President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and the first lady’s mother Marian Robinson, offer treats to trick-or-treaters to celebrate Halloween on the North Portico of the White House
Up up and away, it’s superbo.
That Bo decoration is soooo cute!!!! I wish there was live coverage, but I guess not.
I was hoping they had live coverage. They had live coverage last year.
I thought there was live coverage last year too. I just hope they have video later.
I was so excited for the coverge of this…..I feel sorta childish in my disappointment. I also hope we see a video replay later…..I love seeing children interacting with the POTUS and FLOTUS.
i wonder what the pundits will have to say about the First Grannie being dressed-up as a black bunny. Everyone knows that all rabbits are white with pink eyes.
She’s a cute little brown bunny yardarm!
And you know full well that some bunnies are white, some are brown and I’ve even seen a black bunny.
Behave yo self
A repost, with some followup, following…
First, an aside. Normally I do not comment in public forums on any President’s strategy, regardless of my opinion of that President or their plans, to avoid putting out information that could be used to affect or counter their efforts. (Which would of course have political, diplomatic and/or military implications.) Having said that, I feel some characteristics of the Obama Administration are worth reflecting on, not only for the insights they provide into current affairs, but as an example of an immense intelligence at work — not only the mind of the President, but of the aggregate intelligence of his entire core team and all the people they work with in turn.
So, further to the President’s strategy…
To return to the apparent Stuxnet delay in Iran’s nuclear-weapons program — which Ralph Langner, at least, has attributed to the U.S. ( http://www.ted.com/talks/ralph_langner_cracking_stuxnet_a_21st_century_cyberweapon.html ) — whatever the origin of this cyberweapon, I think the strategy behind it is analagous to one aspect of the Administration’s modus operandi.
To sum up — the thing to ask when in violent conflict with the Administration, or moving towards such a conflict is not so much, “How will the President deal with this?” so much as it is “Really, how have I already lost?”
For those who haven’t watched the linked talk from Langner, above, what we appear to know about Stuxnet is that its original intent was not obvious, it was created by people who probably knew Siemen’s SCADA systems and the Natanz site’s software inside-out, it was far more complex and powerful than anything seen before, and it’s most dangerous known effect was… particularly revealing.
Producing weapons-grade uranium requires a host of centrifuges spinning at precisely controlled supersonic speeds. The Stuxnet evidently altered the speeds of those centrifuges ever-so-slightly, while causing their sensors to continue sending back an unchanging, “all-is-well” message to the infected system and its human overseers. And so a large number of Natanz’s centrifuges began steadily tearing themselves apart.
There is more to the Stuxnet operation, of course, but the above details come across as an eerily precise metaphor for one of the Administration’s other strategies.
Let us say there were people and organizations with strong political viewpoints, thoroughly opposed to the President’s policies. As part of their efforts to come up with effective (if somewhat destructive) weapons against him, let us say they frequently engaged in… “spin.” Indeed, let us say they have been, in fact, practically spinning at supersonic speeds.
Now, this “spin” has refined and purified a number of weapons-grade fuels against the Administration, but owing to their slightly unstable nature and radical changes in the narrative environment, most of these fuels, especially the lesser ones, have already blown up in their creators’ faces. “Weak on Terrorism/Secret Terrorist/One Of THEM” has exploded most spectacularly, arguably several times, but in particular with the death of bin Laden, the Arab Spring, the fall of Qaddafi and Qaddafi’s subsequent death. Other fuels have been sabotaged by their own primary creators, sometimes at the President’s very modest prompting, sometimes prompted by their own shifting internal motivations.
“The Deficit Crisis,” “The President Needs to Compromise,” “The President Needs to Fight/Confront/*Lead*,” “The President Is Weak,” “The President Can’t Get Congress to Help with Jobs,” etc, etc.
Curiously, some of these have exploded not so much because of a subtle shift in the centrifuges, as a sudden wrenching, in which someone suddenly tries to completely change what kind of fuel is being produced to something radically different and often the exact opposite of the previous material, almost overnight.
The above is all very interesting, of course, but one consequence of having a weapons program based mainly on these “spin cycles,” is that you have invested considerable resources and credibility into promoting ideas that may not be to your ultimate benefit.
