The Saga of a Divided Electorate

Most Americans choose to divide our voting citizenry along party lines – Democrats and Republicans.  The Democrats have been characterized by the tendency to overspend and their devotion to a big government that likes to take our freedoms away.  Republicans are best known for their conviction of fiscal conservation and preserving states rights to do as they please.  Although this is an oversimplification, it projects a perception bought by this country’s public.

 

In the midst of all the political rhetoric, we have those who choose to inflame the passions of both party participants.  Terms such as Washington elites, right-wingers, reactionaries, lame-stream media, Fox noise and bleeding-heart liberals are endlessly bantered around.  Civility, as the core of political discourse, is put on the shelf as each side accuses the other of leading the country down a destructive path, away from the principles of a democratic society.  Our new political affiliates, the tea partiers, are a smorgasbord of constitutionalist constituents who see our country moving away from their perception of the founding fathers’ vision.  Many Americans, who are having trouble making ends meet in our current economic down-turn, get hooked in embracing a set of ideological principles that camouflage their bottom-line needs. Wealthy politicians, in a conscious, deliberate effort to cloud matters, stoke ideological fires as a way of diverting attention from economic class distinctions.  The freedom to bear arms under all circumstances will not put money in one’s pocket.

 

Regardless of party affiliation and the supposed values associated with each, it appears that there is a more practical and meaningful way to divide the political electorate.  I believe that our citizens of voting age are either conscious in their political understanding or remain unaware of the political process.  Those who are conscious voters are politically astute and well-intentioned; those who are unconscious lack insight or are unwilling to become well-informed.  A more educated electorate is more likely to fully understand the implications of political decisions.  They are better versed on political facts and patterns. Those who are less educated may not be observant of the impact of political decisions on their everyday life experiences.  They may not get the big picture and understand ways in which they are vulnerable to political exploitation.  Unconscious people are oblivious to how they keep being played by those who possess more power and resources.  In other words, those who get the process and how to profit from politics, learn to exploit those who don’t.

 

Our country is being dominated and controlled by the wealthiest Americans. As the richest Americans pocket their windfall from massive tax breaks, and we allow major corporations and Wall Street tycoons to make record profits, a majority of Americans are being collectively duped and left wringing their hands.  The electorate that is conscious understands what is happening.  With eyes wide open, some of the well-to-do, out of personal and professional greed, use their power to leverage and sabotage those less fortunate.  Others, who are conscious political activists, are keenly aware of the greed and are speaking out against it and its impact on the financial future of fellow Americans.

 

Our less educated and oppressed citizen’s find themselves being trapped and tricked by the corporate power-brokers.  They do not understand the game being played, and the rules of engagement. We doled out millions of dollars to rescue banks, and yet were hesitant to provide our own automakers support because of concerns regarding middle-class union wages.  Big oil companies have been given carte blanche tax breaks as they parade before Congress and justify record-breaking profits.  They can pollute our waters and get away with it without significant recourse. Has our country already forgotten about the Gulf region oil spill?  The corporate lobbyists are making sure that we dismiss the catastrophe. The Supreme Court’s ruling has stacked the deck against honest politicians by allowing for unlimited corporate donations to candidates that will foster the cycle of corporate greed.  The conglomerate Wal-Mart asserted its power to get away with cheating employees with discriminatory practices as they received the blessing of the Highest Court.

 

The unconscious electorate had better come to their senses.  If they fail to do so, more resources will be stolen from the majority of Americans.  Currently, we’re quibbling about our debt ceiling, reducing our budget, while we operate two wars and fail to hold the wealthiest corporations and individuals accountable to pay their fair share of taxes.  Instead, while congressmen send their kids to private schools and have the best healthcare plans, these conscious, greedy politicians seek to find ways to balance the budget on the backs of educational institutions, Medicare, police protection and other critical services.

