ran Out In Haiti

News this afternoon that Haiti is suffering an outbreak of disease, which given the housing conditions where hundreds of thousands if not millions are still homeless and are living in refugee camps, this situation there could quickly lead to disaster.

An outbreak of severe diarrhea in rural central Haiti has killed at least 54 people and sickened hundreds more who overwhelmed a crowded hospital Thursday seeking treatment.
Hundreds of patients lay on blankets in a parking lot outside St. Nicholas hospital in the port city of St. Marc with IVs in their arms for rehydration. As rain began to fall in the afternoon, nurses rushed to carry them inside.
Doctors were testing for cholera, typhoid and other illnesses in the Caribbean nation's deadliest outbreak since a January earthquake that killed as many as 300,000 people.
"What we know is that people have diarrhea, and they are vomiting, and (they) can go quickly if they are not seen in time," said Catherine Huck, country deputy for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. She said doctors were still awaiting lab results to pinpoint the disease.
The sick come from across the rural Artibonite region, which did not experience significant damage in the Jan. 12 quake but has absorbed thousands of refugees from the devastated capital 45 miles (70 kilometers) south of St. Marc.
A total of 54 people died and 619 were ill, according to Yolaine Surena, a coordinator for Haiti's civil protection department.

There are reports the outbreak is cholera but this has not been confirmed yet.  Any way you look it it, this is bad...and I'm surprised that something worse hasn't happened earlier given this atrocious conditions that continue to exist.

Part of the reason why there continues to be such horrendous conditions on the ground in Haiti is because of various bureaucratic garbage here in the US.  $1.15 billion has been appropriated for Haiti but little of it has arrived, and the rest of the aid above that is being blocked by GOP Sen. Tom Coburn.

I hope he can sleep well tonight.  No doubt he will.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Hey look, Sabrina the Middle-Aged Not-A-Witch says she was taken out of context at the Delaware Senate debate.

The media and most viewers of the Oct. 19 Delaware Senate debate thought Republican Christine O'Donnell's question about the First Amendment directed at Democrat Chris Coons was a pretty epic gaffe for the hardcore tea party favorite and Constitution proponent.

O'Donnell did not see it that way, however.

"It's really funny the way that the media reports things," O'Donnell told ABC News this morning. "After that debate my team and I we were literally high fiving each other thinking that we had exposed he doesn't know the First Amendment, and then when we read the reports that said the opposite we were all like 'what?'" 

Ironically, a very similar repeat of that situation awaits her in about 12 days. Also it's all the lamestream media's fault!

I believe the phrase is "If you're explaining, you're losing" but let's be perfectly honest here:  even if this vacuum-headed goofball loses to Coons by 40 points, she'll declare herself the "real winner" anyway and get a TV show, book contract, and wingnut welfare for life.  Coons meanwhile will have to actually legislate.

Either way, O' Donnell wins and America is poorer for it.

National Public Backlash, And More On Juan Gone

Well, that didn't take long, did it?

Glenn Beck went on his radio show this morning screaming about how George Soros has a million-dollar bounty on his head and how Soros and his "jack-booted thugs" at NPR have already claimed Juan Williams' head, and how they are coming for Beck and all of his listeners next.

Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee is calling on Republicans in Congress to slash NPR's funding.

"NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left," Huckabee said in a statement provided to CNN.

Williams told Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on Monday that he gets "worried" and "nervous" on flights when he sees people wearing "Muslim garb." NPR terminated Williams' contract on Wednesday evening.

Huckabee said he "will no longer accept interview requests from NPR as long as they are going to practice a form of censorship, and since NPR is funded with public funds, it is a form of censorship."

"It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR," he said.

Guess what's coming with a Republican Congress?   Hope you enjoyed All Things Considered.  Past tense.  but remember, it's conservatives who are the victims.  Meanwhile, count on Republican calls to pull the plug permanently on NPR.

They're only defending free speech, you know.  Besides, it gets rid of radio competitors for Beck and Huckabee.  These guys aren't stupid.  No NPR means they get more message time.

In the future, all restaurants are Taco Bell, dig?   But hey, I hope they go too far.  Take away America's Car Talk and Prairie Home Companion.  Then duck.

Seriously, folks.  Williams did this to himself.  As Bon The Geek told me earlier today when we were discussing this, "One does not hash out one's insecurity with a mic attached to the GLOBE."

Over at Balloon Juice, E.D. Kain makes the argument that Williams should have kept his job, and that if Williams was a white commenter, he would have.  His argument does have a pretty substantial amount of merit and is worth a read.

[UPDATE]  Eric Boehlert reminds us that the Dubya-era GOP tried to rid us of NPR and PBS back in 2005 because of their "liberal slant" only they couldn't find one.

The Moose-ter Debaters

Steve M. makes this excellent catch over at his place last night:

It's been said that Sarah Palin won't run for president in 2012 because she's not willing to endure all the things a presidential candidate has to go through -- interviews, debates, and so on. Well, we've seen in this election that there's a new right-wing technique for dealing with would-be interviewers: you just don't talk to any media figure who'll give you a hard time. Palin pioneered this. Now all sorts of right-wingers practice it.

Republicans like Daniel Webster, Rand Paul, and Jan Brewer all have refused to debate their opponents.  Joe Miller refuses to talk to the media about his past.  The Palin Petulance is paying dividends.  She made it perfectly acceptable to trash the Village and refuse to talk to them, because they are "elitists".  For a group of people who prided themselves on "guiding America" through the intricacies of political calculus, their chief qualification, years of Beltway ass-kissing passed off as wisdom, became a liability.

