We’re Going to Get Yoo

Support Torture: Buy My Book

Sixteen protesters and 25 cops showed up at the John Yoo Torture Memos protest on Feb 11th. There were only sixteen protesters. It took 25 cops to protect Yoo from us. One of us was using a wheel chair. Another of us was 76 years old. I have a bad back and my wife and I both have arthritis. That effectively left 12 potential rioters against 25 armed peace officers. I suppose it was worth the taxpayer’s money so John Yoo would feel safe from us. Wait, I’m wrong. One of my wife’s friends from her Code Pink group is also disabled and sat in a camp chair. Another was wearing a fifty pound John Yoo bobble head. So there were effectively 10 potential rioters against 25 armed cops. It’s a good thing that some of them were from the SWAT team.

To the officers’ credit, they were the most professional police force on earth. They took their job damned seriously. If there was going to be an actual attempt to harm Yoo, they were ready. They were also smart enough to know that we constituted no danger. Also to their credit, they stood up for our First Amendment rights. They did not force us to disperse. They did not force us into a “Free Speech Zone” two miles away. Traffic flow and liability were their main concerns. They saw to it that traffic flowed smoothly and that John Yoo would have to go past us in order to leave.

It doesn’t look good for Dr. Yoo. Britain is giving its infamous MI5 security agency a public reaming for the torture of British citizens in Guantanamo. Yes, Virginia, there are people named Mohamad who are British Citizens, and England is pissed. It looks as if secret documents are going to be made public as MI5 agents are tried for not informing their government.

Meanwhile Dick Cheney is working his motormouth on television. Cheney confirmed that Yoo co-wrote the Torture Memos to rationalize the use of torture. Cheney wanted torture so Yoo told him what he wanted to hear. What’s worse, what is the absolute bitter end, is that Cheney also admitted to ordering three people tortured.

He ordered three people tortured? Who was he to order three people tortured? Hell, since when can the vice president order anything except a pizza? What happened to the days when one brother goes to sea while his other brother becomes vice-president, and nobody ever hears from either of them again? Since when does the vice president order anybody tortured? Not only is Big Mouth Cheney admitting to torturing people, but he’s admitting that the executive office ignores the constitution. The vice presidency is traditionally the golden road to political obscurity. I wonder if it was John Yoo who told Cheney he had the right to order people tortured?

So Yoo must know that the jig is up. He knows that he can run and cannot hide. If he had a brain in his head he would be fleeing to Argentina about now. He is being sued by somebody who was wrongfully tortured in Guantanamo. MI5 is being placed on public trial for allowing British Citizens to be tortured. Now his former boss is spilling the beans to the press. Even Holder’s gutless Justice Department is saying he showed “poor judgment.” The weasel is completely and totally screwed, and now he is just wiggling around trying to justify his actions.

I hoped to post a link to his book tour, so people could find out where he is going to be speaking, and stage their own protests. Guess what? He didn’t publish his itinerary. John Yoo is conducting the country’s first clandestine book signing tour. He has become a man of mystery. Nobody knows where he will show up next. Today a country club in Taos New Mexico. Tomorrow a luncheon with the Young Republicans in Chicago. Each time he strikes, he leaves his autograph in a few of his books, which justifies torture by rationalizing the high handed presidents of the past. Like Waldo, it takes highly developed powers of observation to find him. If you do find him and are going to hold a protest, I will be glad to send you the songs and chants Code Pink has been using. It’ll make him feel at home.

Yoo complains that all this protesting is intimidating him. Why? Is he afraid we’re going to waterboard him? Is he afraid that we are going to pull him off the street and hide him in an undisclosed location? Of course not. Unlike Yoo, we believe in rule by law. We are demanding due process for Yoo, which is more than the people he is responsible for torturing get. This is why UC Berkeley will not disclose where he is lecturing. This is why his book tour is being treated like a ninja assault. This is why he hid on his way out of the Poplar Creek Golf Club.

I was standing at a funny angle so I saw him when he left the golf club. He got into a green SUV with tinted windows. A blond woman was at the wheel. Before they reached the exit, he hunkered down in the front seat so we could not see him. I knew he was in that vehicle, so I shouted “John Yoo is a wuss!”

Send in the next prisoner, Dr. Yoo


It Has To Be Yoo

The President Can Do Anything He Wants.

