I have a confession to make. I have been sucked in by the reality TV show engineered by Poison's front man, Bret Michaels. You may have heard of it "Rock of Love". Now, I watched it tonight, in spurts, because I could only take so much trash at one time, and I couldn't help but wonder....why?

Other reality TV shows like this one popped into my head, like "Real Chance at Love" and the Bachelor/Bachelorette series. Then there are those shows were the parents get to pick their grown child's "new" significant other as the parents and the "other" watch the dates as they happen.


Now, the ladies plastic little girls on the Rock of Love shindig are about as wild and weird and trashy as you can get. I would think that for a star to choose a mate, he or she would need to choose a solid, intelligent, responsible human being. After all, the business is not a constant party but a business, complete with responsibilities. The whole "let's get wasted and trash the hotel rooms every night and get coked up" ended sometimes recently with the advent of "Celebrity rehab". These former star partiers have real problems that I would suspect any current star would want to avoid, if they want continued success.

And yet, we are treated to, erm, "lovely" sex kittens with more plastic than a Barbie doll, and about the same intelligence too. Oh, and boy do they like to party. Somehow I don't think getting smashed all night and in the early Am is the way to ensure a successful band tour, you know, with deadlines and all that.

And why are the women subjecting themselves to the ultimate meat market scenario? Tramping themselves up, hoping and praying that these ...men... will choose to love them instead of the other 19 trampy girls on the show. They don't even know the guys they're competing for anyway! They know little about them...why are they humiliating themselves on national television for someone they might wind up hating anyway?

And why would the men want any kind of meaningful relationship with women who are willing to behave like that?

I seriously don't understand it. Maybe it's me, maybe I'm thick, but I don't get it. These girls will have access to the celebrities/men's funds and finances as an end result to some of these shows - do the men want to risk their life's work to a woman willing to dress like a hooker to compete with a gaggle of other equally hooker-ish women?

I guess a fool and his money are readily parted.

I know there's a fame aspect to it, I understand that. But honestly, it's more like "infamy" than fame. Yeah, so this one got naked and the other one threw up, and these two girls wanted to team up to show their sexual prowess by doing very intimate things on a public bar...they'll have great careers out that exposure.

In the porn industry.

Maybe someone could explain it to me?


The New Assualt on Patient's rights.

In yet another 11th hour decision from the Bush administration, we see a further assault on individual rights, this time, under the guise of "religious tolerance". The federal health care conscience protection statutes, or The Church Amendments (42 U.S.C. 300a-7) proposed earlier this summer, and finalized just now, on December 19th, 2008 ensures that health services do not support coercive or discriminatory policies or practices with regards to refusal of participation or assistance with morally objectionable health services or research not limited to abortion or sterilization based on the medical practitioner's religious beliefs.

In the document itself, the issues regrading the broad sweeping and vague terminology of "any medical services or research" were swept under the rug as being intentionally broad, and "self explanatory". The final draft excludes specific and inflammatory language included in the draft defining abortion as:

“Abortion” means any of the various procedures—including the prescription, dispensing, and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action—that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.

Sparking a wide controversy implying that hormonal contraceptives would be included in the category of abortifacients. The finalized document fails to include any definition of abortion, and is even broader in terminology, expanding the right of doctors, medical employees, and all "workforce" in the medical industry (including pharmacists) to deny standard medical procedures or prescriptions or "health services" on the basis of religious affiliation, or moral objection.

At what point in time did the right to practice a religion become the right to refuse to fulfill all or part of a job for which you were hired? When did the right to practice or believe in a religion become the right to force those beliefs and moral judgments onto others by way of denying services to patients, customers, and clients?

You have a right to personally practice your religion, not the right to practice your religious beliefs on others.

The main argument from supporters of such a proposal is that doctors have the right to work according to their conscience. Yes, they do, in fact they have every right to refuse to personally engage in actions they find morally reprehensible, or at the very least, against their religion. They do not have the right, however, to train for a job, apply for a job, and then refuse to do the job they intentionally acquired. For example:

A Mormon or Muslim has every right to refuse to drink or serve alcohol. In which case, applying for a job at the local Chillies or watering hole would seem like a bad idea.

A strict Christian has every right to avoid taking or prescribing birth control, in which case applying for a pharmacists or gynecological job where it is likely they will have to prescribe birth control would be a bad idea.

A Scientologist has every right to refuse to have or give psychological care, in which case, studying to be a psychologist would seem to be a poor career choice.

A Jehovah's Witness has every right to refuse to have or give blood transfusions, in which case applying to work in an ER where the likely hood of giving or assisting in blood transfusions would be a poor choice.

A modest Christian, Jew, or Muslim has every right to shun immodest dress and behavior, in which case they should not apply to work in a lingerie shop or strip club. Or even a local department store that sells "unmentionables".

Am I making myself clear yet?

This proposal has greater ramifications of the field, as noted in the LA Times:
"This kind of rule could wreak havoc in a hospital if any employee can declare they are not willing to do certain parts of their job," she said.

Refusal to act, to refer patients, and to administer time sensitive emergency care to patients in need is a detriment to patients and in contradiction to the Hippocratic Oath doctors are required to take. The article goes on to state instances where religious beliefs cause undue harm and discrimination:
ACOG cited four recent examples. In Texas, a pharmacist rejected a rape victim's prescription for emergency contraception. In Virginia, a 42-year-old mother of two became pregnant after being refused emergency contraception. In California, a physician refused to perform artificial insemination for a lesbian couple. (In August, the California Supreme Court ruled that this refusal amounted to illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation.) And in Nebraska, a 19-year-old with a life-threatening embolism was refused an early abortion at a religiously affiliated hospital.

Another argument stated for supporters is that patients can choose the doctors that best fit their beliefs. This is only partially true. First and foremost, many patients are restricted by their insurance providers (who, by the way are also listed as being able to refuse insurance coverage of any procedure they deem morally objectionable). Furthermore, there can be long waiting lists for doctors or facilities that are in high demand, and if clinics and offices decide to go the moral route, you can be certain that the waiting lists for clinics and offices that do offer all medical options will grow exponentially, leaving many patients out in the cold.

In hospitals, and often in doctors offices with more than one doctor you don't get to choose which doctor you see. They work on a rotation, and you have to see all of them at one point or another. What happens to the woman who goes into her normal gynecological office for her birth control renewal, only to face a doctor who refuses to renew her prescription based on religious belief? That doctor also has the right not to defer to another doctor at that time. The woman then has to make a special appointment, hoping she won't get another morally righteous doctor so she can get her birth control pills or IUD fitting? Who will pay for the unnecessary visit? What about rotating doctors in the ER? You come into the ER and you're bleeding out and get the only Jehovah's Witness in the place who refuses to give you a much needed blood transfusion. You die, neither the hospital nor the doctor are legally liable under this law.

How is this acceptable?

At what point did moral guidance and moral judgment become the duty of a physician?

Where are my rights as a patient to receive the medical care that is acceptable to me?

What if a doctor decides to ignore a DNR, because he or she believes it is a form of assisted suicide, and suicide is against his or her religion? This isn't acceptable. You can't go against patient's wishes in this manner.

All too often people forget that professionals such as doctors are servants. They are public servants. They are not Gods, they do not have the right to force the patient into medical care or health positions against their will. There are only a few reasons a doctor or medical professional can deny treatment, service, or prescriptions:

They are not legally licensed to prescribe, treat, or diagnose a particular medical problem.

They are obligated to not prescribe medications that counteract with other medications, or medications for patients who do not need them due to the harm it can cause. (Think, nitroglycerin pills for someone with a healthy heart).

They cannot give a false diagnosis to pacify a patient.

That's it. There is nothing about personal opinion or religious belief, the legal or medical need to deny a patient a service is not based on belief but licensing, and medical science.

I have noticed that many complain of religious protections in every employment area but the medical industry. I beg to differ. What field or profession allows employees to refuse to do their job because of religious belief? The restaurant industry? The movie industry? Sales? Production? Lending? Brokerage industries? Attorneys, mechanics, architects, plumbers, contractors, suppliers? Designers, artists, writers, singers, actors/actresses, athletes? No, they can't refuse to do their jobs.