Now the Tea Party is priding itself on calling them out, the plan of course is to micromanage any and all appearances to be 100% friendly to the candidate.  Why spin "who won the debate" after the fact when you can refuse the debate and declare victory because you don't need to put up with the "lamestream media's gotcha rules" to get your message across at all, thanks to FOX.

So, you'll see a FOX news GOP candidate debate or two when the 2012 campaign gets underway in about, oh two weeks or so.  But whoever wins the presidential primary for the Republicans, there's a good chance that they'll never debate Obama.  Ever.  If it's Palin, you can count on there not being a single debate.

There's a chance that this could backfire, with the Village role of debate referee in serious jeopardy.  They could viciously turn on Palin as a result.  On the other hand, I'm sure Palin will say that the Village is doing that anyway, no matter what they actually say.

The final arbiter of spin will be Sarah Palin.  Expect a host of other Republicans to refuse to talk to anyone other than FOX over the next two years.

They simply don't have to.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 29

Bloomberg's Jon Weil thinks the banks just don't understand how much trouble they are in as part of Foreclosuregate.  Weil couldn't be more incorrect, but we'll get to that in a moment.  First, his take concludes with this:

Bank of America, for instance, this week said it would re- open about 102,000 foreclosure actions in 23 states, after concluding that “the basis for our foreclosure decisions is accurate.” The bank released that statement 10 days after it said it would halt foreclosure sales nationwide, pending a review of its procedures. It’s hard to believe a review completed so quickly could have been very thorough.

The banks have only themselves to blame for the fix they’re in. Three years ago, as the subprime mortgage crisis began to spiral, one of the lessons the public should have learned is that the leaders of these companies often have no idea what’s going on inside them. We may be witnessing the same phenomenon again. There’s no excuse this time for anyone to be surprised.

Let me explain something to you, Jonny boy.  The banks know exactly how much trouble they are in, particularly Bank of America.  They're counting on three things:

  • Plausible Deniability, which Weil is helping to provide.  These banks are too big to know what's going on inside, and it's all the broke welfare queens living in McMansions!
  • A compliant Congress, which means more corporate-friendly types who will want to help the banks.
  • A weakening economy, which gives the banks more hostage leverage as the housing market continues to crumble.

All that of course leads up to the real goal:  TARP 2 and new "oversight" from the Republicans that includes laws to exonerate the banks of all this mess.  Better yet, the Republicans will simply say all this happened on Obama's watch, so we clearly need new laws to make sure this never happens again.  Bang.  TARP 2 and get out of jail cards for everyone. 

So yes, the banks playing dumb and blaming homeowners and their greedy lawyers is exactly what the plan is, and they are executing it perfectly.  And we'll get stuck with the bill once again.

If It's Thursday...

You know the drill.  A 23k drop was mostly eaten by a 13k upward revision in last week's numbers, for a total 10k drop to 452k, continuing claims at 4.44 million.

The age of the digital breadline continues.

Watching Reruns Of Barmy Miller, Part 3

Turns out the head of Joe Miller's security detail (you know, the guys who bravely protect Joe Miller from people asking him questions about his past) has a few interesting connections of his own to Alaska's militia movement.  TPM's Jillian Rayfield:

William Fulton, the head of DropZone Security, denies that he's a member of the Alaska Citizens Militia -- though he inarguably has some ties to the militia, and has even been referred to as the "supply Sergeant" by the head of the group.

DropZone Security was hired as Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller's private security team at his town hall on Sunday, during which Fulton and two of his employees handcuffed and detained Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger.

As we've reported, DropZone Security doubles as an army surplus store and bail bonds agency, and is made up of current and former members of the military. The two other agents with Fulton at the Miller event were active-duty military.

As some local outlets have already reported, Fulton himself is a repeated poster on the Alaska Citizens Militia Google Forum, which can be found here. All of his postings are here.

The Alaska Citizens' Militia describes its mission statement as: "To set forth the historical and Constitutional basis for the establishment of the Alaska Citizens Militia; to explain its mission and goals; its uniqueness as the final defense against tyrannical government at all levels; and to suggest an organizational structure."

Among the problems its website lists are "firearms restrictions or other disarmament," "mandatory medical anything," and "involuntary involvement in anything," among other things, in its "ACTS OF WAR" section.

And nobody thinks these might be inappropriate people for Alaska's next Senator to put on his payroll?  I'm curious as to what Miller thinks about all this.  I mean, we know the guy respects the Berlin Wall as a border control tool, now he's got this joker running his security goons.

And this man wants to be a US Senator.  Nice.  I'm beginning to think Alaskan Republicans are crazy as a rule.

Juan Gone

I've had my problems with NPR/FOX News correspondent Juan Williams before, but his comments on O'Reilly on Monday has apparently cost him the NPR part of his job for these statements about Muslims:

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Mr. Williams also made reference to the Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty this month to trying to plant a car bomb in Times Square. “He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts,” Mr. Williams said.

NPR said in its statement that the remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.” 

Anytime anyone starts with "I'm not a bigot" you know proof of the opposite is almost certainly coming.  The Wingers are screaming about free speech and hypocrisy, to which I'd kindly have six words for them:

Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez, Octavia Nasr.

It's about time somebody in the Village actually lost their job for treating Muslims like criminals for the crime of being Muslim.


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