Tea Party Nation Founder: ‘A Wise Idea’ To Only Let Property Owners Vote

December 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Judson Phillips, the founder of the group Tea Party Nation, has defended his comments that the Founding Fathers’ original plan to only allow property owners to vote “makes a lot of sense” because “property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.”

In an email to ThinkProgress yesterday, Phillips doubled down, referring to the radio broadcast last week in which he made the comments: “During the course of our discussion, I mentioned that the Founding Fathers limited voting rights to property owners. I commented this was a wise idea.”

He continued:

Apparently, two weeks after the show, some liberal stumbled across it and today, that comment has turned into liberal headlines such as, “Tea Party Nation President says It Makes A Lot of Sense to Restrict Voting to Property Owners” and “Tea Party Leaders Attack Constitution.” Suddenly, this has morphed from a discussion between two tea partiers into articles claiming that I want to change the Constitution to restrict voting to property owners.

Phillips is also known for defending an email he wrote calling for supporters to help “retire” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) because “he is the only Muslim member of congress,” among other things.

Here’s the original audio clip:









TPMMuckraker

Every Nerd’s Startup Idea

December 2, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Actually, a half-dozen of them.





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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

COICA Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee – A Good Idea Gone Government

November 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The setup

U.S. agencies and officials would get new powers to go after foreign websites that sell counterfeit goods and pirated music, movies and books under a bill passed on Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill, which supporters hope will set the stage for action next year, targets “rogue websites” in countries such as China that are outside the reach of U.S. law.

Critics like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, have attacked it as “Internet censorship” that could harm the credibility of the United States as a steward of the global domain name system.

The panel approved the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” with little time left this year for it to be passed by Congress and signed into law. Lawmakers are out next week for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and are expected to work only a few weeks in December.

What is this supposed to do? Well, the idea was to target those sites which offer copyrighted material, as well as counterfeit merchandise, especially non-US ownership domains

.…the list of targets could conceivably include hosting websites such as Dropbox, MediaFire and Rapidshare; MP3 blogs and mashup/remix music sites like SoundCloud, MashupTown and Hype Machine ; and sites that discuss and make the controversial political and intellectual case for piracy, like pirate-party.us, p2pnet, InfoAnarchy, Slyck and ZeroPaid . Indeed, had this bill been passed five or ten years ago, YouTube might not exist today. In other words, the collateral damage from this legislation would be enormous. (Why would all these sites be targets?)

Others, such as thepiratesbay.org (which is really one of the main targets), would also feel the wrath of the US federal government.

Now, this can’t be bad, right? I mean, these folks are trafficking in copyrighted material, and the people who own the products are, for all intense purposes, having their material stolen and given away for free while someone else may make money off of them

“Those seeking to thwart this bipartisan bill are protecting online thieves and those who gain pleasure and profit from de-valuing American property,” Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman, said after today’s vote. “We congratulate Chairman Leahy and Senator Hatch for their leadership on this bill and to the Senate Judiciary Committee for its action today.” (Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, and Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, are cosponsors of COICA.)

Civil libertarians and all sorts of “Rights” folks are freaking out, calling this censorship and a violation of their First amendment rights, despite the material being blatantly stolen. Really, many of them are going way too far.

However, there is a wee bit of a problem with ignoring the law, and what it does. Getting beyond the hysteria laden first few paragraphs of this Huffington Post article, we find out

The lists are for sites “dedicated to infringing activity,” but that’s defined very broadly — any domain name where counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site” could be blocked.

And this is where the intent of the legislation, a legitimate attempt to stop serious online copyright infringement and intellectual property theft, took a bad turn.

According to the broad language of the law, I just broke it 4 times with those excerpts. Virtually every single blog in the world will break this law every time they excerpt a story that is copyrighted. Which is pretty much every news article. If you excerpt something I write, you’re breaking copyright law. Not that I would bother, mind you, but, I could have your domain shut down if I complained to the DOJ (then they’d shut me down for all the excerpts). Hot Air? Toast. Michelle Malkin? Gone. Ace of Spade. Bye Bye. Huffington Post? Daily Kos? Screw them. Democratic Underground? See ya. This could be done through one of the two lists, the first which would shut your domain name down (people could still get there by the website number, which should make it easy for Joe Biden.) The second method would have the DOJ encouraging providers to shut off access, despite Fair Use law.