This is not about protection of religious beliefs. This is about limiting, restricting, and possibly eliminating "objectionable" medical services. Objectionable to a select few people, that is. Just read a snippet from Secretary Mike Leavitt's blog:
Is the fear here that so many doctors will refuse that it will somehow make it difficult for a woman to get an abortion? That hasn’t happened, but what if it did? Wouldn’t that be an important and legitimate social statement?

No, Mr Leavitt, it would not be an important social statement. It would be a detrimental comment from the select few who become physicians, not the will of the people. It would be a harmful and forceful restriction of individual liberties based on the moral righteousness of a small percentage of the population who claim absolute moral authority.

LA Times
Proposals, draft
45 CFR Part 88
LA Times
Senate letter opposing the HHS proposal
LA Times
White House Considering Contraception Restrictions
HHS Moves to Define Contraception as Abortion
MoveOn.org Urges Opposition to HHS Regulations Redefining Contraception as Abortion
Final proposal
42 USC 300 - Sec. 300a-7
Hat tipThis Time This Space


The Right to Subjugate as You See Fit

Part of the feminist movement has brought to light a grave concern they have for women in marriages. This break-away group claims that fundamentalist Christian marriages subjugate and demean women, by claiming that men must be the head of household. They point out the more extreme version of this, like the Quiverfull groups who do not allow the wives to make any household decisions, decisions regarding their personal body during pregnancy or the ability to use birth control, or the right to work outside of the home as a continuation of woman abuses held over from older days.

The feminists claim that the only way to stop this type of subjugation of women is to curtail the right to marry for people in fundamentalist Christian religions to others in the same religion, fearing that not only will the women be brainwashed and abused, but that the children of these families will grow up thinking inequality and the demeaning of women where normal and acceptable behaviors.

When asked if they felt this was an attack on rights, they answered:

"They choose to belong to religions that preach this, they made that choice for themselves. And it's not like they can't get married, they just have to marry someone from outside the belief to prevent abusive behavior from becoming acceptable to society, and teaching children that this is OK. We have to protect the sanctity of womenhood."

Although the group and their cause is still rather small, they say they're gathering momentum and hope to put forth a proposition to ban fundamentalist marriages that demean women in the next four years.

In case you were wondering, I made this up. It's just one example I can think of off the top of my head that pertains to the precedent set, and the behaviors encouraged by the force of Prop 8 et al on citizens who are simply living their lives as they see fit.

I wonder how other groups would feel if all of a sudden their way of life was put under a microscope, deemed illegitimate and therefore lacking in equal rights?

**For the record, the Quiverfull sect of fundamental Christianity does, in fact, exist and espouse the virtues of family as I listed above.


The Spirit of Christmas

In the spirit of the holiday season, but keeping with my current blog obsession of economy, class struggles, and equality I'd like to post about something anecdotal, and a bit wandering.

Tonight I got to go to one of those "tours" you take through the 1800's, a Christmas themed historical story that you get to participate in. First, it's very neat, very fun, and I really get into it.

However, tonight's "theme" was Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol". While we didn't go through the story, the theme used it to create a town that was in dire economic straights, and many townspeople were relying on charity to get by this holiday season. All but one townie, who was filthy rich and stingy - just like Ebenezer Scrooge. It was the character's introduction that struck me most (paraphrasing):

"Why should those who don't want to work hard reap the benefits of those who do? Charity? Donations? How lazy! What a joke!"

It was implied later on that he went through a literal version of the Dickens story, and became a "changed man" in the end.

But it struck me as odd at just how relevant it was to what I've been discussing now for weeks. Issues of poverty, social stigmas, capitalism and class struggles. The stereotype we hear often was perpetuated again right there, even if only an act, as a similar concept in that time period.

So I'll pose this question or two, and let you mull it over for a while.

Do low wage earners "work hard"? Think of the waitress on ha double shift, or the man who has to clean the coal cars in trains, or the man who picks up your garbage, or stands for hours putting tiny machine pieces together, or the backbreaking labor and sometimes dangerous labor of labor intensive jobs.

Now think about what a CEO does, or a manager. Gladhanding, computer work, board meetings, power lunches....sometimes the occasional tough decision. Do they "work hard"?

Does the statement that those at the top deserve, or are entitled to the massive compensation they get because they work hard ring false to you?

Lemme ask you this - if a massively wealthy person is entitled to gross over compensation for working hard, then why isn't the low wage employee entitled to the same gross over compensation for working hard, if not harder?

If it's only about "hard work" as many purport, then why isn't everyone entitled to the same wages?

Just thinking out loud here....


We agree, but only barely.

I am thoroughly enjoying this, so without further ado (And with limited quoting):

Let’s be clear that there are very few people left in this country that are proponents of a complete unregulated capitalist system.

I have heard this from you on several occasions, and I am relieved! In the Anarcho world, however, we tend to debate extremes, economically speaking, the extreme I abhor more than anything is Anarcho-capitalism. And there are more than a few who support it, unfortunately.

If they made large loans to small income families, they would eventually end up eating that loss and the company would fail. THAT serves as the warning to others. It isn’t until government steps in and says that these corrections occurring in a free market are “not acceptable” and start to meddle to control it, that the problems really begin.

That depends on what corrections you are speaking of. I agree with you that handouts to failing companies allows companies to continue poor business practices, and may even contribute to the "too big to fail" phenomenon, however the distinction between a regulation and program needs to be made. The handout, bailout, corporate welfare is not a regulation, it is a program that is offered, but not an obligation. There is no reason to believe that should Fannie and friends fail, another private industry willing to take it's place would not pop up. In fact, they already exist in the credit industry - also known as debt collection agencies that bundle debts turned risk and purchase them from lenders who gave high interest credit cards to 18 year olds, and people with notoriously bad credit. When the collection agency can't recover the debt, they sell it to another one ad naseum, essentially circulating the debt around until someone pays for it.

It should also be pointed out that "low income" doesn't equal "high risk". A family with a $30k income and stellar credit, and no debt asking for a $90k loan and has a 20% down payment is a much lower risk than a person with a $100k income, two Bankruptcies, and is currently defaulting on already existing debts.

A perfect example of this is the difference between the Big Three

We agree on this. (and most of what you mentioned previously)

Greed is no different than any other motivating emotion. It serves as a creating and driving force. It is only when greed is accompanied with rewarding bad or even illegal decisions and actions that it becomes a problem.

Be careful not to confuse greed with ambition. Ambition drives, greed is the obsession for something you've neither earned, nor deserve.

You seem to forget that these people, making bad decisions as to their own finances, taking loans they can’t afford.

In some cases, I'm sure this is true. In most cases, people only want what they can afford, and, rightfully want the best bang for their buck. However, social conditioning, as well as culturally acceptable needs play into the consumer's part in this mess more so than greed. Most low- middle income families I know would love nothing more than to get a decent house, for a reasonable price. The question, then, is who regulates the prices so that this is not feasible? (You answer that next)

You blame the corporate greed, but I put it to you that the real greed rests with the lenders who are taking these loans. If a company is greedy, and makes bad decisions because of it, they should not be rewarded with a bailout either. But without the greedy customer, this problem wouldn’t exist.

This is where we disagree - yes, I agree with the first part, but the last sentence makes little sense to me. Customers do not benefit from high interest loans, and expensive homes. "Greed" would imply that some exorbitant value has been dangled in front of them, a temptation to be snatched up. In the case of the borrower, the homes they desire come at a very high cost - where as the lenders and Realtors are the ones happily skipping to the bank with a big fat check. Agreeing to a high percentage loan for a home may be stupid, but not greedy.

Finally, you discuss how the market was doing well regulated, and how despite unregulated markets it crashed in the late 20’s. Aren’t you forgetting how it did before it crashed? If you care to examine how the US economy grew before the 20’s crash, you will see that it wasn’t exactly stagnant and dismal before that, in fact, 1870 to 1916 US production increased tenfold. That’s a slight 1000% dent in your “unregulated markets are bad” theory. The position of the US as the world leading industrial nation was created in this unregulated market.

