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ZombieLaw studies zombies in law, politics and current events.

Cinderella’s choices are made for corporate profit and political manipulation

AP: “See ya, Cinderella. Lily James is now a zombie slayer

The fairy-tale princess and zombie-killer have more in common than it might seem, James said.

“Both of them are so strong and independent and fierce,” she said. “And to get to play women like that is just so wonderful because it doesn’t always happen and they don’t always exist in film

Lily James from zombie Downton Abbey was at ComicCon to promote her upcoming movie is Zombie Pride and Prejudice. And if we inverse her colors she’s not only ready for the role of Z-Girl, she’s also making a pun on the “white-blue dress” meme (which I still believe was created as viral propaganda to promote the Cinderella movie release):

zombie cinderella lily james blue white gold black

All of this is part of an effort to revitalize the Disney princess as feminist heroine. See ET:”Is ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ the Feminist Zombie Movie We’ve Been Dreaming Of?” by John Boone. And recall ZombieLaw:”At midnight, Cinderella becomes a sexy zombie” discussing the trademark dispute over the product “Zombie Cinderella” because Disney insists it own all things Cinderella.

If Cinderella hires a divorce lawyer, can she keep her blue dress? See “An Open Letter to Cinderella: How to Divorce Prince Charming And Keep Some Money“, James J. Sexton is a NY divorce lawyer who has been writing funny letters to Disney Princesses on his law office blog and now a HuffPost column. He’s already written open letters to many of Disney’s Princesses: Jasmine, Ariel, and Snow.

Meanwhile, in politics, Jared Polis reminds us to focus on “The zombies of our political system

A corporation is no more a person than a zombie is. Corporations don’t have hopes and dreams. They don’t have free will, compassion, or a conscience. They can’t vote, they aren’t citizens, their hearts don’t beat, and they will never fall in love. They are financial entities formed by shareholders for the sole mission of pursuing profit; in fact their directors have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that the company only pursues profits.

Corporations serve an important economic purpose, but they aren’t people.

Corporations… ya know, like Disney. More from Rep. Polis:

The Democracy for All Amendment is a proposed amendment to the Constitution that simply states that the government may distinguish between natural persons and corporations for the purposes of campaign finance laws, and that the government may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money in our election system.

YES. And not only about elections. The media is constantly filling our minds with loads of commercial crap and it’s not clear what is promoting what. Yes, politics are tainted with election money, but so is all our discourse. All of our stories are loaded with commercial speech framing our every thought. And some of us are seeing it in different colors.

Consider the new movie “Inside Out”, a Disney-Pixar production. Alva Noë has written an extensive review at NPR: “The Awkward Synthesis That Is ‘Inside Out’“:

I’m surprised that Docter and the brilliant creators at Pixar don’t seem to appreciate that that there is something downright terrifying about this nihilistic conception of ourselves as zombie puppets living in a confabulated universe.

See also “You Have to Be Conscious to Deny Consciousness, and Other Conundrums“:

Would you have a rational discussion with a zombie? Materialists are forced into the position of discussing philosophy and science with the walking dead, since under their terms we are all that. Unless rationality is a mindful concept — unless we are more than atoms in motion — that’s the logical result of denying mind and intelligence.

Some people worry about Dennett‘s dangerous ideas and Drezner’s concerns about apocalyptic thinking. More recently at Vice: “Why You Really Should Be Afraid of the Zombie Apocalypse” by Brian Merchant. I myself worry about movies that present the homunculus fallacy. Why teach kids that there are little people inside their heads? It’s fun to think it, and there is something that instinctively feels right about it as a way of explaining our own reasoning system particularly when indecisive and when we are torn between our emotions. The NYTimes Sunday Review says “Empathy Is Actually a Choice” (but is choice a choice?).

The classic cartoon imagery of the shoulder angel, derived directly from Marlowe’s Faust with the argument of the good and bad angel. See also, “Donald’s Better Self” (1938):

We’ve moved with Nietzsche well beyond good and evil and have expanded even beyond Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences, but we’re still making Faustian bargains. And despite what the corporations want us to believe, there are not little people in our heads. There is no board of directors inside our heads deciding our consciousness.

The human body is a fundamentally different kind of corporation. Still an assembly of parts but not with this kind of intent. Our bodies cells are producing our experience of consciousness in response to stimuli. The experience of consciousness is an illusion produced by our bodies, and while it may feel like there are little people in our head, there are not. The people are outside our heads, they are around us, our family, friends and neighbors. Little people in your head may be a useful story for certain purposes, maybe to teach some self-control and some basic decision-making skills. Maybe to help them become better docile consumers?

Intent is a social construct. We assign it to ourselves as means of responsibility for our actions. There are not other little people pulling the strings. With corporations there are. Maybe they want us to think we are just like corporations so that we see that corporations are people too?

See also Dennett’s recent talk on responsible agency: “Is Free Will an Illusion? What Can Cognitive Science Tell Us?

And as Variety magazine’s Peter Debruge wrote of “Inside Out”:

A stunningly original concept that will not only delight and entertain the companys massive worldwide audience, but also promises to forever change the way people think about the way people think.

Change the way we think? Really?

Bill Bonner wants to know why we don’t honor Sam Walton with a statue? (remember ugly zombie statue of Lucille Ball?), Bonner has recently written: “Why Hillary Won’t Win the White House“:

Just look around Washington — or any major city for that matter. Do you find statues of Henry Ford? Where is the marble bust of Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin? Where is the pile honouring Sam Walton? Instead, you find plenty of granite spent to honour scallywags and scoundrels — Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR, to name just a few.

Zombies, you’ll recall, are people and institutions that live at the expense of others.

Are the modern American heroes the efficiency makers? Systematize labor, medicate the population, undercut prices, wipe-out small towns?

And of China and Greece:

These two troubles — one in Europe, the other in Asia — have a similar theme. They are skirmishes in what history may come to see as the Zombie Wars.

