Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson

Chief Justice Abrahamson,

Over the last 10 years I worked for a Madison attorney helping people deal with foreclosure and bankruptcy. During that time we saw many cases of debtors that had defaulted on loans with no hope of being able to continue to make payments. We also saw many examples of mortgage lenders that had lost payments, failed to accurately report payments and in one or two cases, foreclosed despite having received the payments. In Federal Bankruptcy Court, a lender when confronted with illegal accounting of bankruptcy payments (misapplication of funds) asked, “do you expect us to change our procedures just because someone is in bankruptcy?” to which the Court responded, “Yes.” Increasingly over the last five years, we began noticing that lenders were foreclosing that were not the original mortgage lender, in many cases there were no assignments of mortgages and even more troubling, notes were not included in the documentation, either because the lender was NOT the note holder or it had become ‘lost’.

In my personal life, situations resulted in the default on our mortgage. Our original mortgage lender was Indymac Bank. It failed in 2008 and One West Bank purchased many of its assets (according to press reports). One West Bank’s foreclosure documents did not include the original note to Indymac Bank. When we brought up this deficiency with the court at our hearing (10CV00820), Dane County Court Judge C. William Foust, Branch 14, indicated the lack of the note was a technicality and that he was satisfied with the affidavit of default provided by the lender. The lender did not address the lack of note. We understand the default judgment now replaces the missing note.

In light of the recent actions by the State Attorney General, I am asking the Supreme Court to give guidance to the Municipal Courts in the state to NOT just accept foreclosure documentation that is ‘technically deficient’ in the interest of speeding up the process. We brought the issue to the attention of the Court in our case and it was ignored. Hundreds if not thousands of Wisconsin homeowners are facing foreclosure and are unable to afford legal help to defend themselves.

False affidavits, lost notes and historically bad accounting are being ignored by courts in the interest of ‘processing’ hundreds of thousands of foreclosures throughout the country and in Wisconsin. We are asking you and the Supreme Court of Wisconsin to maintain the integrity of the court system for all parties – not just those lenders hoping to take advantage of distraught homeowners to sweep all the bad acts under the foreclosure rug.

In my case, the issue might soon be over, but lenders who have foreclosed and received judgment are also failing to complete the process. We have seen lenders foreclose, homeowners leave the home and then the lender fail to hold a sheriff’s sale. The lender leaves the homeowner to maintain the empty home indefinitely, including municipal fines for failure to mow or shovel snow, insurance and minimal utilities.

The Courts expect homeowners to abide by the terms of their mortgages, it is time for the court system to make sure the lenders abide by the law.


Tracy C. Coyle

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen
114 East State Capitol
Madison, WI 53707-7857

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Motivated reasoning - a reply

This is an attempt to deal with a concept that has been discussed in Twitter and the constraints are driving me crazy. Here it is: Motivated Reasoning:

It is proposed that motivation may affect reasoning through reliance on a biased set of cognitive processes–that is, strategies for accessing, constructing, and evaluating beliefs. The motivation to be accurate enhances use of those beliefs and strategies that are considered most appropriate, whereas the motivation to arrive at particular conclusions enhances use of those that are considered most likely to yield the desired conclusion. There is considerable evidence that people are more likely to arrive at conclusions that they want to arrive at, but their ability to do so is constrained by their ability to construct seemingly reasonable justifications for these conclusions.

I bet my readers think that the above sounds reasonable but that something doesn't feel right about it. Here is my take:

Let's parse #1: "reliance on a biased set of cognitive processes"

All cognitive processes are biased. We build experience and knowledge within a framework that encompasses our lives. Your parental raising, your education, your work experience all contribute to the process. This process is biased only in the sense that it is unique to you. Shared education and experience can create similar cognitive processes. the idea that we rely on our education and experience to make decisions is one of those 'yea, duh' points of view.

#2: "strategies for accessing, constructing, and evaluating beliefs" is not just dealing with day to day issues, but for formulating 'belief's. This is more than just observation of natural processes, but rather an attempt to explain how people form their belief systems. As if such a process is DIFFERENT from any other cognitive process. (To be honest, it is not the formulation that is different, but the continuous evaluation that varies. Most people are willing to re-evaluate decisions in the face of new information however, beliefs seldom are subject to such re-evaluation absent some 'trama' to the system.)

#3: "motivation to be accurate enhances use of those beliefs and strategies that are considered most appropriate"

In other words, a desire to be accurate relies on beliefs. Maybe in some. When I 'desire' to be accurate, I use education and experience and systems of decision making that in the past has resulted in accurate results. The choice of words in the above comment suggest a loose approximation of the result and the desire.

#4: "the motivation to arrive at particular conclusions enhances use of those that are considered most likely to yield the desired conclusion"

Let me see if I have this right: I want a specific conclusion, so I am most likely to use 'cognitive processes utilizing experience and education' that are most likely to result the way I want to end up. Hmmm. I want to turn right in the car, so, using the turn indicator and steering wheel, I turn right and voila! ok.....

#5: "There is considerable evidence that people are more likely to arrive at conclusions that they want to arrive at"

Let me think....
1: a reasoned judgment : inference
2: the last part of something: as a result
3: an act or instance of concluding

It appears that the original statement actually changes which definition is in use.

