Monthly Archives: October 2010

Olbermann: If the Tea Party wins, America loses

As you know, if I see or read something that makes so much sense that I have to share it – I will.  This comes from Keith Olberman on MSNBC’s Countdown.  It is about the Tea Party and its agenda for America. Please read it, think about it, and check the facts contained within it – then decide for yourself if the Tea Party is something that you truly feel is good for this country.  Don’t decide solely because of this Special Comment from Mr. Olberman, but look around and educate yourself from the myriad of reports and analysis that draw the same conclusions.  These are important times my friends…get smarter.  I now yield the remainder of my time and my blog to Mr. Olberman. Read the rest of this entry

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How Intellectuals Betrayed the Poor

Cornel West is a philosopher, author and the University Professor at Princeton University. A widely cited figure in a variety of fields, he is the author of the new memoir, “Brother West: Living & Loving Out Loud,” as well as “Race Matters,” “The Future of Race,” “Democracy Matters: The Battle Against Imperialism,” among many others. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Sacramento, California, West graduated Magna Cum Laude Harvard University and went on to complete his Ph.D at Princeton. The winner of numerous awards, including the American Book Award, he has also received more than twenty honorary degrees.

Here is a video of Dr. West speaking on how the poor have suffered from the idea that an “unfettered market” was good for America. Click here to watch Video.

This and other completely smart, mindblowing, and relevant interviews are on BigThink.com.  I have attached a transcript of the video for those without speakers.

READ, WATCH, GET SMARTER

Transcript of interview:

Question: Why are we no longer concerned with the working class?

Cornel West: I think one was, there was an idolizing of unfettered markets. And much if not most of the intelligentsia were duped. I recall traveling with my dear brother Michael Harrington and talking with brother Stanley Aronowitz years ago. And you know, here we’re engaged in critiques of unfettered markets, and it looked as if we were medieval thinkers. Everybody was saying, we’re followers of Milton Friedman. Everybody was saying Frederick Hayak got it right. Everybody was saying marketize, commercialize, commodify, and we were still reading Lukasch. And Lukasch was saying commodification is not simply an asymmetric relation of power, of bosses vis-à-vis workers, so workers are being more and more marginalized. Profits are being produced, wealth is being produced, hemorrhaged at the top, no fair distribution of that wealth or profit for workers. Poor are being demonized because they are viewed as those persons who are irresponsible, who will not work, who are always looking for welfare; i.e., failures in the society of success. And we reached a brink, and the chickens came home to roost. And a few years ago the unfettered markets led us off and over the brink.

And all of a sudden, very few intellectuals want to be honest and acknowledge the greed with which they were duped. Don’t want to talk about the inequality that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the demonization of the poor that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the politics of fear that produced a Republican Party that was more and more lily-white, using not just race but also demonizing gay brothers and lesbian sisters, you see. Don’t want to talk about the indifference toward the poor, and greed being good and desirable and so forth. Now is a very different moment, and it’s not, you know, just about pointing fingers, but saying somebody’s got to take responsibility. This was a nearly 40-year run. Who paid the cost? As is usually the case, you know, poor working people paid the cost, disproportionately black and brown and red, you see.

Question: Is this changing in the age of Obama?

Cornel West: So in the age of Obama, we say, okay, can we have a different kind of discussion? And that’s what we’re trying to do, but of course you’ve got two wars going on; you’ve got still Wall Street in the driver’s seat in the Obama administration when it comes to the economic team, you see. And you’ve got very — you know, I think in some ways unimaginative thinking when it comes to foreign policy, be it the Middle East or be it European Union or be it Latin America, you know, calling Chavez a dictator; the man’s been elected! If he’s calling into question rights and liberties, criticize him as a democratic president. We did the same thing for Bush. Bush was calling into question rights and liberties; we didn’t call him a dictator. We said he’s a democratically elected president who’s doing the wrong thing. Chavez ought to be criticized. He’s not a dictator; the man’s been elected.

