Archives for the month of: January, 2012

Right now, members of Congress can make personal investment decisions based on confidential information they get in the course of regulating industries and doing their work.

It’s kind of unbelievable that this isn’t already illegal. President Obama wants to make it illegal once and for all — no one should profit from inside information about the very businesses they’re supposed to be regulating.

Today, the Democratic leadership in the Senate voted to move forward on a bill to extend to Congress the same strict rules that apply to anyone else whose job gives them access to sensitive information about businesses. This legislation is expected to pass the Senate with bipartisan support later this week.

But Republicans in the House have yet to move on it.

There aren’t a lot of good reasons to disagree with this bill. So the question here isn’t how many people we have to persuade, but simply how loudly we can speak up to prevent the House Republicans from dodging this issue. Write to your Senators and Representatives. Congressman Chris Gibson does what the Republican leadership tells him — not what is good for Greene County and the rest of his district. He will do nothing unless he receives a lot of mail and phone calls — now is the time to push him.

VICTORY FIGHTING FORECLOSURES IN SAN FRANCISCO

A small neighborhood in San Francisco, California has come together to save neighbors’ homes from the foreclosures happening all over our country.  Bernal Heights neighbors have joined together in Occupy Bernal Heights.  88 houses in this neighborhood with a population of 25,000 have been indentified as being in danger of foreclosure.  Members of Occupy Bernal have been going door to door to these houses offering assistance for people who are faced with losing their homes.   There are counselors available through various HUD and other housing agencies in San Francisco.  Then there is the support from neighbors, which has proved invaluable.

Many of these houses have mortgages with Wells Fargo Bank.  Members of Occupy Bernal,  including  homeowners at risk of losing their homes, have been in negotiation with elected officials and Wells Fargo executives.  Up to this date, two housing auctions have been postponed due to community  pressure.  This will enable time for loans to be renegotiated and people to stay in their homes.

We are developing strategies to help our neighbors negotiate with the banks.  Elected officials contacted by neighbors have been helping people meet with bank executives to negotiate.  Banks are reporting record profits in this time of financial trouble, and there are ways to make them accountable to the people who have trusted them for their mortgages.

Here are some guidelines for helping neighbors facing default or foreclosure:

1. Identify neighbors either in foreclosure or in default, the step immediately preceding foreclosure.  Default means that people have fallen  behind on their mortgage payments,  their property taxes, or insurance.

2. Contact HUD certified Foreclosure counselors in your county.  These are found on HUD websites.  Find out their availability for people.

3. Contact the foreclosee/defaultee. Tell them you are neighbors concerned about the impact of the foreclosure on the community.  You are not experts on the issue, but know of some experts who would assist them if they want your help.  Emphasize that you want to work with them to help them keep their homes, and preserve your community.

4. Connect them with a HUD certified foreclosure counselor.  The counselor can assist them in negotiations with the lender at any point in the process if they sign a third party authorization” form, available from the counselor, permitting them to contact the lender on the borrower’s behalf.

5. Neighbors, with the permission of the homeowner, could help get local media coverage of the situation.

6. Neighbors can also contact a local lender official and request a meeting.

7. Local elected officials can be contacted on the behalf of the homeowner, if they agree to help support their fight to stay in their home.

Here’s a short explanation of the foreclosure process and some information about predatory loans.  The process of default or foreclosure begins  when a homeowner  is unable to pay his/her mortgage or taxes.

a. The lender can then call for them to pay all past charges, – including any balloon payments or deferred interest.
b. If they don’t pay, the lender can place them in foreclosure.
c. Foreclosure can lead to the lender selling their property at a public auction.
d. If someone buys the property, the new owner can move to evict them.

Why are so many people in foreclosure or default?  In our economy, with so many people out of work, people are falling behind on payments for their homes. Another reason is the predatory loans which some banks have been issuing to people.  Predatory loans are often marketed to the vulnerable, people with poor credit or the inability to refinance under more favorable terms.  Such loans often permit the borrower to pay only a portion of the interest on the loan for a period of time, – say only 1% on a 6% loan for 3 to 5 years.  Then, after that period, all of that deferred interest can be called in by the lender, often resulting in default followed by foreclosure, auction sale and eviction.  This is just a short statement about a larger problem.

Paul Trautman
XXXXXXXXXX
Jewett NY 12444

January 26, 2012

Jewett Town Board
Jewett Municipal Building

3547 County Rte. 23C
P.O. Box 132

Jewett, NY 12444

Dear Carol Muth (Supervisor), Steve Jacobs, James Pellitteri, Michael McCrary, and William Trach:

RE: Use of Fracking Brine on Jewett Roads

As everyone is aware, hydro-fracking for natural gas is not an immediate concern for the Town of Jewett, since both DEP and DEC plans exclude the New York City watershed from any drilling. However, there is a use for the fracking brine on roads that is controversial and of great concern.

