Saturday, August 25, 2007

August 24, 2007 – Sub-Prime Debt From A Ground Zero Perspective

I have a friend named Annie. She is a single mother with two kids and a serious problem with her house. She is about to lose it.

She ran up her two credit cards and made her payments late. And so her interest rate went from (an already usurious IMHO) 16 percent to 32 percent. So in effect she couldn’t ever pay it off making the minimum payment each month which, if she was lucky, is the best she could do. This is real; I saw the statements from Mastercard and Visa myself. She bought a car she couldn’t afford, but hey she needed something to drive, right? And something dependable too, not some crappy ol’ hoopty, as we call ‘em here in Detroit. She has a job and kids and other responsibilities and so dependable transportation is a must.

When you get jammed up like this, very soon the bill collectors start calling. And calling and calling. At home, at work, at your parents and relatives, and on your cell phone. And these calls are unrelenting, and needless to say, embarrassing.

She was pouring her heart out to my girlfriend and me one night when she was over at the house for a barbecue. “WTF am I gonna do man? I just can’t stand this anymore,” she said to us finally.

My best advice: Make a deal, go bankrupt, or hire a lawyer to negotiate with your debtors, but whatever you do, DON’T get a second mortgage loan against your house. Don’t. Just don’t. Easy and simple though this solution seemed, I strongly advised against it. Annie’s house note, taxes, and utilities were about the only bills that she did keep up with. And which was smart too. So far so good.

The reasoning behind what I said to her was this; Visa and MC can call you constantly, embarrass and humiliate you, and generally make your life miserable. And Ford Credit can and will take you car away, but at least you’ll have a roof over your head. A place to live for her and her kids is the priority here. The other debt she could deal with later. Visa, MC, and Ford Credit can all make your life miserable, embarrass you, ruin your “credit reputation” (i.e., your credit report and FICO score), but in the grand scheme of things in this life, it’s worth it all to persevere through such a predicament than it is to lose your homestead.

But she did it anyhow. And things were fine, for a while. She got the money and paid Visa and MC off in full and then she cancelled the accounts. She paid off her car too. But then she got laid off for a while and got behind on both mortgages. And now she’s being foreclosed on. Which is exactly what I was afraid would happen.

If she had done as I suggested she’d still be getting calls from bill collectors and had her car repo’ed and be reduced to public transportation and a hoopty, but still, she’d have had a place to live, a refuge, a nest, whatever you wanna call it; A safe, secure place to be that she owned, and a good springboard for getting her financial situation back in order. But that possibility is gone now. Visa and MC and Ford Credit don’t mind though. They already have their money.

I hope that she really likes that car, and that it’s in good shape. Because after shipping her kids off to their father (and changing schools and having to put up with a bitchy step mom to boot), she’s gonna have to live in it for a while.

I am not gonna make the expected rant here against the usurious sub-prime loan business that some of you are no doubt anticipating at this point. No, the fault lies with Annie and her bad choices. And boy howdy is she gonna pay for those choices, too. And the consequences for her and her children are going to be felt for a long while.

I hope anyone reading this benefits somehow from this cautionary tale I’ve laid out here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

August 23, 2007 – I Quit My Day Job in the Movement

I resigned my gig as Tuesday guest editor at STR yesterday. Partly for political reasons and partly for health considerations.

My liver disease and kidney problems are putting a great strain on my body and I require frequent medical treatment, which takes up a lot of my time and energy. And so something had to give, and the STR gig was one of things I had to let go of. It takes a least four hours to put together a good daily edition and that fours hours is a bitch when I am groggy and weak from treatment and when I just want to lay down and take a nap. But if you have an edition to get ready you can’t rest when you feel like it without compromising the quality of your edition, which was something I was loathe to do.

The political considerations were an issue too. I believe that oppression is what it is, and I see no distinction as to whether you are being squashed down directly by a state entity (i.e., courts, cops, bureaucrats, and politicians) or by some “private” entity (monopolists, rent-seekers, special interest groups and such ilk) who influence the state with money-bought political clout.

Microsoft, the RIAA, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and similar groups and wealthy individuals should have no means to do what they do to assert their views on us. Foisting an unpopular agenda without a state provided system of law courts and judges (who are all ultimately backed up by armed police) to make us conform to their will is what the state-privileged sorts do. They use force without actual violence, (at first anyhow) to repress and dominate us, but my friends the anarcho-capitalists and the big and small “L” libertarians just don’t see it that way.

But as I said yesterday, some see “private” coercion, (that is, special interests using the state as a catspaw for their own ends) as somehow different and somehow acceptable because see, it’s supposedly “private” and “voluntary.” Which of course any rational analysis shows to be false. There is nothing “private” about a cop arresting you, or “voluntary” about being sued. I really don’t question the anarcho-capitalists and libertarians sincerity of belief, but I do reject their dismissal of my critique of their idea of what constitutes liberty.

And so there you have it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

August 21, 2007 – Whom Do You Trust?

