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?




Money Down a Bottomless Pit

timothy_f_geithner_31It’s Raining Soup!

Twenty eight years of steady neocon rule have placed this country right into the sewer. It wasn’t just Bush. It was Bush’s dad, the Reagan Administration and Bill Clinton. Now we have Barack Obama promising change and giving us the Son of the Clinton Administration. The same people who caused this economic disaster are back and making the same mistakes. We have no infrastructure left. Our manufacturing is overseas. Our GNP, which supports our currency, is entirely through oil production and refining.

While America has its collective attention riveted on Ponzi scams and other symptoms of a capitalist economy, the Obama administration is getting away with an even bigger scam. I am talking about the bailout. The most aggravating thing about it is that the criminals from the Clinton Administration who caused this mess are back with Barack Obama. We are only now coming into the full extent of the damage that Clinton and his Whitewater cohorts did to the economy. We have not even begun to feel the damage that Bush caused to the economy. Not to worry, Bush’s disasters are just around the corner.

The Clinton Years

Make no mistake about it, Bill Clinton was a neocon. His rise to superstardom was very much like Barack Obama’s. After eight years of Reagan and four of Papa Doc Bush, America needed a change. Twelve years of tax breaks and deregulation had already sucked the nation dry. In comes Clinton as the Democrat’s “great white broom” that was going to sweep away the evils of the
Republicans. Instead, Clinton followed the neocon agenda. He pushed NAFTA through Congress,and joined with Newt Gingrich to destroy the social safety net. Like Reagan and Bush, Clinton cut taxes for the rich and continued with the rash of deregulation which began in the Reagan years. This created an interesting challenge for Bill Clinton. He had to create the illusion that his policies were working without threatening corporate profits.

Along came Mrs. Geithner’s darling baby boy, Timothy, with the perfect plan. Take all of the money that should have been spent on health care, rent subsidy and education and pour it into the Internet. Pour enough money into the private sector and it would look as if the economy is healthy. While American jobs were being sent overseas and American citizens were forced into poverty and homelessness, Clinton was pouring billions of dollars into the computer industry. Like everything else that has happened in the financial industry these last twenty years, the money was poured without any regard to where it was splashing. For every piece of genuine research that was financed, there were four Internet start-ups which were not producing anything of value.

Eventually money accumulated to the point where it was spilling out of the computer industry and into other industries. All the shiny new Internet millionaires needed credit cards, right? Otherwise they would not be able to buy skateboards and groceries. Landlords had to raise the rents to account for the new prosperity and high interest mortgages had to be sold. New businesses had to be opened to support the new tech industries. Office equipment had to be sold to the new start up companies. This caused a temporary rise in the employment rate. Geithner’s house of cards was supported by the stock market, which was buying and selling junk Internet stocks as if they were actually worth something.

In the meantime, e-commerce companies like Amazon were selling their goods at a loss and making up the loss through the stock market. This forced traditional “bricks and mortar” businesses into bankruptcy. Bill Clinton signed the Financial Reform Act into law. In other words, Clinton legalized theft. Enron happened and the biggest corporate criminal of them all later became President. I think the most amazing thing that happened during the Internet bubble was AOL taking over Time Warner. AOL was an Internet company like any other, and they managed to buy one of the largest media giants with Internet money. That’s like buying a kingdom with faerie gold. Speaking of faerie gold, that was the Clinton surplus. All the extra money that was supposed to be in the treasury was actually Internet stock. It was faerie gold that vanished after the crash of 2000.

The crash happened when people woke up and realized that most of the Internet start-ups were not producing anything of value. The stock market crashed. The tech industry went belly up. The major corporations bought up everything worth buying and outsourced the work. Blend this in with the sub-prime mortgage boondoggle, financial deregulation and the death of the social safety net and you have the mess we are in today.

The Jig Was Up!

Fast forward to the summer of 2008. The mortgage industry finally melted down. The stock market crashed like it was 1929. European banks were ready to take over American institutions which had been badly run for decades. American financiers were looking at the end of their gravy train. The European banks are strict and conservative. There would be no more buying and selling of inflated stocks, no more selling of bad mortgages, and no more Ponzi scams. American financiers were panicking. The Europeans would impose law and order. What was Wall St. going to do?

