Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Victory for the Public on Foreclosures?

A foreclosed home in Miami, Florida.


  1. Criminal liability.
  2. Tax liability
  3. Fair lending, fair housing, or any other civil rights claim.
  4. Federal Housing Finance Agency or the GSEs [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac]
  5. CFPB claims for the period after they came into existence in July 2011
  6. SEC claims
  7. National Credit Union Association Claims
  8. FDIC claims
  9. Federal Reserve Board claims
  10. MERS claims

If that is true, and all of those things are out of the deal, and the banks are still exposed to liability not only for all of those things, but also for the broad range of offenses related to securitization, then $25 billion, dare I say it, might not even be a completely sucky number. It's far less than the real liability, but it's a much bigger sum than I ever thought would be negotiated just for robosigning.

Despite Widespread Wrongdoing, Fed’l Prosecution of Institutions Involved in Mortgage Mess is Rare

Figure 6: Top Mortgage Fraud States by
Multiple Indicators, 2009

Posted Dec 22, 2011 2:35 PM CST
By Martha Neil

Despite widespread evidence of fraud and other wrongdoing, federal prosecutions related to the reckless mortgage lending that nearly brought down the nation's banking system in recent years are few and far between.

From the "robosigning" of thousands of mortgage foreclosure documents by individuals who apparently didn't have authority to do so to the thousands of active-duty members of the military who have lost their homes to foreclosure, even though they are legally eligible for stays and it is a misdemeanor to refuse to grant them, serious documented problems with the system abound concerning these and other issues, according to a Reuters special report.

"I think it's difficult to find a fraud of this size on the U.S. court system in U.S. history," said visiting Yale Law School professor Raymond Brescia. "I can't think of one where you have literally tens of thousands of fraudulent documents filed in tens of thousands of cases."  READ MORE

2009 Mortgage Fraud Report “Year in Review”

Black Baptist Church Is Rightful Owner of KKK Store, Judge Rules

The Rev. David Kennedy outside
the Redneck Shop

Posted Jan 4, 2012 11:23 AM CST
By Rachel M. Zahorsky

A South Carolina district court judge recently ruled that the New Beginnings Baptist Church is the rightful owner of a store that sells Ku Klux Klan robes and T-shirts.

The battle over the building began in 1997 when a disgruntled KKK member transferred ownership to Rev. David Kennedy and his church, the Associated Press reports. However, a clause in the deed entitles the store’s proprietor, John Howard, to operate his business, the Redneck Shop, until he dies.
After a decade of Howard refusing to allow Kennedy and New Beginnings to inspect the property, the church finally sued the former KKK grand dragon for the Carolinas and others in 2008.

New York AG Sues 3 Major Banks and MERS, Calls Mass Foreclosure Filings a Fraud on Court

Posted Feb 3, 2012 6:01 PM CST
By Martha Neil

The attorney general of New York today filed suit in state court against three major banks and an electronic mortgage recording operation, contending that they circumvented legal requirements and cost the the state some $2 billion in property recording fees by keeping their own private list of property transfers and mortgage assignments.

The Brooklyn Supreme Court suit seeks to ban foreclosure filings that rely on information from the Mortgage Electronic Registration System and obtain reimbursement from the defendants for lost recording fees and other damages, according to the Los Angeles Times and Reuters.
Bloomberg also has a story.

"The banks created the MERS system as an end-run around the property recording system to facilitate the rapid securitization and sale of mortgages,” AG Eric Schneiderman said in a written statement today. “Once the mortgages went sour, these same banks brought foreclosure proceedings en masse based on deceptive and fraudulent court submissions, seeking to take homes away from people with little regard for basic legal requirements or the rule of law.”  READ MORE

Patriots Debate: The Meaning of the Constitution in a Time of Terror

Posted Feb 3, 2012 8:27 PM CST

Since the events of 2001, the intersection of law and terrorism has become one of the most volatile zones in the public square—a place where qualities of life and manners of death are deliberated against 225 years of the U.S. Constitution.

