Happy Easter Sunday…Reads

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Good Morning and Happy Easter

(Cute illustration eh? Little fucking rabbits…or should I say little rabbits fucking? Well, about to at least.) Oh my, that is a bit too sordid for an Easter Morn, is it not? I don’t know, everything is still a bit hazy since Bebe got back from Chicago.  I have a couple of extra teenage “other people munchkins.” Friends of my son spending the entire long weekend with us…lets just say the big ham is already gone, and it is now 2 am Saturday night.

Vintage Easter Cards (14)The pictures for today’s post are from the 1920’s and 1930’s, that will tie in later. Let’s just kick off shall we?

Quick links to headlines:

Voice of America is reporting: 17 More Bodies Recovered from Sunken S. Korean Ferry, Death Toll at 50

While CNN has the figure up two : Death toll from South Korean ferry sinking rises to 52

This next article from the Irish Times is big news:  Third mate was steering ferry for first time ever before capsize

In the grocers corner, NY Times: General Mills Reverses Itself on Consumers’ Right to Sue

Enjoy your bacon and OJ now, because that stuff is going to get even more expensive: The 10 Fastest Rising Food Prices – 24/7 Wall St.

But that is okay, because you probably will not be able to afford the bacon anyway…since you have to deal with this shit: After foreclosure crisis, renters suffer under Wall Street landlords | Al Jazeera America

The poster child for the foreclosure crisis has been a middle-income suburban family. But low-income urban renters also saw their buildings over-mortgaged at the height of the crisis, and now faceless hedge funds and nameless investors are replacing their desperate landlords — sometimes with disastrous consequences.Vintage-Easter-with-Chicks-and-blimp

Six years after the foreclosure crisis helped tank the world’s economy, investors are snatching up “distressed” properties — those that are in foreclosure or facing foreclosure — and seeking to turn a profit on them. Advocates for affordable housing worry that this profit comes at the expense of tenants.

Joanna Paulino knows this all too well. She lives in a lower-income neighborhood in the Bronx borough of New York City. Her home is a prewar building, a once attractive structure like many others in the city’s outer boroughs. But after years of neglect, it is crumbling; there are more than 140 violations registered against the premises.

Pathetic and disturbing.

Over the last several months, Wall Street firms have snapped up an estimated 200,000 single-family homes with the intention of renting them out. The New York–based hedge fund easter-witch-10pBlackstone Group is now America’s largest landlord of rental homes after purchasing over 40,000 foreclosed single-family homes in 14 metro areas around the country, from Atlanta to Phoenix, to convert into rental properties. But certain investors are also snatching up “distressed” urban rental buildings like the one where Paulino lives in the South Bronx. Unbeknownst to many low-income renters, their buildings were over-mortgaged during the bubble. In New York, many of those buildings are due for refinancing now — making them vulnerable to acquisition by hedge funds.

“Since these buildings are so over-mortgaged,” said Harold Shultz, an affordable-housing expert who works with the Citizens Housing Planning Council of New York, “the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to be refinanced.”

Desperate landlords and banks are looking for new owners and investors. And Wall Street is ready to step in and help out.

These groups often purchase buildings sight unseen, with little knowledge of the conditions a foreclosed building might be in. Sometimes, especially in the case of apartments, foreclosures can take years to resolve.

So while old owners, banks and new owners or investors sort out the debt, buildings languish in disrepair. And when an agreement is eventually reached, there is no guarantee for tenants that conditions will improve.

a860979fb322efa0d91f46f82ff54f11That is just a couple of excerpts. Go and read the whole thing.

I will use those last few stories to tie into the post that Boston Boomer wrote Friday: Friday Reads: American Oligarchy, South Korean Tragedy, and Hillary Under the Microscope | Sky Dancing

Where she focused her post primarily on the study results of Martin Gilins and Benjamin I. Page of Princeton and Northwestern Universities, and a recent article by Larry Bartels, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.

The word Oligarchy and its various forms were used heavily throughout. (I always have to sound out the word oligarchy in my head when I am reading that word to myself. Even then I am not confident my mind’s voice is pronouncing it correctly.) ;)

On Friday I found this op/ed while looking for cartoons and it struck a chord, but it did not give an answer: How Not to Talk About Wealth Inequality by Tina Dupuy

 

Have you heard we live in an oligarchy? Perhaps you’ve been told America is a plutocracy? Is that because of widespread demagogy?

Circumlocution: a big word meaning using unnecessarily lofty words to express an idea.

137658 600 How Not to Talk About Wealth Inequality cartoons

Pat Bagley / Salt Lake Tribune

Welcome to the baffling world of liberal-speak.

Oligarchy, plutocracy and demagogy: The holy trinity of sesquipedalian polysyllable liberal loquaciousness.

This language liberals, in particular, have chosen to talk about elitism is, well, really snooty. When we talk about a tiny fraction of people having undue influence on our politics—we use words barely anyone understands.

Marinade in that irony. It’s like if we were broadcasting NASCAR only in Latin. Oligarchy? That sounds like a German cabbage dish. Demagoguery sounds like a flourish in square dancing. Plutocracy sounds like we should just be friends.

I write for a living and these words make my eyes glaze over. And they’re used all time, often by well-meaning liberal-types attempting to advocate for the have-less in this nation. Case in point: Paul Krugman. His columns “Oligarchs and Money,” “Oligarchy, American Style” and “Graduates Versus the Oligarchs”—do cover how economic policies favor a fraction of 1 percent of Americans but his go-to word is comprehended by even fewer.

Go see what else Tina has to say. One thing she does not mention is some examples of substitutes for Oligarchs, Oligarchy etc.

More on this after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »


Wednesday Morning Reads: Egypt, Lego and 1.6 Trillion Suns

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Morning Y’all!

After spending last night watching Lost in America...it made me think about Skippy, the manager at the Der Wienerschnitzel and those frozen fries, you know, the importance of details that make you great at your job.  (If you forgot the scene I am talking about, the manager of the hot dog joint tells Albert Brooks just how wonderful his wife, Julie Hagerty, is…because of her attention to details, she noticed he had served “frozen” fries…with bits of ice inside of them.)

I wonder if Bank of America’s Bryan Moynihan, had such an attention to detail, but according to this article by Matt Taibbi, it looks like attention to detail is obviously not essential to a CEO…snark.  Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan Apparently Can’t Remember Anything | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

Thank God for Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. If you’re a court junkie, or have the misfortune (as some of us poor reporters do) of being forced professionally to spend a lot of time reading legal documents, the just-released Moynihan deposition in MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters will go down as one of the great Nixonian-stonewalling efforts ever, and one of the more entertaining reads of the year.

In this long-awaited interrogation – Bank of America has been fighting to keep Moynihan from being deposed in this case for some time – Moynihan does a full Star Trek special, boldly going where no deponent has ever gone before, breaking out the “I don’t recall” line more often and perhaps more ridiculously than was previously thought possible. Moynihan seems to remember his own name, and perhaps his current job title, but beyond that, he’ll have to get back to you.