Once again it was Timothy Geithner into the breach. He got in front of Baby Doc Bush and proposed a 75 billion dollar bail-out. The idea behind the bailout is exactly the same idea as the Internet bubble. If you pour enough money into the private sector it will look as if the economy is healthy. Baby Doc Bush and his tame Congress poured 75 billion dollars down the rat hole and the stock market is still in the toilet.

The Son of the Clinton Administration

Along comes President Barack Obama who promised us change and commences to give us a rerun of Clinton. Obama not only supported the first bailout but is now championing another bailout. Guess what? The second bailout is not going to work any better than the first one did. Still, Obama inherited Baby Doc Bush’s trained Congress, so this bailout is going through anyway.

Despite all the libertarian delusions that are bandied about the Web, America does not exist in its own private little capitalist bubble and never did. The United States has been a part of the world economy since Thomas Jefferson made paying the Revolutionary War debt a priority. Most of the mortgage banks that U.S banks borrowed from were European conglomerates. The Europeans pulled out their money when they discovered how many US mortgages were defaulting. That left a monster hole in American finances. That hole got bigger after Europe called in their debts and the U.S mortgage companies had to pay off all the mortgages sold. Thus billions of bailout dollars went to satisfy the European debt, which is still not paid off. Very little of this money is going to stay in the U.S

It’s not as if we really have that much money. Between Clinton and his junk stocks and Bush’s uncontrolled spending, there is not that much money left. Baby Doc cut so many taxes for the rich that more money is flying out of the Treasury than is coming in. The Bush Administration sold off federal investments and government-owned property to pay its debts. Baby Doc Bush invaded Iraq and Afghanistan with money borrowed from the Chinese and the Saudi Arabians. That’s right, folks, we owe the people who control our manufacturing and oil production big time and who’s idea was outsourcing all our factory production to China? I’ll give you a hint. He’s Barack Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury.

The last time the American public took such a fall, we had the labor movement there to make sure we got a new deal. Who do we have looking after our interests today? If we are going to have the changes we need to restore our economy, we need to organize. We cannot sit back and expect a corporately-chosen President to do it for us. We need to rebuild our infrastructure, reimpose reasonable limits on our financial institutions and bring our jobs back home where they belong. If Obama won’t do it, we’ll just have to do it despite him.

If You Use the Right Words the Right Way, People Will Convince Themselves that Grinding Poverty is the Change They Asked For

If You Use the Right Words the Right Way, People Will Convince Themselves that Grinding Poverty is the Change They Asked For


America’s Stupidest Presidents

The Decider

The Decider

People claim George W. Bush is the most stupid man ever to be elected president.   My response is,”define stupid.“  True, Bush must have the lowest I.Q of anybody who has infested the Oval Office, but having a high I.Q doesn’t make one smart.   Bill Clinton could do the New York Times crossword puzzle in a minute and a half flat, but he wasn’t as smart as Warren G. Harding.   Harding was bright enough to take his mistresses into the Oval Office closet.

In honor of eight years of utterly unenlightened leadership, let’s take a trip back in time and visit other stupid presidents.

His Rotundity The Second President of the United States

His Rotundity The Second President of the United States

John Adams

John Adams was both a Royalist and a Puritan at heart.   Adams wanted the President to have the same pomp and trappings as the king of England.   We can blame him for the imperial presidencies. Adams wrote extensively on how American Constitutional law fit into Puritan predestination.   We can blame Adams for the Puritan Work Ethic finding its way into our legal system as well as the President’s unconstitutional role as religious leader.  It was John Adams who first realized that capitalism was a dandy way for God to show us who was going to heaven.   If God granted you wealth, you were heaven bound.

Of all the Founders, Adams had the strangest twist on American Independence.  He did not wish to be free of the King, he simply wanted to be free of Parliament.   His argument was that since America was a crown colony, Parliament had no authority to tax Americans.  That one stood as the weirdest argument in American jurisprudence until Bill Clinton tried to prove that fellatio wasn’t sex.

