She was ugly, matted, less than a pound of kitten the first time we met Tanya. She'd been smuggled into the United States from Columbia, probably inside a boot from the looks of her. We knew it was horrifying that the poachers kill the mama for their pelt and take the baby for a pet. We'd never participate in such a disaster but there she was and there was no sending her back. I'd heard of her from a guy who knew a guy....you know how that goes. Knowing that she'd not get a better home anywhere else, we paid $300 and took home a Margay.
In one of his first acts as commander in chief, President Obama in 2009 signed an executive order to close the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
It was part of a campaign promise the president made, to close the camp and "determine how to deal with those who have been held there." But five years on, the controversial prison remains open. Congress has made it impossible for the military to close that awful place, but Obama - if he wanted to - could easily transfer the prisoners out of there so they can be tried as our Constitution promises and requires.
Here's how. The federal prison system are in the executive branch, they can be directed to do Obama's bidding via executive order, no congressional action needed. And the US Marshall Service is subject to Obama's orders too. They have large passenger aircraft based in Oklahoma City for the sole purpose of transporting prisoners. No appropriations involved.
I'm not pulling for the NSA, far from it. But they need some good PR and I have an idea to offer.
There are reportedly 210 million phones on the Federal Do Not Call list and that list is certainly available to the NSA. And there must be well over 210 million junk calls daily to those Do Not Call numbers.
It wouldn't take much metadata to find the handful of companies violating the statute. If NSA put that bit of data together and turned it over to Justice Department for prosecution, they would be doing us a big favor and (somewhat) repair their image.
The Associated Press reported today:
The Supreme Court says prosecutors can use a person's silence against them if it comes before he's told of his right to remain silent.
The 5-4 ruling comes in the case of Genovevo Salinas, who was convicted of a 1992 murder. During police questioning, and before he was arrested or read his Miranda rights, Salinas answered some questions but did not answer when asked if a shotgun he had access to would match up with the murder weapon.
Prosecutors in Texas used his silence on that question in convicting him of murder, saying it helped demonstrate his guilt. Salinas appealed, saying his Fifth Amendment rights to stay silent should have kept lawyers from using his silence against him in court. Texas courts disagreed, saying pre-Miranda silence is not protected by the Constitution.
The high court upheld that decision.
Re: Ed Snowden leaking the secret NSA programs to monitor our communications.
I’ve been marveling at the politicians who believe we must “balance” our individual freedoms against the needs of the nation at large. They make some good points, but where is their willingness to apply that logic to the Second Amendment as well as the Fourth?
The same ideas keep going around – better mental health services, tighter weapon control, more restrictions on everyone in the name of security, ad nauseum. But the kooks will continue to exist, they’ll want their moment of fame and mass killing provides it.
So in the name of the greater good let’s give them their moment now - in advance of the massacre – and save wear and tear on TV talking heads, the cops, bone-weary society, and most of all the innocent victims.
Give them their moment in the sun, a real moment of fame such as a publicized visit with the President, or a national TV show featuring a different kook every week, or hold an honors dinner at the state capitol, or name a mountain after them, or erect a monument at their local park, or…..I don’t know.
I truly don’t know, but I submit this half-an-idea for discussion. I don’t know how to separate the truly dangerous from everyone else who wants fame, or how to prevent copycats, or all the other problems. But perhaps, just perhaps, siblings and friends and neighbors and teachers and cops and parents could nominate the young man who is showing the signs. Nomination for a positive reward is better than reporting suspicions to authorities that can’t do much until after the blood has been spilled anyway. As a specific guy receives more nominations his name rises toward selection.
So please, everyone, try to flesh this idea out. Find a way to provide the needed recognition to those – particularly the young men – who feel that society has dealt them such a rotten hand that they must resort to mass violence. I am not saying society has dealt them anything, but they feel that way and we need to address their feelings before the bullets fly. If fame will accomplish the objective, isn’t it worth consideration?
The Parable of the Corn
And it came to pass that a kernel of corn was planted in the earth
And the sun warmed the ground and gentle rain awakened the seed
And the corn began to sprout and grow, ever higher and higher
Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you -– America will always win.
