Daily Archives: April 25, 2012

The Borowitz Report

POLL: Majority of Republicans Guess They Have to Support Fucking Romney

Lack of Other Option Cited

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – In what Romney campaign insiders are hailing as a sign that the party faithful are rallying around the former Massachusetts governor, a new poll released today shows that a majority of Republican voters agree with the statement, “I guess I have to support fucking Romney.”

When asked why they were now ready to cast their vote for Mr. Romney, a majority of those Republicans polled “strongly agreed” with the statement, “Why do you think? No one else is fucking running anymore. Stop asking such stupid fucking questions. I don’t need this shit.”

Underscoring the sense that he is now the presumptive nominee, the Romney campaign unveiled a new slogan this morning, “You Have No Other Options Anymore. Start Dealing With It, Losers.”

After sweeping five primary states Tuesday night, Mr. Romney was exultant, telling supporters in Manchester, N.H., “I love American democracy. I’m good friends with the owners of it.”

The wins by Mr. Romney forced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to suspend his campaign, telling reporters that he was leaving the race “to spend more time with my families.”

As for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, he offered Mr. Romney this endorsement during an appearance on CNN: “Yeah, I guess I support him, because, well duh, I have absolutely no other choice. Right? I mean, really, Piers, what kind of moronic question is that? I guess this goes to show that you can be a total douchebag and still win the nomination if you have the most dough. I mean come on — this whole situation makes me want to throw up. My only consolation is that on Judgment Day I’m going to Heaven, and we’ll have to see what happens to Mr. Magic Underpants. Haha. Yeah. Sweet.”

Mario Piperni on Etch-a-Mitt

Romney’s Etch A Sketch Fun Time

April 25, 2012 By

It was never a matter of ‘if’…only of ‘when‘.

Two constituencies that President Obama is holding onto about as strongly now as he did four years ago are voters under 30 and Latinos. In what is probably not a coincidence, these two constituencies are the targets for the first two major Mitt Romney Etch A Sketch pivots of the general election. After having repeatedly denounced any need for the federal government to subsidize tuition costs during the primary, Romney has now endorsed Obama’s call for extending lower rates for federally-subsidized loans. Romney says he supports the measures “in part because of the extraordinarily poor conditions in the job market.” Apparently, he has been informed of the poor job market since wrapping up the nomination, when he was still advising graduates concerned about debt to acquire a high-paying job.

On immigration, Romney is making the turn a little more slowly, as you’d expect, given the sensitivities involved in holding together his base. Romney has deputized Marco Rubio to craft “his” own version of the Dream Act, a somewhat more restrictive version of the reform that Republicans in Congress killed and Romney opposed in the primary, when he positioned himself on the party’s right on immigration. Romney is “studying” Rubio’s bill.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Tea Party crowd handles Romney’s position reversals and move toward the center over the next six months. If it’s anything similar to the way Republican newbies in the House have driven Boehner and the GOP crazy with their irrational, unworkable demands, then Romney’s got his hands full. Between teabaggers screaming for conservative purity on every issue and Democrats reminding voters of every policy position Romney currently holds or once held (it’s all on tape, Mitt…sorry), it’s should be fun to watch.

The GOP is going to have to rely on FOX and others in the conservative media to do their ‘lie and distort the truth’ routine and explain to people out there why it is that Romney never actually said what it is he said. It’ll come down to Sean Hannity saying something along the lines of, “Who you gonna believe, me or those lying YouTube videos of Mitt?

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( The Romney source photograph is a Creative Commons licensed image from photographer Gage Skidmore. )

Ezra Klein on Mitt’s Vision Thing

You know what, wonks? This campaign is going to be a bummer.

On Tuesday, Mitt Romney gave a speech billed as his big general-election pitch. It was a perfectly serviceable piece of work: competently written and competently delivered. But it didn’t contain an ounce of actual policy. If this speech was all you knew of Mitt Romney — if it was your one guide to his presidential campaign — you’d sum his message up as, “vote for me: I think America is great.”

Don’t believe me? The full speech is here. The first nine paragraphs are biography. The next eight are attack lines on President Obama (“It’s still about the economy …and we’re not stupid”). Then we get into Romney’s vision.

“I have a very different vision for America, and of our future,” Romney said. “It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.”

Sign me up! So how is Romney going to make sure so many enterprises are succeeding that competition for workers drives wages and salaries skyward? Well, here’s the very next paragraph: “I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.”