Just as promoting the idea that we need a strong protector against terrorists and violent dictators — that such protection should be, indeed, our highest priority — has not worked well as President Obama has emerged as by far the most successful such figure in decades, many of these spin cycles are driving narratives which may actually work in the Administration’s favor, to devastating effect.
Consider the last major, functional fuel being generated, the “Jobs and Economy” argument. This one has begun to fall apart as various actors have increasingly appeared to be standing against the President’s efforts to create jobs. But here we may be missing the forest for the trees.
Owing to the destruction of the other fuels, President Obama’s most vociferous opponents have placed almost all of their remaining resources into making this particular bet — that the economy and employment situation will still be terrible by November of next year. Leaving aside the question of what happens if those opponents are blamed for being perceived as encouraging this predicament…
What happens if the economy dramatically reverses, and is growing rapidly by late 2012?
Whatever your opinion of this President, it is clear his Administration has dealt with a huge number of crises over the last 2 years and nine months, so this option is far from improbable. Indeed, depending on what tools they are planning on rolling out over the next several months, they may be counting on it.
What options does that leave the fuel-makers? Decidedly few. Remember, one reason many of these operations have blown up to a greater or lesser degree is because of that attempt to make a wrenching shift or reversal of an existing narrative. By making this all about the economy, there is little time for anyone to reverse themselves, even assuming they had the opportunity to do so. And admitting the President was doing a great job in economic terms, assuming it came to that, would leave your average election about… what, exactly?
The deepest irony of this entire strategy is a simple fact — the real error may have been the ultimate decision… to make the whole debate, one way or another, about the President. He is in a perfect position to defend himself and his record, and by coming at him directly, it may already be far, far too late to manage an effective retreat.
As some would say, “Your in deep *now,* laddie.”
The above, of course, are merely observations. But they illustrate a larger point about advanced thinking and strategy I will discuss later in this series.
Now, there’s a number of things we might learn from this analogy, especially if the Obama Administration opted to use Stuxnet to avert global apocalypse rather than some other organization.
But the key image that keeps coming back to me is of the aggressor, certain of their victory, pressing forward on all fronts… suddenly hearing some machinery whimpering to a halt behind them, and realizing that everything they’d been betting was not only compromised, crippled and possibly destroyed, but had been for months. A further irony comes from the fact that these same people might have help that an embattled Administration was ignoring them, and/or their other critics had no power to interfere. Rather than make a fuss, someone… made a move.
Another point is the realization that Stuxnet, whether American or not, is far from the only weapon in our arsenal. Likewise, the President probably has several other strategies available, some of which are already obvious, and well-advanced. (Unlike the self-destructive “spin cycles,” these may not all be so advanced as to be obvious and nigh-impossible to stop, so I won’t publicly speculate on them.)
A third is that the Administration not only does not boast of certain actions, they don’t take credit at all where it serves their larger interests *not* to. Because their target does not know the source of the Stuxnet, there are all kinds of implications — like, no one is answering questions before the press or in front of Congress, and no experts are going on the air in the U.S. to tell everyone all they know about our cyberwarfare capabilities. Meaning that the people running Natanz are left with any number of questions — are they still compromised? How compromised were they? How compromised are they now? Not only at Natanz, but throughout their nuclear program, and elsewhere? Could the source of the Stuxnet strike again, and strike harder? Will it be easier this time, with broader knowledge of their defenses? If their defenses are replaced, can they be trusted, or will they simply have new and greater problems their owners know nothing about? And finally, what other tools do their opponents have, military and otherwise, to intervene again, quite possibly out of nowhere, even if further cyber-incursions can be thwarted?
Note on this last: The Administration handles some very basic tactics very well. In particular, unlike many political actors, they don’t lay out their entire strategy in front of you on Sunday talk shows. For some reason, some people have the assumption that laying out such information in detail for the approval of the punditry *isn’t* telegraphing your moves. So, for example, the hunt for bin Laden is seemingly fruitless, until suddenly he is dead.
There are other insights that could be derived from this murky event, but I think the key one can be drawn from more public occurances — the President seems to be incredibly capable and intelligent, and is very good at managing a team of other gifted people to create a kind of amalgamated intellect that is considerably greater than the sum of its parts. Oddly, this seems to be a detail many people are very good at ignoring, even when that understanding would be very much to their benefit.