Obama State of the Union 2012
Manufacturing activity is increasing. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Exports are growing. Productivity is high, and jobs are on the rise.
Bush State of the Union 2002
Think of it: Instant access to information will increase productivity, will help to educate our children. It will provide better medical care. It will create jobs.
Clinton State of the Union 1994
Electric car battery maker Ener1 filed for bankruptcy Thursday, three years after receiving a $118.5 million grant from the U.S. government.
There will be a lot of hand-wringing by conservatives, bemoaning the fact that Obama is wasting our tax money on a company that failed....and all that.
And there will be a lot of defense from the left trying to deflect the blame from Obama....and all that.
But the real problem is grants themselves, and it is equally true whether the grant comes from the government or from another entity. The truth is that some people are very good at writing grant applications while other people are very good at achieving the goal. Very few excel at applying and also doing the work required.
Part One talked about what a quality squatter is (he improves the home, thus improving the neighborhood), how to find the right house, and ideas on how to stay long term. Part Two continues the discussion, going into detail of how/why the mortgage mess happened and how the legal system is beginning to understand who the bad guy really is.
He is a splendid magician, complete with white tux and all the trappings. He borrows a hat, ministers over it with a stunning sparkling magic wand, and pulls out a live rabbit. Again the magic wand does its thing and the hat produces another rabbit. A third time, and a fourth, and a fifth, each time another rabbit joins the group. The kids look on in wonderment, eyes wide with the magic actually happening before them. The hat is returned to its owner, unscathed and intact. Wonderful magic.
But the adults know that it’s a trick. Well done, but a trick nonetheless. They cannot see how it was actually accomplished, certainly the magician is skilled, but there is no doubt that the “magic” is just an illusion.
He too is splendid, with limousine and fancy office with bustling assistants and bountiful receptionists. Having no wealth of his own, the middleman borrows two hundred million dollars from his very rich uncle. That is the hat.
This talented middleman then goes to banks and mortgage companies and purchases 2000 mortgages, each worth $100,000. Total of $200,000,000. Now all of uncle’s money is gone. Middleman then creates securitization by bundling the 2000 mortgages into a bunch (called a “deal”), dividing the deal into many little parts, and selling those parts to private investors, pension funds, and the like. What the investors are buying is the right to the proceeds of the mortgages, that is, the interest and principal payments the homeowners are making each month. The middleman has produced a rabbit.
At this point, and assuming the middleman hasn’t made any markup (stupid middleman to let that lucrative opportunity get away) the middleman has recouped the $200 million. Since he has the money back, he goes into the market again and buys another 2000 mortgages and securitizes them them into another “deal”. A second rabbit. Again he sells to investors and gets his $200 million back.
For the third, fourth, and fifth time he performs the same trick. He then returns the $200 million (the hat) to his uncle, who is happy to get it back unscathed and intact.
And now the middleman “owns” 2000 mortgages from each of the five deals, or 10,000 mortgages in all. Remember that he began with no money and no mortgages and after waving the magic wand he now has a billion dollars worth of mortgages on perfectly good homes. And the children look on in wonderment, eyes wide with the magic happening before them.
But the adults, and an increasing number of judges, know it is only a trick. Skillfully done with flourish and pizzazz , but still just a trick.
The Forest and the Trees
When he has to go to court, the middleman will lead the judge into the forest called securitization. In that forest are wondrous trees never before seen. Immense trees that bend and bow and tangle and intertwine. Hollow trees through which other trees grow, entering as one species and emerging as a totally different sort of tree. Having never been seen, these trees have no legal history, no statutory law nor case law to define how they behave. At one side of the forest the gnarly trees commence and at the other the trees emerge, straight as giant telephone poles stacked in neat rows. The kids are amazed but, increasingly, the judges are not.
Viewed from afar, those forests are just forests, in this case there are five such plots, each individual and distinct but each containing the same sort of trees that have no legal precedent. The middleman, who began with no money and no trees, now owns five whole forests. Or does he? If he bought the “deal” and then sold it to investors and got all his money back, how can he claim he still owns anything?