Adams was a Royalist through and through.  As Vice President he was determined to make the Senate a hereditary position.   Loathing the title Mr. President, he tried to change it to “His Majesty the President”, or (my favorite) “His High and Mightiness, The President”.  By all accounts, Adams made himself such a pain that the Senate called him “Your Rotundity”.

Adams believed that God showed the world who was the true aristocracy by willing people to become rich. He called it the natural aristocracy.   Taking a look at Barbara Bush’s most stupid kid, we can only presume that the natural aristocracy has become as inbred as the European species.

What Do You Mean We Won?

What Do You Mean We Won?

Ulysses S. Grant

I don’t know what to make of U.S. Grant.  The man wasn’t a leader; he was a born follower.   His parents named him Hiram Ulysses Grant, but he was renamed Ulysses S. Grant through a bureaucratic mistake that he didn’t bother to correct.  Then everybody started calling him Sam.  Grant was never a big smoker until the Civil War, when he felt he had to smoke all the cigars admirers kept sending him. His wife kept him away from booze until he was stationed away from her.  Then he just sort of drifted into alcoholism.  Grant sort of drifted through life with very little effort of his own.

Some believe Grant had Asperger’s Syndrome or some other autism spectrum disorder because of his uncanny talent for tactics.  He retreated when other generals would attack and attacked when other generals would retreat.  He either pressed his advantage in hopeless situations and exploited a hole in the South’s strategy nobody else saw, or he inexplicably retreated and saved his forces from a trap nobody else could see coming.   It was this talent that made him a successful general, even if he did faint at the sight of blood.

Too bad his talent didn’t warn him away from The White House.   As a President, Grant was a disaster. Unable to choose competent people for his cabinet or staff, he couldn’t even hire a decent chef.  Every member of his cabinet got caught taking bribes, influence peddling, and embezzling.  His own personal secretary was arrested for embezzling thousands of dollars. While this went on, foreign dignitaries were treated to army cooking. Grant set a precedent by pardoning everybody including the cook, who also embezzled.

Thanks to the corruption in his Cabinet, Reconstruction became a criminal’s wonderland. Gold speculation led to the US’s first bank failure and stock market crash. To give the man credit, Grant did try to provide justice for the freed slaves.  However, he utterly failed in his attempt to provide justice to the conquered Native Americans.  Grant handed the Bureau of Indian Affairs over to the Quaker Church, and their attempt to convert the Native Americans led to bloody revolts and fueled the Ghost Dance.

Grant died penniless from throat cancer.  His own son conned him out of his life savings.  In those days before Presidential pensions, Gen. and Mrs. Grant would have died in the streets had it not been for Mark Twain.   He took them in, fed them, and paid Grant’s doctor’s bill in return for publishing rights to Grant’s memoirs.  Grant died days after he finished the project. Twain gave the widow Grant 75% of the profits and only took 25%.  Fortunately for Twain, the book became immensely popular. Twain retired to Europe on the proceeds.

Not While My Wife Is Home

Not While My Wife Is Home

Warren G. Harding

“He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.”

So said journalist H.L. Mencken about President Warren G. Harding.   He was President after the first World War.  His slogan “Return to Normalcy” must have made poor Mencken cringe every time he heard it.   Normalcy was not a word until Harding made it up.   He claimed that he liked the sound of it better than Normality.   Harding has gone down in history as the first President to alter words for a campaign slogan.

Harding was the son of a newspaper publisher, and attempted to follow in his father’s footsteps.   I am sure that Harding’s father did his best.   Young Warren was simply born to fail.  He kept one of his newspapers going by having a spirited war of words against a rival publisher, Amos Hall Kling.   The stress of managing a newspaper was too much for young Harding.   By the time he was 24, he had checked himself into sanitariums three or four times for nervous disorders.

Success came unexpectedly to young Harding when Kling’s daughter, Florence Kling Dewolf decided to marry him and chased him until he relented.  Warren G. Harding could be compared to the fool in the Irish faerie tale who married his brains.  Mrs. Harding was also the child of a newspaper publisher, but unlike her husband, she had the ability to understand the business.  Within a year, Harding was a successful newspaper publisher.  This was not enough for Mrs. Harding. She wanted to be the power behind the throne in Washington DC.

