RSSCategory: Orwellian

What do you call people who lie, cheat and steal?

February 10, 2012 | By | Reply More
What do you call people who lie, cheat and steal?

How do you characterize people who lie, cheat and steal? Well, it all depends on who those people are. If they are poor people who lie on welfare application forms in order to steal food money from the government, they are called criminals and they are subjected to prison time.

If they lie to homeowners in order to steal homes, they are called “banks” who are simply doing “banking,” and they won’t face prison time. I’ve learned from my own law practice over the past few years that it is common for banks to concoct false paperwork, including false affidavits and court filings, when they are trying to foreclose against homeowners. My experience is also the experience of numerous other attorneys who represent home owners.

Now I do need to be clear: No homeowners should have the right to live in their houses for free. On the other hand, no bank should be allowed to kick a homeowner out of his or her house until and unless the bank proves that it is legally entitled to kick the homeowner out of the house, and there are specific rules for how a bank would know whether it would be entitled to kick a family out of a house. In millions of foreclosure cases, however, banks have been making shit up. They are engaged in flagrant robo-signing, they are allowing unauthorized people to sign critically important legal papers, and they are filing this false paperwork in courts from coast to coast. The centerpiece for much of this chaos is a artificial entity called MERS that has been created by the banks to stand in for them whenever convenient and to provide plausible deniability when it is not convenient. I’ve written about MERS previously. This practice of the big banks should stop, and the people doing these things should go to prison (The Missouri Attorney General recently brought a criminal case against an entity that was cranking out fraudulent paperwork). These banks should also be punished by not allowing them to foreclose. Instead, they should be declared to have, at best, unsecured status regarding the home loans they have screwed up, and they should be made to stand in line with all of the other unsecured creditors (e.g., credit card companies and utility companies). This is not a harsh remedy for huge sophisticated entities that are intentionally breaking the law to unfairly assert the extraordinarily harsh legal remedy of foreclosure.

I’m attaching the Complaint recently filed by the New York Attorney General, The People of the State of New York, by Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General vs. JP Morgan Chase Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank and others. This suit concerns the common practice of America’s biggest banks to concoct MERS to circumvent the proper recording of real estate in the state of New York (this same problem is going on in each other other states too). The end result is that the banks are cheating local government recording offices of substantial fees, and destroying the right to confidently trace property rights in real estate (i.e., The American Dream, i.e., the most expensive thing most people will ever own). In sum, banks have intentionally created a system called MERS that makes sure that transfers of title to real estate are not being properly recorded. It is now the case in many states that one cannot determine who actually has property interests in real estate. This is true for 70 million pieces of property in all 50 states. The New York suit is extremely well written; it provides a detailed look into many of the things that the big banks have done in an attempt to rewrite laws in order to make money unfairly and to screw consumers. I invite all concerned citizens (lawyers and non-lawyers) to read the NY AG’s new lawsuit to see how incredibly corrupt the system has become, thanks to the efforts of big banks.

Next time you are wondering why well-informed people refer to banks as “house-jackers” or “banksters,” consider these allegations by New York’s Attorney General (this is but a small sampling of what you will find in the NY AG’s suit):

20. When the subprime mortgage crisis hit and the number of defaults and foreclosures skyrocketed around the country, the shortcomings of the MERS System and its impact on tracking a property’s chain of title became readily apparent, sparking widespread litigation. The creation and use of the MERS System by Defendant Servicers and other financial institutions have resulted in a wide range of deceptive and illegal practices, particularly with respect to the filing of New York Foreclosure Proceedings in state courts and federal bankruptcy courts.

21. The use of the MERS System, coupled with faulty and sloppy document preparation and execution practices, have resulted in foreclosures being filed against New York homeowners where the foreclosing party lacked the authority or standing to sue. MER members, including Defendant Servicers, have brought over 13,000 foreclosures against New York homeowners naming MERS as the plaintiff/foreclosing party. Indeed, for years MERS affirmatively encouraged its members to file foreclosures in MERS’ name, again based on the rationale that doing so would save banks time and money. However, MERS often lacked standing to foreclose, and representations in court submissions that MERS owned and/or held the promissory note in such proceedings were often false and deceptive.

