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Olive oil fraud

Geeze, you can’t count on anything anymore!

Isn’t that nice

Hey, progressives, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good! Amirite?

The $25 billion settlement with banks over foreclosure abuses may result in a wave of home seizures, inflicting short-term pain on delinquent U.S. borrowers while making a long-term housing recovery more likely.

Lenders slowed the pace of foreclosures as they negotiated with attorneys general in all 50 states for more than a year over allegations of faulty and fraudulent paperwork used to repossess homes. With yesterday’s agreement, banks are likely to resume property seizures.

“The best thing about the settlement, frankly, is that it will be done,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist for Seattle-based Zillow Inc. (Z), a provider of home-sales data. “The shadow of the settlement hung over the market for a year now.”

The backlog of foreclosures has trapped homeowners in properties they can no longer afford, depressed neighborhood prices by increasing the number of abandoned homes and led banks to tighten mortgage credit standards because of uncertainty about the cost of their potential obligations. Foreclosure starts fell 46 percent in December from October 2010, when the investigation into the so-called robo-signing of mortgage documentation began, according to Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac Inc.

The agreement will direct $17 billion to writing down debt to buffer about 1 million homeowners from foreclosure through mortgage forgiveness, forbearance or loan modification programs, according to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. About 750,000 borrowers may get direct payments of as much as $2,000 to compensate them for servicing errors.

Principal reductions and other loan modifications will be accessible to a small universe of borrowers because the deal doesn’t include loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae (FNMA), Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae, which pools and sells Federal Housing Administration loans. The five banks included in the settlement control or own 7.3 percent of all outstanding single-family mortgages, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

“The primary beneficiaries of any principal reductions, loan modifications or refinancings are really a universe that excludes 92 percent of mortgage borrowers,” said Guy Cecala, publisher of the newsletter.

Happy 75th birthday

Roberta Flack:


My shrink says I might be “too cognitive” for my own good.

“You’re in your head so much, and when people share things with you, your response is to think about the situation and then suggest a solution,” he said.

“Your point?”

“Only that sometimes people might expect a more emotional, more visceral reaction from you and that your response is usually intellectual.”

“Or maybe they’re too visceral. Ever think of that? Huh? Huh?

We talked about the fact that life was pretty threatening to me from an early age, and that keeping my wits about me seemed like the most sensible approach. “I can’t help it,” I said, shrugging. “I’m one of those people who’s actually better in an emergency, you know?”

So we talk about that for a while. I try to be witty, but I’m too worn out from all this surgery-related stuff. I mention that one of my kids is always saying I’m projecting, and he laughs.

Everybody’s projecting. All the time, everything we think we know,” he says. “That’s why it’s easier to give other people a break and think maybe you simply misunderstood.”

Stolen car

Beth Orton:


Is your cat making you crazy?

Creature Feature Friday

From J.C. Duffy, a good laugh.

On the other side

I’m beginning to feel more normal. Yeah, still sleeping a lot and with some residual pain and pulling from the incisions, but the worst of it seems to be gone. It hurts to sit up too long, but it gets a little better every day.

More important, as frustrating as it was to be sidelined this long, I discovered I really needed this mental break. I didn’t realize just how stressed out I’ve been and for how long; once I admitted to myself that no, I wasn’t going to bounce back quickly, it was exceedingly pleasant to just chill. I watched a lot of TV and read many, many books. (No, I didn’t watch any cable news. Dear God, no.)

Anyway, I’ll probably be back to normal next week. Thanks for your patience.

You’re asking me

Ray Davies:

The ‘peace police’

Update: Susie Cagle’s take here.

I don’t know if you’ve read it, but Chris Hedges wrote a piece last week denouncing the Black Bloc activists in the Occupy movement, calling them a “cancer.” I’m not even sure what he had in mind, since Hedges is not a pacifist himself (as he points out). Many well-meaning (dare I say, risk-adverse) progressives jumped to support him, emphasizing that as far as they’re concerned, non-violence is the only acceptable strategy in this movement. (I find it kind of strange that so many liberals think if there’s a revolution, those taking part will defer to their preferences, but whatever. And it’s baffling to me that so many movement types act as if self-defense is inherently immoral.)

Hedges’ position (and that of his supporters) is grounded in the idea that anarchist actions give the cops an excuse to attack Occupiers (you know, as if they need one!) and skew the media coverage, making Occupy unsympathetic to those whose support we need.

White liberals might be the last group of Americans who still believe cops won’t attack without a “reason.” And the media? Please. Like their coverage has anything to do with “facts”?

This is not to say I think non-violence is a worthless tactic, because I don’t. It’s that I don’t think it’s the only tactic, and I think as our society falls apart, we will see an array of tactics, from many different kinds of people. There’s more than a whiff of class privilege and laughable arrogance around the notion that of course they must all stop and ask liberals for directions first.

Anyway, David Graeber responds. It’s very thought-provoking, especially when he points out the logical (and inadvertently violent) consequences of attempting to police fellow activists:

Successful movements have understood that it’s absolutely essential not to fall into the trap set out by the authorities and spend one’s time condemning and attempting to police other activists. One makes one’s own principles clear. One expresses what solidarity one can with others who share the same struggle, and if one cannot, tries one’s best to ignore or avoid them, but above all, one keeps the focus on the actual source of violence, without doing or saying anything that might seem to justify that violence because of tactical disagreements you have with fellow activists.

I remember my surprise and amusement, the first time I met activists from the April 6 Youth Movement from Egypt, when the issue of non-violence came up. “Of course we were non-violent,” said one of the original organizers, a young man of liberal politics who actually worked at a bank. “No one ever used firearms, or anything like that. We never did anything more militant than throwing rocks!”

Here was a man who understood what it takes to win a non-violent revolution! He knew that if the police start aiming tear-gas canisters directly at people’s heads, beating them with truncheons, arresting and torturing people, and you have thousands of protesters, then some of them will fight back. There’s no way to absolutely prevent this. The appropriate response is to keep reminding everyone of the violence of the state authorities, and never, ever, start writing long denunciations of fellow activists, claiming they are part of an insane fanatic malevolent cabal. (Even though I am quite sure that if a hypothetical Egyptian activist had wanted to make a case that, say, violent Salafis, or even Trotskyists, were trying to subvert the revolution, and adopted standards of evidence as broad as yours, looking around for inflammatory statements wherever they could find them and pretending they were typical of everyone who threw a rock, they could easily have made a case.) This is why most of us are aware that Mubarak’s regime attacked non-violent protesters, and are not aware that many responded by throwing rocks.

Egyptian activists, in other words, understood what playing into the hands of the police really means.
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