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Weekly Interest

332 Landslide

332 Landslide

May 29, 2008

Passing Christianity This Way is Disrespectful

Says Abu Abdullah, a shop owner and resident of Fallujah of a coin handed out by a US Marine at a checkpoint into the city.

"At the western entrance to the Iraqi city of Fallujah Tuesday, Muamar Anad handed his residence badge to the U.S. Marines guarding the city. They checked to be sure that he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand.

Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. "Where will you spend eternity?" it asked.

He flipped it over, and on the other side it read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."

In interviews, residents of Fallujah repeated two words - "humiliation" and "weakness".
"Because we are weak this is happening," said Abu.

Do you remember being in history class and wondering 'why do I have to learn things we have already done!?' and the answer would come as 'So we don't repeat the mistakes of the past'? The stories of people's using this technique is littered through history. And while these Muslims may not be facing torture and death if they do not comply, the results will be the same. The scenery hasn't even changed that much, the Inquisition into Jerusalem comes to mind. However we do now have the education of history, a globe trotting population and a world wide web of information. One would think the folly of this tactic would be apparent. Torturing for information does not work, and neither does forcing a religion on a frightened, beleaguered people trying to rebuild their society.

Unfortunately, I have read and commented on one of our Presidential candidates enough to believe this is probably an activity that has backing within our government, no matter how they try to hide that fact. I blogged most poignantly on Mccain Disputed on 1999 Meeting, an article that details John Mccain's efforts on behalf of broadcaster Lowell "Bud" Paxson. Mr. Mccain pushed the line of ethics to influence the FCC on Paxson's behalf in a deal to purchase several local stations. The story is very interesting and concerning on several levels, however the story behind the story is a Hum Dinger. Mr. Paxson created the Christian based Pax TV. Despite it's annoyance at Mr. Mccain for his interference, the FCC did approve Mr. Paxson's request, with a stipulation:

"Five days after McCain's second letter, the FCC voted 3 to 2 to approve the deal. The commission also imposed a condition prohibiting Cornerstone from "proselytizing." Cornerstone would not agree to those terms, and the deal collapsed. "

Just to brush up:
proselytize \PROS-uh-luh-tyz\, intransitive verb:
1. To induce someone to convert to one's religious faith.
2. To induce someone to join one's institution, cause, or political party.

transitive verb: 1. To convert to some religion, system, opinion, or the like.

Proselytize is formed from proselyte, "a new convert, especially a convert to some religion or religious sect, or to some particular opinion, system, or party," from Greek proselutos, "a proselyte, a newcomer," from pros, "toward" + elutos, from eluthon, "I came."

Do you go that far, risking not only legal, but political career consequences, for a cause and plan of action you don't agree with? I fear a vote for Mr. Mccain will not only be a continuation of the current administration with a new bobblefigurehead, but simultaneously throw us backwards in time resurrecting time dishonored tactics and strategies as well as hurdle us into an equally well documented historical repeat of the past as a sad and avoidable future.

"Now we have this missionary way by these coins," he said. "We feel the Muslims are weak and we hope that we will reach a point when we are strong to let them know what is wrong and what is right. " Mohammed Jaber

The Crusaders Capture Jerusalem 1099

A much longer lasting and successful method was the Roman's, that allowed to a certain extent the people's they conquered to maintain their religions.

Here is why 'Middle of the Road' doesn't work either: "The people conquered by the Muslims usually faced a choice. They could denounce their religion and convert to Islam, pay a tax to continue practicing their beliefs, become a slave, or be executed. Most chose to convert. But many people paid the tax.
In time, the tax proved such a lucrative source of revenue that many Muslim rulers actually discouraged conversions. Those who paid the religious tax were called dhimmis. To Muslims, dhimmis were considered inferior and were treated as inferiors."

May 23, 2008

DING! We Have a Winner!