Here are the 19 Republican and Democrat Senators who voted in favor of this bill which goes a step too far.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach. sit back and Relax. we’ll dRive!

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Stop The ACLU

Obama’s school salad-bar idea: Ignores regulations; districts opting out before it begins

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This is so much feel-good crap.  A salad bar in public school?  You actually think kids won’t plant bodily fluids in the greens?  That aside, check this out:

But schools also are deterred by USDA regulations that require students to pass by a cash register or “point of sale” station after they have been to the salad bar to ensure that they have served themselves the correct portions of fruits and vegetables required under the federal lunch program. In October, the USDA’s Food and Services division, which oversees the subsidized meal program, circulated a memo saying that while it encourages the use of salad bars in schools, school menu planners must tell students the minimum amounts they must take from salad bars, cashiers “must be trained to judge accurately the quantities of self-service items,” and point-of-sale registers “must be stationed after the salad bar.”

Gotta love it.  ”Um, you have to go back.  You have too much three-bean salad and not enough of the useless iceberg lettuce.”

Oh, how I long for the days when irrationality amounted to no more than classifying ketchup as a vegetable.

Already opting out - Philly, Austin, MontCo MD.  Smart.

Liberty Pundits Blog

Idiotic Idea of the Day

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants to install devices in cars to disable cell phones:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said using a cell phone while driving is so dangerous that devices may soon be installed in cars to forcibly stop drivers — and potentially anyone else in the vehicle — from using them.

“There’s a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we’re looking at that,” said LaHood on MSNBC. LaHood said the cellphone scramblers were one way, and also stressed the importance of “personal responsibility.” …

“I think it will be done,” said LaHood. “I think the technology is there and I think you’re going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones. We need to do a lot more if were going to save lives.”

In short, the Obama Cabinet’s token Republican thinks “personal responsibility” means the federal government taking away your right to make a judgment as to whether or not to use even a hands-free phone in your car, take advantage of your smartphone’s GPS navigation, call 9-1-1 if you’re in an accident or for directions when you’re lost, or even if your passengers can make cell phone calls in your car. And God help you if a family member has an emergency while you’re behind the wheel. Even better: This will increase the cost of any car you buy, so you get to pay for the Nanny State’s notions of “personal responsibility.”

When I was a kid, my dad owned a small business repairing electronics. For a couple of years in the late 70′s he made nice money from customers who brought their cars in to have the buzzer that wouldn’t turn off if they didn’t buckle their seatbelt disabled until the car companies realized what a wretched idea that “feature” was. If this goes through, I predict a booming business providing similar services.

H/T Brandon Kiser




Outside the Beltway

Idiotic Idea of the Day

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants to install devices in cars to disable cell phones:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said using a cell phone while driving is so dangerous that devices may soon be installed in cars to forcibly stop drivers — and potentially anyone else in the vehicle — from using them.

“There’s a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we’re looking at that,” said LaHood on MSNBC. LaHood said the cellphone scramblers were one way, and also stressed the importance of “personal responsibility.” …

“I think it will be done,” said LaHood. “I think the technology is there and I think you’re going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones. We need to do a lot more if were going to save lives.”

In short, the Obama Cabinet’s token Republican thinks “personal responsibility” means the federal government taking away your right to make a judgment as to whether or not to use even a hands-free phone in your car, take advantage of your smartphone’s GPS navigation, call 9-1-1 if you’re in an accident or for directions when you’re lost, or even if your passengers can make cell phone calls in your car. And God help you if a family member has an emergency while you’re behind the wheel. Even better: This will increase the cost of any car you buy, so you get to pay for the Nanny State’s notions of “personal responsibility.”

When I was a kid, my dad owned a small business repairing electronics. For a couple of years in the late 70′s he made nice money from customers who brought their cars in to have the buzzer that wouldn’t turn off if they didn’t buckle their seatbelt disabled until the car companies realized what a wretched idea that “feature” was. If this goes through, I predict a booming business providing similar services.

H/T Brandon Kiser




Outside the Beltway

Peter Daou, James Boyce sue HuffPo, claim idea was theirs

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

“Bizarro World.”


Arianna Huffington certainly has her share of critics on the Right after six years of running The Huffington Post, a website focusing on progressive politics and pop culture.  Today, though, her biggest fight may be coming from the Left.  Six years after the launch of the site, well-known progressive activists Peter Daou and James Boyce [...]

