RSSCategory: Culture

How to destroy a perfectly good real estate recording system.

November 13, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
How to destroy a perfectly good real estate recording system.

What would you think if an outside enemy systematically attacked hundreds of U.S. county real estate recording offices, making it impossible for most of us to know who owns what legal rights regarding real estate anymore.   Imagine that our courts, from coast to coast, have slowed to a crawl because the enemy had nefariously dismantled a system that had worked quite well for centuries. Imagine that, also for centuries, the filing fees paid for recording real estate interests had funded numerous important local government functions, but that the outside enemy destroyed this source of income, causing many government functions to flounder. Image that this enemy then set up its own real estate “information” offices that gave lots of incomplete information, often refusing to provide any information at all, and did so with reprehensible customer service.

Imagine one more thing:  This has all really happened, but it was not caused by an outside enemy. Rather, all of this has happened regarding 60% of all home mortgages, and the entities doing the damage are America’s banks, who have conspired to create an entity called MERS, designed to circumvent government real estate recording offices, at a high cost to everyone who relies on the integrity of our real estate recording system.

If you want to know the specifics, here is a terrific article by law professor Chris Peterson: “Two Faces: Demystifying the Mortgage Electronic Registry System’s Land Title Theory.”

This damage to our recording system is relatively new–it’s been happening for a bit more than ten years, but the theme is now familiar to many of us: Corporate players taking over government functions and, in the process, rigging the playing field against the interests of ordinary Americans. The challenge now is to see whether the courts across America can recognize MERS for what it is, a despicable scam that has clouded the real estate titles of millions of people in an effort to rev up private corporate profits.   The courts are now clogged with many cases attempting to deal with the problems caused by MERS; you’ll want to keep your eye on this story to see whether the courts will slap down the banks.

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Terrorist = a Muslim who commits violence

November 10, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Terrorist = a Muslim who commits violence

Glenn Greenwald points out that Americans are commonly persuaded and controlled through the use of vague terms. One example is the word “terrorism,” which tends to be applied only where the person committing violence is a Muslim and not when non-Muslims commit comparable acts. A “militant” has come to mean any person who dies when an American weapon explodes. “Class warfare” and “Civil liberties” are other commonly used vague terms that are actually used as “tools for misleading political arguments.”

Another such vague term is “rule of law,” which originally referred to the idea that “we are all equally bound to a common set of rules, regardless of power position, or prestige.” It originally meant that “nobody is above the law or below the law.” Citing the work of Thomas Carruthers, Greenwald noted that the biggest challenge is to prevent elites from living above the rule of law. The founding fathers, who personally “loved inequality,” agreed that a central requirement for the new country is that everyone would comport with the law; without this requirement, they agreed that the country would not be “legitimate and just.”

Greenwald explained that with regard to “rule of law,” things aren’t working out so well in modern day America. The biggest problem is that “we no longer believe in the principle itself.”

With regard to journalists (see below), they now tend to be situated as insiders rather than outsider watchdogs who, in less dysfunctional times, embraced the motto: “Afflict the powerful, comfort the powerless.”

Greenwald has been out and about, promoting his new book, With Liberty and Justice for Some. For many additional videos of his talks, see here.

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The anatomy of a proposed settlement by Citigroup

November 10, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
The anatomy of a proposed settlement by Citigroup

Matt Taibbi dissects a proposed deal between the SEC and Citigoup, after Judge Jed Rakoff harpoons it:

In the deal, Citi made a $160 million profit, while its customers lost $700 million. . . . So to recap: a unit of Citigroup, having repeatedly violated the same laws and having repeatedly violated the SEC’s own cease-and-desist orders and injunctions, is dragged into court one more time for committing a massive fraud.

And what does the SEC do? It doesn’t even bring up Citi’s history of ignoring the SEC’s own order, slaps the bank with a fractional fine, refuses to target any individuals, allows the bank to walk away without an admission of wrongdoing, and puts a cherry on the top by describing the $160 million heist not as a crime, but as unintentional negligence.