I should have made that point more clear, but I ran out of words on my limit. (heh).

The market prior to government intervention did do well, in a bad way. The people who did well did very very well, and the people who did not slid into poverty. Upwards of 60% of the population was in poverty, to be specific. Furthermore, the economic boom pre-Depression actually helped fuel the Depression by inciting speculative lending, and purchasing on the margin.

Even without welfare programs like Fannie and Freddie, certain companies, also known as monopolies, became....."too big to fail"! Telecommunications, radio, and the auto industry, later to be followed by the banking industry and stock market. Without FDIC type insurance, when the banks closed their doors, everyone lost everything they had.

This is not a good economic policy, and this is where regulation really comes in handy.

We agree on a great deal of things - such as making better business choices. We disagree, I think, on regulations such as the CRA, and the definition of what Fannie and Freddie do. Again, they are not regulations, but voluntary programs. Meddlesome as they may seem, the inner workings of it helped to grease the wheels of this economy for a very long time, and, only with small booms and busts to speak of. And the companies who used them also thrived on it, voluntarily.

I'll wait for the second installment to see what else you have to say. I'm impressed so far - no aspirin needed....yet.

The Capitalist Chimes In

First, let’s start with the thanks. Anok has graciously opened her Blog to the Enemy. Whether she is crazy for doing it, or I am for taking the bait, remains to be seen… 

As Anok said, this isn’t about whether we are against the Bailout, we both are touchingly in agreement on that point. Maybe this simple fact should serve as a hint to Washington. If you know about Anok’s and my own normally diametrically opposed viewpoints this is a hint as subtle as a train wreck.
Anok, you raise many points here, in fact, too many to deal with in one reply, so I am going to break it down into a few answers. Effectively walking around the 800 limit 

I am going to begin by addressing your final point, that of unregulated capitalism.

Let’s be clear that there are very few people left in this country that are proponents of a complete unregulated capitalist system. I don’t know anyone that believes companies should be allowed to do anything without any consequences. For instance, you’d be hard pressed to find an American “Capitalist” that believes companies should be allowed to hire 5 year olds because their small hands and arms are just the right size to reach past that spinning saw-blade. There is undoubtedly some regulation that is necessary, warranted, and good for everyone involved. So we end up with not as much capitalism, as we do fiscally conservative ideas. To call a fiscally conservative a “capitalist” is about as accurate as calling Obama a communist. I will however loosely use the term Capitalism to denote the fiscal conservative stance since it is undoubtedly closer related to that than to the far left view of Socialism.

The problem here isn’t “Unregulated Capitalism”, the problem here is too much regulation, the efforts of Government to regulate capitalism or to be more precise to control one side of the equation only. Which is the potential negatives that come with having the benefits of capitalism.

This meddling is what has allowed companies to become “too big to fail” to begin with. (Which I’ll discuss in the next post.)

That being said, capitalism (as defined above) is essentially fair – Take a deep breath and two aspirins- I know that one made you see stars. But I promise I have a point here.

Real Conservative fiscal policy, would indeed allow for failure, which can be perceived as bad. But it would also remove any rights that these companies have to come crying when they end up making too many bad decisions. If they made large loans to small income families, they would eventually end up eating that loss and the company would fail. THAT serves as the warning to others. It isn’t until government steps in and says that these corrections occurring in a free market are “not acceptable” and start to meddle to control it, that the problems really begin.

Any side of this issue, be it left or right has to deal with the good and the bad of their own position, it’s when you try to implement the good of both sides that you end up with a clash where the bad reaches a synergy. Quite frankly, we can’t have the cake and eat it too.

Yes, there are negatives to both systems. Capitalisms problem is that it places a responsibility on the all parties not to make bad decisions. It operates on the basic assumption that a majority of decisions made will be good decisions. And it gives little or no pardon to those that makes bad ones. In the words of my old secretary,” Stupid hurts.”

A perfect example of this is the difference between the Big Three, and the foreign brands that have placed factories in for instance Tennessee. The big three have enjoyed government protectionism in order to stem their failing position on the international market. Now these Big 3 that have had that benefit, are the very ones that need more help. The foreign companies that had to fight their way into this market IN SPITE of big 3 having the backing of the US government aren’t sitting in Washington asking for 25 billion, they are functioning as they should.

You blame greed, and that is naturally a major player in this. But just to irk you a little I have to quote Gordon Gecko,” Greed is Good, Greed Works”.
Greed is no different than any other motivating emotion. It serves as a creating and driving force. It is only when greed is accompanied with rewarding bad or even illegal decisions and actions that it becomes a problem.

You seem to forget that these people, making bad decisions as to their own finances, taking loans they can’t afford. Are doing so because they are greedy to have things that their financial status can’t support. You blame the corporate greed, but I put it to you that the real greed rests with the lenders who are taking these loans. If a company is greedy, and makes bad decisions because of it, they should not be rewarded with a bailout either. But without the greedy customer, this problem wouldn’t exist.

The truly fiscally conservatives see no difference between a greedy person, and a greedy company. They both made their beds and now they have to sleep in them. Neither situation is the problem of someone else.

Finally, you discuss how the market was doing well regulated, and how despite unregulated markets it crashed in the late 20’s. Aren’t you forgetting how it did before it crashed? If you care to examine how the US economy grew before the 20’s crash, you will see that it wasn’t exactly stagnant and dismal before that, in fact, 1870 to 1916 US production increased tenfold. That’s a slight 1000% dent in your “unregulated markets are bad” theory. The position of the US as the world leading industrial nation was created in this unregulated market.

Now I’m past the 800.. so I’ll be back to post on the “too big to fail” argument next.


Bailouts, the Anarchist Perspective.

First and foremost, I should mention that right before sitting down to write this, I was pleasantly surprised with an Alternet article in my inbox titled: How kids Learn to Love Capitalism, and it essentially equated teaching capitalism to kids through vicious schoolyard games, like "kill the kid with the ball". It gave me a great big chuckle, you'll read it and understand why immediately. Second, this is my post in the dual blog post with my guest author Erik. To see what inspired the idea for this, go to Blogcatalog to see for yourself. The question at hand isn't whether or not either blogger here agrees with the bailout of companies like AIG, the "Big Three" or the credit and mortgage industry, but rather, why we don't because we have two very different reasons, and two very different opinions on the entire situation. I'll make this as simple as I can, keeping in mind this is a complicated subject. Now, on to my 800 word limited post. (The intro doesn't count! *cough*)

The problem at large is with the new economic catch phrase of the day, "too big to fail". This is the key aspect that sparked this very blog experiment. I do believe that these companies became too big to fail, but I believe they are too big to fail because the government failed to properly regulate them.

I can hear the screams now - we can't regulate progress! Success cannot be curtailed! I hear you, however if these companies were actually successful, they wouldn't be asking for a bailout, they wouldn't be failing, and they certainly wouldn't have gotten too big for their britches.

Some people blame government regulation for the economic meltdown. For example, Robert Blumen form the Mises Institute, years ago, accused Fannie and Freddie of distorting the market in a way that would cause an implosion, of sorts, or at the very least, a problem. Many people blame the Community Reinvestment Act for the huge subprime upset that has been blamed for the real estate crisis. But is this blame correct? Has the government intervention on these matters actually caused an economic implosion? What about companies like AIG? What government regulations caused their demise? Or the Big Three? The credit industry? Other than the welfare the companies willingly accepted, I don't see what government program spurred their decline. Furthermore, Fannie and Freddie went to private shareholder ownership back in '68.

