That Was The Week That Was in Doom June 23, 2013

From the Keyboard of Surly1

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 23, 2013

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Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

This edition caps a week full of nonsense, proving nothing so much as that rust never sleeps. We were shocked… shocked to learn that Bank of America issued performance bonus for employees managing to force homeowners into foreclosure. Negotiators firmly set upon enacting a treason against the American people continued busily negotiating the Trans-Pacfic Partnership under circumstances so secret they may well as be hermetically sealed, lest the proles get wind of the scale of the planned sellout. In other surprises, Congress’ poll rating is the lowest EVAH, Klansmen attempted to build a radiation weapon to use on Muslims, Louie Gohmert sees king crab legs in the shopping carts of SNAP card recipients, reporter Michael Hastings perished in a vehicle fire in a vehicle that, being among the safest on the planet, should never have caught fire, and an entrepreneur is planning a megadoomstead in underground limestone caves, in a facility formerly used for government storage. I know there is meaning in these entrails, so grab a stick and let’s start rooting around for signs, shall we?

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Bank of America Lied to Homeowners and Rewarded Foreclosures, Former Employees Say

As an Occupier, special opprobrium was reserved for the Bank of America. Located close enough to the Occupy Norfolk encampment to cast a shadow in late afternoon, B of A seemed to embody the very incarnation of everything wrong with banking.

The popular “Move Your Money” campaign shifted around a few millions, and quoted bank execs shrugged it off, but one sensed they were at least a bit concerned.

Then we find out this, courtesy of ProPublica:

Bank of America employees regularly lied to homeowners seeking loan modifications, denied their applications for made-up reasons, and were rewarded for sending homeowners to foreclosure, according to sworn statements by former bank employees.

The employee statements were filed late last week in federal court in Boston as part of a multi-state class action suit brought on behalf of homeowners who sought to avoid foreclosure through the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) but say they had their cases botched by Bank of America.

In a statement, a Bank of America spokesman said that each of the former employees’ statements is “rife with factual inaccuracies” and that the bank will respond more fully in court next month. He said that Bank of America had modified more loans than any other bank and continues to “demonstrate our commitment to assisting customers who are at risk of foreclosure.”

Six of the former employees worked for the bank, while one worked for a contractor. They range from former managers to front-line employees, and all dealt with homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure through the government’s program.

And Paul Kiel’s reporting even gets better. The Squid itself is involved, through a subsidiary:

Sometimes, homeowners were simply denied en masse in a procedure called a “blitz,” said William Wilson, Jr., who worked as an underwriter and manager from 2010 until 2012. As part of the modification applications, homeowners were required to send in documents with their financial information. About twice a month, Wilson said, the bank ordered that all files with documentation 60 or more days old simply be denied. “During a blitz, a single team would decline between 600 and 1,500 modification files at a time,” he said in the sworn declaration. To justify the denials, employees produced fictitious reasons, for instance saying the homeowner had not sent in the required documents, when in actuality, they had.

Such mass denials may have occurred at other mortgage servicers. Chris Wyatt, a former employee of Goldman Sachs subsidiary Litton Loan Servicing, told ProPublica in 2012 that the company periodically conducted “denial sweeps” to reduce the backlog of homeowners. A spokesman for Goldman Sachs said at the time that the company disagreed with Wyatt’s account but offered no specifics.

Five of the former Bank of America employees stated that they were encouraged to mislead customers. “We were told to lie to customers and claim that Bank of America had not received documents it had requested,” said Simone Gordon, who worked at the bank from 2007 until early 2012 as a senior collector. “We were told that admitting that the Bank received documents ‘would open a can of worms,’” she said, since the bank was required to underwrite applications within 30 days of receiving documents and didn’t have adequate staff.

Your refinance dollars at work. The HAMP program was an apparent clusterfk for banks from inception, as they never had any intention of hiring sufficient staff in order to process the paperwork needed to fully implement it. ProPublica began detailing its failures from its inception in 2009. HAMP turned out to be a perfect storm created by banks that refused to adequately fund their mortgage servicing operations and lax government oversight.

