March 11, 2012

I cracked a couple windows in the house for some fresh, spring air, cleaned and scrubbed the inside of the car and enjoyed one of the fruits of climate change:  early spring.

Owning a KIndle this article interested me.  DOJ is investigating price fixing on ebooks.  Is nothing sacred?

If you’re Jewish and considering voting for Mitt Romney or any other Mormon you should think twice.  The LDS church baptizes deceased Jews.  Can you imagine having some cult induct you into their religion without your knowledge or permission?  That’s the Mormon Church.  Plus they wear “magic” underwear.  WTF?

The trial of Sen. Orie continues in Pittsburgh.  Another staffer testified about doing extensive campaign work on taxpayer time.What’s amazing is how many lawmakers continued doing this following Jeff Habay’s conviction and those who continue doing it to this day.  Stupid is as stupid does.

Another school district is cutting curriculum instead of sports and extra curricular activities because of Gov. Gasbag’s massive budget cuts.  I cannot fathom not doing away with these extras.  Have school board members forgotten what the mission of their organizations is?  Hint:  it isn’t entertaining the local populace.

A lead plaintiff against ObamaCare went bankrupt because of medical bills.  Again, stupid is as stupid does…

The Rush Limbaugh scandal is widening as 98 major advertisers have pulled ads from all right wing hate radio shows.

Speaking of hate Rep. Daryl Metcalf has rejuvenated his marriage amendment and this time it would also outlaw domestic partnership benefits.  This hateful, mean spirited legislation is a direct violation of the constitution.  What happened to all that right wing talk about all legislation having to pass a constitutional test?  This one fails.  The State Government Committee holds a hearing on this Tuesday morning at 9 AM.  Be there if possible.

Also on the right wing hate front a legislator in Alabama has come out of the closet and introduced a bill limiting voting rights to white, straight, land owning men.  Maybe a liberal should introduce a companion bill limiting voting to only intelligent people.  Sen. Scott Beason would discover what its like to be disenfranchised.

Questions have been raised regarding Penn State’s close relationship with the gas drilling industry but this is nothing new.  The university has always been close to the mining industries.

New reports say Bank of America defrauded the mortgage program designed to keep homeowners out of foreclosure.  Duh?  What did you expect of a vast criminal enterprise like BoA?

Jamoca wrote an article about the Voter ID law below, here is Sen. Leach speaking about it:

Wal-Mart has long hidden some of its worst labor practices behind subcontractors.  That doesn’t absolve them of responsibility morally.  Theft of wages is theft, pure and simple.  I worked at one time for a company which also required us to sign false time sheets.  This is criminal.

News & Notes November 27, 2011

New Mexico is paying out $636,000 in legal settlements resulting from a string of sexual harassment suits arising from its previous privatization of its juvenile detention system.  The for profit system engaged in the usual private industry sexism and misogynism against female employees that simply wasn’t tolerated after it became a public entity again.  These are all the warnings which are ignored by conservatives hell bent on privatizing government and making it serve for profit interests instead of the public interest.

The newest war is over privatizing public education and turning it into a for profit enterprise turning students into computer zombies who don’t even leave their home to go to school.  It’s being funded, surprise, surprise, by computer giants Microsoft, Apple, Dell and the Gates Foundation.  Rupert Murdoch is also jumping into it head first so he can indoctrinate your kids.  This is where the voucher program is going to destroy our children’s future, destroy our competitiveness in the global economy and make people rich in the process.  I have one question for these activists:  if virtual education is so good why don’t you use it for your conventions instead of meeting in person?

It’s bad enough that our Congress persons and Senators are enriching themselves with insider information but then to treat people as badly as Rep. Don Young did in this video is outrageous.  It’s time Congress is subject to all the laws themselves.

The Chevy Volt is being investigated for battery fires.  Now I know why the guy in the commercial is going to the gas station restroom:  to find water to put the fire.

Here’s a neat video on equality:

Bank of America is being fined $410 million for reordering financial transactions in order to maximize overdraft fees.  This is but one more example of the tyranny caused by corporate America.  The amount of the fine is a pittance to a company like BoA.  They make far more money than they are fined, they’re just a cost of doing business if caught.

Penn State barred Sue Paterno from using the Lasch Football Building to swim.  This was simply petty.  Sue did nothing wrong.