Breitbart too, wonders if it’s a zombie war: “Are We at the Beginning of a New Cyber War, Sparked by Greece?:

DDOS… the attacks, rudimentary as they are, could easily bring down U.S. corporates and government infrastructure which have struggled to keep up with the millions of computers attached to Chinese botnets (networks of ‘zombie’ computers) which are linked to the attacks.

Now that the Greece situation is cooling with more bailouts, will we remember the scare of market crashes in China and NYSE and United Airlines all on the same day? Urgently the DHS and White House Press took the news channels to tell us that it was not a “nefarious” or “malicious” actor. So what was it? A zombie?

In his next column (because I’ve been slow to blog), Bonner writes, “Don’t Feed the Debt Zombies“:

The hidden story — and the real story — is that these are all clashes, battles, and skirmishes in the Great Zombie War.… the way the news media tells the story you’d think the politicians were protecting workers from greedy employers. But it really just helps the zombie politicians keep the masses in line.

So, in conclusion, I’ve mentioned both Rep. Jared Polis and Bill Bonner many times in this ZombieLaw blog, and yet somehow they’ve never had a proper zombie portrait, so here’s to the Cinderella Men, be fierce, get that money out of politics (by returning to the gold standard? -hey, that’s not gold, it’s black!?):

zombie rep jared poliszombie bill bonner draus

Jeb Bush: “zombie economy”

Jeb said “zombie economy”.

Well ok, he didn’t so much say it as write it on his campaign website, and probably he didn’t even write it himself, but he approved the message, right? See on his site (and on Medium): “Getting Out Of The Zombie Economy“:

Barack Obama’s policies have given us a zombie economy where no matter what else happens, most Americans are falling behind.

and also available in Spanish:

Las políticas de Barack Obama nos han proporcionado una economía zombi donde no importa lo que pase, la mayoría de los estadounidenses se están quedando atrás.

As I’ve written before when politicians issue press releases that’s the same as saying it for the purposes of this blog tracking political rhetoric. So Governor Bush, here’s a zombie portrait:

zombie jeb bush

Recall many prior mentions of “zombie economy“.

Meanwhile, it’s Jeb’s campaign that seems like the zombie, so it’s probably wise for them to get out ahead and use the word before it is used to label him for other reasons.

Hat tips to: USATODAY: “Bush bemoans Obama’s ‘zombie economy’” by David Jackson and to the Washington Post: “Jeb Bush attacks the Obama-Clinton ‘zombie economy’” by Jennifer Rubin AND “Pushing for 4 percent economic growth, Jeb Bush faults Obama’s ‘zombie economy’” by Ed O’Keefe

Judge Kopf admits he looks zombie – and the rest of the Federal Judiciary?

Federal Judge Richard Kopf writes the blog “Hercules and the Umpire“. He is noteworthy because he is a federal judge and because he is not afraid to write about himself on the internet. Either of those things are noteworthy in themselves but he’s both, also his recent posts are particularly noteworthy for zombie fans.

On June 20th he posted “Picking a jury when the judge looks like the walking dead” in which he confesses that he watches AMC’s “Walking Dead”:

I confess something else to you. Joan and I watch The Walking Dead. What’s worse, we like it.

And he also confesses his own case of shingles, including a gnarly picture and a story about telling a jury about his condition; particularly that

The virus cannot go air bound.

With sympathies to Judge Kopf and hopes for speedy recovery, however, he doesn’t quite look like a zombie. Here, this is what he would look like as a zombie here at ZombieLaw:

judge richard kopf zombie

In fact, Judge Kopf did properly earn this zombie portrait because of he did use “zombie” in a 2010 federal court opinion on a Social Security appeal (see Astrue zombies):

JONATHAN M. CARNEY, Plaintiff, v. MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant, 4:09CV3043

2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7616, January 28, 2010

Kopf wrote:

Carney also “just quit” showing up for scheduled appointments at Community Mental Health, and was a “no show” for his appointments on June 30, 2005 and July 20, 2005. TR 178-179, 238. Although he testified he stopped attending treatments because Seroquel made him feel like a “zombie,” Carney never contacted his mental health provider to report any adverse side effects and never requested a change of medication. TR 238-39.

He put the “zombie” in quotes, so it is presumably from testimony or transcripts or briefs or who knows, by his Honor (or perhaps his clerk) chose to put that quote in the opinion. And now we know he also watches “Walking Dead”. Hmmm…

Meanwhile back to his current blog, just two posts before his “Walking Dead” reference, his Honor blogged a response to the horrific racial-terror church-attack in Charleston: “Evil by the numbers–I don’t want to write today, fuck you“:

I am consumed by the thought of evil.

Is it good for a judge to be “consumed” with “evil”?

The judge then cites a dubious statistics that 2% of any population is psychopathic. Now, I have not read the book cited but his Honor, nor am I prepared to provide any detailed challenge to the claim, but, I would suggest that neuroscience is probably not the right paradigm for this type of problem. Of course, zombies do like brains but there are also social ills, not merely genetic. The idea that “any population” would produce the same percentage of psychopaths is likely a function of bad statistical assumptions about populations, or a deficient definition of psychopathy. Our society is grounded in all persons being equal, not some discardable two percent. In this way brain science dehumanizes people.

I’ve mentioned Judge Kopf’s blog a few times before. He takes an admirable risk by writing about himself online (see my own writing on ““why zombie blogging is dangerous”) and thus he gives new insight into the persons who are the federal law. It is important to understand people as individuals, to see more about who they are are and how they are unique. Today’s post on the judge’s blog addresses Justice Kennedy as in a letter as if they are pals, “Dear Tony“, and questions the Supreme Court Justice on his references to Dostoyevsky and Dickens. Kopf would prefer clearer guidance for the lower courts to apply or instead he advises:

please zip the pie hole shut

Meanwhile this morning, Justice Kagan’s majority opinion in KIMBLE ET AL. v. MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT, LLC, cites Spider-Man’s great responsibility (“stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: “Spider- Man,” p. 13 (1962)”).

