Archive for foreclosures

The success of the #Occupy movement: "Invisible suffering was made visible" #OWS


ows 99 percent

Rebecca Solnit wrote an inspiring op-ed in today's L.A. Times, one I've been waiting for someone to write. If you need a morale boost, please read it in full. Solnit is an author who spent time at Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Oakland and Occupy Wall Street in 2011. A longer version of the op-ed can be found at

In her piece, she traces movements, activist groups, a unique person here and there, and identifies their transformative moments. She identifies milestones and special people who have made a meaningful difference and changed the world because they galvanized others with their mission.

Real change may at first be incremental, halting, and sometimes frustratingly imperceptible to those who aren't really paying attention, but eventually, it takes hold in ways unimagined.

In other words, the efforts can result in achievements that have lasting impact. And that impact can be on the whole wide world, a country, a legislative body, or on the very participants of a movement. And then those participants pay it forward.

[T]he moment that counts is the one where civil society is its own rule, improvising the terms of an ideal society for a day, a month, a season [...]

Almost as soon as Occupy Wall Street appeared in the fall of 2011, the national conversation changed and the brutality and obscenity of Wall Street were suddenly being openly discussed. The suffering of ordinary people crushed by the burden of medical, housing or college debt came out of the shadows.

California passed a homeowner's bill of rights to curtail the viciousness of the banks, and in late 2012, Strike Debt emerged as an Occupy offshoot to address indebtedness in creative and subversive ways. Student debt suddenly became (and remains) a topic of national discussion, and proposals for student loan reform began to gain traction.

Invisible suffering was made visible. And, though Occupy was never primarily about electoral politics, it was nonetheless a significant part of the conversation that got Elizabeth Warren elected senator and prompted a few other politicians to do good things in the cesspit of the capital.

Change often happens when the brutality of the status quo is made visible and therefore intolerable. [...]

Occupy Wall Street allowed those silenced by shame, invisibility or lack of interest from the media to speak up. ... [T]he media and politicians had to change their language to adjust to a series of previously ignored realities.

Part of what gave Occupy its particular beauty was the way the movement defined "we" as the 99%. That phrase (along with that contagious meme "the 1%") entered our language, offering a far more inclusive way of imagining the world.

Occupy is still working behind the scenes. I know this because I communicate regularly with those who are deeply involved, and I see reports of their impressive accomplishments. The tents are now gone, the drums stopped beating... but Occupy's heart didn't.



VIDEO: Chris Hayes takes on "nationwide foreclosure crime scene," Elizabeth Warren takes on the regulators


foreclosure crime scene

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This is must-see TV. Please watch all of it, it's a segment of "All In with Chris Hayes" from a day or two ago. Here's the back story, via MSNBC:

What the numbers show are banks foreclosing on military service members who were entitled to relief, and banks foreclosing on homeowners who had been approved for a loan modification. The numbers even show banks foreclosing on homeowners who were not behind in their payments and not in default. [...]

According to the findings posted just Tuesday by a federal bank regulator as part of a settlement agreement with a number of major banks, between 2009 and 2010, foreclosure proceedings that were wrongful or in some way contained bank error commenced against nearly four million homeowners.

About 30% of those homeowners had to battle potentially wrongful efforts to seize their homes, and more than 244,000 eventually lost their homes... But given the scale of the deception and error, the amount of money is, in most instances, cartoonishly small.

The entire segment is astonishing.

Which brings us to this morning at a Senate Banking Committee hearing where Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked regulators why they won’t reveal how often big banks broke the law by illegally foreclosing on homeowners. Surprise! The answer was, they didn’t exactly know pre-settlement and, per Think Progress, "were now unwilling to publicize the error rate."

Gee, who could have predicted that would happen?

Elizabeth Warren was her usual sharp-as-a-tack, unrelenting, driven self, and the regulators got the brunt of it. Where would we be without her to look out for us?

On Tuesday, regulators released new information suggesting that banks may have made errors in as many as 30 percent of all loans that qualified for a review,” the Huffington Post reported.

Watch Warren rip into the Big Bank Bodyguards, and watch them get all slithery and squirmy and resistant and small:

This is what "competent" looks like, Congress. Pay attention:

WARREN: So you have made a decision to protect the banks but not a decision tell the families who have been illegally foreclosed against?

RICHARD ASHTON (FEDERAL RESERVE): We haven’t made a decision about what information we would provide to individuals. [...]

WARREN: So I just want to make sure I get this straight. Families get pennies on the dollar in the settlement for having been the victims of illegal activities or mistakes in the banks’ activities. You now know individual cases where the banks violated the law, and you’re not going to tell the homeowners, or at least it’s not clear whether or not you're going to do that?...