Thank you, everybody who has worked to bring John Yoo to justice. For those of you who are unaware of what has been going on, John Yoo is the author of the so-called “Torture Memos”. Yoo was a special council to the White House, and his torture memos were the excuse that the Bush Misadministration used to justify torturing prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo. In other words, according to John Yoo, sexual humiliation, beatings, water boarding, starvation, and sleep deprivation are neither cruel nor unusual.

What’s that you say? The Constitution protects us from cruel and unusual punishment? To this I ask you, what the hell constitutes cruel and unusual punishment? What is the definition of the word cruel as used in the Constitution? What is the constitutional definition of the word unusual? How are those words to be defined in court? According to John Yoo, water boarding is neither cruel nor is it unusual. So what is to keep the county jail from water boarding a suspect into admitting he sold a quarter ounce of pot?

The Constitution was never a planned document. The Founders of this nation envisioned a confederacy. When the confederacy broke down in under ten years, the delegates to the Constitutional convention had little time to create a central government with the powers to enact and enforce treaties as well as the power to levy taxes. This is why there are so many loopholes in the document. This is why cruel and unusual or reasonable were never defined. One delegate would say something, we need protections from unreasonable search and seizure. Another delegate would ask what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Then a third delegate would say, let the courts worry about it later. We need to start raising taxes so we can pay off France.

Thus was born the most confusing and expensive legal system that was ever invented. The Constitution contains language as vague as the I-Ching, and holds as many contradictions as the New Testament. John Yoo presented an opinion that specific acts of torture were not cruel and unusual. This opinion is not unconstitutional because the terms cruel and unusual are not defined. Yoo’s opinion has the force of law until such time as it is challenged by the courts. Lynndie England’s court martial adds sexual humiliation to the definition of cruel and unusual, but water boarding is still perfectly legal.

That’s right, torture is legal and will remain legal until the Supreme Court says otherwise. Torture can remain legal as long as the Supreme Court ignores the situation. After all, the Supreme Court can pick and choose which cases it wants to hear. The Court ignored Jim Crow laws until public opinion became so outraged that the court had no choice but to overrule them.

Public outrage is the only way we are going to stop the United States from committing torture. Protests at UC Berkeley and in front of Yoo’s home forced the attorney general to order an investigation of Yoo and the Torture Memos. Holder has proven himself as loyal a neocon as Alberto Gonzales. The results of this investigation were recently leaked to Newsweek Magazine, and the results were that John Yoo exercised poor judgment but did not commit any wrong doing.

Yoo’s “bad judgment” resulted in the torture of hundreds, if not thousands, of human beings. John Yoo opened the door to the worst barbarisms of the Bush Misadministration. For those of you who value money over human rights, torture has produced no usable information. The question we should be asking the government is, why are we still torturing people? If John Yoo exercised poor judgment, why is Obama still following his advice?

If John Yoo exercised “poor judgment,” then why is he still teaching at UC Berkeley Boalt Hall, the most prestigious law school in California? How competent a teacher can he be if his opinions sparked an investigation that accused him of “poor judgment”? For that matter, why are the regents treating this semi-competent shyster like a rock star? They protect him by keeping his lecture locations a secret. His students find out where he is teaching by secure email. Yoo didn’t even lecture this semester. While protesters and students alike were waiting for his first lecture, Yoo was out promoting that sack of neocon bullshit he calls a book. At the same time, he is still drawing a salary from the California tax payer.

John Yoo is certainly not behaving like somebody accused of poor judgment. He’s out promoting the imperial presidency like it was a fact. As far as I’m concerned he’s the biggest nut since Torquemada. Just as the head inquisitor believed in the ultimate authority of the Pope, Yoo believes in the ultimate authority of the president. That ass-kisser needs to be stopped.

Public outrage forced an investigation and conclusion of “Poor Judgment”. This is not a defeat. We forced the Attorney General’s office to admit that torture was a bad idea. This can be built on, but we have to crank up the volume. We need more and louder protests. We need to send petitions to the UC regents telling them to fire the bastard. We need to get so outrageous that the Supreme Court will have no choice but to ban torture just as they banned Jim Crow. Poor judgment is just the beginning. We won that much, we can win more.

Torquemada Yoo will be doing a book signing in San Mateo, California tomorrow, Thursday, Feb, 12 at Poplar Creek Golf Course from noon to one thirty PM. Code Pink is sponsoring a protest. Be there, be loud, and be angry. Let the Department of Justice know that we don’t want Yoo’s poor judgment to be government policy, and let the UC regents know that anyone who’s judgment is so poor has no place in our university system.

Obama

I Am The State. John Yoo said so.


Who Is John Galt

Who Is John Galt?