The average tax cut for the 1% under the Bush/Obama tax cuts will be more than the average income for everyone else.

“I’m not looking to put any money in your pockets.”  That is Mitt Romney standing tall for the rich against the poor.

Breaking Up With Banks Philly Style

On Guy Fawkes Day many such masks were in evidence at Occupy Philadelphia.  There are currently 450 tents at Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall.  The City is seeking to convince the protesters to move so it can rebuild the plaza.  The sentiment of those I spoke with today is that they aren’t relocating.  There seems to be a feeling that if those millions were spent for the homeless, for the hungry, for the schools or some other worthy purpose the City would be better off.

One man said he’s been there 15 times now as he stood waving an American flag.  Everything was quite peaceful and clean except for falling leaves.  The tents are lined up and several tents acting as information, housing, food and other purposes are spread throughout the area.   It all seems very well organized.  I saw no police presence until people began gathering for the march.  It began at the Plaza as everyone mingled around the march leaders and they set off for nearby PNC Bank.  From there they went to Bank of America.

Outside PNC Bank a couple next to me commented about “breaking up with your bank” and noted, in jest, that people don’t date their banks.  I mentioned that yes they do since they get screwed by them.  We shared a laugh about that.

Update:  I found this video and it seems appropriate for Occupy Philly:

Feds Sue 17 Major Banks for Mortgage Fraud

The government regulator in charge of overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie MAC sued 17 major banks today for mortgage fraud.  The federal agencies purchase mortgages from banks to guarantee them against losses and taxpayers have taken an almost $200 billion hit.  The feds say material representations made were fraudulent and serious omissions of fact occurred.  Among the banks sued were Ally Financial (GMAC Mortgage), Countrywide, JP Morgan Chase, CitiGroup, Goldman Sachs, and DeutscheBank.  To date no criminal prosecutions have begun.  If the government acknowledges, as they do with this suit, that massive fraud happened in the mortgage markets why are they not prosecuting criminally?  Did Barack Obama take so much campaign money from these bankers they got immunity?

Nevada Broadens Suit Against BoA

The State of Nevada has acted ahead of a proposed settlement agreement allowing crooked bankers to get off with a slap on their wrists and a timeout by broadening its suit against bank of America.  BoA bought Countrywide Financial as the financial meltdown of 2008 took institution after institution to the cleaners.  Unfortunately for BoA it couldn’t cleanse itself of the toxicity of Countrywide’s massive fraud (or its own).

I’ll give you a basic breakdown of some of what was happening in the wild and crazy mortgage market left unregulated.  Countrywide’s mortgage brokers were paid according to how much business they generated.  The toxic mortgage derivative securities developed by investment banks like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch were desperate for more mortgages to package into securities for hungry investors.  Since rating agencies (Standard & Poors and Moody’s) told investors these were AAA buys pension funds seeking higher gains were flooding their portfolios with them.  The banks knew they were toxic and hedged their bets by buying insurance against their collapse with AIG.  Unfortunately AIG didn’t reserve any of the cash they were collecting as premiums to pay off potential losses.

So say, for example, you were purchasing a home.  You went to a Countrywide office and filled out an application.  You had good credit and qualified for a prime rate mortgage.  The Countrywide broker got paid a commission based on selling you a higher rate mortgage and one with flexible terms instead of a fixed rate.  He may have forged your application to inflate your credit credentials (changing your annual income for example, very commonly done) and thereby qualify you for more house.

When you went to closing thinking you had a 30 year fixed rate mortgage for 5.75% interest you signed the papers and got your keys.  Later you discovered you had an adjustable rate mortgage at 5.75% but which increased suddenly to 8% then 10%.  As your mortgage payment kept increasing you could no longer afford your home.  Unable to sell it because it had now lost 30% of its value you chose to walk away.  Then BoA foreclosed on you by filing fraudulent documents at your county courthouse.

This is how the mortgage boom rose and fell.  It was fraught with fraud from start to finish.  Now the major banks involved are negotiating to settle all civil and criminal claims for a measley $20 billion.  That doesn’t even qualify as chump change for these people.  They already gutted all the major reforms from the Dodd-Frank bill and now are using their thousands of lobbyists to walk away from any harm.