In earlier posts I credited John F. Kennedy with running the first modern campaign.   I was wrong. The real credit goes to Florence Kling Dewolf Harding.  Florence Harding was the first to employ the full media in a political campaign.  She had movie cameras accompany her husband during campaigns. Harding may have so dumb he had to take off his pants to count to eleven, but he looked like a President. Florence made full use of that. Before Harding, a president could walk into any barber shop for a shave without being known.   Harding was the first President who was easily recognized by the public.   He was fabulously popular.

If Harding was content to simply let his wife handle things while he looked pretty for the cameras, he may have had one of the most successful presidencies in history.   His wife’s philosophy was to back away from foreign political entanglements that were coming out of the end of the first World War.  She was in favor of the League of Nations, but was more intent on rebuilding the war economy into a national prosperity economy.

Harding let his ego get in the way of his good sense and actually tried to become the President.   He insisted on writing his own speeches which encouraged H.L Mencken to say that love was blind, but in Mrs. Harding’s case it was deaf as well. Harding also made the same mistake that Grant made by inviting the guys he partied with into his cabinet and staff.  His administration became just as crooked Grant’s.  However, Harding’s biggest mistake was that he was a womanizer.   He had at least one child out of wedlock and at least one mistress blackmailing him since the time he was a senator.  Warren G. Harding died before the end of his first term.   There are many who suspect that a jealous Florence poisoned him.

I Choose Not To Run

I Choose Not To Run

Calvin Coolidge

There are many who would object to my placing Coolidge on a list of dumb presidents, and they do have a point.  Coolidge was a bright fellow with a great sense of humor.   When Dorothy Parker told Coolidge that she bet she could get him to say more than three words, Coolidge replied, “you lose” and refused to say another word for the rest of the dinner.

Then again, there are those who claim that old Cal was just barely smart enough to keep his mouth shut. That kept him from looking like the idiot he was. Those people also have a point.   As president, Coolidge refused to take action to prevent the Depression of 1929.  Coolidge refused to support labor, even though he was a champion of labor as the Governor of Massachusetts.  Coolidge claimed that labor was a state by state problem.  Coolidge refused to help the American farmer, claiming that it was a fact that farmers don’t make much money.   He also refused to take action against corporate crime. So when the disaster of 1929 hit, the government was totally unable to handle the crash.   By then, Coolidge was retired and it was Herbert Hoover’s problem.

Calvin Coolidge’s stupidity stemmed from a lack of vision.  Coolidge was unable to realize that the world had changed from the 19th Century.  The American frontier was officially closed, and the national economy had changed.  There was a new interdependency amongst the states that the federal government had to make some changes to meet.   In stubbornly holding on to the values of the nineteenth century, Coolidge created the Great Depression of 1929.   By adopting the values of the Coolidge era, Ronald Reagan created the conditions that led to the great depression of 2008.   How long is this going to go on before we learn our lessons?

I Was Not A Crook

I Was Not A Crook

Richard M. Nixon

There are many who felt that Nixon won the debates with Kennedy.   Nixon argued with facts and Kennedy replied with slogans.  Alas, Nixon in 1968 was not the man he was in 1960.   By 1968 a fine mind had been destroyed by alcohol.   By the time Nixon was elected, he was far into alcoholic paranoia.  The secret service had to watch him or he’d escape and go on a bender.   Nixon was once missing for three days and the nation never noticed.   The President of the United States was found in a greasy spoon in the worst neighborhood in DC.  He looked and smelled just as bad as the rest of the derelicts.

That was the birth of the modern presidency.  Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman had the easiest three days of their lives.  The government actually worked better without Nixon getting in the way.  So when the Republicans regrouped after the Carter victory, they decided to select a president who would sit quietly in front of the TV until they needed him to make a speech.  Ronald Reagan was the obvious choice.

You Mean This Is Not The Screen Actor's Guild?

You Mean This Is Not The Screen Actor's Guild?

