Back in October of 2010, I posted an essay called “Today I Am A Green”. It’s been 17 months, and now I am going to eat those words without benefit of salt or ketchup. A lesser person would simply take down this embarrassing blog post and hope that people have the grace to forget I ever posted it. Taking H.L. Mencken as my role model, I’m keeping the post up as a record of where my mind was during that period.
It comes down to me refusing to vote for anybody as psychotically antisemitic as Cynthia McKinney, and she is reasonable compared to some of the Greens I’ve run into on Facebook. Each and every one of them were obsessed by the International Illuminati Conspiracy or the Jewish Lobby. (Or is it the International Jewish Conspiracy or the Illuminati Lobby? It’s hard to keep the two straight.) It’s like each and every one of them are obsessed by Jews or Masons. I came back to the Green Party and found myself in an Edgar Allen Poe story, The System of Professor Tarr and Dr. Fether
It seems that the lunatics are taking over every asylum. The right refuses to acknowledge Evolution and the left denies Relativity. Everywhere I go, I run into people who insist either god magicked the universe into being, or that Dick Cheney was so mighty, relative mass doesn’t apply to the planes that hit the Twin Towers. The left is no saner than the Tea Party, they just have different obsessions.
This is Dunlap’s Law: Crazy people drive sane people out of American political movements. Crazy people respect no limits, be it social boundaries or the inflexible laws of Mathematics. If scientific evidence contradicts their delusions, scientific evidence is a conspiracy. They then must save the rest of us from the voices in their heads. They aggressively persecute anybody who does not suffer from their delusions. Hence we have born again Christianoids out to save us from the evils of evolution and homosexuality, and left wingers out to protect the world from FEMA work camps and Jews infiltrating American government. The insanity of both sides have driven most people to the sidelines.
But how does it happen that a small handful of delusional people get to dominate both the left and the right? It’s easy enough to see how it happened on the right. The GOP organized the religiously insane into a massive voting block. Starting with Falwell’s “Moral Majority”, and leading into “Focus on the Family”, the GOP turned insanity into a family value. They also proved that insanity tends to grow into an uncontrollable mass of destruction. Once Jesus became the flavor of the week, the Aryan Nation and the KKK all found Jesus. The result is Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick “Rooster” Santorum, and the rest of the GOP wrecking crew.
Isn’t nice that we also have a left wing? The problem is that they are as bat shit crazy as the right. The left is just not as well organized. All Reince Preibus needs to do is get in touch with the key preachers, and the GOP is voting as a solid block. Trying to get the left to work together is as futile as trying to herd Schrodinger’s Cats. We either know where they are, or we know how fast they are going, but never both. Just look at any Occupy protest. You’ll see signs blaming Jewish bankers, Masons, Illuminati, Obama, Bush, and signs supporting Ron Paul, Obama, Marx, Che, Move on, The American Communist Party, et all. They can’t even agree as whether to be violent or non-violent. There are plenty of splinter groups making life miserable for everybody. The Berkeley People’s Park crazies have regular Friday evening “Fuck the Police” marches in Oakland. They march through the streets, picking fights with the cops.
What’s happened is the left abandoned the tactics that worked for our grandparents, and are trying experimental means of organization. Old fashioned democracy was good enough to bring us the 40 hour work week and the weekend, but it’s not good enough for today’s modern leftists. Now they have something called consensus. With consensus nothing is decided until they have 100% agreement. While I have seen this work in small groups of under 15 people, it becomes a time bomb when you’re dealing with large crowds..
Even in small groups, all it takes is one nut to stop progress entirely. Some unbalanced person joins the meeting and starts insisting that The Mossad planted bombs in the World Trade Towers, and progress is stopped even if the subject is mortgage crimes. It’s just a small leap of logic and faith for a crazy person to link the housing crises with the Mossad. Even if the nut is shouted down, he’s not defeated, only persecuted. He’ll come back with his friends, and the same thing will happen that happened with the GOP. The nuts will make common cause, and before you know it, they will take over.