Yesterday was fathers’ day, and because The Zombies sang “Time of the Season“: “what’s your name? who’s your daddy?”, the ontological question. Who are our federal judges? Where do they draw their ideas? Shall they get their ideas from Dickens or Stan Lee or AMC? Are they umpires, or Hercules, or are they zombie?

Is it only coincidence that Judge Posner has nine theories of judicial behavior, in his 2010 book “How Judges Think” and the Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science (Güzeldere, 2006) has nine types of zombie?

Posner’s nine:

The theories are the attitudinal, the strategic, the sociological, the psychological, the economic, the organizational, the pragmatic, the phenomenological, and, of course, what I am calling legalist theory. All theories have merit and feed into the theory of decision making that I develop in this book. But all are overstated or incomplete.

Güzeldere has a two variable classification scheme that compares Identity (as Behavioral, Functional or Physical) and Possibility as (Logical, Metaphysical, or Natural):

The ‘zombie scorecard’: nine distinct notions of zombie, classified according to the respects in which the postulated creature is the same as a human being (the ‘identity’ parameter) and the kind of possible existence the creature is granted (the ‘possibility’ parameter). (Adapted from [Polger T (2000) Natural Minds. Ph.D. Dissertation, Duke University.].)

Güzeldere nine zombie chart

There are, of course, nine SCOTUS justices; Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg, Thomas and Breyer.


I’m not sure how one would classify Judge Kopf under either Posner’s classification of judicial theories or Güzeldere’s classification of zombies. I’m not sure it matters. Any 3×3 table, created simply by two variables with trivalent conditions (two poles and a middle, like for example a scale of liberal-conservative-moderate paired with a scale of priorities social-economic-mixed), would create a set of nine variations.

Woohoo nine variations, so it must be important! The Beatles sang:

Number 9, number 9, number 9…

999, 666. See also “The Nine” by Jeffrey Toobin, aka CNN’s political shill. Any jack off lawyer can write a blog or even a book, but it’s still sort of amazing when it’s a federal judge (or even their clerk). Toobin clerked for only a short time (for J. Edward Lumbard, Jr. on the Second Circuit), but even a short stint near the federal bench is important. These are special people, a chosen few… touched by zombie? It’s not “air bound” it’s in the texts! Be careful which texts you read, be they baseball, Greek mythology, or zombies, they are invading your thoughts.

See more at the ZombieLaw tag: Federal Court.

zombie foreclosures are still bank fraud

Zombie foreclosures have been a consistent theme in this blog for a long time. Most of my recent posts have focused on this topic because it comes in big bursts and it’s just too much to tweet. This does not mean that “zombie foreclosures” is the most important current zombie meme, it’s just the one that takes the most space to explain. I still regularly tweet LOTS of zombie references and if you are not following the @LawZombie twitter account then you are missing a lot of important zombie associations.

When RealtyTrac reports, all the news gets on the story with zombie quotes from Daren Blomquist pasted across local news. And note that this round comes with just a few days left in the New York Legislative calendar for the 2015 year (you didn’t realize the year was over already, did ya?). See WHEC: “New York State Exposed: Final week of legislative session for state lawmakers” by Jennifer Mobilia

The Abandoned Properties legislation (last year called the zombie kill bill), is still not passed. Of course, there are other important zombie-related issues that are still not addressed by the legislature either (drug law reform or nonhuman rights… anyone? – I guess we are leaving those issues to courts while yelling at the legislature about foreclosures? because? banks!!!).

And even if it’s true that abandoned homes are a sizable chunk of the foreclosure problem, this legislation would still do nothing to solve the majority of foreclosures: most of them are not abandoned. Many people are still being screwed by the bank crisis, back when we bailed out the banks and not the homeowners!!!

Remember, “Zombie Foreclosures are Bank Fraud” !!! It’s still true, perhaps now more than ever. And it’s really hard to tell which politicians are in bed with them.

Even the proposed New York legislation championed by AG Schneiderman is imperfect; sure it’s got teeth to fine banks but what does it do to protect homeowners? Special foreclosure proceeding? What about forced negotiations? Principal reductions and fair market loan modifications. Worse, the Governor seems content to make handshake ‘best practice’ deals with the bigger banks while ignoring there’s much bigger problem. So while we debate zombie homes, the real zombies are still struggling: recall there’s at least three kinds of zombie debt.

daren blomquistzombie schneidermanzombie governor cuomo

Benzinga: “Zombie Foreclosures: Is Apocalypse Getting Better Or Worse?” by Bill Stoller:

On June 11, RealtyTrac published an update: “Homeowner Vacated “Zombie” Foreclosures Down 10 Percent From A Year Ago in Q2 2015,” written by Jennifer Von Pohlmann.

According to RealtyTrac, “The total number of zombie foreclosures was down 11 percent from previous quarter and down 10 percent from Q2 2014.”

However, that statistic gives little solace to homeowners in neighborhoods with vacant homes still being pummeled by a slow-motion wave of foreclosures

And from CNBC: “Banks annihilating ‘zombie’ foreclosures” by Diana Olick:

“They’ve been able to stay in that home and maybe fight foreclosure for three, four, five years, and now finally the bank is coming back with all their ducks in a row, the proper documentation, and the homeowner is seeing the writing on the wall that I’m going to have to leave and move on with my life,” said RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist.

What? No!!!! They don’t have to leave until the foreclosure is done!! Not until the title officially changes! Where did the owners go?