Ralph, That’s all GREAT insight, but just one question for you…
Isn’t Bo’s costume just adorable?!?
The costume, I have to admit, is pretty awesome.
And further evidence that someone in the White House is clearly not “human,” but rather from the Planet Krypton. =)
Passing it on. Thank you so much.
I loved your line about opponents in confrontation with the president needing to ask not how the president will deal with this, but how have I already lost. PBO presents a whole new concept of leadership that is ten steps ahead of everyone else and doesn’t follow the pre-conceived notions about about how presidents should brag about what they do. Instead PBO keeps knocking ball after ball out of the park and when the time is right and he has everyone’s full attention he will make sure everyone knows who’s been driving the game. He’s is operating in a league that most of his opponents underestimate at their extreme peril. Thanks for your insights.
From your computer to God’s ears!
Awaiting your next writing, Ralph. As I said before…..deep. And might I add to your line….”by coming at him directly…”, by coming at him so early, their charges cannot continually deflect from their own shortcomings as the debate and actual campaign gets under way. Theirs will be a broken record behind which they cannot continue to hide.
October 29, 2011 11:15 AM
By Steve Benen
In his weekly address this morning, President Obama continued to press a case that apparently makes some folks in the political establishment nervous.
For example, the president referenced the latest data showing “the middle class has lost ground while the wealthiest few have become even wealthier” over the last three decades, and he called for “rebuilding an economy where everyone has the chance to succeed.” How? By passing measures like the president’s jobs agenda and paying for it by asking millionaires and billionaires “to contribute a little more in taxes.”
Instead of just blaming “some in Washington,” Obama was more direct: “Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress aren’t paying attention. They’re not getting the message.”
While polls show most Americans agree with the president’s message, plenty of establishment types are advising Obama to change direction. David Brooks, for example, believes the president would be better off focusing on deficit reduction and appealing to independents, partly by abandoning plans to boost job creation through government action. The American mainstream, the argument goes, is turned off by economic populism.
Brookings’ Thomas Mann and AEI’s Norm Ornstein this week offered the White House far more sensible advice.
[T]he ideological imbalance in American politics today has nothing to do with Obama abandoning his post-partisan promises and picking up the mantle of big government. Instead, it’s almost entirely a consequence of the rightward shift of the Republican Party. […]
Maneuvering tirelessly to stake out some elusive political center, in other words, won’t help Obama win over swing voters. It’ll just set him up for another year of looking weak and ineffectual…. It was perfectly understandable for Obama to try to deliver on his promise of a post-partisan Washington, even if he was naive at best, disingenuous at worst. But by doing so he paid a tremendous political price, among his supporters, but also with swing voters, who were not much taken with his effort to work with Republicans to stave off a totally unnecessary threat of default — and who viewed him as weak when the process looked so dysfunctional in the end that the U.S got downgraded by Standard and Poor’s. […]
Moreover, if there is any hope of achieving bipartisan policy success, it will come from Republicans believing that blocking the president’s initiatives or offers will cause them political harm. Mitch McConnell admitted as much when he acceded to a deal on the debt limit—not because it would avert economic chaos, not because a conciliatory president offered it to him, but because, in his own words, the failure to do so would damage “the Republican brand.” In other words, Obama’s new approach of turning up the heat — by calling out Republicans for their obstruction and their opposition even to ideas they have previously embraced, like a continuing payroll tax cut — actually has more chance of achieving the policy outcomes Brooks wants than his conciliatory approach.
Obama, at the center of today’s political spectrum, should therefore be explicit and forceful in communicating the stark differences between the parties and the source of inaction and gridlock in Washington. To do anything less would be a disservice to the public, his party, and his hopes for a constructive and consequential presidency.
I’m not sure why this perspective isn’t obvious to mainstream pundits, but perhaps the reminder from Mann and Ornstein will help set them straight.
Let’s also note the larger context here: Mann and Ornstein are, by most measures, about as centrist establishment as the centrist establishment gets. And even they are pushing President Obama to ignore Brooks’ advice, pursue economic populism, and highlight the differences between the parties.
Here’s hoping the Mann/Ornstein piece did not go unnoticed at the White House.
