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Dude Where's My Mortgage -- How MERS Fucked America's Property Rights

This article was first published by AlterNet

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“For the first time in the nation’s history, there is no longer an authoritative, public record of who owns land in each county.” — University of Utah law professor Christopher Peterson

There is an unbelievable scandal in the making that threatens to subvert our four-century-old method for guaranteeing a fundamental building block of the American republic—property ownership. The biggest reason why you probably haven’t heard much about it is that it involves one of the most generic and boring company names imaginable: Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., or MERS. It is a story of deception engineered at the highest level of power for short-term gain, and another epic failure of the private sector to uphold the laws and traditions of American society, even something as fundamental as property rights.

Created in 1995 by the country’s biggest banks, MERS quietly took control of and privatized mortgage record-keeping across the country and, in the span of a few years, scrambled America’s private property ownership records to the point where no one could figure out who owns what. This was no accident, and was done by design: MERS was a tool used by America’s top financial institutions to pump up the real estate market. Mortgage-backed securities, robo-signers, lightning quick foreclosures, subprime mortgages and just about everything else that went into feeding the biggest real estate bubble in U.S. history could not function without help from MERS. But unlike many of the Wall Street scandals, this one could blow up in the banks’ faces, with the little guy laughing all the way back to his free McMansion, and local governments seeing their empty coffers fill back up with the billions of dollars in unpaid fees that MERS circumvented. (more…)

Posted: December 16th, 2010

 

teabagger

This article was first published on TruthDig.com

If tea party candidates were serious about stopping runaway spending and bringing fiscal responsibility to Washington, they would have to address one of the most egregious wastes of taxpayer dollars: federal farm subsidies. These handouts have become little more than taxpayer robbery, sending billions of dollars every year to wealthy “farmers,” even some who do not farm at all. It is not an opportunity the tea party is willing to take.

“Washington paid out a quarter of a trillion dollars in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009, but to characterize the programs as either a ‘big government’ bailout or another form of welfare would be manifestly unfair—to bailouts and welfare,” says Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a watchdog that tracks federal farm subsidies. “After all, with bailouts taxpayers usually get their money back (often with interest), while welfare recipients are subjected to harsh means-testing, time-limited benefits, and a work requirement. …”

Not so with farm subsidies. Forget about helping struggling farmers—this taxpayer-funded gravy train is skewed primarily toward the rich, paying out billions to “McRanches” and to businesses like Fidelity National Financial, a Fortune 500 company, which got $6.5 million over four years to not farm its land. (more…)

Posted: October 5th, 2010

CIA Dolphin Water Wars

 

This article was first published by AlterNet

Good news from the trenches of California’s water war: The cabal of billionaire farmers and real estate developers that has been engineering a stealth privatization of the state’s water supply is under attack. Two devastating lawsuits have been filed this summer in an attempt to claw back hundreds of millions (and possibly billions) of dollars in ill-gotten profits from a group of wealthy farmers and to bring one of the world’s largest water banks back under public control. The fallout could be monumental, but whatever the outcome, these suits will no doubt expose plenty of juicy, dark details that could lead to even more trouble for California’s water privateers. It’s taxpayer payback time. (more…)

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Posted: September 15th, 2010

welfare cadilac charles david koch

An abridged version of this article was first published
in the New York Observer

Mainstream America is finally getting to know the billionaire brothers backing the libertarian movement, thanks to a pair of dueling profiles in New York and The New Yorker. Now that we’ve heard about their charitable giving, David’s 240-foot mega-yacht and role as patrons of the Tea Party movement, it’s time to ask a more serious question: How libertarian are they?

The short answer…not very.

Charles and David Koch, the secretive billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, the largest private oil company in America, have spent millions bankrolling free-market think tanks and pro-business politicians in order, as David Koch has put it, “to minimize the role of government, to maximize the role of private economy and to maximize personal freedoms.” But a closer look at their dealings reveals that for the past 35 years the brothers have never shied away from using government subsidies to maximize their own profits, even while endeavoring to limit government spending on anything else. Simply put: the Kochs have no problem with socialism — as long as they’re in on the action. (more…)

Posted: September 4th, 2010

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This article was first published in the New York Press.

Wall Street bankers and retired hedge fund billionaires have been talking about fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction, preparing the masses for austerity measures and cuts in social services—which we are told are regrettable, of course, but necessary nonetheless. Well, here is the perfect welfare program for the bailout queens to show off their fiscally conservative chops: Let’s see them cut federal farm subsidies, which funnel billions of dollars to the richest Americans, including notables like Ted Turner, David Letterman, Scottie Pippen, Paris Hilton’s grandpa, Charles Schwab, Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen and just about every single one of Sam Walton’s degenerate heirs. (more…)

Posted: June 15th, 2010

yasha-levine-gun-practice

For months people had been asking me if I’m still living in Victorville and if so, why I stopped writing about it. Some dumbshit even accused me of running back to live the big city life, as if I was too embarrassed to tell people “da trufe.” Well, I’m still here, still proud, still shooting and perfecting my aim. And I figure it’s about time for me to crack my knuckles and see if I still got what it takes to do a proper Victorville update. (more…)

Posted: June 5th, 2010

_1satan

First published on Alternet

Welcome to Gilded Age 2.0, a time when government has become an appendage to the super-rich, used by industrialists, financiers and corporate robber barons to monopolize the economy and strip regular citizens of power and money. One example of just how much corporate cash and oligarchical interests have corrupted America’ democratic institutions comes out of California, where a giant corporation is spending tens of millions of dollars to push through a law that would snuff out competition and enshrine its corporate monopoly in California’s State Constitution.

It sounds outrageous, but it is perfectly legal here in the Golden State, where a form of “direct democracy” introduced 100 years ago allows voters to write laws straight into the state constitution. All that is required is a ballot initiative and a two-thirds majority vote by the people. Ironically, direct democracy was introduced to the state by the Progressive Party as a direct response to the runaway corruption of the Gilded Age, a way to shift power away from corporate and moneyed interests that dominated the legislature and to give it back to the people. Hiram Johnson, California’s progressive governor from 1911 to 1917, said that it would “restore absolute sovereignty to the people” by allowing voters to trump elected politicians. (more…)

Posted: May 18th, 2010