This is why attendance at peace rallies dropped. One day, I went to a protest and all the speakers obsessed about 9/11 being an inside job and How Israel is the cause of all the world’s problems. Then there was Bob Avakian and his “New Synthesis” of Marxism, which sounded to me like the same damned propaganda that Edward Bernays wrote up during the forties and fifties. The more the crazy people took over, the faster the sane people started avoiding peace marches. So with declining attendence, the nutters railed about how the rest of the world just doesn’t understand THE TRUTH! It wasn’t that people became in favor of the war. The wars are even more unpopular than they were during Bush’s reign. Sane people have better things to do than to listen to somebody ranting about the Illuminati foreclosing on people’s homes, especially when they are looking at evictions of their own.
I don’t think that Obama’s victory in 2008 was due to any sort of radical beliefs of the left. I think he won because the sane people of the country didn’t have anything else to hang their hopes on. Who were they supposed to vote for? Cynthia McKinney and her Zionistphobia?
There are sane people on both sides of the political spectrum. Sane Republicans are shouted down by the Tea Party in the same way that Sane leftists are shouted down by Truthers. The whole country is suffering the effects of Dunlap’s Law.
When asked, I tell people that I am independent. I have no patience with either side of the spectrum, and I’m willing to work with anybody who wants to see a better world. Generally I’m treated like a traitor or pariah for not trying to save the world from the International Gay Menace or from creeping Zionism.
Let us pretend we are a fly on the Oval Office wall. President Barack Obama sits at his desk writing his State of the Union Address. Like all great presidents, he fancies himself something of a speech writer. Alas, his ability doesn’t measure up to his self image, and he is stuck on a phrase.
“Americans want a New Deal!” he says with a happy grin.
“Can’t use it,” says Hillary Clinton. She lounges sideways on an antique armchair. Her back rests upon the arm of one side, as her knees drape over the arm on the other side. Her attention is focused on filing her nails.
“I’m the fucking president,” Obama declares. “If I can order drone attacks, I can use ‘New Deal’ in one of my speeches.”
“Can’t,” Hillary argues, pausing to blow on a cuticle. “Roosevelt used it. The Republicans will accuse you of class warfare if you try to bring it back.”
“You got a point,” Obama reluctantly agreed. “I’m not going to keep this cushy job another four years without Republican support.”
“Don’t want to screw up the gravy train,” Hillary advises. “You can think up something better.”
The Leader of the Free World falls into a sullen silence, broken by the skritching of Hillary’s nail file. Suddenly, the world famous grin spreads across the presidential visage. “I got it!” he declares with a wave of his forefinger. “America wants a ‘Fair Deal’.”
“Can’t use it,” Hillary repeats with a sad shake of her head.
“What? Now you’re going to tell me that FDR used that one too?” the president groused.
“Not, FDR, Truman,” Clinton corrects him.
“Well what’s wrong with that?” the president asks, sounding annoyed. “Every one loves Harry Truman. Why the last time I saw Queen Elizabeth, I overheard her muttering, ‘how I miss Harry Truman’.”
“Harry Truman was one of those freaks who always told the truth,” The Secretary of State reminded her boss. “You don’t want to drag his name into this administration.”
Obama freezes to let that thought seep through the executive skull. “Yeah,” he admits as he relaxes into his padded swivel chair. “Even American voters will catch the irony of that one.”
“Remember, it was irony that brought down Nixon,” Hillary reminds him.
“That whole ‘I am not a crook’ thing,” the president agrees. He takes a deep breath and points to his Secretary of State. “Why don’t you think of something?” he commands.
“I’ll give it a shot,” Hillary agrees.
They both freeze as the same idea hatch in their minds. The president rises halfway out of his seat while Hillary swings her legs off the chair and stands. “Fair Shot!” they laugh in unison.