Read this post »

Hot Air » Top Picks

Arianna Huffington Sued by Democrat Consultants for Stealing Website Idea

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Liberal internet publisher Arianna Huffington is being sued by two Democrat consultants for allegedly stealing their website idea.

Politico reported Monday evening the suit filed in New York State Supreme Court claims James Boyce and Peter Daou originally presented the idea for the Huffington Post to Huffington and her partner Ken Lerer, and the four made a handshake agreement to develop the website together (h/t NBer acaiquana):

read more

NewsBusters.org - Exposing Liberal Media Bias

Did Arianna Huffington Steal Website Idea?

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Arianna Huffington has become an online mogul by convincing big donors to pay her for content others generate for free.  Did she steal the idea?

Two Democratic consultants are accusing Arianna Huffington and her business partner of stealing their idea for the powerhouse liberal website Huffington Post. Peter Daou and James Boyce charge that Huffington and partner Ken Lerer designed the website from a plan they had presented them, and in doing so, violated a handshake agreement to work together, according to a lawsuit to be filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

“Huffington has styled herself as a ‘new media’ maven and an expert on the effective deployment of news and celebrity on the Internet in the service of political ends,” says the complaint. “As will be shown at trial, Huffington’s and Lerer’s image with respect to the Huffington Post is founded on false impressions and inaccuracies: They presented the ‘new media’ ideas and plans of Peter Daou and James Boyce as their own in order to raise money for the website and enhance their image, and breached their promises to work with Peter and James to develop the site together.”

The suit against Huffington, Lerer, and Huffington Post also sheds light on the very political aims of the left’s most powerful - and valuable - online voice. Democrats need “to develop a dominant position within the Internet,” Daou said during an early meeting about the site, according to the complaint. “It is a system [for] pushing the message, not just for fundraising,” he allegedly said.

Huffington called the charge of stolen ideas and broken deals “a completely absurd, ludicrous supposition” from men whom she’d turned down for jobs on the site.

[...]

The lawsuit touches on the same legal frontiers of intellectual property and deal-making as did a famous lawsuit Facebook settled in 2008. The success of the suit, which seeks unspecified damages, will hinge on whether Daou and Boyce can prove they had offered “something more specific than a generalized notion” and that Huffington had agreed to make them part of the deal, said Dan Kornstein, a prominent New York litigator.

Huffington Post has emerged as a juggernaut since its launch on May 9, 2005. The site’s front page offers a leftward tilt on political news, a sort of mirror image of the Drudge Report. A cadre of bloggers contribute analysis for free and a growing staff provides original content on politics and whatever other content - notably, celebrity - drives traffic and buzz.

I’ve had some interactions over the years with Peter Daou and find the notion that he presented a business plan to Huffington quite plausible.  Indeed, infinitely more plausible than the idea that Huffington, who had no previous media or online experience, came up with it all by her lonesome.

But I tend to agree with John Hawkins:

[S]uggesting that “political luminaries and public figures should be invited to blog” isn’t all that unique. Conservative websites like Townhall had been running articles from big name conservative columnists for years before the HuffPO came along. Saying to Arianna, “Gee, you know celebrities, so you should ask some of them to blog isn’t exactly a ground breaking idea.” Moreover, it doesn’t actually provide the investment dollars or the celebrities that helped HuffPO make a name for itself.

Ann Althouse concurs:

This might be interesting — a stark presentation of the Huffington Post’s political agenda. But, really, I’m not too impressed with this notion of stealing “the idea” for a business. Was there a contract or a partnership or not? And it’s not much of an idea anyway — a “dominant” website with a political slant. The trick is to do it well and get the traffic. Anyone could try to do it. Huffington did it.

[...]

The complaint says the idea was for “a collective of blogs by notable personalities, non-partisan news aggregation, issue-specific web pages, scoops and exclusives derived from the founders’ personal relationships with Democratic Party and media insiders, and online community-building, with the purpose of driving Internet traffic and ‘page views’ for politically progressive messaging.” I’m not impressed.

Indeed, I’d argue that the original idea behind HuffPo flopped.   After a few days of living off the hype of the launch, the reader reaction was “Meh.”  The blogging celebrities thing turned out not to be such a big deal.   It took a few infusions of outside capital to hit upon a successful strategy, which was basically aggregating tons of material from around the Web — including celebrity gossip, which has become the key driver of traffic — and leveraging the talents of hundreds of unpaid bloggers happy to simply get their name before a lot of eyeballs.