Ronald Reagan

There is something intrinsically dirty about the Reagan presidency.   The poor man was steadily losing his faculties.   He was not competent to do the job.   He once said on camera that he just read his scripts. That a sick person was so blatantly exploited represents the worst of modern politics.   A cabal that could do that is capable of doing anything.

How We Wish

How We Wish

George W. Bush

If I were George Herbert Walker Bush, I would blame little Georgie W on the milkman.   The abysmal stupidity of the man is makes him the watermark for stupid presidents.   His administration was as religiously warped as John Adams, as corrupt as Grant or Harding’s, and as destructive as Nixon’s.  It was also as disastrous as Coolidge’s.  I think they ran him for President because he would be another Reagan.   They just hoped he would spend his time in the Oval Office farting in front of the interns. Unfortunately for the nation, Dubya let his ego get in the way, and he actually tried to do the job for which he was elected.   There is some amusement in thinking over the consternation he caused amongst his handlers when he refused to sign the Financial Ethics Bill or insisted that infernal and forgettable woman be appointed to the Supreme Court.  Then again, who says that his handlers were any smarter?

Despite my distrust of Barrack Obama and his connection to Chicago machine politics, it will be a distinct pleasure to have a President who speaks English.  The economy may fall deeper into a depression, American jobs may continue to find their way to the Mysterious East, American troops may rock and roll through Iran, but at least our new President can pronounce nuclear.   That in itself is a blessing.  During times when homelessness is a bigger national disgrace than it was during the Depression of 1929, we have to take what blessings we can find.


Hannity Has Done His Job Well

Change?  Surely You Jest?

Change? Surely You Jest?

When is criticizing a politician racism?   When the politician is Barrack Obama, of course.  Obama can back away every one of his promises regarding taxation, and anyone who points it out is accused of bigotry.  Obama can turn all his promises regarding the economy into a lie by appointing Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury, and I am called a horrible person for mentioning Geithner’s part in NAFTA and outsourcing.   Obama can also appoint that war criminal Gates to continue the job he has mishandled for Bush, but Barrack Obama can do no wrong. Apparently I am wrong for pointing out that appointing Gates is a sign that the war is going to continue.  The right wing pundits have done their job. Obama can continue the same failed policies of his predecessors, but nobody dares to point this out without being accused of racism.

As a marketing and sales professional, I have to admire the right wing pundits as well as the people who write their scripts.  They are brilliant.   By carefully mixing truth and psychotic racism, they have made Obama invincible.  When one mentions the incestuous relationship between Hillary Clinton and Wal-Mart, one automatically becomes a KKK member.  Obama can ask John Yoo to be a member of his national security staff, and I allegedly become Sean Hannity for pointing out that Yoo was the person who advocated the torture of Guantanamo inmates. John Brenner is the CIA executive who oversees torture, and Obama wanted him to head the CIA.  Ask how this means change, and cries of racism echo from the hills.

This does not mean that racism does not exist.   On the contrary.  Hannity’s script writers depend on racism.   When Buster Beer-Belly redneck hears Hannity’s rants, all he is going to hear is that the Black President’s middle name is Hussein, and that the good white Republicans are protecting his interests by continuing Bush’s policies.   All Mr. Cardboard Liberal is going to hear is the racism, and will associate any criticism of Obama with the racism. Thus, when Obama continues the failed economic policies of his predecessors, it’s all going to be somebody else’s fault.  The rednecks will blame the Muslim-loving liberals and the liberals will blame the redneck Republicans.

The amazing thing is that anybody even listens to Hannity, Limbaugh, or the rest of the troupe of right-wing howler monkeys.  It’s not as if they have anything worth listening to.   I spent my entire life not even knowing what Sean Hannity looked like until I lifted his picture off Google.   I could pass him on the street without even recognizing him.  I watched some of his stuff from YouTube when I was accused of being him.  What person in his right mind would even listen to his shit?   Maybe I have been in the business too long, but Hannity is the worst salesman I ever experienced.  Yet people on both sides of the political spectrum listen to him as if he even matters.

