Read the whole thing!
"To the spider who built a web in the frame of my front door last night while I slept,
"First, allow me to introduce myself, little spider. My name is Frank. I live behind this giant gateway you’ve traversed with your butt-spindle. I suppose that makes us neighbors. Hello. Good day.
"Second, what the HELL, little spider? The front door? What insidious little idea manifested in your dust-speck brain that inspired such a thing? As Horace or Jerry Springer or maybe my middle school shop teacher once said, “If you want to see what a man is made of, have him walk through a spiderweb with a coffee in his hand while yawning.” Don’t judge me by this morning’s events.
"This was startling to me, and I’m sure the scare was reciprocated when you were lodged in my mouth, then quickly ejected from the hot, wet breath of my squawk. “OH MY FUCKING GOD,” I yelped, and then you flew. I know you have many eyes, but I’m not too terribly sure how many ears you possess, so if it’s more than just one or two, I apologize."
"China’s Pipelineistan “War”
"Future historians may well agree that the twenty-first century Silk Road first opened for business on December 14, 2009. That was the day a crucial stretch of pipeline officially went into operation linking the fabulously energy-rich state of Turkmenistan (via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) to Xinjiang Province in China’s far west. Hyperbole did not deter the spectacularly named Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, Turkmenistan’s president, from bragging, “This project has not only commercial or economic value. It is also political. China, through its wise and farsighted policy, has become one of the key guarantors of global security.”
"The bottom line is that, by 2013, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong will be cruising to ever more dizzying economic heights courtesy of natural gas supplied by the 1,833-kilometer-long Central Asia Pipeline, then projected to be operating at full capacity. And to think that, in a few more years, China’s big cities will undoubtedly also be getting a taste of Iraq’s fabulous, barely tapped oil reserves, conservatively estimated at 115 billion barrels, but possibly closer to 143 billion barrels, which would put it ahead of Iran. When the Bush administration’s armchair generals launched their Global War on Terror, this was not exactly what they had in mind.
"China’s economy is thirsty, and so it’s drinking deeper and planning deeper yet. It craves Iraq’s oil and Turkmenistan’s natural gas, as well as oil from Kazakhstan. Yet instead of spending more than a trillion dollars on an illegal war in Iraq or setting up military bases all over the Greater Middle East and Central Asia, China used its state oil companies to get some of the energy it needed simply by bidding for it in a perfectly legal Iraqi oil auction.
"Meanwhile, in the New Great Game in Eurasia, China had the good sense not to send a soldier anywhere or get bogged down in an infinite quagmire in Afghanistan. Instead, the Chinese simply made a direct commercial deal with Turkmenistan and, profiting from that country’s disagreements with Moscow, built itself a pipeline which will provide much of the natural gas it needs.
"No wonder the Obama administration’s Eurasian energy czar Richard Morningstar was forced to admit at a congressional hearing that the U.S. simply cannot compete with China when it comes to Central Asia’s energy wealth. If only he had delivered the same message to the Pentagon."
"It feels like there are more taxis than private vehicles in Bombay. As I traveled to work everyday, It took over a week to suddenly realize that I was involuntarily immersing myself each day into a painfully obvious, yet hidden, colorful and maddening world while in transit. Somewhat hesitantly, I started to carry my camera along. Then as I began to photograph the vehicles, drivers, interiors, dashboards - it occurred to me that Bombay probably has the most unique breed of hired cabs in the world. From their gaudy plastered interiors to the diversity of the drivers, each trip turned out to be ridiculously memorable. At times, on other trips, I could pick out taxis I had traveled in before (something I previously thought impossible), each taxi has its own identity marks that make it stand out. I made tiny discoveries each day. For example, no auto driver I came across ever wore their shoes (i.e. chappals) while driving, instead opting to keep it by their side, constantly threatening to slip out of the cab and onto the road. I talked to most of them, some got talking to me first. Conversations about politics, travels, the city, traffic, their villages etc., whenever we approached a signal there was always something to talk about. There were arguments over fares and fights over routes but more often than not our conversation ended with a portrait. With the city grappling with an infuriating pace of change, these old ricks and rusty Padmini’s have their slow death set in stone. But what an unfortunate loss. There’s no experience like the nauseating ride through narrow pothole-ridden roads with a dangerously brave auto driver. Or trudging through the rain in a gleaming black Padmini, struggling in first gear on some of the city’s slopes - with it’s characteristic slow hum and failing brake lights. This series is an attempt to immortalize the culture of the Bombay taxi, and shine light on a world that may be soon disappearing."
This doesn't just affect those in foreclosure. Homes being foreclosed only brought this into the light of day. It affects all housing. Do you know where your mortgage note is? Does it still exist? Who really owns your house? Does anyone know?
"The foreclosure scandal surrounding the US financial industry is being portrayed by the banks as a technical problem which requires that some documentation errors be fixed. The White House has rejected the calls of many in the Congress for a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures on the grounds that there are quite a lot of them that are legitimate and should be processed. Government officials say it is going to take just a little bit of time to sort out these from the flawed foreclosures.
"Terms like “technicalities” and “document flaws” are meant to sound innocent and minor, when the truth is that the foreclosure problem is just one part of a much bigger crisis that is still out of sight for the media, and apparently being downplayed by the industry and its political apologists. This crisis at its core revolves around an attempt by banks, mortgage brokers and other financial institutions to privatize and usurp the government-run county record system that for over 200 years has guaranteed the property rights of American citizens. The long term question is whether this private usurpation, which was implemented without review or approval from any elected representatives of the people, should be allowed to stand. The short term question is whether use of this private records system has irrevocably corrupted the unbroken chain of title to property that existed in government records, and in so doing fatally undermined American confidence in private property rights (rights which are guaranteed to Americans under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution). The following series of initiatives by the banking industry will explain what transpired, and it will be seen that these initiatives from the start were plagued by false legal assumptions, misrepresentations, shoddy record keeping, and loss or deliberate destruction of critical original real estate documents such as deeds, titles, and notes."