Yes, the key to holding a top executive position is being able to recite the phrase, “I don’t recall,” over and over again. I am not a fan of Matt Taibbi, but this article did make me laugh.
Anyway, over in Egypt, President Morsi leaves palace as police battle protesters.

Egyptian police battled thousands of protesters outside President Mohamed Mursi’s palace in Cairo on Tuesday, prompting the Islamist leader to leave the building, presidency sources said.

Officers fired teargas at up to 10,000 demonstrators angered by Mursi’s drive to hold a referendum on a new constitution on December 15. Some broke through police lines around his palace and protested next to the perimeter wall.

The crowds had gathered nearby in what organizers had dubbed “last warning” protests against Mursi, who infuriated opponents with a November 22 decree that expanded his powers. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” the demonstrators chanted.

“The president left the palace,” a presidential source, who declined to be named, told Reuters. A security source at the presidency also said the president had departed.

Since this is a “fluid” situation, I will update this story down below in the comments.
Like a house of cards, things in the Mideast are precariously unstable…let’s move on to a topic that has some strength behind it. I am talking about those little plastic pieces that always seem underfoot, Legos:  How tall can a Lego tower get?
A 32.5m tall tower made of Lego in Prague
Building Lego towers is a competitive business – this one in Prague, at 32.5m, may be the tallest to date

It’s not just children who like to build towers with Lego – the internet is alive with discussion on how many Lego bricks, stacked one on top of the other, it would take to destroy the bottom brick. So what’s the answer?

There has been a burning debate on the social news website Reddit.

It’s a trivial question you might think, but one the Open University’s engineering department has – at the request of the BBC’s More or Less programme – fired up its labs to try to answer.

“It’s an exciting thing to do because it’s an entirely new question and new questions are always interesting,” says Dr Ian Johnston, an applied mathematician and lecturer in engineering.

The article goes into some detail on how the test were conducted, so if you are interested…check it out. I will go ahead and spoil it for y’all…just how tall is this mighty tower of legos?

The average maximum force the bricks can stand is 4,240N. That’s equivalent to a mass of 432kg (950lbs). If you divide that by the mass of a single brick, which is 1.152g, then you get the grand total of bricks a single piece of Lego could support: 375,000.

So, 375,000 bricks towering 3.5km (2.17 miles) high is what it would take to break a Lego brick.

A graphic showing the height of the Lego tower, the height of Mount Olympus, the height at which Felix Baumgartner pulled his parachute, and the Eiffel Tower
That is one big ass tower of plastic.
And while we are on the subject of height or distance, it looks like Voyager is in the news again. Voyager discovers ‘magnetic highway’ at edge of solar system

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has encountered a “magnetic highway” at the edge of the solar system, a surprising discovery 35 years after its launch, the experts behind the pioneering craft said Monday.

Earlier this year a surge in a key indicator fueled hopes that the craft was nearing the so-called heliopause, which marks the boundary between our solar system and outer space.

But instead of slipping away from the bubble of charged particles the Sun blows around itself, Voyager encountered something completely unexpected.

This is amazing…think about how far Voyager has gone.

The craft’s daily radio reports sent back evidence that the Sun’s magnetic field lines was connected to interstellar magnetic fields. Lower-energy charged particles were zooming out and higher-energy particles from outside were streaming in.

They called it a magnetic highway because charged particles outside this region bounced around in all directions, as if trapped on local roads inside the bubble, or heliosphere.

“Although Voyager 1 still is inside the Sun’s environment, we now can taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway,” said Edward Stone, a Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

Imagine, traveling 11 miles a second!  Voyager Discovers New Region of Solar System

We got ourselves all excited for NASA’s Mars press conference today, even though we already knew it wasn’t about life on the red planet, but what we should have been paying attention to was happening nearly 11.5 billion miles away in the heliosphere. The Voyager 1 spacecraft has encountered a new region of our solar system. What’s even more exciting is that NASA scientists believe this region is the final barrier between Voyager and interstellar space. That’s so much more impressive than chlorine on Mars.

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is now so far out into space that light from the Sun takes over 34 hours to reach it. NASA debated whether this new region should still be considered part of our solar system, but project scientist Edward Stone makes the call by saying, “Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun’s environment, we now can taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway.”

The scientists believe that Voyager will pass out of the solar system within the next two months or so. I’ve got one more space link for you this morning, it is about our Galaxy the Milky Way,  New estimate suggests Milky Way mass of 1.6 trillion suns

Panorama of Milky Way from the inside: a mosaic of multiple shots on large-format film, comprising all 360 degrees of the galaxy from our vantage point. More about this image here. Image Credit: Digital Sky LLC via Wikimedia Commons

Our home galaxy the Milky Way is thought to be approximately 100,000 light-years wide and about 1,000 light-years thick. You often hear the estimate that the mass of our galaxy is equal to several billion suns, but some estimates have ranged up to twice that high, or even higher. Now some astronomers are suggesting a mass for the Milky Way of 1.6 trillion suns. The estimate isn’t just for stars but also includes the mass of our Milky Way’s invisible dark halo. It’s based on the first-ever measurement of the proper motion, or sideways motion along our line of sight, of a small galaxy satellite galaxy to our Milky Way. Ken Croswell reported on the role of this small galaxy – called Leo I – yesterday (December 3, 2012) in Scientific American.

There is a lot of information in that article, be sure to go and read the whole thing.

The rest of today’s post will be in link dump fashion…

An Amazing New Use for Ecstasy- Helping women deal with PTSD after rape.

Big Pharma Company Mocked Patients Who Got “Jawbone Death” from Drug: “Ma Toot Hurts So Bad” – Merck couldn’t care less about the patients…as long as they could make more money.

Noam Chomsky: What the American Media Won’t Tell You About Israel -Decades of hell in Gaza.

New research shows corrosion may accelerate failures at Fukushima Daiichi- Great…and guess what? There is nothing that can be done about it.

Be sure you read these couple of links on the NFL murder suicide this past weekend:

Jovan Belcher: Murder is Domestic Violence [by @QuadCityPat] | Angry Black Lady Chronicles

If you only read one thing about the Kasandra Perkins murder- Feministe

Regarding privacy in America…Laptop seizures by US government highlight 9/11-era climate of fear | Glenn Greenwald

And lastly, a bit of history…. Disability history month: Was Tamerlane disabled?

Tamerlane – derived from his nickname Timur the Lame – rose from obscurity to become a 14th Century conqueror of nations, who piled high the skulls of his enemies. It was quite a feat at a time when physical prowess was prized, writes Justin Marozzi.