All Hannity has to do is pick on Nancy Pelosi, and that godless neocon becomes Ms. Super Liberal.  Pelosi, who continues to vote in favor of the Iraq war and illegal wiretapping, is a champion of the downtrodden because Hannity says something bad about her. Jesus H. Christ on a crutch!  The woman is a bald-faced liar.  Check our her voting record.  Project Vote Smart records the voting record of every politician in Washington DC.   There is no excuse for anybody to fall for Hannity’s tactics.   The truth is out there for anybody with enough brains to look for themselves.

Hannity and the rest of the right wing pundits have successfully applied a peer pressure element into American politics.  You are now either for Hannity or against him.  If Hannity labels somebody a bleeding heart liberal, you have to either condemn him or support him as a bleeding heart liberal.   It’s an us or them attitude where truth does not matter a whit.  The fact that Pelosi has been an ardent behind-the-scenes Bush supporter seems to be irrelevant in the light of Hannity’s mighty rhetoric.

Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, so I should not be too terribly surprised that people are falling for the Hannity smoke and mirrors show.  How many people in California lost their homes because some stranger called them up during dinner time and offered them a “free, no obligation, assessment of their present mortgage”?  Sounds pretty dumb, doesn’t it?   There are just some things that people have become conditioned to respond to.   The words “free” and “no obligation” are guaranteed to catch one out of every five prospects.   This holds true in politics as well. Say the right words and you get people’s money.  Say other right words and you get people’s votes. Say other magic words and a politician becomes god or the devil depending on the audience you are aiming for.   Sometimes you can accomplish both with the same sentence.

The liberal who has the nerve to criticize Obama becomes the eternal outsider.  Even though Obama has already gone back on many of his promises, and made frightening choices for his cabinet, I am called a bigot for daring to mention it. That’s cool. I can live with it. I have received some really nasty email, I have been called a pig on my own blog, and even my wife has been slighted over this.   I do not take any of this personally. The unconditional Obama supporters have a hard lesson coming to them.  Many of them can see it coming.   Really, how smart do you have to be, to know that Rahm Emmanuel is bad news for any sort of positive change?   They pick on me for pointing out the obvious.

What bothers me is the opportunity that is being lost.  Why is everybody dropping the ball?  Why is putting a Likkudnik in as chief-of-staff acceptable? Why is Gates acceptable?   Why is pointing out that they are not acceptable labeled racist?  Because Sean Hannity opened his mouth?  Cut me a break.   If Obama’s supporters want actual change, they are going to have to react to what Obama does and not what Sean Hannity says.   Hannity is just hot air. Geithner is a danger to our homes, our jobs, and our savings.   Don’t fall for the Hannity con game.  Get on the web, get on Obama’s site, and remind him that you voted him in for change.

Do You See Any Change?

Do You See Any Change?


What Is A President?

Where's The Change?

Where's The Change?

What is a President?   A President is a corporate talking head.   He does funny tricks for the public while his staff does all the work.  The staff doesn’t work for the President.  The staff works for the party and is selected by the party.   Since it is the staff who really run the office of the president, the party makes certain that the staff will work for the interests of the corporate sponsors.  As there are only two significant parties in the United States, it has been very easy for the corporations to dominate both parties.  This is why Bill Clinton’s administration was a continuation of the Reagan-Bush administrations, and was the perfect set up for the current trained monkey.

Jimmy Carter was the last President to actually try to do the job.   We all saw what happened to him. Carter’s own party ignored him.  The Democrats left Jimmy Carter slowly twisting in the wind over the Iran Hostage Crisis.  Of course the Democrats knew that the Republicans were dealing with Iran to make Carter look bad, but nobody stood up to defend their President.  Then the Reagan Republicans took credit for all the hard work and hard decisions Carter made to repair the economy.   After Reagan’s election, the Democrats showed the world they were not going to stand for any more human rights nonsense.  They joined with the Republicans to send our jobs overseas and to assure corporate profits.   Liberal became as bad a word amongst the Democrats as with the Republicans, and the nation watched 50 years of social progress go down the toilet.