Outside the Beltway

Pullen floats idea of RNC candidate panel

November 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Arizona GOP Chairman and RNC treasurer Randy Pullen sent an email to a group of committee members today suggesting a sort of audition for potential challengers to RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

 "Maybe a forum would be helpful," Pullen wrote in a message obtained by POLITICO.  "Asking potential candidates to come and speak to us might result in a clearer view of our options."

Pullen’s idea illustrates both the increasing urgency among Steele critics to push him out and their stepped-up effort to find a viable alternative.  Even as more committee members go public with complaints about the embattled chairman, no consensus has emerged around any one possible challenger.

But the anti-Steele forces are growing more optimistic that his hesitation to declare for a second term
signals that he’s not sure he can win.

"It looks to me that he does not have the votes and is waiting to see what develops," Pullen wrote in the email, sent to a group of fellow Steele critics.

The Arizonan also indirectly addressed the insider buzz that Steele may settle for a deal in which he leaves the chairman’s post but takes over the GOP’s presidential convention in 2012.

"I am also very concerned about the convention," Pullen wrote.  "Based on bits and pieces I am hearing, it does not sound like it is headed in the right direction. With the Presidency on the line we cannot afford the mistakes and foul-ups this administration has already demonstrated it is prone to have. "





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Ben Smith’s Blog

David Axelrod’s Quaint Idea of Middle Class “Security”

November 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

There’s a lot to despise about David Axelrod’s announcement of Obama’s capitulation to the oligarchs on tax cuts, not least that he made this announcement on the same day Obama’s Catfood Commission Chairs started the process of stealing from seniors to “fix” our deficit.

Let yesterday be marked as the day when a nominally Democratic President began to dismantle Democrats’ signature policy achievement, social security, so he could shovel $ 700 billion to the very rich.

But I was particularly irked by what Axe described as “middle class security.”

“There are concerns,” he added, that Congress will continue to kick the can down the road in the future by passing temporary extensions for the wealthy time and time again. “But I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point.

Here, Axe is defining “security for the middle class” as tax cuts. Not “jobs.” Not “access to health care, not just insurance.” Not “a guarantee a bankster can’t just foreclose on their house with a trumped up piece of paper.” Not “some basic safety net for retirement.” But “tax cuts.”

According to Axe, we have to shovel even more money on the already rich so as to ensure the “security” of the middle class by giving them a tax cut.

And while I agree that raising middle class tax cuts at this point would be bad for the economy, it’s not the worst thing that could happen to the economy.

In fact, the worst thing that could happen to this economy may well be passing legislation that continues to hollow out of the middle class and with it increasing the massive income inequality that continues to subject the American people to the craven demands of a few very rich people. That is, precisely what Axe and Obama have now agreed to do.

These men either don’t know or don’t give a damn about the security of the middle class.

Related posts:

  1. Why Not Hire the Woman Who Wrote the Book on the Struggles of the Middle Class?
  2. Greg Mankiw Proves Raising Taxes Is a Win Win
  3. An Awfully Painful Way to Convince the President Our Economy Is Not Moving


Emptywheel

Democrats wonder: Could retaining the most toxic figure in American politics possibly be a bad idea?

November 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Hmmmmmmmm.


Answering that question correctly is roughly as difficult as solving a Scooby Doo mystery, and yet … they’re not going to solve this one, are they? It’s the equivalent of Shaggy, Scoob, and the rest of the crew giving up after a half-hour, piling into the Mystery Machine, and driving off to go smoke a [...]

Read this post »

Hot Air » Top Picks

WSJ Offers A New Idea For Fixing The Health Care Law

November 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins offers some really bizarre ideas for how the newly-elected Republican majority in the House can fix the health care law:

Happily, a path back to the future exists that just might be politically actionable in a divided Washington. It involves not repealing ObamaCare but adding something to it—an optional federal charter for health insurers.

Under this charter, let’s permit insurers to design their policies free of ObamaCare’s mandated benefit levels and free of state regulation. Let’s let these policies be purchasable with pre-tax dollars and allow them to satisfy ObamaCare’s mandate requiring individuals to have insurance and employers to provide it. [...]

