News Day 2/19/09: Housing plan in MN / “Nation of cowards” on race / Carstarphen leaving SPPS? / more …

What part of “no” don’t you understand, Norm? The three-judge panel yesterday “just said no” to the Coleman campaigns latest request to reverse a previous ruling. Writing in MinnPost, Eric Black reminds us that, like every ruling in the case, this one was unanimous.

Mortgage relief on horizon Dan Olson on MPR talked to local homeowners and U of M law school housing expert Prentiss Cox about the Obama mortgage relief plan. The plan provides some refinancing by some lenders, and extends relief to some homeowners who are “under water” — so long as the gap between their home value and amount owed is not too great. Cox faults the plan for failing to provide a “cram-down,” a provision that would make banks agree to take a loss on a mortgage when the home is worth less, and write a new mortgage for a lower amount.

Many big banks, including Wells Fargo, suspended mortgages while waiting to hear about the president’s plan. According to the NYT, one in ten home mortgages is either delinquent or in foreclosure. The plan will provide incentives to lenders to rewrite mortgages, changing the interest rate to make them more affordable. It will increase available credit through $200 billion in backing for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And it will offer some homeowners who are current on their mortgages but cannot refinance because they lack enough equity an opportunity to refinance at the current low interest rates. The plan also calls for bankruptcy rule changes to let judges reduce mortgages on primary residences to fair market value.

Take a look at the White House summary of the plan here. And for a critique that says the plan is “comprehensive, but not aggressive” enough, see Simon Johnson in The New Republic.

Over at the legislature According to AP, GOP lawmakers are proposing–and DFLers are “open to looking at” –a five percent pay cut for legislators, which would cut base pay to $29,600, saving the state a whopping $338,000 a year. Let’s see – that’s less than one percent of one percent of the $4.8 billion deficit. Hope they don’t spend a lot of time debating that one. Another bill would require MN students to stay in school through 18 or through high school graduation, rather than the current compulsory school attendance through 16, writes Jake Grovum in the Strib. Critics say it would cost a lot and that schools aren’t very good. Wisconsin, South Dakota and 16 other states already have 18-year-old attendance laws. And in what we can devoutly hope is a lost cause, the Vikes are still trying to get public money for a nearly one billion dollar stadium this year, reports Mike Kaszuba in the Strib.

“Nation of cowards” on race Attorney General Eric Holder spoke yesterday at the DOJ African American History Month program. Among his remarks:

One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of black people in this nation. Simply put, to get to the heart of this country one must examine its racial soul.

Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.

Read the whole speech here. It’s well worth reading, thinking about, and responding to his call.

Sez who? A day after a study showing a 97% thumbs down on NCLB from MN principals, the Strib reports that a DC-based think tank said MN is too easy on enforcement of NCLB rules, and that WI has the loosest interpretation of all 50 states. What the press reports don’t say is that the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is a conservative think tank, led by Chester Finn, “one of the education policy gurus of the conservative movement” with ties to the Manhattan Institute, the Hudson Institute, Center of the American Experiment, and National Association of Scholars.

Carstarphen looks south St. Paul School Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is a finalist for the Austin, Texas superintendent’s job, reports Emily Johns in the Strib. She’s in her third year with SPPS, has not yet signed a new contract, and has her Summit Avenue house up for sale.

RNC 8 on Democracy Now You can hear from RNC 8 defendant Luce Guillens-Givens and attorney Jordan Kushner on Democracy Now. Not much that’s new, as the judicial process continues, except for criminal charges against one of the FBI informants.

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