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Woman pregnant with her 20th child

November 9, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More
Woman pregnant with her 20th child

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar are expecting their 20th child. Wikipedia features the family:

The Duggars raise their children using a buddy system, wherein an older sibling is assigned to a younger sibling and assists in their primary care. According to Michelle, “they help them with their little phonics lessons and games during the day and help them practice their music lessons. They will play with them or help them pick out the color of their outfit that day and just all of those types of things.”  In 2004, Michelle Duggar won the “Young Mother of the Year Award” in Arkansas, which is sponsored by American Mothers Incorporated.

In the meantime, Global Population Speak Out is asking concerned citizens to sign its pledge:

I pledge to show I care about people and planet by taking part in the global discussion about population growth. I am joining the Population 7 Billion: It’s Time to Talk campaign. With world population set to surpass the 7 billion mark in October 2011, it’s time for a broader public discussion, especially about the importance of family planning and the role that educating girls and empowering women can play in creating a healthier and more sustainable world. As part of my pledge, I will start conversations with others and help spread the word.

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Antidote poster for what most ails America

November 7, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

Today, I spotted this poster on Facebook:

The artist is Al Haug, who has published the poster on a Facebook page here. He is not selling the poster, but does indicate that those who post it should attribute this work to Al, and further states:

I can accept gifts to support my artwork thru paypal:
https://personal.paypal.com/cgi-bin/marketingweb?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=marketing_us%2Fsend_money
Use westbankal@gmail.com as account. Send as a “gift” only. But you don’t have to send anything. And don’t be a poophead and try to sell this image- your karma would suffer greatly.

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A list of evidence justifying the #Occupy movement

November 4, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More
A list of evidence justifying the #Occupy movement

Consider the joy shown by Americans celebrating the Fourth of July.

If the Fourth is such a happy time, shouldn’t we now be equally furious that the government has been rigged to ignore the needs and wants of the People? Over the past few years, I’ve heard dozens of educated middle class Americans admit that Congress has ben bought―federal corruption at the highest levels is now accepted as unquestionable truth.

More recently, I’ve run into more than a few people who have become frustrated with the Occupy movement. For instance, last week I heard this from an acquaintance, who was speaking of the protesters:

Acquaintance: “They should get a job.  What the hell are they expecting to accomplish out there?”

Me:  Isn’t it a huge problem that all three branches of our federal government make decisions to accommodate large corporations, often ignoring the needs of ordinary citizens? Isn’t that worth protesting.

Acquaintance: “Still, the protesters are stupid.”

Me: What is your solution?   Ordinary people are barred from participating in a government that is supposedly to be run by ordinary people. Further, the news media is largely under the control of these same interests―they are too often serving as stenographers for the corporations that pull the strings of the federal Government.
[Fourth of July flag photo]

Acquaintance: [Silence].

Along the same lines, here’s an excerpt from an email I recently received from a DI reader:

About your note regarding ways to support the Occupy movement… yes, you are right to encourage people to talk about what is going on, but don’t you think that it is time for those who are actually doing the “occupying” to go home and do their homework.  It seems pretty apparent that it is mostly the late teen to early 20 year olds that are involved and that they don’t seem to have any really intelligent, well thought out ideas or goals.  The media and general public are already bored with the story, and the whole thing will have been an exercise in futility unless they move on in a dignified way.  Their goal should be to have an effect on the 2012 election which is a full year away.  They should go home and get organized and become better informed in order to form a voting block that will further their agenda (that is if they can come to a consensus as to what that agenda is).

In short, this reader wants the Occupiers to return home to do the same thing that millions of people have been doing for the past decade, i.e., doing nothing likely to invoke change.

