December 23, 2011 archive

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Get Out Of Jail Free

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

(h/t Calculated Risk)

Details of Mortgage Servicing Settlement Between Banks and AGs Begin to Emerge

By Massimo Calabresi, Time Magazine

December 23, 2011

In return for the $5 billion in cash and the $20 billion in credits, the banks would be released from claims against them for servicing and foreclosure abuses that might be brought against them by the states and the federal government. The states also release the banks from origination claims, that is, claims they might face for all the fraud and duplicity they engaged in when they made bad loans at the height of the housing craze. The banks do not get immunity or a release of for individual claims by homeowners-just a release from past practices State- and Federal-initiated claims. They also don’t get released for securitization abuses of the kind Citibank and Goldman Sachs have been investigated for.

The Iowa AG’s office, which led the negotiations, is bracing for criticism of the deal. The limited payments are likely to be criticized, as is the release for origination abuses. The state negotiators say all the originators are already out of business and that in most cases the claims would be too old to prosecute. Arguments over what the banks would and wouldn’t get off the hook for are what led several liberal State AGs to bolt from the deal. The $25 billion version of the price tag drops to $19 billion if California stays out of the deal, which looks likely. Other states that have dropped out have been in talks with Housing and Urban Development chief Shaun Donovan about coming back into the fold: in particular, Donovan has been in talks with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in recent weeks in the hope of getting him back into the deal, but that also seems unlikely.

Following yonder star

by Kathy Kelly

December 23, 2011

Beneath our flat, here in Kabul, wedding guests crowded into a restaurant and celebrated throughout the night. Guests sounded joyful and the music, mostly disco, thumped loudly. When the regular call to prayer sounded out at 5:20 a.m., the sounds seemed to collide in an odd cacophony, making all music indistinguishable. I smiled, remembering the prayer call’s durable exhortation to live in peace, heard worldwide for centuries, and went back to sleep.

Through most of my life, I’ve found it easy to resonate with the ringing and beautiful Christmas narrative found in the Gospel of Luke, but less so with that jangling discord with which westerners are so familiar-the annual collision between (on the one hand) the orgy of gift-purchasing and gift-consumption surrounding the holiday and the the sweeter, simpler proclamations of peace on earth heralded by the newborn’s arrival. I’ve found myself quite surprisingly happy to spend many Christmases either in U.S. jails or among Muslims living in places like Bosnia, Iraq, Jordan and now Afghanistan. My hosts and friends in these places have been people who are enduring wars or fleeing wars, including, as in the case of U.S. jails, a war against the poor in the United States.

The Christmas narrative that imagines living beings coming together across divides, the houseless family with no room at the inn, the shepherds and the foreign royals arriving, all awakening to unimagined possibilities of peace, comes alive quite beautifully in the community with which I’m graced to find myself here in Kabul.

Five of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers are spending winter months in the apartment here which accommodates their group as well as visiting guests such as our small Voices delegation. In recent months, the place has evolved into a resource center for learning languages and exchanging ideas about nonviolent movements for social change. I am filled with fond and deep admiration for these young people as I watch them studying each other’s languages and preparing their own delegation to visit other provinces of this land on the brink of civil war, meeting with other young people wherever they can.

I’ve often described Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers as having bridged considerable ethnic gaps in their steadfast aspiration to someday live without wars. It’s quite impressive, during this trip, to learn from them about how close several of them came to becoming armed fighters.

One young friend recalls having spent three weeks, at age 12, as part of a Taliban group. He had no choice but to go with the Taliban as a conscript. He was given a rifle, as well as adequate food, and assigned to be a sentry. “I loaded the weapon and I fired warning shots,” said our young friend, who is now 21 years of age, “but I didn’t feel good about it.” A village elder intervened, saying the new recruits were too young, and the Taliban released my friend and the other young teens.

We watched a film together in which another youngster, about seven years previously, had acted the role of the leader of a group of children imitating Talib fighters. Carrying sticks, the young actors had harassed a little girl over her determination that she would learn to read. Now we asked the young man, himself a Hazara, how he felt about playing a Taliban child. He acknowledged having grown up believing that anyone who was part of an ethnic group that had persecuted his people could never be trusted.