Think of the greatest conquerors of all time and chances are you’ll quickly list Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. It is rather less likely, unless you come from Central Asia or the Muslim world more widely, that you’d spare a thought for Tamerlane.

Yet in many ways this Tartar warlord, born near Samarkand in 1336 in what is now Uzbekistan, outshone both the Macedonian king and the Mongol warlord.

Lots of links, I know…but it is a busy time of the year, and if you can’t take it all in one shot…come back during the day when you have the time. And be sure to share the things you are reading about today…


Late Night Reads: Obama phones and mortgage settlements

¡Hola!

I have a couple of things to bring you tonight, one of them is on an old topic…that I never paid attention to before. But, my very dear friend was asking me about it, and of course I wanted to get the right information. The rest of my highlights are on the BOA mortgage settlements…but first this.

As you all know, the death of Savita Halappanavar hit me hard. I took it very personal because my situation was similar, only my fetus was not in the process of a miscarriage, it was an ectopic that was just at the opening of my fallopian tube at the uterus. So there is actually no way I could have gotten my medically necessary abortion if I was in Ireland.

I sent the Irish Embassy Foreign Affairs a message about my disgust at the death of a woman which could have been prevented. They sent me an email back…

Dear JJ Lopez Minkoff

Your e-mail below refers.

The Irish Government has extended its sympathies to the family of Ms. Savita Halappanavar on their loss.

Two investigations are currently underway in order to establish the facts in relation to this case and to identify the factors that contributed to this tragic death. In addition, a Coroner’s Inquest will take place into the matter.

The Minister for Health and Children has indicated that the outcome of the investigation reports must be awaited before commenting further. The investigation teams will work closely with Ms. Halappanavar’s family at all times and keep them fully informed of the terms of reference of the investigations.

Yours sincerely,

Ralph Victory
Press & Information Officer
Embassy of Ireland
Washington D.C.

______________________________

__________
From: feedback@dfa.ie [feedback@dfa.ie]
Sent: 14 November 2012 15:23
To: #WASHINGTON EM External Mail
Subject: FeedbackYour name:: JJ Lopez Minkoff
Your email address:: minkoffminx@gmail.com
Query/Comment:: It is appalling that in this modern era a woman will die because of the religious beliefs of others…Savita Halappanavar should be alive today. Instead she suffered pain and torture at the hands of your country’s archaic anti-abortion laws and an obvious lack of humanity by hospital doctors and staff. Shame on them.
Sigh, here is the latest on Savita from RH Reality Check, with a link to their coverage of the case: Death in Ireland is a Wake Up Call to Fight Bans on Later Abortion Here at Home

See all our coverage of the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar here.

Recent press about the death of Savita Halappanavar, admitted to a hospital in Ireland with medical complications in a 17-week pregnancy, is a grim reminder about the impact of abortion restrictions on women’s lives.

In Ireland, abortion is legal only to save a woman’s life. In the last two years in the United States, nine states have passed laws banning abortion after 20 weeks (in Arizona abortion is banned after 18 weeks) except to save a woman’s life. But as the death of Ms. Halappanavar so poignantly illustrates, “risk to a woman’s life” in emergency situations is extremely difficult to assess.

I have no more to say on this sad…tragic end of a life…a grown woman’s life.
As far as the item I mentioned up top, my friend who lives in the fields of corn, was talking about Obama Phones. Apparently, there was some video that went viral before the election… About a black woman talking about getting her free cell phone. There was some meme going on from the folks at Fox News and other GOP mouthpieces that Obama was giving free cell phones to poor people, so that he could secure their vote. So I did a quick look and found out the truth. Notice, the first link is from Forbes, which is in no way considered a lefty rag:
Crazy For “Obama Phones” – But Are They For Real? – Forbes

In the video, an alleged Obama supporter screams about her “Obama phone” at a rally in Ohio. She tells a reporter, “Keep Obama in president, you know! He gave us a phone, he’s gonna do more.”

The video made news this week as taxpayers grow increasingly uncomfortable with the so-called “47%” – those folks who supposedly rely on the government for entitlements. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney described those folks as:

[D]ependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it

She went on to shriek, “Everybody in Cleveland, low minorities, got Obama phones…”

It was a great sound byte. But it’s deeply flawed. The “Obama phone” program she’s touting doesn’t give out free phones to minorities. And it wasn’t started by President Obama. And this rumor isn’t new.

Of course it isn’t true…

reported months ago, there is a law in place to help low-income customers have access to basic telephone service. It’s divided into two programs: Link-Up America and Lifeline.

Link-Up assists consumers with the installation costs of phone service. The program pays up to $30 of the cost of installation and up to $200 in the form of a one year, interest-free loan for additional installation costs.

Lifeline provides discounts on basic monthly service at a primary residence for qualified telephone customers. These discounts can be up to $10.00 per month, or more for certain Native Americans. Generally, to qualify, your income must be at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines (these vary by location and size of family but for comparison, rings in at $22,350 for a family of four in the lower 48).

In some instances, coverage may include discounts for cell phone service instead of land lines at primary residences because realistically, cell phone service is less expensive in some areas than traditional service. Eligibility and type of program may vary from state to state – and this is why there is a flurry of confusion about the program being a product of the Obama administration. In Florida, for example, cell phone service was added to the existing program – in 2008, the year that Obama was elected to office. The conclusion from many folks was that it was a new federal program. It was not. It was an expansion of the existing program and implemented on a state by state basis.

This program started back in 1996…

The federal program wasn’t started by President Obama. It dates back to 1996, as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Act did a number of things, including increasing internet access to doctors and patients in rural hospitals (for consults with specialists); subsidizing internet and phone coverage for schools and libraries and providing free or subsidized coverage for families who can’t afford it so that they have links to emergency and government services. The Act was not taxpayer funded… exactly. Taxpayers do pay for coverage but not via federal income taxes. Instead, the Act “mandated the creation of the universal service fund (USF) into which all telecommunications providers are required to contribute a percentage of their interstate and international end-user telecommunications revenues.” So that little fee on your phone bill labeled USF? That’s what you’re paying for.

There is more detail here: Obama Phone: Urban Legend or Real?

Notice that earlier we said Link-Up helps fund “installation.” What installation does a cell phone have? None. So why is installation part of Link-Up, which is under the Lifeline program umbrella? Because, the whole thing began back in 1996 when the Federal Communications Commission authorized the programs for landline phones. At that time it provided discounts on landline phones only, for obvious reasons.

To this day the government provides discounts on landline phones for financially disadvantaged people in the United States and U.S. territories. The Link-Up portion helps with the installation and the Lifeline Assistance part helps with the monthly bills, to the tune of roughly ten dollars a month.

So, the subsidization of phones began under President Clinton, and has continued under Presidents Bush and Obama.