It is time to fully prosecute these criminals for the damage they caused through their fraud.  Homeowners cheated by fraudulent mortgages, collapsed pension funds, lost jobs and lost homes deserve justice.

New York AG Kicked Off Bank Panel

A panel negotiating a civil settlement with major banks over mortgage fraud has removed New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.  The NY AG was opposing a proposal to allow the banks which swindled investors, defrauded homeowners and collapsed the global economy to get off with a $20 billion fine and be immune from further prosecution.  The $20 billion is the total amount for all the banks, not for each one of them.  These bankers cost investors $7 trillion, many of whom were pension funds, foreclosed on another 7 million homes and resulted in 8 million Americans losing their jobs.

They did this by telling home buyers their mortgages were fixed rate when they were adjustable, by forcing many prime mortgage borrowers into riskier and more expensive sub prime loans (for higher commissions), forged false information on mortgage applications, bundled these now toxic assets into derivative securities, rated them AAA so pension funds could buy them, then bet against them by taking insurance out on them through AIG.  It all collapsed because it was simply a huge Ponzi scheme.  The demand for more and more mortgage backed securities meant creating more and more fraud.

For this they get away with a collective $20 billion fine and no criminal prosecutions.  Schneiderman isn’t happy with that and objected on behalf of the victims in his state and, thusly, was removed from the group negotiating this sweetheart deal for the banks.

Remember who the single largest contributor was to President Obama’s 2008 campaign?  Goldman Sachs ($994,000).  JP Morgan Chase employees gave him $695,000.  One thing I will say about Barack Obama:  once he’s bought he stays bought.

AIG Sues BoA for Fraud

AIG, the giant insurer which almost went under due to incompetence in its own operations is suing Bank of America for fraud.  The insurer sold policies guaranteeing derivative securities formed by bundling toxic mortgage securities which had been rated AAA by Moody’s and Standard and Poors knowing full well they were worthless then didn’t reserve any funds to pay off the policies when the junk went bad.  Bank of America’s Countrywide subsidiary engaged in massive fraud against homeowners with crooked brokers who forged false information on mortgage applications, lied to mortagees about the terms of their loans and then went under when it all collapsed in 2008.  They were bought by BoA and taxpayers bailed out AIG to keep it from collapsing.

The entire mortgage mess was rife with fraud from top to bottom and, so far, not one of those involved has even been indicted.  President Obama has determined that white collar crime is immune from prosecution by his Justice Department.  Now AIG is seeking retribution on its own terms with this lawsuit.  They suffered $10 billion in losses and Bank of America’s stock is free falling under the news.

AIG was defrauded and not only by BoA.  The ratings firms also are culpable along with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, CitiGroup along with every other major bank.  Should the insurer begin suing all of them we’ll face total financial collapse as the dominoes begin falling.

None of these major banks are actually solvent.  In spite of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easings $1.6 trillion in new monies have been created (greatly expanding our money supply) to purchase these toxic mortgage securities from banks (not all of them domestic).  This mean the taxpayers continue bailing out the bankers who wrecked the economy, earned hundreds of billions and walked away scot free.  Trillions in these securities remain on the books however and are, essentially worthless.  Still banks show them on their balance sheets at full value.  We all know this is a fraud and if valued correctly the banks would be insolvent.  This is where Congress stepped in and passed legislation allowing them to show worthless toxic securities on their profit and loss statements at pretend values.

Bank of America, therefore, is already in a precarious situation and facing a $10 billion suit in which it clearly is defenseless means the end of the giant bank.  Some are calling this the “BoA death watch.”  As its stock continues to fall under $7/share there is little they can do to raise capital other than sell Merrill Lynch which they bought in a government managed shotgun wedding at the height of the financial crisis.  It isn’t as if Merrill Lynch is blameless in all of this fraud either and its market value is questionable.

If AIG follows this action by suing S&P, Moody’s Goldman and Morgan Stanley there will be serious repercussions throughout an already weak economy.  Congress just passed and the President signed, a serious austerity program which will cost an additional 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 million jobs and push the American economy back into recession.   Too big to fail banks should have been broken up as part of the financial reform bill but Congress failed to act on that as promised.  Now AIG is acting on its own and justice may finally happen but at a time affording maximum damage economically.  It may be time to stock up on non-perishable provisions.  If the austerity riots in Britain are any indication our streets will be filled with angry citizens shortly also.

