October 13, 2010

The Land Scandal and Blurring Legal/Political Terrain

Filed under: American Revolution, Land Reform, Law — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 3:01 am


Although on its surface the Land Scandal is a legal scandal, it’s really a manifestation of the political war now raging in America. MERS, faulty or neglected transmission of title, fraudulent trusts and securitizations, perjured affidavits, forged documents, illegal claimants, fraudulent conveyances from bankruptcies, kangaroo courts……sum these up and locate them in the overall context of normalized organized crime, and we have not the use and abuse of the law, but the complete overthrow of law. And now that these crimes are coming to light, the criminals will attempt a “political” solution (which is really anti-political; kleptocratic pseudo-democracy is actually the death of politics). The government will try to accomplish this political fix. Any attempt to fight back, to impose the rule of law, must itself be a political struggle.
This is a hybrid legal/political terrain, and therefore calls for hybrid tactics and a hybrid moral sense. It has no clear boundaries and no predictable strong points. We see how the system wants to legalize and/or politically normalize all fraud and ownership uncertainties, and beyond that all the obscenities of an economy, a “society”, a (dis)order founded on monopolies of crime. To prop up their crumbling wealth and power, to “fix” all the crises, from technical glitches to fundamental legal abdications like losing the chain of title to profound political dilemmas like sustaining permanent mass unemployment, they’re going to probe every point they can, looking for places to break out of the ever-tightening encirclements of the forces they’ve conjured against them.
This is no longer a legal process where any significant power base is actually reverent toward the law, nor can a new citizen base build itself starting with the law. The existing law is irreparably corrupted and broken. Legal technicalities are now tools, weapons, or obstacles. That’s the way all elites think and act, especially those in the FIRE sector. To try to fight back with reverence toward the same law which has already been rigged in favor of America’s enemies, who themselves will only ever abide even by their own rigged law to the extent it’s convenient for them, is to hobble oneself tremendously from the outset. And we already face long odds.
If we look at the series of legal derelictions and crimes, we see how the rule of law has been overturned even in the technical sense. This is now a political issue and an economic crisis (which reinforces the political aspect, since economic crisis always threatens political crisis).
Over what did the banks preside?
1. They weren’t punctilious about transferring the note. (Not to mention fraud in writing many of the subprime mortgages in the first place.)
2. Nor about keeping the note and lien together as you have to in 45 states to maintain the unity of the secured mortgage.
3. Nor about putting the note in the securitization trust.
4. Nor about informing buyers of the MBS that the notes hadn’t been properly deposited in the trust. (Not to mention the rampant lies about the proportion of subprime loans, often ones that were calculated to fail, in these securities.)
5. Once they had to answer questions in court, they started out by lying about accidentally losing or destroying the note, claiming it was an isolated incident.
6. Once this was escalating, they systematically churned out fraudulent affidavits.
7. And they systematically forged allonges and other documents and even the notes themselves.
Now that this is becoming clear, the response of the administration, Wall Street, and the MSM has been to lie about it. They’ve put up a united propaganda front in order to downplay the fraud and title abdication issues and represent it as technical problems resulting from sloppiness on the part of bad apples. But the system remains secure, foreclosures are legally sound and economically healthy, the more people who get kicked out of their homes believing it’s a crime on the part of gangster banks, the sooner and surer a recovery we’ll have. (What a bizarre political argument going into an election.)
Meanwhile Congress rushed to try to jury-rig at least one fix, a bill to absolve some foreclosers of the necessity for forging notarizations by forcing states to accept phony electronic ones*.
[*It wouldn’t be Congress without a corporatist boondoggle. Probably the real impetus for the original bill was to force governments to buy proprietary stenographical machinery. Just another patent tollbooth through which a parasite wants to force us all to pass. We can’t have stenographers using non-proprietary work methods, oh no!
At first I didn’t understand the stupid story the bill’s sponsor told about how “stenographers among my constituents complained about how it’s hard to do their jobs, and they need federal relief”, but now I get it.
These “stenographers” were really corporate lobbyists, perhaps illegal unlicensed ones.
It’s crystal clear that this government, for as long as it continues to exist, will never again undertake any policy except for the purpose of setting up more rent-seeking corporate tollbooths.]
If and when the bill passes it still won’t go to the heart of their problem. It will just regularize some of the “irregularities” they’ve been deploying to cover up the structural problem, that they broke the chain of ownership, and that all their toxic “assets” are even more toxic than we thought.
They’ve been getting to work degrading the standards and otherwise muddying the picture of what the legalities really are while they try to figure out the real fix. Meanwhile propaganda pushes the Orwellian claim that their obfuscations and obscurities are really clarifications. And meanwhile the alternate route of kangaroo courts and street thugs continues.
(Perhaps all this is better for the citizen, however. Fewer people all the time are willing to believe the lies. More people are able to see the truth in spite of the fog.
So for the government to formally, but pseudo-legally, ratify the criminal status quo, to “legally” regularize what they call the legal irregularities but which everyone knows are the illegal regularities, may render the big picture more clear than ever: This is a terminal kleptocracy which can never be reformed. Our freedom, our recovered prosperity, our very lives, depend upon getting rid of it.) 
The way things are nowadays I assume any law that can give functionaries, including judges, cover to do the “expedient” thing is intended to have that effect. If judges take it the way they know the banks, Obama, and the Congress want them to take it – as all the legalistic pretext they need to “legalize” the whole mess – it will have that effect. At the very least, any judge who already wants to do that will take it that way. They’re already keen to normalize things even given just the existing traduced law, as we see with the dedicated kangaroo courts in Florida. They don’t need much more political encouragement.
So there’s where we’ll see if there’s any vitality left in the law. The goal is to bring an anti-politics into the courts to replace the law and help kill all politics in the greater society. This comes from extra-judicial political pressure, from the pseudo-legal maneuvers of Congress, and from the top down among rogue anti-constitutional courts themselves, namely the rogue SCOTUS.
If this is true, then we cannot build on the existing law or the existing constitutional interpretation, but will need to inaugurate our own transformational convention to reinvigorate this trampled document and renew the shattered law.
Meanwhile this whole affair is mind-boggling. At one end the banks have technically abrogated their ownership of the land, at the other end they’ve also stripped their MBS, the very foundation of their balance sheets, of all “value” and even legal existence.
While we can expect the government to do whatever it has to do to “legalize” everything, even that won’t be enough to put the Humpty Dumpty of economic confidence back together and up on the wall again.
The entire psychological basis of the global economy depends upon the perceived legal integrity of this paper. That integrity was ever less credible even before this SNAFU came to full light.
Going forward who could ever trust any of this again? Who will ever participate in any of these “markets” except to the extent he’s coerced? Who that still has some fiduciary duty could plausibly argue that he was justified putting anyone’s money into any of this? And when he’s sued, he like everyone else will have to rely on brute corruption in the courts. The courts themselves will have no choice but to plunge fully into the cesspool, since there’s no other way they’ll be able to countenance the way the executive and legislative branches are going to try to “fix” the most extreme economic crimes in history.
Do they have any other choice? 


