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Below the Fold: Suicide, Satire, Plagiarism, and a 12-year-old girl

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A wrap-up of stories and posts you might have missed or overlooked -- the ones below the fold.

Highway fatality rubberneckers and enthusiasts were treated to a wide spattering of blog posts and articles last week, rehashing a story about a man who committed suicide after months of being put through the foreclosure-loan modification ringer by Wells Fargo. Norman Rousseau, ended his life after losing his home due to bank "error".

Martin Andelman, a longtime homeowner advocate and blogger at Mandelman Matters broke the story last week in an effort to help the family avoid imminent and immediate eviction. News outlets and other bloggers swarmed his site, reposting, rewriting, and in some cases plagiarizing the piece; without as much as a "hat tip" to Andelman.

"I've written hundreds of articles, for and about homeowners," Andelman told me on the phone. "And this is the one they latch onto?"

Later, in an email he wrote:

We have entered a period of a 100 year downturn in American society that will permanently change everything we've come to know about yesterday's America.

You see, today, as if starring in the movie Groundhog Day, I will again write an article or maybe even two designed to educate and motivate readers to get involved at a political level by writing to their elected officials and expressing their dissatisfaction with the way the foreclosure is being handled.

And if I'm lucky, a few thousand will read it, and a few hundred will take it to heart and actually do something. I've written 700 of these sorts of articles. But, it's only an article about a man killing himself that will get my article 3,500 "Likes" and over 400 "Shares" and the same numbers of "Tweets."

I can write about how to change the world my daughter will grow up in and no one will care. But a guy takes his own life, and the people cannot get enough.

A week ago, a Connecticut woman shot her mom with a shotgun and then went upstairs and shot herself. They had just lost their home to foreclosure for failure to pay property taxes.

Two weeks ago, a homeowner blew up his home rather than leave it. And two weeks before that a California a man shot and killed a sheriff and a locksmith that had come to lock him out of his home. He then barricaded himself inside the home and had a gunfight with police before the cops set the place on fire and the homeowner burned along with the home - these are not anomalies or isolated incidents.

Andelman wrote a follow up piece later in the week, "Wells Fargo gives $22,000 to Suicide Hotline... A gift the bank can use too," about Wells Fargo having donated $22, 000 to a suicide prevention hotline. It reminds me, to a degree, of a friend of mine who considers himself a bit of an a-hole. Every once in a while he'll hand a homeless guy 50 dollars or volunteer at a shelter, hoping to balance any karma coming his way. At the end of the day though, he's still fundamentally an a-hole.

Blogging can be an isolating and frustrating endeavor. Every once in a while one of us goes off the rails and publishes something that the rest of us consider a work of literary genius. Matt Weidner, a foreclosure defense attorney in Florida, posted, "I Beat The Hell Out of Another Client Yesterday....It Was (another) One of Those Bloody, Nasty Messes... "which had many of us grateful for the much needed laugh. In it he writes:

I tried explaining to them over and over again that no one cared about their hopeless story....but they refused to listen....they kept staring back at me with those pleading, grandparent eyes, "but you're a lawyer and the judges have to listen" They pleaded. "We live in a nation of laws and the judges have to stand up for us and do what's right." More with their hopeless delusions. "But you can see right here all the lies and the fraud and the errors in the bank's paperwork." Yeah, I've seen it all every single day for years now....why is this case any different?

Judging from the comments on the article and at those at HPN, not everyone appreciates satire as much as we do.

Comments on the post ranged from an appreciative, "This is by far one of Weidner's best articles," to the less enthused and humorless, "wow..i new this guy had to be a lawyer...what a pr*ck!"

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, penned a terrific, albeit sarcastic, number titled, "The Commencement Address That Won't Be Given".

The speech starts with:

I feel I owe it to you to tell you the truth about the pieces of parchment you're picking up today.

You're f*cked.

Well, not exactly. But you won't have it easy.

And while, Canadian Financial Post contributor, William Watson, may not have intended to be satirical or sarcastic, he managed to dedicate 954 words to slamming a 12-year-old girl's take on the country's financial system. The You Tube video stars Victoria Grant of Canada, appearing at the Public Banking in America Conference in Philadelphia and has been posted to Facebook and Twitter throughout the week. In "No, Victoria, there is no money monster," Watson, presumably faced with a slow news day, attempts to pick apart the girl's economic theories with, what else, his own theories:

Well, actually, no, it doesn't. We have a big public debt because, starting in the early 1970s and continuing for three full decades, our governments spent more on all sorts of things, including interest, than they collected in taxes. Every single year from 1975-76 through 1986-87, the decade when we really ran into debt trouble, the federal deficit exceeded federal interest payments by a cumulative total of $65 billion. Bank profits on interest were not the problem. Spending on interest or even on the supposed "monopoly" premium we were paying on interest wasn't the problem. The problem was the idea, still widely popular, from the Greek parliament to the streets of Montreal, that governments needn't pay their bills.

In this video from Bloomberg Law, Chris Whalen, Senior Managing Director at Tangent Capital Partner and Jeff Madrick, a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute argue financial regulation vis a vis the JPMorgan $2 Billion fail whale.

As you can see, it's fairly easy to argue two sides of the same coin - even if you're not a 12-year-old girl.