Here's my theory:

Fannie and Freddie were implemented in 1938 as a quasi-private company, designed specifically to grease the wheels of capitalism. They buy bad debt, but they also lend and sell to others. They take money, and they move it around to make it all work. Some speculate that the having a semi-government run company buying up debts both good and bad is meddlesome, and interferes with the ebb and flow of free market capitalism. However, the majority of private lenders are under no obligation to sell their debts to Fannie or Freddie. In fact, the agencies were pressured by the primary lenders to ease their credit requirements for qualified lending, and, in 2004, anti-predatory lending regulations were dropped, allowing primary lenders to engage in high-risk lending practices. More to the point, Fannie and Freddie's requirements were simply too conservative, and so lenders looked elsewhere for their securities, and upped the high risk behaviors.

Some blame the CRA for this spike in high rick lending, but in fact only a sparse amount of lenders were bound to the CRA, the rest who engaged in high risk lending practices were private businesses with no obligation to do so.


In a word, Greed.

I'm going to use an anecdotal story to convey my point on this. Lending money is a risky business. The CRA low to moderate income debacle immediately creates blame for the government. However, low income doesn't necessarily equal "high risk". What low income means to banks, is "small loan, therefore, little financial reward". A lender can successfully lend money to a low to moderate income family for a home, provided that the applicant has a decent credit history, and, the homes are in affordable price ranges.

Ahh, there's the rub. Affordable homes. The real estate market, where I live, got greedy and opportunistic. The availability of wealthy people flowing into the town due to a (short lived) economic boom meant housing prices skyrocketed. The agents have to make money, right? The homeowners wanted to sell their homes for three times what they paid for it, right? The lenders wanted to make some serious money with large loans, right? That's exactly what they did, in the meantime they shot themselves and the rest of the community in the foot by putting homes in an economic bracket that was simply out of reach for the low to moderate income home buyers. Now they had to issue larger loans to people who couldn't really afford them.

Who's fault was that?

All of a sudden, there was a strain on the market, and credit started to freeze up. The securities from Fannie and Freddie were too strict, and so they deregulated them, opening credit up. In the meantime, however, the government issued a warning to Fannie and Freddie, that they had to maintain at least 30% capital to have enough of a cushion. Instead, Fannie and Freddie cooked their books, and continued buying loans beyond what their capital cushion allowed, causing their own financial meltdown.

To me, it's a bit like a child ignoring parental warnings, and asking for more and more liberties, then getting hurt. At what point was it the fault of the government for the predicament the lenders found themselves in? The regulations were in place long before this happened - and they worked just fine, to tell the truth. The so called market distortion by Fannie Mae et al seemed to sit rather well with the private industries who chose to do business with them. The CRA was being met just fine until the real estate and lenders decided they wanted to make more money.

If it was really the fault of government regulation, then why did the market do fine when they were regulated, and fall apart when deregulation occurred?

Granted there is the argument of bailouts rewarding bad companies. Rewarding companies who can't operate on their own is a bad idea, and why I disagree with the bailouts. This argument, however, can easily be put to task as the chicken or the egg. Which came first?

Well, de and unregulated markets did, actually. Pre-Depression the markets were hardly regulated at all, and they still collapsed forcing the government to step in.

I would love nothing more than for these companies to die a painful death on their own, with no welfare to save them. However, I would want that death to serve as a reminder of what needs to be done in the future to prevent Depressions from happening. The economic fallout for those of us who played no part in this mess is simply unacceptable, and I feel that regulation needs to be more strident.

For as much as I loathe the illegitimate authority of the government, I abhor the ludicrous disasters of unregulated capitalism even more. And so, while I just argued in favor of a government, it should be known it was actually an argument against unregulated capitalism.

Lending to the poor didn't cause crisis (Reuters)
Sandra F. Braunstein
Director, Division of Consumer and Community Affairs
Subprime mortgages
Before the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives

Finance and Economics Discussion Series
Divisions of Research & Statistics and Monetary Affairs
Federal Reserve Board, Washington, D.C.

New York Times
Key facts about Fannies Mae, USA Today
Mortgage Giant Overstated the Size of Its Capital Base
Hey Big Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
F.B.I. Looks Into 4 Firms At Center Of the Storm
Freddie Mac Ordered to Raise Capital Reserves
Fannie Mae Shares Plummet on Reports of New Violations
Fannie Mae, Wiki
Fannie Mae debt
Securities Exchange Act of 1934 - Section 13
No Action, Interpretive and/or Exemptive Letter: Fannie Mae

Finding Dulcea, business
2005 housing regulatory bill that was stalled on the floor, and never passed
Mortgage Crisis might have been worse without CRA
Subprime lending, Wiki
Subprime lending, investopedia


I'm Going to Have a Guest Author!

This week, I've decided to turn over a portion of my blog to Erik, a member of Blogcatalog for a point and counterpoint blog debate about the economy, the mortgage problems, and corporate welfare.

We'll each write a post (he limited me to 800 words!!) about our opinions on the subject matter, and then, I'm guessing chaos will commence.

A little background:

Erik and I both debate fervently on the political board on Blogcatalog, and generally have opposing views, and take turns bashing each other on the board. It's a good time had by all. In any case, we do have some great debates on there and decided this would be a fun experiment.

Now, here's my question to you guys and gals, would it be something you'd like to see an opposing viewpoint represented here on a regular basis? Maybe once a week or twice a month, or something to that effect? I was thinking it might be refreshing to read someone's words other than my own, and to hear an opinion that opposes my own.

Let me know what you think!



Yes, that is a made up word. In my world, dehumanification is a verb, it means to actively dehumanize the populace through means which reduce, devalue, or undermine human value to which a typical result is violence or neglect of other human beings for the purpose of raising one's own self worth to acceptable levels. I'm sure there is a real word out there that means the same thing, but it simply isn't as clever as mine.

After many hours of contemplating the Walmart stampede(s), and the Toys R Us shootings, I've come to the conclusion that these events are a small part of a much larger societal problem we are currently facing. (That would be dehumanification.) You can see it working it's way through our communities in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For example, relegating and reducing an entire group of people down to an easy to digest demographically correct bite size stereotype, and then using their situation against them, like a weapon. Poverty is a good example. Race is another. Religion, political affiliation, genres and sub genres - the list goes on and on.

It's very easy to categorize and label people when you don't know them personally, and apply a rather broad brush of judgment across a wide array of individuals. In this way, you have reduced people, individuals, human beings, into a larger faceless group. Much like posting online anonymously, it gives the renderer of judgment an easy target, with no real responsibility or incentive to understand the fact that individuals are affected and behave differently, even when in the same or similar situation, group, or genre.

Plus, the rhetoric is just so easy to spew, it's how Lady Propaganda works her magic.

Obviously, the tragedy that played out on Black Friday is the epitome of not so subtle dehumanification. Although the stampede and killings related to the consumerist frenzy is not the focal point of this argument, it did incite the thoughts about humanity in general. It proved enough of a shock to wake up just about everyone.

I had joked, only slightly, about how degenerates like us Anarchists, punks, skins, and city dwellers of a similar genre had enough decency to prevent such events from occurring in our own violent activities, and a decent point was brought up by Tiffany from Rational Outrage. She noted that perhaps, just maybe, that those of us who are less sheltered from reality, those of us who live on the fringe, or who are a bit "raw" have not yet been sucked into the habit of viewing other people as less than human.

She has a point.

Although our lifestyle is more often than not shoved into the stereotype of an unsightly and disgusting mess on the bottom of society's shoe, we do tend to live life a bit differently, and, outside of the norm of everyday thinking. And quite by choice, at that. We reject capitalism, we reject consumerism, we reject the notion of defining one's value by the toys we own. We also tend to be poorer, live collaboratively and collectively, and reject the notion of gated communities and nuclear families. Typically this is a shocking discovery for mainstreamers, but I digress.

The point is that we are accepting of alternative lifestyles, understand the inner workings of society's worst areas and least progressive states of being, and have seen or operate in the underbelly of the general public. Reality isn't something we learned on a partially scripted TV show. That said, there is a homogenization and isolation of society that has really restricted the exposure of the real world to a great many people, and thus, they have actually become desensitized, not us.

One would think the opposite would be true, and to an extent that is correct. Many of us are desensitized to injury, violence, and drunken debauchery. But on a very real level, I would argue that we are hyper sensitive to tragedies and atrocities of a certain nature. So much so, that we try and reject any contribution to the aspects of society that perpetuate it.

