Thursday, January 28, 2010

Circles of Confusion

I purposely will not write on the State of the Union address for a while. It is being hashed and re-hashed. I want to listen to it and check out all the "analysis", the many sides, before I even think about writing here. I will wait until the dust settles then maybe I will but, maybe there will be nothing left for me to think about. There are so many great thinkers I may not need to think. (I am just kidding but many do let others tell them what to think.) So here is a post on other things.

After watching Frontline on PBS the other evening I couldn't help myself I had lots of "thoughts" I just needed to put down before I forget them. (Nope I am not just letting them think for me but it was a pretty good reference point.)

First a few definitions regarding "loan sharks", credit, and debt. I do not reference Wikipedia here as we are told it is a liberal reference. (Baloney but I don't want to get stuck in the liberal-or-conservative reference game.)

2 definitions of loan shark:

n. Informal
One who lends money at exorbitant interest rates, especially one financed and supported by an organized crime network.

From the Banking Dictionary: Loan Shark

Lender, other than a regulated financial institution, who makes a business of lending money at rates above legally permitted interest rates. For example, a $5 loan on Monday to be repaid Friday for $6-an annual percentage rate of 1040%, not including interest compounding. Loan-sharking was a pervasive activity through much of the nineteenth century, leading to the formation of cooperative associations, such as mutual savings banks and credit unions, to arrange small loans at reasonable interest rates. State small loan laws generally prohibit loan-sharking, although state laws differ on what is, or is not, an excessive rate of interest.

Now the Law Encyclopedia:

This entry contains information applicable to United States law only.
A person who lends money in exchange for its repayment at an interest rate that exceeds the percentage approved by law and who uses intimidating methods or threats of force in order to obtain repayment.
In most jurisdictions usury laws regulate the charging of interest rates. Loan sharking violates these laws, and in many states it is punishable as a criminal offense. The usual penalty imposed is a fine, imprisonment or both.
(My italics above.)

Definition of Usury:
1. The practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest, especially at an exorbitant or illegally high rate.
2. An excessive or illegally high rate of interest charged on borrowed money.
3.Archaic Interest charged or paid on a loan

Now here is a link to the whole Frontline program:

This link is where you can find text or video of the Treasury Secretary Geithner interview for the Frontline program last night.

I was surprised that Sec. Geithner made sense to me in many places. (I had listened to the “one of them” drumbeat and being a lefty I considered that the beaters may know something.) But, I was also struck when he said we can't cap interest rates because some people now need credit more than before. Check out thisinterview with Nessa Feddis. She is a senior counsel and V.P. Of the American Bankers Association.
Ms. Feddis makes almost the same statement Sec. Geithner did in her interview. Or for a interviews on capping interest rates go here.
So, is he, Sec Geithner falling for the if you cap interest we can't make loans or do they all really believe it. Excuse me. I want to yell, if you don't make loans I, the taxpayer, will not make you a loan and will “foreclose” on any loans you already got.

I know it wasn't really a loan. Why, I actually own stock in many financial institutions. Or, I know this is not the way to look at it all. The whole economy could have, I think still could, collapse. I know the terrible “recession” is over. Well, except for many of the real people that walk around or sleep on main street.

This credit fiasco reminds me of the Nation borrowing so much. It is particularly interesting to look at the borrowing from China. We, the tax-payer, borrowed money from China. At the same time we were helping shut down manufacturing jobs in the U.S. by buying Chinese products. So we spent our money to help end US jobs. All the while borrowing the money from the very source of cheap goods made by people who get very little of any of the money we spent.

Or put in another way the nation spent our way further into debt by spending, spending, spending or maybe buying, buying, buying; and borrowing, borrowing, borrowing so we could end much of the manufacturing in the U.S. (we won't even mention the IOU s sitting in the SS files. G.W. Had this one right, those are pieces of paper but guess what they are coming due. So I guess we borrow that too. I'll bet this surprises you I give G.W. Credit for getting something right? Now, does this mean that we senior citizens weren't the ones cannibalizing our children and grandchildren? Yes and No. After all ignorance is bliss. So is playing ignorant.)

I hope that you get the picture it is hard to write a circle or a spiral.

But let me get back to credit and debt:
It is easy to speculate that the population as a whole might see their government cycle of spend and borrow as another justification for their own personal cycle of buy and borrow. I think I remember, it seems so long ago, a budget surplus-don't I remember that or is my mind completely gone? Did we all follow that example? Nope.
gov. savings chart. Now I do realize that other things go along with less saving, or maybe cause it, such as flat wages or no wages. Of course then there is the cost of drugs, “health care” if you will. Add to that the ads for “stuff” and the ads for cheap credit and you have contributed to the downward slope of personal savings.