This month we are offering the first in a series of debates about some of the enduring constitutional issues that pit personal freedom, national security, political expression, human rights and institutional responsibilities—each against the other. The entire series will be available as Patriots Debate: Contemporary Issues in National Security Law, an ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security book scheduled for publication in spring 2012.

Constitutional Dilemma: The Power to Declare War Is Deeply Rooted in American History by


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize Jury Under Investigation

Alfred Nobel, Swedish chemist, inventor of dynamite
and prize giver. (photo: Library of Congress)
By Karl Ritter, Associated Press
02 February 12

he nomination deadline for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize closed Wednesday amid renewed criticism that the award committee has drifted away from the selection criteria established by prize founder Alfred Nobel.
Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Cuban rights activists Oswaldo Paya and Yoani Sanchez are among the candidates who have been publicly announced by those who nominated them.
The secretive prize committee doesn't discuss nominations - which have to be postmarked by Feb. 1 to be valid - but stresses that being nominated doesn't say anything about a candidate's chances.
Its choices often spark debate - the world rarely agrees on who's most deserving of the $1.5 million award - but this year the committee is facing criticism even before the deliberations have begun.

In the Assange Case We Are All Suspects Now

First day of hearing into extradition of WikiLeaks
founder to Sweden centers on issue of Swedish
prosecutor's impartiality. (photo: Guardian UK)
By John Pilger, The New Statesman
02 February 12

his month's Supreme Court hearing in the Julian Assange case has profound meaning for the preservation of basic freedoms in western democracies. This is Assange's final appeal against his extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct that were originally dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm and constitute no crime in Britain.
The consequences, if he loses, lie not in Sweden but in the shadows cast by America's descent into totalitarianism. In Sweden, he is at risk of being "temporarily surrendered" to the US, where his life has been threatened and he is accused of "aiding the enemy" with Bradley Manning, the young soldier accused of leaking evidence of US war crimes to WikiLeaks.
The connections between Manning and Assange have been concocted by a secret grand jury in Virginia that allowed no defence counsel or witnesses, and by a system of plea-bargaining that ensures a 90 per cent conviction rate. It is reminiscent of a Soviet show trial.

Bernie Sanders | Can't Stop Now

Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News
Intro: "In the coming weeks I will step up my efforts to generate strong grassroots support for a constitutional amendment I have introduced to overturn the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision of two years ago. It seems to me that there are about five people in this country who believe that a corporation is a person. Unfortunately, they are all on the Supreme Court."

Insist the Koch brothers testify in Congress

Billionaire oil tycoons Charles and David Koch continue shunning transparency. What are they hiding?
The Koch brothers have refused to answer fundamental questions about how they stand to gain financially from the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a 1,700-mile long boondoggle that will make the Kochs richer. 

Rep. Henry Waxman has invited the Koch brothers to testify before Congress, but the Kochs' allies in Congress are dragging out the process.

The Koch brothers have entrenched allies on Capitol Hill who're doing everything they can to stonewall oversight. On the key committee with jurisdiction over energy issues, the Kochs and their employees were the largest oil and gas donor, giving a total of $282,700 to committee members.
Robert Greenwald
and the Brave New Foundation team
P.S. I invite you to join our Koch Brothers Exposed conversation on Facebook and engage with me on Twitter.

Praying to Be Skinny and Straight: Why Evangelicals Are Concerned With Weight-loss and 'Ex-gay' Therapies

A new book reveals how evangelical culture equates gayness and fatness as both sinful inabilities to control urges. 

January 31, 2012

Fatness and gayness have a few things in common: They are both highly charged social issues that can anger people in ways few other things can. To many people, they both represent a sinful inability to control urges – in the case of fat folks, to eat food, and in the case of gay people, to have sex. In evangelical circles, however, fatness and gayness are not just stigmatized, they are actively fought.

