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Fighting mortgage fraud

Hey, what a concept. The NYT thinks President Obama should act as a leader on this issue:

…[Obama] He should form an interagency task force to investigate and pursue potential civil and criminal wrongdoing by institutions and people whose conduct in the mortgage chain had the greatest economic impact.

That would mean focusing on the large banks and their top echelons. The investigators would need to include the departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development, the S.E.C. and the Internal Revenue Service, as well as bank regulators, with the formal co-operation of the most aggressive state attorneys general. The task force would need a leader with the impulses of a crusading prosecutor…

‘Shore Leave’

…and so I slopped at the corner on cold chow mein
and shot billards with a midget
until the rain stopped
and I bought a long sleeved shirt
with horses on the front
and some gum and a lighter and a knife
and a new deck of cards (with girls on the back)
and I sat down and wrote a letter to my wife…

‘Hang On to Your Ego’

I know so many people who think they can do it alone
They isolate their heads and stay in their safety zones …

Class war

It’s amazing, what a great job the Occupy movement has done to get people talking about class issues:

“Significantly more Americans see “very strong” or “strong” class conflict between the rich and poor, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center. The results show that Americans think that conflicts between the rich and poor are stronger than immigrant and native born, black and white and young and old.

In 2009, 47 percent of respondents said there were “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor. In 2011, 66 percent saw the same, possibly signaling that the “We are the 99 percent” rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street has had an impact. The ongoing economic recession also may have magnified class differences as income inequality has risen, continuing a trend occurring in American society since at least the 1970s.

Democrats in general — and President Barack Obama in specific — have also spoken out about income inequality. “Now, this kind of inequality — a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression — hurts us all,” Obama said in a December speech in Kansas. The GOP front-runner for the presidency, Mitt Romney, has in turn charged Obama with promulgating the “politics of envy” and said that discussions over the distribution of wealth were “fine” to talk about “in quiet rooms in discussions about tax policy.”

Media mentions about income inequality have also risen significantly since the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

Another ugly GOP debate audience

When Republican presidential candidates get together to debate, the yahoos come out. They don’t like gay soldiers, child labor laws, death penalty foes, or food stamp users. And don’t forget Mexicans:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney may be in the lead in the Palmetto State, but that doesn’t mean South Carolinians necessarily like him.

During a Fox News debate at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Monday, the Republican audience booed loudly after being told that Romney’s father was born in Mexico…

Spain, Brits go where DOJ won’t

Barack Obama’s Department of Justice has made a mockery of international law, but some countries haven’t stopped investigating Bush-era “anti-terror” policies:

Spanish judge on Friday re-launched an investigation into the alleged torture of detainees held at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, one day after a British authorities launched a probe into CIA renditions to Libya.

The twin developments demonstrated that while the Obama administration has stuck to its promise not to investigate whether Bush administration officials acted illegally by authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques, other countries are still interested in determining whether Bush-era anti-terror practices violated international law.

In Madrid, Judge Pablo Rafael Ruz Gutierrez handed down a 19-page decision Friday in which he said he would seek additional information – medical data, a translation of a Human Rights Watch report, elaboration on material made public by WikiLeaks, and testimony from three senior U.S. military officers who served at Guantánamo – in the case of four released Guantánamo captives who allege they were humiliated and subjected to torture while in U.S. custody.

Ruz said, however, that it would be premature to notify the former U.S. officials named in the former detainees’ complaint that they are under investigation. Those officials include former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and two former Guantánamo commanders, retired Marine Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert and retired Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller.

Ruz said the complaint had yet to tie any of them to specific acts. He said he would ask Spanish prosecutors to determine who in the United States should be informed of the probe so that they could offer exculpatory evidence.

In London, the Crown Prosecution Service and Scotland Yard said Thursday that they would investigate allegations of British involvement in the Bush-era “extraordinary rendition” program, specifically whether British intelligence had a hand in delivering two Libyan opponents of Col. Moammar Gadhafi to Libyan jails, where they were tortured by Gadhafi’s secret police…


Todd Farally is a Philadelphia progressive and a member of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 who I had the pleasure of talking to in Minneapolis last year at Netroots Nation. Todd gets really ticked when people start talking down unions, accusing them of being corrupt and not doing anything to help their members, so he wrote a piece over at Daily Kos explaining exactly what his union does:

The Local I want to focus on is my own Union (SMWIA Local 19), not because of bias or because it and the membership is very near and dear to my heart, but because Local 19, its leadership and members have truly given an example that all others can and should strive to follow.

First and foremost I want to mention that since the economic downturn began in 2008 unemployed members of the Local have held on to their health insurance for themselves and their families. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve been laid off two days or two years, members won’t be left without insurance. You won’t get that with a corporation that holds profits above people every day of the week.

Now, to really hit home to some out there that may think this isn’t a big deal, I have a little story. One of my brothers in Local 19 who we’ll call Jim (not his real name) told me his wife went in for a checkup and ended up needing heart surgery. His wife made it through and is currently recuperating; they caught it just in time and thank goodness for that. But what if they didn’t have that insurance? When this all happened, Jim had been laid off for over a year and a half. Anywhere else he and his wife would have been left out in the cold and things could have gone down a much different path. She may have received care, but in no way, shape or form could it have compared to the care she did receive through the Union’s plan.

That’s just one story of many I’m sure that exist. This wouldn’t have been possible without the forethought of past leaders within the Local and the membership itself voting to properly fund our healthcare.

I recently had a chance to sit and talk with Sheet Metal Workers Local 19’s President/Business Manager Gary Masino and we discussed the various good Local 19 has done for members that have been unemployed long term. It doesn’t stop at healthcare; the Local has a fund set up that supplements unemployment benefits for one full year when a member is laid off, this is known as the SUB Fund, which really is a great thing if you’ve ever had to live off a UC check.

In past years when unemployment was low, members would receive a portion of the money back that they paid into this fund. But in recent times with unemployment being as high as it has been, members have waived that reimbursement to facilitate SUB Fund extensions for members that have exhausted their SUB. Each extension gives those members six weeks of SUB checks for that quarter of the year. These extensions have been approved for the past seven quarters since 2009. Mr. Masino put it best, “This is a brother supplementing another brother.” And to me that is the essence of what a Union should be.
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Prelude to a slice

Last night I had to wash myself all over with these antiseptic cloths that made me itch something crazy, and then I had to do it all over again this morning. The theory is that it lowers post-surgical infection, but all I can think about is that my skin feels like it’s ready to break out in a rash.

Pride (in the name of love)


What it all means

Sam Phillips:

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