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  • Tuesday, November 11, 2008


    Open Letter to Senator McCain: I Am Elated You Did Not Win

    Dear Senator McCain:

    As one of the so-called independent voters your campaign seemed so concerned to persuade, I would like to let you know how elated I am that you did not win the presidential election. I did not vote for you because I believe you are a phony and because the decisions you made during your campaign demonstrated that you would have been a horrible president.

    First, I believe you are a phony. I do not believe your claim that you are a “maverick” and I do not believe you, as president, would have changed the status quo that paralyzes the federal government from the meaningful changes that are needed if the United States is to remain strong economically and as a world leader. I do not believe you ever truly worked a day in your life. I do not believe you have any real idea of how the majority of your countrymen struggle every day to meet their basic needs for shelter, food, health care, security, etc. You cheated on and unceremoniously dumped your first wife so you could marry that tarted-up, makeup-slathering termagant you call a wife in order to gain access to her enormous wealth, which, by the way, she did not produce either. Because of your wife, you are now so wealthy that you do not even know how many houses you own: was it seven or eight? I can assure you the average citizen of the United States has no trouble recalling how many houses he or she owns, if any. You are nothing like the average American citizen. I do not believe you can relate to average American citizens, and you possess no insight into how to improve their lives. In fact, the prescriptions you proposed during your campaign, in my opinion, were actually designed to enrich large corporations at the expense of individuals.

    Second, the decisions you made during your campaign were disastrous and demonstrate that you lack sound judgment, which leads me to conclude you would have made a horrible president. The people you chose to run your campaign, such as Schmidt, Salter, and Rick Davis, were awful. They were so uncreative, all they could do is run the tired playbook of Karl Rove. Rick Davis came across on television as a belligerent, condescending, arrogant prick. Your spokespeople, such as Tucker Bounds and Nicolle Wallace, were whiny, unctuous prevaricators who could not give a straight answer to a question if their lives depended on it. For example, Tucker Bounds, when asked by CNN’s Campbell Brown to explain Gov. Palin’s foreign policy experience, could only defiantly assert she was in charge of the Alaska National Guard, and acted all offended when the sufficiency of that ridiculous answer was questioned. Then your campaign whined like little babies about how “unfair” the interview was. How absurd!

    Your choice of Gov. Palin for your running mate was the worst decision you could have made. It appeared you made a snap decision; you shot from the hip, knowing very little about Gov. Palin. This was an enormously important test of your decision-making ability and your judgment, and you blew it big time! Her interview with Katie Couric showed Gov. Palin is empty-headed and grossly unprepared to run a convenience store, let alone the United States. Her selection, and your expectation that the American people should believe she would be capable of becoming president in the event of your death, was an insult to the American people's intelligence. Her explanation of her foreign policy experience, that Alaska is next to Russia and President Putin flies over Alaskan airspace when he comes to the United States, literally made me laugh out loud. My wife thought she was watching a parody and was shocked to learn it was really Gov. Palin speaking. Several prominent Republicans in my community told me they would not vote for you because Gov. Palin is not qualified for the one job you nominated her for: to replace the president in the event of his death.

    Your campaign was tawdry, mean-spirited, and stupid. Accusing Obama of “palling around with terrorists” was blatantly untrue. The notion your campaign tried to sell, that this U.S. Senator from Illinois, former state senator, and former law professor, was somehow hiding his true identity and agenda and would suddenly, if elected president, transform into some kind of “un-American” or “terrorist” president was absurd on its face. Your campaign was just more of the same old negative bullshit that was not indicative of a new style of politics. The dramatic suspension of your campaign to go to the capital to lead the nation in dealing with the economic crisis was a transparently cheap stunt. You did not lead. You accomplished exactly nothing. Your decisions were terrible, and judging from those decisions, I can only conclude you would have selected idiots to run your administration and you would have made terrible decisions as president.

    In sum, I think you are just a phony old grump who thought he was entitled to be president because of being a war hero when in fact you are just a lowlife political scumbag who helped Charlie Keating steal and who cares about nothing and no one but himself and being a lackey for wealthy individuals and corporate interests. Thank you for your consideration.

    Sunday, November 09, 2008


    Goodbye Dick!

    I am so happy Dick Cheney's reign of vice-presidential tyranny is soon coming to an end. Cheney is an arrogant, power-hungry miscreant who operates in secrecy, like a spider, and a bloodthirsty orderer of torture with no respect for the rule of law and no respect for anyone who dares to disagree with him.

    Dick Cheney has done nothing good for the United States or its people. I hope when he skulks out of office, he goes far away and just dies a slow, horrible, painful death.

    Sunday, October 19, 2008


    Wall Street Crisis Timeline

    TIMELINE: How the Wall Street Crisis unfolded (as of October 1, 2008)

    Reuters 02 October 2008 06:45

    (Reuters) - The biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression nearly 80 years ago has hit the world this year. Here are some key dates:

    January 11 - Bank of America pays $4 billion for Countrywide Financial after the mortgage lender goes bust when risky loans to shaky borrowers fail.

    February 17 - Britain's Northern Rock is nationalised after funding crisis.