But back to my point. Our society does revolve around consumerism. Without it, capitalism cannot survive. In order for our economic system to thrive, we must convince people that ownership of goods is of the utmost importance. Otherwise, they won't buy. What happens when we insist that the purchasing of goods defines our contribution to society, and thus our value to society? We create an economic caste system that values those who can buy, more than those who cannot. And so the categorization of people into groups begins. It evolves into "othering" and dehumanization of entire groups of people. It removes compassion for those who cannot thrive at the same level as those at the top. Just look at some of the comments about poor people in forums online. "These people won't earn their own way." "These people refuse to support themselves." "These people take our tax dollars and then buy big ticket items."

"These people."

Which people?

In comments and reactions about the incident at Walmart, the comments varied from shock to blame. The comments referred to those who trampled the man as "animals". In a technical respect, this is accurate. However, when paired with claims and statements such as "Well there were a lot of black people there..." and "The poor shop at Walmart..." and "What did you expect from these people?" You begin to get a clearer picture of the problem. I once had a person tell me that a whole plane full of people flying in the economy section could go down and no one would care. "No one cares about these people anyway."

"These people."

I'm in no way defending the actions of the group that trampled a man to death. However you have to step back and look at the reactions, you have to remove yourself just a little bit, and wonder what they mean when they say "These people are animals!" Do they mean this particular group who did indeed act like a stampeding group of animals, or are they referring to a quasi acceptable stereotype of poor minorities? Does the lack of distinction between the two intentions perhaps raise a red flag?

Is the attitude of the "these people" ideology not part of the larger problem? Did anyone stop to consider the fact that those stampeding may have felt the exact same way? Perhaps the consumers who surrounded the participants were "these people" to each and every participant to this tragedy, and so were not valuable enough to be treated with any modicum of decency and respect?

It's food for thought. We reap what we sow, and those of us living in a world where relying on others for cooperation and support, and the value of each person is based on contributions and ability, and not on material ownership are less likely to generalize, to "other" and to classify others as subpar beings.

Perhaps living in the gated well-to-do communities where "self reliance" is based on wealth (because they are not, in fact, self reliant - they rely on a great deal of people to do everyday things for them at a price) has brought down the general welfare of people all over the country. We see it on a large level, every day. I don't see it as being any less effective on a small scale.

In the end, when self worth is defined by the toys you own, it's a bit easier to see why people would literally stamp out a human life for the chance of getting a socially acceptable toy, on sale. The dollar value of the TV itself isn't worth more than a human life, but the chance at being perceived as "someone" is more valuable than one of "these people's" lives.

What a sad state of being.

Consumerism Gone Mad

Black Friday, corporation's dream, and a retail worker's nightmare came and went yesterday with chilling results. According to the New York Times, an employee was trampled to death, and several others were injured when Walmart's doors were broken open by sales-mad consumers trying to get inside.

I am appalled by this news. Just...appalled. I used to work in retail and food service industries, and I know how crazy "Black Friday" can get. I've seen customers get into fist fights, I've seen stores get trashed, people at their worst. But I have never heard of someone getting trampled to death over TV's and dolls at 50% off. This is...unacceptable.

From the article:

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

An 8 month pregnant woman was also trampled, and sent to the hospital along with a few others who were treated for minor injuries.

They trampled a man to death. They killed a person, and didn't even acknowledge his existence, as he lay there on the ground, dying, so they could get to the sales items first. They stepped over, and on him, so they could buy their TV.

And then they complained when he had the audacity to die, and they had to clear the store.

Pardon my language when I say this, but what the fuck is the matter with these people?!

Listen, let's put this into perspective for a moment. I run with a rough crowd. I go to shows where moshpits are thriving and people regularly get smashed in the face, receive broken bones, and sustain injuries. Just two weeks ago, I had my jaw bashed in at a show.

But never, ever, not in a single pit I've ever been in has anyone ever been left to die on the floor. When someone goes down (and they all do) they are immediately picked up to protect them so they don't get trampled. And if the crowd doesn't pick a person up, the bands have been known to stop playing, and order that they pick the person up, and even further, some bands will refuse to play if the crowd doesn't comply with basic pit etiquette.

Now, how is it that a bunch of degenerate skins, punks, and drunken assholes have enough decency to ensure the safety of others, but so-called "decent citizens" trample each other for a $50 discount?


In other news, two men shot each other to death in Toys R Us, over a physical fight initiated by their respective female partners over a toy, and, 15 miles away from the above mentioned Walmart, another women was trampled.

What on God's green earth?

From the article:
As for those who had run over the victim, criminal charges were possible, the lieutenant said. “I’ve heard other people call this an accident, but it is not,” he said. “Certainly it was a foreseeable act.”

But even with videos from the store’s surveillance cameras and the accounts of witnesses, Lieutenant Fleming and other officials acknowledged that it would be difficult to identify those responsible, let alone to prove culpability.

Had I been on the scene, I would have locked the doors, detained every single person in the store and had them all charged with negligent homicide. The courts could sort it out later, after positive ID's were made from the surveillance tapes. Every single person in there who had stepped on or over this dying man to get to their precious sale, or who had complained and booed because the store had to shut down because of the incident deserves to be charged with a crime.

This kind of behavior is disgusting. It is appalling, abhorrent. This is greed, and gluttony.

It's consumer insanity.


Is Poverty a Personal Choice?

A discussion over at BlogCatalog about affirmative action - turned socio-economic conditions debate has sparked my need to read. The question that sparked this exploratory post was whether not impoverished people could lift themselves up out of poverty by the very simple act of not making poor personal choices. At first, this question seems exceedingly simple to answer - better choices create better environments and results, therefore yes, making better personal choices would lift people out of poverty. Of course, the real answer is no where near that simple. In fact, the matter is so complex one could invest a lifetime exploring the causes and implications of poverty and socio-economic standing. I'm thinking we could do a brief overview, instead.

There are some common ideologies about poverty, crime, education and so forth that are often used in debates about the issue.

  • Poverty is a choice, the poor choose to remain poor, the poor could lift themselves out of poverty by applying themselves, and the poor consciously make bad decisions to perpetuate poverty.

  • The poor have no choices, are victims and are generally helpless.

  • Poverty is caused by various means, and is a self perpetuating cycle that will require a concerted effort on everyone's behalf to break or correct.

Now, all of these ideologies have a bit of truth to them, but none of them are all true. First and foremost, we have to consider our national economic system's role in poverty. We have a mixed economy that leans heavily towards free market capitalism. In capitalism economic hierarchies must exist, and be appropriately filled in order for capitalism to thrive. That includes the economic class of poor and working class economic brackets. Although extreme or abject poverty provides little benefit for regulated capitalist markets, those who hover right around the poverty threshold fulfill the basic needs of companies offering low wage employment. Students whose age and academic schedules determine that they work part time jobs, or fewer than twenty hours a week means that there simply aren't enough bodies to satisfy the needs of companies. So adults, particularly adults with little or no education, must step in and fill those positions.

Of course, we all know that supporting oneself or one's family on a low, minimum wage, or below minimum wage job (service industry, commission based jobs) is next to impossible, hence you have an entire segment of the population who are now poor. I find it ironic that the very requirements of an economic system that people support causes and sustains poverty, and yet, the poor are consistently blamed for their own financial woes.

Education is key.

The most commonly looked at issue regarding poverty is education, or a lack thereof. Large cities with poor inner city schools are severely lacking in the funds and resources needed to provide decent, or competitive educations. To compound that issue, poor inner city areas also have little in the way of out-of-school educational resources, such as proper libraries, extracurricular activities, youth groups and organizations, tutoring and so forth. The children growing up in poor inner cities simply do not have access to all of the materials and information they need to become successful.