As to the personal debt problem, we were already using credit in all its forms to have our “Babbittry”* now. I use the term to designate the “stuff” that goes with the attitude. Why wait for that new TV?
Now add to the “instant gratification” attitude of the American Consumer a President of the U.S. telling us one answer to 9/ll was to “spend”, borrow to spend is what many did. We were so used to credit
and debt. So some people used that excuse to get more “stuff”, or a trip, or whatever they justified.

Where was the call to save, or to buy bonds, give your time, something other than spend your money. What money? Use your credit card or overdraft protection: it is just that easy. As the old ads used to say “Buy now pay later!”

So now there are many who cannot even pay the rent, electric bill, water bill, doctor's bill, and on and on, unless they get their over 400% loan until the paycheck or the income tax refund gets to them. And there are still those who get that loan to buy their toys, their Babbittry.*

Now instead of looking at our own failures many will find someone to blame. And are right to do so. Consumers have had lots of help getting into trouble.
There will always be loan sharks for those who need or want them. Though it is not like from the old movies, the feds. aren't going after these loan sharks. In fact after watching and re-watching the interviews, it almost looks as though some government officials either won't touch them because they agree with the the practices, or want to keep their previous and future jobs open.

So I am right where I was about health care in a previous blog. We are all somewhat guilty for the mess. We, meaning many consumers, the shark; the government; and many politicians.

Well, I guess this post will cause a ruckus. So be it.

As Artemus Ward said: "Let us all be happy and live within our means; even if we have to borrow the money to do it."

*You can find the book Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, 1922 on Google or you can buy it on AmazonIt is not a fun read in total, some descriptions of daily life are funny, but it is a worthwhile read. George F. Babbitt is a Realtor selling houses in the burbs around Zenith “for more than people can afford to pay.” (page 2) The book jumps right away into the love of gadgetry and newness, justifications, and “keeping up with the Jones” as well as mid-life crises.

Change George Babbitt's occupation to mortgage broker if you like or leave it Realtor depending on where you live and your state's licensing laws.

I give you this "lefty" quotation:

ETHICS -- LOBBYING FIRMS PREPARE TO OFFER JOBS TO RETIRING MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: The last few months have been marked by a series of congressional retirements. To date, 19 members have decided that they will not be seeking reelection this November, including the recent retirement announcements of Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND). With all of these Capitol Hill veterans soon to be looking for new work, Roll Call reports that "law firms and lobbying shops are preparing for a flood of résumés from soon-to-be unemployed Members." With so many retirements already confirmed -- "and many more likely to come after Election Day -- K Street's top firms will have their pick of the litter." Since 2005, at least 195 members of Congress have crossed over to lobbying, according to Congressional Quarterly. Some of these former lawmakers were instrumental in lobbying against health care reform last year, as "three of every four major health-care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls." "Depending on their committee assignments," retiring lawmakers could see "baseline offers as low as $250,000 for part-time gigs, all the way up to $1.25 million salary packages for former chairmen and party leaders." There is no indication, however, that any of the retiring lawmakers have already begun negotiating post-retirement employment. "Both Senators and House Members have to publicly disclose to the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House within three days of starting negotiations with the private sector. None of the retiring Members has made that move yet."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Posted using ShareThis

Just as I Thought. They Did It

Me finding a hiding place

They Did IT

It is official a corporation is more of a person than you would think.
Sad but true.
All I can say is, I am not surprised.

Justice John Paul Stevens read a long dissent from the bench. He said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings. His decision was joined by the other three members of the court’s liberal wing.
(from the NY Times article)

I can see that the story says unions too. Oh joy. What about Lobbies? What about "citizens' groups"? Small and really small businesses? Let's all have at it! If you have lots and lots of money, have a good time. If you don't, well, sorry. (Not really, no one is sorry for the lack of power for the poor. They might actually have something to say.)
Well maybe the unions will pay attention to their members' wishes. That will be some balance to corporate spending. But, I fear with the loss of power and membership Unions won't be enough.
Maybe, just maybe, Congress will get busy and try again? Nah, they need all the money and future jobs they can get.
As you can probably tell, I don't like this one at all.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bragging Rights

Am I crazy?

Reports are that Massachusetts may well send a Republican, a "no to health care" and another photogenic Republican at that, to replace Sen. Kennedy. Here is NY Times Topics on Mr. Brown OK that is pretty in your face for the Republicans. They get bragging rights for even coming close. (By the way, don't Republicans hate lawyers?) I hate to hear it though as they won't admit it is because they are good at their jobs. Instead they will say it is because the people have spoken against this and this and ...