Rot and Decay
Time passes. The economy softens. Homeowners find it increasingly difficult to make their mortgage payments, particularly the owners who were fooled into purchasing a bigger home at a higher price than they could truly afford. Jobs are downsized, income is downsized, and mortgages are not getting paid on time, or at all.
The investors are seeing their cash income diminish as more owners cannot make payments. But they cannot foreclose because they never bought the mortgages, they only bought “rights” to the money flow. So the middleman begins foreclosing, throwing families out of their homes into the street. After all, this is just a financial transaction, not human misery.
But since the middleman has already received his money back, it is arguable that he has no recourse to get it back again. Once is enough. So, if the investors do not own the house, and the middleman does not own the house, how can anyone kick the residents out? Well, it happens because the judges have traditionally believed the middlemen who had lots of attorneys and lots of paperwork (some real and some created out of thin air), while the penniless homeowner had nobody. But, as the song goes, the times they are a-changin….
Explanation of Securitization
Attorney Richard Kessler has written a lucid and persuasive 15-page article by that title. I hope he will forgive me for quoting a page here:
“Securitization consists of a four way amalgamation. It is partly 1) a refinancing with a pledge of assets, 2) a sale of assets, 3) an issuance and sale of registered securities which can be traded publicly, and 4) the establishment of a trust managed by third party managers. Enacted law and case law apply to each component of securitization. However, specific enabling legislation to authorize the organization of a securitization and to harmonize the operation of these diverse components does not exist.
Why would anyone issue securities collateralized by mortgages using the structure of a
securitization? Consider the following benefits. Those who engage in this practice are able to…
1. Immediately liquidate an illiquid asset such as a 30 year mortgage.
2. Maximize the amount obtained from a transfer of the mortgages and immediately realize the profits now.
3. Use the liquid funds to enter into new transactions and to earn profits that are immediately realized… again and again (as well as the fees and charges associated with the new transactions, and the profits associated with the new transactions... and so on).
4. Maximize earnings by transferring the assets so that the assets cannot be reached by the creditors of the transferor institution or by the trustee in the event of bankruptcy. (By being “bankruptcy-remote” the value to investors of the illiquid assets is increased and investors are willing to pay more.)
5. Control management of the illiquid asset in the hands of the transferee by appointing managers who earn service fees and may be affiliated with the transferor.
6. Be able to empower the transferor by financially supporting the transferred asset by taking a portion of the first losses experienced, if any, from default, and entering into agreements to redeem or replace mortgages in default and to commit to providing capital contributions, if needed, in order to support the financial condition of the transferee [In other words, provide a 100% insured protection against losses].
7. Carry the reserves and contingent liability (for the support provided in paragraph 6) off the balance sheet of the transferor, thereby escaping any reserve requirements imposed upon contingent liabilities that would otherwise be carried on the books.
8. Avoid the effect of double taxation of, first, the trust to which the assets have allegedly been transferred and, second, the investor who receives income from the trust.
9. Insulate the transferor from liability and moves the liability to the investors.
10. Leverage the mortgage transaction by creating a mortgage backed certificate that can be pledged as an asset which can be re-securitized and re-pledged to create a financial pyramid.
11. Create a new financial vehicle so mind numbingly complicated that almost no one understands what is going on.
The obvious benefit of the above #11 is that courts are predisposed to disbelieve the allegation that a securitized note is no longer enforceable. To a reasonable person, the claim that a mortgage note is unenforceable merely because it has been securitized does sound somewhat outlandish. And frankly, the more complex and difficult the securitized arrangement is to explain and perceive, the more likely a judgment in favor of the “lender” will be in litigation.” [ http://www.msfraud.org/... ]
This is only a sample, there is no way to adequately summarize Mr. Kessler’s work, you have to read it – and have your lawyer read it – several times to gain a full understanding of how tax law and land law have been warped into the monstrous and malicious securitization mess.
What about the Quality Squatter?
The above is mainly addressed to foreclosure, stopping the middlemen from kicking the homeowner out in the street. Now the owner can fight back successfully. But the same idea applies to the quality squatter, if no one can prove ownership, no one is in a position to kick you out.