The Question on Everybody's Mind

Tea baggers across the country have this bumper sticker on their gas guzzling SUVs.  It asks who is John Galt?   Being literate, we know that John Galt is the mysterious stranger of Ayn Rand’s epic piece of capitalist drivel, Atlas Shrugged.   Rand, a Soviet refugee, brought PTSD to new heights when she declared that anybody who did not smoke is a communist, and accused tobacco researchers of treason.   Despite this obviously Stalinist line of reasoning, Rand continues to be the darling of the libertarian right.  Just who is John Galt?

Rand gets really cute in the name she gives her character.  His first name is the most common in the English speaking world.  That represents his populist roots.  His last name Galt, sounds like a Anglo-Saxon surname, but it is also the alias used by the God Odin when he walked amongst humans. Odin was in the habit of handing doomed swords out to unsuspecting vikings, and when asked, Odin would say he was Galt.   At that point the viking would know that he was completely and totally screwed.  If he followed the course of common sense, dropped the sword, and ran like hell, he would earn the wrath of Odin.   If he kept the sword, he would be led to a particularly tragic and heroic doom.  So Galt is God Almighty, but a particularly sadistic and untrustworthy God who has no use for free will.

Now, what captains of industry do we know who are in the habit of giving out cursed gifts?   I can think of two right off the top of my head: Henry Ford and Prescott Bush.  Their support of Hitler and the Third Reich resulted in death, devastation, destruction, and the systematic murder of 10 million human beings.   It ended in the deaths of many Nazi leaders; most dramatically in Joseph Goebbel’s murder of his innocent daughters.  I think it is safe to assume that John Galt is somebody who thinks he’s God Almighty, and does not shrink at murder as a means to an end.   As a God, Odin was a great fan of war and destruction, we can say that John Galt is a warmonger.

To understand why John Galt is such a bloodthirsty bastard, we need to look at the Odin myth a little more closely.  Why did Odin, reputably the wisest of the Gods, have this compulsion to create death, destruction, and misery amongst the mortal population?   He was serving a higher purpose, and one that only he in his wisdom could truly understand.  The other gods had a partial understanding of that purpose, and mere humans could receive glimpses of that purpose.   Only Odin could see the whole purpose, and he gave up an eye to do it.   Like Odin, John Galt is the one eyed man in the land of the blind.  The world depends on his vision so that it can keep on turning.  This is why the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as human beings.  Captains of industry, CEOs, Chairmen of the board are all ubermench. It is only right that they have more power than us lesser mortals who are too humble to share in their great vision.

Next, you may ask, what is this great vision Galt cannot share with the rest of us mere mortals?  Simply that there is a war coming up between the good guys and the bad guys.  It will be the war to end all wars and humanity needs to be ready for it.  Odin keep humanity in training by stirring up wars, and choosing the best of the slain to be his warriors when the final conflict happens.  Our captains of industry, our John Galts, also see a great war coming, but instead of the Frost Giants, we’ll be fighting godless communists. No, that was two generations back.   Instead of the Frost Giants, we’ll be fighting the drug cartels in South America. That really didn’t work out that well. This time, we will be fighting the Jihadists. True, they are a handful of extremists whom our forces chase around the Himalayas like it was a Keystone Kops movie, but they are the enemy that will destroy our way of life!  We better get them before they get us.

Ultimately who is John Galt? He is a war mongering bastard who does not care how many people he has to have killed to achieve his goals.  He is a captain of industry who knows better than the rest of us as to how we should run our lives.   He is a man with such power that governments declares anybody who opposes him as the powers of darkness.  John Galt is a man who kings and presidents listen to because in Galt’s mind he is always right.  What historic figure fits this mold?  There is only one, Joseph Stalin.

Stalin began as a peasant and worked himself up to the head of the Soviet Union through his own talents for murder and lack of ethics.  Stalin was responsible for the deaths of millions, and used the needs of the state justification.  Stalin was a strong man who commanded the resources of all of Mother Russia and a good chunk of Eastern Europe to boot.  On top of everything else, the crazy bastard thought he was God.  To this day, there are Russians who still support and apologize for Joe Stalin.

Ayn Rand took the Stalinist qualities that so scarred her as a child and deified them into her character of John Galt.  Let’s bring things back to reality here.  Who is John Galt?  John Galt is a parasite who grew up in a privileged class and accepts these privileges as part of his due.   You can also look at John Galt as Bill Cosby, a man who feels that he owes nobody anything because he paid his own way into the upper class.   John Galt can be seen as National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who does not want the world to think that she got her job through affirmative action.   After all, her grandfather paid blood to bring his family into the ruling class.   George W. Bush is also John Galt. We all know that the draft was created for poor people, and not the son of the EXXON heir.  John Galt is every politician in Washington who denies the majority of Americans jobs and health care.