 

It is important that all Americans stand up against those with unlimited money and power who seek to diminish those who don’t.  We need an electorate who is educated enough to understand how their wallets are being emptied by those who continue to get more financial resources and stuff their pocketbooks.  We must get out of party politics and realize that the American dream will only be for the wealthiest few if we afford them the opportunity to continue their exploitation and greed.  We need our citizens to be politically conscious and seek to support those in our government who wish to stop the madness of those who prey on the vanishing middle-class.  We need to bring harmony to this country again by addressing the saga of a divided electorate. 

Justice Mistakes Microphone For Slender Defenseless Woman’s Neck

David Prosser, the Wisconsin Strangler, has issues:

Wisconsin state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, who has been publicly accused of putting Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in a chokehold, had another flare-up on Thursday — this time with a reporter.

The local Fox affiliate in Milwaukee sent reporter Mike Lowe to the state Capitol in Madison, seeking to track down the members of the Supreme Court, including Prosser, and repeatedly ask them for comment.

In all, Lowe caught up with four out of the seven Justices. Of course, the Justices predictably declined to comment on a matter that is under a pending investigation — especially a story that is embarrassing the court.

But when Prosser met up with Lowe, he quickly grabbed the microphone out of Lowe’s hand before just as quickly handed it right back to the surprised reporter — apparently realizing that was a really bad idea in front of a video camera

I think Prosser needs to retire, maybe spend his golden years choking those damn kids who won’t stay off of his lawn….

Could Durham’s CIA “Investigation” Lead to Understanding Migration of Torture Techniques?

photo: takomabibelot via Flickr

With the news that John Durham has decided to finally open criminal, and not just “preliminary,” investigations into the deaths of two prisoners held by the CIA (apparently Manadel al-Jamadi and Gul Rahman) the CIA can now “exhale,” as Spencer Ackerman describes it. The CIA’s sigh of release is related to the fact that of at least 101 cases of CIA abuse only two might be prosecuted. Spencer quotes outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta:

 

“On this, my last day as Director, I welcome the news that the broader inquiries are behind us,” Panetta wrote to the CIA staff on Thursday. “We are now finally about to close this chapter of our Agency’s history.”

Ackerman also quoted the new CIA director, General David Petraeus: “During his confirmation hearing last Thursday, Petraeus issued a public plea to take the ‘rear view mirrors off the bus’ and drop any inquiries into CIA torture. He also suggested that the CIA might return to abusive interrogations in “special cases” of imminent danger…”

Petraeus was approved for his new CIA position on a unanimous Senate vote. No one in Congress bothered to ask about his affiliation with former “Salvador option” specialist James Steele, or his activities in relation to the training of Iraq security forces, at the same time as U.S. forces were given a “fragmentary order” (FRAGO 242) which told U.S. forces not to interfere with the torture of prisoners they were handing over to these same Iraqi security forces. FRAGO 242 was a direct contravention of U.S. treaty obligations under the Convention Against Torture not to turn prisoners over to forces that would likely torture them.

But this is America, and it appears most of the reporting class, both mainstream and of the more alternative, “blogging” sort, have taken to heart the no-accountability plea of the Obama administration, and never bothered to ask why Petraeus was given such a free ride re questions about torture and other abuse under his command noted above, or his association with the operations of terror groups like the Wolf Brigade. (I plan to write more about this later.)

Comparing the 2002 OLC Memos with Later CIA Iterations of its “Techniques”

But not everyone is letting things slide. Marcy Wheeler is taking a closer look at the new information that we can glean from the Durham investigations. One thing she notes, which she has covered before, is how the techniques used on Rahman were never approved by the Yoo/Bybee memos. The water dousing and exposure to extreme cold were techniques noted in a 2004 letter written by the CIA General Counsel to the OLC’s Jack Goldsmith, a follow-up request concerning the CIA’s “Legal Principles Applicable to CIA Detention and Interrogation of Al-Qa’ida Personnel,” otherwise known as the Bullet Points memo, and the earlier OLC memos . But did someone vet some of these techniques, at another time and place, for a different agency… at DoD perhaps?

I think it’s worth noting that the Bullet points memo cited 17 techniques (it’s really 16, though) the CIA relied upon, and it would be worth comparing those techniques in general with the ten approved torture techniques in the 2002 Yoo/Bybee memo.