Maybe the banks are actually back with their “ducks in a row”, or maybe they are just pushing shit. It might look like a duck and quack like a duck but if it doesn’t meet the formalities of mortgage securities law then it still might not be a duck. Are the banks trying to push debt that has been illegally robo-signed? Mortgages that weren’t signed by people with knowledge, were they robo-signed by zombies? Maybe some of these notes should dissolve as a matter of law? And without a full process of discovery and some serious creativity from foreclosure defense lawyers, how will we ever know?

MarketWatch: “Zombie foreclosures climb in L.A. area, other major cities” by Ruth Mantell:

The number of zombie foreclosures are rising in the Los Angeles area and other major cities

“The longer the foreclosure process drags on, the more likely the homeowner will end up leaving. In some of these cities you have underlying economic difficulty as well, which makes it more likely a homeowner will fall into a foreclosure in the first place, and that they may leave for greener pastures,” Blomquist said.

Where are these “greener pastures”? Why would they go there if they could continue living in the house for free? Some homeowners actually died, and some found work elsewhere, but then they are paying rent there? If the house is habitable wouldn’t it be cheaper to live there, even rent it, until the bank takes ownership? Where are the people who own these houses? Sure, some homes were destroyed by weather and insurance companies are to blame too (see last week’s 60 minutes segment “The Storm After the Storm” about insurance fraud for Sandy homes) But, my guess is there are lots of homeowners that want to negotiate with their bank but the banks are pretending they had no fault in the crisis. From the bank’s perspective the crisis was caused by defaulting homeowners who they want to treat like zombies instead of people who were hurt by the banking system itself.

AMNewYork: “Zombie Houses of NYC” by: Cristian Salazar:

When reached by phone later on, the owner, Garth Johnson, said the house was not in foreclosure and that he lived there. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said. “I realize you are definitely not talking to me. We have a piece of wood on the side of the house. I did not do the siding yet.”

“It’s not abandoned,” he continued, adding he had to go. “This is just a little difficult to deal with right now.”

there are potentially tens of thousands of homeowners facing the peril of losing their homes

a loan modification, saving his family from being out on the street

Where is the legislation to force loan modifications?! Why didn’t HAMP work for so many homeowners? Why aren’t states instituting more HAMP-like programs? Will $1000/day fines encourage negotiation? Well, they can’t hurt, but what rights will be given up in special foreclosures? I honestly don’t know. But the problem is not going away…

Gothamist “Report: NYC Is Facing A Zombie House Invasion

LongIslandExchange: “Assemblyman McDonough: Zombie Properties a Detriment to Long Island, Legislature Needs to Act“:

Assemblyman Dave McDonough (R,C,I-Merrick) today called on legislative leaders in the Assembly to address the growing problem of zombie properties

said the Legislature needs to act immediately before the problem escalates further.

“Parts of my district have some of the highest instances of zombie properties per one thousand compared to the rest of the state,” McDonough said.

Newsday: “Number of abandoned zombie houses continues to grow“:

Suffolk County has the fourth highest number of these homes in the nation, climbing from seventh place just three months ago. Nassau moved from ninth place to eighth place.

It’s not just impoverished neighborhoods, see WIVB4: “Zombie home” exists in neighborhood of trophy homes” Al Vaughters

And read this editorial from AMNewYork: “Get creative to provide homes and reduce zombie houses

In New York‘s neighboring states:

NJdotcom: “N.J.’s ‘zombie foreclosure’ rate highest in U.S.” by Erin O’Neill:

The number of zombie foreclosures in New Jersey spiked by nearly 40 percent from a year ago

And in Philadelphia blaming the courts, BizJournal: Zombie foreclosures jump in Phila. market” Patricia Madej:

Pennsylvania’s judicial foreclosure process, which requires court involvement, takes an average of about 724 days, Bloomquist said.

“I think really where this falls – there’s responsibility on both sides,” he said. “The homeowners should be researching …. and banks would help if they were providing information in the foreclosure notice.”

Dispatch: “‘Zombie’ foreclosures more than a quarter in central Ohio“:

In central Ohio…percentage is higher than the national average

Big change in Zombie foreclosures in Dayton as housing market improves” by Olivia Barrow

The number of so-called ‘zombie foreclosures’ decreased 24 percent year over year in Dayton… This is a good sign for the Dayton housing market, because these so-called ‘zombie foreclosures’ tend to drag down nearby property values… Dayton’s decrease bucks the trend

ChicagoTribune: “ Fewer ‘zombie’ foreclosures affecting Chicago area ” by Mary Ellen Podmolik:

RealtyTrac defines a zombie foreclosure as a vacant home that is actively in the foreclosure process.

Maybe we should also question how RealtyTrac knows if the house is vacant. If I recall correctly they use postal change of address forms amongst other methods. That methodology seems somewhat flawed, but ok, who am I to question.

InMan: “Plague of ‘zombie’ foreclosures declines” Erik Pisor:

it’s in a foreclosing bank’s best interest to have a home occupied during the process.

Who am I to question that either? The banks really want us to believe it, so it must be true, right?

Meanwhile, in Florida, the news is pushing optimism this week, maybe because some judges down there are finally starting to get more involved(?), and because the market prices are improving so bargain-hunters are starting to buy them again.

MiamiHerald: “‘Zombie’ foreclosures fall in South Florida ” by Nicholas Nehamas:

so-called “zombie” foreclosures — fell 46 percent in South Florida over the last year.

PalmBeachPost: “Number of zombie foreclosures plunges” by Jeff Ostrowski:

The typical zombie foreclosure trades for a 22 percent discount to the average occupied foreclosure.

Boarded up and overgrown, “zombie foreclosures” are the bane of neighbors — but a boon to bargain hunters

See also in PalmBeachPost: “Zombie foreclosures are disappearing” Bill DiPaolo and Jeff Ostrowski

And in HeraldTribune: “Far fewer ‘zombie’ foreclosures in Florida” by Josh Salman:

“Prices have increased so much that, in many cases, the value of these homes are now at or near the mortgage debt associated with these properties,” said Jack McCabe, a Florida real estate consultant. “The banks were just sitting back and waiting, trying to keep their costs down until they could recoup full price.”