John Galt is useless, because if John Galt was really all that talented, he could make it to the top in any economic system or society.  This makes Galt just another one of Timmy Geithner’s Wall St. cronies, stealing money from honest tax payers.  That’s who John Galt really is.   Stop and remember, Stalin made it to the top by robbing banks.

Addendum.

I was very surprised to discover an article about Rand on Alternet today.  (Okay, I admit it, my wife discovered it for me.)  In this chilling article, we see that Rand was a serial killer groupie, and that her heroes was based on a sicko who strangled and dismembered a little girl.  What does this say about the people who take her nonsense seriously.  What’s worse, is that Alan Greenspan was one of her buddies.


Joseph Stalin

I Am What Libertarians Long For In Their Secret Hearts


How To Sell A Subprime Mortgage Part Three: Taking The Application.

21st Century Gothic

21st Century Gothic

Writing these blog posts has been difficult. It has forced me to look at 25 years in sales and ask myself If I have been doing the right thing. Working for Aames was not the right thing to do, and I wonder why I never realized that before. The biggest wrong I committed, while working for Aames, was convincing myself that I was helping people. Any help I may have given my customers was purely short term assistance. Many of my customers who were granted lower interest rates were given three years fixed mortgages. After three years, their interest rates went variable. Very few of those loans had ceilings. The logic behind this was it gave them a chance to fix their credit so they could refinance again before their mortgage rates went through the roof. In actual fact we were being too optimistic. Between outsourcing and salary stagnation, chances were that in three years those people’s credit were in worse shape than ever. Then after three years their mortgages went through the roof.

Belief is a very strong factor in any sale. If the salesperson does not believe in the product, neither will the customer. There were just too many reps who did not believe in what they were selling. That should have warned me that something was wrong. I knew one salesperson who sold through intimidation. He specialized in single female home owners, and subtly threatened them into signing. Then he grabbed the commission check and ran to another company before the hammer came down. I knew another salesperson who specialized in single male homeowners. Her usual working clothes was a leather mini split up to the waist at the side, and a very low cut top.

Despite these signs that things were totally wrong, I continued to believe in what I was doing. Conviction is more than half of sales. An effective salesman believes in what he is selling or is a good enough actor to truly make the customer believe in what he is doing. It occurs to me that there are many more actors in sales than I originally thought.

Conviction was the difference between getting the application and credit report or not getting the application and earning the wrath of Aames. Aames had a lot of really idiotic rules, but one of the worst was their insistence on running credit reports for all customers. I had more than one customer offer to fax or email me their most recent credit report. Later, I would work for companies that were fine with customers faxing their credit reports. However to complete an application for Aames you had to run the credit report, and in order to do that you had to get the customer’s social security number.

To this day I am amazed at the amount of people who gave me their social security numbers over the phone. I always left the social security number for last. I would get the customer on the phone and we would talk a little bit and I would talk him into giving a phone application. I specialized in calling people with high interest variable loans, and they were desperate to get out from under. It was easy for me to get them to apply. The biggest objection I had to overcome were the people who had tried over and over again and kept getting turned down. I usually gave them a pep-talk. I encouraged them to take one more chance while mentioning all the people with shaky credit that Aames managed to help.

I always started with the basics. I would ask their names and addresses and get them talking about their homes and their mortgage woes. I would make appropriately sympathetic sounds as they volunteered the information I needed to put on the form. Once in a while I had to give them a little help. Older people had no idea of the market value of their homes. Generally they made me put a too low value on it. By the time I reached the end of the application, I was an old friend. That’s when I asked for the social security number.

About one in three just gave it to me. Not only did they give it to me, but called their spouses at work to get his or her social security number since I needed to pull a joint credit report About two out of three customers gave me a hard time. This is where belief comes in. I promised them that they were in no danger, their credit scores would not go down and their identities were safe. When I realized that too many credit hits would bring down a customer’s credit scores, I stopped promising that. I would estimate a safe time to pull their credit scores and schedule them for a call back at that time. You would not believe the amount of crap I had to live through when I was caught doing it. The Regional or district manager who caught me backing out on an application would lecture me mercilessly. My job was to get the application and not to worry about the state of the customer’s credit. So when I got the occasional person who was just not going to give me his social security number, I made it a point to argue with them when the brass was listening. It made me look good.