Yoo/Bybee, 2002:
1. Attention grasp
2. Walling
3. Facial hold
4. Facial slap (insult slap)
5. cramped confinement
6. wall standing
7. stress positions
8. sleep deprivation
9. insects placed in a confinement box (really, the use of phobias)
10. the waterboard

— I’d note, as I have before, that some of these techniques were really omnibus in nature, particularly “sleep deprivation”, which included within its definition (from the Bradbury 2005 memo, which avers, however, to how “sleep deprivation” was already being used), “sleep deprivation, forced sleep deficit was combined, as we can see, with shackling, forced positions and forced standing, humiliation, manipulation of diet, sensory overload, and possibly other torture procedures.” (quote is from my article)

Now, let’s look at the Bullet Point document (4/28/2003), written (PDF) it appears by John Yoo and Jennifer Koester, with duplicated items from August 2002 asterisked; all others are “new” and presumably unapproved (though more on that in a moment).

1. Isolation
2. Sleep deprivation*
3. “reduced caloric intake (so long as the amount is calculated to maintain the general health of the detainee)”
4. deprivation of reading material
5. “loud music or white noise (at a decibel level calculated to avoid damage to the detainee’s hearing)”
6. the attention grasp*
7. walling*
8. the facial hold*
9. the facial slap (insult slap)*
10. the abdominal slap
11. cramped confinement*
12. wall standing*
13. stress positions*
14. sleep deprivation [this is a duplication in the list of #2, but is listed twice in the bullet point list, so is included here]
15. the use of diapers
16. the use of harmless insects* [though changed from the more precise use of insects in a confinement box from Yoo/Bybee 2002]
17. the waterboard*

On March 2, 2004, as Marcy Wheeler has noted, “CIA General Counsel Scott Muller [wrote] to Jack Goldsmith asking for reaffirmation of several legal documents, including [the] Legal Principles document, released with redactions”. (PDF to Muller’s letter)

Muller added some new techniques to the Bullet Points document, including pouring, flicking, or tossing of water (“water PFT) and “water dousing” (using water from a bucket or water hose). “Both water PFT and water dousing are used as part of the SERE training provided to US military personnel,” Muller wrote, noting later in his letter, “there are virtually no health or safety concerns with water PFT as part of an approved interrogation plan.”

Muller explains, too, that “[a] medical officer is present to monitor the detainee’s physical condition during the water dousing session(s), including any indications of hypothermia. Upon completion of the water dousing session(s), the detainee is moved to another room, monitored as needed by a medical officer to guard against hypothermia, and steps are taken to ensure the detainee is capable of generating necessary body heat and maintain normal body functions.”

These explanations about safeguards, written over a year after Rahman’s death, appear to be a cover for Rahman’s death, as evidently there were no safeguards used there. Or perhaps, Rahman was an experimental case, much as Zubaydah was when it came to other torture techniques (“walling” and waterboarding, for instance).

Gul Rahman died of hypothermia (and likely other torture) on November 20, 2002, shackled after a session of water dousing in a cold room in the CIA’s infamous Salt Pit prison. Was there a medical monitor present? We have reason to believe that CIA doctors were at all the black sites, so what were they doing on November 20, 2002?

CIA and DoD Techniques Compared

As we have seen, by April 2004, the number of CIA known techniques have escalated to 18 (or 19, given the replication of “sleep deprivation” in the original list, which is, as I will suggest below, a typo, as most likely the second mention of sleep deprivation is really meant to be “sleep adjustment”).

Finally, I think it’s worth looking at the techniques approved for DoD by Rumsfeld on April 16, 2003, after the infamous “Working Group” review. I’m not going to list them all. They were divided into categories of severity. One of the techniques that led to the Working Group review was “Exposure to cold weather or water (with appropriate medical monitoring”) in Jerald Phifer’s October 11, 2002 memo to the Commander of Guantanamo’s Joint Task Force 170 .

