Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Is the Obama presidency crumbling?

People are furious,” said a senior intelligence official who would not be identified discussing classified information. “This is officially the White House cutting off the intelligence community.
Cited by Ken Dilanian and Janet Stobart in the Los Angeles Times.

“Crumbling”? That may seem a harsh judgment, even phrased as a question. But the signs of disarray and poor crisis management are mutliplying. Given that Obama’s tenure still has at least two more years to run even before the next round of electoral distraction, premature lame-duckism is not a favorable prospect for our well-being.

But Obama is reaping the deserved fruits of his own bad habits, so it’s hard to work up much sympathy for his travails despite the revolting behavior of his sworn enemies (whom he seems determined to keep courting). For starters, the entire NSA scandal, now mutating and ballooning on an hourly basis, springs from Obama’s own coddling of the spy/war-making apparatus. He provided cover for their Bush-era crimes (by failing to prosecute torture among other things), continues to tolerate the inexcusable Guantánamo nightmare, and acceded to the pointless prolongation of the Afghan war demanded by his generals (who loathe him) despite its futility, no doubt to preserve his tough-guy stance and his chances for a second term. And of course he has been a vigorous defender of the electronic snoopery and major hater of Mr. Snowden for exposing its creepy, Orwellian behavior—until now.

Meanwhile, it’s lovely to see the NSA leakers (leaks! lawbreaking! treason!) try to undermine the White House’s claims that Obama did not know about Angela Merkel’s phone being tapped. At long last, Obama has a problem he can’t lawyer his way out of given that he either (1) did know all along and is lying; (2) really did not know and is thus a piss-poor manager; or (3) kinda-sorta knew but kept himself at arm’s length of the gory details in time-honored Washington style. Or he could simply spit out the more likely story and admit that (4) no one in elected office, including himself, can rein in the spy agencies or even ask what they’re up to any more because they’ve got dirt on everyone or can easily generate some.

Another aspect of the fracturing of Obama’s leadership is his peculiar tolerance for endless buckets of right-wing abuse full of barely concealed racial overtones combined with his furious retaliation against populist or left-wing critics or, heaven forbid, whistle-blowers, whom he loves to prosecute for espionage. Anyone who might have alerted him to embarrassing facts about the wiretaps on foreign leaders surely got the message long ago that the prez did not want to hear them, would not defend anyone who blurted them out, and was content with his role of manager-in-chief of the security state, including turning a blind eye to the boys as they ran wild with drones, electronic bugs, and forklift pallets of $100 bills.

There have been tons of people trying to warn Obama about the dangers, both political and moral, of excessive snooping, slaughter-by-drone, the ongoing cruelty of Guantánamo, the crumbling of the rule of law, and in an entirely different realm, the runaway powers of the finance sector. But he would hear none of that. Now he’s on his own defending all those bad habits, and his only allies are the security state itself, a large part of which hates his guts.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Stop focusing on the Tea Party; watch out for the other guys

Laments such as this one on the exasperatingly demented behavior of our GOP Wacko Brigade proliferate across the Web, and private conversations throughout the land. But while true as far as they go, I believe they miss the point.

The danger to our polity and our wellbeing, in the long run, is not—or not solely—due to the reactionary nuttiness of the Ted Cruzes and the Michelle Bachmanns, but also to the steady adoption of several of their key assumptions in slightly modified form by their supposed adversaries. We can debate whether this is intentional or unconscious but not, I repeat, whether it is taking place. In a process that directly parallels the British New Labour self-seduction into Thatcherite neoliberalism, the Obama Administration and the Democrats as a whole skate ever closer to the GOP view of the role of government and social solidarity, thus setting the stage for even more devastating attacks on the poor, workers and the middle class.

In other words, while we can and should fear the occasional tactical victories of the radical right wing and cheer their defeats, we should not lose sight of their continuing strategic triumph.

Gloating over the Tea Party/GOP plunge in popular opinion after they engineered the recent shutdown has obscured their success in setting the terms of our national debate over spending. Obama himself talks incessantly of an alleged need to reduce government spending despite the clear evidence that employment recovery is still distant. His abysmal reaction to the last round of Tea Party blackmail was the sequester, which locked in 8% cuts across all social spending, relief from which is not even on the table. Some defeat for the ultras of the GOP! Instead of having to do the tiresome and tedious work of lopping off bits and pieces through the normal legislative process, they intimidated the majority party into giving up 8% of the store in exchange for nothing.

