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Everything that is wrong with America can be summed up by the ongoing story of crooked mortgages and crooked foreclosures. The insatiable greed of financiers desperate to find something new to bet on; the dismissiveness with which banks scrapped longstanding laws on record-keeping in favor of a flimsy electronic system that was unsuited for the task precisely because none of the banks gave a damn about the details, so long as it was cheap; the viciousness of the New Gilded Agers in the subsequent downturn, responding to their own incompetence at keeping their checkbooks in order by simply foreclosing on whoever they thought might need foreclosing, and proof be damned; the petty meaningless of government oversight, when it finally, at long last and far too late, came into play. And, once the banks had been declared the crooks and the wrongly foreclosed-upon given a mere few hundred or few thousand dollars in exchange for all that bad stuff that had happened to them, the goddamn checks bounce.

You couldn't script it any better. You could make a movie of it, call it The Great Ratsby, and as opulent 3-D background you could use the sporadic and fawning New York Times pieces on how very hard up the merely mildly rich have it, in these harsh and bitter times, stories of all those irritated people who now may be forced to buddy up with others when sending their children off to camp on private planes—and by the way, so-and-so, there, that middle-class fellow in the background, the one in Potterville who the bank screwed over because, tsk, paperwork is too hard? Well, they're going to get some gas money out of the deal, at least—so keep the party going and all's right with the world, right?

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that it's all continuing even now:

This time, according to officials briefed on the matter, the consulting firm issued a raft of checks with wrong amounts. The mistake by the firm, Rust Consulting, cheated struggling homeowners out of thousands of dollars.

Federal authorities are ordering Rust, which is based in Minnesota, to fix its mistake, the officials said, though the problems continued as of Wednesday afternoon.

The lesson here is that nobody involved in the financial industry knows shit-all about money, contracts, or math. This should not be surprising, but is yet another good reminder anyway.
Rust, according to the officials briefed on the matter, failed to follow the banks’ payout plan. Instead, it issued checks to customers of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley based on a metric adopted by the 11 other banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

The misstep deprived the homeowners of thousands of dollars. For example, some customers in bankruptcy who were evicted wrongfully deserved $4,650. But they received $3,750 instead.

It is unclear how many of the 220,000 Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs customers received the wrong amount. But one person briefed on the matter described the problem as “huge.” It most likely affected every borrower who was entitled to more money under the Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley plan.

I'll have to go below the fold for this one, because I am officially Peeved. In the meantime, here are your Night Owls fixings, and I'll see you on the other side of the fine orange squiggle.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007How Late is Too Late?:

Having always been extremely interested in Daily Kos demographics, let me ask you: How forgiving are you willing to be? What's your timetable on Republicans coming down the rat-lines off the USS Bush?

I'm not talking about the practical side of things, the we'll-take-your-votes-if-it-leads-to-a-veto-proof-majority pragmatism.

What I'm asking is: If a Republican (or Democrat) finally comes around in September and says the U.S. needs a timetable for withdrawal, does that wash away for you what will by then have been that person's five-and-a-half-years of parroting the Administration's war hype, backing the war and the occupation and downplaying all the rottenness, from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib, from Anbar Province to the Walter Reed Annex, from  the secret prisons of Thailand to the secret machinations of the Defense Policy Board?

Will you, in the deep recesses of your tolerant liberal heart forgive them and count them on "our side" if they come around in, say, January 2008, before the primaries? June? September? What's your timetable?

Tweet of the Day:

RT @thetrudz: Black criminals are treated like animals. Black victims are treated like criminals. Black heroes are treated like punchlines.
@aemccarthy via TweetDeck

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin on the flu & coronavirus front, the results from SC-01, and the release of data detailing widely disparate costs in the nation's hospitals. Yglesias writes on why nobody will care about this. The fight over "regular order" and what it means. Ezra Klein's look the new debt ceiling hostage: tax reform. Further adventures in government "cost-cutting" that ends up costing more and helping people less. Why do we continue to do this? It makes collecting the "dividends" easier. Lastly, "political intelligence" consulting converts a taxpayer-funded public knowledge base into private wealth.

High Impact Posts. Top Comments.

Here? Great. All right, I am just going to take a quiet moment here to say f--k on the whole issue of whether or not an incompetent boob of a check-issuing company understands the procedures for actually issuing the checks. That's small potatoes. In accidentally oops-ing a wide swath of already-cheated customers out of a little less than a thousand dollars, that seems so very par for the Wall Street course that you could almost pass it off as a final bit of performance art. They could have written "And F--K You" on the memo line of each and every check and nobody would have batted an eye, so crooked the industry is already presumed to be at this point.

No, I think the bigger story is that a landmark case against the nation's banks for being as crooked as f--k, as careless as f--k, as incompetent as f--k and not incidentally as unrepentant as f--k was deemed a problem solved when the banks agreed to give the sum of three or four thousand dollars to each American family the banks had wrongfully evicted from their own goddamn homes. That's not a settlement—it wasn't at the time, and still isn't. In certain Wall Street-backed neighborhoods you might find higher dollar figures on the "REWARD--LOST DOG" signs. Four thousand dollars for being booted from one's own home by a crooked bank?

In other news, it seems one of the chief Enron crooks is destined to be let out of jail a decade or so early. The Justice Department may cut ex-Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling, who defrauded an entire nation, a deal to get out of prison that much sooner, just to settle the matter. Their hands are a bit tied on that one, it seems, as an appeals court held that the original 24 years was just too much for a mere financial crime (it's not like the bastard sold a baggie on the street, after all—he merely helped engineer electricity blackouts that crippled portions of the United States west coast in order to pressure the government to sign higher-priced contracts. That's the sort of thing that would get Superman to beat the snot out of you, but Superman is not here right now, only our fine heroes from Congress, from Citibank and from Goldman Sachs.)

In any event, the happy outcome of the deal will be a slightly more speedy resolution to the piffling $40 million in restitution that "disrupting large swaths of the West Coast power grid" brings as punishment. Please use your share to buy a candy bar or similar luxury item.

The death penalty is looking much better, these days. Not for people, but for companies. There ought to be things you can do that will result in the company being beheaded, and the corporate logo stuck onto a pike in the public square. We almost had that with Enron, at least, but it doesn't really work over the long term, not with any of the recent stuff, and it hasn't worked for the most part because we simply keep un-criminalizing the crimes. No, over the long term, and with vanishingly rare exception, the good and proper kind of crooks can simply move on to another company with another logo and continue as usual. New logos are cheap, after all. You can probably pick one up for a mere $4,000 dollars, if you wanted, and still have enough left for a candy bar. Chump change.

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