02/14/2012 archive

“America’s Lawless Empire: The Constitutional Crimes of Bush and Obama,”

Constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein and former presidential candidate and consumer advocate, Ralph Nader visited Harvard Law School to  discuss the constitutional crimes of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack H.Obama It is well worth the hour to watch if you love this country and respect the Constitution and our laws.

February 10, 2012

Ralph Nader ’58 and Bruce Fein ’72 visited Harvard Law School for a talk sponsored by the HLS Forum and the Harvard Law Record. At the event, “America’s Lawless Empire: The Constitutional Crimes of Bush and Obama,” both men discussed what they called lawless, violent practices by the White House and its agencies that have become institutionalized by both political parties. [..]

Both men took issue with the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets the budget and policies of the Department of Defense and generally expands the power of the government to fight the war on terror. The Act permits, among other practices, the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without trial. Fein encouraged those in attendance to contact their members of congress about repealing it.

Bruce Fein has been my “hero” since he called for the simultaneous impeachment of both Bush and Cheney as a requirement of congress mandated by the Constitution and then drafted articles of impeachment of Barack Obama for the same reasons. The Constitution and its enforcement is not a spectator sport.

The Mortgage Settlement: They All Lied

Yes, they all lied, the the government and the state attorneys general, Schneiderman, too. The 49 state mortgage settlement that is  not written but was reached is not the narrow settlement that these actors would have you believe. In the Mortgage Settlement Executive Summary Section VII states:

   The proposed Release contains a broad release of the banks’ conduct related to mortgage loan servicing, foreclosure preparation, and mortgage loan origination services. Claims based on these areas of past conduct by the banks cannot be brought by state attorneys general or banking regulators.

   The Release applies only to the named bank parties. It does not extend to third parties who may have provided default or foreclosure services for the banks. Notably, claims against MERSCORP, Inc. or Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) are not released.

What does that mean? According to Yves Smith at naked capitalism it translates to a complete get out of jail free card

This is sufficiently general so that it is hard to be certain, but It certainly reads as if it waives chain of title issues and liability related to the use of MERS. That seems to be confirmed by the fact that made by local recorders for fees are explicitly preserved (one would not think they would need to be preserved unless they might otherwise be assumed to be waived). This is exactly the sort of release we feared would be given in a worst case scenario. The banks have gotten a huge “get out of jail free” card of bupkis.

Yves also quotes Frederick Leatherman who for a recap:

In one of his articles yesterday at Firedoglake, David Dayen mentioned that the settlement agreement has not been reduced to writing.

That is astonishing.

Let me repeat. That. Is. Astonishing.

The biggest problem with settlement agreements in particular, and all agreements in general, is reaching a so-called ‘meeting of the minds’ regarding the details and ‘chiseling them into stone’ by reducing them to writing. As I used to warn my clients when I was practicing law, we do not have an agreement until it has been reduced to writing, thoroughly reviewed, and signed by each of the parties. That has obviously not happened in this case.

Experience has taught us that humans dealing in good faith make mistakes, no matter how careful they are, and the potential for mistakes, misunderstandings and subsequent disagreements about the terms of an agreement cannot be overestimated. That potential becomes a certainty when one or more parties to an agreement is dealing in bad faith.

That, my friends, is why we have a law called the Statute of Frauds, which requires that certain types of agreements be in writing or they are invalid and unenforceable.

Yves take on Schneiderman and Biden’s involvement:

While the full terms have not been agreed upon, this seems to call into question the claim that Schneiderman got a carve-out for his MERS suit (and Biden had separately insisted that he had wanted to be able to add banks to his case against MERS).

But even with all these caveats, it’s hard to read the executive summary, which no doubt was vetted by the bank, Administration and AG sides, as meaning other than what it intends to mean: that the banks have been released of the meteor-wiping-out-the-dinosaurs-and-the-MBS-market liability they were most afraid of, that of the monstrous mess they made in their failure to convey notes as stipulated in their own contracts, and with their failure to use MERS as a mere registry, rather than a substitute for local recording offices. That in turns means that various cheerleaders for this deal, such as Mike “Settlement Release Looks Tight” Lux and Bob Kuttner have badly misled readers in their assertions that the release was narrow and the deal is good for homeowners.

The Obama administration and its advocates would have us believe that this agreement is going to help underwater homeowners and those who have been victims of foreclosure fraud. I’m not going to be delicate about this, it’s a bold faced lie. To make matters even worse Pimco’s analysis points out how this will damage pensions:

The government’s deal with banks over their foreclosure practices after 16 months of investigations is cheap for the loan servicers while costly for bond investors including pension funds, according to Pacific Investment Management Co.’s Scott Simon.