But it’s that kind of demonizing that obscures and obfuscates the kind of issues that are necessary, because Chavez is also talking about poor people. So of course I want libertarian and democratic sides. I want right and liberties and empowerment of poor people. But talking about poor people is not a joke; it’s crucial, it’s part and parcel of the future of any serious democratic project. The fundamental question of any democracy is, what is the relation between public interest and the most vulnerable? That’s the question, you see. That is the question. The test of your rule of law is going to be, how are the most vulnerable being treated? It’s not whether the torturers are getting off; we know the torturers don’t have the rule of law applied to them. The wiretappers, they’re getting off scot-free. What about Jamal with the crack bag? Take him to jail for seven years. Oh — so you’ve got a different rule of law when it comes to Jamal on the corner versus your torturers and your wiretappers? Torture is a crime against humanity; it’s not just illegal. Wiretapping is illegal, you see. Now, it’s not a crime against humanity, because I mean, I’m sure I’ve had my phone tapped for years. I don’t think they committed a crime against humanity; they just ought to quit doing it God dangit.

Question: How can we strengthen the demos?

Cornel West: Well, you — I think you keep in mind — I mean, the demos is always a heterogeneous, diverse — got a lot of xenophobic elements among the demos — a lot of ignorance, a lot of parochialism. You also have a lot of cosmopolitanism, a lot of globalism, a lot of courage, moral courage. So the demos is not one thing. But when it comes to the ability of the demos to organize, mobilize and bring power and pressure to bear, we certainly are in a crisis; our system is broken. We’ve got seventy one percent of the people who want universal health care, and you can barely get through a reform bill with a weak public option. It’s clear lobbyists from the top, pharmaceutical companies, drug companies have tremendous influence, much more than the demos from below, you see. So that those preferences don’t get translated easily because our politicians are beholden to that big money and that big influence. But I mean the demos is still around, thank God. You’ve got your own institution. Dialog — dialog is the lifeblood of a democracy. You’ve got to allow ideas to flow. You have to expose people to different visions, alternative arguments and so on, to try to keep the torch of the progressive demos alive. But it’s very difficult to organize it. Complacency is deep; apathy is deep; people are wondering how can you confront, you know, big finance, big government tied to big finance, when all you’ve got is these little people, who are willing to talk and so forth, but have tremendous power bringing serious pressure to bear. We can march; you know, we marched against the war by the millions. We were ignored by the Bush administration. Some of us went to jail. We were ignored; we couldn’t translate into foreign policy. That happens sometimes. It was **** Vietnam.

Recorded on: November 3, 2009

100% of this post was taken from http://bigthink.com.  Just thought you needed to see it.

The new lexicon for food. Food is not just “good” anymore.

Yesterday, I had a track back from Gigabiting.com and decided to check it out.  A post on the hatred chefs feel toward some customers had a link to my post on sushi chefs hating some customers on the bottom of it.  I really enjoyed the article that my post was linked to.  So, I read more.  As I was reading post after post, I realized that I was really enjoying the work.  Sometimes you happen upon a style of writing that feels comfortable and has your style of humor.  Gigibiting was that for me yesterday.  Over the dozens of posts I read in that one day, One post has stuck out above all the others.

This post touches on something that my wife and I laugh about often:  particularly while watching Iron Chef America, The Next Iron Chef, Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, etc.  – The new lingo that has been adopted by the food pundits (Mr. Steingarten in particular)  in an attempt to separate the viewer and judges.  Let’s face facts.  A  judges’ sole job on a food contest show is to tell the chef,cook, or home maker one thing:

Good or Not Good

Telling the preparer WHY is completely showing off.  (Most common:  “I need some more acid on the dish.”) I do not see the point in purposely making a distinction between the common viewer’s reality (who really can not relate to Donatella Arpaia’s critique of civiche) and the air put on by the “judges” on these shows.  The language they use is the only method they have to separate themselves from “somebody who is eating Michael Symon’s custard.”  This is only made more apparent when a celebrity, (a non-food world celebrity who happens to own 12 restaurants) like Keyshawn Johnson is put in as a “judge” on Iron Chef America.  He commented on an avocado mousse with the eloquence of a common food eater by saying  “It looks mushy.”  I get it.  I understand that.  I am sure that Alan Richman threw up a little in his mouth when Keyshawn said that.  It is a ridiculous practice that goes to ridiculous lengths- but i watch it none the less.

Here is the post from Gigabiting.com that got me thinking about this.

The Epicure’s Farm-to-Table Artisanally-Crafted Post of Over Used Food Terms

They are trendy or inane, over-worked or over-wrought, misused and abused. These are the words that grate on our nerves.