What I can't understand is how the state that has it's own health care "reform" gets to decide for the rest of us whether we will have "reform" or not. I may not like the bills as they are but I was hoping to wait and see what the final version looked like. Oh I will, but Massachusetts gets to decide if it matters or not.

Who is running the Democratic Party-nationally or in Massachusetts? Were they asleep? How could they lose with States Atty Gen. Coakley as their candidate? Her information as in NY Times
Wasn't there a way to keep track of the Republican campaign? When the guy compared himself in some round-a-bout way to JFK, where were the folks to call him on it?Someone needs to lose their job. Probably more than one someone needs to lose jobs.I know this is a recession, no that's over, jobless recovery, but some Democrat campaign manager needs to lose his/her job.

So shame on the Dems. and shame on the Repubs. and shame on us, the easily led, ignorant voters.

And here is the Mark Twain quote for the day:
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.
(Reference Site)

I hate to say this but maybe he got this one wrong.

As a post script here is quotation from an article about "Hardball" coverage of the two Massachusetts campaigns:
Beyond noting the obvious impact on health-care legislation, Matthews shed little light on the experience and policy positions of the two candidates. Instead, watchers of “Hardball” got to hear Coakley’s brief confusion over Schilling’s allegiance in the Yankees- Red Sox rivalry and learned that Scott Brown is a photogenic guy who travels around in a truck.

Matthews dispensed with the serious stuff. He had little interest in mentioning Coakley’s history as an aggressive prosecutor, her central role in winning settlements from contractors of Boston’s infamous Big Dig project and from Wall Street firms that engaged in deceptive practices, including $60 million from Goldman Sachs to settle allegations that it promoted unfair home loans...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Be Careful Who Decides for You

After reading a post at the foundation-wallace entitled: Cointelpro, I began to wonder about generational differences, historically speaking. Thomas is apparently much younger than I. Which then led to the definition of generation. demographics from the Census Bureau is very interesting. Basically though a generation is considered those being born within a 10-12 year time frame.

Back to Thomas' post. I did not know the term Cointelpro, but was certainly aware of much that happened. In particular the things that happened when the Director of the FBI was J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI bio.

I remember the TV show "I Led Three Lives" synopsis here. Many in my family watched it every week.
Even though it was based on a book about spying in the 40's, to me it was happening all around me. I was pretty young. Young enough to believe that the FBI was wonderful and anything they did was all right with me. By the 70's I would finally begin to wonder about civil rights for all. (What can I say, I was wrapped up in my own little life.)

Personally, I don't care whether Dir. Hoover was a cross-dresser, gay, black, or white. None of these types of things interest me until I run across someone who yells the hardest and attacks others for their personal preferences. The thing was that Hoover was black-mailing all kinds of "important" people to get power and to keep power. When he didn't have legitimate cause to go after someone he probably made it up. No one dared try to reign him in at all.

So here is a little research on the FBI under Hoover to get the next generation started.

Dir. Hoover probably did believe His Way was best for the country. This quote may be of interest to you:

"I would have no fears if more Americans possessed the zeal, the fervor, the persistence and the industry to learn about this menace of Red fascism. I do fear for the liberal and progressive who has been hoodwinked and duped into joining hands with the communists..." Testimony of J. Edgar Hoover before HUAC - March 26, 1947
I found it Here.

From the same site on Dr. King:

J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with King is also well-documented in FBI files. These files show examples such as the FBI calling Marquette University in 1964 to tell them not to award an honorary degree to King. At Springfield College (Mass.) a month later, the FBI told the college that King's SCLC was "Communist affiliated". J. Edgar & Martin

Hoover's FBI mailed tapes of King's sexual affairs to his wife and tried to blackmail him politically; in an anonymous letter, encouraged him to commit suicide; and, among other disinformation successes, convinced Marquette University officials in 1964 to back out of giving King an honorary degree. [source]

Dir. Hoover appears to be certain he was protecting the country from the evil communists. He was a man of certainty. Speaking of certainty here is one of my spouse' favorite quotations, (probably next to "a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke." Kipling) often called the certainty quote, which probably applies to Dir. Hoover and upon further thought humans:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
(Yeats, Wm. Butler)

Keep that quotation in mind when you are willing to give up some of your civil rights. Or put another way-when you believe that in order to be secure some civil rights must go out the window, who will decide which "little" rights you will give up and who will decide how far to go to protect your security. As we now see with some of the DNA analysis being done, many an innocent person has been found guilty.