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The Live Wire, Oct. 14: Foreclosure Crisis 2.0 and the Limits of Tolerance

| October 14, 2010

Beirut’s version of a red lights district. (Fadi)

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Today’s Live Wire: Quick Links

4:45 p.m. Flagler Beach Commission Follies Resume

Take your seats: the Flagler Beach City Commission is about to meet this evening (at 5:30) but its “time certain” moment of truth, when it will discuss the matter of its next city manager, isn’t scheduled until 8 p.m. The commission can set discussion items that late because it knows with full confidence that its agenda will crawl regardless. This is the first meeting where Commissioner Absent, Ron Vath (gone since mid-August from his city and county duties) is scheduled to reappear. But Commissioner Joy McGrew, who’s vacationing out of state, will be absent–physically, anyway: she plans on calling in, if only to prevent a coup in her absence.

Three candidates are still in the running: Edward Sealover and Gary Word, who are the out-of-towners, and Bruce Campbell, the in-towner. None has dropped out at last check (on Wednesday). The way things stand, the commission is divided and well short of the four-vote majority to go with any of those. A four-vote majority is required for the hiring of a new city manager. McGrew, Commission Chairman John Feind and Commissioner Jane Mealy are not so much in agreement to hire a particular candidate as they are in agreement to oppose Campbell, whose considerable local political following turns them off. Commissioner Steve Settle is all Campbell. Commissioner Ron Vath is supportive of Campbell but it was his proposal that the commission hire Caryn Miller, the city’s community redevelopment director, as interim manager, that carried the day the last time out.

As things stand, the commission is at a stalemate. Even if McGrew were to give in and give Campbell a try, it’s not likely that Mealy will, although Feind, who prizes consensus, could always pull a surprise.

The rest of the agenda is busy with busywork, including a proposal to raise water rates by just over $2 per 1,000 gallons and lower sewer rates by just over $2 per 1,000 gallons, and yet another change order raising the cost of the piling repairs on the pier (but not by much this time: it’s a $1,500 permitting fee).

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Foreclosure Crisis 2.0

foreclosure mapFrom the Miami Herald: “In a new foreclosure crisis that has gone national, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have launched a sweeping probe of the country’s lenders, even as new figures showed banks repossessed a record number of homes in September. The joint investigation announced Wednesday, led by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, seeks to find out whether mortgage servicers and banks have been using flawed documents in court proceedings that have dispossessed hundreds of thousands of distressed homeowners. […] In Florida, which has one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates and an overwhelmed court system, the investigation could further complicate the process of home repossessions and possibly help homeowners challenge banks. […] On Wednesday, both GMAC and JPMorgan Chase followed in the footsteps of Bank of America by expanding their foreclosure suspensions. Those freezes, previously restricted to 23 states, now blanket the country, encompassing hundreds of thousands of distressed homes. […] Figures released Thursday reveal that in the months before the foreclosure system began to implode, lenders were ramping up their home repossession operations to unprecedented levels. According to RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif.-based real estate research firm, lenders reclaimed 102,134 homes nationwide in September, the first month that bank repossessions have ever reached the 100,000 mark.”

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Bill Maxwell Supports School Uniforms

school uniformsBill Maxwell in the St. Pete Times: “I support uniforms, especially here in Pinellas, where students’ low academic achievement and disciplinary problems are clearly linked. Discipline is necessary to create an environment that is conducive to effective learning. I do not believe that uniforms are the silver bullet, that they alone will eliminate the deep-rooted dysfunction in our schools. But from what I have seen in schools elsewhere, I am convinced that uniforms aid the teaching/learning process. […] Research shows that safer campuses and renewed focus on academics are the two broad benefits of public school uniforms. […] I think the time has come to at least experiment with uniforms in all of our elementary and middle schools. If we see positive results, we should make the requirement permanent.” The full column.

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Veto-Proof GOP Majority in Legislature?

What would make an Alex Sink victory almost irrelevant. From Gary Fineout: “The Florida Legislature is already solidly Republican and Election Day will do little to change that. But a handful of races in the state House and Senate could give Republicans a veto-proof majority. The veto has been a major political force in Florida government under Gov. Charlie Crist, who has repeatedly used it to turn back some of the Republican Legislature’s biggest initiatives, including one to allow property insurance companies to raise rates without government approval and another to end tenure for public teachers. But Florida’s next governor may not have that power. […] The math is this: Republicans currently hold a 76-43 majority in the House, with one seat vacant. Democrats will pick up the vacant seat since there is no GOP opposition. In the Senate, the breakdown is 26-13, with one seat vacant. Rep. Maria Sachs, however, will keep that seat for the Democrats since no one ran against her.” See the full math.