In her eloquent new book, Seeking the Straight and Narrow: Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America,” Lynne Gerber examines the ways these two separate issues interact in that most morally stringent segment of American culture. A University of California, Berkeley, scholar in residence whose work emphasizes intersections of sexuality, bodies and health in contemporary Christianity, Gerber spent more than three years documenting evangelical weight loss and ex-gay culture, primarily in two evangelical ministries, First Place, a weight loss group, and Exodus, an ex-gay ministry with aims to train gays into straightness. Along the way, Gerber unpacks the historical influence of evangelicalism on American society, while providing a thoughtful look at real people struggling to change.

How 'Anonymous' Went From Mischief Makers to a Force That Terrifies Corporations and Governments

Guy Fawkes mask, from V for Vendetta.
Photo Credit: Ben Fredericson at Flickr
Anonymous activists have become terrifying to the powers that be, despite (or perhaps because of) their apparent disorganization and probably in excess of their actual capacity.
February 1, 2012

The enigmatic Internet-driven collective Anonymous, thank goodness, has an anthropologist in its midst. For a few years now, Gabriella Coleman has been arduously participant-observing in IRC chat rooms, watching Anonymous turn from a prankster moniker to a herd of vigilantes for global justice. In an extraordinary new essay at Triple Canopy, “Our Weirdness Is Free,” she summarizes what Anonymous is all about this way:

Beyond a foundational commitment to anonymity and the free flow of information, Anonymous has no consistent philosophy or political program. Though Anonymous has increasingly devoted its energies to (and become known for) digital dissent and direct action around various “ops,” it has no definite trajectory. Sometimes coy and playful, sometimes macabre and sinister, often all at once, Anonymous is still animated by a collective will toward mischief—toward “lulz,” a plural bastardization of the portmanteau LOL (laugh out loud). Lulz represent an ethos as much as an objective.  READ MORE

Government Treats Working People With Basic Dignity, Conservatives Freak Out

The Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that poorly educated government workers make more than they would in the private sector. That’s hardly surprising. What’s equally unsurprising is that pro-business writers are saying that government workers make too much money. First up is my new favorite Atlantic hack Jordan Weissmann:
Jordan Weissmann
 It’s great that the federal government is providing livable wages to workers, and their families, who would probably have a tough time of it in the private sector. But as an efficient use of resources, the current setup doesn’t make much sense. This might sound cold-hearted to some, but this is exactly the opposite of what the chart should look like if we’re interested in attracting the best and brightest to public service, and keeping them there.
So it’s great that the federal government treats working-class people with dignity but this needs to end yesterday? For someone like Weissmann, committed to defending the nation’s income disparity and defending the privileges of the 1%, this is typical but still awful. For Weissmann, the only workers that matter are those with advanced degrees. Working-class people I guess should go work at Wal-Mart or something.  READ MORE

Weird: How Fox News Finds its "Pretty People"

Roger Ailes
There's a rather strange Mike Allen pieceat Politico today about Fox News that opens with the scoop that Roger Ailes keeps his network all buffed up and on the cutting edge by holding "marathon critique" sessions where the brass watches its product for many hours on end. I shudder at the very thought, but then guess I'm not "fair and balanced."
 The closest thing to an actual insight into the Fox M.O. was offered by this snippet on Ailes' talent recruitment habits:
In hotel rooms when he’s traveling, Ailes sometimes scouts talent by watching the local news with the sound off. “One of Roger’s ideas is you watch TV with the sound down,” [Fox VP Bill] Shine said. “If that screen or that person on that screen is so compelling that you want to put the sound up, that show or that person is doing something right.”  READ MORE

The Real Newt Gingrich: 5 Things Georgians Know That the Rest of Us Should

Gingrich—despite losing in Florida—will not consider stepping aside, but would rather go down in flames all the way to the doorstep of the Republican convention.
January 31, 2012

Newt Gingrich’s meteoric rise and fall in the 2012 GOP presidential nominating contest is not just the turning point in his latest political quest. It is a reflection of his volatile political personality, which is well known to Georgians and others who have watched him for years.
There are five things that those of us who have weathered Gingrich’s triumphs and travails know very well that others are still learning, starting with our expectation that Gingrich—despite losing in Florida—will not consider stepping aside, but would rather go down in flames all the way to the doorstep of the Republican convention.   

