Daily Archive: 12/01/2011

Dec 01 2011

MA Attorney General Sues 5 Major Banks & MERS

Another state attorney general is suing five major banks and Mortgage Electronic Registration System Inc. and its parent company over deceptive foreclosure practices. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley  filed the suit on Wednesday seeking redress from Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc., and Ally Financial.

Ms. Coakley joins a small group of state attorney generals from larger states that have been hit the hardest by the foreclosure/mortgage fraud scandal:

  • Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto sued Bank of America for fraudulent practices related to a prior settlement on Countrywide loans and recently filed a 606-count criminal indictment against two LPS employees for robo-signing;
  • Delaware AG Beau Biden sued MERS for deceptive practices;
  • New York’s Eric Schneiderman has a ever expanding investigation into foreclosure and securitization fraud and has issued a number of subpoenas for documents;
  • California’s Kamala Harris just filed subpoenas against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over mortgage servicing and securitization.
  • Ms. Coakley, whose reputation was tarnished after her loss to a Republican for the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat, has been strong on tightening state regulations and force banks to assist financially stressed homeowners save their homes:

    Coakley spoke in support of legislation she filed in January with state Senator Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat, and Representative Steven M. Walsh, a Lynn Democrat. The proposed law, which they call An Act to Prevent Unlawful and Unnecessary Foreclosures, focuses on mortgage loans that are considered to be risky, including those with interest-only payment and adjustable rates.

    The bill would require lenders to analyze a borrower’s financial information to determine whether modifying the loan to a more affordable payment would be more beneficial financially to the lender than going through the lengthy and costly process of taking the property through foreclosure. Many lenders already undertake such a study before deciding whether to foreclose, but the bill would permit homeowners to file a lawsuit if the process does not occur, according to Coakley’s staff.

    The proposed law also would force lenders to prove they are the legal owner of mortgages before foreclosing, incorporating the findings of recent foreclosure-related decisions from the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.

    These five state attorney generals are doing the hard work that should be done by the US Attorney General Eric Holder. Instead Mr. Holder is still clinging to Iowa AG Tom Miller’s stalled negotiations with the banks to settle the fraud for a mere $25 billion and exoneration from criminal prosecution. Mr. Holder has made protecting banks and corporations his priority and just recently announced a new initiative to prosecute intellectual property rights thefts by the public. This is not what Americans elected this administration to do.

    Dec 01 2011

    Rocky, Rocky?

    Rocky Anderson returns – this time shooting for president

    By Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune

    Nov 30, 2011 09:56AM

    Disgusted with what he calls the corrupting influence of corporate money and militarism in politics, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is launching a new national political party and will likely be its presidential nominee.

    “The end game is changing public policy in the interest of the people of this country. It’s changing our government,” Anderson said. “This is about taking on the two corporatist, militarist parties and in the process bringing the people of this country together so they can see that their interests, by and large, are really aligned.”

    “This is being done with a long-term view so that we can grow and sustain a movement that will ensure that the public interest, rather than the corporate interests, are promoted by our elected officials,” said Anderson, who acknowledges he wishes he would have started the effort earlier.

    Anderson said he is leaning toward calling the new organization The Justice Party or the Public Interest Party. He plans to host the party’s national platform and nominating convention in Salt Lake City during the Presidents Day weekend.

    Matt Lyon, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, said he doesn’t consider Anderson’s latest action a repudiation of the Democratic Party – Anderson ran for Congress in 1996 as a Democrat.

    “Rocky has always done what Rocky is going to do,” he said. “He hasn’t been involved with the Democrats for a very, very, very long time. … He’s just Rocky.”

    “The middle class in this country is being decimated and it’s without regard for political affiliation,” Anderson said in an interview. “All of us are being harmed while a very few are profiting enormously by the corruption, by bad public policy that they essentially purchase. These folks in Congress and the White House act as if they’re on retainer by Goldman Sachs, the insurance industry, with the coal and oil and gas industry, with the defense industry.”

    (h/t Taylor Marsh)

    With rumors that Buddy Roemer and Jon Huntsman may also mount Independent bids it may be that 2012 will indeed offer a choice, not an echo.

    (h/t TheMomCat)

    Dec 01 2011

    Eric Holder Wants Us To Protect MTV

    Apparently, US Attorney General Eric Holder thinks it is far more important to protect corporations from intellectual property (IP) theft than to protect us from predatory and fraudulent banking practices that has led to collapse of the economy. He is more concerned that you or your neighbor are illegally downloading movies or songs from the internet or receiving pharmaceuticals from Canada.

    On November 29, Mr. Holder held a press conference to announce a serious crack down on IP theft:

    As our country continues to recover from once-in-a-generation economic challenges, the need to safeguard intellectual property rights – and to protect Americans from IP crimes – has never been more urgent. But, in many ways, this work has also never been more difficult.