Our President has been laying the groundwork for his present highlighting of the differences between the parties for the past two and a half years. That having been done, his present focus on what they call “economic populism” is devastatingly effective. Mann/Ornstein are late to notice that fact. Here’s hoping Mann/Ornstein will indulge in a bit of history regarding this administration.
Couldn’t agree with you more gloGloria.
Absolutely right on, Glo. This is no “new” approach–it’s been his strategy all along.
Costumed greeters welcome trick-or-treaters to the the White House to celebrate Halloween October 29, 2011 in Washington, DC
you are very welcome Debz
Thanks for the pictures Fred. It’s quite wonderful how they go all out for Halloween for local children and military families. Hope the weather improves so everyone can enjoy trick or treating.
Is it a bird, is it a plane noooooooooooooooooooo………………it’s SUPER BO!!!!!!!!
I’ve always thought Halloween costumes should be designed to be worn over coats!! Cuz it is usually cold on Halloween.
It’s so good to see people willing to stand in inclement to help make the First Family’s Halloween event successful !
SuperBo is so cute. I thought it might be the real Bo doggie at first. My granddog, Lindsey, is going trick or treating as SuperWoman Superdog, for real. I don’t think dogs like costumes so much though, but they put up with them because it makes their families happy. Bet they can’t wait till Halloween is over and they can shed the fancy duds and go back to being just a dog, which is a pretty good deal for most of them.
Wonder if the weather is bad there and will wreck havoc on the festivities. My Ct. daughter called from her car while watching my grandson play soccer in a blizzard. Wish we could see what is going on. We’re spoiled.
We used to dress up our dog and the kids for a pet parade, many years ago. Surprisingly the dog really didn’t seem to mind being dressed up.
October 29, 2011 10:10 AM
Richard Muller and science the right didn’t want to see
I’ve been meaning all week to mention the climate science research from Richard Muller, which has generated as much attention as the trumped-up “Climategate” nonsense, but which deserves far more.
The “Climategate” story, you’ll recall, relied on stolen emails to allege that climate scientists fudged research to produce results pointing to global warming. Several international investigations followed, and all found the charges baseless.
But the resolution of the so-called “controversy” wasn’t nearly as entertaining as Muller’s research, which looked into the same data that the right alleged had been manipulated.
Back in 2010, Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist and self-proclaimed climate skeptic, decided to launch the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project to review the temperature data that underpinned global-warming claims. […]
Muller’s stated aims were simple. He and his team would scour and re-analyze the climate data, putting all their calculations and methods online. Skeptics cheered the effort. “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong,” wrote Anthony Watts, a blogger who has criticized the quality of the weather stations in the United Statse that provide temperature data. The Charles G. Koch Foundation even gave Muller’s project $150,000 — and the Koch brothers, recall, are hardly fans of mainstream climate science.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the Koch brothers funded the research because they thought they were buying proof that climate change is a fraud.
Except, they ended up financing the opposite. Muller and his team conducted a thorough review of all of the available information and discovered — wouldn’t you know it — that the scientific consensus is accurate. “Global warming,” Muller concluded, “is real.”
Remember, this research intended to prove the opposite. Muller and his team even took the most common arguments raised by climate deniers, putting them to the test to see if skeptics’ claims had merit.
But they still found that the scientists are right and the skeptics are wrong. “Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK,” Muller and his team said.
The right, not surprisingly, isn’t pleased, especially after so many conservatives agreed to accept the results of Muller’s research.
But reality is stubborn, and doesn’t much care about the right’s preferences.
Just saw a very short story at Wash Post saying the Obamas were standing in the orange glow of north portico of WH handing out treats on a snowy afternoon.
Yeah, it’s been snowing for a few hours now, off and on. Very cold for October too.
To bad cspan does Not show this?
A photo!!!! I see POTUS is dressed as a college professor again. Wish I could see what FLOTUS is wearing.
Looks like she’s is wearing a coat because the weather outside is frightful…it’s 34 degrees!
Looks like orange and black underneath. Last year they were both in casual sweater attire, much nicer weather.
Just a coat for today. It’s rainy and snowy here in DC. Very ugly weather,
Photos added people, more coming
Thanks for the pictures Chips. POTUS came as a college professor again while FLOTUS came as a super chic and stylish celebrity I love that she rocked this particular coat and pair of boots again in addition to the stacked jewellry on her arm.
my favorite coat….!!!!