Here are snapshots of what more there is to know about Newton Leroy Gingrich, a complex, driven, mercurial man who was born to a teenage mother and adopted in infancy by a stepfather who was a career soldier.READ MORE

Indiana's Union-Busting 'Right-to-Work' Bill Becomes Law, Thousands Take to Streets in Protest

Indiana State Capital
 The Indiana Senate voted 28-22 Wednesday to pass the so-called 'right-to-work' bill that forces unions to represent workers who do not pay dues. The bill is widely seen as an attack on the ability of private sector unions to organize and to carry out political activity. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R) signed the bill into law shortly after.

Advocates for labor rights stress that unions negotiate for better working conditions for everybody, not just union members, and that barring these payments is a blow to labor organizing. Indiana is the first state in the manufacturing belt to pass such a bill, though it is the twenty-third 'right-to-work' state in the country. The bill created such controversy in Indiana that Democrats in Senate repeatedly walked out over what they described as Republicans' unwillingness to hear debate.   READ MORE

Breasts Yes, Vaginas No? How to Fight Back Against Komen "Race for the Cure" Foundation's Bizarre Capitulation to Right-Wingers

How the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation put their corporation-friendly image before women’s actual health concerns.
February 1, 2012

It’s probably the fastest-spreading story in Internet history about the relationship between two non-profits. Late Tuesday afternoon, Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure announced that Komen would be withdrawing grants given to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings. Despite Komen’s lame attempts to claim otherwise, it was widely understood that this was about Komen aligning itself with the anti-choice movement, despite the anti-choice movement’s long history of opposing not just safe and legal abortion, but also access to contraception and even the prevention of cervical cancer through the use of the HPV vaccine. 

So what gives? Why would Komen, which purports to be a women’s health organization, choose to align itself with an anti-health, anti-science movement instead of with another prominent women’s health organization that actually helps prevent and detect cancer? What role does Komen’s hearty corporate fundraising efforts play in all of this?  READ MORE

Why We Got Ayn Rand Instead of FDR: Thomas Frank on How Tea Party 'Populism' Derailed a New New Deal

After a brutal recession was brought on by Wall Street greed, it looked for a moment like we'd rejected the Right's economic mythology. Then the "Tea Party" came along.
February 1, 2012

Editor's note: In late 2007 and early 2008, the house of cards came crashing down around us, and all of the economic doctrine we'd been fed by the pundits and politicians of both parties over the past few decades was laid bare for all to see. The deregulated cowboy capitalism that was supposed to release unbridled prosperity had led instead to widespread economic pain – hardship that would spread globally and remain with us to this day.
It was a moment ripe for a populist uprising. Many observers expected the pendulum to swing back from the rightward lurch authored during the “Reagan Revolution” – perhaps a new New Deal would emerge as America elected its first black president in a dramatic rejection of George W. Bush's business-friendly ideology.

But something happened on the way to this much-anticipated swing back to the left. Instead of FDR, we got Ayn Rand.   READ MORE

How the Public Schools Keep Your Child a Prisoner of the State

Recently by Karen De Coster: 

Public education, in its current state, is based on the idea that government is the "parent" best equipped to provide children with the values and wisdom required to grow into intelligent, functional adults. To echo what former first lady Hillary Clinton professed, these public school champions believe "it takes a village" to cultivate a society of competent human beings.