The father of another youngster had been killed by the Taliban. Still another describes how he watched in horror as Hazara fighters killed his brother.

Last week, the AYPVs welcomed a new friend who lives in a neighboring province and speaks a different language to join them and help them learn his language. Asked about NATO/ISAF night raids and other attacks that have occurred in his area, the new friend said that families who have suffered attacks feel intense anger, but even more so people say they want peace. “However, international forces have made people feel less secure,” he added. “It’s unfortunate that internationals hear stories about Afghans being wild people and think that more civilized outsiders are trying to build the country. People here are suffering because of destruction caused by outsiders.”

The air, the ground, the mountainsides, the water, and even the essential bonds of familial living have been ravaged by three decades of warfare here in Afghanistan. People living here have suffered the loss of an estimated two million people killed in the wars. 850 children die every day because of disease and hunger.

Amid excruciating sorrow and pain, it’s good to see people still find ways to gather for celebrations, even when the sounds seem curious and the dances seem, to some, forbiddingly exotic. Differences between insiders and outsiders become less relevant as people meet one another to celebrate.

Peace can surprise us when it comes, and that alone is abundantly sufficient cause for celebration in this season, wherever we are. Dr. King wrote that “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice,” and we should not be surprised as new and growing movements around us reveal an unquenchable and ineradicable longing for simple justice. The killing fields that scar our earth and sear the memories of survivors beckon us to look and listen for new ways of living together. Massacres of innocents call to us to reject the easy and familiar and go home by an other way.

The desires to live more simply, to share resources more radically, and to prefer service to dominance are not unique to any place, season, or religion. Such desires may yet herald unions previously unimagined and a better world for every newborn, each one bringing an astonishing potential – as we do if we strive to fulfill it – for peace.

Kathy Kelly (kathyatvcnv [dot] org), twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She and two companions are part of a Voices delegation visiting the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers in Kabul


War and Pieces

Can you help her?

She was sitting on the street somewhere in Slatina, Romania. She was sitting in the rain and cold, with her feet cut away. And yet she lived, this sweet girl with a big desire to survive.


She could use some more help. The wonderful Prietenii Nostri is a shelter and haven for some 400 to 500 dogs. This dog was lucky, as she was brought to Prietenii Nostri’s founder Gratiela Ristea, who does what she can to feed and house and provide medical care for these creatures, our fellow earthlings. I found my dog, Bobby, there almost two years and she is my sweet sweet girl.

Bobby had her tail cut off and her teeth kicked in. But this poor one, well… she’s had two surgeries already. And Gratiela says her spine is not broken, which is very good news.

Perhaps there are some of you who could make a donation to help cover her care … or even bigger: offer her a home… this would be wonderful.

cross posted at dKos

The Carry Trade

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Have I mentioned yet that banksters are stupider than you and I?

About the only way they can find to make money is to borrow it from Central Banks at low or non-existent rates of interest and lend it back to governments at significantly higher rates.

This is why Modern Monetary Theory is so appealing.  Why not just cut out the bloodsucking middlemen?

Oh, in theory they lend that money to producers of goods and services.  In fact, not so much.  Take for instance the European Central Bank’s outstandingly “successful” auction.

Where will the ECB’s billions go?

Felix Salmon, Reuters

Dec 22, 2011 09:50 EST

Norris’s bullishness is based on what you might call the Sarkozy trade – the idea that a huge amount of the ECB’s new lending will end up being invested in Eurozone government debt. He calls it “an obvious, virtually risk-free, option” for the banks who borrowed ECB funds.

(T)he prudent course of action, for Europe’s banks, is to use this ECB money to pay down their own debts. Doing so would address a big funding risk, and would also help derisk their balance sheets in the eyes of the world and of Basel.

The big question, then, is how long the ECB is going to be doing this kind of thing. If this operation is a signal to the market that the ECB will be the lender of last resort to European banks for at least the next couple of years, then the banks don’t need to worry so much about their own financing needs and can lock up the funds in two- or three-year government bonds as Norris and Sarkozy anticipate.