    Recent technological advances – particularly in methods of manufacturing and distribution – have created new opportunities for businesses of all sizes to innovate and grow. But these quantum leaps have also created new vulnerabilities, which tech-savvy criminals are eager to exploit. As a result, we’re seeing an alarming rise in IP crimes – illegal activities that can not only devastate individual lives and legitimate businesses, but undermine our nation’s financial stability and prosperity.

    Make no mistake: IP crimes are anything but victimless. For far too long, the sale of counterfeit, defective, and dangerous goods has been perceived as “business as usual.”   But these and other IP crimes can destroy jobs, suppress innovation, and jeopardize the health and safety of consumers.   In some cases, these activities are used to fund dangerous – and even violent – criminal enterprises and organized crime networks. And they present a significant – and growing – threat to our nation’s economic and national security.

    But we are fighting back – in bold, comprehensive, and collaborative ways.

    One of those “bold, comprehensive, and collaborative ways” is a series of series of television, radio, and Internet public service announcements that will ask the public to spy on their neighbors.

    We shouldn’t be surprised by this since, as reported in the Wired:

    The Justice Department under President Barack Obama has seen a sea change in attitude when it comes to intellectual-property enforcement, which could have been predicted by the number of former Recording Industry Association of America attorneys appointed by the Obama administration. (Hollywood votes and donates Democratic).

    Meanwhile, as Matt Stoller writes, mortgage fraud continues unabated and unprosecuted:

    In 2004, the FBI warned Congress of an “epidemic of mortgage fraud,” of unscrupulous operators taking advantage of a booming real estate market. Less than two years later, an accounting scandal at Fannie Mae tipped us off that something was very wrong at the highest levels of corporate America.

    Of course, we all know what happened next. Crime invaded the center of our banking system. Wall Street CEOs were signing on to SEC documents knowing they contained material misstatements. The New York Fed, riddled with conflicts of interest, shoveled money to large banks and tried to hide it under the veil of central bank independence. Even Tim Geithner noted that Lehman had “air in the marks” in its valuations of asset-backed securities, as the bankruptcy examiner’s report showed that accounting manipulation to disguise the condition of the balance sheet was a routine management tool at the bank. [..]

    And yet, no handcuffs. [..]

    And what happens when this kind of fraud goes unprosecuted? It continues, even today. The same banks that ran the corrupt home mortgage securitization chain are now committing rampant fraud in the foreclosure crisis. Here’s New Orleans Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Magner discussing problems at Lender Processing Services, the company that handles 80 percent of foreclosures on behalf of large banks. [..]

    The bad behavior is so rampant that banks think nothing of a contractor programming fraud into the software. This is shocking behavior and has led to untold numbers of foreclosures, as well as the theft of huge sums of money from mortgage-backed securities investors.

    It would be nice if the Obama Justice Department devoted the same man power, resources and efforts into prosecuting the banks and mortgage service lenders who pushed fraudulent loans and have illegally foreclosed on thousands of homes. The attitude of Obama administration continues to be that they must bail out banks and protect corporations while the public gets sold out by the government that is suppose to protect us.

    Dec 01 2011

    Punting the Pundits

    “Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

    Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

    Matthew Rothschild: McCain says American Citizens Can Be Sent to Guantanamo

    U.S. citizens beware: A bill being debated on the Senate floor this week is likely to pass, and if it becomes law, you could be sent to Guantanamo Bay.

    The bill is the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 1867. Section 1031 of the bill gives the President and the Armed Forces enormous power to detain people they believe were involved in the attacks of Sept. 11 or supported Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

    That section empowers the President to detain such persons indefinitely without trial or to try them before a military court or to transfer them “to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.”

    Sen. Mark Udall introduced an amendment to modify this section, and his amendment was voted down on Tuesday.

    Sen. Rand Paul has introduced an amendment to delete this section entirely, and on Tuesday, he had the following exchange with Sen. John McCain, who is co-sponsoring the bill.

    Not only does McCain, a former POW, support this provision but some some Democrats have strongly argued for its passages, Re: Sen Carl Levin (D-MI). The big question, will Obama veto this bill if these provision is not stricken?

    Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Long Game: Payroll Taxes, Hostage-Taking, and Social Security

    Yesterday Thom Hartmann and I discussed the proposal to extend and expand what Democrats have called the ‘payroll tax holiday.’ (Video is below.) There are no heroes in this debate, but there are certainly villains. There are several different ways this could end – and most of them aren’t good.