For several months I've blogged about the 'unnamed' contributors to the mortgage crisis that had yet to really be named. Check Confessions, Opinions, Rocket Science or Fraud for some background on my perspective. Today the Senator from Pennsylvania Robert P. Casey Jr. speaking at the Housing & Urban Development Secretary Confirmation asks Nominee Steven Preston, regarding standards that apply to the appraisal issue, "it's my understanding that HUD has eliminated the test for appraisers, and just want to get your sense of that, I've been deeply concerned about this aspect of the challenge that we have with housing, that we have independent appraisals, that we get them done in a very professional way, that the people that are doing the appraisal work have the kind of skill and background and education. I have an amendment on that that was included in the legislation we passed Tuesday. Senator Martinez and I worked together on appraisal issues and I appreciate his work on that as a former HUD secretary and now as a United States Senator, but I wanted your sense of that in terms of the testing issue and also with regard to relaxing of repair and inspection requirements, just get your perspective on both those issues."
Here you will find some detail of Mr. Casey's thinking on the appraiser issue. While his concern seems to stem from a 'Flipping' scheme, the effects of his efforts should have the desired results across the board. In my own experience as well as from looking at defaulted loan information it is clear that these appraisers had their hands in more than just some flipping scheme. Wherever sales prices jumped that is where you will find the 'bumped' appraisal value. From including comparables far outside the usual range without substantial justification to adding imaginary outbuildings and other improvements and who knows what else.
S. 2860 Fair Value and Independent Appraisal Act information.

May 17, 2008

EPA Dangerous Until Bush is Gone

EPA Plans to Loosen Air-quality Rules near National Parks
Posted at 11:45 AM on 16 May 2008 - Grist

"Call us crazy, but rewriting the Clean Air Act to ease the way for new coal plants near national parks seems to fly in the face of that whole 'clean air' thing. But sure enough, the U.S. EPA plans to make a change allowing the government to calculate the average annual emissions of power plants near parks and wilderness areas, instead of tracking (and potentially punishing) the spikes in pollution spewed during peak energy times. 'It's like if you're pulled over by a cop for going 75 miles per hour in a 55 miles-per-hour zone, and you say, 'If you look at how I've driven all year, I've averaged 55 miles per hour,'' explains Mark Wenzler of the National Parks Conservation Association. The NPCA estimates that the rule change will ease construction of 28 new coal plants within 186 miles of 10 national parks. And those parks are hazy enough as it is, laments one National Park Service engineer: 'It would really be a setback in trying to make progress.' "
sources: The Washington Post, Reuters
straight to the NPCA report: Dark Horizons

I've been keeping a lazy eye on the news when it comes to some of the agencies that are supposed to protect us, commenting on articles when necessary and a blog here and there; EPA Missing in Action - and FEC and FHA and . The damage this administration is causing as it high tails it out the back door is massive, far reaching and in some cases, irreversible.

See also: Auto Industry Takes Over Federal Auto Safety Agency

May 14, 2008

Presidential Election Process Flaw Illustrated

Here live and in color, (when I watched Newshour this evening) we find beautifully performed and clearly illustrated, the problem with the current presidential election process in America. There are only 2 parties acknowledged, and they make up their own rules about who gets the nomination and how, not the American people. Corporations and special interest groups are free to contribute and bring power to bear on decisions that are made for the country. As indicated below, the Democratic Party rules say that the delegates make the decision, and some 'Super' delegates even get more than the average leverage with their vote. Most Americans, if you ask them, confuse their rights to vote and peoples rights to run for president with democratic or republican party rules. These two parties can make up any rules they want regarding their candidates and their procedures and they do. These rules, as indicated below, do not ensure the ingrained American 'One person One vote', or 'Every Vote Counts'. It does ensure that numbers are crunched and manipulated until the favored candidate comes out on top no matter the actual number of American votes obtained. Does that sound right to you?

If you are a member of one of the parties, write, call or email to let them know you want actual member votes counted. Take the time to listen to some of the third party and independent candidates and their issues, if they are your issues give them some support! Most of all learn your rights. Learn that the D and R parties are not the only game in town, their candidates don't have to be your candidates, at the very least take the time to make the changes within your party to ensure your vote and every single vote is actually counted, and every single candidate has a chance to be seen, heard and on the ballot.

"REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, the race isn't remotely over. And with all due respect to Governor Romer, the key indicator that is the clear indication of Senator Clinton being the best candidate for the general election is that she is now, as of last night, ahead in the popular vote, when you count Florida and Michigan, which we absolutely need to make sure that we do, because the Democratic nominee should be selected by voters in all 50 states.
And at the end of the day, when we look through the Electoral College map, the way we add up to the 270 Electoral College votes that we need is by winning the states that are swing states and by getting ahead in the popular vote. And that's how we get electoral votes.
At the end of the day, Hillary Clinton is ahead in the popular vote. More people have gone to the polls in America -- more Democrats have gone to the polls in America to cast votes for Hillary Clinton than for Senator Obama. And that is the measure that we should be using to decide who is our best foot forward in November.