The apparent struggle over budgetary priorities masks the Obama surrender on a key ideological point: is there a federal deficit “problem”? As Dean Baker has insisted for years in his essential Beat the Press column, the shortfall in our public purse is not the cause of our economic ills but the result of it—the banker-induced crash of 2008 wrecked federal finances, and full employment would repair them.

The destitute and the unemployed should be demanding action from Obama on jobs, but instead they are given the spectacle of goofy Sarah Palin and repugnant Eric Cantor calling for debtors’ prisons and chain gangs. The Dems, who enjoy the craziness to the extent it will get them votes, do nothing to reframe the debate. Instead, they shake their heads like Serious Adults and prepare the way for cuts in Medicaid and Social Security that will further harm the needy.

Rather than fight the tendentious and dishonest Republican complaints about the deficit (which, by the way, would have ended instantly had Romney become president), Obama has made their rhetoric his own as he begs his sworn enemies for a Grand Bargain to begin dismantling the New Deal in exchange for them to like him. The GOP Br’er Rabbits pretend not to want it, and we should all pray hard that they keep refusing.

Meanwhile, further ragging on the excesses of the drunken sailors in the House of Representatives is a misguided diversion. By themselves, the Teabag contingent can only perform sabotage. But real long-term damage is within the power of the liberals like Dick Durbin of Illinois who just promised to open the Pandora’s Box of Social Security reductions so as to further glut the insatiable trough wherein the troops of the renascent Confederacy feed.

So those among us who eagerly await the congressional election of 2014 so that the Teabagger minions can be disapatched back to their plantations should be careful what they wish for. If there is no sustained pushback from alarmed citizens against the growing assault on our retirement security, we may welcome back to Washington a Democratic majority just in time to witness it hand the cashbox over to the Wall Street financiers.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Biting the hand that gives trillions

Murdoch’s New York Post had a screaming headline yesterday ‘UNCLE SCAM’ , alluding to the upcoming $13 billion fine to be levied against JP MorganChase. The thrust of that article was that the big, bad government was staging bank robbery by extracting hard-earned cash from an upstanding pillar of the economy headed by perfectly nice Jamie Dimon.

The Post follows up today with another piece outlining that Dimon’s only real sin was his opposition to Obama’s unhealthy economic policies such that the big fines were political punishment.

You really have to have the balls of an elephant to pull off a cynical exercise like this (Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism shreds the supposedly big fine here), but Obama and the Dems left themselves open to an attack of this staggering chutzpah by coddling the financial sector and refusing to expose their crimes. The country was primed to extract real concessions from the banking sector after the meltdown of 2008, and the public could easily have been educated about what had taken place if the light had been shined on Dimon and his colleagues publicly. What an educational opportunity was lost when the Obama team refused to hold public hearings on what went wrong. We needed a modern Sam Ervin to grill these banker-anarchists until the truth came out for all to see.

Instead of a Pecora Commission like the one set up under FDR to probe the causes of the 1930s Depression, we got Democratic cover for the banks that bankroll both parties and a full bailout with no change of management. Now the counterattack from the guys who asses were saved is in full swing. Like Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz staging protests at the veterans memorial over the shutdown THEY engineered, Democratic collusion with the bankers’ crimes provided the demagogues with a giant opportunity.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Post mortem on the wounded republic

Hopefully next time it won't be in the 11th hour. We've got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.
–Barack Obama

Now is not the time for pointing the fingers of blame. Now is the time for reconciliation.
– Harry Reid (D-NV)

This is not over.
–Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Amidst the heaving sighs of relief at the end of the useless and seditious attempt by a minority to blackmail the rest of us into getting their way, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the big “losers” have no real reason to despair. Listen to Obama’s tone in his statement above: “we” have got to stop governing this way—since when are “we” doing so? If I’m not mistaken, it was “they” who insisted on this bullying tactic, and we can bet, given his lame-ass, passive response, that “they” will be at it again very soon, as Teabagger Mike Lee promised.

Then there’s the comment from Harry Reid who led a respectably pugnacious fight on the Senate side and didn’t sound as tongue-tied as the Prez when characterizing the wacko leagues. If “now” is not the time for pointing fingers of blame, when on earth would that time be?

A lot of the post hoc commentary now consists of gloating over how badly the Republicans have harmed their “brand” and the possibility of punishment a year from now at the mid-term elections, all of which is highly speculative. But as one of the ‘baggers pointed out in the midst of the spat, their last round of blackmail was highly successful and resulted in the sequester, brutal cuts to social programming that not even the Democrats are complaining about any more.