Afternoon Update

Its been a busy week with lots happening.  I had two White House calls yesterday about Obama’s fiscal irresponsibility and another today with Mayor Nutter.  I hung up after listening to Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx state that “we can’t spend our way out of this recession.”  Obviously he isn’t an economist.  The White House is using morons like these to support their misguided policy?  No wonder we’re in a mess and sinking deeper.

Sen. Casey announced he has $2.1 million cash on hand after raising $1.1 million the first quarter.  He’s had full time fund raisers working since last fall raising money for 2012.  No wonder the GOP is looking at potted plants for a challenger.

Our own fringe whack job Rep. Daryl Metcalfe introduced a Birther Bill yesterday.  It would require any candidate for president or VP to provide proof of their birth in the U.S.  I say we amend it to say anyone running for the state legislature prove their sanity.  That may be the best method for ridding ourselves of Mr. Metcalfe.

For some reason the major media have been ignoring the biggest story in the country which is the huge wealth gap dividing the 1% top tier from the rest of us.  Meanwhile even networks like NPR are perpetuating myths being spread by lying conservatives.  I was listening to a show this morning (about 8:45 AM) when Congressman Camp repeated the lie that 50% of all the top 2% are small business owners.  His pants should be on fire because it is patently false.  The NPR person failed to call him out on the lie.  Maybe we should defund them since they’re failing to provide real news any longer.

The differences between the top 1% and the rest of the country is a recipe for revolution and no one is talking about this issue.   Nothing else should even be on the agenda until it is addressed and reformed.  The only place you’ll hear about it is on blogs and places like AlterNet and Truthout.  Here’s a piece about how a hedge fund manager can earn more in an hour as middle class households in 47 years.  This is the stuff we should be discussing on TV.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

Just take a look at the latest reports on what the top hedge fund managers haul in. In 2010 John Paulson led the list with a record $4.9 billion in personal earnings. That’s a whopping $2.4 million an HOUR. Here’s a factoid to make you wretch: It would take the median US household over 47 years to earn as much as Paulson pocketed in just 60 minutes. And, every hedge fund manager pays a lower tax rate than the average family.

Rick Santorum’s campaign slogan was borrowed from a poem by Langston Hughes.  The African-American union, civil rights and gay rights supporter coined the term “let America be America again.”  Oops.  I guess Santorum doesn’t use the Google.  Of course considering the results it brings on his own name we cannot blame the guy.

The Yes Men and US Uncut combined to sting GE over its failure to pay any federal taxes.  In fact the huge corporation has earned $27 billion the last five years and paid $0.  The group issued a fake press release saying GE would “do the right thing” and voluntarily pay.  Of course they’ll do no such thing.

News & Notes April 4, 2011

Raw Story tells the tale about Wisconsin GOP Senator Scott Fitzgerald who ordered State Police to apprehend and arrest any Democratic Senator within the state during the recent standoff and how no cop would obey the illegal order.

Why is at Americans need to go to either BBC or Al Jazeera to get real, hard international news?  Heck, we don’t even have a reliable news organization outside PBS and NPR for American news.  Al Jazeera has a story about Juarez, Mexico and the culture of violence fueled by American guns and ammunition.  Don’t complain about the drug violence both here and there if you’re unwilling to pass common sense gun safety legislation.  Meanwhile Republicans across our nation are hell bent on establishing the same sort of wild west shoot’em up culture here.  The story examines how NAFTA attracted manufacturing across the border and how the two scenarios are colliding.

If you haven’t read The Rolling Stone article about the Kill Team murdering Afghan civilians then posing for pictures with the bodies go read it now.  Support the troops?  These troops?  Be careful about blindly supporting everyone.

Bank of America is terrorizing homeowners through the foreclosure process.  Some people who bought BoA owned properties discovered the bank was sending crews to clean out their new homes months after the closed.  It seems they are unable to ascertain which houses are still theirs.  Meanwhile mortgage servicing companies aren’t cooperating with homeowners to renegotiate mortgages so people can stay in their homes.  The major banks have no interest in you or the rule of law.  Now judges are beginning to dismiss foreclosure suits on the basis of legal standing.  It just happened again in Alabama.  It’s time to break up the banks.  If you think the big banks got their lesson about foreclosing on homes they don’t own think again.  The mess initiated with robo signers continues unabated it seems.