If you like FLOTUS’S style, thank that “black rabbit” on her right.
I see First Grandma has bunny ears or some other type of animal’s ears on her head. Too cute. Loving the spooky bats and crows.
Love that precious little girl hugging PBO
me 2 Debz
I feel sorry for the guys in tuxedos in the background. Wonder what their role is. They look cold.
Omigosh, the headless guy! Looks like the pres can’t believe that one either. Also spotted just the most adorable little guy off to Obama’s left arm in one photo. And I spotted the most adorable big guy in the last photo, President Obama looking so happy with his treat task. He’s the real deal.
Did you see the reese pieces candy?
Which are made by Hershey’s, a right-wing company in Santorum’s native Pennsylvania. Is Lil Ricky off somewhere crying his head off that he won’t be able to be seen eating Reese’s again?
Unfortunately, Hershey’s candy is no longer made in Hershey. They close the plant a couple of years agoand shipped the jobs to Mexico. 900 Pennsylvania factory workers lost their jobs.
Thanks for the info. The last time I had any dealing with the company’s lobbyist was, wow, 7 years ago. Santorum was chummy with those folks. While he’s faltering somewhere in a corner, he should be asked his thoughts on the matter.
Note: saw an article today that Hershey’s owns a candy-packaging plant still in Pennsylvania. But it was in the news for no *good* reason: apparently, the company is exploiting foreign students, who come there for a working vacation.
Ooooooooh FLOTUS’s dress is gorgeous!!!!
Personally, I am LOVING the coat!
The Obamas and their administration have brought true beauty back to the people’s house, inner and outer.
OT . . . Cain asking Pauls supporters to be respectful
Another promise kept…the 2 white pumpkins are where he said they would be
W.H. HALLOWEEN: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are standing in the orange glow of the White House’s northern portico on a snowy afternoon passing out Halloween treats to trick-or-treaters from capital area elementary schools and children of military families. (See also: Photos of Halloweens past.)
Despite cold, wet weather, school children and children of military families lined up to receive treats that included a box of M&Ms imprinted with the presidential seal, a butter cookie in the shape of the White House and a serving of dried fruit.
“Let’s give out some candy,” Obama said as he walked to the driveway. “I know it’s cold here, you guys doing alright? It’s not ideal out here.”
The president sported gray pants and a black fleece while his wife donned an orange and black dress under a heavy black coat.
Other White House staffers dressed as a storm trooper, a lasso-throwing cowboy and a soaked white bunny. White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses was dressed as a red chili pepper.
Pumpkins and gourds were piled high at the base of trees in the north lawn and the main walk to the White House was lined with faux spider webs. The portico was decorated with pumpkins and hay bales.
A headless man costume got a reaction from POTUS.
“Look at this guy!” he said. “It’s a headless man – terrible.”
D.C. resident Renee Hamer and her 3-year-old daughter, Peyton Wood, worked the treat line in snow a little before 5 p.m.
Asked what she thought about trick-or-treating at the White House, Wood responded with a big smile: “It’s President Obama!”
Thanks for this Jovie. The dried fruit makes me think of President Obama’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno’s appearance; “The White House’s gonna get egged!” I was wondering at the surprised expression on POTUS’s face. Headless man huh? Classic.
red chili pepper costume ? brilliant
Haha—-”It’s President Obama!” (that Halloween treat is so delicious, who even notices the cold and snow?)
Cute, cute, Bo, grandma looks cute too, the little kids adore the President & Flotus is super chic. Thanks Chips for the Pics, off to tweet them.
I have never in my life seen a President of the United States with a heart as big as the world like I do in Pres Obama. This is probably why I love him so much. The respect I have for him is massive. He’s also earned the respect from this nation yet doesn’t get it and just shrugs it off as if it’s a little bitty nuisance on his shoulder. He knows who he is and what he stands for. His confidence in himself never wanes. I can tell you right now, their daughters will become exemplary human beings and will no doubt serve their country in some form or another. I foresee Chief Justices.
You are so right Lonnie.
Ok this White House is totally with it. They have the angry birds costume.
(Very short) video added
Chipsticks you are AWESOME!!!!! Thanks for the video.
