RSSCategory: Orwellian

Putting mortgage trustees under the microscope

March 21, 2013 | By | Reply More

I’m going to offer several facts, then I’ll ask a few questions.

  • Many states allow foreclosures to occur entirely outside of the court system. In these “non-judicial” foreclosure states, a “trustee” is deemed to be a “neutral” party charged with the duty to make sure that the foreclosure process is fair.
  • Since 2008, U.S. banks have foreclosed on more than 10 million families. About half of these have been non-judicial foreclosures supervised by trustees.
    Trustees are appointed by the banks at the time homeowners take out their home loans. These trustees are strangers to the homeowners, but highly paid repeat-player legal advocates for the banks.
  • Many foreclosures occur despite the fact that homeowners are disputing whether the foreclosure should occur at all. In many of these cases, the homeowner claims that he or she has made all mortgage payments timely, indicating that the bank has lost or misallocated the payments. In significant numbers of these cases, the homeowner has offered written proof that he or she has made every mortgage payment on time. In other cases, the bank unjustifiably added charges to the bill (such as forced-place insurance, even though the home-owner already has insurance) and the homeowner refuses to pay these bogus charges. On other occasions, the bank has mangled the accounting, giving the homeowner no confidence that the bank has any idea of what is owed or what has been paid.
  • I have seen each of these situations in cases I’ve handled. Despite knowledge of each of these problems, the “neutral” trustee in each of these cases nonetheless proceeded with the foreclosure.
  • On occasions too numerous to count, homeowners facing unjustified foreclosures had turned for help and advice to these supposedly “neutral” trustees, calling them up and asking questions. In many of these cases, the trustees gave the customer terrible legal advice—advice that was helpful to the banks and harmful to the homeowners. In many cases, the trustees gave the homeowners no advice at all, indicating that the customers should simply pay the banks unwarranted late fees and back interest, or else lose their homes.
  • Many “trustees” are also law firms (consumer advocates refer to them as “foreclosure mills”), who in addition to falsely claiming that they are “neutral trustees,” also serve as attorneys in fact to the banks.

    [More . . . ]

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Chris Hedges: Democracy itself at stake in the trial of Bradley Manning

March 4, 2013 | By | Reply More

Chris Hedges, writing at TruthDig:

This trial is not simply the prosecution of a 25-year-old soldier who had the temerity to report to the outside world the indiscriminate slaughter, war crimes, torture and abuse that are carried out by our government and our occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a concerted effort by the security and surveillance state to extinguish what is left of a free press, one that has the constitutional right to expose crimes by those in power. The lonely individuals who take personal risks so that the public can know the truth—the Daniel Ellsbergs, the Ron Ridenhours, the Deep Throats and the Bradley Mannings—are from now on to be charged with “aiding the enemy.” All those within the system who publicly reveal facts that challenge the official narrative will be imprisoned, as was John Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst who for exposing the U.S. government’s use of torture began serving a 30-month prison term the day Manning read his statement. There is a word for states that create these kinds of information vacuums: totalitarian.

The cowardice of The New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde, all of which used masses of the material Manning passed on to WikiLeaks and then callously turned their backs on him, is one of journalism’s greatest shames. These publications made little effort to cover Manning’s pretrial hearings, a failure that shows how bankrupt and anemic the commercial press has become . . .

Manning has done what anyone with a conscience should have done. In the courtroom he exhibited—especially given the prolonged abuse he suffered during his thousand days inside the military prison system—poise, intelligence and dignity. He appealed to the best within us. And this is why the government fears him. America still produces heroes, some in uniform. But now we lock them up.

I know a lot of people are uneasy about calling Manning a hero because they consider him a criminal because he apparently broke laws. I wonder whether they would agree that by exposing lawless American warmongering and exposing huge numbers of civilian casualties covered up by the U.S. Manning has saved many lives by shortening, curtailing and discouraging the reckless use of the U.S. military. Can’t a thing declared to be criminal be the right thing to do? Was Martin Luther King merely a “criminal,” or was he doing the right thing? The case against Bradley Manning is a battle over whether the People of the United States, supposedly the ones running this country, have the right to know what their own government is doing. Or, on the other hand, the U.S. Government has the right to frighten off the relatively few remaining quality journalists out there by threatening a bizarre use of the federal Espionage Act. It’s that simple.

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Heroic Bradley Manning makes detailed statement to the court

March 2, 2013 | By | 6 Replies More
Heroic Bradley Manning makes detailed statement to the court

This statement proves that most media outlets have been slandering Bradley Manning. He is an extremely intelligent and courageous man with a real conscience. He is heroic in every sense of the word, as discussed in detail by Glenn Greenwald.

Manning is absolutely right when he said today that the documents he leaked “are some of the most significant documents of our time”. They revealed a multitude of previously secret crimes and acts of deceit and corruption by the world’s most powerful factions. Journalists and even some government officials have repeatedly concluded that any actual national security harm from his leaks is minimal if it exists at all. To this day, the documents Manning just admitted having leaked play a prominent role in the ability of journalists around the world to inform their readers about vital events. The leaks led to all sorts of journalism awards for WikiLeaks. Without question, Manning’s leaks produced more significant international news scoops in 2010 than those of every media outlet on the planet combined.

This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which the top UN torture investigator deemed “cruel and inhuman”, and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.

If you are wondering why Manning’s trial is not being freely broadcast, that’s a good question.

