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Things have changed

Bob Dylan in the “Wonder Boys” soundtrack:

When I paint my masterpiece

The Band with Bob’s tune:

4th time around

Rumored to be Bob Dylan’s parody of “Norwegian Wood”:

‘I love women. So what?’

Apparently Mr. IMF assaulted a maid in Mexico, too.

Privatization

Anyone who thinks government privatization is about saving money needs to have his or her head examined.

Off register

Dave Dayen and I talked about this last night and he goes into more detail in this American Prospect article today. Think about all the revenue lost by your local county government because of this little shell game, and you’ll understand why it’s a big deal:

State and federal regulators have yet to stop mortgage-foreclosure abuses and exact punishment on the banks responsible for them. A slap on the wrist for 14 of the largest mortgage firms, a still fruitless effort by state attorneys general to reach a settlement with banks, and superficial investigations into the extent of the abuses have done little to answer questions about the proliferation of mortgage fraud. Without that knowledge, regulators are at a disadvantage in arriving at an equitable solution.

Enter the most unlikely players in this whole mess: unassuming elected county officials known as registers of deeds. Whenever a mortgage gets transferred from one owner to another or a home falls into foreclosure, documents of the transaction get filed at the county register’s office. Much of the truth about systemic document fraud is sitting in these local offices. Until now, virtually no register of deeds had bothered to take a look.

But Jeff Thigpen, the register of deeds in Guilford County, North Carolina, a county of about 465,000 in the center of the state (the largest city is Greensboro), decided to survey all the mortgage documents submitted to his office by DocX, a notorious “mortgage mill” that processes documents on behalf of lenders, between August 2006 and April 2010. He was inspired by a 60 Minutes investigation revealing numerous forgeries, backdating, and other false information on mortgage documents. “When I saw that [story], I was basically on fire,” Thigpen says. “‘I know this material is in my office, I’ve got to find it, I’ve got to get it out.’”

Out of the 6,100 documents Thigpen examined, 4,500 showed signature irregularities. The name of one DocX employee, Linda Green, who was acting as a vice president for several major banks, was forged 15 different ways on the Guilford County documents, rendering them invalid. Thigpen’s investigation was one of the first systematic assessments of mortgage document fraud in the entire country, certainly more robust than anything conducted by state and federal regulators.

Thigpen was elected as the Guilford County register of deeds in 2004, during “the steroid era of land records,” as he describes it. Mortgage securitization has been around since the 1980s, but it became widespread as the housing bubble inflated, when banks sliced up subprime mortgages into securities and sold them to global investors as an allegedly safe product. To reduce costs, the banks invented and funded the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS), an electronic registry that allowed banks to circumvent county registers and thereby avoid paying the recording fee of roughly $35 per mortgage.

Go read the rest, it’s fascinating.

The fracking fight

Big Gas goes after Josh Fox, the filmmaker who made “Gasland”, for exposing what they’re up to:

When speaking before audiences, Fox often employs his map to highlight the risks of secondary contamination. “When you include fracking’s effect on local water tables, you can color in much of the rest of the country red,” says Fox. “This includes some of our biggest cities.”

As research deepens our understanding of fracking’s environmental impacts, the incidents continue to pile up. Most of these fracking spills do not make headlines. An investigation conducted last year by Scripps Howard found that in Ohio alone, gas companies have in the last decade been charged with nearly 2,000 violations resulting in pollution and contamination of the local environment. Similar numbers could soon be reported across Fox’s gas map of the United States, where 34 states are now being targeted for drilling.

Kochs: they’re the evil thing

This is great:

Last night

David Dayen and Mike Rogers, informative as always! Plus, Ted from Vermont with lots of interesting things to say about local organizing…

Click here to listen.

Rise of the Obamabots

Ted Rall writes about how he’s been pushed out of the liberal freelance world because of his criticisms of Obama. (If you want to donate a few bucks, by all means do so. He could use it.)

Does Obama ever do anything right? Not often, but sure. And when he does, I shut up about it. Cartoonists and columnists who promote government policy are an embarrassment.

But that’s what “liberal” media outlets want in the age of Obama.

I can’t prove it in every case. (That’s how blackballing works.) The Nation and Mother Jones and Harper’s, liberal magazines that gave me freelance work under Clinton and Bush, now ignore my queries. Even when I offered them first-person, unembedded war reporting from Afghanistan. Hey, maybe they’re too busy to answer email or voicemail. You never know.

Other censors are brazen.

There’s been a push among political cartoonists to get our work into the big editorial blogs and online magazines that seem poised to displace traditional print political magazines like The Progressive. In the past, editorial rejections had numerous causes: low budgets, lack of space, an editor who simply preferred another creator’s work over yours.

Now there’ s a new cause for refusal: Too tough on the president.

I’ve heard that from enough “liberal” websites and print publications to consider it a significant trend.

A sample of recent rejections, each from editors at different left-of-center media outlets:
· “I am familiar with and enjoy your cartoons. However the readers of our site would not be comfortable with your (admittedly on point) criticism of Obama.”
· “Don’t be such a hater on O and we could use your stuff. Can’t you focus more on the GOP?”
· “Our first African-American president deserves a chance to clean up Bush’s mess without being attacked by us.”

I have many more like that.
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