In what the U.S. called the largest federal-state civil settlement in the nation’s history, five banks including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. yesterday committed $20 billion in various forms of mortgage relief plus payments of $5 billion to state and federal governments.

“This was a relatively cheap resolution for the banks,” said Simon, the mortgage head at Pimco, which runs the world’s largest bond fund. “A lot of the principal reductions would have happened on their loans anyway, and they’re using other people’s money to pay for a ton of this. Pension funds, 401(k)s and mutual funds are going to pick up a lot of the load.”

If anyone expects that that new panel with New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is going to ease the housing crisis and hold the banks accountable, I have some really cheap bridges for sale in California and New York.

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”.

New York Times Editorial: A Responsible Budget

President Obama’s 2013 budget was greeted on Monday with Republican catcalls that it is simply a campaign document, but election-year budgets are supposed to explain priorities to voters. This one offers a clear and welcome contrast to the slashing austerity – and protect-the-wealthy priorities – favored by Republican Congressional leaders and the party’s presidential candidates.

The president’s budget calls for long-term deficit reduction, but its immediate priority is to encourage the fledgling economic recovery. Instead of trying to stabilize the budget on the backs of the poor, it would raise taxes on the wealthy and on big banks and eliminate many corporate tax loopholes. [..]

Republicans, on the other hand, would cut taxes for the rich and cut almost all of that spending, heedless of the pain that it would inflict on the economy and the millions of Americans still reeling from the downturn’s effects. In poll after poll, the public has made clear that it prefers the president’s approach of rebuilding the economy now and tackling the deficit when the fundamentals are stronger. While Republicans have counted on voters blaming Mr. Obama for the hard times, some are beginning to worry that they will be blamed for their obstructionism. That was clear on Monday when House leaders announced that they would agree to Mr. Obama’s proposal to extend the payroll tax cut for the rest of this year without insisting on drastic cuts elsewhere to pay for it.

Samhita Mukhophadyay : This Valentine’s Day, Occupy the Romantic-Industrial Complex

This Valentine’s Day, enthusiasts are expected to spend approximately $17.6 billion on romance-related goods-jewelry, cards, flowers and chocolates-a ten-year high, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s not even the whole picture, when you include all the other things that go along with the “perfect” romantic experience: heart shaped doohickeys, sexy lingerie, bikini waxes, fancy dinners, candle lit romantic massages for two, romantic getaways, puppies and couples counseling. Clearly, the economics of love is serious business.

But despite evidence of how much love costs these days and cultural norms that are evolving away from traditional gender roles in romantic relationships, the commercialization of Valentine’s Day continues to communicate traditional and conventional fantasies about gender and love. It’s what theorists call heteronormativity: the structures and norms that privilege heterosexual monogamy, while simultaneously stigmatizing behavior that deviates from this model. How is it that heteronormativity still has such a stronghold on the public imagination, despite the fact that more and more people are choosing to delay or forgo marriage or despite the fact in more and more states across the country, marriage is no longer limited to people who are straight? How has it still intact after the Kim Kardashian marital disaster saga, or the notorious marital flameouts between Kevin Federline and Britney Spears or Katy Perry and Russell Brand? How has it weathered scandal after scandal in which the most ardent supporters of “marriage between a man and a woman” are unable to stay faithful?

Michael Winship and Bill Moyers: Money Throws Democracy Overboard

Watching what’s happening to our democracy is like watching the cruise ship Costa Concordia founder and sink slowly into the sea off the coast of Italy, as the passengers, shorn of life vests, scramble for safety as best they can, while the captain trips and falls conveniently into a waiting life boat.

We are drowning here, with gaping holes torn into the hull of the ship of state from charges detonated by the owners and manipulators of capital. Their wealth has become a demonic force in politics. Nothing can stop them. Not the law, which has been written to accommodate them. Not scrutiny — they have no shame. Not a decent respect for the welfare of others — the people without means, their safety net shredded, left helpless before events beyond their control.

The obstacles facing the millennial generation didn’t just happen. Take an economy skewed to the top, low wages and missing jobs, predatory interest rates on college loans: these are politically engineered consequences of government of, by, and for the one percent. So, too, is our tax code the product of money and politics, influence and favoritism, lobbyists and the laws they draft for rented politicians to enact.

Bernard-Henri Lévy: What Is Really Happening in Athens

he Greek Parlement’s vote, during the night of Sunday to Monday, on the austerity plan the European Union demanded as a prerequisite to the release of a new installment of financial assistance was inevitable. Clearly, the alternative to the austerity plan was, in the short term, exclusion from the eurozone, leading to bankruptcy and the consequent plunge into a state of poverty even more unbearable than what the country faces today. And one finally understands that the negligence of successive governments in Athens for the past 30 years — their demagoguery, their clientelism, their bad faith, and their short-sighted policies — have forced their partners to raise their voices.