22. Even when foreclosures were not initiated in MERS’ name. New York Foreclosure Proceedings involving MERS-registered loans often included deceptive submissions. Because MERS Inc. served as the mortgagee of record, the foreclosing party needed to be assigned the mortgage before filing the proceeding to have standing. In many instances, this assignment was not properly made. MERS certifying officers, including Defendant Servicers’ employees and agents, have executed and submitted to court MERS mortgage assignments that contain many defects, including affirmative misrepresentations of fact, which render them false, deceptive, and/or invalid. These assignments were often automatically generated and “robosigned” by individuals who did not review the underlying property ownership records, confirm the document’s accuracy, or even read the document. These false and defective assignments have often masked gaps in the chain of title and the foreclosing party’s inability to establish its authority to foreclose, and as a result have misled homeowners and the courts.

23. Although there are several New York court decisions finding that foreclosing parties lacked standing, the issue of standing is rarely raised and litigated because most homeowners lack counsel and are unfamiliar with MERS’ precise role in their loan. Indeed, a significant percentage of foreclosure actions result in default judgments.

24. In addition, MERS’ indiscriminate use of non-employee certifying officers has confused, misled, and deceived homeowners and the courts and made it even more difficult to ascertain whether a foreclosing party actually owns or holds the note and mortgage to have standing to foreclose. MERS certifying officers, including Defendant Servicers’ employees and agents, have routinely executed and submitted in court mortgage assignments and other legal documents on behalf of MERS without disclosing that they are not MERS employees, but instead are employed by other entities, such as the mortgage servicer that filed the case or its counsel. As a further complication, the same MERS certifying officer might execute multiple documents on behalf of different parties in a single proceeding.

25. In short, MERS’ conduct, as well as Defendants Servicers’ use of the MERS have resulted in the filing of improper New York Foreclosure Proceedings, undermined the integrity of the judicial process, created confusion and uncertainty concerning property ownership interests, and potentially created clouds of title on properties throughout the State of New York.

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Secrecy out of control

January 31, 2012 | By | Reply More
Secrecy out of control

At Salon, Justin Elliot documents the evidence demonstrating that the secrecy system of the United States is out of control. His article describes unfulfilled Freedom of Information requests that are more than a decade old.

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The rules of the game in the age of the “war on terror”

January 24, 2012 | By | Reply More
The rules of the game in the age of the “war on terror”

Glenn Greenwald notes several recent legal decisions, all of which accord with the following rules for deciding cases in the age of the war against “terrorism.”

The Rules of American Justice are quite clear, and remain in full force and effect:

(1) If you are a high-ranking government official who commits war crimes, you will receive full-scale immunity, both civil and criminal, and will have the American President demand that all citizens Look Forward, Not Backward.

(2) If you are a low-ranking member of the military, you will receive relatively trivial punishments in order to protect higher-ranking officials and cast the appearance of accountability.

(3) If you are a victim of American war crimes, you are a non-person with no legal rights or even any entitlement to see the inside of a courtroom.

(4) If you talk publicly about any of these war crimes, you have committed the Gravest Crime — you are guilty of espionage – and will have the full weight of the American criminal justice system come crashing down upon you.

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Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship and why

January 18, 2012 | By | 7 Replies More
Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship and why

It’s time to step up and voice your concerns because we now have a bit of momentum. Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship.

Here is why you should consider taking at least a few minutes to get involved.

I’ve blackened the DI banner today as a symbol of my concern regarding efforts to pass SOPA (pending in the House) and the Protect IP Act (pending in the Senate).