Obama takes on a presidential pose. “Americans want a ‘fair shot’,” he deadpans.
“It’s perfect!” Clinton squeals, clapping her hands and giving a joyful little jump. “It sounds so free markety.”
“Americans want a ‘fair shot’,” Obama repeats. “I am so fucking brilliant!”
I want to thank everybody who avoided the malls and the chain stores to purchase holiday presents from independent merchants and craftspeople. My wife is one of those craftspeople She crochets and knits her little fingers to the bone to create the best quality hats, headbands, and other accessories for your enjoyment. A major part of our income is from selling her work on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley. As she is also a professional clown, (yes, I said clown, so stop snickering at me.) she was hired to work the Telegraph Ave Holiday Fair. I’ll give you three guesses as to who manned her stand while she twisted balloon animals for the kids.
It was a profitable fair for all the vendors despite the bad economy. We noticed that there were a lot of people who never shopped at street fairs before, which made things better for all of us. In gratitude for their patronage, I wrote up this quick etiquette guide for street fair shopping. There are going to be more street fairs leading up to Dec. 25th, and you can refer to this guide to make your shopping experience (and our selling experience) the happiest possible.
The Management is Always Overworked. Remember this if you have a problem or complaint. The city has little to do with street fairs, except collecting fees and taxes. The actual management is usually a few vendors who put their hearts and souls into putting the fair together every year. They organize it, they get the permits, they sell the spaces, and they run it. The couple who put on the Telegraph Ave. fair even put on reflective vests and paint the spaces on the street. So if you have trouble or need help, be patient. They will get to you. Better still, if you had a good time, thank them. They deserve all the appreciation they get.
We Are Not Employees. We vendors are neither paid employees nor city contractors. We are independent business people, licensed by the city. We have no influence with the guy beside us. If you have a problem with him, we cannot help you.
Nor are We Abercrombie and Fitch. Hell we’re not even Wal-Mart. We don’t have managers emptying and renewing our cash drawers every half hour. On an average day, I go to the Avenue with only twenty dollars in change with me. On a Holiday Fair, I might start the day with fifty. So please remember to bring small bills. Don’t purchase a five dollar item and ask us to change a hundred. That’s the sort of thing that inspires street vendors to take up voodoo.
On the Other Hand. There are special blessings to people who have exact change. There is a street vendor superstition that suggests angels follow people with exact change, and god makes flowers grow upon the ground they walk upon.
Remember That We are Adults. We understand that not everybody who sees our wares will like them. We also understand that not everybody who wants to purchase our crafts can afford it. It’s okay if you don’t buy from us. I promise you, we won’t take it personally. If you say, “thank you, we’ll be back,” we’re big enough to know you’re unlikely to do so. There is no need to slink past our stalls like the puppy who stole the roast. If we wave, it means we like you. So wave back, smile, or even say hi. That way we know we made a friend even if we haven’t made the sale.
We Love Dogs! I have only met two street vendors who don’t like dogs. One is allergic and the other is a very unhappy person. The rest of us love doggies to pieces. Some of us even bring our dogs with us to sleep under our tables. They are a wonderful thief deterrent. My wife and I bring our princess with us because she is old and likely to have an accident if we leave her home. As a rule, our doggies are friendly, but don’t assume. Please ask before you introduce your four legged family member to ours.
Please Don’t Toss our Tables. We work hard to set up our tables. It takes an hour’s to set up our display, and it’s relatively simple. Other vendors work a lot longer to get their tables just right. People who pass by, pick up a handful of goods and thoughtlessly toss them back, are very inconsiderate. It’s okay to look at everything and not buy. Please don’t jumble everything and walk away. I am always surprised that a just and merciful deity doesn’t send a bolt of lightning up the spleens of people who do that.
If You Buy Something For Yourself, Wear It. There are few things that make us happier than sitting at our booths watching happy customers wearing our work. It is a guaranteed smile.