I was very careful with personal information. I would shred my notes and make sure that my copies of the applications were put safely away where nobody could get them. I was the only one. Everybody else just put their notes in the trash and old applications and notes were available for anybody to rifle through and pull out and use. These notes not only included the social security number but birthdays and addresses. Everything you needed for full scale identity theft was in that office. It only recently occurred to me that there was an entire room full of filing cabinets which was never locked and anybody could go through and pull out whatever information they wanted.

That was what I did for Aames Home Loan for a forty hour six day week. Most of my applications were rejected for various reasons. The most common was bad credit. Unlike other companies, Aames was very careful of the credit scores of the loans they accepted. That meant that most of Aames’s customers could have gotten a better deal elsewhere So the beginning of my month would see about two dozen loans in my pipeline but on a really good month, only two or three would fund. Somehow that was my fault for finding the wrong customers. In Aames Home Loan, failure was always an underling’s fault.

Pop Goes The World

Pop Goes The World



How To Sell A Subprime Mortgage Part Two: Finding the Customers

Ding Dong, Free Money Calling

Ding Dong, Free Money Calling

There I was, a brand new loan origination officer without the first idea of how to originate a loan. It took me a few weeks to figure out that Aames Home Loan hired me because I had years of phone experience and absolutely no mortgage experience. This was not the difficult situation you might think. At the time I had been a telesales professional for nearly fifteen years. I had sold everything over the phone from newspapers to time shares. It was a matter of using established skills and fudging while filling the gaps in my education.

By now many of you are wondering what the real estate board was doing while a total ignoramus like me was busily trying to originate loans. Unfortunately the real estate board had no control over Aames, because Aames Home Loan was registered and regulated through the Bureau of Corporations. Real estate loans were being sold independently of real estate law. Licensed real estate brokers expected their loan originators to have real estate licenses and to conduct business under the real estate board’s code of professional ethics. The Bureau of Corporations didn’t have a code of ethics to enforce. Of course the fraud laws were enforced, but unless a customer made a complaint, who cared? As far as my bosses were concerned, the only thing that mattered was originating a loan. This was my first exposure to Wall St.’s one and only commandment: Thou Shalt Not Get Caught.

Finding Customers

An important part of my duties as loan origination officer was to find customers to originate loans with. That was also not a very difficult task. I joined Aames during the last year of the Clinton Administration and the tech bubble had not yet burst. Many people felt prosperous but carried tremendous credit card debt. Most dotcom CEOs didn’t have any cash assets and bought everything on credit. They assumed that their stocks would keep up with their debts.

Other people were caught in the Clinton recession. Outsourcing and high interest rates kept their wages down while inflation ate up the value of the dollar. Credit cards were the difference between eating at the end of the pay period or visiting the food bank. Many of those customers saw a subprime loan as the logical strategy to save their failing credit scores. They could get a subprime loan to pay off their credit cards. When their scores improved, they could refinance again for a lower interest rate. Rapidly increasing property values guaranteed there would be enough equity for another refinance in a couple of years. At least that’s what they thought.

During the first few months of my subprime career, I had enough call-ins to assure that I made my weekly quota. However answering the phone was not my prime duty. I was supposed to get on the phone and telemarket for customers who were not calling in. There were two reasons for this. First, very few subprime loans got through the underwriters. By the middle of the month I would have over twenty loans in my pipeline. By the end of the month only one or two of that twenty funded. Second, Wall St. owners did not care that the underwriters killed most of our loans. They needed more, more, more, because they had squandered Aames’s cash reserves and sold off all their loans to make up the difference. They had to keep selling mortgages on the front end and discounting them to other lenders on the back end in order to keep solvent.

Soliciting Business

Now I am going to reveal one of the most carefully guarded secrets in the universe. Yes, dear readers, I am going to tell you how telemarketers get your phone numbers. I started out calling from Aames’s own mailing lists. Every week I received a huge packet of names, addresses, and telephone numbers that Aames had been compiling for the twenty odd years of its existence. Now, remember that this was a Wall St. company. They did not send me the updated lists. My lists came out of the archives. Many of the names were of people who were no longer upon this veil of tears. One very prominent name on the list was Larry Fine of the Three Stooges. I asked the district manager why I was calling from the archives, and he replied that the archive files were bigger and had more names. I pointed out that the archives were full of wrong and disconnected numbers. He replied that some of the wrong numbers might become loans. This was my first exposure to Wall St.’s favorite word: might. Wrong numbers might become loans. People might change their minds if you have the loan originators calling them every ten minutes. Some of the most incredibly stupid ideas and orders were justified by the word might.

From the time I started the job until a few months after the crash of 2000, I got enough originations to keep even a Wall St. manager happy. They were mostly from people who called in. This was good because I was still learning about mortgages. Later I discovered that title companies provided free calling lists for subprime lenders. They proved to be the perfect calling lists, with the customer’s interest rates, what companies sold their mortgages, and who had already refinanced withing the last few years.

There were about four or five subprime companies with much higher interest rates than Aames. I could ask for lists of people with mortgages from those companies. I could also ask for a minimum interest rate, and the title companies would open up their records and give me all I asked for. It was almost like picking my perfect customers. I could also ask for areas outside of Aames’s usual calling areas. I chose areas around Lake Tahoe and up north toward the Oregon border. The property values were lower so the commissions were not tremendous, but people in the wild west needed subprime mortgages too.

Eventually I went to city hall and paid for my own lists from foreclosure records and current tax records. Those cost about sixty cents a name. This gave me a pool of home owners off the Aames list and who had not been contacted by Aames. Once again I had the advantage. Aames badly wanted to make loans in Oakland because of the inflated property values. Falling down shacks were being appraised at over a million dollars. Of course this was all part of the Clinton bubble that was slowly deflating even back then.

The Back Door.

Now, you might think that with all the applications I was taking, we would be writing loans left and right. Nothing is farther from the truth. I think that the highest output the Aames Oakland office ever wrote was five loans in a month. This is because Aames changed their management, their advertising, their marketing, and their sales cycle, but they could not change their underwriters. Aames was using the same underwriters as when they were privately owned by a family named Judah. These underwriters were a very conservative lot. They were looking for high interest variable loans that could be refinanced as a lower fixed rate. Anything outside those very strict guidelines were examined under a microscope and generally rejected. Even variable to fixed rate loans were rejected for any number of reasons. The most common reasons were income or FICO score.

A common way of getting around the underwriters was to share applications with other subprime companies. If the loan looked good, but the underwriters rejected it, another subprime company’s underwriters might accept it. There are no standards in underwriting. As long as the underwriters don’t discriminate they can accept or reject any loan for any reason. It all depends on how much risk their mortgage banks are willing to take. Applications (known in the trade as paper) were swapped all the time. It was common and acceptable practice. Aames had a rule against it. Their reasoning was that the customer’s situation might change some day and we might get the loan if we resubmitted it in a few months. Considering that FICO scores drop faster than they rise, one has to marvel at the logic behind the decision.

This did not stop paper from being swapped from the Aames office. It was simply done behind management’s back. Once again only one rule applied: Thou Shalt Not Get Caught. Besides, Aames was more than happy to submit loans we picked up at the Back Door. The worst thing about it was that I didn’t get paid on any of the loans I originated which disappeared out the Back Door. Considering how many loans the Aames underwriters turned down, I hate thinking about how much money I generated for Beneficial and Countrywide that I never got paid for.

Loan Farce

Needless to say, Aames management was ready to gnaw off its collective legs because of all the loans that fell out of the pipeline. The logical thing was to expand their pool of mortgage banks. There are no rules that say a bank or corporation can’t deal with more than one mortgage bank. Either the Aames management was too stupid to think of it, which I almost doubt, or the other underwriters were not willing to work with Aames. Considering some of the crooked things I heard come out of other mortgage companies, I doubt that as well. Regardless of the reason, the Oakland office never generated more than five or six loans in any given month I worked there.

Dumping on the sales teams was management’s solution to everything. If loans kept falling out of the pipeline, it was because we were finding the wrong customers. The most amazing orders came out of the main office. For instance, we were to try to find people with B credit or better. Nobody told us how we were supposed to know their FICO scores before we pulled them. It was still our fault for not knowing. Another management obsession was the property values in Oakland. The tech bubble had expanded across the bay from San Francisco to Oakland, and property values had expanded to rival San Francisco’s. Falling down shacks that had been worth about ten or twenty thousand a few years ago were appraising for 100 thousand or more. These too-good-to-be-true property values had Aames managers slobbering like dogs in front of raw steaks.

Oakland is populated by poor minorities who were too smart to risk their homes. I had more than one Oakland homeowner tell me that he did not believe these property values. Others told me their mortgages were either paid or almost at their last payments. These people were too smart to go back into debt. The Aames managers were not about to take no for an answer. They kept up the pressure in Oakland until Aames became a very unwelcome name. Local consumer rights organizations targeted Aames as a predatory lender. What gave them their first clue?

Aames’s obsession with Oakland culminated with the institution of Loan Force. Loan Force was a retooling of the famous Sales Force software. I have worked with Sales Force in subsequent jobs and found it to be an excellent product. I could not recommend Sales Force more highly. Unfortunately it was a disaster in the hands of the Aames management team. The first things those geniuses did was load the software with the same beat up names and phone numbers that I was forced to use when I first started. They were exactly the same. The late Larry Fine’s name and phone number was still on them. Of course the first load of leads was Oakland. Oakland homeowners were so sick of being called that they just hung up on me. I ignored Loan Force (which we quickly began calling Loan “Farce”), and went back to my own lists.

Soon I got a nasty phone call from the district manager for not using Loan Farce. It seemed that he had nothing better to do than to monitor everybody through his master screen, and make sure everybody was working. I once again complained about the lists he was making me use, and again pointing out that Larry Fine had been dead since 1975. The district manager replied that I could easily have my own lists uploaded to Loan Force. He gave me the number of the person in charge and told me that it would only take three days to upload them. I called the person in charge. She said it would take two months to upload them. I called the district manager back and he refused to listen to me. He ordered that it had to be done in three days so it would be done in three days. I told that to the person in charge of uploading the lists and she laughed at me.

Loan Farce reached the peak of idiocy the next day, when the regional manager had every office in California call Oakland. The poor Oakland homeowners were getting a call from Aames every twenty minutes. The people who bothered answering responded somewhat vocally. Some of the things they told me to do were anatomically impossible. This time I called my regional manager about it. The regional manager was actually competent, but was helpless in the face of the district manager. The regional manager said “maybe they will change their minds between phone calls”. That had to be what the district manager told him to say. Several weeks later, he quit.

At that point I was looking for a new job as well. I figured out how to make my quota by making the regional think I was using Loan Farce. I called from my own lists and marked off the calls on the Loan Farce list. I was still able to work effectively while humoring the regional manager. When I got an application from Truckee when I was supposed to be dialing Oakland, I just told them it was a call back. They accepted it. After all, the rule was, Thou Shalt Not Get Caught, and they really weren’t looking very hard.

Just Reach Out and Take It

Just Reach Out and Take It


Got Hope?

Got Jobs?Got Jobs?

For me, watching Barack Obama win the White House has been like watching a train wreck. The worst thing about it was the feeling of helplessness. Nothing I could do or say could have changed this election, and McCain would have been as bad for the nation as Obama. Having been in sales for as long as I have, I instantly saw Obama’s public relations value. From a purely public relations POV, Obama was the perfect candidate. He had black skin but he was raised in white European culture. Obama has more in common with a Republican lawyer than he does with any average voter. Yet, I have watched the spin doctors turn Obama into liberal America’s darling.

In the last three months since the inauguration, Obama has done things that would have had the rest of us howling had Baby Doc Bush done them. So far, Obama voted in favor of sheltering the telecoms who turned personal information over to Homeland Security. Obama broke his promises to raise the capital gains tax and end the Bush tax cuts. There is also an undeclared war going on in Pakistan which Obama authorized. Then there is this idiotic bailout . If Bush had done any of this, everybody would be screaming in outrage. So why does Obama get a free pass?

Maybe we are not holding Obama accountable because we have a huge emotional stake in his presidency. Twenty eight years of constant neocon rule has taken its toll. We as a nation want change so badly that we can taste it. These are the sort of emotions that Freud’s favorite nephew, Edward Bernays, loved to exploit. Bernays exploited poor self image to sell cigarettes and fear of alien cultures to sell the Cold War. There is a lot of heavy emotion associated with the Bush administration. There is the anger at being lied to, there is grief at the lives being lost in the Middle East, and there is the fear at the deteriorating economy. All of these churning emotions are so easily channeled through the simple two word phrase, “Got Hope?”

The paradox of sales is that originality in advertising rarely sells. The successful advertisement follows the same patterns, and we the consumer have been conditioned to follow those patterns. Let’s look at the original “Got Milk?” TV ad.

See what can happen to you if you don’t have enough cow juice on hand? This commercial was the first in a series of commercials that increased milk sales by over seventy percent. It was the first increase in milk sales in decades! It seemed fresh and funny but followed the traditional patterns. There was a funny vignette where the hero faces a heartbreaking loss because he didn’t have enough milk on hand. To quote the article I linked to:

Goodby’s team fielded qualitative research and learned that many consumers indeed linked milk with sweet, sticky snacks. Pushing further, the researchers flipped around the question: how do people feel when they’re eating something that demanded milk to wash it down, but don’t have milk in the house? Focus group respondents placed in this situation were upset, they felt deprived. They were able to convey viscerally the feeling of having a brownie or cookie remnants stuck in their throat, calling out for a gulp of milk to cleanse the palette.

In the best Bernays manner, the commercial uses the fear of deprivation to sell milk. Fear of not having something important or otherwise is a powerful sales tool. Next time you speak to a financial planner notice how he uses fear of an impoverished retirement to sell you an annuity. That’s how Bernie Madoff did it. He frightened his victims as to what would happen if they failed to invest for their retirements and commenced to make their fears come true. The commercial does the same thing. Only it is fear of a different sort of loss that sells milk.

Then there is the slogan that caught on like wildfire. Once again, quoting the article I linked to:

Goodby and his team used this consumer insight as the spark for what came to be called the deprivation strategy: rather than selling milk as a complement to certain foods, instead the strategy became to remind milk drinkers of the anxiety and disappointment that came when milk wasn’t available at crucial moments. Working to distill this milk-deprived emotional state into a phrase that everyone might instantly understand, Goodby coined the campaign’s well-known grammatically-challenged tagline, ‘got milk?”

It is the ungrammatical use of the word “got” that made the tagline so effective. The ungrammatical use of “got” caught the attention and held it. It was both short and memorable. It was perfect. It got to the point all a person had to do was see the tagline and all the fear of deprivation would jump out of the subconscious. These “Got Milk” signs popped up all over the nation.

got-milk-scented-bus-shelte

Since originality rarely sells, other products jumped on the bandwagon and the country was inundated with slogans like “Got Game?”, “Got Retirement?”, or even “Got Jesus?”.

got_jesus_1400x1050

There were even jokes and parodies. You can still find this T-shirt sold on the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco.

got-pot-tee-shirt1

The “Got Jesus” campaign rode the success of the original commercials. The “Got Milk” campaign set it all up for the Christianoids. Just looking at the “Got Jesus” slogan got people thinking of all the horrible things that could have happened to them if they lacked Jesus in their lives. The “Got Pot” parody helped keep the slogan alive and in the public subconscious. The more “Got (fill in the blank)” is used the more effective it becomes. This leads us to the Obama Campaign.

got_hope_vote_obama_tshirt-p235792798030844249qm6x_400

This must be the most effective campaign slogan ever used. It’s an old and established work horse. It has been used to sell everything from milk to religion. It is one we have grown to know and love and we all respond to it if we admit it or not. The sad fact is that we all “Got Hope”. We all have hope that Obama will turn the economy around. We all have hope that he will end the unconstitutional detainments in Guantanamo. Some people have so much hope that they are stating that Obama has already released the prisoners in Guantanamo and ended the war in the Middle East, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Obama has announced a timeline to release the prisoners and so far that is it. Obama is stepping up the war in Afghanistan while making a token show of slowing down the Iraqi war. Three months into his administration and the nation is still in the same situation it would be in if McCain won the election.

Hope is a very powerful emotional condition. People with terminal diseases have been known to continue to hope for a miracle cure as they lay dying. People in hopeless situations tend to hang on to hope as a means to hang on to their sanity. Hope, like any other emotional situation can be exploited by the public relations trade. People are supporting Obama despite the evidence because they are afraid to be deprived of hope. Right now Obama can break into their homes and rob their liquor cabinets, and they would not prosecute because they are afraid of losing their hope. “Got Hope” has caused a psychological confusion between Obama and the changes we are hoping for. It is as if without Obama the changes are impossible.

The worst thing about it is that we are still being sold. Everyday after work I go to the Barnes and Nobles cafe for a cup of tea, and every day I see more and more Obama promotional merchandise. Mugs, books, biographies and commemorative picture books are being hawked long after Obama has won the election. Promotional merchandise is not cheap to promote. The ghost writers and the behavioral scientists that put them out have to be paid up-front. The money you pay at the cash register barely covers the cost of production and distribution. If they are paying on the front end and not regaining the cost on the back-end, all this promotional garbage must be an investment. So my question is what are they going to try to sell us next?

Now What Excuse Will We Use to Invade Iran?

Now What Excuse Will We Use to Invade Iran?