Television and the media have made it more important to look like a President than to be a President.  Giving the devil his due, Richard M. Nixon tried to be a President during the 1960 campaign. Nixon ran an old fashioned campaign based on the issues, while Jack Kennedy ran the first modern campaign based on appearances.  Kennedy posed for the cameras.   Kennedy wore make-up during the debates.  Kennedy was young and pretty, while even in 1960, Nixon looked like a blood hound who just smelled a skunk.   Kennedy won on appearances. In 1968 Nixon was washed up and fallen so far into alcoholism that he was hopeless after twelve noon.

Quite often it is neccessary to tell the public what they want to hear in order to get a candidate elected. After eight years of Reagan and four years of Papa-Doc Bush, America was burned out on deregulation. The voters were scared of NAFTA and wanted the government do something for them. Clinton came along and promised national health. That’s what the public wanted to hear and that’s what got Clinton elected.  We are still waiting for our national health.   Clinton set us up for our present financial crises instead.

After Clinton’s outright lies and open collusion with the Republicans, I cannot understand why anybody would believe anything any Democrat would tell them.  Yet there are still people who make excuses for Clinton. They forget that the “prosperity” under the Clinton years was simply a stock market bubble that would have been illegal before the deregulation of the Eighties.  They seem to forget that Alan Greenspan started under Reagan and continued through the Clinton years until Greenspan himself chose to retire under Baby-Doc Bush.   They ignore the fact that Clinton turned homelessness into a national crisis by signing NAFTA into law and then cutting the social safety net.  Clinton created his paper surplus budget surplus through his treasury department investing in valueless tech stocks.

There are customs about the Presidency that have to be followed.   One such custom is that the incumbent Vice President gets to run for President at the end of the two terms. Al Gore, the last of the presidentially viable, pro-ecology Democrats ran for president, but the Republicans cheated to keep him out of the White House. Gore’s own party made no great effort to challenge the obvious chicanery.  Having Gore in the White House would have been an embarrassment.   It would have been like Carter.   The president would have said one thing while the party was busy colluding with the oil, mining, and lumber companies.   Gore was also pro-labor and depended on the auto industry for his support base.  As we see today, the auto industry was another American industry due for outsourcing.

The parties no longer even compete for the Presidency.   Both parties get together with their PR and marketing people to see who the voters are most likely to accept.   When the public got tired of Republican rhetoric, Clinton got into the White House for eight years with no real changes in policy from the Republicans.

Obama is surrounding himself with Clinton’s criminal family.   Obama has already come out in favor of illegal wiretapping, promised to continue and expand the faith based initiatives, and backed away from ending the Bush tax giveaways to the rich. If Robert “The Surge” Gates is selected, that will be a pretty good indication that we can expect a continuation of the last 28 years. If you, like me, find this totally unacceptable, it is time to act. We can start by getting on Obama’s website and letting the president elect know that we are not pleased. http://change.gov/ It might not make any difference but at least we will not be silent accomplices to our own abuse.

I Got Mine

I Got Mine



How Pundits Lie

Not The Grumpy Old Man

Not The Grumpy Old Man

I am making myself very unpopular by criticizing Barack Obama.  I have been called a racist for criticizing him.   I have been called an alarmist.   I have even been compared to Sean Hannity, which really hurts.   A neighbor told me that I am not being fair.  After all, Obama has not even been sworn in yet.   He has not even had the chance to screw things up yet.   From my point of view that’s like telling me not to run away from the guy with the open buckets of gasoline and a lit cigarette.

Obama is not only surrounding himself with the worst of the Clinton Administration, he is surrounding himself with the worst of the Bush war criminals as well.   He wants Robert “The Surge” Gates to continue as the Secretary of Defense.   How is this change?   They are popping the champagne in Beijing with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.  That is a pretty good indication that jobs are not going to return to American soil under Obama.   Rahm “NAFTA” Emanuel, Lockheed’s trained monkey, is going to be Obama’s chief of staff.   This does not look like change to me.  This looks like a rerun to the bad old days of the Clinton Administration, when homelessness flourished while public money was invested in junk stocks.  Yet when I point this out, I am accused of being Sean Hannity.