A.D. Call & Sons Excavating of Stafford, N.Y has recently received DEP permission to use the fracking brine on the roads of nearby Medina. It seems that the salt from the brine can be used to de-ice the road surface during winter. The water from fracking contains salt, and is being called a “natural brine” to be used for winter snow and ice clearing, and dust management. However, this waste fluid also contains toxic chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials. Among the contents of this brine is mineral salts plus arsenic, mercury, thallium, chromium, other heavy metals and NORMs (naturally occurring radioactive materials) – whatever toxins are in the layers that are drilled though.

Since this brine, if used on Jewett roads, would enter our streams and aquifers, I strongly urge the Jewett Town Board to pass a resolution prohibiting the use of the residue brine from fracking on any roads within the town.

We need to protect our water and land, something upon which we can all agree. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Paul Trautman

President Obama’s State of the Union address last night highlighted many of the country’s ongoing problems in the face of political gridlock, and he pledged to fight obstruction with action. The overriding theme of his speech was economic fairness. While the President did not go as far as many of us in the American Dream movement would have liked, he did outline several proposals that would help close the gap between the top 1% and everyone else. Among them:

  • Implementing the Buffet Rule, whereby people earning over $1 million would pay a minimum effective tax rate of at least 30%.
  • Eliminating tax deductions for companies that outsource jobs, and rewarding companies that return jobs to the U.S.
  • Creating a special unit of federal prosecutors and state attorneys general to expand investigations into abusive lending, in order to “hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.”
  • Using half of the war savings from ending the war in Iraq and winding down the war in Afghanistan on much-needed infrastructure projects.

Accomplishing any of this in the face of continuing Republican obstructionism will be challenging. But the President has at least drawn a clear distinction between his policies, aimed at increasing fairness, and the tired, “trickle-down” policies of his opponents.

“We will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profits,” Mr. Obama said.

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who led the Marine squad that killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians (including women and children) in the town of Haditha in 2005, pleaded guilty today to “negligent dereliction of duty” in a deal that will bring him a maximum of three months confinement.

Government prosecutors declined to comment on the plea deal. Prosecutors failed to get even one manslaughter conviction in the case that involved eight Marines.

Wuterich had faced the possibility of life behind bars. After pleading guilty to the minor charge, Wuterich now faces a maximum of three months in confinement, two-thirds forfeiture of pay and a rank demotion to private when he’s sentenced, which will happen Tuesday morning. The plea agreement calls for manslaughter charges to be dropped.

Seven other Marines in his squad were acquitted or had charges dismissed.

More than 65,000 Rebuild the Dream members signed a petition to help save a community church from an unfair foreclosure and eviction by BB&T, one of the ten biggest banks in the country. The 99% stood up and the bank backed down!

After an intense, 3-hour negotiation, BB&T backed down and agreed to a fair deal with the Higher Ground Empowerment Center church that was about to lose its building to the bank. This victory was a complete turnaround, led by local activists at Occupy Atlanta and Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The sudden groundswell of media coverage, local community action, and MoveOn’s Rebuild the Dream national petition forced BB&T’s hand.

This outcome shows: when we’re united, we can stop big banks in their tracks and get them to treat people with dignity. The more banks that have public re-negotiations like this, the bigger the momentum will be for millions of other struggling homeowners who are in the same boat.

Bill Moyers, who has been a voice of truth and courage in the face of years of media pressure, has a new TV show – Moyers and Company – in which he discusses issues of interest to us all. The premiere episode of Moyers & Company explores how America’s gross inequality is no accident, but was in fact “politically engineered,” with insight from Winner-Take-All Politics authors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. Also: A Bill Moyers essay on how Occupy Wall Street is waking us up to economic inequality. It airs on PBS – WMHT locally – on Saturdays at 7:00PM.

Yesterday, in New Hampshire, George Romney said he likes to FIRE PEOPLE.

Yesterday, something big happened in New York City. The City Council passed a resolution—by resounding voice vote—declaring that corporations are not people.

Unlimited corporate spending on elections (the kind made possible by the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision) corrupts our democracy. Corporate money drowns out citizens’ voices, and that’s what really violates the First Amendment.

Please urge your local leaders/councils to pass the same or similar resolutions.

Write Governor Cuomo by January 11th to prevent contamination of our water and streams! Click on this web site and then step no. 2: “Write the Governor.” You can use their texts, and they will send. You can add your own comments, if you like.

Where does all the water come from for hydrofracking? Out of our streams, rivers, and wells. 3 to 5 million gallons (!) of water are used per well, and there can be as many as 100 wells within an area. Some trout streams in Pennsylvania have already dried up enough to cause massive die-off of fish. 80,000 pounds of chemicals, laced with carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disrupters (i.e. disruptors of our hormones!) are then added to the water. Half stays underground and will most likely contaminate the water that feeds our wells. Leftover used water is either evaporated in open pits (chemicals and all), spread on roads as de-icer (done now in some NYS towns!), or is processed in water treatment plans that can in no way clean it up. The “treated” water then goes into our streams and rivers—even the Hudson River would receive it.

This process is not safe for our state! Write the Governor. The decisions are now being made.

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