Free Press has offered a page indicating the senators who are pro, con and on the fence. If you plug in your zip code, you will be presented with phone numbers for your senators and it LITERALLY takes only a minute to voice your concern to the staffer of your senator. I called my two senators in two minutes. Please join me in voicing your concern to your elected officials. You will be doing your part to use logic, fairness and reason to oppose $90 million in campaign contributions. Reason sometimes work, as demonstrated by today’s reversal of course by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

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Why we must oppose PIPA and SOPA

January 17, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Why we must oppose PIPA and SOPA

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published this succinct explanation setting out the dangers of PIPA and SOPA.

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Today’s target of American civil rights abuses

January 17, 2012 | By | Reply More
Today’s target of American civil rights abuses

Glenn Greenwald agrees with Law Professor Jonathan Turley that Americans are facing “ten major, ongoing assaults on core civil liberties, expanded during the Bush administration yet vigorously continued and/or expanded by President Obama:

Assassination of U.S. citizens; Indefinite detention; Arbitrary justice; Warrantless searches; Secret evidence; War crimes; Secret court; Immunity from judicial review; Continual monitoring of citizens; and Extraordinary renditions.

In today’s column, Greenwald asks “who are generally the victims of these civil liberties assaults?” Perhaps his question could be tweaked as follows: “Who are today’s victims of these civil liberties assaults?” Here is his answer:

The answer is the same as the one for this related question: who are the prime victims of America’s posture of Endless War? Overwhelmingly, the victims are racial, ethnic and religious minorities: specifically, Muslims (both American Muslims and foreign nationals). And that is a major factor in why these abuses flourish: because those who dominate American political debates perceive, more or less accurately, that they are not directly endangered (at least for now) by this assault on core freedoms and Endless War (all civil liberties abuses in fact endanger all citizens, as they inevitably spread beyond their original targets, but they generally become institutionalized precisely because those outside the originally targeted minority groups react with indifference).

This endless war and civil rights abuses are destroying the American character. On this point, Greenwald refers to Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech critical of the Vietnam War, which includes this passage:

I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such . . . .

Like so much of Greenwald’s research and writing, today’s column is detailed and precisely and persuasively argued. I would highly recommend reading the entire original.

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Why Americans are at war in the Middle East

January 9, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
Why Americans are at war in the Middle East

Glenn Greenwald keeps unveiling stunning information about U.S. foreign policy. The following video by General Wesley Clark is jaw dropping, especially in light of the events that have unfolded since the conversations he reveals. The bottom line is that a pro-war U.S. foreign policy is repeatedly enacted without any national debate. The U.S. considers the Middle East to be U.S. property. How else can you explain that we are operating armed drones in six Muslim countries, and that politicians are actively discussing the “need” to invade Iran?

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Treat all those who cheat the public like crooked locksmiths

December 28, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
Treat all those who cheat the public like crooked locksmiths

Here is an MSNBC feature on locksmiths who cheat people who call them in emergencies when they are locked out of their homes. This news piece follows a tried and true formula for creating a good memorable story: It vividly exposes an unscrupulous practice, and then turns the camera on the perpetrators as they try to slink away. To tell the complete story, the producers included the fact that there are honest people in the trade (in this case, honest locksmiths); locksmiths can make a living while giving people a fair shake.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Why, then, don’t networks treat all of those who lie, cheat and steal with comparable scrutiny? What I have in mind are Wall Street Banks, telecoms, fossil fuel industries, healthcare insurers, the defense industries and other powerful entities who have purchased Congress and then made certain that industry reform is impossible. These industries have driven out competition and/or figured out how to freely feed out of the public trough. They’ve been gouging consumers, directly and indirectly, in ways that make the crooked fees charged by locksmiths look like chump change. Consider this recent article by Matt Taibbi, illustrating how big banks are cheating taxpayers.