The middlemen thought they had invented a way to have their cake and eat it too. Well, they ate their cake and now it is becoming clear that once the cake is gone it is gone, and the judges are starting to understand where that cake went. And while the cake may be gone, the house is still there and should be joyously lived in. So go for it, quality squatter. You are on the side of the angels, sleep well.
Quality Squatters Needed
(or how to occupy a house - cheaper than rent)
Here’s the short version of how to occupy a house…
1…Find an empty house
And here’s the long version:
Part One….The History
Way back in history, say until the 1990’s or so, buying a house was a fairly simple affair involving saving up enough money for a decent down payment, demonstrating the ability to make all the payments, and signing the papers. The two principal documents were the promissory note and the mortgage. Remember these terms, they are key to all that follows.
The promissory note is simply a document that says the purchaser will make the payments, else the purchaser will be in default. And the mortgage says that if the purchaser is in default, they can take the house back. Of course there is a lot of legalese, but that is the nitty-gritty. Those two documents are “joined at the hip”. For reasons lost in antiquity (or lost on me) they are separate, but neither can do much without the other. Being in default is meaningless without a penalty, and a mortgage is useless unless there is an ability to enforce it, that is, unless the condition of “default” attaches.
The note and mortgage signed by the purchaser are known as the “blue ink” copies. They’re the originals that were actually physically held and signed.
OK, this is getting long and tedious. If you have no interest in such detail you’ll never make it as an occupier!
Mortgages were often sold from the originating bank to an investment firm. My first mortgage, for example, was sold to Mutual of Omaha and I sent my payments there. I’m sure they also had the promissory note, or at least had a direct means of getting it from the bank if it was needed.
A mortgage must be recorded at the registrar of deeds at the county courthouse and the necessary fees must be paid. Every time the mortgage is transferred to another owner it must again be recorded and fees paid. It’s important to remember this.
Part Two….Slice and Dice
Somewhere in the 1990s, the middlemen began to see a way to make a lot more money than just collecting interest. It works like this: Take a big stack of mortgages and bundle them (think of gluing them into a block) and then dividing that bundle into “securities” that can be sold (think of turning that block on it’s side and slicing it like bread). This was touted as minimizing the risk to the investor. Of course once a middleman did this, it was inevitable that other middlemen would do the same thing by buying slices from different sources, gluing them together, turning the block the other way and slicing again. This is the whole idea of securitization.
If I own, say, a hundred shares of General Motors, there is no way I can claim that a particular box of car parts belongs to me. It doesn’t work that way. Similarly, the owner of “securitized” mortgages can’t claim that a particular home belongs to him. (The light bulb is beginning to come on!)
The middlemen, of course, wanted to increase their take and they did it in several ways. One way was to increase the number of loans, which was done by finding more borrowers, which they did by making it easier to get a home loan. They used schemes such as no money down and phony income statements and second mortgages and refinancing and all the rest. As more of these buyers came on the market, supply and demand caused home prices to skyrocket. Which was fine for the middlemen, churning more dollars meant more profit and they made a bunch. But they also knew the quality of mortgages was going down and there would be more defaults, so they simultaneously began betting that the securities would fail. And when they failed, the middlemen made more tons of money. Megatons. Plus the homebuyers got kicked out in the street.
The securities market is fast paced. To keep up it is necessary to slice and dice and buy and sell the mortgages at an alarming rate. This could not be done the old way, where someone had to physically go to the courthouse and stand in line and transfer the mortgage and pay the fee, over and over again.. The recording backlog is days or weeks, some places are reportedly two years behind, so the middlemen invented MERS and the plot thickened.
Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, MERS, is key to understanding the whole mess. It’s a private outfit located in Delaware with about 50 employees operating an immense database. Just a humongous spreadsheet, that’s all MERS is. Their customers are middlemen who purport to use MERS to keep track of all their middlestuff. MERS does not own mortgages, they only maintain a list of what the middlemen tell them. Through MERS, mortgages can be sliced and diced in milliseconds without standing in line.