As Hebrew University historian Martin van Crevald points out in his book, The Rise and Decline of the State, nineteenth-century state worshippers who wanted to impose a love of big government ideals upon the youth popularized the archetype for state-directed education. Additionally, there was an overall appetite for discipline of the "unruly" masses that reinforced the campaign to take education out of the hands of individuals. After all, the self-educated masses might resist government decrees, and this kind of disarray would be undesirable in the move toward building a powerful, controlling state apparatus. Prussia's Frederick William I and France's Napoleon discerned this, as did a legion of other despotic rulers throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. In a recent article published on the American Daily Herald "Dumberer and Dumberest," Glenn Horowitz writes: READ MORE

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mortgage Giant Places Bets Against Homeowners by Chris Arnold

January 30, 2012
NPR and ProPublica have found that Freddie Mac, the giant government-owned mortgage company, has been placing financial bets against homeowners. Specifically, Freddie Mac has made targeted investments that pay off if homeowners are unable to refinance their mortgages. At the same time, Freddie has been making it harder for many homeowners to get new loans.


Monday, January 30, 2012

BofA Borrowers Sign Confidentiality Pacts Before Getting Loan Modifications, Ariz. AG Says

Posted Jan 27, 2012 8:03 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss

The Arizona Attorney General’s office is asking a judge to block confidentiality agreements signed by borrowers who get mortgage modifications from Bank of America.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne says the agreements are impeding his office’s investigation of the bank’s Countrywide Financial unit, according to the Phoenix Business Journal and Bloomberg News.
One agreement is cited in court documents in Phoenix state court. It provides that the borrower "will remove and delete any online statements regarding this dispute, including, without limitation, postings on Facebook, Twitter and similar websites.” The settlements bar borrowers from revealing unflattering information about the bank, even if they are subpoenaed, according to prosecutors.
Bank of America says in court documents that the confidentiality agreements are not a requirement, and settlement agreements with consumers are “standard fare.”


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Childhood Leukemia Spikes Near Nuclear Power Plants

File photo: The nuclear power plant in Belleville sur Loire,
France, 01/21/08. (photo: Herve Lenain/Corbis)
By John LaForge, CounterPunch
28 January 12

rench researchers have confirmed that childhood leukemia rates are shockingly elevated among children living near nuclear power reactors.

The "International Journal of Cancer" has published in January a scientific study establishing a clear correlation between the frequency of acute childhood leukemia and proximity to nuclear power stations. The paper is titled, "Childhood leukemia around French nuclear power plants - the Geocap study, 2002-2007."

This devastating report promises to do for France what a set of 2008 reports did for Germany - which recently legislated a total phase-out of all its power reactors by 2022 (sooner if the Greens get their way).
The French epidemiology - conducted by a team from the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, or INSERM, the Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, or IRSN, and the National Register of hematological diseases of children in Villejuif, outside Paris - demonstrates during the period from 2002-2007 in France the doubling of childhood leukemia incidence: the increase is up to 2.2 among children under age five. READ MORE

What Kind of Christianity Is This?

Former Sen. Rick Santorum's bellicose rants against Iran
and the 'Marxist cancer' he sees in the Americas have
made him a fan-favorite among Evangelicals,
05/19/11. (photo: AP)

By Gary G. Kohls, Consortium News
28 January 12

rom time to time, I read about condemnations of religion coming from non-religious groups, especially concerning the all-too-common violence perpetrated in the name of religious gods. Indeed there is plenty to condemn.

Altogether too many religions sects of both major and minor religions, despite verbally professing a desire for peace and justice in the world, are actually pro-war, pro-homicide and pro-violence in practice (or they may be silent on the subject, which is, according to moral theology, the same as being pro-violence).

Obvious examples include those portions of the three major war-justifying religions of the world: fundamentalist Islam, fundamentalist Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity.

I use the term fundamentalist in the sense that the religious person, who ascribes to a fundamentalist point of view, believes, among other dogmatic belief, that their scriptures are inerrant and thus they can find passages in their holy books that justify homicidal violence against their perceived or fingered enemies, while simultaneously ignoring the numerous contradictory passages that forbid violence and homicide and instead prescribe love, hospitality, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. 