If I were running a European bank, I’d fill up on ECB lending now, when it’s plentiful, because you never know for sure when that limit might be reached. That’s what happened yesterday. But I’d definitely think twice before turning around and lending it all back out again to Italy or Spain. Yes, that trade is a profitable one. But the one thing that European banks need more than anything else right now is liquidity. Profits come second.

So the 2 choices on the table right now are stealing money using the ‘Carry Trade’ to extort it from governments and calling that ‘profit’ OR simply using it to write off the Trillions of crap they already have on their bloated, insolvent books.

And So It Begins

Twas the day before the night before Christmas and not a shopper was stirring not even a crotchety old hen or Marine Corps. vet.  The flag industry was dying like so many others and here I sat thinking WTF is next.

So the book keeper goes to the boss the other day “We’ve got 8k in the bank and here’s 8k in checks to sign to pay off vendors” “We’ll be solvent till January first”  Now I’m one to get nervous needlessly, I suffer from anxiety and depression so forgive me if I sound like I’m freaking out because I am.  Forty seven years old, under educated, legally blind, 16k in debt, living in a company supplied house that’s ready to collapse from rot and termites, BC/BS is calling everyday for the 2 or 3 grand I owe em and the NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired is spending huge dollars to make my workplace more accessible for me by buying CCTVs, Screen Readers, Glasses and other nice toys but I have to remain employed for 90 days or I loose them.  I have my health though, well maybe, haven’t seen a Dr. in four or five years, my teeth need to be serviced and I’m 47 with all that that implies LOL.

It could be worse though for tonight I have a roof over my head and probably will for a while longer at least, I’ve got food and friends to help if I need. I’m not one of the third of humanity living on less that two bucks a day and I still have hope!!

Merry Christmas Happy Hanukkah and a Safe, Healthy and Happy New Year to all

On this Day In History December 23

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 23 is the 357th day of the year (358th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are eight days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1893, The opera Hansel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck is first performed.

The libretto was written by Adelheid Wette (Humperdinck’s sister), based on the Grimm brothers’ Hansel and Gretel. It is much admired for its folk music-inspired themes, one of the most famous being the Abendsegen (“Evening Benediction”) from Act 2.

The idea for the opera was proposed to Humperdinck by his sister, who approached him about writing music for songs that she had written for her children for Christmas based on “Hänsel und Gretel.” After several revisions, the musical sketches and the songs were turned into a full-scale opera.

Humperdinck composed Hansel and Gretel in Frankfurt am Main in 1891 and 1892. The opera was first performed in Weimar on 23 December 1893, conducted by Richard Strauss. It has been associated with Christmas since its earliest performances and today it is still most often performed at Christmas time.

The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

No Joke.

Last night I had TDS/TCR duty and while I found this story incredibly funny, it’s also very serious and topical.

(h/t qm1pooh)


The question on everyone’s mind, indeed the only question of any political significance whatever this election cycle is whether Stephen Colbert’s Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Super PAC™ will be allowed to sponsor this year’s South Carolina Republican Primary.

I’m sure you all remember this segment from 12/7-

where Stephen reveals his negotiation to place a simple non-binding referendum question on the 2011 South Carolina Republican Primary ballot.

In order to address the issue of Corporate Personhood, the enfranchised People of the Sovereign State of South Carolina declare that:

   ( ) Corporations are people.

   ( ) Only people are people.

As Stephen reveals today in his explosive guest editorial in The State, South Carolina’s leading newspaper for publishing explosive guest editorials by Stephen Colbert, South Carolina has 2 (count ’em) TWO State Mottos-

   Animis opibusque parati – “Prepared in mind and resources.”


   Dum spiro spero – “While I breathe, I hope.”

Oh, and that his Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Super PAC™ has made a firm cash offer of $500,000 to become the official sponsor of the South Carolina Republican Primary.

This is no joke.  Stephen has in fact written “No Joke” on the memo line of each check.

ek you say, how can someone “sponsor” a Primary?

Civium Coniunctionem

Please remember to say that like Hermione and not Ronald.

For years the South Carolina Republican Party has paid for the expenses of each county.

Colbert Sought Naming Rights For South Carolina Primary

By Reid Wilson, National Journal

December 22, 2011 11:20 AM

Until 2008, the state Republican Party had paid for the entire primary process, renting the polling places and voting machines, printing the ballots and providing the volunteers. In 2008, the state paid for both parties’ competitive primaries.