Tampa Bay Times: “Tampa Bay ‘zombie’ home problem easing” by Times Staff Writer:

Tampa Bay’s zombie apocalypse isn’t quite as scary as it once was.

“it is in a foreclosing bank’s best interest to have a home occupied during the foreclosure process and also demonstrates how these zombies are contributing to blight in neighborhoods across the country,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.

The Tampa Bay Times just last month published “Beware the zombie (houses) still menacing Tampa Bay neighborhoods” by Susan Taylor Martin, already hinting at the optimism:

As cases are resolved, zombie houses return to the land of the living.

And, elsewhere:

Vegas Inc: “‘Zombie’ foreclosures in the Las Vegas Valley are up 16 percent this year” by Eli Segall

Washington Business Journal: “Nobody’s home: 1 in 4 Washington-area foreclosures is vacant” by Jeff Clabaugh

Finally, a couple new ideas:

In Jacksonville: “Jacksonville City Council Passes Bill To Help Fight ‘Zombie’ Houses” by Lindsey Kilbride:

Legal Aid is partnering with the city to kill the zombies, so to speak.

Councilman Warren A. Jones is leading efforts to do something about not only zombie foreclosures

a bill the City Council passed this week could help. Bill 2015-340 would allow Legal Aid to better track and identify zombie properties.

And from Shelbyville News: “Programs available to help homeowners” …they are giving grants to homeowners for repairs!!! Now, that sounds like a smart idea, if only it forced some loan modifications too!

tomorrow la la la la

The movie “Tomorrowland” (about the Disney theme park) got some “zombie” press. I haven’t seen the movie yet but thought I would comment on some of the press.

CLTampa: “Tomorrowland: The future’s so bright you might miss the shade” by Keven Renken:

If recent movies are any indication, the future is not going to be pretty. Apocalyptic, dystopian cinema has actually been with us for decades, but in the last couple of decades it has achieved an unprecedented prominence. In the future we’ll be forced to sacrifice our young, devastated by zombie attacks, or destroyed by killer robots – and that just scratches the surface. The outcome does not look promising.

Meanwhile in TechCentral: “Tomorrowland: Futurobama” by Lance Harris:

It’s a well-meaning rebuff to the sermons about dystopia and climate catastrophe in schools and news media and to popular culture’s tales of nuclear annihilation, zombie apocalypse and genocidal artificial intelligences. The future, the filmmakers argue with the subtlety of Pollyanna with a megaphone, isn’t what it used to be. It’s only bleak, because we feed our fears for a terrifying destiny rather than building on our hopes for a better one.

Right, because our fears only exist if we feed them. As FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Of course, less than a decade later, he would take America to war. Which is more frightening, war (which is hell) or a world in which no one is willing to fight evil (because we are beyond good and evil)?

Disney has been accused of harboring Nazi ideas before. It’s sort of part and parcel to the clean, automatic, orderliness of it all. It’s a utopia of clocks and animated machines where the Hall of Presidents is just another haunted house.

See the StraightDope: “Was Walt Disney a fascist?” and Wikipedia: “Education for Death

Zombies might be expected to fit best in Adventureland or Frontierland, both are classically infested with native injuns (sometimes cannibals), and both traditionally exist in worlds of low-tech (the result of traveling outside the colonial empire, not all that different than a post-apocalyptic world). Still, perhaps the most pernicious of Disnefied fantasy is Tomorrowland, where the future is sanitized. Here we might more typically expect tropes of robots and aliens but it also an apt place to find AstroZombies (not to be confused with Astrue zombies, though those are likely to be abundant in the future too).

Still, perhaps the critics are reading it backwards, perhaps shows like “Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” are actually not dystopian fantasy but utopian. Like Robinson Crusoe or Davy Crockett, zombie fiction presents satisfaction to the longing for a simpler world, not the simplicity of automatic life, but rather the simplicity of hard survival. Today’s modern world is already more advanced than the original Tomorrowland but with these advances come a cold rational-but-arbitrary bureaucratic loss of individuality. We long for a time when human hearts mattered.

In Tomorrowland the only dragons are imaginations’ Figment, no actual dragons to fear, no real fear at all, except for the terror that the system might stop, the absolute terror of being freed from the machine. Is that the terror it portends to be, or would it be salvation for many zombie-cogs who have forgotten what it is to be human? Tomorrowland asks us to imagine the joy of a perfected future machine, but engineered perfection may not be what it promises.

Consider BioWorld: “Utopia, dystopia: Separating truth from fiction in bioethics discussions” by Jennifer Boggs:

There are no shortages of novels, movies and television shows featuring threats of global annihilation – zombie viruses, meteors hurtling through space, nuclear warfare – or opening up post-apocalyptic landscapes laid waste following a collision of unchecked scientific and technologic advances with the those worst of human traits – greed, irresponsibility, megalomania.

Boggs continues:

we all use such pop culture references as a communication shorthand for describing often-complex ideas.

As NYU bioethicist Arthur Caplan noted at last month’s BEINGS meeting, “there are people convinced that some scientist out there is going to apply CRISPR for eugenics purposes.”

I’m not saying we should give up our science fiction pursuits… reading and watching what-if fiction can still impart philosophical lessons, such as it being a good idea to proceed cautiously with new discoveries and technologies.

Caution: we know not what we do. Luke 23:34

Consider implications for the anthropocene, and see “Geo-Engineering Doesn’t Reduce Long-Term Risk” by James Kwak, associate professor at University of Connecticut School of Law:

Even if we stipulate that geo-engineering has a, say, 90 percent chance of solving all the significant problems of climate change — an estimate that is almost certainly way too high — who wants to take that risk?