Bank of America was far slower to modify loans than other servicers, as other analyses ProPublica has cited have shown. A study last year found that about 800,000 homeowners would have qualified for HAMP had Bank of America, Wells and the other largest servicers done an adequate job of handling applications and paperwork. And we’ll not event mention the outright fraud of robosigning. Yet.

Add B of A

This in, from firedoglake.

 

The latest story is courtesy of one of those much maligned whistle-blowers who saw something and said something. In this case the whistle-blower disclosed that the Too Big To Fail/Jail bank had a bonus system setup encouraging foreclosure on desperate homeowners.

Bank of America (BAC) rewarded staff with cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas tied to sending distressed homeowners into foreclosure, former employees said in court documents.

Mortgage workers falsified records and were told to delay U.S. loan-assistance applications by requesting paperwork that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank had already received, according to statements from ex-employees filed last week in federal court in Boston.

The affidavit details a litany of abuse including widespread fraud.

I witnessed employees and managers change and falsify information in the systems of record, and remove documents from homeowners’ files to make the account appear ineligible for a loan modification,” said Terrelonge, a loan servicing representative. This allowed managers to meet quotas for closed cases, she said.

Bank of America instructed employees to delay applications and mislead customers “as part of a deliberate practice of stringing homeowners along,” lawyers said in a June 7 filing.

Salon published a very fine article by David Dayen that included this morsel:

And they would have very specific targets: the ex-employees listed specific executives by name who authorized and directed the fraudulent process. “The delay and rejection programs were methodically carried out under the overall direction of Patrick Kerry, a Vice President who oversaw the entire eastern region’s loan modification process,” wrote William Wilson. Other executives mentioned by name include John Berens, Patricia Feltch and Rebecca Mairone (now at JPMorgan Chase, and already named in a separate financial fraud case). These are senior executives who, if this alleged conduct is true, should face criminal liability.

Bankers facing criminal liability. Here in the FSA. That’s pretty funny.

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More on the “Trans-Pacific Partnership”

Last week we kicked the tires of the Trans-Pacific partnership, a piece of secret legislation being secretly negotiated by the White House, with the help of more than 600 corporate advisers and representative from Pacific Rim nations. Described as a “trade agreement,” the US already has trade agreements covering 90 percent of the GDP of the countries involved in the talks. Instead, the TPP is a major power grab by large corporations, conducted under cover in much the same way that NAFTA was foisted upon the American middle class. The deal will reportedly give multinational corporations a favorable economic and legal status vis a vis sovereign nations, and the ability to challenge legislation in each nation unfavorable to the corporation’s interests.

Why so secretive?

As Margaret Flowers reports in an article, if people knew what was in the bill, the groundswell of opposition would be such as to make it impossible to sign.

The text of the TPP includes 29 chapters, only five of which are about trade. The remaining chapters are focused on changes that multinational corporations have not been able to pass in Congress such as restrictions on internet privacy, increased patent protections, greater access to litigation and further financial deregulation.

So far, all that is known about the contents of the TPP is from documents that have been leaked and reports from NGOs and industry meetings. Unlike other trade deals, the White House refuses to make the text available to the public. In fact, the negotiators refuse to publish the text until four years after it is signed into law. Why are they being so secretive? Former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he opposed making the text public because doing so would raise such opposition that it could make the deal impossible to sign.

From the information available, one thing is clear about the impacts of the TPP on health care: the intention of the TPP is to enhance and protect the profits of medical and pharmaceutical corporations without considering the harmful effects their policies will have on human health.

recession-2

No reader will be surprised to learn that the net impact of this pernicious bit of treason is to maximize corporate profits. The TPP agreement takes particular loving care of Big Pharma, and attempts to limit the capacities of state owned public health enterprises to care for its own citizenry.