  1. You know… five months or so I got laughed out of Naked Capitalism for saying that I had been an English major. Some dude sneered at me that that was the equivalent of taking Basket Weaving 101. (And what the hell is wrong with basket weaving, anyway ? Maybe it will get you further in the upcoming debacle than.. a masters in Economics ?)
    Last time I told you about “Macbeth”.
    I have a hard time telling people that there REALLY is value and even RELEVANCE reading what a guy wrote in 1596 or so.
    But the opening context in the play can be summarized in… “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”, and immediately after… “so foul and fair a day I have not seen”.
    Are you catching on to the relevance of these sentences yet ?
    About 15 years ago a French documentarist made a documentary about a death penalty case in Florida. Obscure, poor black kid gets accused of a drive by hotel shooting.
    In the film you saw the utterly breathtaking level of CORRUPTION already at work in the legal system in the U.S.
    Corruption fueled by.. idolatry of money, disguised as “efficiency”. Gotta be.. more efficient. Let’s whittle the law right down to nothing through our ideological desire to be “efficient” and “economical”. (Have you ever wondered WHY we say “economical” to mean… SAVE MONEY ??)
    Is it any surprise right now that at least 30 years or so of wanton disregard for the SPIRIT of the law has now led to.. “fair is foul and foul is fair” ?
    Trouble is.. if you take a REALLY CAREFUL look at “Macbeth”, you will see that it is definitely not Shakespeare’s most… HOPEFUL play.
    Because.. when and where it ends, the whole nauseating process is revving up to repeat itself.
    HOW do we get out of these quagmires ?
    I don’t know. I wish I did.
    Maybe by.. saying grace and showing mercy ?
    At a small level, even. Taking care of our NEIGHBOR.