Don’t Give Your Toddler Red Juice or Soda and Bring Them To Our Tables. I don’t need to elaborate on that one, do I? Also, make sure you wipe the ice cream off little fingers. Thank you for your consideration.
Remember To Tip The Clown. We can’t afford to pay the performers and musicians all that much. Like waiters, they depend on tips to make ends meet.
That about covers everything. If you follow these ten simple rules, we will all have a happy holiday shopping experience. Plus, you will have street vendors praying you into heaven rather than the opposite. My thanks to everybody who shopped at the Telegraph Ave. Street Fair. Even if you didn’t buy from us, chances are, you bought from one of our friends, and we are a very supportive community. You did a good thing by spending your holiday dollars with us rather than slave labor from China. You are all good people, for shopping at any street fair or from any American craftsperson. Thank you.
Have a happy holiday and a prosperous New Year.
Scott Adams wrote a few cartoons where his character Dogbert had a taser, and he used it on everybody who annoyed him. Sometimes I wish I lived in that world. That way the next time somebody quotes Benjamin Franklin out of context, I can zap him with the taser until smoke pours out his ears. Maybe then people will learn that they will never win a point by quoting somebody out of context. Ben Franklin was speaking of standing armies when he said, “he who would sacrifice a little bit of liberty for a little bit of security, will lose both and deserve neither.” Franklin was against standing armies while other delegates to the Constitutional Convention were very much in favor of them. Like all of Franklin’s other Constitutional ideas, it was ignored.
In the last few years I have seen that quote applied to such diverse matters as cameras at stop-lights, the enforcement of libel laws, September 11th conspiracies, breaking the media monopolies, health care, weapons of mass destruction, cell phones, and the income tax. Not once has anybody applied that quote to standing armies. It has become the all purpose response when there is no other argument. When shown proof that cameras at stop-lights reduce traffic fatalities, out comes the quote. When presented with an idea that journalistic standards and ethics be enforced again, there is always the quote. I have no idea what Franklin would say about national health, but I hardly think he would equate it with standing armies. Suggesting that September 11th conspiracists should take their medications becomes a threat to liberty. The quote has become an internet meme which has completely lost any meaning. It is another way of covering your ears and singing, “la la la, I can’t hear you.”
Nor has this become the sole example of quoting out of context. Recently Glenn Beck has been trotting out Thomas Paine in support of the tea baggers. Paine was part of a social movement called the Populists. He advocated a progressive tax on wealth, welfare, subsidized farm loans, and representative democracy. He even declared health to be a basic human right. It just goes to show you that any point can be won if the person being quoted is dead. Paine was an anti-federalist who strongly advocated for the original American Confederacy of 1780-1790. Upon his return to the United States in 1802, he lived in obscurity for seven years and his funeral was ignored. Once he was dead, he immediately became the darling of the nation. Great monuments were built in his honor, and Common Sense has been quoted out of context by public school teachers for over a century.
In a recent interview, former pro-wrestler turned politician, Jesse Ventura, criticized the Democrats and the Republicans for not working together. I will be the first to admit it when Ventura says something intelligent. It happens so rarely. Then Ventura had to ruin it by quoting the founding fathers out of context. He said that George Washington, John Adams and others warned us against the dangers of political parties. If I lived in Scott Adams’ world, I would zap Ventura with my taser until lightning came out of his nose. The founders liked the two party system just fine. It was the many political parties being formed in England they were scared of. Different factions were creating their own political parties and having them elected to Parliament. In order to get anything done, the different factions had to work together to create a compromise. This is the foundation of Parliamentary Democracy. The delegates, Ministers of Parliament, Congresspeople, whatever you want to call them, directly represent their constituents and get them the best deal possible. That was what our founding fathers were worried about. They wanted to make sure their people stayed on top.