Artisan

Wheat Thins artisan crackers? (Can’t you just picture them painstakingly rolled out and hand-cut by the master bakers of Kraft Foods Global, Inc.?) How about artisan flatbreads from DiGiorno’s Frozen Pizza? Like you’re back in the piazza in Naples. And pre-washed and bagged artisan salads? We’re not sure how lettuce can be artisanal, but leave it to Fresh Express, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chiquita Brands, L.L.C., to figure it out.

Mixologist

It’s true that a well-mixed drink is the result of a kind of happy alchemy. But bartending as a scientific discipline? We don’t tip the guy that runs the particle accelerator at the FermiLab, and we aren’t looking for the next Appletini that will cure cancer.

Veggies

Just say the whole word. It’s not all that onerous. Ditto for sammies (sandwiches), resto (restaurant), breakie (breakfast), chix (chicken), and apps (appetizers).

Nom nom for foodies

Let’s add to the list any word that sounds like it was coined in a nursery school (crispy, yummy, comfy, et al.).

Restaurant reviewer jargon

Toothsome; mouth-feel; authentic; playful; sauces that are napped; and dishes that are tucked into— does anybody speak like this? Can we make them stop writing like this?

Dan Savage and The Truth

Dan Savage writes for The Stranger in Seattle, WA,  His article is titled Savage Love.  This is a letter sent to him and his reply.  Read it and really think about yourself.

In Your Image

October 14, 2010

By Dan Savage

I heard an interview with you about your It Gets Better campaign. I was saddened and frustrated with your comments regarding people of faith and their perpetuation of bullying. As someone who loves the Lord and does not support gay marriage, I can honestly say I was heartbroken to hear about the young man who took his own life.

If your message is that we should not judge people based on their sexual preference, how do you justify judging entire groups of people for any other reason (including their faith)? There is no part of me that took any pleasure in what happened to that young man.

To that end, to imply that I would somehow encourage my children to mock, hurt, or intimidate another person for any reason is completely unfounded and offensive. Being a follower of Christ is, above all things, a recognition that we are all imperfect, fallible, and in desperate need of a savior. We cannot believe that we are better or more worthy than other people.

Please consider your viewpoint, and please be more careful with your words in the future.

L.R.

I’m sorry your feelings were hurt by my comments.

No, wait. I’m not. Gay kids are dying. So let’s try to keep things in perspective: Fuck your feelings.

A question: Do you “support” atheist marriage? Interfaith marriage? Divorce and remarriage? All are legal, all go against Christian and/or traditional ideas about marriage, and yet there’s no “Christian” movement to deny marriage rights to atheists or people marrying outside their respective faiths or people divorcing and remarrying. Why the hell not?

Sorry, L.R., but so long as you support the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples, it’s clear that you do believe that some people—straight people—are “better or more worthy” than others.

And—sorry—but you are partly responsible for the bullying and physical violence being visited on vulnerable LGBT children. The kids of people who see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered and unworthy of full civil equality—even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way (at least when they happen to be addressing a gay person)—learn to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy. And while there may not be any gay adults or couples where you live, or at your church, or in your workplace, I promise you that there are gay and lesbian children in your schools. And while you can only attack gays and lesbians at the ballot box, nice and impersonally, your children have the option of attacking actual gays and lesbians, in person, in real time.

Real gay and lesbian children. Not political abstractions, not “sinners.” Gay and lesbian children.

Try to keep up: The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from the lips of “faithful Christians,” and the lies about us that vomit out from the pulpits of churches that “faithful Christians” drag their kids to on Sundays, give your children license to verbally abuse, humiliate, and condemn the gay children they encounter at school. And many of your children—having listened to Mom and Dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to family and how gay sex makes their magic sky friend Jesus cry—feel justified in physically abusing the LGBT children they encounter in their schools. You don’t have to explicitly “encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate” queer kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It’s here, it’s clear, and we’re seeing the fruits of it: dead children.

Oh, and those same dehumanizing bigotries that fill your straight children with hate? They fill your gay children with suicidal despair. And you have the nerve to ask me to be more careful with my words?

Did that hurt to hear? Good. But it couldn’t have hurt nearly as much as what was said and done to Asher Brown and Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas and Cody Barker and Seth Walsh—day in, day out for years—at schools filled with bigoted little monsters created not in the image of a loving God, but in the image of the hateful and false “followers of Christ” they call Mom and Dad.