If we can’t see it live, we can ALWAYS count on our Chipsticks to bring up photo’s….lots and lots of photo’s!!!!
Look at FLOTUS rocking that dress and those boots – you go girl!
POTUS has the most happiest smile on his face as he passes out candy – you gotta love that man!
Grandma Robinson is just too cute with the whiskers and ears on – such a happy happy family!
You ROCK Chipsticks
Thank you so much for sharing these photo’s and so quickly. I feel like one of the kids, delighted.
I love the way they treated the white pumpkins, bet that owl has glow in the dark paint …The Wood’s will be forever proud.
Yes the Wood’s will Sue.
Another promise made….another promise kept!
Yay – tweet from FLOTUS:
Happy halloween! Spending it w/ military kids & families – so proud of them & honored to say thanks. -mo yfrog.com/esah0gj— Joining Forces (@JoiningForces) October 29, 2011
It’s the little things that they do that make us love them more and more.
Thanks for posting this hopefruit2
Wow, I LOVE Michelle’s dress. What a wonderful FLOTUS!
Chipsticks the Wizard comes up with a video!!!!!!
All I can say I love this family and can I just say the president is HOT! (sorry michelle, no disrespect BUt your husband is breathtaking beautiful)
I love this family also. I think the world of POTUS and FLOTUS.
Love then photos and the video! It is great how the family gets so involved and have so much fun. Good to see the white pumpkins artfully carved and placed just where Michelle said they would be. Another promise kept.
Definately a must read, AND a keeper! Lest we forget….
You did it again ds, I was just about to post this awesome item. We are so on the same page.
My favorite quote is:
“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes
Hate to “poison” this happy halloween moment….but,
http://www.addictinginfo.org/2011/10/29/if-you-voted-for-obama-or-are-a-muslim-dont-try-to-take-shooting-lessons-from-texas-instructor/ UT, have you seen this?
LOVE that PBO got his Reese’s in. Ha! You can hear WH Pastry Chef Yosses sayin, “we listen to you!” So sweet!! I bet they so love our POTUS and are having the time of their lives.
The White House is not going to be the same after 2016!!!!!!!!!!!!!
President going out in just a bit; he'll deliver remarks 8:20 ET to the Natl. Italian American Foundation Gala— West Wing Report (@WestWingReport) October 29, 2011
Thanks Chips for producing all these fun photos and vid—-you never disappoint. I just love that those pumpkin patch pumpkins are setting proud in the background during all the festivities. Those nice as could be patch owners are going to get a big kick out of the photos when they receive them. Promise made, another promise kept.
Super BO!! I love it!!! I wonder if Sasha will get to be the little girl that she still is and dress up for Halloween? That’s the one thing that I don’t like about the daughters being so famous. I know that the Obama’s try their very best to shield them from the spotlight.
I remember when PBO took Sasha out for Halloween, I felt guilty looking at the pictures.
They dressed up last year as a sour patch and a turkey. They go to private Halloween parties and I’m sure they have a good time.
THAT’S OUR JOE
I certainly hope all members of the TOD family will have an opportunity to see our amazing Vice President Joe Biden tell a bit of truth at the Florida Democratic Party Convention. Joe makes us proud. He is passionate and on point. He calls out the obstructionist Republicans by name. He says there is a beautiful rhythm of opposition called Boehner, Cantor and McConnell. He assures everyone that this is not your father’s Republican Party. Joe was on fire. It was absolutely exhilarating to watch him tick off the accomplishments of the Obama administration and call out the Republicans with vim and vigor. He’s our champion. President Obama could not ask for a better partner. And Jill Biden is a treasure. I just love her.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
I took the time to watch the entire even, DWS was amazing and I loved how Joe really through out the facts. I thought it was terrific.
Haha—–Mittens’ Halloween costume
That should cover holloween for mitt, lol
What the Costumes Reveal
On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum threw a Halloween party. The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
The party is the firm’s big annual bash. Employees wear Halloween costumes to the office, where they party until around noon, and then return to work, still in costume. I can’t tell you how people dressed for this year’s party, but I can tell you about last year’s.
That’s because a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.
