Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

April 11, 2006

Can You Qualify for a Mortgage?

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:51 pm

Who can’t? A number of people have asked me lately how it’s possible to qualify for a mortgage when the payments are higher than your income. Well, don’t ask me, ask the people who gave Johnny Moon, Sr. six mortgages:

After struggling much of his adult life with unemployment, homelessness and drug addiction, Johnny Moon Sr. died last year on a dirty mattress on the floor of a small home near Tampa’s College Hill district.

Moon, who looked far older than his 56 years, died of pneumonia brought on by malnutrition. He left behind a watch, a flashlight and a wallet containing a solitary dollar bill.

And more than a half-million dollars worth of real estate.

Among the four properties Moon bought in November 2003 was a white frame home at 2714 12th St. N in Ybor City. …

Records show Moon bought the 12th Street property from Dam’s trust for $147,000 – triple what the county property appraiser said it was worth – and paid for it with a $147,000 mortgage loan.

The Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly called Fannie Mae, ended up with the home after Moon died and the loan went into foreclosure. For Fannie Mae, the loan has become a loser.

The lender’s representatives discovered the 86-year-old home with the tin roof has leaks, flooring problems, no sink in the bathroom and no kitchen. As is, it is uninhabitable. The home is listed at $88,500, but so far, no takers.

In November 2002, Moon Sr. signed for an $85,000 loan to buy the home at 2204 E Chipco St.

Six days later, Moon was arrested at a Publix supermarket on Nebraska Avenue after stuffing packages of razor blades, Tylenol and Advil tablets into his pocket and trying to leave without paying. He was charged with petty theft.

Moon pleaded no contest to the $26.69 theft and got 60 days in jail and six months’ probation.

Probation records show he reported receiving $108 a month in food stamps and $555 a month from Supplemental Security Income – a form of disability income generally available to people owning less than $2,000 in property.

A few months after being released and reporting that meager income, Moon Sr. signed for four mortgage loans, totaling $529,300, to buy four more properties. The four purchases occurred in a two- week period.

He somehow got himself to all four closings, records show, and presented a Florida driver’s license as identification, though the state had revoked his license indefinitely during the 1990s when he was classified as a habitual traffic offender.

Two weeks after Moon Sr.’s flurry of purchases, Moon Jr. and Ferrara paid $53,000 for a two-bedroom home with a fenced yard at 3309 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

In July 2005, Moon Sr.’s body was found in one of the back bedrooms there.

Five months after the death, Moon Jr. and Ferrara sold the small home for $98,000 – $45,000 more than they paid for it.

Of course, some suspect mortgage fraud here. But aren’t the lenders supposed verify things like employment, run credit checks, and that sort of thing?

If you were lending someone thousands of dollars, wouldn’t you?

(Hat tip: The Housing Bubble)

Durham D.A. Will Prosecute Anyway

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:53 pm

Despite that fact that DNA evidence seems to have exonerated the Duke lacrosse players, the Durham Country District Attorney says he’s going to prosecute them anyway:

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Durham County’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday he will not abandon his investigation of allegations that an exotic dancer was raped and beaten at a party thrown by members of Duke University’s lacrosse team.

“A lot has been said in the press, particularly by some attorneys yesterday, that this case should go away,” District Attorney Mike Nifong said at a community forum. “My presence here means that this case is not going away.”

On Monday, attorneys representing members of the lacrosse team said DNA from the 46 players tested did not match evidence collected from the woman who says she was raped.

“No DNA from any young man tested was found anywhere on or about this woman,” defense attorney Wade Smith said Monday.

Nifong appears to be grandstanding:

Nifong, who has said he doesn’t necessarily need DNA evidence to prosecute, was calmly defiant at Tuesday’s forum, attended by about 700 people on the campus of North Carolina Central University, the historically black university a few miles from Duke where the alleged victim is a student.

“The fact is that this case is proceeding the way a case should proceed,” Nifong said to applause from the crowd.

I mean really: Is a D.A. supposed to go out on stage to tell a cheering crowd, “never mind the evidence, the prosecution is going forward”? This is starting to sound like a lynching.

And Nifong’s logic seems to be a bit faulty:

“DNA results can often be helpful, but you know, I’ve been doing this a long time, and for most of the years I’ve been doing this we didn’t have DNA,” he said. “We had to deal with sexual assault cases the good old fashioned way. Witnesses got on the stand and told what happened to them.”