Over that time, the usage of cell phones rose and the costs came down. Assuming one believes in the Lifeline program in the first place, and remembering that the FCC has mandated the program, it only makes sense to expand the phone assistance program to include cell phones. So, in 2008 the first application of this program for mobile phones began when a company called Tracfone started their Safelink Wireless service in Tennessee.
Aha, some say, that’s the same year Obama was elected! Well, that’s true. But the service in Tennessee was launched three months prior to Obama being elected. And that means the discussion and approval of the extension of the program occurred under President Bush’s watch.

The Bush Phone, anyone?

As the Forbes article points out, there is legislation proposed to stop the Lifeline phone program, brought forward by Republican congress members, none of which are from Ohio.

On now to the mortgage stuff. Two items of interest, first Mortgage refinancing bill on hold in Senate

The Senate is postponing work on a mortgage refinancing bill that Democrats argue would help millions of homeowners and accelerate the economic recovery until after they return from the Thanksgiving holiday.

The measure, which was expected to be one of the first votes to take place when the upper chamber returns from its recess, is getting pushed off while a sportsmen’s bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is completed this week.

There is still the possibility that the mortgage bill, which has been touted by the Obama administration as an easy avenue to help struggling homeowners, could come up next month when Congress tilts its agenda toward averting a drop off the fiscal cliff.

I hope that this bill, if it does pass has some way to hold the banks accountable for the amount of modifications/refinances they do CLOSE, not just mod applications they take.

Speaking of which, the basturds at Bank of America have sent out alerts about the class action lawsuit they settled over the summer. Yes, we got one…and I can only hope my parents will get some sort of relief for the hell BOA put them through.

Yes, Banks Are Paying “Penalties” in Foreclosure Fraud Settlement With Other People’s Money

This one offers a bit of vindication. I cannot tell you how much grief I got from “official sources” over the clear reality that banks would be able to pay off their penalties in the foreclosure fraud settlement with investor money. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan flat-out said it, and then had to backtrack and obfuscate. But it was clearly set up by the terms of the settlement. Banks would get credit under the settlement for modifying loans in private label mortgage backed securities, which means the investors take the hit.

This became more clear in Bank of America’s side deal, where they would reduce their penalty through modifying loans they don’t own:

The expanded program could allow Bank of America to avoid paying $350 million in penalties tied to the foreclosure settlement and half of a separate $1 billion penalty related to a settlement of false claims filed on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, if the bank meets certain targets. Many of the write-downs will be made on loans originated by Countrywide Financial Corp., which Bank of America acquired in 2008, and then packaged into securities. BofA will also reduce balances on loans it owns […]

Some fund managers feel it is unfair for banks, which serviced mortgages on behalf of investors, to use those same loans to meet their obligations under the settlement. “The fact that a servicer has done a poor job has already impacted borrowers and our investors,” said BlackRock Managing Director Randy Robertson, who declined to speak specifically about the Bank of America agreement. “To ask investors to pay for banks’ fines in any form seems inappropriate and incorrect—we have very serious issues with that.”

BofA made a settlement deal with its own investors for $8.5 billion (one that’s still tied up in court), that they claim makes those loans eligible for write-downs without even having to get investor consent on a case-by-case basis. It’s probable that these write-offs could be beneficial to the investor, or NPV-positive, to use the technical term. But they’re still paying for BofA’s misconduct.

Have I said how much I hate these BOA ratfukkerz!

BofA started this process back in May by mailing letters to people with loans that they “owned or serviced.” In other words, they would reduce balances on loans they didn’t own, and get credit under the settlement. Sure enough, as American Banker reports today, writing about BofA’s compliance with the settlement:

In a surprising revelation, the Charlotte, N.C., lender also said that more than half of the nearly $5 billion in principal reductions will be paid for by investors, not the bank itself. That matters little to delinquent borrowers who saw their monthly payments reduced, but it is sure to anger investors who have argued that they should not have to be punished for banks’ mistakes.

Whether B of A’s report is indicative of progress other banks are making in complying with the landmark settlement won’t be known until Joseph A. Smith, the settlement’s monitor, issues his own progress report on Monday.

It’s actually not surprising. BofA has been planning this for months. All of the indications in their side deal showed they would get off the hook for billions in principal reductions by laying the cost off on investors.

Dayen feels “vindicated” in his prediction of just this scenario, you can read more at the link. Personally I feel so disgusted with these bankster crooks, that goes for Obama too, for letting them get away with this shit.

Two more items, quick questions…am I the only one who is disturbed by the use of Twitter to announce Israel’s attack on Gaza?

The Tweets Of War –

The Israeli military’s use of social media to send chilling messages to Hamas continues:

We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.

The IDF’s Twitter account is not without its dissenters:

Good lord. It’s official, the Israeli army spokesperson has turned Gaza operation name into a hashtag

But apparently, the better translation is “pillar of cloud” or “pillar of smoke”. And there’s this of course, put out by the IDF:

Jabarifb1-640x640

And they posted a video of that assassination, which we embedded here. I think Israel has a right to self-defense against the rockets being randomly fired toward their civilian population. But I do not recognize the Western concepts of just war and self-defense in these macho posturings about war. There is a relish about the use of disproportionate technology and force that I suppose tells us something about what living under siege can do to the psyches of human beings. The dehumanization of the enemy is also helped in part by distant electronic and video monitoring and broadcasting of deaths on the ground, as if this were a video game. It makes me think again about the question of the moral use of drone warfare.

And it’s hard to disagree with this tweeter:

Screen shot 2012-11-15 at 12.33.51 PM

I believe that Youtube has taken the IDF video down…I really do not want to get into a discussion about the timing and events that lead up to this attack, however, the use of twitter and the PR #hashtag branding of this war makes me sick.

One last link for you, and I can’t wait to see this on Fox and Friends, come on Gretchen get pissed off! Chick-fil-A Declares War on Christmas

For many Religious Right groups, Christmas is not so much a time to celebrate Immanuel than it is to raise money by fomenting outrage when shops use slogans like “happy holidays.” The American Family Association has a “Naughty or Nice” list to stir up consumers to boycott companies which are “against Christmas” and yesterday Liberty Counsel announced its “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign,” targeting public spaces which “censor” Christmas and selling their “Help Save Christmas Acton Pack.”

As Jeremy Hooper noted yesterday, it appears that the Religious Right’s most beloved fast food chain, Chick-fil-A, has indeed declared war on Christmas. In their horrific assault on Christmas, the company released a statement celebrating the “holiday season” that doesn’t once include the word “Christmas” and also pushed out a press release about “holiday gift giving,” again failing to mention “Christmas.” Even their online ads are clear affronts to Christmas!

We will wait to see whether LC or the AFA decide to be consistent with their boycott calls and paint Chick-fil-A as the season’s latest Grinch, but we won’t hold our breath, especially since Newt Gingrich, a proud foot soldier in the “War on Christmas,” escaped judgment when his company Gingrich Productions declared war on Christmas, and both LC chairman Mat Staver and AFA founder Don Wildmon endorsed him.