In an affair like this one, which is political as much as economic, and where the highly inflammable matter being toyed with is a people, their pride, their memory, their revolt, their survival, one would like to have seen things handled more deftly.

Mark Weisbot: President Obama’s Budget is Disappointing

Good but limited measures on tax reform are sacrificed, once again, to Obama’s eagerness to compromise on budget cuts

President Obama’s proposed budget has a few interesting proposals for reforms over the next decade. Among the best are the proposals to rescind the Bush tax cuts for households with incomes of more than $250,000, and to tax dividends for stockholders among this group as ordinary income. These and a few other proposals would sum up to a small but significant step in the opposite direction to where this country has been going for the past three decades: that is, a vast upward redistribution of income to the rich and the super-rich.

But those concerned with the immediate future are likely to be disappointed. Most Americans have to work for a living, but there are more than 25 million, or 15%, of the labor force, who are either unemployed, have given up looking for work, or are involuntarily working part time. The main reason for that is quite simple: there is not enough demand for goods and services in the economy in order to employ them.

With private demand still weak from the collapse of the housing bubble, and state and local governments still tightening their budgets and laying off workers, this leaves the federal government as the spender of last resort. But President Obama’s budget actually reduces spending, adjusted for inflation, for the coming fiscal year (2013). This means that the government will not contribute to resolving the unemployment crisis under this budget.

Ari Berman: Howard Dean Predicts Obama Re-Election, Democrats Retake House

No incumbent president since FDR has been re-elected with an unemployment rate above 8 percent. Despite that daunting precedent, an increasing number of political analysts and prominent Democratic Party figures are now bullish about President Obama’s re-election prospects. “Obama’s chances have definitely improved,” former Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean recently told me. “If Mitt Romney’s the Republican nominee, I would say it’s a one or two point win for Obama.”

Dean also likes his party’s chances at the Congressional level. “I’m predicting flat out that if Obama wins, Democrats take back the House,” he says. Other analysts have recently raised that possibility, even though GOP domination of the redistricting process gives Republicans a major edge in 2012.

Richard Dreyfuss: United States and Al Qaeda on Same Side in Syria

t’s worth noting that the United States and Al Qaeda are on the same side in Syria.

That’s not to deny that the government of Syria is conducting a brutal, no-holds-barred attack against a nationwide rebellion that is, increasingly, led by armed paramilitary forces and, well, terrorists.

But the Battle of Syria 2012 pits Saudi Arabia, Turkey, a bloc of Sunni Arab states, the Muslim Brotherhood and even Al Qaeda against Syria and the regime of President Bashar Assad, whose quasi-Shiite minority Alawite sect forms the core of his political power and who is backed by Shiite Iran. It’s no surprise that the United States, which swallowed Saudi Arabia’s ongoing vicious crackdown on the Shiite rebellion in the island Sunni kingdom of Bahrain, is on board with what increasingly looks like a Saudi- and Turkish-backed effort at forcible regime change in Damascus.

On This Day in History February 14

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.

February 14 is the 45th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 320 days remaining until the end of the year (321 in leap years).

On this day in 1884, future President Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother die, only hours apart.

Roosevelt was at work in the New York state legislature attempting to get a government reform bill passed when he was summoned home by his family. He returned home to find his mother, Mittie, had succumbed to typhoid fever. On the same day, his wife of four years, Alice Lee, died of Bright’s disease, a severe kidney ailment. Only two days before her death, Alice Lee had given birth to the couple’s daughter, Alice.

Roosevelt left his daughter in the care of his sister, Anna “Bamie/Bye” in New York City. In his diary he wrote a large X on the page and wrote “the light has gone out of my life.”

A short time later, Roosevelt wrote a tribute to his wife published privately indicating that:

She was beautiful in face and form, and lovelier still in spirit; As a flower she grew, and as a fair young flower she died. Her life had been always in the sunshine; there had never come to her a single sorrow; and none ever knew her who did not love and revere her for the bright, sunny temper and her saintly unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving , tender, and happy. As a young wife; when she had just become a mother, when her life seemed to be just begun, and when the years seemed so bright before her-then, by a strange and terrible fate, death came to her. And when my heart’s dearest died, the light went from my life forever

To the immense disappointment of his wife’s namesake and daughter, Alice, he would not speak of his wife publicly or privately for the rest of his life and made no mention of her in his autobiography.