And then: “In the America I see, character and choices matter. And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded. And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.”

So on, and so forth. Romney never makes the turn to how he would achieve this America. Believing in it is apparently enough. The end result isn’t so much a preview of how Romney would govern the country as a game of “I Spy: America the Beautiful” edition.

I’m not a pollster. I don’t know if the American people want to hear about policy. Perhaps they prefer gauzy generalities. Perhaps they’re more interested in what candidates think of America than what they want to do for America. But if this is what the general election is going to be like, then it’s not going to be a clash of visions. It’s going to be a clash of adjectives. And in that case, it really will be the economy, stupid, as the American people will have nothing in particular to vote for.

Banksters Face RICO Complaint

Interview, MERS RICO complaint: Doug Welborn, State District Court Clerk vs. MERSCORP Shareholders and Trustees (“the banksters”)

Yes, I know that Doug Welborn, East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court vs. MERSCORP Shareholders and Trustees (“the banksters”) is a bit unwieldy as a case name, but it’s a lot less wieldy than the actual name — [32 parish clerks in Louisiana, so far] vs. [16 big banks including TBTF poster weasels BAC, JPM, and WFC (but not GS)] — so I think I’ll just go with “Welborn” from here on in.

The triple damages claim under civil (sigh) RICO is a billion dollars or so for Louisiana alone — real money — which makes Welborn interesting. Even more interesting is that RICO, as a “theory of the case,” is simple, clean, and easy to explain, unlike so many of our criminal banksters’ crooked schemes. We caught up with the trial lawyer for Welborn, Ted Lyon, and interviewed him. Did I mention the claim is for a billion?

Skip ahead, if you want, to the interview, it’s indented, but the backstory is important, too: Hat tip to alert reader Roger Bigod, who piqued my interest in comments with “county clerk’s suit”, leading to this link on Louisiana clerks suing the banks under RICO. So I searched the go-to site on foreclosure fraud and found this post (love the graphic!), which linked to this fine story in the Baton Rouge Advocate. The reporter, Bill Lodge, had some excellent quotes from Richard D. Faulkner, Esq., so I found Faulkner and called him. Faulkner was gracious enough to play phone tag with a pseudonymous blogger whose answering machine was full, and then to hear him out. He put me in touch with Ted Lyon, who’s going to try Welborn. (It seems that these days there are very few lawyers who actually appear in court, but Lyon is one such. I note with pleasure that Lyons took a packet from Koch Industries for the death of a child.) I then arranged, on very short notice, for a professional interviewer (hat tip, SM) to speak with Lyon, and a professional transcriptionist (hat tip, KL), whose collaboration you see below. With more time, we’d have done more preparation and some editing, but think of any solecisms as signs of authenticity, like scars in fine leather.

I go through all this detail, not to bewail the rigors of a blogger’s life, but to raise a single, simple question: Why does The New York Times give front page treatment to a $25 million bribery scandal run out of Bentonville, Arkansas, and no coverage whatever to the filing of a $1 billion dollar lawsuit over an accounting control fraud scheme run largely out of Manhattan? (“Your search – Baton Rouge RICO site:www.nytimes.com – did not match any news results”; 2:20AM, April 25, 2012.) A question that answers itself, once asked. Perhaps Krugman will cover the story in his blog.

So, to the interview, which took place yesterday, April 24,at 9:00AM EST. Note that one of our goals in the interview was to get the theory of the case explained in simple terms, so that we can explain it to our neighbors or in the coffee shop. After the interview there is a copy of the complaint, and so, readers, you may introduce as much complexity as you wish. (If the copy does not display in your browser, try the link.) Further, you will notice that Lyon seems to be familiar with the great Peggy Noonan’s dictum It would be irresponsible not to speculate. And, quite properly for one in his position, to disagree with it completely. You, readers, however, may speculate freely!

SM: We’re speaking with Ted Lyon of Ted Lyon & Associates. Mr. Lyon is filing a suit regarding the MERS, Mortgage Electronic Registration System. Thank you for joining us, Mr. Lyon.

TED LYON: Well, thank you.

Tell us what MERS is.

TED LYON: Mortgage Electronic Recording System is a system set up by a number of banking entities, primarily in New York, the large financial institutions, to avoid recording fees that they are due to pay across the United States every time they record a mortgage. This is tied back to the mortgage-backed securities that nearly brought the country to financial ruin. It was developed on Wall Street by a lot of folks in that industry, and each time you have a mortgage, by law in almost every state, the person that sells that mortgage or transfers it, in other words the bank, is supposed to pay a recording fee to your local county clerk so they can keep the title clean and record it. They set this system up so they wouldn’t have to pay these fees, and we believe that eventually they have benefited to the tune of billions of dollars as a result of that, by not paying county clerks across the United States.