[More . . . ]

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Red Cross seeking donations

November 4, 2011 | By | Reply More
Red Cross seeking donations

I’m in Chicago for a consumer law conference. While walking to the conference site a young woman approached me on the sidewalk, asking me to donate to the Red Cross. I told her that I’m not interested, because too much of the money I would donate would go to over-paid executives. She quickly responded that the head of the Red Cross only makes a bit more than $600,000. I told her that this was outrageous.

She asked, “So you would never give to a charity where the person in charge makes $600,000?”

I said, “Never.”

The Red Cross is not alone in paying huge salaries to its executives.   Here is a list of the salaries of some of the executive salaries of some of the biggest charities in the United States.   Many of these charity leaders earn less than $200,000.

I know a lot of teachers who work every bit as hard as any executive, yet they are paid a pittance compared to $600,000. I know many people who believe in a cause enough to work untold hours for the cause for no pay at all. It seems to me that charities ought to work harder to find leaders who believe in the cause enough that they will do it for outrageous salaries. For comparison, the salary of members of Congress is $174,000 per year. A justice on the United States Supreme Court earns $223,000 per year. Ralph Nader lives off of $25,000 per year.  The average chief executive (charity and non-charity) in the United States earns less than $300,000/year.

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Succinct bio of Robert Rubin

November 4, 2011 | By | Reply More
Succinct bio of Robert Rubin

At Truthdig.com, Robert Scheer offers the following condensed bio of Robert Robin, one of the architects of too-big-to-fail banks. It puzzles Scheer that, while Bernie Madoff is sitting in prison, Rubin, whose actions have caused far more damage than Madoff, remains out and about, after having served as an Obama advisor. Here’s the an excerpt from the bio:

Rubin’s tenure atop the world of high finance began when he was co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, before he became Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary and pushed through the reversal of the Glass-Steagall Act, an action that legalized the formation of Citigroup and other “too big to fail” banking conglomerates.

Rubin’s destructive impact on the economy in enabling these giant corporate banks to run amok was far greater than that of swindler Bernard Madoff, who sits in prison under a 150-year sentence while Rubin sits on the Harvard Board of Overseers, as chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and as a leader of the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project.

Rubin was rewarded for his efforts on behalf of Citigroup with a top job as chairman of the bank’s executive committee and at least $126 million in compensation. That was “compensation” for steering the bank to the point of a bankruptcy avoided only by a $45 billion taxpayer bailout and a further guarantee of $300 billion of the bank’s toxic assets.

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Fines for barking dogs in LA

November 2, 2011 | By | Reply More
Fines for barking dogs in LA

A recent story in the LA Times addresses a topic near and dear to me, because in years past I suffered the aural assault of five neighborhood dogs barking excessively. I even bought the neighbors (two of my neighbors) no-bark collars for their dogs, but they refused to use them. Eventually, the neighbors (who were all otherwise pleasant people ) moved away, taking their dogs with them.  I’m talking about barking that began at 6 am right below my bedroom window and continued off and on until midnight. It would penetrate right through closed windows and closed doors.  It would be as loud inside our house as we listened to the TV set.  The problem is that some people are not at all adverse to noise, but I am admittedly sensitive. Barking dogs at close range keep me from thinking, playing the guitar and sleeping.  The barking dogs to the west were a different kind of nuisance from the cat loving lady to the east (she had more than 20 stray cats, and also had an indoor 50 pound African serval that ate one of her other indoor cats).

From the above article in the LA Times, we learn that the city of Los Angeles is taking this problem of barking dogs seriously. Owners of excessively barking dogs will be fined. What is excessive barking?

A dog’s barking would be considered excessive if it continued for 10 minutes or more, or intermittently for 30 minutes or more within a three-hour period . . .

The fines are hefty, as I believe they should be:

Under the changes, dog owners would face fines starting at $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and $1,000 for a third if a hearing conducted by the Department of Animal Services determines that a dog barks too much.

I’m not against dogs. My family has one, and you will occasionally hear her bark a couple of times, but that’s usually it (except when a possum sits on the fence).  I am happy for the people of LA who will now have a better chance of enjoying the lack of barking.

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