"The Isolated Building Studies arose from my sociological and aesthetic interests in rapidly changing neighborhoods in Chicago. Seeking an expression of urban transition, I selected buildings without immediate neighbors because their urban form clashes with their seemingly quasi-urban setting. Given our understanding of urban buildings as embedded in an immediate community of structures, this tension prompts questions about the circumstances leading to isolation and, when viewed as a series, about the commonalities and distinctions of neighborhood change."
terror r us
Surprise -- The Very Dark Side of U.S. History
"There is a dark -- seldom acknowledged -- thread that runs through U.S. military doctrine, dating back to the early days of the Republic.
"This military tradition has explicitly defended the selective use of terror, whether in suppressing Native American resistance on the frontiers in the 19th Century or in protecting U.S. interests abroad in the 20th Century or fighting the "war on terror" over the last decade.
"The American people are largely oblivious to this hidden tradition because most of the literature advocating state-sponsored terror is carefully confined to national security circles and rarely spills out into the public debate, which is instead dominated by feel-good messages about well-intentioned U.S. interventions abroad.
"Over the decades, congressional and journalistic investigations have exposed some of these abuses. But when that does happen, the cases are usually deemed anomalies or excesses by out-of-control soldiers.
"But the historical record shows that terror tactics have long been a dark side of U.S. military doctrine. The theories survive today in textbooks on counterinsurgency warfare, "low-intensity" conflict and "counter-terrorism." "
all war, all the time
"No wonder the campaigns launched since 9/11 drag on and on. General Petraeus himself has spelled out the implications: “This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives.” Obama may want to “get out.” His generals are inclined to stay the course.
"Taking longer to achieve less than we initially intended is also costing far more than anyone ever imagined. Back in 2003, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey suggested that invading Iraq might run up a tab of as much as $200 billion -- a seemingly astronomical sum. Although Lindsey soon found himself out of a job as a result, he turned out to be a piker. The bill for our post-9/11 wars already exceeds a trillion dollars, all of it piled atop our mushrooming national debt. Helped in no small measure by Obama's war policies, the meter is still running.
"So are we almost there yet? Not even. The truth is we’re lost in the desert, careening down an unmarked road, odometer busted, GPS on the fritz, and fuel gauge hovering just above E. Washington can only hope that the American people, napping in the backseat, won’t notice."
I've been busy on the camera front. I've been focused on medium and large format (pun intended), which I will have more on later. A gordy strap customer sent me a picture of his Leica Standard to post on my gallery. I've long thought that the rangefinderless Leica Standard was a beautiful minimalist 35mm camera. They are generally pretty pricey so I had a project turning a Zorki 1 (a Leica copy) into a Standard rangefinderless condition. Seeing my customer's Standard got me to check out eBay and I ended up with a 1935 Leica Standard for less than most go for. I also finished off the Zorki Standard. The Leica shutter seems to be in good shape so I'm running a roll of film through it since the repair man I want to send it to is out of town until the end of the month. I love the simplicity of these cameras.
The banksters have totally fucked up on foreclosures. In their greed fueled rush to securitize mortgages they couldn't be bothered to keep up with the legally required paperwork. Now they can't prove that they own the mortgage. And they expect the Federal Government to change the rules to legalize their fraud. I was going to post several articles but this one covers the issue with links to relevant articles. This issue is just now gaining momentum. This is a total clusterfuck of huge proportions. Do follow the links in the article below.
"The current wave of foreclosure fraud and the consequences for the economy are difficult to follow. As such, I’m going to write a few posts to simplify what is going on so you can follow stories as they unfold. This is very 101 level, and will include a reading list of blog posts and articles at each stage to help provide depth. (Special thanks to Yves Smith and Tom Adams for walking me through much of this.) Let’s make three charts of the chains involved in the process. The first is what is currently going on with foreclosure fraud (click through for larger).
"As you can see, in judicial review states like Florida the courts require that servicers, or those who administer the bonds that are full of mortgages (securitization, residential mortgage backed securities, RMBS, are all phrases for them), say that they have everything necessary in order to have standing to bring a foreclosure. They need to have the note for a mortgage, which is supposed to be in the trust – part of the mortgage backed securities – that they administer.
"What is breaking down here? In Florida, a judicial review state, it was found that one person was notarizing documents far faster than anyone could reasonably have. Forged documents necessary for the foreclosure process like the note were found. A separate court system was set up to resolve these foreclosures faster at the expense of allowing serious challenges to the documents. Here’s Smith on how kangaroo these courts look up close. Here’s WaPo on one individual and the nightmare of trying to challenge an invalid foreclosure. Keep him in mind when you hear about deadbeats and whatnot: the current system is designed to make it difficult for anyone to challenge their case.
"Meet the robo-signer who kicked it off here at this WaPo story. I almost feel bad for this patsy; the real battle here is between junior and senior tranche holders, and this doofus could end up in jail in order to keep John Paulson rich. After reading about this guy I’m asking our elites to take care of their patsies better. (Can we get a Financial Patsy Fordism social contract movement going? If you are going to be a patsy for GMAC, you should be paid enough able to be able to buy GMAC’s services or something.)
"Why would servicers do this? One story would be that the more foreclosures they process, the more fees they get, so there is an incentive to cut as many corners to speed through the process as possible. Hence the term foreclosure mills. You can read more about this from Andy Kroll’s excellent work for Mother Jones (start here).
"There’s another problem though – what if servicers are behaving this way because the actual notes aren’t in the trust?"