    March 16/17 - Bear Stearns sold to U.S. investment bank JP Morgan Chase for about $2 a share.

    July 13 - U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve effectively nationalizes mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a bid to support U.S. housing market.

    Sept 14/15 - Investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc files for bankruptcy protection; rival Merrill Lynch & Co Inc agrees to be taken over by Bank of America Corp

    September 16 - Fed announces plan for $85 billion loan to American International Group Inc in return for 80 percent stake in the insurer; Britain's Barclays buys parts of Lehman's North American assets for $1.75 billion.

    September 17 - British bank Lloyds TSB Group Plc agrees to rescue rival HBOS Plc, scooping up Britain's biggest home loan lender in an all-share deal.

    September 18 - The UK Financial Services Authority imposes a temporary ban on short-selling financial stocks, a move echoed in other centers.

    September 19 - U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson calls for the government to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to take toxic mortgage assets off the books of financial companies to restore financial stability. News of the bailout plan helps world stock markets soar.

    September 20 - Details emerge of a $700 billion plan to bail out firms burdened with bad mortgage debt.

    -- A U.S. bankruptcy judge approves a revised version of Barclays purchase of the core U.S. business of Lehman.

    September 21 - Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Morgan Stanley become bank holding companies regulated by the Fed.

    September 22 - Nomura Holdings Inc says it will buy Lehman's franchise in Asia Pacific and acquires Lehman's business in Europe. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial agrees to buy up to 20 percent of Morgan Stanley for $8.5 billion.

    September 23 - AIG signs "definitive" agreement for up to $85 billion in borrowings from the Fed, the main part of a rescue plan that will see it take a 79.9 percent stake in the insurer.

    September 24 - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc says it will buy up to 9 percent of Goldman, which also announced plans to sell $2.5 billion in common stock.

    -- CNN says the FBI is investigating Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and AIG and their senior executives for potential mortgage fraud.

    September 25 - Washington Mutual is closed by the U.S. government in the largest failure of a U.S. bank. Its banking assets are sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co for $1.9 billion.

    September 29 - Britain announces the nationalization of mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley Plc. Spain's Banco Santander SA will buy its retail deposits and branch network. Banking and insurance company Fortis NV is bailed out by Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg governments to the tune of 11.2 billion euros ($16.4 billion). Wachovia Corp agrees to sell most of its assets to Citigroup Inc in a deal brokered by regulators.

    -- U.S. House of Representatives rejects the $700 billion rescue plan for the financial industry. Dow Jones posts its largest point decline ever while the S&P 500 has its worst day since 1987 with an 8.8 percent drop.

    September 30 - World stocks fall to near three-year lows but fears of a major meltdown ease as European losses are muted.

    - EU regulators endorse a 6.4 billion euro public bailout of Belgian-French financial services group Dexia SA.

    -- Ireland pledges more than double its GDP to guarantee all bank deposits.

    October 1 - U.S. Senate passed a revamped U.S. financial rescue plan aimed at restoring global financial stability, sending the measure to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote expected on Friday.

    Saturday, July 19, 2008


    2008 Credit Crisis Update: Trouble Behind, Trouble Ahead

    The July 19, 2008 edition of The Wall Street Journal reports that, although Wall Street seemed to be relatively pleased with Citigroup's recent announcement of a $2.5 billion quarterly loss (because it was less of a loss than expected), some forbidding clouds loom on the horizon:


    Buying Time For Homeowners In Foreclosure

    From the July 18, 2008 Miami Herald, an article about mortgage foreclosure defense, an area of the law in which my firm practices:

    Foreclosure defense buys homeowners time


    As foreclosures continue to mount, borrowers who have run out of options are turning to attorneys to fight back -- and they're living mortgage-free for months in the process.

    Although the chances of ultimately keeping a foreclosed home are slim, for $1,500 to $3,000 some lawyers are offering to defend borrowers in court, causing the wheels of justice to turn more slowly.

    Duking it out can add months and sometimes years to a foreclosure process that in Florida already takes an average of seven months to complete. Homeowners can use the extra time to save for a move, sell the house or mull other options.

    Investors can continue collecting rent from tenants, recouping at least some of their losses.

    Foreclosure defense is proving popular enough that some South Florida bankruptcy and real estate lawyers said they were refocusing their practices to meet the growing demand.

    As with many issues surrounding foreclosures, the practice is not without controversy. Delaying the inevitable is costly for lenders and for taxpayers who fund the court system, according to some lawyers who represent lenders. The process may also be unethical, they claim, and can put delinquent borrowers into a deeper financial hole.

    Florida is a ''judicial foreclosure'' state, meaning a lender must sue to force the sale of a property. Yet the majority of cases are tried without the defendant -- the borrower -- even showing up in court, said Timothy Kingcade, a prominent bankruptcy attorney who also defends foreclosures.

    'If you are accused of murder and you are guilty, you don't walk into court and say, `I did it!' You make the prosecuting attorney prove their case,'' Kingcade said.

    While a foreclosure may seem straightforward -- a borrower doesn't pay and the bank takes back the home -- lawyers say there are numerous ways to fight.