Yes, before DNA evidence technology was available, they had to do prosecutions other ways. But that doesn’t mean that now that we have that technology, if the DNA test comes out the wrong way, you can just ignore it. As I said before, DNA evidence cuts both ways. The woman claims she was beaten up and raped in a certain bathroom, which would have left blood, hair, or at least skin cells of hers in the bathroom. But there is no evidence of her DNA anywhere in the bathroom. She claims she struggled and clawed at the attackers with her fingernails, but there was no DNA from their skin under her fingernails. She claims she was raped by three men, for half an hour, vaginally, anally, and orally. Yet there is no semen, nor blood, nor skin cells, not hair from any of them, anywhere on or in her body. She was examined right after the alleged incident, in an emergency room, by a specialized forensic sexual assault nurse — someone specifically trained to collect DNA evidence in rape cases. If there was a rape, there would be evidence of it — and everything about the case indicates they would have found it if it were there.

But none of this matters. In fact, some people here are violating the principles they hold inviolable in other cases — what I call syllogistic hypocrisy:

“There’s an old saying that the absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence,” said Peter Neufeld, co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic.

But Neufeld bases his entire career at The Innocence Project on exonerating people — in his case, death-row inmates — on the basis of the absence of DNA evidence. As the project’s web site explains:

Most of our clients are poor, forgotten, and have used up all of their legal avenues for relief. The hope they all have is that biological evidence from their cases still exists and can be subjected to DNA testing. All Innocence Project clients go through an extensive screening process to determine whether or not DNA testing of evidence could prove their claims of innocence. Thousands currently await our evaluation of their cases.

DNA testing has been a major factor in changing the criminal justice system. It has provided scientific proof that our system convicts and sentences innocent people — and that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events. Most importantly, DNA testing has opened a window into wrongful convictions so that we may study the causes and propose remedies that may minimize the chances that more innocent people are convicted.

And they claim to have exonerated 175 people, including 14 sentenced to death. Indeed, the first goal in The Innocent Project’s mission statement is:

The Innocence Project’s mission:

  • Achieve the exoneration and release of factually innocent inmates through postconviction DNA testing

Oh wait, “postconviction.” So does that mean Neufeld wants the lacrosse players to be convicted first, before DNA evidence is considered? Maybe that wouldn’t even qualify them, since they are not thought to be “poor and forgotten.” (They go to Duke, an expensive school — so even if they are on scholarship I guess tehy are rich-by-association. And they aren’t forgotten; they’re in the news every day.)

As for Neufeld’s logic — that the absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence,” that may be true in general, but in a case where the nature of the crime is to leave DNA evidence, and there isn’t any, that’s pretty persuasive “evidence of absence.” And in any case, “absence of evidence” is not “presence of evidence,” which is what Neufield seems to be implying.

The “Straw man of presumed innocence”

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:45 am

Here’s a small sample of the unbelievable idiocy of the politics of the Duke lacrosse incident. This from a Duke faculty member:

Racism doesn’t require DNA testing

Deborah Sebring

I don’t get it. What does DNA have to do with racism, misogyny, serving alcohol to minors or blatant disrespect for one’s community? Just for a minute, forget about DNA testing or even the question of rape. There are established and profoundly disturbing dimensions of this incident being effectively shielded by the straw man of protecting the presumed innocent. By now we’ve all heard the 911 tape and read a neighbor’s confirmation of racial epithets hurled that night. Not much question about that one. And I am sick to death or hearing the alleged victim-a young black woman, student, mother-summarily referenced only as an “exotic dancer” while a mob of drunk, out of control men is described as the “the highly successful men’s lacrosse team.”

The “straw man of protecting the presumed innocent”? Does she prefer that there would be a presumption of guilt, rather than of innocence? What if the races were reversed — suppose a white woman accused a bunch of black athletes of raping her. Would that have “disturbing dimensions … shielded by the straw man of protecting the presumed innocent”? Would she presume guilt in that case? Would she want to “forget about DNA testing” that might exonerate black athletes of charges of raping a white woman?

Or does the presumption of innocence apply only in certain circumstances, based on the race of the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrators?

(La Shawn Barber has some thoughts along similar lines.)

Is Global Warming Real?

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:00 am

A bunch of recent news stories and editorials lately are saying that “global warming is real” and a recent survey shows that 71% of Americans believe it.

Apparently, they aren’t listening to the climate scientists, who do not believe it.

The latest salvo from the scientists is an open letter signed by sixty climate scientists from around the world, addressed to the new Canadian Prime Minister asking him to revisit Canada’s climate-change plicy in general and the Kyoto protocol in particular. The letter says in part:

Observational evidence does not support today’s computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future. Yet this is precisely what the United Nations did in creating and promoting Kyoto and still does in the alarmist forecasts on which Canada’s climate policies are based. Even if the climate models were realistic, the environmental impact of Canada delaying implementation of Kyoto or other greenhouse-gas reduction schemes, pending completion of consultations, would be insignificant. Directing your government to convene balanced, open hearings as soon as possible would be a most prudent and responsible course of action.