    Comment by Debra — October 13, 2010 @ 9:51 am

    • The neighbors need to take care of one another and cooperate in taking back their neighborhoods from the Macbeths (and the Duncans and Malcolms as well).

      Of course Shakespeare would loathe someone like me as a rioter. That’s part of why the porter’s only in there for comic relief.

      Comment by Russ — October 13, 2010 @ 11:12 am

      • Careful now…
        When the play is revving up to repeat itself, the places are all the same, and different characters are plugged into the now vacant slots.
        Macduff… will become THE NEXT MACBETH.
        Shakespeare was a wise man. He could see where individual responsibility got washed away in Zeitgeist. Not to say that we don’t need to POSIT individual responsibility at some level, but… best be aware of how INTERDEPENDANT we are now, right ??

        Comment by Debra — October 13, 2010 @ 11:58 am

      • Of course Macduff is planning to become the next Macbeth – first as strongman for Malcolm, then to send him on his father’s way. Anyone who watches him operate can see that.

        Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 5:14 am

      • You know, when Sigmund entered the U.S. through Ellis Island and said “they don’t know we’re bringing them the pest” (did he REALLY say that, or is that just another myth that we have built up ??), little did he know just how right he was.
        Pest agains leprosy. I prefer… the pest.
        Because Macduff is NOT CONSCIOUSLY PLANNING to do anything. Like.. Macbeth was not consciously planning to do anything either. Macbeth is not… ambitious.
        Macbeth gets caught up in leprosy. He gets caught in the snares of language, and his refusal to believe that language ITSELF “lies” if you like.
        Because it means more than one thing.
        The stubborn insistance of American and Western culture to MAKE LANGUAGE MEAN ONE THING, and one thing ONLY (a form of idolatry) is taking us down. Dumbing us down.
        The refusal of mainstream American culture to RECOGNIZE that there are dimensions of the human psyche THAT ARE OUTSIDE OF WILL, and CONSCIOUSNESS is one of the reasons that the U.S. is a new Rome for me, and one of the major reasons I left it so long ago.
        A culture that is just not challenging enough. Caught up in binary computer think. No go.
        I want COMPLEX human beings. Not cardboard facsimiles of them.

        Comment by Debra — October 14, 2010 @ 5:35 am

    • “It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with perjury. Can we conceive any thing more destructive to morality than this?”

      — Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

      As much as I admire Paine a lot of his work dealt with issues that are no longer as pressing in our day (monarchism, Christian theocracy). I would love to see his take on our ‘modern’ society.

      Comment by reslez — October 13, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

      • Somehow I still haven’t gotten around to reading the Burke/Paine duel on the French Rvolution and the Rights of Man, but according to all excerpts I’ve seen it’s highly topical today.

        However, autocracy, monarchism by a different name, is clearly one of the pressing issues of our day. I bet Christian theocracy will get another shot as well.

        I’d say, just changing a few facts, Common Sense might as well have been written today.

        Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 5:21 am

  2. Thought you would like to know…
    Labor in the refineries is prolonging the strike. Eight out of ten refineries are on strike now.
    Gas will start getting scarce next week.
    YOU dreamed it.. WE are doing it.
    We’ll see how far we get, huh ?
    Keep your eyes trained on France right now.
    Not that I’m a big fan of the French Revolution, of course…

    Comment by Debra — October 13, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

  3. Speaking of being harried from the land, I was, among other reasons, jeered off Denninger’s site when I offered that I was a musician by trade.

    The context for my startling admission was a debate on the condition of the early colonial settlers wherein I asserted that The Pilgrims did not suffer their initial abject failure due to their adherence to The Mayflower Pact, a favorite bugbear of Libertarians and so-called conservatives, but instead, the Pilgrim’s failure was the result of their being, broadly speaking, woefully ill equipped to deal with their new surroundings.

    Put less delicately, their doctrine of what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours didn’t do them in, but rather that the problems was they didn’t have a freaking clue what they were in for and were not, as a result, properly prepared to survive the harsh New England surround.

    I furthermore had the temerity to suggest that the man who led the Pilgrims, Mr. William Bradford, had found, in The Mayflower pact, a convenient instrument in which to shift the blame away from his inadequate leadership.

    Well, wherever one stands on the interpretation of that bit of history, Mr. Denninger, who repeats incessantly the mantra “Stop the looting and start prosecuting” either does not understand or is in a state of denial regarding the following point made by Russ:

    “To try to fight back with reverence toward the same law which has already been rigged in favor of America’s enemies, who themselves will only ever abide even by their own rigged law to the extent it’s convenient for them, is to hobble oneself tremendously from the outset.”

    As for The Bard, I think it’s safe to say that Shakespeare, whoever he was, and however brilliant he was, was still a man of his time with all that implies.

    Comment by Edwardo — October 13, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

    • Can you imagine trying to survive under any kind of challenging conditions having to work with sincere “libertarian” types? I don’t think you could do it – you’d have to run them off first. Their very presence would be an ongoing act of sabotage and treason. Let them take Atlas Shrugged into the wasteland where they claim they’ll be such gods once they’re free of leeching society. They’ll finally get to prove their worth.

      I’d take pleasure sending them out there where they say they want to be and watching what happens. (It would be especially interesting to see how female libertarians fare among the kind of males they claim to admire. It might give new meaning to the term “romanticize”.)

      I can think of few things which are more the bloated idiot luxury of concentrated wealth and especially of the unearned oil increment than this ideology, whose idiocy to arrogance ratio must set the record. A unity, but at the highest quantity of both.

      As for Shakespeare, I can separate the man from the art. But I thought according to the biographical information we have, as a man he was a stuffed shirt who spent his time counting his money and suing his tenants for the back rent. And that he quit writing* as soon as he was satisfied he had enough dough to live the rest of his life as an idle rentier. That part of it, unfortunately, is no anachronism. It’s all too timeless. But like I said I separate that out when I’m reading.

      *I could appreciate if after so many years of furious work he didn’t feel like writing plays anymore. But to stop writing e.g. poetry as well, to just stop completely?

      Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 5:36 am

    • Wow, Edwardo… jeered at for being a musician (didn’t know that…)
      What the fuck would he have done with me, who spends three hours a day tickling the ivories and ebonies FOR 0 filthy lucre !! For the.. PLEASURE AND JOY of tickling the ivories and ebonies (which are now made of plastic, by the way…).
      It’s really sad that there are so many extremely.. GRACELESS people on economic blogs, ones who are still bowing down to those terrible, teeth gnashing idols of efficiency and filthy lucre when they could be… petting the bumblebees (that still remain, and for how long ??).
      The problem of obeying the law is a very.. slippery one, as I have suggested. Because NOT obeying the law, for whatever reason, cultivates impunity, and that brings us that much closer to.. civil war, and a TOTAL disregard for all law.
      But, as one who sincerely hopes that HAD I LIVED IN EUROPE during the second world war, i would have hid Jews in MY attic, or wherever I could have stowed them to keep them out of those filthy ovens, I can understand why in certain circumstances it is MORALLY UNACCEPTABLE to obey the law.
      BUT… the fun starts when you think about… THE LEG ON WHICH YOU WILL STAND, (or the “God” you will invoke…) to justify NOT OBEYING the law of the land.
      As for Shakespeare… HE is a man of MY TIME. Or.. am I a WOMAN of HIS TIME ?
      I cultivate keeping his BIG lamp burning in our sodden, illiterate (except for economics and finance) times.