No joke: Stephen Colbert wants naming rights to S.C. GOP primary

Richard Fausset, L.A. Times

December 22, 2011 9:28 am

This month the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported that Colbert offered to help cover the costs of the Jan. 21 presidential primary, the first in the South, if the state GOP would change its name to “The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary,” just as Frito-Lay has paid to affix “Tostitos” to “Fiesta Bowl.”

He also asked the party to support placing a referendum question on the January ballot asking voters whether they believe “corporations are people,” an issue at the heart of the Citizens United case, or “only people are people,” an assertion echoing a 1984 Depeche Mode hit.

The State’s Gina Smith reported that the GOP passed on the naming rights, but agreed to put the question on the primary ballot in exchange for a pledge of a “significant contribution” from Colbert’s PAC.

Then, however, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck all referendum questions from the ballot.

That wasn’t the end of things. South Carolina’s GOP is also caught up in a complicated drama over how much of the primary it should pay for, and how much of the tab should be picked up by the government. Matt Moore, the executive director of the state GOP, has said he believes that a recent court ruling makes the state and counties “solely responsible for the primary.”

South Carolina GOP rebuts Stephen Colbert on primary naming rights

By MICHAEL A. MEMOLI, Sacremento Bee

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 – 12:00 am

Ultimately, the South Carolina Supreme Court decided that the state’s counties had to foot the bill for the cost of the election. And Colbert is offering again to step to the plate, under the same conditions he offered before.

“The counties need the money, and Colbert Super PAC wants to give it to you; call it a Christmas Miracle,” he says.

op. cite

The South Carolina Republican Party confirmed they had been engaged in talks with Colbert, talks sources said have continued for months. And party chairman Chad Connolley did visit Colbert in New York, a spokesman confirmed.

Colbert’s not giving up on S.C. primary


Dec 22, 2011 21:10 IST

Colbert said talks continued with the state party over plans including still selling them the naming rights or whether the GOP would petition to get his referendum back on the ballot. When that failed, he said he reached out to the state Democrats, who agreed to seek to reinstate the referendum. At that point, the state Republicans declined Colbert’s money because they “were concerned about the sanctity of the primary election.”

“If nothing else good comes from this, we have at least narrowed down the exact value of sanctity – somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000,” Colbert wrote.

Colbert wrote that he thought the issue was dead, until learning that South Carolina’s Republican party had reneged on almost all funding for the primary, which prompted him to offer to cover the counties’ $500,000 shortfall.

Colbert guest editorial: Naming rights, state mottoes and the GOP primary + video

By Stephen Colbert – Guest Columnist, The State

Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011

I assumed that was the end of the story, but last week I saw that the South Carolina GOP has reneged on funding any part of the primary, save for the legal minimum percentage of candidate filing fees, leaving the financially strapped counties on the hook for $500,000. That’s money that counties need for emergency services, infrastructure repair, and to complete the wall to keep out North Carolinians. Once again, our first-in-the-South primary is in jeopardy.

Colbert Super PAC will cover the counties’ $500,000 shortfall. In return, I ask for only two things: that you support the Democrats’ petition to get my referendum back on the ballot, and that you grant me the pre-negotiated naming rights, which, I think we can all agree, you now own. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “You paid for that microphone!”

Do not despair

Oh, and you may resume breathing.  Stephen has left us this message of eksmas cheer (op. cite)-

Dear Colbert Super PAC Members And Incorporated MemberCo’s,

Colbert Super PAC got you a Christmas present, but it didn’t arrive in time. You want to know what it was anyway?

I was going to give you the South Carolina primary. I was so sure you’d like it, I didn’t even ask for a receipt.

I’ve explained it all in an opinion piece that’s just been published in “The State” newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. You can take a look here.

Sorry it didn’t get here in time. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. So next year I’m going to give you thoughts.

Whatever holiday you celebrate this season:

Merry Christmas from Colbert Super PAC!