Sure, this time they got bupkis in concrete terms, but they managed to push the discussion even further toward their overall position on things like the need to slash Social Security and other “entitlements.” Here Obama entirely agrees with them as he has been trumpeting for years to no avail. Ironically, the Tea Party loonies have done us a favor by refusing to come to terms with Satan. We should fear that the “sensible” GOP types take over and push through a deal with Obama that will be far worse for our futures than anything done so far.

Another big topic of discussion is the anti-democratic nature of the GOP revolt given that Obamacare was passed by both houses of Congress, signed into law and upheld by the Supreme Court, i.e., a legal statute under the Constitution that these tinfoil-hats pretend to uphold. Explain to me why this is news? These are not the same crew who imposed themselves in the presidency despite losing (possible twice), drove voter suppression to new limits, de-legitimized Obama’s presidency from Day One, enabled birther demagoguery, and continues to look for ways to subvert due process on any front?

I think the tone of the Obama presidency was set during the first State of the Union message he delivered by the interruption from a racist asshole from South Carolina. Instead of calling out the guy, Obama just swallowed it and has been on the defensive ever since.

For that matter, why not go back to the worst subversion of democratic process in our lifetime, the 2000 judicial coup that the Democrats took lying down with hardly a peep. If anyone should have been staging last-stand shutdowns of the federal government lately, it was them and then.

So what can we expect next? Once the hoopla dies down, I expect the country to sink back into complacency. After all was said and done, the disaster scenario did not occur. As the financial markets largely anticipated, there was no collapse, no runs on banks, no sudden drops of 600 points in the Dow, no wild foreign exchange gyrations. The Democrats get to look like adults, but who cares? That didn’t save John Kerry’s ass in 2004, and it won’t save Obama’s come January when we get to do this or something like it all over again.

This was not a fight with the wackos but rather with their enablers. I am glad to see that more and more commentators (like Frank Rich in New York magazine) draw a parallel with our current state that has often occurred to me: the antebellum period of the 1850s when the Confederacy-to-be started to withdraw from the nation. Here’s Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books:

The people behind these efforts are imitating what the Confederate States did even before they formally seceded in 1861. Already they ran a parallel government, in which the laws of the national government were blatantly disregarded. They denied the right of abolitionists to voice their arguments, killing or riding out of town over three hundred of them in the years before the Civil War. They confiscated or destroyed abolitionist tracts sent to Southern states by United States mail. In the United States Congress, they instituted “gag rules” that automatically tabled (excluded from discussion) anti-slavery petitions, in flagrant abuse of the First Amendment’s right of petition.

The Southern states were able to live in such open disregard for national law because of two things. First, the states were disproportionately represented in Congress . . . . Second, the national Democratic-Republican Party needed the Southern part of its coalition so badly that it colluded with the Southern states’ violations of the Constitution. In 1835, for instance, President Andrew Jackson did not enforce the sacredness of the US mail, allowing states to refuse delivery of anti-slave mailings unless a recipient revealed his identity, requested delivery, and had his name published for vilification.

As Wills points out, the guiding principle at work is resistance to majority rule. Concessions from the central government in the 1850s merely emboldened the secessionists to go further, and that dynamic is at work today. Obama will continue to seek common ground with the enemies of our national polity, and they will continue to bait him as an uppity Negro. At some point, the center will not hold--maybe now, maybe later.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Parallel cops

At least four active-duty New York cops were part of the motorcycle gang that terrorized and assaulted a driver in front of his wife and kid last week, and luckily the local prosecutors are hauling them in one by one to face indictments. Some of them are going to use as a defense the claim that they were undercover and looking for illegal behavior, which is both plausible and disturbing.

Disturbing because cops infiltrating violence-prone groups always have to walk a careful line between observing criminal acts and putting a stop to them, thus ending their undercover status. And in this case, at least one is alleged to have actively participated in the assault, which raises the question, To what extent should undercover spying influence the chain of events? This is a burning issue given the frequent use of agents provocateurs now to uncover ‘terrorist’ plots that often would never have come to fruition without the active encouragement of the policing agents themselves.

In the New York biker incident, the issue is particularly germaine given that one of the undercover rowdies, Wojciech Braszczok, turns out to have been a regular spy at the Occupy Wall Street activities as well. It will be interesting to learn more about his role there: for example, did he actively encourage the OWS folks to engage in more confrontational tactics or even provoke the police himself so that they would have an excuse to wade into the crowds and stage mass arrests? There are preliminary hints that this might be so.