Well, let’s back up just a minute. The actual system, the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, is a computer database, basically, but that was set up by one company. Why do you say that it was set up by banks? Isn’t it a single company?

TED LYON: Correct. But all the evidence that we have developed shows that it was a scheme that was developed by the defendants that we have in this lawsuit.

Well, who are your defendants?

TED LYON: Well, I don’t have the list here. There are several of them [see below. –lambert]

How would you describe them? Are they the big four banks, or who are they?

TED LYON: The defendants are the major banking entities in the United States as well as some other banking entities, but the largest ones in the United States, but almost all of them are very huge banking entities.

So is MERSCORP, Incorporated itself part of your suit or not?

TED LYON: Yes, it is.

So MERSCORP , Incorporated is the actual company that runs this database. They’re included plus the major institutions in the banking industry, is that right?

TED LYON: Yes.

Okay. So, give me a little bit about the background of this case. How did it come about? Who’s your plaintiff?

TED LYON: Well, right now we have a number of counties or parishes in Louisiana that have signed on with us. I think the number is over 32, and we have more coming in every day. And that’s the basis of our lawsuit, because the county clerks, or the clerks of court is what they’re called in Louisiana, they are required to record these mortgages and they have not been given that information. This is a very serious issue because if you have a house and you have a mortgage on it, you want to be sure that if you buy a house that has a mortgage on it you have a clear title to it. So by failing to do that recording, we believe it affects the title. I mean this has happened all over the country. And we also have a number of counties in Texas that we represent and we’re going to be filing a suit in Texas here in the near future.

So you’re filing on behalf of county – I would assume mostly county governments. Are there no individual homeowners that are involved in this?

TED LYON: No. Our case is we’re representing the counties or the parishes. We’re not representing any individual homeowners, even though they have been damaged also. That’s not our lawsuit. Our lawsuit we think is on firmer footing, and what makes this different than most other lawsuits – there have been a number of lawsuits filed against MERS across the country, but they’re basically all, almost all of them have been brought as a result of the individual homeowner. We’re not going to go that route because that’s just too time-consuming and also many of those cases have been lost.

So, given that, tell us the theory of your case, since it’s not representing homeowners but it is representing local government entities. Tell us the reason for that approach.

TED LYON: Well it’s pretty simple. We believe they’re required by law to pay recording fees every time they change these mortgages. In other words, every time they transfer a mortgage they’re supposed to pay a recording fee to the county, by law. And they set up this system to avoid that. And so each time they transfer a mortgage, instead of recording it with the county clerk or the parish, the clerk of court, they record it through MERS. And so they’re avoiding paying the $150 each time they – and I’m giving you just a ballpark figure here, $150, maybe as much as $200 – each time they change that mortgage. So they don’t pay that to the county clerk. So the county clerk, the county government, the parish government, loses that $150 to $200. And when you multiply that times the number of mortgages that are changed, that change hands in a county the size of some of the counties down in Louisiana, you’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now, you say that the defendants set this system up to avoid the payment of these fees. The defendants may say that they set this up because the process is cumbersome, that they were trying to establish some efficiencies in the mortgage security market. So, do you have – (crosstalk)

TED LYON: Well, when you’re talking about – yeah, sorry, go ahead.

I’m sorry. Do you have any evidence that the reason that they set this system up was indeed for the avoidance of paying these fees rather than, you know, inefficiencies in the business model?

TED LYON: Yes. Their website says it. And it said it for a number of years. As well as depositions that have been taken in other cases by some other chief executives.

So they specifically say themselves that the reason that they set this up was to avoid the payment of these local government fees?

TED LYON: Exactly.

Now, that probably isn’t in itself against the law, trying to, you know, trying to maximize your profits. It’s certainly not against the law in the United States. How – the simple fact that they may admit that they were doing this to avoid these particular fees, is that itself a basis for your suit?

TED LYON: No, they’re required by law to record these mortgages with a county government official. There’s no doubt about that. There is no – the federal law requires that. And they are not living up to the federal law. It’s not – there isn’t any, in our opinion as lawyers in this case, there’s no debate over that. We know, based on federal laws, that they are required to record that with a local county government, and they are not doing that. They have not been doing that for over 10 years.

