Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Primary Results Upend Both Established Politics And Political Establishment

This is something of an odd article. On the one hand, we have progressive Democrats like Setsak and Halter making waves, then on the other end of the spectrum we have Rand Paul. All three of those candidates can be taken as a progressive shift.

But, on the other hand, we have Mark Critz. Critz is a Democrat who was forced rightwards by the Tea Party, in the same state where Specter lost the Democratic primary for being too conservative and, the popular mindset goes, for being a flip-flop. The combination of the Tea Party and the progressive backlash is creating interesting counter-currents.

What all this tells me is that people really don't know what they want, they just want it to be not what we have now. On the one hand, this could be interesting, and provide a much-needed shake-up to business as usual. On the other hand, voting just because someone "isn't the establishment" can be a dangerous business in itself.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

1,000 American Deaths In Afghanistan: A Sad Milestone

The real question we should be asking is whether security and public service provisioning have improved since the surge began. The administration actually has the right idea - it's unfortunate that this type of occupation is necessary now, but given the number of times Afghanistan has been essentially dismantled over the past 100 years (British, USSR, and now USA), I think we owe it to the Afghani people to do it right this time. That means not cutting and running, but instead putting a real focus on social programs, education, and infrastructure geared towards developing local markets (as opposed to drug export and military import).

Bottom-up social development should be supported, and is necessary, but until there is a modicum of security and stability - along with some basic services - it's hard for local people to do much when under a system of competing warlords.

None of this should be interpreted to suggest I support Karzai, or our apparent lack of sustained efforts to combat the opium trade and provide viable livelihood alternatives, but those programs that have been implemented (by USAID and others) have been surprisingly effective in Afghanistan. We should try to rebuild some of the international coalition on the non-military aid front, to support a long-term solution to instability, so it doesn't come back to bite us yet again in 20 years.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, May 17, 2010

HAMP Update: Twice As Many Homeowners Kicked Out Of Obama Foreclosure Program As Given Permanent Relief, New Data Show

Before indulging in vitriol, why don't we look at the actual facts and policies associated with the program. What are the specifics of program eligibility? The home must be a primary residence, the mortgage must be less than $729,750, the applicant must be having difficulty making payments, have payments greater than 31% of his/her income, and have received the mortgage before Jan 1, 2009. For a permanent modification, borrowers must make all trial payments on time. The relevant criteria to the current article is (1) the size of the payments relative to income and (2) the timliness of the trial payments.

(2) is fairly straightforward; if you don't make payments on time after the trial modification, you don't qualify. What about (1)? The most important question in this: how is income initially determined for the trial period? According to the HAMP FAQ "Your servicer may initially accept verbal income and expense information; however, you will need to provide verifying documentation before a final modification is approved... If you successfully make all of the required trial payments during the trial period and the income and expense information you provided is determined to be accurate, your servicer will execute an official modification agreement."

If you misrepresent your income verbally to the lender - whether intentionally or because of an honest mistake - the trial modification becomes invalid. The borrower also has a responsibility to know his/her financial situation.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost