Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Holiday Season- no piano music necessary

Hello all-

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it are the usual witchdoctor pronouncements regarding the Christmas shopping season, with the usual economic suspects wringing their hands about the mentatlity of the American shopper, and whether the Christmas induced shopping spree will keep the shops, and therefore the economy going.

Great! Of course, the answer is a qualified yes. Never mind that for many people their mortgages will reset, and that they could go bankrupt, that they could lose homes. People must spend on Christmas. Why?

Because the whole world depends on the American consumption and debtedness- and depends on the American shopper in particular.

Now, I blogged a while ago how the mortgage crisis was a case of greed, institutionalized racism, classism- all for making record profits for investors, many of them foreign pension funds looking for higher returns. This was a failure of teh press in general here in America and the Black Press, who is supposed to speak truth to power. And of course, no European or Asian reporter would look at this angle, of course. But this week BBC sent some of their reporters to America- the Virginia-Maryland-DC area- for various stories. Under the Evanomics blog the reporter Evan Davis blurts it all out: the world dpends on us to keep on spending. Spend, Spend, Spend- hey, that pension fund must grow, so let the america borrow and borrow, and pay back at high interest rates.

And what credit crunch? To whom? Where? I am still getting mail and phone calls for credit cards, car loans and idiot mortgages.I am not interested, yet every time I send a student loan payment, I get deluged. Apparently, Evan Davis talks to a car dealer who had no problem getting loans written, even if the customers have very low credit scores.

But what I find interesting is the disconnected nature of the stories on the mortgages crisis and credit, and the not so suprising finding that trillions of dollars of this country's money is being transferred to our good friends the Chinese,The Saudis and the other Oil Gulf States, amongst others. No connection to our national security, or to why countries that help foster anti-American thinking and terrorism simply cannot take us seriously.

Why should communists, fascists, cruel oligarchs and other who oppose human freedom, kindness and decency take us seriously, anyway?

We are busy shopping.

Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/evandavis/

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Writers Strike

Usually on Sundays I watch Desperate Housewives with my friends, a silly and satiric look at upper class suburbia that provides plenty of hooting and hollering. Instead, here I am, talking to my friends, playing board games and listening to music. If the Hollywood writers strike continues, we may be forced to play more board games, read books, and attend plays- or even performing in them. Yikes! Getting a life!

But seriously- the new media reality demands that hollywood writers renegotiate the way they are compensated. For example, the website in2tv.com has shows that are advertised with commercials at 15 minute intervals. But were the writers of those shows beneficiaries are that new source of revenue?

The creative arts is a very speculative process, and none more so than movies. It's a real roll of the dice. And a screenwriter, if they make it, can really make a lucrative living. But that living dwarfs in comparison to amounts that producers, actors and directors make. Writer do deserve a bit more, in keeping with their successful colleagues in publishing.

Of course, if this keeps up, all of us may resort to something to entertain us- like learning Greek or something.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Credit Crunch- A view

Here is something to discuss over the water cooler. Once I have all m ducks in a row, I will post an extended explanation of what I mean by the title.

For the past few months, we all have heard about how the current mortgage troubles have been caused by subprime loans, 'given people with 'dodgy credit', people who wee given 'liar loans' and 'NINJA loans'(no income,jobs,assets). These people are the very cause of the current write downs in the markets, the cause of why so many sellers cannot sell their homes for an appreciated price, why so many pension funds are of serious danger of losing real cash, of why the vision of easy profits from real estate speculation.

What is interesting is that the media have showcased many of these so-called deadbeat people: people with steady, decent incomes who were talked in loans they did not fully understand, many of them minority members ( African American- Afro Carribean, Latino/Chicano, Southeast Asian) who want a place to live, a piece of the American Dream. Yes, these people really should have known better, as a result, it is their fault that there could be a major price correction in many markets, and why I can't Flip That House (TM).

Well. Here is something to talk about at Starbucks.

According to the New York Times, there is a race gap when it comes to subprime lending, even when allowing for similar income. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/weekinreview/04bajaj.html?fta=y

My idea goes even further: That the liberalisation of credit in this country- the credit cards, car loans, payday loans and the like, along with subprime mortgages- does follow the old FHA guidelines of redlining- look for specific areas and groups of people in which to sell high risk, highly profitable and highly hurtful amounts of credit.

Now, I am saying this is constrained by race- not at all! Unfortunately, in America, once you can do something to a defined group of people, it becomes okay to do to as many people as possible. Once usurious credit became okay to sell to minorities, then it became okay to package that crap to the white majority, call it 'advantageous tool to handle your money' and sell it to people who could not forsee shifting economic sands and having to deal with resets.

And here is one more thing to go with your morning latte: people around the world, from Germany to China and Japan and points in between, are dependent on this biased-based form of credit for their bond assets.

Further more, many municipalities can look forward to reduced tax rolls,which in turn mean less money for maintaining roads, water, schools and public parks and building, as well as cops and teachers.

I will explain my reasons later on this week on Saturday. But I got finished reading a book called 'Building the Dream' written in the early 1990s, and it is rather prescient.

What do you think? I don't think it is a vast right wing conspiracy. But I do think it is example of how racism, bad fiscal policy, lack of oversight and most damningly of all, the failure of the once influental black press can combine to make one clusterfuck of a bad situation.

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Paul Krugman in PDX!

So, Paul Krugman was in PDX Saturday, promoting his new 'optimistic' (his words) book, "The Conscience of a Liberal". For the price of hearing the talk, you got a book, free. what away to move books! What a way to avoid borrowing the book from the library!

Anyway- a beautiful fall day,colorful and mild, which I spent playing with godsons before biking into Portland. I ate at Hot Lips Pizza and trekked down to the Baghdad Theater, where the talk was held. I sat right in front and chatted with some people before Mr. Krugman made his appearance.

He looks exactly like his description- a professor of economics at Princeton and a twice weekly columnist at NYT. He started off his speech by referring to his past book, "The Great Unravelling" where, like Cassandra, he warned the populace and wrote of the dangers of the administration's direction, only to feel that he was not being listened to, of feeling he was shouting in a vacuum. It is his belief that we have reached a watershed in in what we, as a country, are willing to accept, so thus his new book, COAL, which is in direct response to "Conscience of a Conservative".

Krugman premise to examine how did we, as a country, get to the point where we have such startling incomes gaps, the chipping away at social safety net and the overall rise of conservatism. Of course, the answer is money. Just as the middle class in America was a political construct made possible by the New Deal and Civil Rights, so the rise of conservatism is also a policyical construct whose master and god is money.

Money is the god of Conservatism, not Yahweh, who many a Conservative says they follow. The goal of Conservatism is not to preserve families, foster individual liberty, make spirituality public, foster integrity or social cohesion. No, the goal of Conservatism in the USA is to dismantle- completely- the social network that was constructed in the New Deal. The married gay dark skinned terrorists are a convenient sideshow, one, according to Krugman, taps into the very nasty side of American character- our long lingering racism, which hide like a nasty virus, ready to crop up at anytime.

The comparison to virus is quite deliberate. Virus are nothing more living info centers, that destroy the host's cells until virus itself is destroyed or until the virus destroys the host. Krugman talked a bit how this destructive force helped get Reagan and crew elected,and how Conservatism have continued to use this stratagem, to great effect.

Speaking of nasty virus, towards the end of the talk Krugman was beset by a awful, whooping sounding cough. He had just finished speaking about the possibilities of Universal Health Care and the poor man sounded as if he was going to drop dead, right there. I gasped rather loudly, as did some of the audience. Being a trooper, he said it just sounded worst than it was.

Of course, this just gave license for a queue for q&a. There is nothing that says welcome and thank you like queueing up when the speaker just finished hacking up his lungs. But Krugman stuck with it, bless his heart.