“Ex-Gay”: Dan Savage ‘Should Be Arrested’


Well, who would know more about hopelessness and depression than a self-loathing ex-gay? DL Foster is a “former homosexual” and the founder of the Gay Christian Movement Watch (an excuse to stare at gay men?). He argues that Dan Savage is perpetuating a myth, that LGBT youth should not expect life to get better. For peddling this false hope, Dan Savage should be punished.

136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show- Day 1

How To Win the Westminster Dog Show

Step 1: Find a poodle. Step 2: Get a big-money backer.

By Josh Dean, Slate

Posted Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, at 7:15 AM ET

I had a theory that people backed dogs for the same reason they owned racehorses-for the luster this association provides. Scott says that’s not the case. And he would know. He also owns racehorses. “Racehorses are much less personal, for one thing,” he said, and I think he means that you can’t cuddle up on the couch with a Thoroughbred. “The second thing is, racehorses make money. You do not make money by showing dogs. It’s nothing about making money. It’s all about spending money. You do it for other reasons.”

All told, Scott says the range of campaigning a dog over a year varies: “You’re dealing with $100,000 to half a million.” Some people, of course, campaign multiple dogs.

Once you have a conversation with Ron Scott, you start to wonder if a regular person, with a great dog, could ever have a chance at competing for show wins. Hastings, the handler and trainer who knows as much about dog shows as any human, could recall just a few recent dogs that did well despite lacking a wealthy backer. She remembered a Yorkie, owned by a family that wasn’t rich, and shown by their daughter, that won Westminster.

I looked it up. That was in 1978, when Higgins became the first and still only Yorkie to win at Madison Square Garden. Handled by Marlene Lutovsky, Higgins’s care was indeed a family affair. Marlene’s mother Barbara reported that she was the one who got up every morning at 5 a.m. “to clean his teeth, brush and oil his coat, change the wrappers and give him clean booties.”

If you have someone like Ron Scott behind you, it means that you don’t have to rise before dawn, let alone brush your dog’s teeth. But more important than that, having a backer allows potential champions to be trained by the best professional handlers and to be advertised in all the major show dog magazines-week in and week out, for however long it takes.

He also has an arrangement with a Japanese puppy mill to get his mutts free for a year or three to train and show AND they also kick in hundreds of pages of advertising.  No kidding, read the piece.

Kinda sucks the charm right out of it eh?  Just like Formula One.

In more news-

Tired of Sad Ads, Kennel Show Takes ‘Dog With a Smile’ Tack

By SARAH MASLIN NIR, The New York Times

Published: February 11, 2012

Prancing purebreds and pound puppies do not mix, or at least they will not during the televised broadcasts of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this year, after the club cut ties with Pedigree, a longtime sponsor, in part because of Pedigree’s commercials featuring sad-eyed mutts up for adoption.

“We want people to think of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as a celebration of the dogs in our lives,” said David Frei, the club’s director of communications and the host of the show for over two decades. The Pedigree advertisements, showing quaking and abused homeless pets, are in stark contrast to the coddled and cosseted animals that strut around Madison Square Garden during the two-day show, which begins on Monday.

“Show me an ad with a dog with a smile; don’t try to shame me,” Mr. Frei told The A.P. The kennel club had expressed its concerns to Pedigree, he said, adding, “We told them that, and they ignored us.”

Some Sites with a less scrooge-like attitude-

I have mixed feelings.  I kinda miss visiting my doggie friend who has the best behaved medium size dog I’ve had the pleasure to meet, but he is enthusiastic and playful and easily distracted.  I like dogs for the most part because they’re loyal and dependable and easily trained once you understand them.

I’m too undiscipled be a good trainer, besides I’m very indulgent.

Unconditional love comes with high maintainance though.  They don’t amuse themselves very well and pine for you when you’re away.  Cats do the same but are more subtle about it.  They’re there to train their people.

For me watching Westminster is annual tradition going back to my misspent youth when my brewing buddy and I would call up the cable company starting weeks before in a dedicated campaign to harass them into carring it.  Worked a couple of times.

Tonight I don’t have good results on finding a streaming site.  There is a live Canadian feed because of tape delay on Animal Planet (from here and here).  Good luck with that, couldn’t begin to tell you how to construct a proxy for it.  On Cable coverage is split between USA 8 – 9 (bumped for Monday Night RAW) and CNBC 9 – 11.  CNBC will rebroadcast it in its entirety from midnight to 2 am, USA from 8 – 11 am tomorrow.

I haven’t found a current list of all the contenders either and sometimes I don’t get the names of each dog.  I think I remember that they take each breed alphabetically in the list and that’s how the pretty tables below are arranged.

Puppy pictures are encouraged, directions here.