GWEN IFILL: Governor Romer smiled when you said that.

ROY ROMER: It isn't the measure that we've all agreed on in the Democratic Party. The measure we've agreed on is, who has the most delegates?
And we ought not mislead the country. This is a contest that has rules, and the rules are, who has the most delegates? And those delegates have spoken." PBS

May 6, 2008

Obama Believes (in make believe clean kentucky coal)

"As Kentucky resident Erik Reese reported in Grist, studies in the state have found that children there suffer from 'an alarmingly high rate of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and shortness of breath -- symptoms of something called blue baby syndrome -- that can all be traced back to sedimentation and dissolved minerals that have drained from mine sites into nearby streams. Long-term effects may include liver, kidney, and spleen failure, bone damage, and cancers of the digestive tract.'" Posted by Kate Sheppard at 4:32 AM on 06 May 2008

Obama Believes in Clean Kentucky Coal

"Clean coal" typically refers to coal burned in Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants with operational carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities to bury the plant's greenhouse-gas emissions underground. There are no IGCC plants in Kentucky, and no operational CCS facilities. Technically, there is no "clean Kentucky coal." Kate Sheppard

Obama Believes in Clean Kentucky Coal

"The Obama campaign has made it clear that they want no new coal plants in the meantime. Jason Grumet, a top Obama energy adviser, told Grist that "the policies we have already articulated make [coal plants without CCS] economically unrealistic."Kate Sheppard

Obama Believes in Clean Kentucky Coal

"[Obama] is confident... that his carbon cap program ... will make it absolutely ludicrous to even contemplate any type of coal, new coal, that is not 100 percent sequestered. ... if he is unable to get that carbon policy in place quickly, that he will do whatever is necessary to prevent the siting of a new generation of pulverized coal facilities, including setting [emission] standards that would be essentially a moratorium ... "Kate Sheppard

Obama Believes in Clean Kentucky Coal

Do YOU believe anything Obama says?

  • NAFTA bad - To Americans, NAFTA good - To Canadians .
  • Questionable relationship with Rezko verified but denied or forgotten
  • His Spiritual leader, supporter of Wrights Church - until Wright hits Media, then disagrees with him and eventually disowns him.
  • Tells rich white women poor folk in small towns only cling to guns and religion out of frustration, tells poor small town folk he used poor words/phrasing.
  • Tells everyone 'no new coal' 'no dirty coal', then when primary hits says he is for coal despite there being none and little future for any.
We don't know enough about this man or the choices and decisions he would make to risk, in this current place in time, placing him in the highest office in the land. He has done nothing so far to relate that he is any different than any other politician, combine that with inexperience and it's a wonder he is on the ballot at all. In a small corner of my mind, the DNC knew this would be a blockbuster year for the D's, knew Clinton would be running, knew their key positions and most all other positions would be safe for the next term and so didn't do much more to foster other more experienced candidates. In this same corner lives the idea that the R's were just as aware of the blockbuster years coming for the D's, and so failed to foster any real candidate of their own instead choosing to try to hold the positions they had and work deals to keep some influence through the next administration.

  • Do you want to stop coal until the technology is there?
  • Do you want to fund solar power, with NO emissions?
  • Do you want to decrease personal income tax (20-50% currently) and increase capital gains tax (10-18% currently)?
  • Do you want to bust up the corporate headlock on our government?
  • Do you want support to go into our government agencies and have TRUTH and FACTS and JUSTICE come out?
  • Do you want to use negotiators and treaties with foreign governments and use the military to protect us AT HOME?
  • Do you want penalties on US companies that ship jobs to other countries?
  • Do you want warrantless searches and unlawful detainment ended?
  • Do you want food, water and products to be inspected and safe?
There is only one way to ensure these things happen, and that is to vote for the man who has been trying to make these things happen for most of his life, virtually on his own. With Lincolnesque determination he has stood against lawsuits, name calling, media slander and 'The Man' and still he stands to fight the good fight. Really.

May 5, 2008

Now WE Need You, Join us on the Couch

The next step in thecampaign will be arriving in your TV box this week. It's a logical next step, but a difficult one. In furthering my efforts to try to find good from relative bad, I'll go ahead and say that with record gas prices, record food prices and no end in sight to either, if there is ever going to be a time when this 'meeting on the couch' will work I believe it is now. I need to believe the time is now.