Aside from the illicit spying on a constitutionally-protected protest activity, the presence of Braszczok in these various capacities should give us pause given the likelihood of increasing resistance to the pillager/looter state now firmly in the pocket of our banker overlords. What is to prevent these secret agents from simultaneously undermining legitimate protest while tolerating or even protecting and fortifying violent fringe groups that can be turned to convenient use by their bosses? Or do we believe the police to be a neutral force committed to protecting all citizens equally?

We need look no further than the Golden Dawn phenomenon in Greece to see how a society on the verge of complete collapse can open an enormous wedge to racist hate groups or even death squads, and there is plenty of historical precedent to suspect deep penetration by such groups into the security apparatus where they frequently find ideological sympathizers (Colombia and Northern Ireland come to mind).

We should hope and demand that our district attorneys prosecute these crimes fully and impartially and refuse to be intimidated by the many powerful friends of active-duty cops. Letting them off the hook after a driver out with his wife and minding his own business was dragged from his vehicle and beaten on the street would be yet another chilling precedent.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Wacko-wing may get what it wants

(Washington, D.C.) – I wandered down Pennsylvania Avenue Thursday afternoon amidst the abandoned government buildings and forlorn lunch shops just in time to see Obama’s motorcade roar down the concourse in a rather overblown display of security given that hardly anyone was about. It was an apt metaphor for the state of affairs among our governing class—lots of pomp for the benefit of an audience that can’t afford seats.

The attitudes of my acquaintances there range from disgusted to cautiously optimistic, the latter based on the sanguine conviction that Obama ‘has the high ground’. Indeed he does and has always had since his massive victory in 2008. But will he use it? History is quite definitive on that point: no. A novel reversal could be in the offing, but we should be prepared to expect another partial cave-in to Obama’s enemies’ subversive blackmail. I hope, but do not expect, to be wrong.

I am often reminded during both this and many other current debates of the Teabagger/anti-immigrants’ monotonous refrain that the many Mexicans entering visa-less from the south to take up jobs and residence in Alabama and South Carolina are engaged in lawless behavior. ‘What part of illegal don’t you understand?’ was a favorite placard at their indignant rallies. And yet when laws are meant to reflect the will of the majority and are duly passed, enacted and upheld by our three branches of government, all such discussions fly out the window. These people have no interest in the rule of law or the will of the majority.

Obama’s easily intimidated team never wields this particular cudgel to whack back at the profoundly autocratic forces arrayed against him. There seem to be no set rules that the GOP and their wacko-wing cannot breach with imperious glee after loudly claiming to defend constitutional purity. Republican-style health insurance forced down the collective throat? Disavow it and move the goalposts. Elections being lost? Change the qualifications for voting and purge the lists. Obama’s program favored over Romney’s? Stop the operations of government entirely.

Nonetheless and despite massive evidence that no deals can ever satisfy the howling wolves of white Southern reaction, Obama allows himself to be maneuvered into ‘negotiations’ over permission to occupy the presidency with no guarantee that the terms of said permission will remain in force tomorrow. After the Repubs’ clever pounding away at alleged White House obstinacy in refusing to cut deals with the debt-ceiling gun held at all our heads, Obama now hosts the leaders of this neo-secessionist movement and emerges with half a smiley-face.

The worst possible outcome is perhaps the most likely: an eventual deal that will be erected on the backs of the most vulnerable, involving the first nicks and cuts at Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, thereby opening the door to many more with the principle well and firmly established by the party of FDR. Obama has stated openly that he seeks this massive betrayal of the New Deal legacy and his own constituency, and only bullheaded antagonism from people who loathe him has prevented him from getting it. Yet his defenders attribute all blame to the bad-guy loonies and refuse to lay any blame at his feet.

How would a more brutal and determined politician (I hate to admit that Hillary Clinton comes to mind) have reacted to this snotty GOP refusal to play by any rules that do not result in them winning? For starters, I cannot imagine that this hypothetical president would have promptly handed over, as Obama did, all threat of unilateral action to defend the ‘full faith and credit’ clause of the Constitution, thereby giving away a powerful tool in the midst of the fight. How interesting would it be to see Obama order government payments to continue (through a half-dozen suggested tactics) in defiance of congressional meddling.

