Late Night Reads: Obama phones and mortgage settlements


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: []
Sent: 14 November 2012 15:23
To: #WASHINGTON EM External Mail
Subject: FeedbackYour name:: JJ Lopez Minkoff
Your email address::
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:


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?