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=5135029

Countrywide…unfortunately.

Countrywide Financial’s former CEO and founder Angelo Mozilo’s  2003-8 haul : $470 mil.

Total fine he is to pay: $47.5 mil. (Apparently, The fine for pioneering a mortgage system that has crippled our housing economy and sent this country into this current recession- is approx 10% of what you earn in your last 5 years on the job.)

Background:  The SEC alleged that Mozillo, along with two other colleagues, failed to reveal risks that the company was taking around that time. The civil charges however were related to claims that he had personally misled the market by wrongly assuring investors that his company was a premier quality mortgage lender that was able to avoid the excesses of many of its competitors. As well as this, Mr Mozilo was also found guilty of selling company shares in deals where inside knowledge of Countrywide Financial’s actual troubles wasn’t revealed. After Countrywide Financial crashed, Bank of America rescued it by purchasing 4 billion in non-voting shares.  Mozilo setteled.

This is absolute insanity. …and I used to work for him, err Countrywide Financial when all this was going on.  It was a miserable experience for me.  The middle managers yelling (no, really) at you to increase production (“production” means convincing a person that knows NOTHING about loans or mortgages to take the loan they were being offered because is only gonna happen RIGHT NOW so they better take it) Unreasonable lending practices…when I started at CW you could get a mortgage with a 520 credit score!  I had a complete lack of job satisfaction/security due to fact that ole CW flaunted the ability to replaced you at a moments notice.  It was horrible.  I go to sleep knowing that I never sold a loan to a person who couldn’t afford it.  I can not say I did not hear about co-workers, managers, and other people talk about loans they floated or got approved that were…How can I say this…illegal, unethical, and wrong.  I heard about documents that were sent in to be used for evidence of income that were manufactured by the client on the coaching of the CW employee.  I would over hear conversations about how big this months check was going to be due to the number of sub-prime units that employee had closed on that month.

(Did I report any of it to my managers?  YES  Did anything happen?  NO)


The feeling of quitting that job: FREEDOM!

That experience sickens me when I think about it.

Unless you work or worked in a Fortune 500 company as a peon and tried to work your way up, you really have no idea about what corporate greed is and how it REALLY DOES prey on innocent, uneducated people.  I quit shortly before the recession “officially” started because I hated my job, hated my then GF, and had no other reason to stay in that god forsaken hell hole.

 

Oh, and here are some additional Mozilo/ Countrywide info for you from the Wall Street Journal:

Countrywide’s reaction to the crisis was to push for more market share in the first half of 2007, aiming to benefit from the collapse of rivals. That backfired when Countrywide could no longer find buyers for many of the loans it had originated, leaving the company stuck with billions of dollars of high-risk mortgages. Former executives say Countrywide, which still accounts for about one in every seven home loans made in the U.S., was so focused on increasing volume that it neglected quality control.

Mr. Mozilo made things worse for himself by postponing his retirement and by making frequent, heavy sales of Countrywide stock. He offered discounts on loans to friends so frequently that FOA — for Friends of Angelo — became a familiar loan type among employees. He was quick to dismiss criticism from analysts and shareholders.

When asked last year about proposals to give shareholders a nonbinding vote on compensation, he said: “The shareholders have no clue” how much Countrywide needed to pay to attract talent.

When an analyst fretted in 2004 about Mr. Mozilo’s sales of Countrywide stock, he snapped that those who had construed his share sales as bearish were “losers.” Mr. Mozilo stepped up those sales in late 2006 and unloaded more than $130 million of stock in the first half of 2007. That undermined confidence in the company, demoralized some of his own employees and drew a continuing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He also faces a rash of lawsuits from investors, borrowers and state regulators.

Mr. Mozilo has said his stock sales were lawful and defended his right to dispose of what he regards as well-earned compensation. The problem in America, he said in an interview last year, is that “people are reviled if they make what people think is too much.” In Mr. Mozilo’s view, “if anybody makes a billion dollars, that’s America. That’s terrific!”

One final comment:

Mr. Mozilo, It is not “terrific” if that billion dollars is made on the sweat, blood, and ignorance of other people, you asshole.

Happy Monday!



Organic Food – Bah Hum Bug!