My interlocutors in Washington said that that would trigger an impeachment proceeding from the lower house, but who’s to say that we won’t be seeing one sooner or later anyway? Why not stage a bare-knuckles fight over something worth defending? And in any case, who would win such a showdown? Unfortunately, we’ll never know because the guy in charge hasn’t got a confrontational bone in his body when it comes to his mortal enemies down the street. The only people he’s really willing to go after are the whistleblowers, Yemeni tribespeople and senior citizens trying to avoid a cat-food lunch. That is, us.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Beyond the Bloomberg years

Here in New York there has been a lot of looking back over the 12 Bloomberg years lately as his regime enters its final months. It’s interesting to hear all the perspectives and to note that everyone, without a single exception that comes to mind, has mixed feelings about the guy.

In addition, we can now grasp the political zeitgeist a bit more clearly after the wacky mayoral primary just concluded. It’s a tale of elite disconnect and the usual cluelessness of the powerful.

Bloomberg himself contributed to the reflections with a long interview in New York magazine, the gossipy celebrity-driven weekly that provides far more detail on the rich and famous than anyone should confess to wanting. In it, he outlines why his three terms in office were the best thing that ever happened to the city and also that he’s really great, what, are you stupid or something?

On the positive side of the ledger is the fact that Bloomberg handled the crisis atmosphere of the early years fairly well. He came into office amidst the collective trauma around 9/11 very fresh and with half the city limping back to some sort of normalcy. The local economy could have been in serious long-term trouble given the fears of a repeat attack. It wasn’t a moment for a guy with low self-esteem.

His signature public health initiatives ranged from wildly successful (smoke-free public spaces) to respectable failures (banning super-sized sodas and congestion pricing, i.e., taxing cars at rush hour). His approach is fully in the spirit of the disturbingly dictatorial public health tradition—do it because I said so because it’s good for you. It’s hard to imagine getting cigarettes out of restaurants any other way, and the precedent has been copied all over the world. But while Bloomberg always noticed that people were put off by this approach, he never expressed the slightest understanding for their resistance. It was a pattern repeated in all aspects of his tenure, and we’re now living through the reaction.

For example, policing practices in New York are and have been appalling, and here too Bloomberg just bulldozes forward with his buddy Commissioner Kelly, insisting that Keeping Us Safe justifies any abuse they decide is necessary. It’s the same mentality at work, except that here we’re not dealing with a kid’s 64-ounce Dr Pepper, but rather that same kid’s physical wellbeing and survival. NYPD’s notorious permanent ‘stop & frisk’ dragnets are probably the number one reason that Bill de Blasio will be our next mayor instead of Christine Quinn, and neither Quinn nor Bloomberg ever fully grasped how pissed off people are over it.

Quinn, the current City Council president, was the heavy favorite to succeed Bloomberg, and it’s still a bit amazing that her early commanding lead collapsed so precipitously, landing her in a distant third place in the Democratic primary. As several commentators have pointed out, she played up her technical knowledge, her grasp of city issues and her reasonableness, which policy nerds like me respected. But that same careful approach buried her. It never occurred to her to take the TV cameras and go visit the family of Ramarley Graham, the unarmed 19-year-old whom the cops followed into his Bronx bathroom and shot dead in front of his grandmother. If she had made that call, Kelly would have had a cow, and Quinn might be mayor.

Meanwhile, de Blasio denounced the rich, made a scene at the closing of a Brooklyn hospital, and showed off his biracial family. It was cheap, theatrical and very effective, which suggests that under the glossy surface that Bloomberg is so proud of, with the new buildings going up everywhere and the improvements in bike lanes, a lot of people are not doing well and are not happy about it. We’re so used to having Bloomberg around as mayor (‘mayor-for-life’ is one of his common nicknames) that it will take some adjustment to start hearing from the relatively unknown de Blasio. The tabloids already have their knives sharpened to feast on him, and the cops are going to be more surly and resentful than at any time since the Dinkins years. Should be interesting.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Flying bullets

The woman who led D.C. cops on a wild chase through downtown Washington apparently was troubled by mental health issues. I know it’s tricky to second-guess police procedures, but we have plenty of precedent in our modern world for seeing that cops reach for the firearms far too quickly before knowing if there is a real danger to them or others.

I will be interested to see if there is any opportunity for questioning whether an unarmed woman carrying an infant in her car really should have been the target of a volley of bullets and whether that was the only proper response to this incident. Raising the question does not mean pre-judging the security forces’ response, but not raising it does. We should insist that such episodes are carefully reconstructed to learn lessons about what level of force is required and to prevent future cases from bringing harm to bystanders, which luckily did not occur this time but often does. (Recall our own Empire State Building shooting last year in which police bullets injured passers-by.)

