When Robosigners Attack!

When Robosigners Attack! – Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense. That seems to be the approach that notorious robo-signing firm Nationwide Title Clearing has taken in responding to some of its critics. If you are unfamiliar with their name, you might recall earlier this Fall when depositions of several Nationwide robo-signers employees went viral on YouTube (We mentioned these here and here). This, amongst other perceived sleights has upset Nationwide Title, who has sued a St. Petersburg foreclosure defense lawyer, Matthew Weidner, for alleged libel and slander.  Given that Truth is a defense, the defendant will prevail if they can demonstrate Nationwide’s approach was robotic. Not literally machines doing the work, but any showing of assembly line manufacturing.  Here’s where things get very very interesting: In civil litigation, the discovery process provides lots of opportunities for a defendant to gather information related to the accusations to prove they are true. Why any private firm would subject themselves to this degree of scrutiny is quite baffling to me.And so the executives who run Nationwide just gave carte blanche to a very angry, well connected, deep-pocketed, web & media savvy attorney who wants their blood.

 

 Seeing REDD on Climate Change – George Soros – The official communiqué from the Cancún climate-change conference cannot disguise the fact that there will be no successor to the Kyoto Protocol when it expires at the end of 2012. Japan, among others, has withdrawn its support for efforts simply to extend the Kyoto treaty.This sounds like bad news, because it means that there will be no international price on carbon, and, without a market price, it is difficult to see how the reduction of carbon emissions can be efficiently organized. But appearances can be deceiving.Even as the top-down approach to tackling climate change is breaking down, a new bottom-up approach is emerging. It holds out better prospects for success than the cumbersome United Nations negotiations. Instead of a single price for carbon, this bottom-up approach is likely to produce a multiplicity of prices for carbon emissions. This is more appropriate to the task of reducing carbon emissions than a single price, because there is a multiplicity of sectors and methods, each of which produces a different cost curve.

No, really — we can! – The diminished expectations aren’t merely evidence of a national funk; they also pose a real threat to our economy — not just by making businesses and consumers less willing to invest in the future, but also by letting elected officials off the hook. Bringing down unemployment means more stimulus programs, but the widespread idea that we are doomed to austerity gives policy makers an excuse not to tackle the problem.Americans are talking as though 2008’s direst economic predictions had come to pass. “Recovery means lower expectations,’’ MSNBC recently pronounced, reflecting the tone. Three out of every four millennial workers — those age 18 to 27 — report feeling threatened by the possibility of a layoff or job loss in the near future, and this is dimming their career hopes, according to a recent study by Lumin Collaborative. Older workers are delaying retirement because of falling assets and many are accepting jobs far beneath their experience and education.

2010 on Pace to Be Warmest on Record, NASA Says – An analysis of average global temperatures through November by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies shows 2010 on pace to become the warmest year since the collection of temperature data began 130 years ago. NASA previously ranked 2005 as its warmest year ever.The record-breaking temperatures appear to have resulted from a combination of man-made climate change and natural warming in the tropical Pacific Ocean earlier this year from El Niño, said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “When you have natural variability going in the same direction as the human influence on climate, that’s when you break records,” Dr. Trenberth said.Some of the year’s most striking warming was again seen in the Arctic. Canada’s Hudson Bay, for instance, is typically half-covered by ice by the end of November. By Nov. 30, however, only 17 percent of the bay was iced over. The lack of sea ice appeared to be playing a major role in warming the atmosphere in the region, scientists said.

Why the Economy Stubbornly Insists on Growing More Slowly When Taxes are Lower – I’ve been writing for years about the fact that a basic piece of economic theory does not apply to real world US data: unless one engages in the sort of assumptions that can justify eating ceramic plates as a cure for leprosy, there is simply no evidence that lower taxes lead to the good stuff we’ve been led to believe over non-cherry picked data sets. Recent examples include this look at the effect top federal marginal rates on various measures of growth, this look at the effect of top federal marginal rates on tax revenues, a different look at federal marginal rates and growth, and this look using state tax levels. I’ve also shown that effective tax rates also have fail to cooperate with theory when looking over the length of presidential administrations – examples include myriad posts and Presimetrics, the book I wrote with Michael Kanell.

Lenders Extend Credit to Risky Borrowers Again –Credit card offers are surging again after a three-year slowdown, as banks seek to revive a business that brought them huge profits before the financial crisis wrecked the credit scores of so many Americans. The rise is striking because it includes offers to riskier borrowers who were shunned as recently as six months ago. But this time, in contrast to the boom years, when banks “preapproved” seemingly everyone, lenders are choosing their prospects more carefully and setting stricter terms to guard against another wave of losses. For consumers, the resurgence of card offers, however cautious, provides an opportunity to repair damaged credit and regain the convenience of paying with plastic. But there is a catch: the new cards have higher interest rates and annual fees. In extending credit again to riskier borrowers, lenders are looking beyond standard credit scores, on the theory that some people who may seem to be equivalent credit risks on the surface may show differences in spending or other behavior — like registering on a job Web site — that suggest variations in their ability to keep up with payments.

Fears Mount That China Is Headed for a Slowdown – For nearly two years, China’s turbocharged economy has raced ahead with the aid of a huge government stimulus program and aggressive lending by state-run banks.  But a growing number of economists now worry that China — the world’s fastest growing economy and a pillar of strength during the global financial crisis — could be stalled next year by soaring inflation, mounting government debt and asset bubbles.  Two credit ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings, say China is still poised for growth, yet they have also recently warned about hidden risks in its banking system. Fitch even hinted at the possibility of another wave of nonperforming loans tied to the property market. A sharp slowdown in China, which is growing at an annual rate of about 10 percent, would be a serious blow to the global economy since China’s voracious demand for natural resources is helping to prop up growth in Asia and South America, even as the United States and the European Union struggle. And because China is a major holder of United States Treasury debt and a major destination for American investment in recent years, any slowdown would also hurt American companies.

Why the tax “compromise” is a very dumb idea – Let me start with a simple statistic:  Since this past September, real personal consumption has exceeded the pre-crisis peak it reached in December 2007. In other words, Americans on aggregate are buying as much stuff (in volume terms) as before the official onset of the recession. Now, this is not necessarily something to celebrate: On an annualized basis, real personal consumption has only grown 0.1% since December 2007, compared to the 3.5% during the decade leading up to the crisis. But there is still something impressive going on: Real consumption is back to its 2007 levels despite the fact that the number of people employed (in non-agricultural sectors) is some seven million less than it was back in end-2007. What’s my point here? That the problem with the economy is not that (employed) Americans don’t consume enough; it is that we have too many unemployed people who can’t consume, not even the basics. And this is my first reason why giving a tax gift to employed Americans is a completely dumb policy: Not only is it unfair to the unemployed; it is questionable whether those Americans with jobs and with comfortable cash positions are going to spend this tax gift, if they are already close to reaching their long-term consumption growth. So much for a “targeted”, “efficient” fiscal “stimulus”.

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