The laws say that mortgages must be recorded at the courthouse and the fee must be paid, but MERS sidestepped all that. The fees aren’t getting paid, which is fraud or theft or something or other. Governments don’t like missing their share of the money. This is important later when we discuss the arguments that might be made in court.
Google “MERS” when you have the time. There has been a lot written on the subject and I don’t need to repeat it here..
Part Four….The Promissory Note
MERS keeps track of mortgages, but who keeps track of the “joined at the hip” document, the promissory note? Quick answer: nobody. Once the mortgage is sliced and diced and shaked and baked there is little chance of ever getting the note and the mortgage back together, which led to:
Much has been written on the middlemen’s use of robosigning, the process of creating fraudulent documents that purport to join the note and mortgage back together. Google “Linda Green” or “robosigning”. CBS’ 60 Minutes did an excellent piece on the subject, see http://www.cbsnews.com/...
Robosigning is fraud, plain and simple. Robofraud. Remember this when planning the defense of your newly squatted home!
Part Six….Abandoned Homes
I got interested in all this because of the home across the street. It’s a nice home, 3 or 4 bedrooms, formal dining room, two-car garage, 2-1/2 acres, lots of trees and really a nice place in a nice neighborhood. It has been empty for two years. No foreclosure, just nobody living there anymore. A realtor tried, to no avail, to find out who owns it because he has interested parties. But the house just sits there with limbs littering the yard and grass turning into weeds turning into saplings. It makes the neighborhood look bad. I even thought about putting up a Squatters Wanted sign. And that’s what I’m writing about, the need in our society for quality squatters.
Part Seven….How to find a house
You’re looking for a home that is obviously vacant but doesn’t have a For Sale or Foreclosed or other such sign on the lawn. Talk with the neighbors, ask who lives there and why did they move and how long has the house been empty. Ask if they know who you should contact about the house. After you’ve talked to a couple of neighbors it’ll be safer to prowl around the property a little, looking for reasons to like or dislike the place.
Assuming it’s the home you want, visit the Registrar of Deeds office at the courthouse. They can take the street address and find the legal description, the owner, the mortgage holder, and records of recent title or mortgage transfers. Get all this and see if MERS is listed anywhere. If so, you can be assured that the records are not squeaky clean. Often MERS will have transferred the mortgage to another party, usually a successor to MERS. Since MERS cannot own a mortgage they could not sell it, which is a pretty sure sign that the place is in legal limbo. Be sure to see if anyone is paying the taxes, that’s information you should know.
Part Eight….Moving In
I’ve never done this and don’t know anyone who has so this is wild conjecture and nothing more. But gaining entrance to a house is easy, just keep looking. Try the obvious like looking for a key in the flowerpot or checking if the garage doors are really locked. I’m hesitant to proceed further along this line because I don’t want to write a how-to manual for burglars and thieves, suffice it to say that if you want in there is almost always a way without breaking anything. Use your imagination.
Getting the utilities turned on in most cases simply involves paying the deposit. Utility companies don’t care who holds a legal title or lease or whatever. Then, on a pretty bright friendly morning, arrive with the moving van and act like you’ve just purchased your dream home. Invite all the neighbors in for coffee and goodies. Sleep well, quality squatter you.
Keeping the house will take creativity and hard work and luck and skill but it can be done. Mostly it’s just staying a step ahead of the adversary. Remember at all times that you are doing society a service by keeping the property maintained. You are the good guy, you are benefiting the true owner if there is one, and benefiting the neighborhood overall. Having you in the house is far better than leaving it as a target for vandals and vermin. And, true to the goals of Occupy, you are helping return to the people some of the ill-begotten spoils of Wall Street. You are on the side of the angels.
So maintain the place. Manicure the lawn, plant flowers, trim trees. Any homeowner knows there is always maintenance. Clean the gutter, repair the door, paint the trim, replace the mailbox, do whatever you would do if you owned it. Someday in court it may be helpful to show that you have made a positive contribution. You’ll want to keep a diary with before and after pictures, material receipts, notes of hours spent, all that sort of thing. You may want to pay a lawn service or have the carpet steam cleaned. The costs will build quickly if you’re doing a good job of keeping the place up. Figure on maintenance costing a quarter of the rent value of that property. That leaves you the other three quarters.
