Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Prescient One

Nobody can say Obama didn't see the problems with the mortgage crisis and Wall St. coming. The man was ahead of his time.

Obama Urges Bernanke, Paulson to Fight Foreclosures, Hold Homeownership Summit
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Contact: Ben LaBolt

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Senator Barack Obama today sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson urging them to immediately convene a homeownership preservation summit with key stakeholders to fight foreclosures driven by growth in the subprime mortgage market.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Chairman Bernanke and Secretary Paulson,

There is grave concern in low-income communities about a potential coming wave of foreclosures. Because regulators are partly responsible for creating the environment that is leading to rising rates of home foreclosure in the subprime mortgage market, I urge you immediately to convene a homeownership preservation summit with leading mortgage lenders, investors, loan servicing organizations, consumer advocates, federal regulators and housing-related agencies to assess options for private sector responses to the challenge.

We cannot sit on the sidelines while increasing numbers of American families face the risk of losing their homes. And while neither the government nor the private sector acting alone is capable of quickly balancing the important interests in widespread access to credit and responsible lending, both must act and act quickly.

Working together, the relevant private sector entities and regulators may be best positioned for quick and targeted responses to mitigate the danger. Rampant foreclosures are in nobody’s interest, and I believe this is a case where all responsible industry players can share the objective of eliminating deceptive or abusive practices, preserving homeownership, and stabilizing housing markets.

The summit should consider best practice loan marketing, underwriting, and origination practices consistent with the recent (and overdue) regulators’ Proposed Statement on Subprime Mortgage Lending. The summit participants should also evaluate options for independent loan counseling, voluntary loan restructuring, limited forbearance, and other possible workout strategies. I would also urge you to facilitate a serious conversation about the following:

What standards investors should require of lenders, particularly with regard to verification of income and assets and the underwriting of borrowers based on fully indexed and fully amortized rates.

How to facilitate and encourage appropriate intervention by loan servicing companies at the earliest signs of borrower difficulty.

How to support independent community-based-organizations to provide counseling and work-out services to prevent foreclosure and preserve homeownership where practical.

How to provide more effective information disclosure and financial education to ensure that borrowers are treated fairly and that deception is never a source of competitive advantage.

How to adopt principles of fair competition that promote affordability, transparency, non-discrimination, genuine consumer value, and competitive returns.

How to ensure adequate liquidity across all mortgage markets without exacerbating consumer and housing market vulnerability.

Of course, the adoption of voluntary industry reforms will not preempt government action to crack down on predatory lending practices, or to style new restrictions on subprime lending or short-term post-purchase interventions in certain cases. My colleagues on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs have held important hearings on mortgage market turmoil and I expect the Committee will develop legislation.

Nevertheless, a consortium of industry-related service providers and public interest advocates may be able to bring quick and efficient relief to millions of at-risk homeowners and neighborhoods, even before Congress has had an opportunity to act. There is an opportunity here to bring different interests together in the best interests of American homeowners and the American economy. Please don’t let this opportunity pass us by.


U.S. Senator Barack Obama

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Only The Stupid Brag

U. of Tennesse-Knoxville Student at Center of Palin E-Mail Hacking Probe - Chronicle of Higher Ed.
Over the past couple of days, a person who claims to have been the hacker has done something very stupid, given that he or she is the subject of an FBI investigation: bragging about how the deed was pulled off. The hacker used personal information about the Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate that has been made public recently — like where she met her husband — to trick Yahoo into reassigning the password to the hacker.

Early reports about the hacking had attributed it to a decentralized group of pranksters called Anonymous (read a great story about Anonymous here). But now newspapers and Internet sites are focusing on the son of Tennessee State Rep. Mike Kernell. The elder Mr. Kernell’s non-denial denial appears in the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Just one thought - this isn't a feat of hacking, this is a textbook example of Social Engineering. Social engineering is better compared to pushing a con or simply being a silver-tongued devil. Hacking is the art of taking machines - either the virtual or physical or both - and building something new, if not ingenious.

As any good social engineer will tell you, bragging or even placing yourself anywhere near the story is the surest way to get nailed. Only the stupid admit to SE attacks.

Obviously, now that a Democrat has been directly involved, the emphasis of the story has shifted to politics of the lowest common denominator. Which is highly unfortunate, because when Anonymous was involved as the perpetrator, the essence of the story was, 1) how most of us, including our politicians, have inadequate passwords and security protections, 2) how Gov. Palin so poorly managed the lines between state office and personal matters.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Bring On The Weakened Neurons

Chez says it's time we seriously discuss if, " . .72-year-old John McCain [is] mentally fit to be President of the United States?" Pam does too.

One word:


McCain doesn't have Reagan's teflon sunny optimism and an actor's sincerity. But yes, we have elected a President of older age prone to gaffes, ignorance, & public episodes of confusion before.

Now, I have three more words:

George W. Bush.

Everything I cited before without the excuse of the infirmities of age.

We've done it before and I'm sure we'll do it again. Maybe not this time, but there's always next year.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Billy Part Deux

After I made what in retrospect was a semi-disjointed post, our lovely Anjha asked me what the hell Reverend Billy and Church of Stop Shopping was. Well;
The Church of Stop Shopping is an activist performance group based in New York City, led by Reverend Billy, the stage name of Bill Talen. Using the form of a revival meeting, on sidewalks and in chain stores, Reverend Billy and his gospel choir exhort consumers to abandon the products of large corporations and mass media; the group also preaches a broader message of economic justice, environmental protection, and anti-militarism, protesting sweatshops and the Iraq War. Though it continues its street theatre activities, the Church has also appeared on stage and has toured internationally.
Which is a much better nutshell summary than I could write. The Church's website is more descriptive of the spirit of the ensemble, but I'll leave that as optional reading.