What’s the first thing the new nationally-chartered insurers would do? Rush out cheap, high-deductible policies, allaying some of the resentment that the mandate provokes among the young, healthy and footloose affluent. At the same time, these policies would quickly re-revolutionize ObamaCare from within. Here’s why:

First, these folks could buy the minimalist coverage that (for various reasons) actually makes sense for them. They wouldn’t be forced to buy gold-plated coverage they don’t need so the money can subsidize the old and sick (the hidden tax logic of ObamaCare).

Secondly, this relatively healthy cohort would be covered for a rare major injury or illness. The rest of us wouldn’t have to pick up the tab.

Thirdly, and when paired with a health savings account—as would happen as employers large and small rush to take advantage of a better option than ObamaCare now affords them—it would provide a much-needed kick of consumer discipline to the medical complex’s pants, which has always been the conservative alternative to a creeping government takeover of medicine.

Unfortunately, this idea, just like the GOP’s efforts to repeal the individual mandate will spell doom to the entirety of the health care law, which of course, is its intention. First, the existing legislation already gives younger individuals the option of enrolling in high deductible plans that cover less services at cheaper rates. Insurers will also be able to price their policies based on age and charge young people rates that are three-times lower than what older (and presumably sicker) applicants will be paying.

But the larger problem with Jenkins’ charter concept is that it it would only further fragment the risk pool and create a death spiral in the exchanges. If younger people have an incentive to take their premium dollars out of the exchanges and go elsewhere for cheaper high-deductible coverage, the exchanges will be left with sicker individuals who need comprehensive coverage and use it frequently. Without healthy individuals to offset the costs of this care, premiums will have to increase, pushing out everyone but the sickest and neediest applicants. As a result, the exchanges will become cost prohibitive for most Americans.

Meanwhile, the younger people who are enrolled in the cheaper high deductible policies will find their coverage inadequate once they — as we all inevitably are — fall ill. As The Incidental Economist’s Aaron Carroll points out, “Cheap plans are bad plans. There’s no magic to this. To a limited extent, you get what you pay for. The reason McDonald’s plans were low price was they they offered almost nothing in the way of benefits.”

The law’s mandated benefit levels are designed to get rid of these policies so that everyone has adequate coverage whether they need it now or later.

Wonk Room

Raising the retirement age is a bad idea

October 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

PolicyBasics_SocSec-TopTen-f2.jpg

When people talk about “raising the retirement age,” they normally mean raising the “full-retirement age.” That means the age where you get what Social Security calls “full benefits.” Right now, it’s about 66. But most people don’t retire at 66. They retire at 62 or 63 — that is to say, they retire as soon as they’re eligible, even if it means getting less in benefits. That reveals an important preference: So much as pundits and elites think it’s easy and natural for people to work later into life, most people don’t actually agree. They retire as soon as possible.

If you raise the full-retirement age to 70, you’ll probably still see people retiring at 62 or 63. They’ll just get less in benefits. In that way, raising the retirement age is another way of saying “cutting benefits.”

Andrew Biggs has proposed doing something different: He’d raise the “early-retirement age” — that is, the age at which you can first retire and begin collecting benefits — from 62 to 65. You couldn’t retire at 62 and get less. Benefits would begin only at 65. This will improve the system’s finances, he says, and also mean larger annual benefits when people do retire. “The evidence indicates that most Americans could work longer and would benefit from doing so,” he writes. “This strikes me as sensible,” says Andrew Sullivan.

Though I agree with Sullivan that this is, at least, a serious idea for reducing the deficit, count me out. The words “would benefit from doing so” are doing some heavy lifting here, and in a way even I find worryingly paternalistic. Biggs quotes evidence showing that health has improved among elderly Americans, and jobs have grown less physically demanding, since Social Security was founded. That’s true, but it’s also true that America is much richer than it once was. Adjusting for inflation, our gross domestic product in 1935 was $ 865 billion. In 2009, it was more than $ 12 trillion.

Leisure time at the end of life is something we can buy. The question is whether we want it. Elites don’t, and so raising the retirement age is very popular among them. They — or maybe I should say we — want to work until 70, and 75, and 85. It’s a painless reform for us, and so we’ve convinced ourselves it’s a painless reform for most people. Conversely, we don’t want to raise taxes on ourselves, and so you don’t hear much about lifting the cap on the payroll tax that funds Social Security. But, funnily enough, when you pose the question to Americans, they see it differently: They don’t like taxes, but benefit cuts are much less popular. And notice that that poll question doesn’t even note that the relevant tax would mainly hit wealthier Americans.