While the confident pronouncements of scientifically unqualified environmental groups may provide for sensational headlines, they are no basis for mature policy formulation. The study of global climate change is, as you have said, an “emerging science,” one that is perhaps the most complex ever tackled. It may be many years yet before we properly understand the Earth’s climate system. Nevertheless, significant advances have been made since the protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary.

“Climate change is real” is a meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Neither of these fears is justified. Global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural “noise.” The new Canadian government’s commitment to reducing air, land and water pollution is commendable, but allocating funds to “stopping climate change” would be irrational. We need to continue intensive research into the real causes of climate change and help our most vulnerable citizens adapt to whatever nature throws at us next.

We believe the Canadian public and government decision-makers need and deserve to hear the whole story concerning this very complex issue. It was only 30 years ago that many of today’s global-warming alarmists were telling us that the world was in the midst of a global-cooling catastrophe. But the science continued to evolve, and still does, even though so many choose to ignore it when it does not fit with predetermined political agendas.

Take a look at the full letter, and the list of signatories. It’s a quite impressive list.

Somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do!

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:42 am

So, nearly the entire Duke mens’ varsity lacrosse team was accused of raping a woman — or more precisely, 46 out of 47 players were accuesed of being among the three to rape this particular woman. As a punishment, a few games, and then the rest of their season was cancelled (that is, forfeited), their coach resigned (was he fired?) even thought he wasn’t even there when it (allegedly) happened, protests and vigils were held all over campus, and there were ugly allegations of a racist conspiracy from the race hustlers both on and off campus, since the alleged rapers were white and the alleged rapee was black. Never mind how it could be racist when practically no one was supporting the accused players; in fact, all 46 were regarded as guilty even though they woman only claimed that 3 of the 46 touched her.

Then, there were some inconsistencies in the timing of the alleged events.

And now it turns out none did. The DNA tests have come in, and not a trace of even a single player’s DNA was found anywhere on the woman’s body.

Furthermore — get this — there was no DNA of the victim in the room where the alleged rape was supposed to have occurred. And there was no DNA of anyone else either — in fact, the test results indicated the alleged victim had not had any kind of sexual contact with anyone in the recent past.

Now, let’s see if the candlelight vigils are cancelled, and if anyone apologizes to the team. I’m not holding my breath — in fact, the DA says he’s still going to prosecute!

District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he would have other evidence to make his case should the DNA analysis prove inconclusive or fail to match a member of the team.

“I believe a sexual assault took place,” Nifong told The News & Observer of Raleigh on Monday. “I’m not saying it’s over. If that’s what they expect, they will be sadly disappointed.”

He would not comment about the results to the AP.

Earlier he said that they used to prove rape cases before there was such a thing as DNA evidence, so if the DNA evidence didn’t match, he’d just prove it the old way — you know, “he said, she said, she wins.” The trouble is, he doesn’t seem to realize that DNA evidence works both ways — it’s more or less impossible to commit a rape without leaving DNA evidence. The fact that it’s not there is as close as you’ll ever get to proof that the crime did not occur.

Meanwhile, someone has soem explaining to do. That’s because the state crime lab said, based on evidence taken from her body at the emergency room, that there was no evidence the alleged victim was raped at all. Yet, according to a warrant sworn out by the police,

A Forensic Sexual Assault Nurse (SANE) and Physician conducted the examination. Medical records and interview that were obtained by subpoena revealed that the victim had signs, symptoms, and injuries consistent with being raped and ….

(If you want the gory details, look here. This is a family blog!)

The bottom line is, either this is the most incompetent state crime lab imaginable, or someone somewhere between the emergency room and the police department is blatantly lying. And it looks like the latter.

Now here’s something really interesting — the world champion of DNA evidence is Peter Neufeld of “The Innocence Project,” which searches the entire country for death penalty defendants who can be exonerated by DNA evidence. They keep hoping that they’ll find someone who’s been executed who can be proven innocent, so they can get rid of the death penalty, but so far they’ve just found some people who haven’t been executed yet, and gotten them off death row. They claim that DNA is the best way to prove innocence. Or at least, when the defendant is a non-white on death row. When the defendants are white scholarship athletes at an elite college, suddenly DNA isn’t so useful anymore:

“The truth is if you speak to crime lab directors, they will tell you that in only a relatively small number of cases is there any DNA evidence,” said Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project.

I’ve been a cautious supporter of The Innocence Project in the past, because like any decent person, I really, really don’t want to see innocent people punished. But their hope of finding an innocent person who’s already been executed ahs always struck me as kind of creepy — clearly, they care more about the principle that the death penalty is bad than they do about the welfare of innocent people wrongfully convicted. But now we find out that it’s only if those innocent people are the right sort of innocent people.

La Shawn Barber has more long-term perspective.

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