The DoD techniques, approved around the same time as the CIA’s Bullet Point list, included (the list below is not definitive, but meant to compare/contrast with those above):

1.  “Incentive/Removal of Incentive: Providing a reward or removing a privilege. ‘above and beyond those that are required by the Geneva Convention, from detainees. [Sounds very much like “deprivation of reading material” in the Bullet Point document, though could be more related to sensory deprivation]
2. “Fear Up Harsh: Significantly increasing the fear level in a detainee.”
3. “Pride and Ego Down: Attacking or insulting the ego of a detainee, not beyond the limits that would apply to a POW.”
4. “Futility: Invoking the feeling of futility of a detainee.”
5. “Mutt and Jeff: A team consisting of a friendly and harsh interrogator. The harsh interrogator might employ the Pride and Ego Down technique. [Caution: Other nations that believe that POW protections apply to detainees may view this technique as inconsistent with Geneva IIt, Article 13…]”
6. “Dietary manipulation: Changing the diet of a detainee; no intended deprivation of food or water; no adverse medical or cultural effect and without intent to deprive subject of food or water…” [bold emphasis added]
7. Environmental manipulation, including “adjusting temperature”
8. Sleep Adjustment, refers to shifting hours of sleep, i.e., playing around with circadian rhythms, “NOT sleep deprivation” [this may account for the confusion in the Bullet Points document, which appears to draw on approvals made for DoD, whatever the nature of those approvals).
9. False Flag
10. Isolation [which includes a host of caveats, including possible violations of Geneva III, Articles 13, 14, 34 and 126]

Savvy readers will remember that this was a ratcheting down of earlier DoD-approved techniques (Dec. 2002), that also included deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, stress positions, inducing stress by manipulation of detainee’s fears (IPCRESS for those who remember that book/movie), 20 hr. interrogations, and hooding, among others.

It appears, from a pursuit of how the torture techniques migrated, that there was a good deal of synergy going on between DoD, CIA, and likely Special Forces. I’d point out that in the Muller letter to Goldsmith, there are some redactions, one of them concerns a redacted technique, one that is associated with SERE.

Like other approved interrogation techniques, [approximately sixteen character spaces redacted] is used as part of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) training provided to US personnel.

The implication is that some other SERE technique was approved and the technique is being ported over from DoD. I believe the redacted technique could be “exposure to cold”, which would fit the redacted area, and speaks to a technique otherwise unremarked in the Bullet Points document, but which was obviously used by CIA, as it was by DoD (under the rubric “environmental manipulation”).

It’s additionally worth noting there were psychologists and psychiatrists around who moved between all these agencies. Some techniques were apparently never written down or approved, but certainly used, particularly those that played on sexual humiliation or other cultural or religious sensitivities and vulnerabilities.

Factoring in the Experiments Angle

It would be a mistake to think that the documents will provide a full story of what occurred. This is especially true when it comes to considering what kinds of experimentation were actually being conducted on the detainees. Jason Leopold and I have written about the unprecedented use of the antimalarial mefloquine on all incoming detainees (see here, here, and here).

Another possible experiment may have surrounded the use of dietary manipulation, and the Seton Hall School of Law’s Center for Policy and Research’s study on The Guantanamo Diet noted, “The detainees’ weight varies so wildly that many have been obese briefly and underweight and malnourished at other times…. Professor Denbeaux concluded, “The most compelling question is how can the detainees’ weight swing from obese to under nourished when the medical staff is in complete control of all food intake.”

I’m looking into the latter issue, but will note that dietary manipulation, which shows up in the Bullet Point document as “reduced caloric intake”, as well as DoD docs,  is allowed so far as I can perceive in the current Army Field Manual (FM 2-22.3). The latter states “Depriving the detainee of necessary food, water, or medical care” is “prohibited,” but I think, as in the caveat on dietary manipulation above, re the detainee’s “general health” that there is a lot of room for leeway, i.e., what is considered “necessary”? Note the use of the word “intended” as regards “dietary manipulation” in the April 2003 list of DoD “techniques.”