Yesterday, I had a “spirited” conversation about food with a colleague -specifically organic food.  There were some glaring problems with our mutual understanding of some main points that were key to our conversation.  My discussion opponent was under the impression that the organic food they buy supports “small farms and local growers.”   My response to that was “Anything you buy from Wal-Mart is not from a small batch producer.”  This was met with anger and disdain.  I then posed the question “What is organic food?”  This innocient question was answered with “anything grown or raised without pesticides or herbicides.”  (fertilizer omitted from their answer) I countered with “What about GMO (genetically modified organism) plants, are they organic if you don’t spray they with anything?”  Again, my query was met with anger and frustration.  That is when it hit me.  THEY DON’T KNOW!  THEY SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW!  So, as a public service I am going to post some things to pull some of you from your “too cool for school poser status” into “informed consumer” status.  Pay attention!

First of all lets define organic food (please note the RED areas):

Answers.com says:

A term that has acquired the meaning of foods grown under natural conditions (without the use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides; and either not processed, or processed without the use of additives). The term, when used on food labels, has no legal meaning.

PLEASE NOTE THE LAST SENTENCE OF THIS DEFINITION

USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) definition, from April 1995

  • “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.

  • “‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.

  • “Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.

  • “Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”

So, looking at that info, it is not a valid argument to say that “Organic Food” is free from pesticides, herbicides, and man made fertilizers.  I agree it may have less contaminants than “non-organic” foods, but not ZERO.

Next issue:

GMO Seeds: Organic or Not?

I will yield to The Organic Center on this one.

We are frequently asked are GMO foods organic? The short answer, no. If a food is created from a GMO (genetically modified organism) seed it is not organic. Why? Because genetically modified seeds have been engineered to produce their own insecticide or resist weed-killing herbicides. In addition, according to the Non-GMO Project “GMOs are organisms that have been created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.” However, please note that not all non-GMO seeds are actually grown organically. A farmer can use a non-GMO seed and spray it with all kinds of pesticides, herbicides and use synthetic fertilizers and the seed will still be non-GMO, but it will no longer be considered organic due to how it was grown.

Next Issue: “Organic food purchases support small farms and local towns folk.”

You decide for yourself who is profiting here. This is a chart showing which BRANDS own what ORGANIC LABELS.  Any look familiar?  Print this out and take it to your local supermarket and compare labels.

 

 

 

 

 

Macy’s Message- Survivor: Nicaragua

Why didn’t they tell me at babycenter.com that my child would have such clearly defined opinions at such an early age?

Pay Day Loans and The Circle of Poverty

There are those “people” in this world that take advantage of people (any retail establishment, insurance company, or mortgage broker)  and then there are those that take advantage of the people who legitimately have no other viable recourse left and are grabbing at any straw they can to survive.  These predators are the worst people in this world.  I read The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David Shipler recently.  That book has taught me more about poverty than anything else I have ever read.  The American experience of working, not one, but two full time jobs and still existing under the poverty line is an unacceptable, yet a REAL facet of many American’s lives.  The book speaks about the “circle of poverty” and how one act a poverty stricken family takes leads to the next act that keeps them in poverty.  It is truly sad.  When I read this article and had to share it with you.  Read, Think, Get Smarter

Legal Usury

The skeevy business of payday loans.

By Timothy Noah

Roughly 20 years ago, during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, I wrote a news article for the Wall Street Journal about the federal government’s plans (later codified in legislation during the Clinton administration) to distribute food stamps and other government benefits electronically. Poor people would have debit cards and could have immediate access to the funds they needed. This was a more novel idea than it sounds today, because speedy, point-of-sale credit card terminals still lay in the future. In those distant days, when you went to the supermarket, you had to bring cash or write a check.

The Bush appointee I interviewed was very excited about the new scheme for one simple reason: It was going to put check-cashing companies out of business. This was an industry despised even by Republicans for exploiting society’s least advantaged by charging them outrageously high fees. Instant access to cash would eliminate this market. I don’t remember exactly what the Bush appointee said, but his overall message was loud and clear: Good riddance to a sleazy and predatory business.

Two decades later, check-cashing companies are still around and a thriving new sleazy and predatory business, the payday-loan industry, has grown up beside them. Payday loans replace check-cashers’ outrageously high fees with usurious interest rates. What neither the Bush appointee nor I anticipated was that the same technology that sent welfare moms and retirees their government benefits in the blink of an eye could give a new kind of predatory lender instant access to unwary customers’ bank accounts. Electronic banking giveth and electronic banking taketh away.