Drop out rates, rates of illiteracy, and poor educational resources result in poor test scores, low paying job opportunities, and a lack of value on education. Compare graduation statistics by cities and, Compare the test results of schools with high vs low levels of poor students. The numbers speak for themselves. However, even more pertinent to the problem are parents with equally low levels of education. Cognitive development studies have shown, over decades of research, that children with parents who have secondary, graduate, or post graduate educations will have children who develop faster and retain information better than children whose parents have little or no education, and for a variety of reasons.

Also, an interesting study and thesis points out that young adults with little to no education, or a poor education, living at or below the poverty level could adversely affect the unborn child and young child respectively due to a lack of pre-natal medical care, inability to properly parent, and exposure to insufficient role models and peer groups. Read - The Vicious Cycle: Poor Children, Risky Lives by Bruce L. Mallory.

Essentially, the idea is that uneducated parents produce uneducated children, and instead of each generation experiencing a progression towards a decrease in poverty, the percentage of poverty and poor education actually increases.

Crime doesn't pay.

Well, actually, it does pay. Crime pays well, in fact for a lot of people who would otherwise be scraping by a meager minimum wage and welfare living. There are a lot of arguments circulating around about the relation of poverty and crime. However, incarceration statistics clearly indicate that far more convicted criminals are coming from, and returning to, impoverished neighborhoods. There are anecdotal arguments about how not all poor people commit crimes, and never would, and that's true. However morals are relative and learned behaviors so it would suffice to say that those growing up who are exposed to crime, and have little education, and little hope for real opportunities have a much higher chance of committing a crime than those who do not grow up under those circumstances. A debate on the direct and indirect links of crime and poverty states:
Poverty creates unstable communities. Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay's classic 1942 study on juvenile delinquency argued that economic deprivation encourages crime only because poor neighborhoods tend to be socially unstable, [and] Unstable employment creates despair. More recent studies, however, have had to revise this aspect of the theory, the authors write. In his 1987 work The Truly Disadvantaged, William Julius Wilson showed that low-skill, high-paying manufacturing jobs in U.S. cities declined drastically during the 1970s. The result has been a concentration of poor blacks in ghetto areas. These areas have experienced extremely high rates of violent crime even though they are not subject to a job-driven turnover of population. [and] low levels of economic well-being directly encourage crime because people naturally shift to illegal activities in order to succeed when legal channels are blocked. [and] Obviously, deciding whether or not social disorganization mediates economic deprivation and crime depends crucially on how "social disorganization" and "economic deprivation" are defined and measured.

A look into the history of gangs and gang violence sheds even more light on the subject of crime, gangs, and violent crimes:
The black youths in Aliso Village, a housing project in East Los Angeles, started a club called the Devil Hunters in response to the Spook Hunters and other white clubs that were engaging in violent confrontations with blacks. The term "Devil" reflected how blacks viewed racist whites and Ku Klux Klan members. The Devil Hunters and other black residents fought back against white violence with their own form of violence.

Although organized crime was nothing new at that time, the organization of gangs that evolved into what we know as the Bloods and Crips started for a very real, logical reason. Protection and survival from racist groups. These gangs, of course, evolved over time, and sought to use their power and numbers to create wealth in areas where poverty reigned supreme. I find it highly disingenuous to claim that poverty and an already violent environment had and has nothing to do with gangs and crime, considering that the gang members are often very, very poor. Top ten poverty locations and gangs. There is a psychology of poverty and social stigma attached to impoverished areas that when paired with an actual need to make money makes ganglife a desirable choice. Not only is the gang member making money to support himself or his family, he is also now commanding respect (through fear and violence) so that he gains power, social respect, and protection for himself, and his family members.

Although "gangbanging" is frowned upon by mainstream society, it garners a particular type of fear based respect from almost everyone. The moment you hear that someone is from a gang, be it the Bloods or the Hell's Angels, the reaction is immediate, and noticeable. One immediately knows not to challenge such a person, much in the way we would react to a brightly colored, venomous plant or animal. The genetic predisposition to stay away from that which endangers us is strong even in social circles. That kind of respect, although generally negative, still retains it's power. And when a person or group of people grow up feeling powerless, gaining social power and respect can and does become a priority. Crime pays out in this respect in a very big way.

It also helps to remember that the ideology of wealth being a desirable goal, and that the wealthy are notably respected for being able to acquire such wealth permeates every aspect of our society. It generates respect, awe, and power along with the financial ability to do whatever you please. This concept is not lost on those living in impoverished areas. In fact, I would say that living with the social stigma of poverty creates a huge desire to accumulate as much wealth as possible.

Look at it like this, if the temptation to commit a crime exists within wealthy, educated people so much so that they commit crimes to attain more wealth when they already have it, it's fair to say that those without educations, and no wealth to speak of, and no real possibility of attaining said wealth, the temptation to commit crimes to attain wealth increases accordingly. Although arguments of needs and wants may creep in, the psychological concept of willingness to commit a crime to accomplish the same goal remains unchanged, and would seem to be even more likely at lower levels of the economic structure, particularly when greed is combined with desperation.

Back to education...

You might be saying to yourself, "But, but, but there are other ways to gain respect, and wealth than crime, we all know that!" And, to an extent, you would be thinking correctly. However, there are other forces at play here that when combined create the the right environment for crime. First and foremost, the lack of [quality] education immediately creates very real barriers to gainful employment above and beyond poverty wages. But you also have to address the psychological issues at play when poverty strikes or persists.

In the above argument about why crime and poverty are linked, it addresses unstable communities, and despair. This is important because when despair sets in, it works a bit like clinical depression, and may even be clinical depression. If a person has been living in poverty, struggling for their entire lives, or if a person has fallen into poverty with the inability to cope, they not only view the reality of severely limited choices as a large barrier, but may even refuse to accept a golden opportunity if one should come along. When you combine despair or depression, or even anger with a lack of education, or training for critical thinking you create a person who may not recognize, understand, or comprehend the available options, and may even create a fear of the unknown.

When you live among criminals and hustlers, you gain the street knowledge of healthy skepticism. If something is too good to be true, it probably is. With a life dedicated to scraping by a meager living, the thought of losing even more by way of a scam can be terribly frightening. Although I'm sure the temptation exists. In that regard, even a true opportunity may be interpreted as a scam.

Can anyone argue that these fight or flight reactions, the basic survival reactions ingrained in our genes are really personal choices? They are choices, of course, but the idea that one is making a calm, educated choice with a future goal in mind in an impoverished and crime riddled environment with a lack of education is taking some creative license with the notion of "choice".

What does it all mean?

If we look at the Census Bureau's statistics on poverty we will see that 13% of the population lives at or below the poverty threshold, and 17.5% of the population hovers right above the threshold, or what is known as 125% of poverty. That would suggest that over 30% of the population is living at, below, or just above the national poverty threshold. That amounts to 91.5 million men, women, and children who are either in, or sinking into poverty.

We can argue that 30% of the population are simply making poor life choices, and leave it at freewill's doorstep, or we can address the very real issue of income and opportunity disparity in this country. 91 million people can't all be making the same simple mistakes.

As we look at the history of gangs, the history of crime, the history of impoverished neighborhoods, and the history of the US we can get a general idea of what happened and why, where it all began. Unfortunately the task at hand now is breaking the violent cycle of poverty and crime. Knowing how it all began is a decent start, but doesn't speak to the changes we need to make it stop.

An answer lies somewhere, and it's time we really tried to find it.

More poverty statistics, independent studies
Culture of poverty, cycle of decline
History Channel's Gangland Series


Blame the Victim

In the day and age we live in, everyone seems to blame everyone else for their problems. I'm lazy because my parent's made me that way, I'm a criminal because I wasn't loved enough as a child, I did something royally stupid with your product, so I'm going to sue you for my stupidity.

And yet, when you actually are a victim of a crime, everyone else blames you.

For instance, identity theft. I'm dealing with this now, and have been for the last four years. I have had to go above and beyond to prove my innocence, and companies still don't believe me. My identity was stolen, I filed a police report, I canceled all of my cards, and reported them stolen to each individual company. I have miles of paperwork regarding disputes, I hired an attorney. I have a letter from my congressman on my behalf. My credit reports have fraud alerts on all of them, and reports are frozen. Everything has been disputed, and the stolen cards show on my report as being reported stolen. Like, years ago.