Listening to the speech, and having started the book, really makes me wonder how on Earth we as a country wil be able to elect the next president. We elected the same person twice now, with open eyes and willing hearts, and look at the mess and sheer waste it has generated.

But that is for another day. I rode back to Beaverton, enjoying the dying sun and being showered by red and gold leaves.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Blackout protest- the wrong direction

So, there is a call for a 'blackout' protest tomorrow by a radio talk show host b name of Warren Ballentine (no, I have not hard of him either- I don't listen to talk radio). Link: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/11/01/national.blackout/index.html

The focus of the protest is many fold: The inspirations for the boycott are many: a flurry of nooses hung in public places; the case of six teens charged as adults with attempted murder in Jena, Louisiana, after a racially charged school fight; the conviction of Genarlow Wilson, a black teen charged with child molestation after having consensual oral sex with another teen; and the rape and torture of Megan Williams, a West Virginia woman forced to eat animal feces by six whites who berated her with racial slurs.

The thinking is that with rise of these horrid actions there has been little, if any notice from the Federal government. So, since there is no notice from the feds from social activists, perhaps the Federal government will notice when there is a dip in money from african-american consumers.

I am all for watching where money is spent, and how. But there is a flaw in how this protest has been organised- and there are flaws in the very reason why this protest is being held in the first place.

1) The Federal Government simply does not care. Period. Yes, that is a harsh thing to say. But ever since we got attacked by a bunch of pathetic zealots on 9-11-01the federal government has had no time nor inclination to look after attacks based on racial hatred or abuse of the law. In fact, with the expansion of Federal government and the Executive branch, I would argue that abuses of the law are overlooked, as catching those damned terrorists- who ever they might be- is considered more important.

2) Money corrupts. Thanks to the recent real estate boom and recovery of our economy, alto of people started to feel rich... or feel as if they should get in on the riches. This is key, I think to what this protest is centered on- Money. I feel that many in the old school civil rights camp have somehow transmuted the right to be a respected, whole, godly citizen with a private interior life into the right to be a discerning consumer of goods.
The two are not the same thing, and it is unfortunate that many a black pastor or community leader have now basically told us as a community that our worth as people can be measured at the shopping mall.
It is this thinking that has so many minority communities under the thrall of predatory credit cards, expensive, dodgy mortgages, low savings and jobs that are outlets, not creative inputs.

3) Too broad. The Blackout day is good on a thoughtful consumption level- what is the garbage we are buying and why- but having a slew of reasons is not good. The criminalisation of a young man's sexuality and consumer goods do not go together. Rather, it should not go together.

4)Black on black (brown) racism. On the CNN website it was mentioned that one the issues that is driving the blackout day protest is immigration.
Excuse me? Immigration? I suppose that I, as an African American ( well I look like one, don't I ) should get on board and denounce those darn illegal immigrants. AND BY THAT,of course, we mean Mexicans, now don't we. Someone has to be the N-----.
Sorry. In an earlier post I had mention that I was Afro-Hispanic- both sets of parents had both sets of parents with mixed african/hispanic/native heritage. They both immigrated from Caribbean, both supported and was benefited by civil rights movement here in the US. Both also had brothers and sisters here in the USA who insulted them for their diet, the way they spoke and way they worshipped. I grew up with being called dreadful names when speaking to my mother in Spanish, and I certainly heard enough Haitian kids called nasty names to last a lifetime, thank you.
Being an African American citizen does not mean you get the right to turn into a chocolate dipped Bull Connor.

I will participate by default because I have my transport pass and I am bringing my lunch to work. But African- Americans- no, Americans, full stop- really need to think about the BS war we have tangled ourselves into, how it has served to promote abuse of power and thus allowed the rise of racist incidents, how we are being lulled into complacency by swallowing the belief that we are all customers and consumers instead of citizens, and how this is serving to undermine the country.

Those issues would be good to discuss on talk radio.

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