I thought about all this on Oct. 4, when the Federal Trade Commission announced that the co-founder of Swish Marketing Inc. paid $850,000 to settle charges that he allegedly debited customers’ bank accounts without their knowledge. According to the FTC, Swish operated Web sites that guided consumers to payday lender sites. (One of them piously named “Christian Faith Financial“; never mind Matthew 21:12.) To get the loan, you filled out a form giving the lender access to your bank account. That’s a bad idea, but standard practice for payday lenders, and perfectly legal. The illegal part (according to the FTC) was what followed. When you submitted your application, you were automatically sent to a Web page with a button that said “Finish matching me with a payday loan provider!” (example here). This Web page also happened to offer consumers the chance to acquire four additional items. Three of these offers were pre-clicked “No,” but a fourth was pre-clicked “Yes,” which was easy to miss. This fourth offer was for the purchase of a debit card on which you could load $2,500, in the unlikely event that you happened to have $2,500. (If you had $2,500 why would you be applying for a payday loan?) Just to purchase the empty debit card cost $54.95. Some sites billed the debit card as a “bonus offer” and revealed the $55 charge only in tiny type. In any event, it was very easy for the borrower to miss entirely the fact that in applying for a payday loan, he or she was also letting a separate company reach into his or her bank account to extract $55 to pay for an unrelated product that he or she almost certainly didn’t need.

The attorney for alleged perp Jason Strober said in a press release, “We are confident that [he] would have prevailed in court.” Strober settled only because “it became too expensive to continue fighting.” Strober, meanwhile, has created a blog, Prosmallbusiness.org, whose first entry states that the FTC’s “power to destroy businesses they don’t like is truly scary.”

It may or may not give Strober solace to learn that under the recently-passed Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, the FTC will yield jurisdiction over payday loans to the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Agency, whose overseer, Elizabeth Warren, really, really hates payday loans. In a 2008 paper coauthored by Oren Bar-Gill of New York University Law School, Warren offered payday loans as a key example of “a credit product that can impose substantial costs on imperfectly informed and imperfectly rational borrowers.” Typically, she explained, you pay a $30 fee for a two-week cash advance on a $200 paycheck, which amounts to an annualized interest rate of 400 percent. That’s not particularly high for this type of loan; some of them go up to 780 percent. Thirty bucks “is unlikely to bankrupt any consumer,” Warren conceded, but the payday lender is counting on the likelihood that many customers will roll the loan over for another two weeks, and then another. Ninety percent of the industry’s profits come from suckers who do this five times or more over the course of a year. “This is very expensive credit,” Jean Ann Fox of Consumer Federation of America told me.

Indeed, interest rates don’t get more insanely high than this. That raises the question: Isn’t usury illegal? It turns out the federal government imposes no statutory maximum on interest rates. Many states do, and some states (for instance, New York) ban payday loans altogether. But under federal law, payday lenders who don’t commit outright fraud may operate with impunity. Well, almost. The Pentagon got fed up with its recruits getting ripped off by payday lenders and in 2007 got Congress to make it illegal to extend such loans to members of the military. But civilians remain fair game.

Indeed, one of the sketchier provisions in Dodd-Frank affirmatively prohibits Warren’s new agency from setting a maximum interest rate on payday loans. This was inserted at the behest of Senator Bob Corker, R.-Tenn. (The payday-loan business was reportedly born in Corker’s home state and continues to thrive there.) You might think the banking industry would pressure Congress to shut down payday lenders because they give lending a bad name. But a recent report by National People’s Action, a network of community activist groups, and the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative revealed that big banks extend $2.5 to $3 billion in financing to payday-loan companies. Wells Fargo is in especially deep.

“The payday industry WELCOMES regulation,” according to Payday Loan Industry Blog, operated by Trihouse Enterprises, which owns 16 payday-loan stores. “It helps the industry legitimize their industry, it manages the few unscrupulous payday loan operators that exist in all industries, and it creates a level playing field for consumers.” Implicit in this assertion is the confident belief that no regulator would dare put them out of business. The authors don’t seem terribly worried that Warren will prove that assumption wrong. Do they know something we don’t?