Text from a section of the TPP called “Annex on Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Healthcare Technologies” was leaked in June 2011. It reveals this conflict between medical industries that have strictly commercial interests and public health systems that are concerned about the health of the population. Medical industries are pushing on all fronts to keep their prices high while public health systems must negotiate to keep prices affordable and maximise what they can cover within their budgets.

To the medical industries, such price negotiation is one of the “unfair advantages” of public health systems. When a public health system negotiates a lower price, it is said to be exerting its market power. On the flip side, when a government extends patent protections to medical industries to keep prices high, this is not considered to be an unfair advantage granted by the government.

Medical industries are pushing for other concessions within the TPP to “level the playing field”, also known as forcing public entities to operate as market-based entities, such as factoring the cost of not just research, development and production of drugs and medical devices, but also the cost of marketing them into what is considered to be a fair market price. And they only view prices negotiated without any government influence as fair.

As always, Mammon remains hungry.

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Americans’ Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record

Congress ranks last on list of 16 institutions; military earns top spot again

To the surprise of almost nobody, the results are in: virtually no one trusts the scripted mainstream media and even fewer trust Congress. We’ve known it for years, but a new Gallup poll shows that a whopping 77% of Americans distrust mainstream media television and nobody likes Congress who is willing to give their name to an interviewer. . .

Only a bit more ‘trustworthy’ than Congress, which scored in at a record low of 90% saying they do not trust the government body, the Gallup poll details that only 23% of viewers actually trust the mainstream media television news. A reality that has been clear as day in light of blatant mainstream media blackouts on key events like the outrageous DHS Fourth Amendment free zones that stretch up to 100 miles out from every single border of the US, to the blackout over eyewitness reports at the Boston Marathon.

Gallup sez:

Americans’ confidence in Congress is not only at its lowest point on record, but also is the worst Gallup has ever found for any institution it has measured since 1973. This low level of confidence is in line with Americans’ low job approval of Congress, which has also been stuck below 30% for years.

 

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Gohmert: Cutting food stamps not evil because poor people buy king crab legs

 

Going out on a limb here, but just perhaps– perhaps– the low approval rating of Congress stems in large measure from antics like these. Raw Story moved this item in the wake of the defeated Farm Bill this week, which illustrated a new level of political incompetence in Washington unseen in at least one observer’s lifetime.

Congressional comedian Louis Gohmert

complained that Democrats had portrayed Republicans as evil because they supported a measure to cut nearly 2 million low-income people off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which would mainly impact working families with children.

On the other hand, Gohmert said, poor people were using food stamps to buy food that other Americans could not afford. He claimed his “broken-hearted” constituents had repeatedly told him they had seen people use food stamps to buy king crab legs.

“Because he does pay income tax, he doesn’t get more back than he pays in, he is actually helping pay for king crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself,” Gohmert explained.

“How can you begrudge somebody who feels that way,” he added. “How can you begrudge anyone who steps up on behalf of constituents who feel that way. We don’t want anyone to go hungry, and from the amount of obesity in this country by people who we’re told do not have enough to eat, it does seem like we could have a debate about this issue without allegations about wanting to slap down or starve children.”

The average monthly SNAP benefit for one person is $133.44.

Reports have circulated that the king crab leg purchaser was wearing purple wings and riding an ebony unicorn when sighted making the crab leg purchase.

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Klansman and accomplice charged for building radiation gun

The men allegedly intended for their “Hiroshima on a light switch” to be used on the Muslim community

We are all familiar with elements of the ignorant , violent nativist right in this country, which is much like the ignorant violent and nativist right in every country. But these folks have set a new by attempting to apply technology with a lethal, deadly twist.

 

Two men, one of them a member of the Ku Klux Klan, were arraigned today in Albany, N.Y., on federal charges of plotting to build a mobile radiation gun intended to kill Muslims – or “medical waste,” as the plotters called their intended targets.

Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, a Klan member from Galway, N.Y., and Eric J. Feight, 54, of Hudson, are both charged with conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism in the use of a weapon of mass destruction.

The case has been under investigation by a Joint Terrorism Task Force since at least April 2012, when Crawford allegedly reached out to Jewish organizations, asking if Israel would be interested in such a weapon to kill its enemies.

“The essence of Crawford’s scheme is the creation of a mobile, remotely operated, radiation emitting device capable of killing human targets silently and from a distance with lethal doses of radiation,” says a 67-page criminal complaint filed by the FBI.

It might sound far-fetched, but experts told investigators that the design would work, producing a “a lethal, and functioning, remotely controlled radiation-emitting device,” the complaint says

A “central feature of the weaponized radiation device is that the target(s) and those around them would not immediately be aware they had absorbed lethal doses of radiation and the harmful effects of that radiation would not become apparent until days after the exposure,” the complaint says.

At one point, Crawford described his planned device as “Hiroshima on a light switch,” the complaint says.

The case against this pair appears built around extensive recordings of their conversations and e-mails. Within six weeks of Crawford’s attempts to solicit financing from two Jewish organizations, the FBI was monitoring and recording much of his activity and had recruited an snitch In.

Last August, Crawford traveled by car from his home in Albany to North Carolina to meet and solicit funding from an unidentified “ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan,” who cooperated when contacted by FBI agents. In early October, he traveled to Greensboro, N.C., to meet with a cooperating witness and two undercover FBI agents who posed as “Southern businessmen of means who were associated with the KKK.”

Reminds me of the descriptions we often hear about serial killers. “He was a nice boy. Quiet. Shy. He didn’t have much to say.” Keep this in mind when you’re tricorn hat-wearing neighbor seems to be spending the too many late nights in his garage, tinkering on his neighborhood death ray.

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Michael Hastings, RIP.

As you know, reporter Michael Hastings died in a fiery car crash earlier this week. There’s a great deal loves that chelation about the causes of the crash, and especially the resultant fireball that supposedly consumed is vehicle. Reader Supported News moved an article earlier in the week, and I can do no better than to run it in toto:

The death of reporter Michael Hastings, best remembered for taking on General Stanley McChrystal and other powerful people, has been met with shock and grief in the journalistic community, especially from those fortunate enough to work alongside him. But one layer below the fond remembrances are a host of vague questions and inferences about the circumstances surrounding the 33-year-old BuzzFeed reporter’s fiery solo car crash early Tuesday in Los Angeles. Bringing those suspicions to the forefront last night was WikiLeaks, never reticent to insert itself into a story, which teased, “Michael Hastings death has a very serious non-public complication. We will have more details later.” And after three hours tweeted: “Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him.”

“Yeah,” BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith confirmed to Daily Intelligencer. “Before his death, Michael told a number of his friends and colleagues that he was concerned that he was under investigation.”

But other, less reputable sources have taken the speculation much further. “Vince Foster-like murder plot emerging in Los Angeles? Did the Obama administration knock off a star reporter?” asked one blog early on Wednesday, adding to existing conspiratorialTwitterchatter. Another wrote, “Admit it, Michael Hastings’ Death is Weird and Scary.” Hours before revelations about a potential FBI investigation, InfoWars, the Alex Jones website that serves as a catch-all conspiracy-theory clearing house, mentioned Hastings’s death with an editor’s note: “Journalists who mess with government and military power often die under mysterious circumstances.” None had more than conjecture.

The circumstances are these: “Police said a vehicle was southbound on Highland about 4:20 a.m. when it lost control south of Melrose and smashed into a tree,” the L.A. Times reported. Videopurports to show Hastings’s Mercedes-Benz running a red light at a high speed minutes before the crash. “It sounded like a bomb went off in the middle of the night,” a witness told the local news. “I couldn’t have written a scene like this for a movie, where the engine flies from the car.” Photos and video from the aftermath show extreme wreckage, and as of yesterday, the coroner had not officially identified the body because it was too badly burned.