How dare those cows leave out the name of Christ in their seasonal greeting! I am sure they could get a bucket of paint and splash up some words of Noel for the Holiday Season.  I wonder if they would call it Knowell? or Kristmose?


A Thursday Afternoon Link Dump…

Good evening, y’all!

It’s a new season, by that I mean basketball. So tonight I am off to watch my daughter cheer for her b-ball team here in Banjoville.

Tonight’s reads have a mixture of stories for you, and I hope that you find them interesting.

I’ve got a couple of stories on dinosaurs, one real and one metaphorical…I start the post with one…and finish with one, you know how I have to have some sort of method to my madness.

On that dinosaur they call the GOP, this op/ed from Alex Jakubowski at the Daily Caller caught my eye, of all the shit spewing from the mouths of the right, this was the one voice that had any sort of genuine reason and thought. Give it a read in full, and then take a peek at the comments…of course it will never reach through those right-wing nut’s thick skulls, but it is nice to think so…anyway, here it is: My father’s party

We lost. We lost in 2008. We lost in 2012. We can say we won in 2010, but why bother? What gains did we achieve? How did we really help everyday Americans by replacing the Democratic-controlled House with a Republican one? The answer: We didn’t. We didn’t pass a single piece of important legislation and we did nothing to improve the quality of life for the American people.

[…]

I have been a Republican for as long as I can remember. As far back as fourth grade I remember listening to my father talk about capitalism, individualism, and the pursuit of the dream that makes America different from every other place on Earth. Though I didn’t quite understand why at the time, my father instilled these ideas in me in order to teach me why I should always be proud of my country, the only country willing to take my family in after the terrible atrocities we faced in the Holocaust. My father has always been a Republican, and in many ways I inherited my beliefs from him.

But the party my father raised me in was never a party of absolutes: our party was one of progress, one of thought, and most of all one that believed that compromise was a trait to be honored, not despised. My father’s party, and the one I have claimed to be a part of for years, was never ashamed to work with others to do what was right, and what would move the American people forward.

Every day I have conversations with liberal friends who have vastly different beliefs than I do about the ideal way to solve the problems our great country faces. We talk about welfare and government dependence; we talk about taxes and shared sacrifice; we talk about immigration and national security; yet never once has any of my countless conversations with friends resulted in anything but an honest, open conversation about ways we can put aside our ideological differences to find a middle ground — one on which we can move forward for the benefit of all.

But in the end we always realize that our grand conversations, our amazing ideas of compromise and political altruism are all for naught. With both parties as they are now, none of our grand ideas have any chance of becoming a political reality. In a world where simply working with the other side is seen as a political liability, how can we hope to move forward as a generation?

He talks about the need for moderation, understanding and compromise…which is far from the rest of the articles and commentary out there after Romney lost the election.
As a life-long Republican, and after enduring two straight embarrassing losses, I can no longer sit by and wait for things to change. The party in which I was raised did not dictate to others how they must set policies on immigration, marriage, and abortion; the party in which I was raised thought sensibly about how to work with the other side and compromise, achieving at least in part the goals of all for the sake of the nation. As a dear friend and fellow moderate Republican recently said in an argument I have become far too familiar with, “Disagreement is not a threat to your own views.” In fact, disagreement is what can propel us forward, what can drive us to discover what policies can truly change our society for the better.

If our party is to truly change, as it is now clear it must, our focus needs to change as well. No longer can we count on a conservative, Evangelical base to provide the necessary votes to sweep a candidate into office. The party must abandon its hardline positions on abortion, immigration, gay marriage, and many other issues — many of which alienate those who are supposed to make up the future of our movement. Perhaps none said it better than moderate Republican Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado: “After tonight, the GOP had better figure out that a big tent sounds good but if there aren’t any seats in it, what good is it?” We must learn to embrace the fact that no matter our disagreements, those on the other side of any issue are not our opponents — they are our friends. No matter the difference, no matter the issue, we can and have to work together.

The United States has always moved forward on the premise that we can do better; I know now that we can, and I hope that together, we will.

Hey, that kind of talk will get you run out on a rail in the Fox News world, but I do think the possibilities of a “better tomorrow, tomorrow” are a reasonable hope some of us can have. Even if it is only a pipe dream.

More on the dinosaur party and it’s fanatics:

It’s Rove’s Fault! Bush’s Brain Is in the GOP Crosshairs

Why Does the GOP Keep Generating Extremists?

Jon Stewart: There Was an Avalanche on Fox News’ Bullsh*# Mountain on Election Night

The last days of Romneyland

Dumb Money, Mission Accomplished

California to reform a law on Tuesday, one I think is very good. California Voters Scrap Draconian “Three Strikes” Law

After nearly 20 years and over $20 billion spent, California voters have voted overwhelmingly to reform our state’s draconian “three strikes” law. The statewide ballot measure,  Proposition 36 , delivered a two-to-one mandate (68.6%-31.4%) to close a controversial loophole in the law so that life sentences can only be imposed when the new felony conviction is “serious or violent.”

Three strikes laws, often known as habitual offender laws, grew out of the “tough on crime” era of the 1980s and 90s. Between 1993 and 1995, 24 states passed some kind of three strikes law, but California’s 1994 three strikes ballot measure was especially harsh.

While the 1994  law required the first and second strike to be either violent or serious, any infraction could trigger a third strike and the life sentence that went with it. Therefore, petty offenses – such as stealing a piece of pizza – have led to life imprisonment for thousands of people.

Read more at the link, the best thing is that people who have been given life for petty crimes are able to request a lesser sentence, that is very fair in my opinion and in the end will help with prison overcrowding. So this should be good for many all around.

Many New York hospitals are still without power: New York’s Ongoing Blackout: Hospitals in Lower Manhattan

And there is new documents released in connection with HARP: Read the Documents Treasury Has Been Keeping Secret

This next post from the Grio made me smile…Sasha Obama’s Election Night advice to president caught on tape: ‘Behind you!’

President Barack Obama walks on stage with daughter Sasha to deliver his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)President Barack Obama walks on stage with daughter Sasha to deliver his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It was a quick but instantly memorable moment on Election Night.

When President Barack Obama and the first family greeted an enormous crowd of supporters after being re-elected, his 11-year-old daughter Sasha got his famous enlarged ear and said “Behind you!”

The president quickly turned and acknowledged a big group of supporters he had previously ignored and waved to them, eliciting big cheers.

On a historical note, check out this abstract from Medieval.net: Of Kings and Popes and Law

Abstract: During the latter half of the 11th century through to the end of the 13th century, Europe was experiencing what is considered by some historians as “the” medieval renaissance, otherwise referred to as the European Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. The time appears to have been ripe for an explosion of cultural and intellectual advancement and change. Two fields that experienced significant development during that period were law and governance, both secular and ecclesiastical.