    By proposing to expand and extend this ‘holiday,’ Democrats have bypassed more efficient ways to help the economy, and have once again endangered Social Security. And by demanding tax breaks for millionaires while blocking them for the middle class, Republicans have once again demonstrated their willingness to blow up the economy for self-serving purposes.

    Bill Boyarsky: Occupy 2012

    The Occupy L.A. encampment didn’t look like an enterprise with a future. The skateboarders hurtling through the crowd, the soccer ball in the air, the treehouses, the young men and women sleeping in tents and in the open air made the place look more like a low-budget vacation at the beach than a protest movement.

    Occupy L.A. was closed down early Wednesday morning by hundreds of Los Angeles police officers who arrested more than 200 in a comparatively peaceful operation that contrasted sharply with the conduct of cops in New York, UC Davis and other places. But its legacy is likely to be much more lasting than the abandoned tents and makeshift structures left behind at Los Angeles City Hall.

    For in its two months of existence, Occupy L.A. showed a resiliency and purpose that could make some of its participants leaders in a great confrontation over economic injustice in the 2012 election. The same is true of the many Occupy movements, from Wall Street to Harvard Yard to Chicago, to Denver to Philadelphia, to Berkeley, Davis, UCLA and other places.

    In other words, the election could be the next step for the Occupy movement.

    Williams Rivers Pitt: A Gut-Check Moment for Mr. Obama

    When George W. Bush left office, and John McCain went down to defeat, there was a sense among a great many Americans that a tremendously dangerous  nightmare was over, that years of wildly violent, constitutionally questionable, unbelievably expensive and morally appalling over-reaction to 9/11 were behind us, that an America which didn’t use the NSA to spy on virtually anyone, an America that didn’t indefinitely detain people without due process of law, that didn’t torture, that didn’t consign millions to death and maiming by way of wars based on lies and the desire to make money while winning elections…a lot of people thought that America might show its face again.

    But that was Hope and Change and all that stuff. The dreary fact of the matter is that the slash-and-burn attitude taken towards the US Constitution by the Bush administration did such tremendous damage to the most basic underpinnings of this society that it was widely feared there would be no going back. After all, any politician who has gotten to the point where the office of the President is even a possibility is a politician absolutely drenched in hubris, ego, and a desire for personal power. It cannot be any other way; there are no angels flying in that rarefied atmosphere of American politics, and my rule of thumb for many years now has been that a politician most people have heard of is, to one degree or another, an utter and complete bastard, for only utter and complete bastards have the will and ruthlessness to achieve such heights…and when it comes to presidents and serious presidential contenders, multiply that by a factor of ten. I’ve met a great many of them on too many campaign trails, and trust me, almost none of them are people you’d like to be stuck in an elevator with, much less allow them to run the country.

    Jim Hightower: It Takes People Power to Make Clear That Corporations Are NOT People

    In the Nov. 8 elections, the national media gave extensive coverage to a proposed “personhood amendment” to Mississippi’s state constitution. This was an extremist anti-abortion ballot initiative to declare that a person’s life begins not at birth, but at the very instant that a sperm meets the egg. However, extending full personhood to two-cell zygotes was too far out even for many of Mississippi’s zealous antagonists against woman’s right to control her own fertility, so the proposition was voted down.

    Meanwhile, the national media paid practically zero attention to another “personhood” vote that took place on that same day over a thousand miles from Mississippi. This was a referendum in Missoula, Mont., on a concept even more bizarre than declaring zygotes to be persons with full citizenship rights.

    It was a vote on overturning last year’s democracy-killing decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the now-infamous Citizens United case. A narrow five-man majority had decreed that – abracadabra! – lifeless, soulless corporations are henceforth persons with human political rights. Moreover, said the five, these tongueless artificial entities must be allowed to “speak” by dumping unlimited sums of their corporate cash into our election campaigns, thus giving them a far bigger voice than us real-life persons.

    Gail Collins: The Mitt Romney Pardon

    It’s been superexciting watching one outsized, vibrant and deeply strange Republican candidate after another rise to the front of the presidential pack, then crash and burn. But now we’ve got to refresh the storyline.

    Really, even the TV networks are starting new mini-seasons. And they’ve got zombies.

    This is particularly important for Mitt Romney, who seems to be responding to the flip-flop critique by becoming more and more repressed. If we don’t do something to free him up, they’re going to have to start wheeling him around in a laundry hamper.

    E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Giving Politicians a Good Name

    Two politicians from different countries and with very different political pedigrees made news this week. Both spoke difficult truths and reminded us that we shouldn’t use the word “politician” with routine contempt.

    The better-known story is the retirement of Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who was never afraid to make people angry-or to make them laugh. But more on Frank in a moment. Far too little attention has been paid on these shores to a remarkable speech in Berlin on Monday by the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski.