It’s important to maintain the best possible relationship with all the neighbors. If you are a churchgoer, consider a church attended by a neighbor. If you have kids, get involved in PTA and soccer. In short, become a good member of the community. These connections will be invaluable when an outsider comes to battle over the property.
Part Ten….Need a Lawyer?
Simple answer: yes, you need a lawyer - one you can work with. And that’s the key, you need someone who is on your side and is willing to let you do much of the legwork. Most of what needs to be done doesn’t really require a lawyer, just help and guidance as needed. There are a few talented souls who’ll chose to go it alone and I congratulate them. The other 98% of us need a lawyer.
Choose your lawyer carefully. Most will give an initial consultation without charge. This is the time to interview them. Try a few until you find that individual who fits your personality, you may be partners for a number of years. Good vibes are essential, probably more important than talent. The supply of lawyers exceeds the demand so you are in a position to negotiate, particularly with the one-lawyer firms. Hungry lawyers tend to pay more attention and anyone who is sober and has passed the bar (look for both!) has the ability to handle this sort of case.
That lawyer may end up costing you another quarter of rent value, though I can’t see how it would be that expensive. That leaves you the other half of what rent would be, plus you have the pleasure of a finer home.
Part Eleven….That knock on the door
In an idyllic world it might never happen, but in the real world eventually someone will come to ask what you are doing in that house (if you’re lucky), or (if you’re less lucky) to tell you to get out. Indeed, it very well may happen within the first few days since many of the loan servicers have people who check houses periodically. Be friendly but don’t tell them anything they don’t already know. My answer would be that the matter is not fully settled and may well end up in court. They’ll just report it up the chain of command and perhaps it’ll get lost along the way. Or perhaps not.
Never lie to a cop. You can tell him you need to confer with your lawyer or something like that. Smiling helps a lot. Invite him in to see what great things you’re doing with the place. Your lawyer will give you tips on what to say.
Part Twelve….Defending your Homeland
Whether you employ a lawyer or not, there are two books that are, in my view, essential to understanding how to proceed. Lloyd Segal’s “Stop Foreclosure Now” and “23 Legal Defenses to Foreclosure – How to Beat the Bank” by Troy Doucet deal with a lot more than foreclosure, they explain how the system works and how it can work to your advantage. They’re available on Amazon or “the local bookstore near you”- as if there was one anymore.
Segal provides a breakdown of laws specific to each state and a provides a number of worksheets that are informative and useful, while Doucet includes applicable case or civil rule, gobs of forms to compel the plaintiff (that’s the bad guy) to produce this and swear to that, plus the Federal Rules of Procedure and angles that you’d never have thought of in legally keeping your home.
As always, the web is invaluable in your quest. You can find court transcripts and see how other homes were successfully defended, read the latest developments in law to see how the tide is quickly turning against the middlemen, and follow how the state Attorneys General are fighting on the side of the homeowner. The information is essential and the message that you are on the winning side is heartwarming.
In the legal system it boils down to this: the only ones who can boot you out of your new home are those who own it now. If they cannot prove they own it they do not have “standing” in court and cannot do anything. Increasingly, judges are coming to understand the fraud that has been perpetrated against the homeowners and against the registrar of deeds downstairs in the courthouse, and when it hits that close to home it becomes serious indeed!
If you can show that there is a fault or fraud in the mortgage paperwork, you win. Well, perhaps not win but at least add a few months or years to the process before you circle back and go to court again. Remember, if the middleman had legal ownership of the property he would have put it up for sale. But he didn’t.
Eventually the entity that purports to own the mortgage may be driven out of existence, or permanently prohibited from throwing more people out of their homes, or whatever. This fraud-infested system cannot long survive and when it is outlawed there is no telling how the situation will be resolved. Very possibly you could end up owning the home or at least being able to purchase it for a few cents on the dollar.
Quality squatting is the perfect manifestation of Occupy Wall Street - by finding a way to benefit from the mess caused by Wall Street. Again, compared to those who’ve created this national disaster, you’re on the side of the angels. Go for it.
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