In England, the period which most legal historians consider to be the key formative years of the common law was the reign of King Henry II. Indeed, Sir William Holdsworth credits Henry II for “substituting one common law for that confused mass of local customs of which the law of England had formerly consisted”. But as R.H. Helmholz said, “legal history, like any other, is a history of winners, and the history of the losing side is often overlooked. That we only hint of the history of the canon law by reference to the common law is a fact of life and not to be lamented”. However, he admonishes us not to ignore the intrinsic importance of the jurisdiction once exercised by the courts of the Church in the development of the law of England.

I take up Helmholz’ challenge in this thesis and examine the relationship that developed between the English royal authorities and the Latin (Western) Christian Church from the beginning of the reign of Edward the Confessor to the end of the reign of King John. Through a review of cases reported by the Selden Society from the royal courts of Henry II, Richard I and John, I then focus my research on the 62 year period between the beginning of the reign of Henry II and the death of John, and consider the influence of the Church and State relationship on the structure and processes of the developing English royal law and its scope.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Victoria

Henry Plantagenet has always fascinated me…maybe it was my interest in his wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine that caused me to admire Henry, but there it is.

And finally, that other dinosaur: New Dinosaur Xenoceratops Discovered In Canada

Everybody, meet Xenoceratops foremostensis, a brand new species of ceratopsid, or horned dinosaur, discovered in the plentiful fossil beds of Canada. Weighing in at 2 tons and about 20 feet long, Xenoceratops — meaning “alien-horned face” — lived about 80 million years ago, making it one of the oldest big-bodied horned dinosaurs known to paleontologists.

Though it has only recently been identified as a separate species, xenoceratops was identified from fossils discovered in 1958, only to be misidentified for several decades before taking its rightful place as a separate species.

Well, that is all I have time for, catch ya later in the comments!

This is an open thread.


Wednesday Reads: Obama Talks, BP Rigs, and Looney does a bit of soul searching.

Good Morning!

President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan yesterday:

President Obama Visits Kabul to Sign Partnership with Afghanistan – NYTimes.com

…the document Mr. Obama signed with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan during the whirlwind visit was formally titled the “Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement.” It is meant to address the United States’ role even after the American-led alliance ends its combat role in 2014.

You can read the text of the Presidents speech here:

Text – Obama’s Speech in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com

The latest out of the mouths of Romney supporters, and by that I am talking the kind of supporters who show that support with moola. Via Think Progress:

Former Bain Capital Director And Top Romney Donor Pens Book Calling For Even More Income Inequality 

Income inequality in the United States has skyrocketed over the last several decades and especially since the Great Recession, so much so that it is now worse than in Ivory Coast and Pakistan. It may even be worse than it was in Ancient Rome, a society built on slave labor.

That income inequality is crushing the middle class and its political power. But don’t tell that to Edward Conard, a top donor to presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who gained notoriety during the campaign as a million-dollar mystery donor who set up a shell company to shield his identity. Conard, a former director at the Romney-founded Bain Capital, is working on a new book in which he argues that income inequality is a good thing, and what the U.S. really needs is more of it, the New York Times’ Adam Davidson reports…

Romney’s Former Bain Partner Makes a Case for Inequality – Here is the article that is mentioned up top. I wanted to bring this chunk of crap to your attention first…I wonder what Dak will think about Conrad’s explanation of what happened in 2008:

Every once in a while, this system breaks down. For one reason or another, the savers panic and demand all their money back. This causes a massive problem because the money isn’t sitting at the bank; it’s out in the world in the form of long-term loans. “A lot of people don’t realize that what happened in 2008 was nearly identical to what happened in 1929,” he says. “Depositors ran to the bank to withdraw their money only to discover, like the citizens of Bedford Falls” — referring to the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” — “that there was no money in the vault. All that money had been lent.”

In 2008 it was large pension funds, insurance companies and other huge institutional investors that withdrew in panic. Conard argues in retrospect that it was these withdrawals that led to the crisis — not, as so many others have argued, an orgy of irresponsible lending. He points to the fact that, according to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, banks lost $320 billion through mortgage-backed securities, but withdrawals disproportionately amounted to five times that. This stance, which largely absolves the banks, is not shared by many analysts. Regardless, Conard told me: “The banks did what we wanted them to do. They put short-term money back into the economy. What they didn’t expect is that depositors would withdraw their money, because they hadn’t withdrawn their money en masse since 1929.”

Conard concedes that the banks made some mistakes, but the important thing now, he says, is to provide them even stronger government support. He advocates creating a new government program that guarantees to bail out the banks if they ever face another run. As for exotic derivatives, Conard doesn’t see a problem. He argues that collateralized-debt obligations, credit-default swaps, mortgage-backed securities and other (now deemed toxic) financial products were fundamentally sound. They were new tools that served a market need for the world’s most sophisticated investors, who bought them in droves. And they didn’t cause the panic anyway, he says; the withdrawals did.

Hmmmmm…Wasn’t there a song in Mary Poppins about causing a “run on the bank” with some old white guys singing about the importance of saving your toppins?

Anyway, here is the money quote from the Think Progress article:

Unlike his former colleagues, Conard wants to have an open conversation about wealth. He has spent the last four years writing a book that he hopes will forever change the way we view the superrich’s role in our society. “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong,” to be published in hardcover next month by Portfolio, aggressively argues that the enormous and growing income inequality in the United States is not a sign that the system is rigged. On the contrary, Conard writes, it is a sign that our economy is working. And if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off. This could be the most hated book of the year.

Conard instead argues that income inequality helps everyone because investors grow wealthy by creating products that benefit the 99 percent. Though that is certainly true to an extent, Conard’s line of thinking leads to the supply-side policies that are proven failures at “growing the pie” for everyone. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, for instance, were supposed to create jobs and spark economic growth for everyone. They did neither, instead saddling the nation with unsustainable debt and deficits that Republicans are now using to justify massive budget cuts to programs that benefit the lower- and middle-classes.

And while investors like Conard made luxuries available to some Americans, they also bankrupted companies and left workers without jobs, pensions, or health care. Bain Capital, in fact, made billions of dollars for people like Romney and Conard while bankrupting nearly a quarter of the companies in which it invested.

Moving on to Texas, Ralph posted a comment yesterday about the decision which benefited Planned Parenthood. I had hoped it was a good thing, but then Republican Judge Jerry Smith Blocks Pro-Planned Parenthood Order Just Hours After It Was Issued

Yesterday afternoon, a federal trial court in Texas granted a preliminary injunction preventing the state from cutting off women’s health funds to Planned Parenthood. The trial court’s opinion was written by Judge Lee Yeakel — a George W. Bush appointee — and it is 24 pages long, including substantial analysis of difficult constitutional doctrines such as the scope of the First Amendment right to free speech and the “unconstitutional conditions” doctrine. Significantly, the Bush-appointed trial judge was concerned that Texas stripped funds from Planned Parenthood because it disapproved of the organization’s advocacy in favor of women’s health — a direct attack on Planned Parenthood’s First Amendment rights if Yeakel is correct.

