Well, we can all stop wondering if it’s Dick Clark’s last New Year’s Eve. In recent years, folks have gathered around their televisions to watch the old gentleman struggle with the countdown in Times Square—and apparently this rotten year, 2012, was the one that did him in. Clark died on Wednesday at the age of 82 from a heart attack. And then today—just this afternoon, in fact—Levon Helm of The Band died of throat cancer. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.
There’s much to discuss in the news today. For instance, a whole bunch of cubicle dwellers working for Wells Fargo have come forward and admitted that they’re pressured daily by their bosses to meet a foreclosure quota, often by unfairly tossing good people out on the street for no reason at all.
And it’s not just Wells Fargo. Five major banks have recently reached a settlement with state and federal prosecutors for document procedures that resulted in “loss of homes due to improper, unlawful or undocumented foreclosures.”
According to MSNBC: A Wells Fargo worker, who first contacted msnbc.com via email in late January, told of a wide range of concerns about the foreclosure documents she processes. Some families apparently were denied loan modifications after only cursory interviews, she said. Other borrowers applying for help sent comprehensive personal financial documents to a fax machine that she discovered had been unattended for weeks. Others landed in foreclosure after owing interest payments of as little as $1.18 a day, according to documents she said she reviewed. “There was one file where they weren’t even past due and they were in foreclosure status,” the loan processor said. Her account was supported by company documents and by a co-worker in the same office.
Right. And it’s no wonder, really. We’re talking about business and numbers and profits—not people. Here’s an interesting fact: Companies that manage mortgages typically collect only a small fee for each loan that is current. But loans in foreclosure generate a laundry list of foreclosure-related revenues, including legal fees, late charges, back interest, home inspections and maintenance.
The problem really has to do with these lowly workers who have to sign the mountains of paperwork, each one of them masquerading as “vice presidents of loan documentation.” Not only do they perjure themselves when they make that statement, but then each document that they sign claims that they have personal knowledge of everything in there and that they have carefully checked each figure, which is never the case.
One processor said, “We’re basically copying and pasting. It’s data entry. We just input (on the affidavit) what’s on that [LPS] system. And that’s it. We don’t go back through the system and look. We’re not calculating out each fee. We’re not going through their payment history and making sure that every figure is correct. That would take too long.”
And just what is LPS? According to MSNBC: Wells Fargo relies on a company called Lender Processing Services to assemble some of the information used to foreclose on properties. In December, Nevada Attorney General Katherine Cortez Masto sued LPS alleging that the company had forged documents, forced attorneys to churn through foreclosures sacrificing accuracy for speed, and required workers to notarize up to 4,000 foreclosure-related documents a day. LPS also was among the companies cited by federal regulators in April 2011.
Remember that quota I mentioned? Well, if these people don’t meet it, they get fired—and then they lose their homes.
Max Gardner, a Shelby, N.C. bankruptcy attorney, said, “These people simply do not have personal knowledge, as required by the rules of evidence, about the business practices or processes that they’re signing affidavits with respect to. They just don’t. And that’s the fundamental problem with it.”
Here are some interesting numbers from the same article on MSNBC: In February, the National Consumer Law Center surveyed some 260 consumer attorneys in 45 states, who reported that thousands of homeowners were improperly foreclosed on in just the past year. In four out of five cases, the attorneys reported, lenders failed to properly credit payments or they wrongly claimed homeowners owed bogus fees.
In February, an audit by the San Francisco assessor’s office of 382 foreclosure cases over the past three years found “one or more irregularities” in 99 percent of the loans and “what appear to be one or more clear violations of law” in 84 percent of the loans.
Jesus God. I could go on and on, but what would be the point? The fact is, many people don’t lose their homes because they’re lazy or can’t afford their mortgage payments—they lose their homes because it’s more profitable for the bank to foreclose, whether they have a reason to or not. This is one of the many reasons why I stopped doing business with Wells Fargo or any other major bank months ago.
In other news, Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky has compared Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin; he said, “Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room.” Then he pointed to Otto von Bismarck’s “culture war against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.
“Clemenceau, nicknamed ‘the priest eater,’ tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century. Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care.
“In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama, with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.”
Huh. And in Thailand, teen pregnancies are soaring and girls are having back-alley abortions because the Buddhists, like the Catholics, refuse to teach their children anything about contraception or safe sex. Even though they both worship different deities, he/she/it/they/whatever apparently share one common belief: contraception and sex outside of marriage is wrong.
Well … I have news: people are just smarter-than-average animals; therefore, horny teenagers are going to fuck each other, despite what their parents or religious leaders have to say about it, and if they’re not properly educated, they’re going to wind up pregnant or with a raging case of syphilis. And as for marriage … well … as an institution, it sucks. Some of the happiest couples I know have never been married—and they’re not planning on it anytime soon. Just because you get married and have a baby, doesn’t mean that your partner isn’t going to get bored and take a hike a couple of years later. The only thing that makes marriage sacred is whether or not the people taking their vows are able or willing to keep their word; with that in mind, marriage is no different than two teenagers saying to each other under the kissing bridge, “I’ll love you forever!”
Excuse me, but what a fucking crock. The Catholics and the Buddhists and all the other gullible religious nuts need to brush up on their science textbooks and get over their superstitious, medieval beliefs that there is an invisible man in the sky who is cranky and obsessed with whether or not people wear rubbers.
As for me, I find myself adjusting to life as a bachelor once again at the age of 33. After grappling with the initial sense of loss, abandonment, betrayal, and all-around outrage, I’ve come to a kind of uneasy truce with my current situation. Despite periods of loneliness, there’s a lot to be said for having a clean apartment, peace & quiet, groceries that I like to eat, and a hell of a lot more money.
Some time back, I reported on the impending doom that is facing the United States Postal Service. Well, the time is near. If Congress and the Senate can’t push through a bill by May 15, the postmaster general will close more than 200 mail processing plants—and that’s just for starters. In a typical move, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are desperately trying to attach wholly-unrelated amendments to the bill, resulting in commonplace government gridlock.
According to MSNBC: According to a report issued Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s fiscal watchdog, transactions at postal retail facilities have decreased by 18 percent over the past five years, while mail volume has declined by more than 20 percent. In fiscal year 2011, the Postal Service had a $5.1 billion loss and did not make its $5.5 billion retiree health benefits payment to the federal government.
“Approximately 80 percent of its retail facilities do not generate sufficient revenue to cover their costs,” the GAO reported, yet “the number of USPS-operated retail facilities, about 32,000, has remained largely unchanged” over the past five years.
Well … shucks. Like so many things in America and all over the world, the USPS is in serious trouble—and although people like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) refer to the inevitable as “unthinkable,” we’re going to have to come to grips with some of these things sooner or later. Shuttering the USPS, or even drastically reducing its operations, may seem like a big deal, but it will be nothing compared to when the world economy collapses like a house of cards, or when we add a few more billion people to the planet and all of a sudden discover that we’re out of oil and other precious resources.
I’m thinking of a song and it goes something like this: “Learn to swim, learn to swim….”
Here’s your wisdom:
John T. Schmitz is the editor & publisher of Secret Laboratory; he is the founder of Maple Hills Press and has also freelanced as a writer and photographer, contributing to various local and international publications. Mr. Schmitz lives in Minnesota with his wife, Megan, and their two children; he is the author of four books.
E-mail Mr. Schmitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.