The Constitution represents a naked power grab by a faction in government whom we now call the Federalists. Had the revolution not happened, George Washington would have been jailed by Britain for his shady land deals. Alexander Hamilton was very well connected to the American and British financial industry. He and his relative by marriage, Robert Morris, worked together on a bond scam that defrauded the Revolutionary enlisted soldiers of their back pay. Even the leader of the anti-federalist movement, Thomas Jefferson, was a wealthy landowner as well as a slave owner who held his own children as property. These were not people who particularly cared about the rights of other people. When Jefferson became president, he continued the Federalist system and liked it.
Our Federalist founders created a system which imitated the British court of the time. Our president has the exact same powers as the Constitutional Monarch. He is the head of the army, disperses funds, oversees the execution of the law, industry, diplomacy, etc, through his cabinet. Originally the Senate was appointed by the state governments. There are no term limits for the Supreme Court, and British common law gives any American judge the same power as a British duke. Alexander Hamilton created a taxation system where the wealthy were barely taxed and the poor and lower middle class maintained most of the tax burden. Washington selected his cabinet from industrialists and landowners. You did not find Patrick Henry or Herman Husband amongst his closest advisers. To this day the cabinet is selected from the wealthy to serve the interests of the wealthy, and the Supreme Court Justices are selected by their loyalty to the monied interests.
Due process in law has always been at the whim of our government. Four years after the Constitution was ratified, Washington’s Attorney General declared that the Constitution did not apply to anyone accused of rebelling against the United States. Suspects in the Whiskey Rebellion were arrested without warrant. They were paraded down Market Street in Philadelphia as traitors, and tossed into an unheated cell without food or light. This was a precedent John Yoo turned to in his torture memos. In a foreshadowing of Guantanamo, all twenty men were found not guilty, even though the judges gave instructions to enter a verdict of guilty. Over the years due process has also been denied to freed slaves, European immigrants, and anyone else without the funds to buy due process.
Those tea baggers, and anarchist libertarians who talk about freedom within the Constitution have no idea what they are talking about. The United States was never a representative democracy. Our president is chosen by the electoral college, so I don’t even know why we bother with the popular vote. It’s all show anyway. Our Congress and Senate are representatives of military industrial complex, just as our federalist founders wanted it. There has never been a time when the wealthy paid their share in taxes, and a poor man has rarely won against a rich man in court. That is how our legal system is set up. The Bill of Rights was a major concession won by the few populist delegates to the Constitutional Convention, but even the Bill of Rights is interpreted through the Supreme Court, which historically championed Jim Crow.
When Libertarians prattle on about a return to the Constitution, I wish I was Dogbert so I can tase them until they do the Monster Mash. The America they talk about never existed in the real world. Maybe if they walked through a wardrobe and traveled through Narnia, Aslan might direct them to it. We are living in the exact America the Federalists wanted. A return to the Constitution is only going to cement corporate control over this country. If we want to change the country, we need to look to the future. Trying to return to the past never works. The clock never ticks backwards, and trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions only makes things worse. Look at what happened to Germany when they tried it.
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.
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.
From the end of 1999 until the spring of 2002, I worked for Aames Home Loans as a Loan Origination Officer. I started my mortgage career during an interesting period for the mortgage industry. Bill Clinton and his economic team poured millions of dollars into the tech industry, creating a situation reminiscent of the Dutch Tulip craze. Worthless tech stocks and stock options were publicly traded on Wall St. All financial regulations were relaxed, including the regulations for the buying and selling of subprime mortgages. Alan Greenspan kept interest rates high to keep domestic wages low. Money was invested because of the high returns in CD’s, annuities, and even money market accounts. Of course, there was a huge amount of money invested in the stock market. There was virtually no investment in domestic production, but hundred of millions of dollars were spent on outsourced industry.
