Life, liberty, … blah…blah… blah…


The Fifth Amendment is an old friend and a good friend.  

– William O. Douglas

With all the news that’s been brought to the fore of the public’s consciousness in the last few months regarding outright violation or circumvention of Constitutional guarantees, those of us who consider the hemp scribbled manuscript important enough to be defended and preserved have been left scratching our heads. This tidbit popped up on my radar several weeks ago and I thought it was worthy of a brief commentary. As usual, it was ignored by the purveyors of b.s., but we can always count on the Democracy Now folks to keep us apprised of the haps on the craps. It seems as though Madison’s magnum opus can still be put to some good use after all.

By now, I’m quite sure that unless you live a life of solitary contemplation, you’re well aware of the mortgage foreclosure crisis that’s confronting millions of lower income families. While real estate investors have also experienced the negative ramifications of the crisis, the term “investor” usually connotes wealth and a rather negligible possibility of homelessness. We’ll limit our concerns therefore to those who are faced with impending despair as a result of greed on the part of the “too big to fail” posse. You know, the bunch that got $700 billion under the guise of providing relief to Americans confronted with the possibility of losing their homes, but through some rather slippery politicking, included a provision in the T.A.R.P. (Troubled Asset Relief Program) legislation that stated,

“Decisions by the Secretary (Hank Paulsen, former Goldman Sachs CEO) pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

In many communities across the good ole USA, courts are still backed up with foreclosure proceedings and the pipeline of new foreclosures is gushing somewhat reminiscent of BP’s Deep Water Horizon. The town of Richmond California is one such location with over half of the residential mortgage holders underwater. There were over 900 foreclosures last year and the number pending is just as high. The banks sold predatory loans and despite the assurances to secure T.A.R.P. funds, have made no presentations regarding resolution of the looming threat. The onus of preventing destabilization of families and neighborhoods has thus fallen squarely on the shoulders of the Richmond City Council.

In a rather bold move, the Mayor of Richmond stated that the city would step in to first offer to take the troubled loans off the hands of the banks. They would pay fair market value for the loans then work with homeowners to refinance and modify the instruments in line with current home values. They were requesting that the banks voluntarily sell the loans but if not, would consider exercising eminent domain, paying market value for the properties.

WTF????? Did I just hear that correctly?

Just to give you a little background, while most of us have heard of the 5th Amendment in connection with the Double Jeopardy and Due Process provisions, there’s a lesser known guarantee referred to as the Takings Clause. The power of “eminent domain” is derived from this clause and allows federal, state or local governments to take private property for public use, contingent upon paying the owner just compensation, which is usually the fair market value of the property. Eminent domain however has most often been exercised by Democrat and Republican politicians alike to screw the small man or Native American in favor of big oil interests, or some developer with deep pockets and grandiose visions of gentrification.

Gotta admit, this threw me for a loop. When did the brass ever exercise eminent domain in favor of a non-campaign contributor? Following the introduction of Richmond’s mayor however, it all made perfect sense. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin is a member of the Green Party. AHA!! There’s no way a Republican or Democrat would bite the hand that feeds and challenge the banking cartel. That’s akin to a poverty-stricken Venezuelan voting against Chavez after he put food, medicine, education and sanitation in the barrio.

Sure enough to bring us back to reality, Republican Congress member John Campbell of California has introduced a bill that would block efforts to use eminent domain to purchase home mortgages. Mayor McLaughlin is quite sure of the legal grounds upon which she stands however, and plans to proceed to stem the downward spiral in the face of this hurdle.

The moral of the story – if Americans have any hope of reclaiming their democracy and ousting the rogues that seek to dismantle the most successful experiment in self-governance, you need to strike with the one weapon that you do possess – the VOTE. Neither war-mongers extolling neoliberal policy while draped in peace prizes and Dr. King’s legacy, nor Randian right-wingers brandishing personal responsibility who seek to shred the network of social services, have your interests at heart. There ARE alternatives to the two factions of the Wall Street party.

Take the time to educate yourselves about these alternatives and please ignore the insipid fluff like Honey Boo Boo and 24 hour coverage of adults playing games. The power has always rested with you my friends.

One love,



About H3nry J3kyll
Vincit omnia veritas (using an obscure Latin heraldry motto makes one seem kinda learned and distinguished).

2 Responses to Life, liberty, … blah…blah… blah…

  1. Fantastic article! What a Mayor. I bet Clarence Thomas and Scalia get huuuuge Christmas bonuses (which will not be reported to any ethics oversight group, naturally) for coming up with ways to neuter this concept.

    Eminent domain powers being used for the people. What wondrous novelty!

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