Is there a reason why you are filing this suit in Louisiana? Is there something particular about the law in Louisiana that is conducive to this suit?

TED LYON: Well, Louisiana does have very strong laws in this area and we have some very good local counsel in Louisiana that are helping us on the case, and we were able to get most of the local governments down there to sign on. I mean, we’re in the process of doing the same thing in Texas, but it’s a little more difficult in Texas because of you have to have so many different levels of local government agree, whereas down in Louisiana they can pretty much, if the clerk of court wants to agree to the lawsuit, it’s a pretty simple matter. So in Texas or with some other states you have to go through the county attorney and then he has to go to the Commissioners Court – I mean, it’s, I would liken it to herding cats to sometimes get all these local politicians to sign on. But it’s coming along.

So, if your case in Louisiana is successful, will this have implications in other states?

TED LYON: Absolutely. If we’re successful in Louisiana, it will have a ripple effect across the country.

In what way? I mean you just said that filing these suits in other states is much more complicated, so how would winning in Louisiana impact what the law is in Illinois, for instance?

TED LYON: Well, almost every state has the same recording requirement that they record those mortgages locally, so in every state they’re not doing it. So it’s a simple matter of proving to your local elected official that this is a case that they need to bring. And of course this is a test case, so if in fact we are successful, then we feel very confident that other states will follow.

How big is this suit? Is it going to be, does it have the potential to be another tobacco industry sized case?

TED LYON: I don’t want to compare it to that. We think it’s huge. How big it is and how huge it may be is totally – it depends on whether or not we have the case. I mean, if we actually have the law right, and we think we do, then it’s going to be huge. I won’t characterize it as being as big as the tobacco litigation, though.

Well let’s compare it, just for the sake of comparison, to the tobacco litigation case. That took a long time for those suits to finally succeed, I think 10 or 15 years. How long do you think this fight is going to drag out, at least in Louisiana?

TED LYON: Well, I think in Louisiana, and in federal court you have what is called a 12(b)(6) motion, and that’s where they try and dismiss your case for lack of evidence, a good lawsuit. And this is the first one of these cases that’s like this that’s been filed. If they are successful, then it’ll be over very quickly. If they are not successful, and we are successful, then from there you would spend probably a year or more determining the damages. The damages are relatively easy to figure. We can do that, you know, because everything is now recorded through computers. You can run these numbers very quickly. You can determine – for instance, wherever you live you have a county government, and they have, there are so many houses in that county, and we know, we can determine from our computer discovery how many times those mortgages have been sold. It’s relatively simple to figure out how many times that house has been sold, what the recording fees would be, and then add that to the number that they would owe. And then in addition to that, under the federal RICO act, racketeering influenced corrupt practices act, you have treble damages on that, so you get your actual damages, then you treble those. And then you have attorneys fees, and those are kept up with on an hourly basis. So that would be a fairly – it’s not like the tobacco litigation, because that took a long time to determine the damages. But this case is pretty simple from a damages standpoint.

Why isn’t this a class action case, or is it?

TED LYON: It’s not a class action in Louisiana because we didn’t want it to be, and we wanted to have individual counties because we need their cooperation to come up with their damages, and we wanted to have a contractual relationship with each county that we represent down there. We don’t want to have to – one of the problems that you have with a class action, if you have one in this area, is that you may have a county that doesn’t want to cooperate, that doesn’t cooperate, it makes it real hard for your damages [for them?]. We want them to have some incentive to compute their damages.

Well you say the damages are fairly easy to compute. Have you computed them? Do you have any idea what the potential damages are?

TED LYON: We think in Louisiana the damages are over a billion dollars.

And that’s just in Louisiana, and you say that if you win your suit that this will have import in other states, so if we’re talking a billion dollars in Louisiana, we’re talking a lot of money potentially nationwide, correct?

TED LYON: Correct.

Some people have speculated that if you win your suit and this does in fact go national, that the defendants in this case, basically the U.S. banking industry, is going to face a need for recapitalization. So, you know, what was too big to fail in 2008 and 9 and 10 is still too big to fail. So are we looking at the possibility of, you know, catastrophic banking failure if your suit succeeds and goes national?

TED LYON: No, I don’t think so.

Do I detect a little hint of hopefulness there, that, no, you hope it doesn’t, or – ?

TED LYON: No. No, I don’t think so, at all.