Consider also how Barack Obama’s promise of an expanded industry of energy conservation and sustainable energy production would be a centerpiece of his Administration. Though he has done some good things, has also opened up large tracts of Western lands to coal mining and providing much more funding to nuclear and fossil fuel than to green alternatives. This is one of many of Obama’s broken promises– somehow, indefinite warmongering against undefined enemies is somehow much more important that having a sustainable economy back home. And even after “health care reform,” people who had health insurance are struggling mightily to pay uncovered medical bills, many of them tipping over into bankruptcy. Payday lenders run rampant across the country. A few months ago, telecoms almost succeeded in destroying what is left of net neutrality.

These sorts of thing don’t just happen; powerful people are consciously making these terrible decisions, and they (including most of our politicians) are motivated by money, not public service.

I fear that one of the main reasons we are cleaning up these industries is that too many Americans are math challenged — they suffer from innumeracy. And most Americans would flunk a basic test on American civics and history. Foxes run rampant in the American hen house. One would need to spend some serious time thinking about the effects of lack of competition in order to appreciate how much the public is being fleeced, but Americans are highly distracted with TV and other forms of entertainment. Another hurdle is that big media is owned by big companies and serves big industries by selling them commercials. Thus, we don’t see constant aggressive journalism illustrating how the public is being ripped off by many (by no means all) big businesses.

Don’t expect the journalism to get better, especially for the reasons outlined by John Nichols of Free Press. Expect things to get worse, in light of the fact that this week the FCC proposed a new set of rules that would unleash a wave of media consolidation across the country. If the agency’s proposal sounds familiar, that’s because it’s nearly identical to rules the FCC proposed during the Bush administration. This proposal is especially scandalous for the reasons stated here.

An additional hurdle to getting these stories out is to make them simple and memorable stories, but this is quite a challenge. These industries have successfully complexified themselves–it now takes “experts” (including teams of lawyers) to understand how these industries function. Ordinary people don’t have much of a chance of even articulating how and why they are getting ripped off, much less understanding what can be done to fix the problems. Complexity is not an accident–it is a tactic. Consolidating the mass media isn’t simply happening–it is a tactic of big business to maintain control, as are recent attempts to give private businesses the power to shut down internet domains without a court order.

There is no incentive for the mass media to excoriate those behind any of these proposals. There is little to no incentive for big media to descend on those behind these movements as though they were crooked locksmiths. If only.

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Greatest country in the world?

December 23, 2011 | By | Reply More
Greatest country in the world?

To what extent do candidates for President need to declare their belief in “American Exceptionalism”? More specifically, is the United States of America the greatest country in the world? If ever patriotism dovetails with religion, this has got to be the place, because the typical user of these phrases has no interest in real world factual inquiry regarding either the United States or of other countries. In other words, those who use this phrase almost never engage in any comparisons based on evidence, yet the use of these phrases denotes that a factual comparison has been conducted.

At his well-researched article at Huffpo, Jerome Karabel explores the historical use of the term “American Exceptionalism.”

What might be called the “U.S. as Number One” version of “American exceptionalism” enjoys broad popular support among the public. According to a Gallup poll from December 2010, 80 percent of Americans agree that “because of the United States’ history and its Constitution … the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.” Support for this proposition varied somewhat along party lines, but not by much: 91 percent of Republicans agreed, but so, too, did 73 percent of Democrats.

For President Obama, the issue of American exceptionalism could be his Achilles’ heel. In that same 2010 Gallup poll, Americans were asked which recent presidents believed that “the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.” Reagan was highest at 86 percent, followed by Clinton at 77 percent, and George W. Bush with 74 percent; President Obama was a distant fourth at 58 percent. Obama’s vulnerability on the issue may be traced in part to his response to a question in April 2009 from a Financial Times reporter about whether he subscribed, “as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism.” “I believe in American exceptionalism,” declared Obama, “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Though taken out of context, the remark serves as Exhibit A for Republicans making the case that Obama does not believe in “American exceptionalism” and, by extension, in America’s greatness.

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