      Comment by Debra — October 14, 2010 @ 5:47 am

  4. The primary reason this problem cannot be swept away through a political solution is that members of the elite were targets of the fraud. A lot of institutional investors now realize they are holding empty CDOs and other RMBS instruments. And a lot state and union pension funds who knew long ago suspected they were suckered now see a way to claw back their losses through the recently revealed fraud. I don’t see these people slinking away quietly, and there’s nothing the states or the feds can do to stop these people from having their day in court.

    In the meantime, the TBTF banks are going to seize up and fail. The only question is whether or not the feds are going to let the banks take the rest of the American economy down with them.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 14, 2010 @ 12:59 am

    • QE2 will make the FIRE section go from 40% to 80% of the turnover. (Aside, 1099 workers are not “counted” in the unemployed.) One would expect with the www we would organize; libertarian, scaredy cats all at heart are we? DU from hellfire coming to a platte near you. Best learn ied tech pronto. Storm this for Life: http://www.croptrust.org/main/arctic.php?itemid=211

      Comment by tawal — October 14, 2010 @ 3:38 am

      • On its face the seed vault idea is wrongly conceived – one big fort rather than a totally decentralized dispersal.

        What do most individual plants do? Do they hoard their own seeds at one spot in the soil, or disperse them as widely as possible by all sorts of vehicles?

        So the real Seed Banks we need will have to prize resiliency and redundancy over reinforcing one site into a hard target.

        As for the real motivations of the project, it’s already suspicious how the UN and other system agencies are so gung-ho about it.

        And how to parse a quote like this?

        The world’s seed collections are vulnerable to a wide range of threats – civil strife, war, natural catastrophes, and, more routinely but no less damagingly, poor management, lack of adequate funding, and equipment failures.

        This of course omits the number one threat which overwhelms the rest put together – corporate domination of the food supply, including the campaign to dominate seeds, wiping out all heirlooms and replacing them with GMOs whose only fertile seeds are the ones in segregated laboratory fields while all seeds sold and therefore all seeds available among the people have the terminator gene.

        This omission is so glaring, is such an absurd level of misdirection, that it almost makes me wonder if it’s benevolent coded commentary. Or maybe I’m just desperate to read something well-meaning into something somebody’s doing.

        Either way, even if well-meaning, like I said the concept is fundamentally flawed.

        Most of all, look what happened in 2003 in Iraq. They had an excellent seed bank in Baghdad. Nor was there any reason normal looters would attack it. But instead professionals meant to look like a rioting mob destroyed it. I think we know what was the real corporate interest there.

        Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 5:58 am

    • The mess in the courts is going to be extraordinary, no matter what kind of laws they try to pass.

      I just think politics will decide the overall result. If the people don’t demand law and order even in the courts, it will cease to exist there as well. It’s already being eroded.

      Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 5:41 am

  5. Russ, Hadn’t heard about the seed bank in Baghdad. I’ll have to look into it. Among their most heinous crimes, the Bush crime-circle should also stand for culture-cide for their activities in Iraq. Course Bremmer absconding with $9B cash now looks like small potatoes compared with the Bernanke’s digital exploits. What the Fed did up to the audit date will likely be dwarfed compared to what it will do post. Still it should make for an interesting read, unless ‘national security’ will be invoked. It all leaks out eventually, but look how hard we had to work for them to own up to the beneficiaries of the AIG bailout. Enjoying your takes. Thanks a quadrillion. tawal

    Comment by tawal — October 14, 2010 @ 11:12 am

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