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July 9, 2009
The Protection RacketBy Greyhawk
...or: "How the 'Helping Families Save Their Homes Act' screws the Troops"
We're from the government - we're here to help you.
The good news: Believe it or not, our Congress and President have found a way to save a few bucks.
The bad news: They're going to yank it right out of the pockets of U.S. troops.
Ever seen one of those gangster movies where the mob sells "protection" but it turns out it's protection from them? I believe many of our elected officials have seen those movies too. But their definition of protection seems a bit less honorable than any racket a self-respecting criminal could conceive. In their legal version we pay to protect them. (My apologies to any unelected members of non-political crime syndicates out there if I've been unclear - I'm not in any way shape or form accusing you of being congressional.)
Col. Shumake, an Army lawyer and Director of the Office of Legal Policy for the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness, will discuss actions that the DoD has taken to help military renters during the current foreclosure crisis. He will also discuss how military members now enjoy the protections offered by the recently signed Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009.
The guy asking the questions is me. The full version of the podcast is below, but I believe the excerpt above covers most of the salient points. I'd add that I have no doubt that Col Shumake is dedicated to ensuring the best outcome for military personnel in the matters under his control - and none of this problem is of his making. Hopefully he'll be able to help remove the financial burdens placed on military members by a new law signed by President Obama in May.
Here's the background: historically, military personnel were not reimbursed for moves within a local area (exception: on-base housing initially unavailable at time of arrival on station, individual resides off-base until it is).
However, as the "foreclosure crisis" grew, the DoD identified a need to alleviate strains caused by forced, short-notice evictions of military renters whose leases were terminated due to foreclosure on the landlord. Colonel Shumake informs us a policy was put in place (by DoD even as Congress passed a bill signed into law by President Bush) in July, 2008 to fund moves mandated by such foreclosures. Good deal - as the Colonel explains, it wouldn't eliminate the pain of an unexpected move, but at least the servicemember wouldn't have to suffer financially for it.
In May of this year, however, President Obama signed the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 - part of the larger Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009. Under the terms of this law, tenants are "protected" in case of such a foreclosure in that they can not be evicted prior to expiration of an existing lease. (An exception - if the "new" landlord sells the property to a buyer to use as their principal residence the current tenant is allowed 90 days to vacate.)
As a result, military families now won't be forced to vacate until their lease expires, therefore their move may be delayed a bit - but they will no longer be reimbursed for the expenses of that move because it's due to a normal lease expiration - not a foreclosure action. They'll still have to move - maybe with a bit more advance notice but no reduction in hassles - only once again they'll be the ones writing the checks.
Or as someone else pointed out to me, they used to get screwed for free - now they have to pay for it. (And the only explanation offered is that well, maybe the landlord would have chosen not to renew the lease anyway - who knows?)
Banks are screwed too, of course - they are forced to act as landlords for the duration, a role for which they are likely not currently postured. (For example, who at the bank will be in charge of dealing with leaky roofs, broken appliances, other tenant complaints...?) While I'm sure they'll find a way (just as soldiers will figure out something they can live without in order to pay for their moves) and few among us are going to shed tears for the poor banker, you might also want to look in a mirror (assuming you have some sort of bank account) to see who's actually going to pay for any shortfalls there.
On the upside - the government just saved itself a few thousand bucks - they're the only ones benefiting from this. Hey, great job, guys! Maybe now we can afford those seven extra F-22s after all. (Just kidding - we're not talking about that much cash here - just a month's pay or so from every junior soldier "protected".)
Regardless, I encourage all Americans to please congratulate your Senators, Congressional Representatives, and President (even if none of them actually read this bill before voting for or signing it) for finally discovering a way to save a few bucks - make the troops pay.
And who knows - maybe someday soon Congress and the President will "protect" you, too.
Postscript/prediction: more attempts will be made to explain this using The Mysterious Words of Power. Fortunately, I'm immune.
Here's the full version of the podcast. There are two minutes of dead air at the beginning.
Posted by Greyhawk / July 9, 2009 11:43 AM | Permalink
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November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com