    He offered what may be the sound bite of the year: “I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.”

    Dec 01 2011

    The Mark of the Beast

    John Aravosis is not wrong to liken this to the tattooing of inmates at Auschwitz.

    Occupy protesters "branded" with UV ink

    Montreal police borrow tactic from club bouncers to stop protesters from returning to public square

    By Justin Elliott, Salon

    Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011 1:12 PM

    Occupy protesters in Montreal were dismayed to find they had been marked by police with a special ink that is only visible in UV light after being arrested during a raid of Victoria Square Friday.

    Police told CTV Montreal they borrowed the technique from bouncers at clubs and bars and it is meant to mark protesters who might return to the square.

    There are reports of police using invisible ink to mark objects as part of campaigns against burglary and underage drinking. But this seems to be the first time UV ink has been used to mark people during the Occupy movement.

    Dec 01 2011

    Thursday is new Jobless Day

    I’m so old I remember it like it was yesterday.

    ADP: Private Employment increased 206,000 in November

    by CalculatedRisk

    11/30/2011 08:19:00 AM

    ADP reports:

    ADP today reported that employment in the U.S. nonfarm private business sector increased by 206,000 from October to November on a seasonally adjusted basis. The estimated advance in employment from September to October was revised up to 130,000 from the initially reported 110,000. The increase in November was the largest monthly gain since last December and nearly twice the average monthly gain since May when employment decelerated sharply.

    Employment in the private, service-providing sector rose 178,000 in November, which is up from an increase of 130,000 in October. Employment in the private, goods-producing sector increased 28,000 in November, while manufacturing employment increased 7,000.

    This was well above the consensus forecast of an increase of 130,000 private sector jobs in November. The BLS reports on Friday, and the consensus is for an increase of 112,000 payroll jobs in November, on a seasonally adjusted (SA) basis.

    Government payrolls have been shrinking by about 27,000 per month this year. So this suggests around 206,000 private nonfarm payroll jobs added, minus 27,000 government workers – or around 179,000 total jobs added in November. Of course ADP hasn’t been very useful in predicting the BLS report.

    Oh wait.  That was yesterday.

    Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims increase to 402,000

    by CalculatedRisk

    12/01/2011 08:30:00 AM

    The DOL reports:

    In the week ending November 26, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 402,000, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 396,000. The 4-week moving average was 395,750, an increase of 500 from the previous week’s revised average of 395,250.

    Dec 01 2011

    On this Day In History December 1

    This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

    Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

    December 1 is the 335th day of the year (336th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 30 days remaining until the end of the year


    On this day in 1990, the Chunnel makes breakthrough. Shortly after 11 a.m. on December 1, 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole–it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years.

    The Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel,” was not a new idea. It had been suggested to Napoleon Bonaparte, in fact, as early as 1802. It wasn’t until the late 20th century, though, that the necessary technology was developed. In 1986, Britain and France signed a treaty authorizing the construction of a tunnel running between Folkestone, England, and Calais, France.

    The Channel Tunnel (French: Le tunnel sous la Manche), (also informally known as the Chunnel) is a 50.5-kilometre (31.4 mi) undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent near Dover in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point, it is 75 metres (250 ft) deep. At 37.9 kilometres (23.5 mi), the Channel Tunnel possesses the second longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world. The Seikan Tunnel in Japan is both longer overall at 53.85 kilometres (33.46 mi), and deeper at 240 metres (790 ft) below sea level.

    The tunnel carries high-speed Eurostar passenger trains, Eurotunnel Shuttle roll-on/roll-off vehicle transport-the largest in the world-and international rail freight trains. The tunnel connects end-to-end with the LGV Nord and High Speed 1 high-speed railway lines. In 1996 the American Society of Civil Engineers identified the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

    Ideas for a cross-Channel fixed link appeared as early as 1802, but British political and press pressure over compromised national security stalled attempts to construct a tunnel. However, the eventual successful project, organised by Eurotunnel, began construction in 1988 and opened in 1994. The project came in 80% over its predicted budget. Since its construction, the tunnel has faced several problems. Fires have disrupted operation of the tunnel. Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers have attempted to use the tunnel to enter Britain, causing a minor diplomatic disagreement over the siting of the Sangatte refugee camp, which was eventually closed in 2002.

    Dec 01 2011

    My Little Town 20111130: My Little House Part II

    Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

    Week before last we talked about the downstairs portion of the house in which I lived when I was young, and tonight we shall talk about the upstairs and other structures and the grounds outside of it.  The downstairs was pretty opulent, but the upstairs were more spartan.

    That is not to say that upstairs was not nice, but built at considerably less expense than the downstairs.  You need to read the piece from a couple of weeks ago to get the flavor of downstairs.