Now, if you've never been in an African-American and/or Baptist-style church service that features call-and-response and music to beat the band, the Stop Shopping church is bound to confuse you. While the Blues Brothers is a movieified version, its close enough to serve our perceptions right now. Just substitute the Jesus with an anti-overspending-consumerism message, and you have Rev. Billy and the church.

You might have also seen the the trailer for the documentary about Reverend and his choir a couple of years ago.

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He's On My List

At first it was the intensity of his eyes and the boombox scene (even if it wasn't really playing "In Your Eyes.")

Now it is the whole package, including his insanely brilliant commentary and analysis:

"Obama must hit Republicans ten times harder. Let's hear about war profiteering, taxpayer-funded mercenary armies and privatizing core functions of state, habeas corpus and warrantless wiretapping and presidential signing statements, and Katrina and justice department politicization, and phony intel and Abu Ghraib, rendition and torture."

"McCain and the neocon ideologues won't "reform" government, they will gut government and privatize everything in sight in the name of responding to the crises they helped engineer through Bush and Cheney. Their view of government is the reverse of the Hippocratic Oath: do harm and then when the patient is sick, give the wrong medicine, watch him die, and sell off the body parts."

Yes, and more. I believe Obama is on his way and all of the handwringing was just misunderstanding of his pacing. He will pick up speed on the end of his last lap and we will watch Obama sprint ahead. I am especially pleased with Obama pre-emptively going after the Republican voter supression.

Enough is Enough. Now, if I could only bump into John Cusack.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why 'HunnyBun' Is A Bad Password.

One of Gov. Sarah Palin's Yahoo accounts has been hacked.

Of course, the campaign has ripped this shocking invasion of privacy.

Folks, 8 characters or more, a mix of letters and numbers (and symbols if you can manage it), no real words or right spellings; don't use your familys' names, pets' names, favorite sports, or any other semi-public information as a password. Ideally, 16 characters or more is best, especially if you use the password to log onto your employer's Windows computer network, and use a passphrase, such as 'Purp!eRa1n&May'.

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I'm A Believer!

Happy Constitution Day!

I was blessed to witness with Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping this evening here in Iowa. The Good Reverend was here to preach his gospel to a bunch of stick-in-the-mud, under-emotional Scandinavian-descended Lutherans whom wouldn't know a call-and-response if it came up and bit them in the ass. Would it have killed this audience to get and move with the message?

The Choir and Rev. Billy, despite the icy audience, were on game. I got to hear the linked clip live and the soloist (Laura Newman?) was . . astounding. Yes, I would much rather sing that every morning than recite the Pledge of Allegiance. As someone once said, "I bleed Red, White & Blue. Just different shades".

And Alto Gina Figueroa is a demi-goddess.

Oh well, I had fun. And I'm adding the Reverend's Church to our links. And, yes Savitri, I'm the guy in Hawaiian shirt. I meant every word I said and about a 1000 more.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Barack Out

Not much going on today. Everyone's more or less still walking around like concussed puppies after being smacked about the head from yesterday's market chaos.

So I present for you, one of the weirdest webcomics I've read:

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Time to Stir Shit Up

The arrival of tens of millions of DVDs of a controversial DVD on doorsteps around the nation -- but almost exclusively in election "swing states" -- via newspaper home delivery continues this weekend, with explanatory articles and subscriber feedback appearing on some of the papers' Web sites.

Yes, I was blessed! God is awesome! Along with the 14 year-old's opus to 9/11 in today's service, and then the emphasis my wife put on the concept of forgiveness in the liturgy and sermon, and this POS, my day has been abso-frickin-ultely complete with the push and pull of idiots mixing politics and religion.
The documentary showcases scenes of Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers, interspersed with shots of Nazi rallies. 'The threat of Radical Islam is the most important issue facing us today,'' reads the sleeve of the DVD. ''But it's a topic that neither the presidential candidates nor the media are discussing openly. It's our responsibility to ensure we can all make an informed vote in November.''
If the documentary sounds familiar, there's good reason.
It was shown on Fox News just before the 2006 mid-term elections, and conservative activist David Horowitz screened the film on college campuses during 2007. An article at the group's site,, all but endorsed John McCain this past week, then was pulled down. The DVD carries on-screen text near the outset that it is not indicting most Muslims.
An article at the site of the Morning-Call in Allentown, Pa. today reveals that it will be inserted in the Sunday paper there tomorrow. It continues: "A call to Clarion wasn't returned, but the nonprofit's spokesman, Gregory Ross, told the Harrisburg Patriot-News this week that 28 million copies of the DVD are being distributed nationwide throughout September. He said the intent is not to sway voters' opinions about the presidential candidates."
Fuck, I think my falsehood outrage meter just imploded into a pinpoint white dwarf. Luckily, it's a cold day and my feet needed a little warmth.

28 million DVD's. That's almost 10% of the entire US population. Do the math - even as cheaply as someone could do a bulk order on this, do we know if one could push the production and then placement costs per DVD below $1/unit? And then there's the proud tradition of the media to distribute anything if someone pays them enough money . . .

More, Another heaping, and "My God, it's full of stars!"

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Give These Women Emmys

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