So much as I don’t like the idea of raising the full-retirement age and cutting benefits for people retiring — as you can see in the chart atop this post, benefits aren’t particularly generous even now — I’m much more hostile to the idea of raising the early-retirement age. That’s particularly true given that elite preferences on this question are diametrically opposed to the revealed preferences of Americans. People who like their jobs and make a lot of money working as pundits and legislators and think-tank experts have a special credibility on raising taxes on people who make more than average Americans, but it’s the average American working a job she may or may not like who’s credible on when most Americans want to retire, and the answer to that question seems to be “as early as possible.” We should take that preference seriously.

You might say, of course, that we can’t afford to take that preference seriously. Sorry, but that’s just not true. For one thing, we could close the Social Security gap by applying payroll taxes to all income, rather than just to the first $ 106,000. Oddly, however, the “raise taxes on wealthy people with good jobs” has less traction among wealthy people with good jobs than “make average people work longer at jobs they want to retire from.”

For another, the Social Security trust fund is an accounting fiction. Liberals think it’s a sacrosanct bargain that’s protected by the program, but I don’t see much evidence of it. And it creates the problematic impression that Social Security must be internally solvent. Plenty of programs in government don’t pay for themselves and are instead subsidized by revenues or cuts elsewhere. Education, for instance. or defense. And there are dozens of things I’d cut and dozens of taxes I’d impose that could partly or fully close the 0.7 percent of GDP that Social Security needs to become fully solvent. To name but a few, the mortgage-interest deduction, a carbon tax, the exclusion for employer-sponsored health care, the military budget, farm subsidies, Medicare, a VAT and the Bush tax cuts for income over $ 250,000.

Graph credit: CBPP.







Ezra Klein

Bank Of America’s Robo-Signer Comes Clean: ‘I Had No Idea What I Was Signing’

October 28, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Bank of America, to its credit, was the only bank to freeze foreclosures in all 50 states as a result of revelations regarding the “robo-signers”: bank employees who were approving thousands of foreclosure without verifying basic information. However, BofA restarted its foreclosure machine just ten days later, saying that it had examined more than 100,000 foreclosure cases and found no problems.

Shortly thereafter, BofA backtracked and said that it had actually found some problems, but tried to downplay them as simple paperwork errors — like misspelling names — rather than a systemic effort to rush foreclosures through the pipeline with almost complete disregard for the legal process. But a former BofA robo-signer told his story to CNN Money and painted a very different picture:

[Former BofA employee Tam Doan] didn’t have time to actually read the paperwork he was signing, he said, and in some cases, he didn’t even know what documents he was putting his pen to. “I had no idea what I was signing,” said Doan. “Either you were in or you were out.” [...]

The paperwork he robo-signed most often were the notices to delinquent borrowers that the servicer was proceeding to foreclosure. By signing that document, he was affirming that the bank had reviewed the loan and it didn’t qualify for a modification. But, he said, the reality was he had no idea whether Bank of America had really tried to save the borrower’s home. “We had no knowledge of whether the foreclosure could proceed or couldn’t, but regardless, we signed the documents to get these foreclosures out of the way,” he said, noting that he assumed another department had checked that the review was done.

Doan’s description of BofA neglecting to verify whether or not borrowers qualified for a loan modifications fits in with our previous reporting. We found that the bank was siphoning borrowers into its own private loan modification program without checking whether they qualified for federal modification programs, in clear violation of the bank’s contract with the Treasury Department.

But more importantly, Doan’s story strikes right at the heart of the image the banks want to convey regarding foreclosure-gate. They want to make it a story about careless mistakes and sloppy paperwork, when it’s really one about a system explicitly designed to cut corners, even if that meant violating due process and the legal requirements for foreclosing on a home.

Even if there were no homeowners who were improperly foreclosed upon (and we know there were, including some who literally didn’t have a mortgage), the banks’ blatant disregard for process should be enough to warrant slamming the brakes on their foreclosure factories, especially considering that the extent of the problem is still unclear. One investor told CNBC today that he estimates that the mortgage mess could cost the banks $ 97 billion in losses.

Wonk Room

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