The list of AFM prohibited techniques is followed immediately by the following statement: “While using legitimate interrogation techniques, certain applications of approaches and techniques may approach the line between permissible actions and prohibited actions. It may often be difficult to determine where permissible actions end and prohibited actions begin.”

No kidding.

Will Cyrus Vance Turn His Head & Walk Away From DSK?

You get abruptly educated, and extremely jaded, as an attorney traversing the halls of justice in the criminal defense bar, especially on sex cases, but the much ballyhooed, and with special glee on the left, case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) has, from the get go, never set right with me. Turns out that may have been well justified, as the New York Times relates in a startling report tonight:

The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is on the verge of collapse as investigators have uncovered major holes in the credibility of the housekeeper who charged that he attacked her in his Manhattan hotel suite in May, according to two well-placed law enforcement officials.

Although forensic tests found unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter between Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a French politician, and the woman, prosecutors do not believe much of what the accuser has told them about the circumstances or about herself.

Since her initial allegation on May 14, the accuser has repeatedly lied, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Well hello there Clarice, that would seem to be a bit of a problem now wouldn’t it? Say what you will, this is a dead nuts killer set of events for the prosecution, and it was apparently still the least brutal limited hangout they could manage. Ouch. I would read this to say the state has completely lost any and all confidence in their complaining witness – the “victim” – because this type of release simply does not get made without that, whether it is a stated part of the release or not.

Rest assured, if this is being run by the NYT, it was almost certainly a sanctioned release. The key here is this seems to be actually evidentiary realizations the cops and prosecutors came to realize on their own, either independent of, or with little prompting from, DSK’s defense team. Hard to tell yet, but one thing is sure, the state does not seem to take issue with the gaping infirmities. That tells you about all (more…)

Anti-GMO Crusader, and Mom, Robyn O’Brien.

 

                     ( Thanks to YouTube and to Dr. Mercola and his Website )

Hey Firedogs, this video is nineteen minutes that not only provides yet another perspective on the proliferation of genetically modified foods, but also a personal perspective on individual activism. IMHO it’s worth your time.

From Dr. Mercola’s website and a post on June 14th he writes :

That something has gone awry is obvious when you take a look at the statistics. Between 1997 and 2002 the number of peanut allergies doubled, and the number of hospitalizations related to allergic reactions to food increased by a whopping 265 percent. One out of 17 children now has some form of food allergy. And allergy rates are rising.

And further,  discussing a topic I have covered in this series before here :

Corn allergies are on the rise, and while some genetically modified corn is engineered to withstand Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, other varieties are engineered to create their own internal pesticide (Bt toxin).  The biotech industry claimed there were no health risks to worry about from these altered foods. In the case of Bt corn, the concern that your gut might turn into a pesticide factory was shrugged off with lame assurances that the Bt toxin wouldn’t survive once ingested.
(more…)

Its screen measures almost 40 inches diagonal

Toshiba E305 has a backlit keyboard style of the island, which once again turned his laptop at CES 2011, where he won one of the best chances at CES. Until now, the keyboard has a nice look and good keyspacing. The keys are pretty flat, but not an unpleasant guy. The keyboard is very nice IBM ThinkPad T60 Battery, and the key size is constant. The only problem now is that the areas that need more energy than the other keys in the registry looks like.

The Toshiba Qosmio F60 weighs heavy, perhaps because we have become accustomed to the minis . This thinkpad t60 akku laptop actually weighs less than three kilos. In return, the Qosmio is a mobile cinema on a powerful computer.

Its screen measures almost 40 inches diagonal, with LED backlighting. this idea came from that we know not, but open to interesting uses. According to Toshiba, you can have a 3d application running on one half of the screen HP Pavilion dv2000 Battery, while the other shows text, websites or other material that is best in 2d.

Calexico, Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, Lambchop fans demanding, opinionated, daring rock sit behind each of these band names a big exclamation mark. Not all the eight acts of the City Slang Festival from Friday to Sunday are still closest to the label family Dell GD761 Battery. But everyone knew and know the passion and energy to appreciate them CEO Christof Ellinghaus busy with his small team could get some today.