This morning, less than 24 hours after Yeakel handed down his decision, Judge Smith handed down a two sentence decision of his own:

IT IS ORDERED that appellant’s motion for stay pending appeal is GRANTED pending further order of this court. This order is entered by a single judge pursuant to FED. R. APP. P. 8(a)(2)(D).

Several things are significant about this very brief order. First, Judge Smith is a court of appeals judge, and it is very rare for an appeals judge to act alone in this way. Federal appeals courts almost always act as three judge panels, and for very good reason. Judge Yeakel is no less a federal judge than Judge Smith, and he is no less competent that Smith to interpret the Constitution. A court of appeals’ legitimacy generally flows from the fact that it brings more minds to a legal question than a trial court — but this cannot happen when a single judge acts alone.

This is a very unusual turn of events…

More importantly, it’s unlikely that Smith gave his order much thought at all before handing it down. Judge Yeakel handed down his order weeks after this case was filed, and he produced a 24 page explanation of why it was justified. Smith spent, at most, a few hours — and he offered no explanation whatsoever.

If nothing else, today’s order highlights the foolishness of Smith’s partisan tantrum several weeks ago. Unusual orders — even unusual orders handed down by single judges — are sometimes justified even if the legal reasoning behind such an order is not immediately apparent. Nevertheless, the legitimacy of such orders flows from the public’s trust that they are motivated by obedience to the law and not by partisanship, ideology or personal grievances. Judge Smith thumbed his nose at that trust when he lashed out at Obama last month, and undermined the legitimacy of the entire judiciary in the process.

I know that we have discussed the new drilling permits given to BP, well here is an update on that: BP to Erect 3 More Rigs in the Gulf

You read that correctly. Two years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 people and spilling nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the company got the go-ahead to build three new rigs in the region.

A BP representative—Bernard Looney—said that “after much soul-searching,” abandoning the undeveloped submarine oil fields would constitute “walking away” from “a key component of our future.” He said BP would work hard to prevent “such an accident from ever happening again.”

Looney, yup…you read that guy’s name correctly, the only response I have about this “soul searching” comment is…WTF?

There’s a new sheriff in town: Richard Myers Named New Sanford Police Chief Amid Discord Between Officials, Cops

(Well, technically he is not a sheriff, but it had a good ring to it. )

Sanford officials have selected a new interim police chief following several shakeups in the department in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Norton Bonaparte, the city manager, picked Richard Myers, a former chief of police in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Appleton, Wisc., to be the town’s new top cop.

He replaces Bill Lee…and we all know what happened on his watch.

Myers’ hiring comes amid growing tension between the department and city government, as officers and city officials have complained that Lee has been unfairly treated.

According to one city official, nearly 40 police officers met privately with the mayor and the city commission to voice their anger over the decision to force Lee from the department. Velma Williams, the city’s lone black commissioner, characterized the tone of the meeting as rancorous.

“They disrespected me and they disrespected the mayor,” she said.

Community leaders and many black residents said that Bonaparte jeopardized his political future by dragging his feet in making a decision on Lee’s fate early on. While the police chief serves at the pleasure of the city manager, the city manager serves at the pleasure of the city commission.

There were some separation agreements in the works between Bonaparte and Lee, and not only that, the letter that Lee gave as resignation had a questionable tone.

Williams said the April 23 vote was called moments after the group received the letter.

“When we arrived there at 4 o’clock, none of us had seen the letter of resignation,” Williams said.

Williams, who voted to accept Lee’s resignation, said that she voted on it sight unseen and didn’t read it until she arrived home later that night. But had she read it at the meeting, she said, “I wouldn’t have voted in support of Lee, but I would have said, ‘There’s no way that I can vote one way or another on this particular letter of resignation.'”

She said that when she and the other commissioners finally did read through Lee’s letter, red flags started going up. Among them, the letter seems to imply that Lee is being forced out and stipulates that he has violated no laws and that he would willingly return to his position if asked to do so.

Excerpts from Chief Lee’s resignation letter read in part:

It was an honor to be selected to serve the City of Sanford as its Chief of Police. Since taking the position, it is clear that while working with the men and women of the Sanford Police Department, we have moved the organization toward becoming a more effective and professional organization capable of providing a higher level of service to our community. Through this process, I have seen an increase in the morale of the men and women at the Department.

I have followed the law and acceptable law enforcement practices in performing my duties and responsibilities and have not taken any action or engaged in any conduct that would adversely impact the men and women of the Police Department, who so diligently and bravely serve the citizens of Sanford. I am willing, ready and able to continue to perform the duties of Chief of Police for the City of Sanford and have not been found to have committed any wrongdoing. However, in response to the City Manager’s suggestion that I resign from my position and solely to allow the city to move beyond recent events, I have decided that I can no longer serve as Police Chief.

Williams said of the letter, “You don’t say in your letter of resignation that they are forcing you out. Once people read it, people were in awe about what was in there, wondering, ‘What kind of resignation is that?'”

There are some who are questioning the choice of Myers, because Myers has issues:

Yet Myers comes to Sanford’s beleaguered police department with baggage of his own.

According to reports, Myers was forced out of the Colorado Springs police department in 2011 upon news of two scandals there, one of which involved an officer arrested for molesting children and another in which an officer lied to get an ex-boyfriend arrested.

That does not instill confidence does it?

Sanford interim police chief: Sanford hires interim police chief Richard Myers -According to this article from Orlando Sentinel:

…controversy surrounded much of Myers’ time in Colorado Springs, including the arrest of two officers, one of whom was charged with molesting children. Another controversy involved a botched sting at the restaurant chain Hooters. In June 2011, officers cited a waitress for serving an intoxicated patron. However, a video raised questions about whether the officers had lied in a report. The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Myers resigned in October, and The Gazette, a newspaper in Colorado Springs, reported that Myers was forced out of the job as a result of the mayor’s desire to “change direction.” Myers then became interim chief in Manitou Springs, Colo., a suburb of Colorado Springs.

Sanford officials have scheduled a news conference for Friday morning at City Hall to introduce Myers. He will be the fifth person to act as police chief in Sanford in the past two years.

I guess time will tell.

Anyway, that is all I can muster this morning. What is going on in your world this morning?


Digging Deeper

Though I’ve been on a hiatus of late, I’ve tried to keep up with basic headline reading, dipping my toes into stories of interest [and/or those producing sheer outrage].  The latter pushed my crazy button when I read this headline last week at New Deal 2.0:

Eric Schneiderman Urges Progressives to “Dig Deeper” to Transform the System

Eric Schneiderman, NY State Attorney General, who vowed to take on Wall St., bring the wrong doers to justice and rectify the massive fraud perpetrated on American homeowners forced into foreclosure.  That Eric Schneiderman, the man I willingly and enthusiastically cheered.  I went so far as to send a note of appreciation.