We start off in #1 considering judgments. How people make choices. But by #5 we are now talking about how they seek outcomes. How I form beliefs is subject to more than just education and experience but also by my desires and the environment I choose to be in. But how I LIVE, how I determine actions and consequences is not based on beliefs or desires - I can desire to be in LA in 10 minutes, but physics limits me to driving for 3 hours. All the motivation and beliefs in the world can't change that the 'conclusion', being in LA requires 3 hours of driving.

I can form beliefs, come to a conclusion about faith that is unique to all the parts that make up me. However, reaching a physical conclueion is based on experience and specific actions that are NOT unique to me. Everyone in San Diego that wants to go to LA, regardless of the reason are subject to the same constraints.

#5: "There is considerable evidence that people are more likely to arrive at conclusions that they want to arrive at...but their ability to do so is constrained by their ability to construct seemingly reasonable justifications for these conclusion"

I arrive at a conclusion by justifying the chosen conclusion? I have desires and needs. They are fulfilled by acting in ways reasonably expected to do so. I don't need to 'justify' them. Nor are they likely to be constrained because I can't figure a good reason to need or want them.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the author ISN'T changing the definition of conclusion. Nah.

"more likely to arrive....but constrained" Which is it? We get to where we want to be but are constrained in do so?

Overall, the statement is illogical. Shifting the definition being applied is dishonest. We make decisions based on desired outcomes - that is the ONLY way reasonable people act. Those outcomes are not 'belief' dependent. A Muslim, agnostic, Jew and atheist all must act in similar ways to drive from San Diego to LA. Their beliefs have little or no bearing on the 'conclusion'. We formulate beliefs based on experience, education AND desired outcomes and 'reason' has little to do with those conclusions.

Conclusion in a reasoned judgment can apply the full range of human options and does. However, a conclusion to an event is a function of choices and their associated consequences. BOTH end points can be desired but only one is ordained.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


It is hard to notice because we have some of it in ourselves, but most people think that we are at a turning point in history because....welll...."we" are alive now to witness it.

I first noticed the phenom when there was a big "Rapture wait.." back in 1980: 'this generation that sees the rebirth of Israel shall not pass away before these things come to past' - these things being the END OF THE WORLD. 1948 Israel rebirth + 40 years for a generation = 1988 - 7 years of tribulation = 1981.

Anyway, we saw it again in 1999 leading up to the millennium. And now, with the election looming, people are saying we are at a tipping point. Maybe.

One of my favorite "2 minute hobby" is to wonder what the newspaper or news headlines WOULD have been if some major event had not happened. What would the headlines have been on 9/12/2001?

Ever see someone on the side of the road after an accident (people are ok, cars are wrecked)? You know that whatever they were thinking or planning to do right up to the moment of impact is gone, out the window. Their life has just taken a little jog to the right or left (not politically!) But in the big scheme of things - the impact has little overall change associated with it.

Even 9/11 in many regards (yes, despite Iraq and Afghanistan) has not had much impact on the path of humanity.

Think about when you were young (for me the 60's). We all woke up in the morning, Dad went off to work, we went to school. We used a car that is only cosmetically different than the one we use today. We have TV and radio news. We still have McDonalds and ABC/NBC/CBS.... Our lives today would be be pretty recognizable to someone that died in 1965. Yes, there have been many advancements and changes - but human society has not changed that much. There is a significant change from 1865 to today. But does October 5th, 1865 strike you as an important date in history? How about December 7th, 1941? Any different than a day in 1492 or 1066? Ok, some of those ARE important dates to remember, but Earth shattering?

Somewhere in the 80s I realized that my existence/awareness had no cosmic significance. Two things happened then. First, I stopped waiting for 'the EVENT' that I was obviously here to witness (and maybe participate in???? nahhhh). Second, I stopped taking ME quite so seriously. Do I have an impact on others, sure. CJ would not be living HERE today if I had not met Victoria. We all change history in little and unforeseeable ways. But I stopped thinking that the change SIGNIFIED something. Change happens. With or without us. My impact, YOUR impact is important to those around us, but historically, unimportant.

Some people come to a similar realization and then wonder: why am I here? what is my purpose? Stupid questions in a world or historical context. Important for themselves but not for anyone else.

It is likely that 100 years from now, with VERY few exceptions, our passing will be unnoticed and our IMPORTANT time in history will be just that, a point in history. Nothing more, nothing less.

Next time someone tells you WE have to save the planet, offer this (which I shared with two idiots in front of Walmart yesterday asking people to help save the planet) "nope, not interested. Plan on using, abusing, wasting and tossing it away when I am done." to which they replied "what about future generations". I had moved beyond earshot by that time, but I answered "let them get their own Earth. The Earth is big enough to take care of itself."

We are like snowflakes, each unique but unnoticed in a blizzard. The universe is infinite in it's possibilities, I find mirth that there is only ONE of me in all of it. But I long ago gave up the fiction that the Universe, history or even the future will note either my presence or absence. I continue to hope the rest of humanity comes to the same conclusion....eventually.