I thought this was about transparency... People want to know that their regulators are watching out for the American public, not the banks.

No, as I said, watching out for the American public seems to be falling on Elizabeth Warren's shoulders. We need 100 more like her.

elizabeth warren banking committee hearing


Occupy's "public illumination of what was and is wrong in America changed the political dialogue in this country."


Today's L.A. Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "Occupy's ironic legacy: limits on protests," Dec. 6

Your dismissive article on the Occupy movement was mean-spirited and wrong.

Occupy's very visible, if inchoate, public illumination of what was and is wrong in America changed the political dialogue in this country. It received media attention, it raised consciousness, and it showed that organizing could make a difference (take a look at labor's recent victory at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles). It also left a legacy of very worthwhile programs, most notably Occupy's Rolling Jubilee program, which asks people to give small donations to a fund so other people can get out of debt and save their homes from foreclosure.

Rolling Jubilee is a beautiful thing. It may be that the first phase of Occupy's mission is over, but in communities all across America, not only does it do good work but its spirit lives.

Allen Levy



It has never been easy to find a balance between cities' responsibilities to protect residents from public disturbance and to respect free speech. However, new rules such as raising fees for permits to hold protests and higher fines for violations are extreme.

Silencing dissent narrows the perspectives on social issues by limiting what less-powerful groups can bring to the negotiating table in their fight for equality and justice.

Berta Graciano-Buchman

Beverly Hills


Cartoon of the Day- Debate Drinking Game




Video- Evicted 101-year-old Detroiter Returns Home


Sometimes you just need a good story. Yes, I cried.

DETROIT -- Baking cookies never seemed as sweet for 101-year-old Texana Hollis as it did on Wednesday, when she tearfully was allowed back into the home her husband bought after World War II following her eviction seven months ago.

Foreclosure initially forced Hollis from the home where she'd spent six decades of her life, then federal officials wouldn't let her move back in because of its dilapidated condition. That's when Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom and his charity stepped in, and convinced volunteers and businesses to do the same.


Albom and his charities helped renovate Hollis' house after buying it from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Albom spent $30,000 - much of it out of his own pocket - on the project, and more than 100 volunteers spent months putting in new flooring, drywall, appliances and even a portion of the roof.

"I promised Texana that all she has to do is just stay alive and give us another 101 years," he said after pushing Hollis up a newly constructed wheelchair ramp and into the gleaming home. "She will never lose this house again."


Foreclosing on God: When Banks Seize Churches


Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin:

Oh dear me, what a divine train wreck it is when the free market economy kicks God out of house and home.

According to a March 8 Reuters article:

Banks are foreclosing on America's churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities that have defaulted on their mortgages, according to new data. [...]

What a crisis of faith this must provoke in the Republican fundamentalist base when the belief in unfettered free markets results in God becoming homeless. [...]

Remember that Palin was given a sign by God to run for vice-president but lost... Then Bachmann and Perry led the recent "God told me to run" Republican candidates... but God struck out with them too. Even Herman Cain claimed to get the green light from God [...]

No wonder all those churches are being foreclosed.  God's been playing a losing hand.

Please read the whole post here.


VIDEO- President Obama: "We have reached a landmark settlement with the nation's largest banks."


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 Here's the headline:

(Reuters) - The biggest U.S. banks will provide about $25 billion in relief to distressed homeowners, as state and federal officials hold lenders responsible for taking illegal shortcuts during foreclosures and for other deceptive practices.

Here's some perspective via David Dayen's post that is filled with information:

I’ve done the math on this before, and you’re talking about $20,000 (when homes are on average underwater $50,000) for 1 million borrowers (when there are 11 million underwater). If Donovan is correct about 2:1 maybe you’re at $30,000-$40,000. And the banks have three years.

There will be plenty more to say about this once we get all of the facts of the claim. In addition, this will have to go before a federal judge to sign off on the settlement. And we won’t know for many years whether this promise on loan modifications, unlike all the others, will take. But it’s going forward. And now the only hope for accountability and justice for the crimes of the financial crisis lie in some scattered lawsuits grandfathered in and Schneiderman’s RMBS working group. One thing is clear – the banks relieved themselves of a significant portion of liability at a price they believe they can easily handle.

This is so not my area of expertise, but while there are some positives, I'm feeling queasy.

Thom Hartmann just now on his radio show, slightly paraphrased: "They know that without this deal, the banks could drop a billion dollars into the election and wipe out the Democrats."

Thank you, Citizens United.