Meet Gus Puryear: Bush's Latest Villainous Nominee for a Lifetime Judgeship

Meet Gus Puryear: Bush's Latest Villainous Nominee for a Lifetime Judgeship Rights and Liberties AlterNet: "Editor's Note: In 2004, Estelle Richardson's lifeless and battered body was found on the floor of a Corrections Corporation of America prison cell. Four years later, that unsolved homicide has come back to haunt Republican stalwart 'Gus' Puryear, the nation's top private prison litigator and Bush nominee for U.S. District Court. This is Part I of an AlterNet exclusive, two-part investigative feature by Silja J.A. Talvi."

This bears repeating...

And so it was:

May 4, 2008

Mortgage Fraud on the Table But..

Resolving the mortgage fiasco is going impossibly long, and while words like 'fraud' and 'scam' have been floating since the beginning, they are really only now making big news. Unfortunately they still haven't much referenced the collusion between the lenders and appraisers, and in taking it a step further, the local assessor officials. I began blogging at the beginning of this mess, Not Rocket Science and Confessions of a Mortgage Broker, trying to illuminate the 'Big Picture' in my view regarding the chain of events and participants. Appraisers and local property assessors played a bigger role in my situation than has been discussed in any meaningful way, and as events unfold it becomes more and more clear that my situation mirrors the national situation pretty closely. That having been said, I do not suffer from a 'impending doom' adjustable mortgage, and I did manage to buy my properties before the effects of what was happening hit the actual prices.

I will blog more about my own story another day, for now I just want to re-state the chain of events as I see them:

  • Interest rates drop to insulate us from the global economic decline of late '80's early '90's.
  • Home mortgage rates decline a sufficient amount (8% to 6%) to spur massive refinance loans.
  • Increase in refinance opportunities spawns massive increase in new lending company openings.
  • Increase in new loans spawns massive increase in new appraisal company openings.
  • Rate decrease lowers monthly payments on small 1st time buyer type homes enough to entice marginal buyers.
  • Greed Kicks In.
  • Inexperienced or questionable lenders target sub-prime market, develop/enhance 'no document' type loans.
  • Above spurs 'Sellers Market' in home sales, agents take cue and raise sales prices.
  • Lenders 'acquire' friendly appraisers to bump values and justify newly raised prices.
  • Lenders/Underwriters accept new valuation methods from appraisers.
  • Local assessors looking to boost revenue make record number of rate increases over 10 year period keeping up with market values.
  • Lull in action spurs intense ads targeting sub-prime market with adjustable rates.
  • Refi's and new purchases slow, huge pool of lenders look to create business, increase 'no document' type loans, rates stay low, prices continue to rise without value.
  • After the first few rounds of adjustables become due, large numbers head into default causing loan qualifications to tighten. Borrowers look to refi as instructed but find qualifying tougher, and lower home values no longer match loan amounts.
  • Massive defaults of sub-prime adjustable rate loans.
  • Lower values make even fixed rate loans virtually un-refinanceable.
  • Lenders (also the President and Mr. Mccain) blame irresponsible borrowers.

The rest, as they say, is history. A huge number of other things contributed to our situation, had all of these things happened at any other time it may not have ended with the same result. We need to clearly identify the failings in the system and make adjustments. This is a very good example of how a 'Free Market' approach with no real oversight or regulation doesn't come close to being a good idea. Free market for razor blades and cabinet doors, sure, but lets get together on things that effect our country as a whole like lending, health, transportation, energy and lets not forget military.

How Fraud Fueled the Mortgage Crisis:

"Brokers pushed borrowers to lie, lenders misled and ratings agencies looked the other way.
The debate over what caused the mortgage mess and how best to fix it is now taking a sharp turn, as new problems surrounding liar's loans and payment-option mortgages reveal the pervasive fraud, lying and deceit that permeated the market at its height.
As loans made to borrowers with decent credit begin to fail at a surprisingly rapid rate, it's becoming clear that widespread fraud helped support the entire mortgage system - from borrowers who lied on their loans, to brokers who encouraged it, to lenders who misled some low income borrowers, to the many lenders, investors and ratings agencies that conveniently and deliberately looked the other way as profits rolled in."