The future is coming, can we control it, should we try? What else would we do? Psychoanalysis might remind us, from the work of Eric Berne, that inside each of us is a ‘little fascist’ saboteur.


Finally, see also PennLive version of today’s Paul Krugman column: “In Europe, partying like it’s 1914 all over again: Paul Krugman” paired with this picture of “stencil graffiti mocking German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens” with Mickey Mouse ears:

stencil graffiti disney Angela Merkel in Athens

NY Zombie properties update

This post is overdue and is therefore too long. Since my last post there has been a lot of discussion of zombie foreclosures in New York. In fact, the same morning that I wrote the last post, the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced (via press release) that there was a deal with the banks. That deal is nowhere near as strong as the proposed legislation was but it does potentially alleviate a part of the problem.

See Newsday: “Banks, lenders agree to better maintain abandoned ‘zombie house’ properties in New York” by Carl MacGowan and Denise M. Bonilla:

“Zombie properties can bring down the economic health and safety of entire neighborhoods,” Cuomo said in the release.

As far as I can tell, the Governor’s “zombie properties” press announcement is the first time he has publicly said “zombie”. Does a press release count as saying it? I think for politicians it does. So here’s a zombie Governor Cuomo:

zombie governor cuomo

Incidentally, that same morning, major media also reported a “zombie” quote from Prince Harry. I am not sure how much those two people really have in common but it was a sort of humorous juxtaposition of two celebrity-sons of power, now both with their own varieties of current power (as in The Zombies song, “Time of the Season“: “what’s your name, who’s your daddy?” – zombie father’s day is coming).

zombie prince harry

The Prince’s quote is a reference to Africa, gardening, and his new baby niece, all three are zombie-related ideas. Price Harry hadn’t met his new niece Charlotte yet. He was just back from Africa, and involved in a gardening project, so zombies were on his mind, see Telegraph: “Prince Harry visits charity garden at Chelsea Flower Show“:

“This evening will be quite busy. I’ll probably be like a walking zombie. It will be great. I haven’t seen my grandma for a while, or my grandfather.

It’s usually the newborn’s parents who are the walking zombies (from sleep deprivation) or maybe that was the prince’s way of referencing the need to behave more appropriately when around the family. The bulk of the rest of this post will be about the New York foreclosure issue, however, it seemed noteworthy to mention the royal celebrity not just because of the coincidental timing but also because the royals are perhaps a kind of original western zombie power, made so nearly 800 years ago. Consider this great article in WSJ about Magna Carta: “Magna Carta: Eight Centuries of Liberty” by Daniel Hannan in which Hannan argues:

Magna Carta conceived freedom and property as two expressions of the same principle.

So now back to New York zombie properties. As I said above, I believe the Governor’s press release was his first quote referring to “zombie” anything. Given how hard the Attorney General has pushed this RealtyTrac vocabulary, I find it hard to believe that the Governor hasn’t said it yet before (at least in private?) but I haven’t seen it. Since this quote is merely a press release from his office, it’s possible he’s still never said it out loud.

When you are politician, does a press release count as him actually having said it? Fascinating research by Professor Drew Margolin at Cornell University, would likely consider this as Cuomo saying it for purposes of analysis of rhetorical followership. In terms of following the political power maybe that makes sense, and it seems clear that the RealtyTrac, the Attorney General and Newsday were successfully in pushing “zombie” into the Governor’s vocabulary. Cuomo’s office seems to be following that but this tells us very little about the Governor’s own consciousness. Does he think of abandoned properties as zombies, and if so what does he think zombies are? What are the implications that result from this metaphoric comparison?

Recall that humor can spread information but also has a danger of undercutting the message. Recall recent research about using zombies for spreading information. But consider this article in The National: “No business quite like the mockbuster business” by Agence France-Presse. Zombie mockery is where’s it’s at these days. The world prefers to pay attention to celebrity and humor.

The Associated Press version (available at FoxBusiness) begins:

New York regulators say 11 lenders have agreed to regularly monitor and maintain vacant properties in an effort to combat neighborhood blight.

It should say they have agreed in an effort to hold-off potentially painful legislation. It sure is an interesting coincidence that this press release came the same day that I jokingly suggested we could kill zombie properties with fire (in response to an arsonist who did just that). It looks like I wasn’t the only one thinking it was time for a better strategy. The legislation would have included significant fines on the banks. So instead, the banks and governor have reached a cozy deal to assuage the potential for populist fire. Sure, they’ll participate in these best practices to prevent avoid legislation with $1000 daily fines.

Mortgage Daily: “NY Foreclosure War Rages as Servicers, State Team Up” by Lisa D. Burden

WestFairOnline: “Lenders agree to register, maintain zombie properties” by John Golden

Legislators, don’t let up! There are still banks that will not voluntarily cooperate and more importantly, please remember: zombie foreclosures aren’t just vacant houses. We don’t just need legislation for the vacant homes but for all the potential foreclosures on people who were nearly destroyed by the financial crisis. Most of those people are not dead, they might not be home, the homes might be falling apart because maybe no one has any financial incentive to fix them, but these homeowners still exist somewhere. If it was a windfall for them, I’m sure they would return. Instead we just keep bailing out the banks and keep screwing the zombies.

At WBFO, Mike Desmond’s article: “Concerns raised over abandoned properties” reminds us:

It’s a result of the foreclosure crisis which began seven years ago as the residential housing market crumbled. The usual process is to foreclose. For lending institutions, the problem is that means they have to take over and maintain the buildings and many don’t want to.

So, since the banks don’t seem to want the houses, maybe we could just wipe the debt clean slate and give the homeowners back their homes. Those are the people we should want to help. Some towns claim they can’t find those people. First of all, the banks have their social security numbers. Second of all, give those people a right to their homes, unencumbered by the now unreasonable debt, and I bet they’ll all show up in droves. Right now, the owners can’t afford to sell and the banks don’t want to claim possession. It’s a stalemate until the houses crumble. Instead, before the house is a blight, make the banks negotiate with the homeowners before the house falls into disrepair.