From this mutual relationship arose at the weekend unusual or even unique programs and stage matches. Outstanding concerts and always relaxed Acer GARDA31 Battery, friendly atmosphere in the historic palace ambience on Friedrichstrasse were also the failure of the German electronic-rock band The Notwist (“Neon Golden”) game great: Their mastermind Micha Acher had shortly before the label Birthday injured knee, the performance on 27 Rescheduled for January 2011 Berlin Huxley’s.

The price of Motorola Atrix will vary from carrier to carrier, but as we learned earlier with the leak to Gizmodo Brazil, it will cost R $ 1,920.00 unlocked by TIM. And it is already included a dock, two cables, a power and an HDMI, and also a mini control, connect the phone to a HP HSTNN-IB17 Battery monitor or TV. And the Atrix Android comes with 2.2 but Motorola CEO assured that it will be updated as soon as possible.

The Lapdock, incidentally, was the invention of Motorola to take advantage of all the processing power of Atrix. The Lapdock has a 11-inch screen that displays up to 1366 x 768 pixels, a USB 2.0 port and an HDMI. Once the phone is connected, the ibm thinkpad t60 akku laptop Sony VAIO VGN-FZ140E Battery becomes a Lapdock complete, you can browse, open documents and many other common tasks performed by computer. Obviously it will not serve to render a video, but it breaks a twig.

Surf the web, do work and meet so many other functions by computer that have a ThinkPad x60 battery in has become a necessity for most of the population, moreover, for some of them is an essential part of everyday life. But what is best for you: a notebook, notebook or desktop? Now meet its main features and decide which will best suit their purposes laptop batteries.

Shorter Strauss-Kahn lesson:Video your sexual encounters–it might keep you outta jail!

Holy reversal of fortune, Batman!

A dizzying array of profoundly damaging details about the pious and hard working hotel employee who took down the head of the IMF are cascading into public view

Credibility? Shredded.

Character? Sliced and diced.

History? Shadier than one could imagine.

(I will reproduce the catalog in some detail, for those who cannot access the NY Times):

“Since her initial allegation on May 14, the accuser has repeatedly lied, one of the law enforcement officials said…. Among the discoveries, one of the officials said, are issues involving the asylum application of the 32-year-old housekeeper, who is Guinean, and possible links to criminal activities, including drug dealing and money laundering…the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded…That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania….she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five companies. The woman had insisted she had only one phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends… she told investigators that her application for asylum included mention of a previous rape, but there was no such account in the application. She also told them that she had been subjected to genital mutilation, but her account to the investigators differed from what was contained in the asylum application.”

And this comes from the prosecution! !

What do we learn from this bit of peripetie?

1. When housekeeping offers you a blow job, think twice before you accept,

2. If you are rich and important, video your sex because nothing says innocent like a slo-mo deconstruction.

3. If you are not rich and important, video your sex anyway. You will appreciate having the video later in life as a cherished momento, even if you never need to refer to it for vindication.

4. There is a reason why we have trials, rules of evidence, and juries of our peers. Short circuiting that safeguard is a bad idea.

Late Night: Banksters – Whines That Don’t Age Well

As many folks know, I tend to surf through a lot of different news sites each day. Part of it is an attempt to cut through the various levels of spin to the actual news and part of it is to find the little nuggets of PR that help me to connect the dots. Just in the last couple of days, there have been a number of bankster related articles. Not quite to the level of seeing Jamie Dimon whining about how no one loves him but indicative of the global banking system as a whole today. Why just a couple of weeks ago we got to see Dimon confronting the Benbernank and whine about how the new Dodd-Frank regulations were just so very onerous and would hurt the abilities of the banks to create jobs. The Comptroller of the Currency apparently has the Bankster’s backs on trying to undercut the Dodd-Frank rules (via the NY Times), as weak as they are:

At issue is whether state banking regulators will be undercut by their federal counterparts when it comes to consumer financial protection laws. Banks, state regulators and consumer advocates have been sparring in legalese-filled comment letters over the last month in response to rules proposed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks.