Well, if we –

TED LYON: When you look at the national, when you look at the assets of every one of these defendants, they can afford to pay the damages that they have taken from the counties over a number of years and pay those back to the counties. And if they stole that money, which is what we’re saying they did, they owe it. And they have made multiples off the money that they took from the counties, and their assets are well, well within the realm of paying these damages.

So you don’t, you don’t see any real dire consequences for the banking industry if this – if your suit and similar suits in other states succeed?

TED LYON: No. They have plenty of money to pay these damages.

Now you said, you mentioned earlier about possible implications here. Yours is a civil suit, but can you see criminal charges coming out of your case through the discovery process? Have you, can you tell us what you expect to find in discovery?

TED LYON: No, I really don’t want to speculate on that. We’ll just have to wait to see what the evidence – where the evidence goes and what it points to.

So you just don’t want to comment about the possibility of criminal charges coming out here?

TED LYON: No.

Hm. Okay.

TED LYON: That would be pure speculation on my part.

Well thank you very much, Mr. Lyon. We appreciate it, and good luck with your case, sir.

TED LYON: All right, well you have a good day.

You too, sir.

Arrest of BP Scapegoat: Real Killers Walk

by Greg Palast – Special for Buzzflash at Truthout

The Justice Department went big game hunting and bagged a teeny-weeny scapegoat.  More like a scape-kid, really.

Today, Justice arrested former BP engineer Kurt Mix for destroying evidence in the Deepwater Horizon blow-out.

I once ran a Justice Department racketeering case and damned if I would have ‘cuffed some poor schmuck like Mix––especially when there’s hot, smoking guns showing greater crimes by BP higher ups.

Last week, I released evidence we uncovered that BP top executives concealed evidence of a prior blow-out. Had they not covered up the 2008 blow-out in the Caspian Sea, then the Deepwater Horizon probably would not have blown out two years later in 2010. [Watch the film and read the stories.]

I urge you to read the affidavit of FBI agent Barbara O’Donnell which the government filed in arresting Mix. His crime is deleting texts from his phone indicating that the blown-out Macondo well was gushing over 15,000 barrels of oil per day, not 5,000 as BP told the public and government. If true, it’s a crime, destruction of evidence. But Mix is a minnow. What about the sharks? The texts were obviously sent to someone (named only “SUPERVISOR” by the FBI). If “Supervisor” knew, then undoubtedly so did BP managers higher up. Presumably, even CEO Tony Hayward would have gotten the message on his racing yacht.

Destruction of evidence is not nice, but concealment of evidence and fraud by corporate bigs, is the bigger crime. I hope, I assume, I demand that we find out what Supervisor’s supervisors knew and when they knew it—and didn’t tell us.

And far, far, far more important: when is the Justice Department going to go after the greater wrongdoing? Let’s begin with the cover-up before the spill that the drilling methods used on the Deepwater Horizon had led to a blow-out nearly two years earlier.

Let’s face it: to go after the bigger crime means going after the entire industry. The earlier blow-out was concealed by BP as well as its partners Exxon and Chevron and, by the US State Department under Condoleezza Rice. [If you want to get that story, please check out Part II:  BP Covered Up Prior Oil Spill at Ecowatch.org.]

One point in Mr. Mix’s defense. During my investigation of the Deepwater Horizon, I found that employees who provide evidence against BP find their careers floating face down in the Gulf.

BP and other oil companies punish troublemakers by writing “NRB” on their record. That means “Not Required Back”—and the worker is banned from the offshore rigs. No doubt, Mr. Mix thought long and hard about what would happen to his career if his texts came to light. Not an excuse for crime, but it’s a fact. It’s the guys on top putting on this kind of pressure that should be doing the perp walk: the Big Bad BP Wolves, not their mixxed-up scapegoat.

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Re-prints permitted with credit to Greg Palast

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic (Penguin 2011), which centers on his investigation of BP, bribery and corruption in the oil industry. Palast reports can be seen on BBC-TV and Britain’s Channel 4.

The Government Behind the Curtain

$3.5Billion spent, 3.5 Trillion garnered… Not a bad deal for the 1% behind the lobbying.

Almost 79 percent of members of Congress who have left office since 1998 have become lobbyists themselves.

As of 2009, there are approximately 40,000 registered lobbyists at the state and federal level. That’s a lot of persuasion, and some are strong enough to have laws enacted that specifically enhance the company or industry they are lobbying for. http://bit.ly/I6XPBA