The problem here is that Sean Hannity is telling the absolute truth.  In this age of universal deceit, there is no better way to lie than to tell the truth.   If Hannity lied, he would be lumped in with the Sept. 11th conspiracy nuts, and the legions of other rumor mongers.  By telling the truth, Hannity is standing out from the rest of the crowd.   He is singling himself out for national attention.   Any imbecile can claim that Obama turned in a false birth certificate, but it establishes credibility to point out that Obama is crewing the ship of state with the same band of cutthroats who brought us the Tech Bubble and the disastrous Financial Reform Bill.   Then, after capturing our attention with the truth, Hannity follows up with a real whopper.   He makes the idiotic claim that the Republicans are better than the Democrats.

Those of you, like myself, who prefer to exist in consensual reality, are probably already aware that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is the difference between AIDS and lung cancer.  Both are an eventual death sentence; the only real difference is the pain you experience as you waste away in misery.  Yet Sean Hannity will tear down the Democrats, and point out every mistake made by the Democrats, while ignoring the fact that the Republicans made the same damned mistakes. Hannity will tear Nancy Pelosi to ribbons, while ignoring the fact that Pelosi voted for everything Baby-Doc Bush ever asked for.  Hannity will accuse the Democrats of spending money on “wasteful” public programs, and will forget that Bill Clinton joined with Newt Gingrich to rip the social safety net to shreds.   Since 1980, the Democrats and the Republicans have been working together for the benefit of the multinational corporations, and it seems that nobody really notices thanks to Sean Hannity.

The Democrats became the party of the poor and the downtrodden back during the early part of the twentieth century.  As the labor movement grew in strength and popularity, the unions sought a political party to represent their interests.  The G.O.P would have nothing to do with either labor or the immigrants who comprised the labor movement.   By the time FDR was elected, unions were strong enough to influence the New Deal and made economic recovery possible.  However, years of prosperity weakened the unions, and labor influence in the Democratic Party waned until Reagan entirely broke union influence in the early Eighties.  Still, people insist on believing that the Democrats support labor and working people, even after Bill Clinton signed the original legislation that send our jobs out of the country and killed labor in the United States.

So there is Sean Hannity telling the truth about the Democratic Party, and Democrats arguing with him despite the evidence of the last 28 years.   The Democrats are arguing that they are different from the Republicans even after Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table.   Republicans are arguing with Democrats even after Bill Clinton showed his true colors and openly joined with the Republicans.   This is why I say that we can expect the exact same disasters from Obama that we could expect with McCain.

Barack Obama was the perfect Democratic presidential candidate. He is a dark skinned man who was given the kind of upbringing that is usually reserved for very privileged European Americans.   He grew up with middle class values. Despite his books, I cannot see him really identifying with his supporters.   Poverty is too far out of his experience. When he went to school abroad, he was home schooled or went to English language schools.   He grew up in his mother’s white American social class The fact that the Democrats and their corporate sponsors were forced to support a candidate of African descent is a good indication that the power balance is shifting.   The powers that be are on the verge of total economic collapse.  They need us to keep listening to Sean Hannity and pointlessly arguing with each other over two parties which are now exactly the same.   That’s the only thing that is keeping them in power.

Hannity’s purpose is to deflect objective criticism on the Democratic party and to maintain the illusion that there is an actual difference between Democrats and Republicans.   Hannity encourages us to support or oppose a president who has promised us change without outlining what the changes are going to be or how change is going to be implemented.   Hannity prevents us from giving negative feedback on the terrible choices that Obama is making for his staff and his cabinet. The left is being distracted by arguing with Republicans over the non-virtues of Democrats. We cannot afford to wait and hope that Barrack Obama comes riding out of Washington on his white horse to rescue us all.  It is up to us to rescue ourselves and the first thing on our agenda is to tell Obama that Gates, Clinton, and that rabid weasel Emanuel are not acceptable choices.   We, the people, are the bosses here and its damned all time that we acted like it.   Barack Obama works for us.  We need to remind him of that, even if we find ourselves agreeing with Sean Hannity.

Neither of Us are Sean Hannity

Neither of Us are Sean Hannity