More likely, no one will dare raise such questions about police action because they were protecting Government Officials from "terrorism".

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

New Schneiderman suit proves old Schneiderman settlement was phony all along

New York State’s turncoat attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is gearing up to sue Wells Fargo for mortgage-related fraud, just over a year after one Eric Schneiderman settled with Wells Fargo on mortgage-related fraud based on WF’s promise to be good. What is wrong with this picture?

Here’s the lead paragraph from the NY Times article:

Fielding complaints from borrowers struggling to save their homes, New York’s top prosecutor is preparing a lawsuit against Wells Fargo, accusing the bank, the nation’s largest home lender, of flouting the terms of a multi-billion-dollar settlement aimed at stanching foreclosure abuses.

What the article never asks, of Schneiderman or itself, is how he can justify in retorspect his decision to let the bank off the hook through the so-called 49-state agreement, given the excellent chances that it and others would continue with the rip-offs.

Schneiderman was sitting with a very powerful hand of cards as New York State A-G because he could easily have prosecuted the hustler banks for both civil and criminal penalties, forcing a much needed shake-up in their corporate leadership and probably putting a few of them behind bars—a bracing remedy for fraud that is sadly lacking in the post-collapse scenario.

Instead, he caved to pressure from the White House and in exchange got a cool seat next to Michelle at the state of the union address and appointment to head a phony mortgage fraud investigative commission that has no staff and no offices. In short, he sold out the public interest for personal ambition. Oh, for an Eliot Spitzer when we need one.

The package sold to us at that time was that the banks would come up with a pot of money that sounded like a lot (but which many commentators immediately pointed out was in reality a lot less because it was calculated based on things the banks would do anyway or losses that others would shoulder). In addition, the banks—which, let us briefly recall, had caused the entire world economy to collapse through their reckless gambling—would promise to clean up their act and stop scamming people out of their homes.

As plenty of knowledgeable people pointed out at the time, the banks had very little incentive to do any such thing because behaving was costly while fraud continued to be profitable. Here is what one commentator wrote in April, 2012:

There has been a great deal of discussion of the many deficiencies of the mortgage settlement, but its biggest has gone pretty much unnoticed. It isn’t just that the settlement gives the banks a close to free pass for past predatory, illegal conduct, but it also has such lax servicing standards and weak enforcement provisions so as to give the banks license to carry on with servicing abuses.
[Yves Smith commenting on an analysis by Abigail Field]

And since Schneiderman (and Obama) were failing to extract any real penalties from the banks, the temptation was enormous for them to maintain business as usual—which they then did, as confirmed by the upcoming Wells Fargo lawsuit.

What was that bad behavior exactly? Well, at the Times points out, a lot of it involves pretending to give distressed homeowners loan modifications, but instead repeatedly ‘losing’ the relevant documents that they submit time and again, failing to inform them of the missing papers, charging them late fees, and eventually moving to foreclose on them, which is far more profitable than helping them keep their payments current. Here’s what the article says was included in the original settlement agreement that Schneiderman says Wells Fargo broke:

The settlement guidelines include requirements that banks provide homeowners with a single point of contact and notify borrowers of missing documentation within five days.

Wow, imagine that: banks had to promise in writing not to give people trying to pay their mortage the run-around and to establish an actual person responsible for their entire file, instead of diverting them to a call center in Bangladesh as they fight to avoid eviction. And even that was too much for the financier mafia.

It will be interesting to see if Schneiderman has figured out the Charlie Brown-Lucy game Wells is playing with him or whether he will ‘settle’ yet again, extract a desultory fine and let the banksters get right back in the game of torturing homeowners further for a few extra bucks.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Obamacare a boost for people with HIV

One group that is particularly eager for Obamacare to get underway is people living with HIV and AIDS.

According to HHS data, only some 13 percent of people with HIV are privately insured, and 24 percent have no coverage at all. One of the Catch-22s that has arisen with the advent of effective medication for HIV is that people face barriers to obtaining care from qualified providers because they are not “sick enough” for disability or poor enough for Medicaid and are simultaneously barred from insurance due to restrictions for those with pre-existing conditions.

Obamacare opens up avenues for them to be covered during the period, which can last decades, in which they are healthy enough to work and live normal lives. This should end the perverse incentive many face to become ‘professional patients’ by reducing their income to zero and essentially becoming wards of the state given that many care programs exist for the indigent.

‘It will prolong life potentially by decades for literally hundreds of thousands of persons’, said the National Minority AIDS Council in its brief in support of Obamacare to the Supreme Court.