"Despite its widespread role, fraud hasn't yet been at the forefront of proposed rescue plans, which center on refinancing people out of loans now resetting to higher rates. That may begin to change as the mortgage market continues a meltdown that seems to have no end. As fraud becomes a focus, the question of who did most of the lying and cheating will be crucial in deciding who deserves help in any housing rescue plan. "

"Others familiar with the mortgage industry contend that pervasive fraud was, indeed, a problem - on the lender's side. At the peak of the housing boom, they say, the nation's mortgage system was set up to promote and encourage outright fraud in order to close a loan - and everyone, from brokers to loan officers to Wall Street, looked the other way. Borrowers also were put into products like payment-option arms that were unsuitable - and lenders knew it. "They were pushed like Vioxx, with very little regard for their dangers," said Kathleen Keest, senior policy counsel with the Center for Responsible Lending, a research group that investigates predatory lending. "

"Patrick Madigan, an Iowa assistant attorney general who has investigated mortgage fraud, said it makes no sense to conclude that lenders are somehow victims. Madigan's office engineered a settlement two years ago with Ameriquest over its subprime practices, including high-pressure "boiler room" sales tactics. Regardless, Madigan said, there is a movement to "blame the borrower."
"There's a perception out there that there's this hapless lender who got duped by middle class and lower income subprime borrowers," Madigan said. "It's ridiculous. Our investigations have shown that most of the fraud happens at the suggestion and direction of the loan originator, who had significant financial incentives to close the loan, no matter what misconduct was required."

"Even if fraud has become a larger part of the mortgage meltdown picture than first realized, it's not simple to figure out who should take most of the blame. Many people point the finger at investors playing the market or homeowners who bought more expensive houses than they could afford - the "irresponsible" borrowers cited by both President George W. Bush and probable Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "
"But the numbers don't exactly tell that story - which proves that much in this crisis taken as fact is poorly understood. That also makes a difference, when it comes to deciding whether it makes sense to bail out the market. At the request of The Washington Independent, the trade industry publication Inside Mortgage Finance in Bethesda, Md., ran some numbers and analyzed the resulting data.
Did most people simply buy big homes they couldn't afford? In 2007, 62 percent of all securitized Alt-A loans involved refinances, and 38 percent were for home purchases. In the subprime market, 64 percent were refinances and 36 percent, home purchases. The percentages were the same in 2006. Those borrowers may have been tapping equity for reasons as varied as fancy vacations to overdue medical bills, but the majority were not buying new homes.
Were they just trying to make a quick buck? Regarding investors versus homeowners, in 2007, about 5 percent of all securitized subprime loans and 14 percent of Alt-A loans were reported as investor loans. That compares to 5 percent of subprime loans and 13 percent of Alt-A loans in 2006. These numbers don't include second homes, so the percentages are probably higher, but not significantly so.
Then there's the question of who really lied on the liar's loans. Madigan, the Iowa assistant attorney general, cites repeated cases where borrowers were encouraged by brokers to suddenly create businesses in their basements, like day care centers, to boost their incomes. If they questioned it, brokers would say that lenders required it, or not to worry. Still, borrowers signed on the bottom line, some knowing the information was false. Consider this borrower's account in the San Francisco Chronicle of a sales conversation with a broker:

" He didn't say anything illegal out loud," she said. "He didn't say 'lie,' he just made a strong suggestion. He said, 'If you made $60,000, we could get you into the lowest interest level of this loan; did you make that much?' I said, 'Um, yes, about that much.' He went clickety clack on his computer and said, 'Are you sure you don't remember any more income, like alimony or consultancies, because if you made $80,000, we could get you into a better loan with a lower interest rate and no prepayment penalty.' It was such a big differential that I felt like I had to lie, I'm lying already so what the heck. I said, 'Come to think of it, you're right, I did have another job that I forgot about.'"

" Countrywide, for example, had a loan program called "Fast and Easy" that required no pay stubs, tax forms or employment verification. The FBI investigation is finding extensive fraud on loans across the board at Countrywide that didn't require full documentation, The Wall Street Journal reported. "

The Center for Public Integrity

The 380,000-plus-word database presented here allows, for the first time, the Iraq-related public pronouncements of top Bush administration officials to be tracked on a day-by-day basis against their private assessments and the actual “ground truth” as it is now known. Throughout the database, passages containing false statements by the top Bush administration officials are highlighted in yellow. The 935 false statements in the database may also be accessed by selecting the “False Statements” option from the “Subject” pull-down menu and may be displayed within selected date ranges using the selection tool below. Searches may also be limited by person or subject, or both, by using the appropriate selections from the pull-down menus.