That was then, this is now.

Because Eric Schneiderman threw his lot with President Obama’s weak-kneed, planned-to-fail foreclosure/securitization fraud task force that has effectively done zip, nada, even after the President’s stirring words during his State of the Union Address.  And then, there was Schneiderman’s claim that he would have a posse of investigators [that would be a total of 55 dedicated, blood hound investigators for a fraud estimated to be 80 times larger than the S&L debacle—which had 1000 investigators] to track down and document laws broken, crimes committed and bring the guilty parties to heel.

Camelot  Revisited! Now back to grim reality.

The wildly touted foreclosure fraud settlement was simply another Get-Out-of-Jail Pass (aka amnesty] for criminal enterprises that took American homeowners for a ride—a slippery slide right out of their homes.  For the inconvenience, the shocking upheaval and worry, 750,000 homeowners (of the 4 million homes seized since 2007] will reportedly receive $2000. What a deal! For the scammers, they received a blanket no-accountability kiss from the Obama Administration, by collectively paying $5 billion to states and the Federal government and allocating $20 billion more to ease the distress [loan modification] for a fraction of the 11 million homeowners now ‘underwater.’  Oh, and the pledge [step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back] to sin no more.

Problem solved!

Hummm.  Not really.  Because although the settlement was puny in terms of homeowner relief, it was at least . . . something.  Until we read in late February and early March that a number of states were diverting the settlement funds to plug shaky budgets.

I think it’s reasonable to say that damaged American homeowners have been left holding the bag–the dirty, empty bag.  Again.

But getting back to Eric Schneiderman, the man I had a temporary crush on, the Hero on a Quest Gone Terribly Wrong, had the gall to stand before a group, an initiative ironically entitled Rediscovering Government and give the keynote address, where he reportedly said [in the New Deal 2.0 piece cited above]:

Progressives’ efforts at making significant changes to the system after the financial crisis have mostly borne little fruit, he noted. We therefore “need to dig deeper” see how deeply the unfettered propaganda that less regulation leads to growth and higher taxes always create jobs has affected the American mindset and economy. We also have to aim for long-term, “transformational” change instead of the everyday “transactional” change we usually get bogged down in. We have to move past the election cycles and everyday battles to politics that involve working today to improve circumstances in the future and challenging the way that people think about issues in the first place.

What horse-hockey!

Long-term ‘transformational change,’ instead of that irritating ‘transactional’ change.  Are we to wish upon a star that the crime syndicate dies off, bankster-by-bankster [and all their ass-kissing dwarves]?  Let’s not get into those niggling details of fraud, disgusting greed and all manner of malfeasance, we’ll aim for future transformation?  What the hell does that mean?  Maybe a little corrective surgery down the road, where we implant a human conscience, a sense of honor and integrity into the Wall St. CEOs and their tracker jacker drones?  Otherwise, we might as well change the national motto to:

In Fraud We Trust.

And excuse me, Mr. Schneiderman!  You are the state AG of the Great State of New York.  You were standing square on the power plate and from everything I’ve read you had a fine hand of cards.  But then . . . you folded like a beach chair.

It does no good blaming the Republicans [though they certainly deserve much blame and condemnation] when you’re unwilling to take on the monster, to make good on your own words and vows, only to then turn around and use the editorial ‘we’ in describing what needs to be done in the future.  The future will be forever tainted by the past until we purge the rot and corruption out.  Plastering over an infection never works.  Corruption always bleeds through.  Sadly, I’m sure Mr. Schneiderman [to his ever-lasting shame] knows this.  And how exactly are the damaged parties, progressive or otherwise, suppose to dig for anything?  No job, no home, no healthcare, no future.  Not even a shovel.

Yesterday I stumbled across this:

Corporate America is shifting its focus in product development and marketing to serve the “hourglass economy.” The hourglass has two chambers connected by a slim channel. Translated into economic terms, or better yet, the emerging picture of America, the two chambers represent rich and poor, with virtually nothing in the middle.

Worse, while the traditional hourglass has two equal chambers, the economic hourglass does not. One chamber contains a small percent of the population and most of the wealth and the other is filled with the bulk of Americans, who have little access to resources and diminished hope for prosperity The hourglass economy has become so entrenched that Bloomberg News credits it with dividing Americans and defining U.S. politics.

Perfect!  Better yet:

Citigroup was quick to notice the hourglass trend that was taking root in 2009. To help investors cash in on the demise of the middle class Citigroup recently issued an hourglass investment advisory that highlights twenty stocks of companies targeting low end consumers and fifteen companies targeting the high end ones. Showing that the hourglass economy is real and gaining momentum, Citigroup’s hourglass index posted a whopping 56.5% return between Dec. 10, 2009 and Sept. 1, 2011, according to financial reporter,Patrick Martin.

Ahhhh, yes.  The American way—investing in feudalism’s bright, bright future.  You cannot make this stuff up.

We wonder [well, some wonder] why the electorate is dispirited, angry and disgusted.  This is a prime example.  Public officials from the President down are suppose to be working for the American public, not an abusive oligarchy.

Yes, the GOP propaganda regarding the ‘magical market’ needs to be exposed for the ludicrous and damaging fraud it is.  Taxes are a necessary tool in running any stable government, not a Marxist plot.  Regulation is a counterweight to capitalism’s reckless greed and worst instincts.  But public officials need to be on board, manning the bully pulpits, educating and inspiring the public to press for and demand honest, effective reform, not a slap-hazard wallpapering job called good when the result is an utter wreck. Elected, public officials [sometimes quaintly referred to as public servants] are suppose to be working for us–the public at large–for our welfare.  Not simply feeding the industrial/military complex, bowing and scraping to corporate financiers.

Literary critics question why The Hunger Games trilogy [a Young Adult series] has become so popular, why it’s had crossover appeal.  Bread and Circuses, the never-ending distractions, the deliciously effective tools of fear and need, so effective that not even our children escape [think students up to their eyeballs in impossible debt].

The allegory is us.

In any case, elections are upon us.  We’re going to hear all manner of pontificating, accusations screeched and name-calling taken to brain-freeze levels.  The really disturbing part?  Both 2012 candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, have sold their souls to the highest bidders.  We, the electorate?  We’re merely spectators sitting in the cheap seats.

Let the corporate dogfight begin!

Btw, for a chilling, even startling essay, I’d highly recommend an essay at Naked Capitalism: Code is Law.  Literally.

It’s another angle to look at and contemplate, one that I haven’t seen discussed before.   The comment section is equally good.

As for the election season?  We’re going to need a good shovel.