   Stephen Colbert

   President And Fourth Wise Man

   Americans For A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow

Contributions to Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow (“ABTT”) are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. ABTT may accept unlimited corporate contributions, unlimited individual contributions, unlimited labor-union contributions, and unlimited PAC contributions. Contributions from foreign nationals and federal-government contractors will not be accepted. *Federal law requires ABTT’s best efforts to obtain and report the name, address, occupation, and employer of any individual who contributes more than $200 in a calendar year.

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.

–Earl Nightingale

Entwined 2

Late Night Karaoke

Yes, We Can: The Case for Indefinite Detention & Rendition

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Twist as the president’s supporters might with the “look over here” tactic, the National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) does not change any existing law that Barack Obama has interpreted to mean he has the power to throw your sorry butt in prison anywhere in the world for as long as he chooses. Or he can just declare you a terrorist without providing evidence and have you executed without due process. Ignoring the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) that was recently renewed giving the president the authority to send in the military to fight that ubiquitous enemy “terror”, the Obama loyalists, keep pointing to section 1022 of the NDAA, the section that makes military detention presumptive for non-citizens but doesn’t foreclose military detention of US citizens, while completely ignoring section 1021, the section that affirms the President’s authority to indefinitely detain people generally. As Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel points out while the NDAA does not authorize indefinite detention for American citizens, it does not foreclose the possibility either:

The NDAA doesn’t do anything to exempt Americans from indefinite detention. And the reason it doesn’t-at least according to the unrebutted claims of Carl Levin that I reported on over a month ago-is because the Administration asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to take out language that would have specifically exempted Americans from indefinite detention.

   The initial bill reported by the committee included language expressly precluding “the detention of citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.”  The Administration asked that this language be removed from the bill. [my emphasis]

So the effect is that (as Lawfare describes in detail) the bill remains unclear about whether Americans can be detained indefinitely and so we’re left arguing about what the law is until such time as a plaintiff gets beyond the Executive Branch’s state secrets invocations to actually decide the issue in court.

Nor did the amendment from Sen. Diane Feinstein clarify that point either, in fact, she may have codified it. So the only recourse is for some poor fool to have his civil liberties abrogated and try to fight in court without being allowed access to lawyers or courts. Those are some hurdles. Scott Horton, contributing editor at Harper’s magazine and New York attorney known for his work in human rights law and the law of armed conflict, discussed this with Keith Olbermann:

Constitutional expert and George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, appeared on C-Span with his take on this discussion. He made it very clear that Obama says that he can assassinate American citizens living on U.S. soil:

(starting at 15:50):

President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he’s satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States.

Two of his aides just … reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President anywhere including the United States.

You’ve now got a president who says that he can kill you on his own discretion. He can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion [..]

I don’t think the the Framers ever anticipated that [the American people would be so apathetic]. They assumed that people would hold their liberties close, and that they wouldn’t relax …

h/t Washington’s Blog

How quickly the president’s defenders forget Anwar al-Awlaki. Marcy points to the contortions of the law that Obama used to justify his assassination and then issued a “secret memorandum” which was conveniently “leaked” to New York Times reporter Charles Savage:

And, as Charlie Savage has reported, the legal justification the Administration invented for killing an American citizen in a premeditated drone strike consists of largely the same legal justification at issue in the NDAA detainee provisions.


  • The 2001 AUMF, which purportedly defined who our enemies are (though the NDAA more logically includes AQAP in its scope than the 2001 AUMF)

  • Hamdi, which held the President could hold an American citizen in military detention under the 2001 AUMF

  • Ex Parte Quirin, which held that an American citizen who had joined the enemy’s forces could be tried in a military commission

  • Scott v. Harris (and Tennesee v. Garner), which held that authorities could use deadly force in the course of attempting to detain American citizens if that person posed an imminent threat of injury or death to others
  •    In other words, Obama relied on substantially the same legal argument supporters of the NDAA detainee provisions made to argue that indefinite detention of American citizens was legal, with the addition of Scott v. Harris to turn the use of deadly force into an unfortunate side-effect of attempted detention.

    There is no question that the Obama administration, by signing the NDAA, believes that it has the broad power to indefinitely detain and assassinate American citizens and guarantees that the next president will too.

    The late George Carlin said it several years ago, “this country is circling the drain“.