I’ve been getting some criticism lately from people I respect that my views are “too left-wing” (whatever that means), because I oppose oppressive actions taken by private entities (i.e., religious groups, business interests, political parties) rather than confining my criticism only to oppressive action by state entities.

As if. A boot on your neck hurts no less when it’s held there by a soldier or cop because of some governmental conflict or by the same soldier or cop acting on behalf some private interest who has convinced the state to enforce their notions of proper conduct. The boot is the same, the cop is the same, and the gun to your head is the same. Being sued by the IRS is really no different in cause or effect than being sued by the RIAA, Microsoft, the Brady Campaign or any number of other private entities that use their privileged position with the state to dominate you for their own gain or benefit. And yet many alleged libertarians claim to see a moral distinction between the two forms of oppression. Well I don’t.

Most of the SDS members that I know fall into the political category called “anarcho-socialist” or “anarcho-syndicalist.” They desire a “no controlling authority” condition of liberty that allows them to run their own workplace and set their own conditions of labor. This program may not be classical laissez-faire political economy, but so what? Leave ‘em alone and they’ll succeed, fail, or muddle along on their own and on their own terms. The rest of us don’t have to worry that they’ll impose their (horror of horrors) “socialist views” and practices on the rest of us, because they don’t believe in state authority and forming a state is the only way that they could do so.

And yet many, many, (most even) "libertarians” that I know or have known over the years can and do easily shift right back into the deep-red Republican base that most emerged from originally with just a few simple compromises in the GOP’s platform. Look at the highly touted GOP maverick Representative Ron Paul. Now he’s a Republican. But in 1988 he was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president and even had a fundraiser hosted by LSD guru Timothy Leary. And Paul didn’t have any trouble moving back into the GOP afterwards either. And note the newly minted Libertarian big shot and ex-GOP U.S. Representative Bob Barr. Now he’s an LP member when just a few short years ago he was a U.S. Attorney and was happily and quite successfully prosecuting people on behalf of Leviathan. The LP even spent what little funding it had to get him defeated for re-election in 2002. And now he’s one of their own. Go figure?

Some late night comedian (I think it was Bill Maher) said that libertarians were just: “Republicans who like to be able to get high, look at porn, and blow off church without feeling like hypocrites.” And consider how well these authoritarian types slip back forth into and out of the Republican base where they started. And I just don’t see that kind of kind of thing from the SDS types, those dreaded socialists. And I know a few, too.

So if and when the chips are down, I trust my anarcho-socialist/anarcho-syndicalist SDS comrades to keep the faith about seizing liberty when and where they can way more than I ever will the LP types who seem to be able to morph back and forth between the LP and the GOP right-wing without any troubling thoughts about moral or ideological consistency.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Aug 17_2007 - Everbody's A Critic

Everybody’s a critic. Even me. I posted some book reviews on and the response has been generally negative. I am not surprised though. Few people bother with writing thoughtful reviews on books. The writers tend to be people who really liked the book or who really didn’t like it much at all. And so when you write a review that is kinda on the negative side of things it usually pisses off the people who liked it.

It does provide me with an easily accessed list of books that I’ve read and records my impressions of them though. And which is very cool for me because I like to go over them from time to time and see if my thinking about them has changed.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

August 9, 2007 – The Late Richard Rorty on “How It’s All Gonna End"

I guess this is all old news as far as many of you are concerned, but this “final interview,” (he died a few days after giving it) with the noted American philosopher and intellectual Richard Rorty wherein he predicated how (what passes for) liberal democracy in America will finally come to a crashing, complete, and no-BS end, without even the fa├žade of individual rights and liberties, (like what we have now), and never mind the boiling frogs stuff.

“Rorty said,” in the interview, “that after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, ‘it became clear that the political right would try to substitute the 'global war on terrorism' as an excuse not only for keeping the national security state intact but for undermining the political institutions of the old democracies. I was terrified that the Bush administration would carry American public opinion with it, and would succeed in brushing the liberties of the citizen aside.'

Even though public support for the Bush administration is at low ebb, Rorty still believed that ‘sooner or later, some terrorist group will repeat 9/11 on a much grander scale. I doubt that democratic institutions will be resilient enough to stand the strain.’ “

I completely agree. Whether the next Commander-in-Chief is a Dem or Rep, “liberal” or conservative, whether the US Congress has a Dem or Rep majority in either or both houses, or whether the SCOTUS is 5-4 strict-constructionist or ACLU sympathizers, it ain’t gonna matter one fookin’ bit. Before the dust even settles the tanks will roll out, the cops and feds will start rounding people up, and the whole rest of the coup d’etat protocol we’ve seen over the years in the Turd World States where they have this thing down to science.

I am not just being paranoid either. This what I honestly have felt to be our precarious situation for long time, and now someone of substance and stature and, given his terminal condition, nothing to lose by saying it, has said it too. Sooner or later al-Qaeda, Hamas, North Korea commandos or someone such as them is gonna get hold of a suitcase nuke or dump a few barrels of ricin into some major city’s water supply…and well, you get the idea.

I dare anybody to tell this won’t happen. It’s just a matter of when.