And yet, I'm still being told "We don't actually know if your identity was stolen."

WHAT?! How much more proof on my behalf do I freaking need to provide? At what point does the burden of proof change from a reasonable request to a weapon being used against a victim of a crime?

I've had it, and I am livid.

I've worked, and worked to resolve and correct all of these problems - these problems have halted and destroyed any semblance of a normal life for my family and myself, financially crippling us for the last four years and will continue to do so for many years into the future. And yet, I'm still hearing 'Well, your card may have just been lost...not stolen", implying that I had reported is stolen, but then used it anyway.

Why the hell would companies allow you to report cards as stolen and then turn around and accuse you of fraudulently acquiring goods with it instead?! I understand that there is fraud out there, I understand that people game the system - but a person who has lost far more money than was "earned" back by way of ill gotten merchandise, and who has paid an attorney a tidy sum, and for one with paper trails and evidence that the cards being used are the ones that were reported stolen, and not the cards that I've had - I think they'd believe me. Not to mention I was always a good customer with excellent credit and low balances, anyway. I had no need to steal anything, I could have just bought it.

Is it me?

I'm dealing with idiots right now who say things like "Well, there's nothing on your credit report to indicate fraud..."

Me: "So yo don't see the fraud alert or credit freeze on the report?"
Idiot: "Well, yes, but that doesn't mean..."
Me: "Do you see all of the cards reported stolen?"
Idiot: 'Well yes, but that may not be the truth...."
Me: "Do you see all of the disputes?"
Idiot: "I see no indication of disputes being made on any of these accounts."
Me: "I'm looking right at the report, here I'll read it to you...."
Idiot: "Well yes, but I have the credit report, and we pull our own..."
Idiot: "Well, yes, but that doesn't mean..."
Me:" YES IT DOES!!!"
Me:" Do you have the letters, reports, and files of disputes with businesses?"
Idiot: "Well yes, but there's no indication of fraud..."


Then I'm told that these companies don't have to deal with me. I'm told that I may have to pay anyway.

I'm thinking this is a rather nice racket for the credit card companies and banks whose employees are too lazy to do the job they're hired to do - like cancel stolen cards, and check to make sure the identity of the person applying for credit matches the identity of the person on the actual application. Like, maybe checking to see if the person applying has just reported a lot of stolen cards, and needs to be called an verified. You know, just maybe actually preventing theft, instead of encouraging it by honoring every damn purchase made with a STOLEN CARD.

Then they blame the victim of the crime, and demand payment - how nice. Either way, they get their money, right?

Wrong. Not from me they aren't.


But the worst part isn't even being blamed - it's the absolute willful ignorance played by these assholes. "I don't see any indication of fraud here!!"

What freaking report are you looking at, asshat? Becasue my reports have FRAUD written all over them. Literally. In bright red, bold letters. You start to feel like you're living in an alternate universe.


Yup, let's blame the victims.



Shamelessly stolen from Tom Rants, a blogger I haven't heard from in a bit (but is still alright in my book) this was one of his random quotes of the day:

Damn it feels good to be a banksta, making money selling toxic loans. Got my silver spoon and gold parachute, I'm untouchable like Al Capone! Banksta 4 Life y'all, feel me?

By the Way, I finished that Goya...

The top images are a little grainy (I didn't take the photos) but you can click to enlarge them. The third one down is obviously the original.


Olbermann on gay rights.

Because I am on a gay marriage and civil rights kick, and because this video has been brought up numerous times, it's time I posted it direct.

Olbermann can be rather abrasive at times, but I was surprised to hear real emotion in his voice. Maybe it's just me, but it sounds like he was on the verge of tears.

Watch the video, and read the transcript while you watch it. It's worth it.

Transcript courtesy of The News Hole, MSNBC

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics.

This is about the... human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not... understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want -- a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them -- no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights -- even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage.

If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal... in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry...black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are... gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing -- centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children... All because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage. How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness -- this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness -- share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."


You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of...love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate. You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know...It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow **person...

Just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

"I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge.

"It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all:

"So I be written in the Book of Love;

"I do not care about that Book above.

"Erase my name, or write it as you will,

"So I be written in the Book of Love."


The Case For Equal Rights.

Now that the election is over, and votes have been cast and counted, the debate about the marriage propositions in three states brings about a new question.

Should civil liberties and constitutional rights be decided by a simple majority vote?

Civil liberties, and equality under the law seems like a no-brainer to the modern American. After all, we no longer tolerate racial or gender based inequalities, and scoff at those who do. Our constitutional rights at first glance, do seem to support the notion of all men being equal, and the general interpretation by the average citizen believes that our founding fathers believed in personal liberties, and equality across all lines. How soon we forget the legal battles waged in the US over such now common place opinions to guarantee the rights of individuals to be treated fairly, and equally under the law.

How often we overlook the ability of state based constitutions to be amended or revised by a simple majority vote by the populace. Even those rights that would interfere with what we consider to be civil rights, and thus automatically guaranteed.

Let's take a brief look at the race based civil rights movement that started shortly after the abolishment of slavery, and raged on until the 1960's. In 1877 citizens and law makers alike began creating and supporting local and state laws that enforced segregation, and restricted Black American's ability to vote. Clearly the majority supported the Jim Crow laws, and used the power as a majority to keep the laws in place.

So what changed? Court cases. Many, many court cases. Eventually the US Supreme Court had to rule on the wide array of civil rights cases brought before them over a period of time, and after the court's implementation of the Equal Rights Clause in the 14th amendment, the US government was able to introduce the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The government had to introduce it under commerce laws, however, to circumvent the limit of congressional power on enforcing court rulings.

After nearly two months of debate, and filibusters, the bill was passed. Even then, the citizens of the US fought the new anti-segregation laws with civil disobedience, protests, and sometimes outright violence.

In the case of civil liberties in matters of race, the US Supreme Court and the US government had no choice but to step in, and force equality even though it was a dangerously unpopular decision. Had civil liberties and rights not been mandated, against popular opinion, on a federal level and continued to be decided by majority votes and left to states, there is no guarantee that racial equality under the law would exist today. It's possible, but not guaranteed. And even though the civil rights are now guaranteed, it took 87 years before such equality was made possible.

The average citizen, such as myself, would think that looking back at historic civil rights movements we would automatically adopt some sort of legislation that would inherently protect US citizens from various forms of legal discrimination, and, continuance of such discrimination by way of majority votes. It would only be logical to use our past experience to determine how civil rights and equality should be treated under the law, and, that it's probably a bad idea to leave fundamental rights up to the general populace.

It just isn't that simple.

The way that our constitution(s) and government is set up, is a system of checks and balances that guarantees the populace the right to determine how they are to be governed by way of voting. I personally feel that there is some balance between preserving and insuring civil rights sans drawn out court cases for every individual civil rights issue without negating the constituency's right to vote on and decide issues and matters of importance, on a state level.

The very first issue I decided to look up was a basic, agreed upon enumeration of human rights. Those rights that are not granted by and cannot be taken away by governments. I found the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as outlined and accepted by the UN generally assembly. I needed to know if equality was indeed a basic human right. I was pleasantly rewarded with an answer in the first seven articles of the declaration. Most of which deal with equality, and specifically article seven which states:

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Excellent, so now we do know that equality under the law is a basic human right. To me, this is important to recognize. The US is bound by treaty to adhere to the international laws of human rights, as shown in this Executive Order 13107.

An average layperson, such as myself doesn't see a large amount of obstacles in adopting such language of equality under the law into our federal constitution. In fact, the 14th Amendment has very similar language regarding equality under the law. Read an interpretation of the 14the amendment.

The problem, however, that has been brought to my attention is that if there were a strict amendment or revision regarding equal application of laws to help stop discrimination by way of majority vote, the citizens may be disenfranchised by not being allowed to weigh in on important matters of their governance, and that it opens the door to more government based regulations and law making than is healthy or desired. Questions such as who and how such amendments would be made, under what authority, and who makes the distinction of such rights come to the surface.