It’s underwater, blame the banks. Their robo-signing exuberance bubbled without control. The bubble burst, government bailed out the banks but not the people. Expand HAMP and force the banks to negotiate to today’s market values. Instead, the banks can afford to hold assets on their books and not sell for centuries. While we wait, the pain is on the other neighbors. See in Syracuse at 2111 S. Geddes St., the neighbor is repairing the shared garage roof for $8,000, and in Niagara Falls at 560 College Ave. the neighbors take turns mowing the lawn, and in Cheektowaga at 18 Stratford Place, and in Newburgh at 187 Carson Ave.. These homes need new owners.

Meanwhile, recall from the previous post, Indiana is dealing with it somewhat differently, see further analysis in NMP: “New York and Indiana Take Different Approaches to Zombie Properties” by Phil Hall. And in Chicago: “Cook County’s Land Bank is betting on Austin” by Michael Romain.

I don’t know what the best solution for the future of the world is, but we need a solution. See Newsday: “Zombie home agreement with banks a good step, but state legislation needed, officials say” by Denise M. Bonilla and Carl MacGowan.

zombie denise bonilla newsdayzombie carl macgowan newsday

Newsday deserves some substantial credit for the popularization of “zombie houses on Long Island” with their exposé (along with News12 Long Island) of vacant house pictures about 2 months ago. They also provided significant coverage of the AG’s visit. It’s amazing how a little bit of news can sometimes stir action. Truthfully, we don’t need legislation if we can scare the banks to change their behaviors. It’s the behaviors that matter not the laws, but the law can last longer than the public reaction. Attention to an issue can sometimes be enough but we might still want to legislate to preserve this deal for the future. This issue is far from dead.

Some other possible solutions: eminent domain, community land banks, altering the foreclosure process.

MortgageDaily: “NY Town Using Eminent Domain on Zombie Properties

PostStar: “City to use eminent domain to pressure banks to clean up foreclosure properties

Buffalo News: “Land bank announces completion of first ‘zombie’ house renovation in Lackawanna” by Harold McNeil


Wall Street Journal: “New York Regulator Seeks Faster Foreclosures” by Joe Light

zombie superintendent lawsky

zombie assemblyman hawley zombie assemblyman goldferber
And see:

WBTA190: “Hawley Supports Combat of “Zombie Properties”” by Evan Anstey

RochesterHomepage: “Rochester residents are fed up with “Zombie Properties”” by Ashley Zilka

NewYorkLawJournal: “State Banking Regulator Calls for Foreclosure Changes” by Joel Stashenko

BuffaloNews: “Continuing wave of ‘zombie homes’ necessitates action by State Legislature

NiagaraGazette: “EDITORIAL: We’re all for attacking problem of ‘zombie’ houses

NiagaraGazette: “EDITORIAL: It takes a village to fight blight

WGRZ: “State Legislation Would Crack Down on Zombie Homes

RockawayTimes: “Goldfeder: Zombie Properties to Get Some Life

Rockawave: “Phil Goldfeder: Zombie Hunter” by Harry Kane

TheForumNewsGroup: “Sweeping Plan to Thwart Rise in ‘Zombie’ Properties

Newsday: “Letter: Squatters are a community danger

Newsday: “Letters: New approach to foreclosed homes” – one letter tries to shift the blame from the banks back onto the homeowners and the legal system and the other advocates the other advocates using eminent domain.

WKBW: “Zombie Properties: Curse for suburbs. Will proposed law help?” by Ed Reilly

LancasterBee: “Depew looks to slay ‘zombie properties’” by Julie Halm

WestfieldRepublican: “Zombie property haunts Westfield residents” By Jeremy Izzio

Rome Observer: “Senate bill to address abandoned ‘zombie properties’

So, in conclusion to this long post:

WIVB: “Northtowns neighborhood fed up with “zombie” property” By Al Vaughters:

this zombie property: Stan can’t buy it, Donna can’t give it away, and the bank won’t take the title.

Shouldn’t the bank be looking to cut its losses?”

NextCity: “How the Zombie House Crisis Mutated and What Cities Are Doing About It” by Anna Clark:

The memorable “zombie” branding blurs some of the nuances of the technical term, says the Housing Partnership Network’s Danielle Samalin — vacancy does not necessarily mean a foreclosure is in limbo.

The result? Demoralized homeowners, the debilitating infection of blight on a community, and no easy way to push property into the hands of somebody who will take responsibility for it.

kill them with fire – or why “zombie” blogging is dangerous

There’s a new strategy in the fight against zombie properties. Actually it’s not a new strategy at all. It’s probably one of the oldest real estate strategies in history, and it’s a classic way to kill zombies. Fire. Kill it with fire. And so when the zombies are run-down vacant buildings, we call that arson.

CBS6 reporting from Schenectady, NY: “Arrest made in string of fires“:

City leaders acknowledge that vacant buildings, or so-called “zombie properties” where some of these arsons were, are a problem and they say they are working to clean those properties up or tear them down.

Now it looks from the article like this 22 year old is just a crazy arsonist, likes to play with fire. Or maybe he’s just the fall guy. Maybe I’ve seen too many Batman cartoons but it really wouldn’t surprise me if some larger interest encouraged that arsonist. Now of course, I am (half-)kidding. Because it’s dangerous to think this way.

Words have effects. The things we say make other people feel stuff, and sometimes very differently than the speaker intended. I don’t intend to encourage anyone to burn down buildings. I think I would prefer the strategy in Huntington — use the existing blight laws. See Newsday: “Huntington officials work to resurrect zombie houses, other abandoned homes” by Deborah S. Morris.