When we spoke later, she added that the snapshots are an accurate representation of the firm’s mind-set. “There is this really cavalier attitude,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that people are going to lose their homes.” Nor does the firm try to help people get mortgage modifications; the pressure, always, is to foreclose. I told her I wanted to post the photos on The Times’s Web site so that readers could see them. She agreed, but asked to remain anonymous because she said she fears retaliation.
Let me describe a few of the photos. In one, two Baum employees are dressed like homeless people. One is holding a bottle of liquor. The other has a sign around her neck that reads: “3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served.” My source said that “I was never served” is meant to mock “the typical excuse” of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure proceeding.
A second picture shows a coffin with a picture of a woman whose eyes have been cut out. A sign on the coffin reads: “Rest in Peace. Crazy Susie.” The reference is to Susan Chana Lask, a lawyer who had filed a class-action suit against Steven J. Baum — and had posted a YouTube video denouncing the firm’s foreclosure practices. “She was a thorn in their side,” said my source.
A third photograph shows a corner of Baum’s office decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes. Another shows a sign that reads, “Baum Estates” — needless to say, it’s also full of foreclosed houses. Most of the other pictures show either mock homeless camps or mock foreclosure signs — or both. My source told me that not every Baum department used the party to make fun of the troubled homeowners they made their living suing. But some clearly did. The adjective she’d used when she sent them to me — “appalling” — struck me as exactly right.
These pictures are hardly the first piece of evidence that the Baum firm treats homeowners shabbily — or that it uses dubious legal practices to do so. It is under investigation by the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. It recently agreed to pay $2 million to resolve an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether the firm had “filed misleading pleadings, affidavits, and mortgage assignments in the state and federal courts in New York.” (In the press release announcing the settlement, Baum acknowledged only that “it occasionally made inadvertent errors.”)
MFY Legal Services, which defends homeowners, and Harwood Feffer, a large class-action firm, have filed a class-action suit claiming that Steven J. Baum has consistently failed to file certain papers that are necessary to allow for a state-mandated settlement conference that can lead to a modification. Judge Arthur Schack of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn once described Baum’s foreclosure filings as “operating in a parallel mortgage universe, unrelated to the real universe.” (My source told me that one Baum employee dressed up as Judge Schack at a previous Halloween party.)
I saw the firm operate up close when I wrote several columns about Lilla Roberts, a 73-year-old homeowner who had spent three years in foreclosure hell. Although she had a steady income and was a good candidate for a modification, the Baum firm treated her mercilessly.
When I called a press spokesman for Steven J. Baum to ask about the photographs, he sent me a statement a few hours later. “It has been suggested that some employees dress in … attire that mocks or attempts to belittle the plight of those who have lost their homes,” the statement read. “Nothing could be further from the truth.” It described this column as “another attempt by The New York Times to attack our firm and our work.”
I encourage you to look at the photographs with this column on the Web. Then judge for yourself the veracity of Steven J. Baum’s denial.
This turns my stomach….what callous, cruel excuses for human beings. They better be on the lookout for Karma, because what you give is what you get!
Pres. Obama is such a DAD!!! I just love how protective he is of the children. With the little fireman, he was concerned that he didn’t have a Halloween basket, and asked if any of the other kid’s were his sister or brother. But he also made sure that he gave the little guy some candy. And he made sure the little shy girl knew that her mommy was close by. He coaxed her up to get her candy. POTUS and FLOTUS are the coolest Presidential couple ever.
And Grandma Robinson has just having a blast. a black bunny!! I LOVE IT!! I’m sure there are some older single men who would love to have her as a snuggle bunny!!
I noticed President Obama’s gentle touch with my little fireman whom I had spotted earlier. I saw the little fireman’s dad was right there to grab him after he passed by, but I was touched by President Obama’s natural, caring concern for the well-being of those little kids. You can’t fake that spontaneous reaction. President Obama has a depth of character unmatched by anyone, imho.
Grandma Robinson is most definitely a ‘honey bunny.’ She looks fabulous!
These are beautiful. Thanks so much, Chipsticks for making this a beautiful presentation with our POTUS and FLOTUS representing our nation and caring so much for our children of this nation. Love and peace they both bring to the center of our lives as decent human beings.
We are so blessed to be in a country where the leader cares, loves, and respect the human life in a gentle and respectful manner. Thank you, Mr. President.HZ
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