Displaced workers found themselves either living in the black market or homeless. Homelessness grew as rents rose to match the interest rates, and as more and more people sought housing. As the demand rose so did rents. The demand for housing also began to raise property values. High rents caused salaries to pay for less. People began to miss bill payments to keep up with the rent. The less a dollar could buy, the more profit there was in Wall St. People began using their credit cards more. This tied even more dollars into high interest rates. The richer the few became, the poorer the rest of us became, and that created a new market for subprime mortgages.
A simple definition of a subprime mortgage is a mortgage for people with less than perfect credit. What less than perfect credit means in this case, is people whose credit scores dropped due to the economic conditions created by the White House. People who could afford their prime mortgages when they were working in an American factory were suddenly unemployed or underemployed due to outsourcing. Other homeowners had variable rate mortgages because they thought the moderate interest rates of the Papa Doc Bush years would last forever. They watched their 3.7% mortgage grow into a 17% mortgage or even a 27% mortgage. Credit cards were overused, so homeowners needed help with their monthly credit card payments as well as their mortgage payments. The demand for subprime mortgages, combined with the fact that mortgage companies don’t risk their own money, made the subprime industry look very good to Wall St.
The money that is used to purchase homes and properties does not come out of the pockets of the banks and mortgage companies who sell the loans. They come out of what are known as “Mortgage Banks”. A mortgage bank can be anything from a group of individuals who pool their money into long term, high return investments to major international banks. Subprime was very attractive to many investors because subprime has a higher interest than prime. Subprime is considered riskier than prime because the customers have a history of missing bill payments. This is why subprime loans have even more restrictions on them than prime loans. Prime loans are sold to people with excellent credit. They have a lower interest rate and a higher commission for the salesman. It takes about two and a half subprime loans to equal the commission on a prime loan.
This brings us to the underwriter. Underwriters are the guardians of the mortgage banker’s money. The mortgage bankers pool their money and they divide it up into different amounts. These amounts are anywhere from 10K-100K for second mortgages to 10K-500K for firsts and refinances. They decide what interest rate they want for it, whether or not it is to be prime or subprime, and the conditions of the loan. The money belongs to the mortgage bankers. They can impose any darned condition they want as long as it does not conflict with State and Federal laws. That’s where the underwriter comes in. The underwriter’s job is to examine each mortgage to make sure it conforms to his principle’s conditions. The underwriter can demand any proof from the customer that he wants. He can ask for pay stubs, character references, profit and loss statements, or anything else he needs to make a decision. The only thing that he cannot factor into his decisions is race, creed, or national origin.
Subprime from the Inside
Unprecedented demand for subprime mortgages attracted Wall St. Wall St. corporations began buying up private mortgage companies and turned them into publicly traded companies. Aames Home Loans had been a family owned company until two years before I signed on. It had been a much respected institution by the minority home owners who made up most of its customers. The office manager was loved by the people she served. The processor, who also served as receptionist, knew everybody by sight. This changed after Wall St. took over.
Aames’s cash reserves were exhausted by the time I started in the Oakland office. Customers could no longer pay their mortgages at the office, because the loans were sold to other companies before they were even funded. New rules and regulations were instituted that made no sense and were ignored. It didn’t take long to realize that the only rule that mattered was the eleventh commandment: Thou Shalt Not Get Caught.
This was my introduction to the mortgage industry. My job, loan origination officer, was one of the innovations brought in by the new Wall St. management. We were replacing the old call center in Irvine, California. Wall St. thought the old call center was too expensive and the long term employees made too much money. Instead they put one or two L.O.O.s in each office. The people in the old call center knew their jobs. I knew nothing about selling mortgages and my new bosses were not going to teach me. They thought they could chase me out and return things to the way they used to be. More fool they. I survived Aames for two and a half years, outlasting five managers, four regional managers and more salesmen than I can remember. I had no experience in subprime mortgages at all, but within six months I was running that office between managers.
Aames was my introduction to the financial industry. I share it with you in hopes that you will truly begin to understand why things went wrong and the changes that we have to make to make them right again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.