And Huntington’s success only further makes me wonder why we need Schneiderman‘s legislation. All the news rhetoric has been about vacant abandoned houses that should be considered blight, and yet the law is about banks and foreclosures… I suspect there are a lot of houses in the grey area and the town doesn’t really want to blight the homes, it wants them repaired, occupied and paying taxes.

Anyway, all this political conjecture is sort of dangerous because this ZombieLaw blog has always been a mix between serious academic newsworthy information and satire. Some people really don’t like satire. It scares them to not know for certain what is true. For many people it seems that it may be scarier to be uncertain than to be lied to. However, false information is also scary and I do try not to be false…. still there is a very real danger of playing into the very media politics I am trying to criticize. Truth becomes a zombie.

Part of why my hiatus lasted so long is that the Charlie Hebdo incident scared me. The first post that started this ZombieLaw blog was about “zombie Mohammed“. A recent headline at Ars is about a blogger being hacked to death (haha at the pun: he’s a blogger being “hacked” … with a machete!). Now, I don’t think anything I’m writing should get me killed but hey, ya never know who I’m pissing off. This whole ZombieLaw activity is sort of an OCD hobby of collecting zombie references, and sometimes that OCD-mentality makes it difficult for me to write at all. I really can’t control what people think after reading. So, this blog only exists when I can suppress that fear and just click publish anyway. Every time I click ‘publish’ it’s sort of like saying ‘fuck it all’. On the one hand, really, who cares what I write on the internet, it’s just another byte on the crap pile.

On the other hand, see, KDVR: “Denver woman wants apology after judge acquits her of lying to police“:

“I think they retaliate on anybody who speaks up, anybody who stands up for their civil rights,” said Lebrun, referring to Denver Police and the City Attorney’s office. Her legal nightmare began October 18th, when she became separated from a friend during Denver’s annual Zombie Crawl downtown
… Her attorney, Siddhartha Rathod argued, “Ms. Lebrun was charged because she complained about the conduct of Denver Police and they wanted to silence her.”

Yes, speaking is dangerous these days.

There is another more important danger, a new study reported in Journal of Applied Communication Research by researchers Julia Daisy Fraustino and Liang Ma about the “Use of Social Media and Humor in a Risk Campaign” (h/t NewsWire). The researchers reexamined the CDC zombie apocalypse emergency preparedness media campaign and studied the

benefits and pitfalls of using social media and humorous messaging for risk communication. Findings show social media can quickly spread information to new publics for minimal costs; however, experiment participants who received the humorous (i.e., zombie) risk message reported significantly weaker intentions to take protective actions in comparison to those who received the traditional, non-humorous risk message.

The researchers conclude:

Ultimately, this research found that the CDC’s zombie-preparedness campaign, while vastly increasing emergency-preparedness message exposure and deemed effective by campaign management, may have decreased publics’ intentions to take any of a host of preparedness actions or even to seek additional information. So, perhaps zombies have overtaken not only pop culture but also publics’ intent to prepare for a zombie apocalypse—or any emergency.

The word “zombie” helps spread the controversy but it doesn’t really help focus the problem or help us understand if any particular position is correct, worse it may lead to inaction. Nevertheless, the humorous juxtaposition of metaphors helps spread the message, so we are constantly exposed to zombie symbols in a big conceptual blender, buy much of it is deathly serious.

It’s sort of like Amanda Knox singing the Cranberries song “Zombie” in NYC (via TMZ): “Amanda Knox — Killing It At Karaoke“. Spreading celebrity and blurring meaning to keep her name alive in cultural consciousness. It doesn’t tell me one bit about what to think of her or what she may have done or didn’t do, and then by my commenting on it, I am unavoidably doing the same, spreading her meme, drawing attention away from other potential ideas. Like meanwhile, in the Irish Mirror, the actual: “Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan to face ‘air rage’ charges” in Ireland after landing on a flight from NYC. Is NYC zombie central?

Recall some old ZombieLaw posts from last year: “In Defense of Satire” and “Rebel Art“. There is a real value in trying to comprehend truth through alternative lenses. Many of the issues associated with zombies are very serious real issues. Hackers and identity security, guns, meat-eating, animal consciousness, the history of slavery, cultural appropriation, psychological impairments, Social Security, memory loss, climate change, ebola and global capitalism, and that’s just off the top of my head. There are lots of other issues that are of insanely serious concerns for the future of the anthropocene. We need to spread awareness and humor can do that, but it also threatens to weaken the importance of our cause, not to mention seriously offend some people (to the risk they might kill us for saying so).

What choice do we have? Do we sit silent. No. It’s funny. We must laugh. People will want to know what we’re laughing about. And they will laugh with us, and then we can all cry together, before we die together.

I hope you don’t think this makes zombie foreclosures or arson or blogger deaths or NYC or the philosophical difficulty of truth any less serious. It’s all funny but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something about it. It’s not just a zombie, it’s somebody’s home. We can prepare for disasters. We can help save the community. See this message from Norwell Fire Department: “FIRE BLOG: Preparing for a zombie apocalypse could save your life” by Capt. Jeff Simpson

Or maybe it’s all just promotion. There’s Zombie Burger in Illinois using the “Human Centipede” to comic effect to sell the human consumption of animal flesh. Des Moines Register: “Look at Zombie Burger’s Human Centipede creation“. The cartoon South Park also used the human centipede idea, I actually thought it was a South Park original idea (“HUMANCENTiPAD“) but no, it’s a whole horror movie franchise “Human Centipede” with the third installment coming out next week, May 22. Human centipede gives whole new meaning to middle class, and to the entire capitalist food chain. Eat shit and pass it on. It’s part of social (media) contract.

Zombies, all of us, playin’ with fire, gun’ get burned. Livin’ in glass zombie houses, gotta put down the rock, gotta live together in this community, gotta make sure the place is safe for everyone, for the kids too, but there’s just no denying that the world’s become a human-shit-chain of zombie debts … we need to fix that.


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