Only Suckers Still Pay Their Mortgages

Pretty soon that will be America’s mantra.  As news about the foreclosure fraud mess spreads and people realize the scope of the disaster and the illegal use of something called MERS they will stop paying their mortgages.  I’m seeing people Googling this already:  how do I determine if my mortgage was assigned to MERS?  If so their bank breached the legal terms of their mortgage and turned it into an unsecured loan.  Unsecured mortgages mean the lenders cannot foreclose and you can get clear title (if it still exists) to your home.

I think this is what is scaring the bejesus out of the financial industry.  They are terrified people will discover what they did, the extent of what they did and bring down every major bank.  The people are actually in position to incite a bloodless revolution which would collapse capitalism as we know it.  Seven major banks control over 99% of mortgages and they’re carrying these at full value on their balance sheets.  Of course we all know the values of those homes have dropped precipitously and the value of those assets is actually a fraction of the fraudulent numbers appearing on these balance sheets.  In reality every major bank in America is insolvent.

The banks built a house of cards with exotic loans, exotic securities and exotic accounting.  The Federal Reserve has already absorbed $1.5 trillion in these toxic mortgages and another $40+ trillion remains spread around the financial markets.  Now that the veil has been lifted from their fraudulent practices we’re learning about the illegal entity created by these banks to defraud taxpayers and break the chain of titles.  The issue of title integrity has the capacity to completely collapse what remains of the real estate market.  Here’s what happened…

Banks decided to offer “no doc” mortgages to anyone with a pulse and Wall Street bundled them into risky securities which were then misrated by the ratings companies terrified of losing their business.  Investors were defrauded on a wholesale basis and now trillions of dollars of these securities are threatening to collapse the entire economy.  Everyone did this on the assumption that real estate prices would continue escalating and that the bubble would never burst.  It did, home prices collapsed, unemployment spread and with it the rate of foreclosures.  This year over a million homes will be foreclosed.

Now we’ve learned the major banks hired former hair stylists, Wal-Mart employees and other immensely qualified minimum wage workers to process the legal paperwork for these court actions.  It was done fraudulently and people were tossed from their homes who shouldn’t have been subjected to this horror.  Worse we found out about MERS.  MERS was created by the seven banks to more easily and cheaply transfer ownership of mortgages.  Instead of filing each sale of a loan through individual county deed offices (and pay a fee for each transaction) they decided to create a virtual market and keep the records themselves.  Unfortunately the law in every state requires that both key loan documents, the original ink signed ones created at a home closing, be transferred every time a loan is sold.  The banks didn’t do this because it was all done electronically by emailing spreadsheets with the information about each loan.  

What MERS did, because it was illegal, was to break the chain of title.  In other words the title didn’t follow the loan because the paperwork wasn’t done.  If you go to your county deeds office and look up your mortgage it likely says “MERS.”  This means you have a ticket to a free house if you hire a good lawyer and file for your title at your courthouse.  Because the banks broke the laws they have no standing now to foreclose on your home.  If they can produce the notes in court they then have to establish “standing.”  This means they, and only they, are the holders of the note and have proper legal basis for foreclosing.  Except for the fact they broke the law and broke the chain of title this can be almost impossible to do depending on the judge.  A good lawyer can probably beat every one of these foreclosures and that began happening which is what opened this can of worms.

Homeowners normally don’t contest foreclosures.  That’s too bad because millions of them probably would be living free and clear in their homes had they done so.  A movement to “show the note” began and gradually unraveled the fraud in which these banks engaged.  Now the major networks, most of them) and major newspapers are sitting on this explosive news.  If people found out what was done they’d stop paying their mortgages.  Banks which, in reality, are already insolvent see their loan portfolios decrease to nothing will have no legal alternative but declare bankruptcy.  All seven major American banks would fail spectacularly in this scenario and our entire financial system would collapse.  This is President Obama’s nightmare scenario and why TARP and the other bailouts were necessary.  The Fed has been engaged in a massive cover up of the mess while they try sorting it out and mitigating possible damage.  

Are you fed up with the out of control banks and the way wall Street has taken over our country for their own greed at your expense?  You can end it now by ceasing payments on your MERS mortgage.  Now that’s a revolutionary idea.