    One way is forcing the lender to prove it owns the debt behind the mortgage by producing a promissory note. A mortgage is a security instrument pledging property as collateral for a loan if a borrower defaults, but it is not the promissory note itself.

    As mortgages were bought, bundled and sold off to investors, notes got lost in the shuffle, landing in vaults or warehouses around the country. Physically retrieving them can be difficult and sometimes impossible.

    About 80 percent of the time, lenders fail to attach a copy to the lawsuit, Kingcade and others said.

    When lenders can't prove they own the loan, lawyers can get cases dismissed, said Peter Ticktin of the Ticktin Law Group in Deerfield Beach, whose firm has advertised foreclosure defense services on television.

    He began taking foreclosure clients about eight months ago. So far, none of his cases have gone to trial. His clients are still in their homes.

    Some lawyers also ask lenders to produce all the documents in a loan file, transcripts of phone conversations with the borrower and copies of written correspondence, which can take up to a year or more to compile. Several businesses are involved, and some may have gone out of business.

    Kingcade said requesting and reviewing a complete file could turn up fraud or other inconsistencies leading to a successful defense, though ``the bank may be entitled to its money, and 99.9 percent of the time the bank is absolutely right.''

    Neither Kingcade nor other attorneys interviewed said seeking out such documents was intended only to stall the process, which could be considered unethical.

    ''I hold the banks to their burden of proof in court,'' Kingcade said. ''Of course justice isn't doled out in a day. It takes sometimes six, eight to 12 months for that to happen,'' Kingcade said.

    Ticktin said many borrowers were duped by dishonest brokers and took on loans they could never afford. They could have their cases successfully mediated. Some borrowers' payments were misdirected and not properly credited to their accounts.

    ''People think I am dealing with a bunch of con artists,'' Ticktin said.

    ``I'm talking about families, innocent kids, people who got led into deals that are causing them trouble.''

    Angela Bellsanctious, of Lauderhill, is an example. She admits she is careless about opening her mail and said her mortgage was bought by a new servicer without her knowledge.

    Because her payments were automatically withdrawn from her bank account, she didn't know her loan wasn't being paid until it was too late. On June 12, the home she had lived in since 1990 was sold. Last week she got notice from the Broward sheriff that she had 48 hours to move.

    ''I was freaking out. I was praying and praying, and this lawyer came on the TV and said something about foreclosures,'' Bellsanctious, 58, said.
    It was Ticktin, who for $360 got a judge to waive the writ of possession while he tries to sort out the problem with the lender.

    ''I have no idea where I would have gone,'' Bellsanctious said.


    Yet, for every legitimate miscommunication and misconduct by a mortgage lender, dozens of bogus defenses are filed, clogging up the courts, some lawyers said.

    Iris Hernandez, a lawyer who files foreclosures on behalf of lenders, said some local attorneys were known for filing boilerplate defenses without supporting their positions, acting for borrowers seeking to take advantage of the system.

    'Some people feel that ` If I don't pay for a year, I'm getting my down payment back,' '' Hernandez said.

    Furthermore, not all clients deserve or need a foreclosure defense, Hernandez said. Some lawyers, she noted, appeared to be using it as a way to bilk clients for fees -- once with an unnecessary defense and again after persuading the client to file bankruptcy.

    What's more, Hernandez said, a borrower can easily extend the sale date of a home by up to 90 days by showing up at the last hearing and explaining to the judge why more time is needed.


    Marc Ben-Ezra, who also files foreclosures statewide for lenders, said the borrower who seeks to delay the inevitable can face consequences.

    Interest rates and other costs continue to pile up as the process drags on. Borrowers could be liable for the difference between what the lender recoups from the eventual home sale and the amount owed on the loan. Plus, homeowner and condo fees aren't being paid, which places hardships on people who are paying their debts.

    ''With every single day that goes by, they could be helping their clients get into bigger and bigger debt, rather than if they face the problems head on and resolve them as quickly as possible,'' Ben-Ezra said.


    Get Free eBooks from the World eBook Fair

    At the World eBook Fair, which runs from July 4 through August 4, you can download for free more than 1 million books, which includes free sheet music. These are all works in the public domain, but you can find a lot of treasures there.

    This year, the theme of the fair is Own Your Own Library and it promises 1 million-plus books free for the taking. The sheer number and the range and variety of titles make the World eBook Fair a veritable treasure trove for book lovers.

    As of midnight CDT July 4, 2008, these were the approximate numbers:

    100,000-plus from Project Gutenberg
    500,000-plus from the World Public Library
    450,000-plus from the Internet Archive
    160,000-plus from eBooks About Everything
    17,000-plus from International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP—sheet music)
    1,227,000-plus Total

    Monday, June 16, 2008


    Does Your Mutual Fund Manager Eat His Own Cooking?

    Morningstar has released data, for the top 500 mutual funds it covers, on how much each fund manager invested in his or her fund. The data are here.

    The data can be disheartening. In U.S.-stock funds, 47% report no manager ownership.

    If the manager of a mutual fund does not feel strongly enough to invest his or her own money in the fund, why should anyone else?

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