Sen. Franken and Conservatives Unite to Fight Indefinite Detention

Portrait, Sen. Al Franken. (photo: Jeffrey Thompson
/Getty Images)

Joe Picard and Jeremy Herb, The Hill
Intro: "Strange bedfellows on Capitol Hill, ranging from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.), are joining forces to change controversial detainee language that was signed into law by President Obama last month."

The NY Times and the End of Truth

New York Times' Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane, is
being criticized for his discussion of truth in journalism.
(photo: TopNews)
By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Magazine
13 January 12

his attempt at public-editing from Arthur Brisbane at the Times is exactly why I usually tell people to take it a little easy on the grunt reporters who have to do the day-to-day work of covering campaigns. Covering a presidential campaign on a daily basis has become so impossible that daily political journalism is very close to becoming a detriment to self-government. The people doing it are working in a dynamic that makes thoughtful consideration of what is true and what is false almost impossible.

U.S. troops quietly surge into Middle East

12 Jan 2012 The Pentagon has quietly shifted combat troops and warships to the Middle East after the top American commander in the region warned that he needed additional forces to deal with Iran and other potential threats, U.S. officials said. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who heads U.S. Central Command, won White House approval for the deployments late last year after talks with the government in Baghdad broke down over keeping U.S. troops in Iraq, but the extent of the Pentagon moves is only now becoming clear. The Pentagon has stationed nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait, adding to a small contingent already there. The new units include two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit - a substantial increase in combat power after nearly a decade in which Kuwait chiefly served as a staging area for supplies and personnel heading to Iraq.  READ MORE

CBS Runs Error-Ridden Report On "New Solyndras"

January 13, 2012 7:52 pm ET — 14 Comments
In a misleading segment painting a skewed picture of the Department of Energy's clean tech investments, CBS News' new morning show purported to reveal 11 "New Solyndras" -- companies CBS said "are having trouble" or "have filed for bankruptcy" after receiving federal assistance. But CBS only identified 7 companies and included some that did not actually get federal funds.

CBS Fails In Attempt To Identify "New Solyndras"

CBS Provides Faulty List Of "New Solyndras." From the January 13 edition of CBS News' This Morning, which debuted this week:  READ MORE


UPDATED: CNN Contributor On Marines Urinating On Dead Bodies: "Supposed To Be A Scandal"? "I'd Drop Trou And Do It Too"

January 13, 2012 11:50 am ET — 255 Comments
On her radio show, CNN contributor and Big Journalism editor Dana Loesch cheered on an Internet video reportedly showing U.S. Marines urinating on what appear to be dead Afghans, saying she would "drop trou and do it too." The video has been widely condemned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, U.S. military commanders, foreign policy experts and others as depicting conduct that "does not reflect our values" and may endanger Afghanistan peace talks.


CNN Contributor On Marines Urinating On Dead Bodies: "Supposed To Be A Scandal"? "I'd Drop Trou And Do It Too" from Media Matters on Vimeo.

(h/t St. Louis Activist Hub and Twitter user @NicoleGenette)

NASA Kepler mission finds 26 new planets in 11 new solar systems

This handout illustration provided by San Diego State
University, shows a newly discovered planet, called
Kepler 35, that circles not one but two stars.
The announcement brings the number of confirmed planets to 729, with another 2,300 possibilities

Published: Friday, January 27, 2012, 12:35 AM
Updated: Friday, January 27, 2012, 12:35 AM

The known universe just got a little bigger.

Scientists at NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission announced the discovery of 26 planets in 11 differet solar systems on Thursday, Reuters reports.

The announcement brings the number of confirmed planets to 729, with another 2,300 possible planets floating around out there.


"This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits," Doug Hudgins of the Kepler program said, according to CNN.  READ MORE