I see a precedent made with previous civil rights cases, and with guidelines such as the Declaration of Human Rights and the US federal constitution as being a solid way to amend or revise our constitution(s) in a way that will not disenfranchise the general population. First and foremost, I think that any revision of this type should be made on a federal, not individual state level so that it's application is uniform.

I would propose that, under the article seven of the Declaration of Human Rights, and, the 14th amendment of the US constitution, we could feasibly amend or revise our constitution and add a clause that states amendments and revisions of the constitution(s), laws, and rights must be applied equally and uniformly for all US citizens, with reasonable regulations and restrictions, as already stated in our constitution.

Those reasonable regulations and restrictions generally apply to rights or privileges that require legal consent, and legality of the action, and protections for certain parts of the community. For example, such regulations could include regulations of consent regarding minors, mental competence, mutual agreements, and insuring that the activity is legal in the first place.

Uniform application of the law isn't something new in the US. If something is against the law, that criminal activity is illegal for all citizens, not just one group of citizens, etc and so forth.

In that regard, the general population can still vote to change their own state's constitution, but those changes will affect the entire populace. This, to me, is the only way to allow majority vote decisions, while preventing one group from voting the rights of another group down.

I will use the example of gay marriage, partly because it's up for debate and it inspired this post.

In the US constitution, the 14th amendment outlines the right to equal protection under the law, and it's interpretation specifically regarding marriage is as such:
Unlike the shifting definitions of the
‘‘privacy’’ line of case, the Court’s treatment of the ‘‘liberty’’ of familial
relationships has a relatively principled doctrinal basis.
Starting with Meyer and Pierce, 644 the Court has held that ‘‘the
Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because
the institution of the family is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history
and tradition.’’ 645 For instance, the right to marry is a fundamental
right protected by the due process clause, 646 and only ‘‘reasonable
regulations’’ of such relationship may be imposed. 647

Marriage is interpreted as a fundamental right in our own constitution, and as a fundamental human right by the Declaration of Human Rights, article 16:
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

It would seem, then that marriage is a fundamental human right. If my idea were to ever make through the government process, the debacle of gay marriage could still be voted on, but the end result would be applied uniformly.

For example, the propositions voted on during the past election was to explicitly define "marriage" as being between a man and a woman. In doing so, the constitution has been amended or revised to exclude a specific group of people - homosexuals - from the fundamental rights and protections of marriage by the use of specific language.

If the federal constitution were amended or revised to include a uniform application of rights, that proposition would not have been on the ballot. Instead, the populace would have to decide if they want to abolish "marriage" altogether, and implement civil unions instead. In that way, the group that is fighting to "preserve the definition of marriage" from including homosexuals could do so, by implementing civil unions as the standard legal right. They would be free to have religious marriage ceremonies, but all legal aspects of it would now be called civil unions, for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

The majority would have their say, and their amendment, and no one would be excluded from the state's constitutional laws, or be isolated or banned from fundamental rights by way of majority vote.

As a lay person, I do not know all of the legal nuances and obstacles that could prevent such a federal amendment from being implemented. But I do know that even without that, the process itself would take a very long time, I'm certain that there are plenty of legal problems that need to be addressed first on top of that.

That doesn't dissuade me, however, from the idea that there is some way to bring civil rights, equality, and popular votes to a happy balance. Of course, my novice opinion on constitutional law is far from perfect, but I am merely offering this idea as a premise, a brain storm if you will, to help fuel a progressive civil rights movement so that future generations aren't forced to fight for equal protection and equal access to fundamental rights, all while preserving the checks and balances of the government we have.

Amending our constitutions, protecting certain amendments from being changed by law or majority votes, and civil rights are not radical ideas. This isn't a radical proposal. We've done this before, we can do it again.

But at some point, I do believe as a country bound to protect the rights and freedoms of humans, we have to stop and ask ourselves if it's really OK to decide civil, human, and fundamental rights by popular vote. Full well knowing that bigotry and hatred exist, right here in our own country, we need to ask ourselves if amendments that create inclusive rights and protections are something we shouldn't be considering.


Obama Wins the presidency!

As of 11:16pm Eastern time, McCain concedes the presidency to Obama.

Today will go down in history.


30 Minute Obama ad.

If you didn't catch it on TV the other night, and wanted to watch it, here it is:

Personally speaking, I think it was a well done ad. As the election is coming to a close, I think consolidating all of the positive aspects of Obama's platform into one piece, and combining it with the reasons - the people he's listened to - was a great choice for the Obama campaign.

All politics aside, I want to comment on the campaign that Obama has run so far. It has been wildly successful - even if he doesn't win the presidency, his campaign has been run so well it should be a model for future presidential campaigns.

Now, I know what you're thinking, if it's such a good campaign, and he doesn't win, why should it be a model? Well, first we have to understand the nature that is campaigning, and voting. The main function of a campaign is to get the person elected, however, you can't negate the people who will vote their party, or for a candidate for every reason under the sun but the campaign. These are the people who have their minds made up before the election has started, or don't bother to pay attention to any of it, and simply vote for the person with the nicest hair, or a name they vaguely remember hearing once at a cocktail party. You have the die hards and the brain dead who can swing an election!

All of that not withstanding, campaigns have to over come hurdles - fund raising, public relations, and yes, slamming the "other guy". And of course, that comes with dodging mud for the home team, too.

Obama's campaign has had some serious public relations issues to contend with. The McCain campaign threw around very seriously damaging accusations, trying to get the public to hear an insinuation about say, Obama and Ayers, and internally digest it as being associated with terrorists, and then spew it back out to others as Obama is the terrorist. This is like playing "Operator" with a political twist. Had the Obama campaign not been swift on it's feet, a rumor like this could have brought them down easily months ago. It didn't.

The Obama campaign has handily balanced the fine line between defending the candidate against outright and malicious attacks about his character, his ethnicity, and his religion without letting it become a constant defense routine. Putting your opponent on the defense is the easiest way to prevent the platform message from getting out. McCain failed to do that, and, in fact, Obama managed to work the defenses of his character in with his platform stomp speeches so that it was all one, fluid, piece.


The Obama campaign has shown consistency in it's campaign tactics, and preparedness in battleground states. The amount of preparation is what has astounded me. The campaign teams were in the neighborhoods knocking on doors and making phone calls before McCain was even in the state itself. Considering the fact that McCain had almost six months on Obama to prepare for the presidential race, he is seriously behind campaign wise.

So much so, that he has had to pull out of battleground states.

The other aspect that has struck me, at least, are the assertions being made by McCain's campaign that are false, and the facts asserted as facts being proven as false. In the age of instant gratification, online access to information in a New York minute, the ease at which we can get records of past speeches, debates, and quotes, and the flurry of fact checking a candidate must take extra care to ensure that what they say cannot be debunked just moments after they've said it. Or at all, if they can help it.

In this regard, I do believe that Obama's campaign has utilized and maintained the usefulness of the electronic era to it's fullest potential. While both Obama and Biden have made small gaffes and mistakes, the mistakes made on behalf of the McCain campaign are astounding. The frenzy of information being debunked, checked, or refuted justs moments after a speech or debate is something few presidential candidates have had to encounter in campaigns past. To not understand, or be wary of the ramifications of speaking about issues topics or people without having all of the facts in this era is a massive tactical mistake for campaigns to make.

As we saw with the whole "Joe the plumber" debacle.

Another area to look at is fundraising. According to The BBC Obama has raised an astonishing $659 million dollars, but most impressively, has dominated in the small donation category. Obama has latched onto and used local excitement to help raise money for his campaign. While McCain sat back, waiting for large donations to drop into his lap, and for public funds to come flowing in in September - far too late in the game - Obama managed to raise the money he needed before that public funding was even made available, and so he didn't need to take it. That saves the government some money, at least.

But more importantly, it shows campaign initiative.

Regardless of political opinions, and who you plan to vote for, if you haven't already voted, you simply can't deny that Obama has run the superior campaign.