Before going further, a question: What should a person of good conscience do when he or she discovers that the government is repeatedly lying, and that people are dying, getting maimed and becoming homeless because of those lies? What would we say about someone who had the capability of exposing this ongoing dangerous conduct but did nothing? Wouldn’t we call those kinds of people “cowards,” “accomplices,” or “immoral”? What do we normally call someone who risks his or her own life for the benefit of others? We call them heroes, even if what they are doing breaks formal laws. Since when are people allowed to do nothing in the face of evil just because those in power put a law on the books to scare them or muzzle them?

Here are a few excerpts, in Manning’s own words, of what he did and why:

[More . . . ]

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What is at stake in the trial of Bradley Manning?

March 1, 2013 | By | Reply More

What is really at stake in the trial of Bradley Manning? It’s whether We the People are going to decide to trust our government regarding all foreign policy (and domestic security) matters, despite a long and disturbing track record of government coverups and public lies. Yochai Benkler explains at The New Republic:

Whistleblowers play a critical constitutional role in our system of government, particularly in the area of national security . . . Freedom of the press is anchored in our constitution because it reflects our fundamental belief that no institution can be its own watchdog . . . The implications of Manning’s case go well beyond Wikileaks, to the very heart of accountability journalism in a networked age. . . . If Bradley Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, the introduction of a capital offense into the mix would dramatically elevate the threat to whistleblowers. The consequences for the ability of the press to perform its critical watchdog function in the national security arena will be dire. And then there is the principle of the thing. However technically defensible on the language of the statute, and however well-intentioned the individual prosecutors in this case may be, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror of this case and ask: Are we the America of Japanese Internment and Joseph McCarthy, or are we the America of Ida Tarbell and the Pentagon Papers? What kind of country makes communicating with the press for publication to the American public a death-eligible offense? What a coup for Al Qaeda, to have maimed our constitutional spirit to the point where we might become that nation.

Benkler is slated to testify as an expert witness in Manning’s case. He has written extensively regarding the Constitutional issues at stake in the case, including this article previously discussed at this site.

Consider also, this similar assessment of Manning’s case by Julian Assanage of Wikileaks.

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How to advance your career as a “national security expert.”

February 18, 2013 | By | Reply More

Glenn Greenwald reports:

[t]hink tank “scholars” don’t get invited to important meetings by “national security professionals” in DC if they point out that the US is committing war crimes and that the US president is a war criminal. They don’t get invited to those meetings if they argue that the US should be bound by the same rules and laws it imposes on others when it comes to the use of force. They don’t get invited if they ask US political officials to imagine how they would react if some other country were routinely bombing US soil with drones and cruise missiles and assassinating whatever Americans they wanted to in secret and without trial. As the reaction to Cornel West shows, making those arguments triggers nothing but ridicule and exclusion.

One gets invited to those meetings only if one blindly affirms the right of the US to do whatever it wants, and then devotes oneself to the pragmatic question of how that unfettered license can best be exploited to promote national interests. The culture of DC think tanks, “international relations” professionals, and foreign policy commenters breeds allegiance to these American prerogatives and US power centers – incentivizes reflexive defenses of US government actions – because, as Gelb says, that is the only way to advance one’s careerist goals as a “national security professional”. If you see a 20-something aspiring “foreign policy expert” or “international relations professional” in DC, what you’ll view, with some rare exceptions, is a mindlessly loyal defender of US force and prerogatives. It’s what that culture, by design, breeds and demands.

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Orwell on the crossroads of language and power

February 11, 2013 | By | Reply More

Terrific article at Salon revisiting the works of George Orwell. Here’s an excerpt:

The essay is an investigation of what Orwell called the “special connexion between politics and the debasement of language.” Using as his point of departure five short representative extracts from various contemporary political publications, Orwell decried a creeping invasion of the political vernacular by insidious waffle. Meaning and clarity, he complained, were giving way to hot air and opacity, contributing to a general impoverishment of British political culture. His polemic is censorious yet witty, offsetting a surly, jaded disaffection — the man, one feels, has seen too much — with a disarmingly brisk and easy turn of phrase. Politics and the English Language rails with suitably understated flair against pretentious diction, verbal false limbs, jargon, archaisms, meaningless words and journalistic clichés, culminating in a six-point checklist for avoiding bad prose:

Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

This was about more than just style as a thing in itself. Orwell was writing in defense not of a pedantically rigid standard English, but of honesty and sincerity in politics.

This article then challenges Orwell, who suggested that cleaning up language would clean up the problem. The argument is that we now see many simply worded official pronouncements that are meaningful. Many are vapid exercises in evasion.

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Huxley v Orwell: Two routes to dystopia

February 7, 2013 | By | Reply More

Excellent illustrated comparison of the concerns of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

Orwell huxley

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Ex-CIA Agent, Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to Prison While Torturers He Exposed Walk Free

January 30, 2013 | By | Reply More

Ex-CIA Agent, Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to Prison While Torturers He Exposed Walk Free. The story is at Democracy Now.

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Julian Assange: “The Fifth Estate” is a hit piece against Wikileaks

January 26, 2013 | By | Reply More

From Huffpo:

“Julian Assange says he has obtained a leaked copy of the script for “The Fifth Estate,” a DreamWorks film about the maverick computer expert and his famed secret-busting site. In a speech before the Oxford Union debating society earlier this week, Assange said his unauthorized sneak peek has left him convinced the film is a hit piece.”

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