But an automotive writer also fed the doubters:

I’m here to state that I’ve seen dozens of cars hit walls and stuff at high speeds and the number of them that I have observed to eject their powertrains and immediately catch massive fire is, um, ah, zero. Modern cars are very good at not catching fire in accidents. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which is an evolutionary design from a company known for sweating the safety details over and above the Euro NCAP requirements, should be leading the pack in the not-catching-on-fire category. Nor is the C-Class known for sudden veering out of control into trees and whatnot.The crash is under investigation and there will be an official accident report (a toxicology report could take weeks). Whatever its findings, they can likely coexist with Hastings’s mind-set at the time and a potential government investigation without representing something more sinister.

“He was incredibly tense and very worried and was concerned that the government was looking in on his material,” said Hastings’s friend and Current TV host Cenk Uygur. “I don’t know what his state of mind was at 4:30 in the morning, but I do know what his state of mind was in general, and it was a nervous wreck.” But Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery put it plainly: “Ugh, the people posting Vince Foster style comments re Hastings death do a disservice to his no BS truth telling.” Let’s wait for the facts.

Update: The L.A. Times reports that Hastings, prior to his death, “was researching a story about a privacy lawsuit brought by the Florida socialite Jill Kelley against the Department of Defense and the FBI.” The paper also notes, “Since Hastings’s death early Tuesday, wild conspiracy theories have bloomed on the Internet implying that he was murdered by powerful forces wanting to silence him.”

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Limestone Doomstead

We’ve entertained a lot of discussion about doomsteads on the Doomsday Diner, and discussed many of the preparations and planning that would be necessary to create such a place. It appears that one man is planning on an extinction level event, and is acquired a former government facility in which to plan a doomstead with a few of his friends.

After most of the world’s population is wiped off the map by a wayward meteorite or hail of nuclear missiles, the survival of the human race might just depend on a few thousand people huddled in recreational vehicles deep in the bowels of an eastern Kansas mine.

That’s the vision of a California man who is creating what he calls the world’s largest private underground survivor shelter, using a complex of limestone caves dug more than 100 years ago beneath gently rolling hills overlooking the Missouri River.

‘I do believe I am on a mission and doing a spiritual thing,’ said Robert Vicino, who has purchased a large portion of the former U.S. Army storage facility on the southeast edge of Atchison, about 50 miles northwest of Kansas City. ‘We will certainly be part of the genesis.’



Before it comes time to ride out Armageddon or a deadly global pandemic, though, Vicino says the Vivos Survival Shelter and Resort will be a fun place for members to take vacations and learn assorted survival skills to prepare them for whatever world-changing catastrophe awaits.

Jacque Pregont, president of the Atchison Chamber of Commerce, said some people think the shelter plan sounds creepy or that Vicino has ‘lost his mind,’ while others are excited because they will finally get a chance to tour the property.

Atchison is known as the birthplace of Amelia Earhart and one of the most haunted towns in Kansas, Pregont said, so the survival shelter is likely to add to the town’s tourism draw.

Here is a scale model of the facility:
Apparently according to the current pricing structure, a person who plans to park a 30-foot vehicle in the shelter with four people inside will pay $30,000 for the space and $6,000 for food. Actual sales won’t begin until a ‘critical mass’ of reservations are received and processed, Vicino said, which hasn’t happened yet at the Kansas shelter. Vivos also owns a shelter in Indiana with room for 80 people to live comfortably for up to a year.There, members pay $50,000 per adult and $35,000 per child, so a family with two adults and two children would have to come up with $170,000 to be part of the “new beginnings” generation. So it appears that the 1% will at least be safe in their year-round, 70°, temperature regulated chambers.
In closing, I am moved to wonder why the government sold this facility. Where have they moved whatever was stored here? Why did they sell it, and so cheaply?
Just wondering.
I’m sure the answer lies in the entrails of the next sheep.
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