Yuck! 10 grossest Halloween candies of all time (that aren’t candy corn)

By Matthew Schneiderman

I call them the “grossest,” but it depends on whom you’re asking: To your average trick-or-treater, these may very well be the 10 “coolest” Halloween candies.  I put each of the candies through an evaluation from a friend’s son, 5-year-old P.J. Koesterer, a New York City resident and trusted authority on candy yuckiness.

  • Fangs with tongue
    Image: Au'some Ghoulish Gummy Tongue

    This combo disguise-plus-candy is one part plastic, one part gummy, and all parts yuck. Kids are entitled to about 90 seconds of tongue wagging before the candy dissolves.

    $1.95; Au’some Ghoulish Gummy Tongue; store.offbeattreats.com

    5-year-old says: “Whoa, that’s scary!”

  • Severed finger dip stick

    Image: Galerie Creepy Candy Finger with Dipping Powder

    Fun Dip for the witchy crowd. Grotesquely colored human digits — on sticks! — go into mouth, then into neon powder, then back into mouth.

    $3; Galerie Creepy Candy Finger with Dipping Powder; galerieusa.com for stores

    5-year-old says: “Spooky!”

  • Glow worms
    Image: KandyKastle Lightning Bugs Gummy Candy

    These gummies come packaged with a pair of plastic tongs equipped with a small LED. Pick up a bug and see it light up. Ditto for Swedish Fish and kids’ pinkies.

    $11.29 for 12 1.4-ounce bags; KandyKastle Lightning Bugs Gummy Candy; candycentral.com

    5-year-old says: “Awesome! Do you eat it?”

  • Grubs
    Image: Creepy Confections Grimy Grubs

    These are shorter, squatter, and ickier than your typical gummy worms. Catch-22 of cautioning kids about potentially dangerous behavior: Will they think to put the candies into their nostrils if you don’t warn them not to?

    $19 for 12 1.7-ounce bags; Creepy Confections Grimy Grubs; candy-crate.stores.yahoo.net

    5-year-old says: “Bumpy”

  • Messed-up green mouth

    Image: Big Stuff Lip Pops

    Less of a lollipop than a large candy pacifier with a disturbing handle — big green lips and braces — that’ll turn a kid’s face into something well suited for a fun house.

    $10.75 for 12 pops; Big Stuff Lip Pops; candydirect.com

    5-year-old says: “I’m gonna eat all those tooth parts!” (the tooth parts are inedible)

  • Squishy eyeballs
    Image: CandyTech Gummi Eyeballs

    Forget the “peeled grapes in a bowl” trick. These gummy eyeballs are much more realistic in look and feel.

    $10 for 14; CandyTech Gummi Eyeballs; dylanscandybar.com

    5-year-old says: “Crazy! I can squish it.”

  • (Fake) bug pops
    Image: Creepy Confections Fly & Spider Pop

    “Crawlers” being closely identified with “creepy,” burying a candy bug Tootsie-Pop-style in a sucker is a surefire way to spook tots and strict vegetarians alike.

    $30 for 24 pops; Creepy Confections Fly & Spider Pop; candy-crate.stores.yahoo.net

    5-year-old says: “Look at those bugs! 3-D!”

  • (Real) buggy pops

    Image: Hotlix Scorpion Sucker

    Yes, that’s a real scorpion in that lollipop. Other bugs you can find in this line of candy: Crickets and worms. In our opinion, a bit too gruesome for children, but it had to make the list.

    $2.95 each; Hotlix Scorpion Sucker; hotlix.com

    5-year-old says: “What the … it’s real? A real scorpion? That thing’s poisonous. Scorpions are poisonous, right?”

  • Snotty nose
    Image: Hose Nose

    Grody to the max: A prosthetic nose — complete with ear straps — full of candy mucus that gets squeezed out directly onto the wearer’s tongue.

    $29.40 for 12; Hose Nose; candywarehouse.com

    5-year-old says: “Eww! That’s cool!”

  • Ghoul mask
    Image: Creepy Confections Goblin Mask Pop

    13 ounces of candy shaped into a hideous full-size mask. The only thing creepier than the painted visages is the volume of sugar (220 grams) contained in one treat.

    $10; Creepy Confections Goblin Mask Pop; brandnewllc.com for stores

    5-year-old says: “You can eat this? It’s giant!”

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