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Boobs Against Breast Cancer

From Lindsay Beyerstein at the Media Consortium: “Amie Newman of RH Reality Check notes that even Kentucky Fried Chicken is getting in on the awareness action with pink chicken buckets “for the cure.” This month, KFC is donating 50 cents from each rosy-hued tub of Original Recipe chicken to Susan G. Komen For The Cure, a leading breast cancer advocacy group. The promotion is expected to raise between $1 million and $8 million for breast cancer research and activism. That’s between 2 million and 16 million buckets of chicken. It’s more of a barometer than a donation, really. The fewer buckets they sell, the more awareness has been raised. Newman notes that KFC’s french fries are an unusually rich source of acrylamide, a probable human carcinogen found in deep fried foods. In a recent study, women with the highest acrylamide intakes were at 43% greater risk for hormone-positive breast cancers. Some marketers have decided that the root cause of our society’s lack of breast cancer awareness is our lack of breast awareness in general. This doesn’t seem quite right, especially because the breasts most likely to get cancer (those of women over 50) are seldom the breasts featured in the the various “save the gazongas” campaigns we’re subjected to every October. […] This year, women were invited complete the sentence: “I like it on the…” referring, of course to where the Facebook user likes to keep her purse. Obviously, they need a meta-awareness campaign to explain what this has to do with breast cancer.” The full article.

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Beirut Reborn, Somewhat

beirutFrom the Wall Street Journal: “Downtown Beirut has seen the biggest transformation: high-end clothing and jewelry stores can be found on almost every corner, night clubs such as Skybar and White are strategically situated on the roofs of buildings overlooking the sea, and two five-star hotels have come onto the scene since 2009: Le Gray and the Four Seasons. The Beirut Souks, the main shopping center in the heart of the city, reopened in 2009 after being destroyed during the war. It is now home to more than 200 shops, including Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Vera Wang. Just footsteps away are the boutiques of Beirut’s hometown high-end designers: Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad, who have made names for themselves for making evening gowns for Hollywood celebrities.”

Jamal doesn’t agree: “This country is redefining my understanding of what an abyss might look like. Just when you think that the political rhetoric on television, for example, has hit rock bottom, a new generation of pundits takes to the airwaves to drop the collective national IQ a notch lower. This national unity government can boast that they’ve doubled an already high road fatality rate. Suicide rates and abuse among enslaved domestic workers are alarming, but that’s just a smear campaign by human rights groups according to former aspiring president Boutros Harb. “Heritage sites” are being preserved… in pictures. Beirut municipal stadium will finally reopen to the public… as a parking garage. After all, we’ve learned friendly parking disputes can be deadly.”

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Theme Parks the Hezbollah Way

Propaganda and the glorification of violence go hand in hand. Hezbollah, the extremist Lebanese Shiite faction that thinks nothing of endangering its own nation to protect its power and ideological grip on South Lebanon, is a leading practitioner in that kind of anti-art. They don’t have theme parks in lebanon. They do have Hezbollah. From The National: “Set on a mountaintop in Lebanon’s wild southern terrain, Mleeta is a “touristic landmark”, according to the signs along a winding road that leads to the site. But in reality, it is a sprawling theme park with a memorial twist. This location was a key Hizbollah stronghold during the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, and the vestiges of that conflict have now become the decorative backdrop. By vestiges I mean an extensive collection of vintage Hizbollah weapons and Israeli military effects, all magnificently presented in a US$4 million (Dh14.7million) complex dotted with striking buildings and structures. Since it opened on May 25 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal, almost half a million people, mainly Lebanese, have come here to take the comprehensive outdoor tours that tell the legendary tale of the resistance. Mleeta features everything from well-designed museum exhibits and breathtaking lookouts to dazzling fountains and a gift shop. Hungry? Pop over to the bunker-themed cafeteria festooned with sandbags, camouflage netting and portraits of popular Hizbollah leaders, past and present. This is just the beginning: hotels, spas and a cable car are in the works across the colossal mountains next door.” The full story.