Even the Treasury Department has criticized the comptroller’s rules and sided with state officials, saying the rules do not hew closely enough to the Dodd-Frank legislation intended to rein in Wall Street.

You know it must be bad when Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department is siding against it’s own OCC.

But maybe there is a problem after all as a number of investment banks or investment banking groups within larger banks have announced layoffs. Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have announced 60 and 230 positions respectively (out of an announced 1300 positions from these and other banks). HSBC has announced cuts of 700 positions in the UK. Lloyds announced today they are cutting 15K positions in hopes of allowing the British government to drop its stake in the bank.

Sounds like times are tough for the banksters after all, right? Well maybe not so much. Fortune had this post which called the Bank of America $8.5B settlement a “win,” apparently because it allows BoA to “look forward” and all that. According to this from Reuters, BoA will take write-offs of a bit over $20B in total in the 2nd quarter of the year, giving them a loss for the quarter. It is figures like that that show just how skewed things are. One bank takes a write-off/loss of over $20B in a fiscal quarter and will still most likely be profitable for the year!

But there really is no need to feel sorry for the banking industry overall, no matter how much Mr Dimon might whine. This article today from ProPublica via the NY Times DealBook lays it out fairly straightforwardly: (more…)

Register of Deeds John O’Brien Releases Forensic Study, Finds Mass Fraud in Foreclosure Docs

(photo: Rev Dan Catt)

Longtime readers know I’ve been covering the registers of deeds, county officials who wield some degree of power in the case of foreclosure fraud, because they hold in their offices a good deal of physical evidence about mortgage assignments and associated documents. Jeff Thigpen, the register of deeds for Guilford County, North Carolina, did a preliminary investigation of a set of documents in his office and found widespread fraud, particularly from forged documents. Thigpen’s key partner, John O’Brien, a register in Southern Essex County, Massachusetts, has been fighting this fight as well. He vowed not to record any documents he suspected of fraud, which would slow some foreclosures. He demanded that MERS pay millions of dollars in back recording fees which were not paid when banks tracked their own mortgage transfers on a database. But O’Brien hadn’t done the work of auditing his office. Until this week, at a convention for county registers.

At the Annual Conference of The International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers (IACREOT), Register John O’Brien revealed the results of an independent audit of his registry. The audit, which is released as a legal affidavit was performed by McDonnell Property Analytics, examined assignments of mortgage recorded in the Essex Southern District Registry of Deeds issued to and from JPMorgan Chase Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, and Bank of America during 2010. In total, 565 assignments related to 473 unique mortgages were analyzed.

McDonnell’s Report includes the following key findings:
• Only 16% of assignments of mortgage are valid
• 75% of assignments of mortgage are invalid.
• 9% of assignments of mortgage are questionable
• 27% of the invalid assignments are fraudulent, 35% are “robo-signed” and 10% violate the Massachusetts Mortgage Fraud Statute.
• The identity of financial institutions that are current owners of the mortgages could only be determined for 287 out of 473 (60%)
• There are 683 missing assignments for the 287 traced mortgages, representing approximately $180,000 in lost recording fees per 1,000 mortgages whose current ownership can be traced.

McDonnell told O’Brien… “What this means is that the degradation in standards of commerce by which the banks originated, sold and securitized these mortgages are so fatally flawed that the institutions, including many pension funds, that purchased these mortgages don’t actually own them because the assignments of mortgage were never prepared, executed and delivered to them in the normal course of business at the time of the transaction. In a blatant attempt to engineer a ‘fix’ to the problem, the banks set up in-house document execution teams, or outsourced the preparation of their assignments to third parties who manufactured them out of thin air without researching who really owns the mortgage.”

This is why, and I’ll get into this in a future post, the Bank of America settlement with investors, which appears to indemnify the bank and facilitate a conspiracy of silence between banks and investors on these securitization issues, is a really raw deal. It “solves” one problem, BofA’s exposure to the investors in its mortgage backed securities. But it in no way solves the much larger problem, namely who actually owns these mortgages. An independent auditor, after looking at the evidence, could not figure it out.  [cont’d.] (more…)