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The Song of Science: Creationism’s Better Lyrics

The lyrics:

Hello Darwin my old friend
I’ve come to read from you again
you comfort me when I grow weary
of people saying “it’s just a theory”
Because a theory is a system of abstractions
In our finite minds
Of laws behind
The things we find
With science

And on the internet i saw
A billion people, maybe more
People clinging to old delusions
People jumping to conclusions
People holding superstitions that are obviously quite absurd
Who’d never heard
A single word
Of science

How do you think a doctor knows
How a disease like cancer grows?
How did we learn how me might treat it?
How do you think one day we might beat it?
It won’t be by taking sugar pills
Or standing on one leg for hours
While eating flowers
But through the power
Of science

If you have answers and you’re sure
They’re better than what came before
Make your hypothesis and test it
Take the results you’ve collected
Then you write them in a paper
And submit it for peer review
That’s what we do
To check it’s truly science

And the people stood and prayed
They said “our faith cannot be swayed”
They have their views and they won’t move them
They have their truths and they won’t prove them
They’ll take the words of the prophets
Over fossils that were really found
Beneath the ground
They don’t like the sound
Of science

I Don’t Respect You

Intolerance_by_vhm_alexEmily Nagoski is very, very angry about what’s been dished out on gay teens and suicide. She writes: “Look, let me be unambiguous about this: If you believe gay people – or indeed any people – are going to hell, then I don’t respect you. I don’t just not respect your beliefs, I don’t respect YOU. As a person. Morally. I feel morally superior to you. I have contempt for you and I think the world will be a better place when you are dead. I’m not participating in a dialog here. I’m not creating an environment of mutual understanding. I’m not trying to see the world through your eyes. I know what the world looks like through your eyes and it’s a vision that will never, ever become a reality. The hard part is: am I, with my bitterness and intolerance, any different from the bigots? Am I not myself a bigot? Am I not therefore a hypocrite? Nope.” One of her reasons: “all opinions are not created equal. […] Your beliefs are not innately respectable; the belief that gay people are going to hell is, indeed, contemptible, and I am at peace feeling contempt for those who possess that belief. I am content because I know not simply which way the wind is blowing, but what force causes the wind to blow in one direction or another.”

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Latin American Reactions to Mario Vargas Llosa’s Win

It’s a cultural sport, the month-long venting of literary spleens after a Nobel has been awarded. Global Voices’ Silvia Viñas sums up the responses in Latin America to Mario Vargas Llosa winning the literary prize: In Mexico, Alfredo Guzman thought it was an insult that Vargas Llosa had won the Nobel: “Celebrate Vargas Llosa? It would be better if you celebrate the Incas and the beauty of your people.” Another writer was funnier, and quite on point: “Only one person in the world coveted that prize more. Carlos Fuentes must be turning in his grave. Wait a minute. Or is he still alive?” (For the record, yes, though he must be sharing the same bed as Artemio Cruz’s). And another: “Let’s learn this lesson: let’s separate Vargas Llosa the writer, who deserves the Nobel, from Vargas Llosa the politician, who might not be liked by everyone.” The full post.

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A Few Good Links

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1 Response for “The Live Wire, Oct. 14: Foreclosure Crisis 2.0 and the Limits of Tolerance”

  1. Liana G says:

    I am a strong supporter of school uniform. I feel that it not only reduces distractions but it promotes a serious and studious environment conducive to learning rather than an continuous fashion show where students show up to show off the latest fashion trend and promote their wares. The US has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the industrialized world, and Flagler county has the highest rate of STIs / STDs. That doesn’t come from just looking.

    For those that claim wearing uniforms stifles individuality. Then please explain to me how following someone elses fashion trend promotes individuality.

    For those that claim wearing uniforms stifles creativity. Well then writers/authors, artists/painters are the most creative people out there, yet I’ve always heard of authors going into seclusion to shut out distraction when they’re writing. I see artists in the park when they want to specifically capture/create that scene, and most likely they go to secluded places when they want to capture/create those type of scenes too. And many of them has studios they work out of, where there’s no distraction.

    I can go on and on.

    But here’s a final thought – why do the rich spend hugh sums of money to send their kids to private schools, and spend even more money to purchase the expensive uniforms that private schools require. The rich didn’t become rich from being stupid – maybe us poor folks can learn something from these folks with their expensive college education. Could it be they are on to something that we’re too clueless to figure out.

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