Category Archives: racism
Today, I received news that a friend took his own life this past Sunday. When I heard this I immediately said to my self, “That’s not my friend. It can’t be the same guy I grew up with. More than likely, it is someone with the same name.” It was not a man with the same name. It was not a coincidence. It was, sadly, my childhood friend. My friend and I had gone our separate ways in 1993, after I was accepted to a college prep school out of state. We never spoke again. However, while we were in the 8th grade, he taught me something that I have carried with me to this day- and he never knew it and I never told him “thank you.”
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
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?
In my attempts to bring you good writing on important issues, I give you Nicholas Kristof. He is an OpEd columnist for the New York Times. There are links to his blog, Facebook, and Twitter at the bottom of the post. Click one and tell him “thank you” for writing this piece. Open your brain and read.
Is This America?
Former Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod announced Thursday that she intends to sue Andrew Breitbart for posting a misleading video of Sherrod that ended up costing her job.
Sherrod made the announcement at the National Association of Black Journalists conference in San Diego. “I will definitely do it,” she said.
Sherrod lost her job last week after Breitbart posted a clip of a video on one of his conservative sites that appeared to show Sherrod telling an NAACP conference that she did not lend her “full force” in helping a white farmer.
The full video, though, showed Sherrod had actually been speaking about how she had gotten over the racially motivated killing of her father after helping the first white farmer who had solicited her aid.
Before the full video came out, however, Sherrod was fired by the Department of Agriculture over what it thought was a racist remark.
Sherrod has been offered a new job with the department, and the White House has apologized to her, but Sherrod has not yet indicated whether she will take the job.
Sherrod has shown she still has hard feelings against Breitbart, however, accusing him last week of stoking racists to attack her.
“I knew it was racism when it happened to me,” she said.
Sherrod also blamed Fox News, which posted a story on Brietbart’s video on its website, for pushing the story.
“It was not all media. It was Fox,” she said. “I don’t want to be interviewed by Fox. I refuse to be interviewed by Fox.”
Breitbart did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has not apologized for posting the misleading video, arguing that the incident was “not about Shirley Sherrod” and was instead about the NAACP’s accusation that the tea party has employed “racist tactics.”
“Andrew Breitbart is going to be fine. He’s done nothing wrong,” said Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center. “I wonder if Ms. Sherrod, who is such a champion of transparency, will publicly disclose who is putting her up to this. And I also hope this champion of honesty will stop lying about Fox News. I’m also waiting for Ms. Sherrod to publicly apologize for accusing anyone opposed to nationalized health care of being racist. Last time I checked, that was more than half the country.”
Earlier, President Barack Obama called the firing a “bogus controversy.”
“She deserves better than what happened last week,” Obama told the National Urban League. “When a bogus controversy based on selective and deceiving excerpts led to her forced resignation, now, many are to blame for the reaction and overreaction that followed these comments, including my own administration.”
With the official formation of a congressional Tea Party Caucus, Rep. Michele Bachmann has thrust an existential question before House Republican leaders: Are you in or are you out?
Indiana’s Mike Pence, chairman of the Republican Conference, was adamant. “You betcha,” he said, deploying a Minnesota catch phrase.
But Minority Leader John Boehner won’t have his name on the caucus list.
And Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor and his chief deputy, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California — known as “Young Guns” for the GOP — are undecided.
Minnesota’s Bachmann, a favorite of the tea party movement, earned approval from the Democratic leadership for her caucus late last week. It came as a bit of a surprise to her leadership, whom she didn’t forewarn before formally applying to create the caucus.
“It was something we were doing on our own,” Bachmann spokesman Dave Dziok said. “Ultimately, we just pulled the trigger.”
Indeed, the tea party movement is a loaded political weapon for Republicans heading into the midterm elections.
Until now, they have had the luxury of enjoying the benefits of tea party enthusiasm without having to actually declare membership. But now that Bachmann has brought the tea party inside the Capitol, House Republican leaders and rank-and-file members may have to choose whether to join the institutionalized movement.
It’s easy to see why some Republicans may be hesitant, even as the tea party, itself, fights over the sentiments expressed by the movement’s most extreme elements.
The Tea Party Federation expelled its most prominent faction, the Tea Party Express, after a spokesman wrote a racially charged letter framed as a satirical jab at Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Tea Party Express fired back, with a spokesman calling the decision “arrogant and preposterous.”
“If there are some tendencies in the outside movement that you don’t want to be associated with, this could be a risky step,” said Celia Carroll, a political science professor at Hampden-Sydney College who has done academic research on congressional caucuses.
Joining caucuses is somewhat of a ritual in the House, where niche groups like the Sportsmen’s Caucus or the Armenian Caucus are supposed to give lawmakers a chance to build their political identity and promote their own ideas and those of allies outside Congress. The Senate is less relevant in the caucus debate: There is only one officially recognized caucus, the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.
“I think caucuses represent an opportunity for members to get together and to share ideas, and my hope is that this Tea Party Caucus would do the same and also would be an avenue for bringing some of the energy and enthusiasm and the focus that I’ve seen from the national march on Washington, where I spoke on 9/12, [and] traveling around Indiana and a little around the country, deeper into the well of Congress,” Pence said.
Pence is widely viewed as a potential candidate for statewide, or perhaps national office, and he has built on his connection to the movement, which could be politically beneficial in the future.
But the question is not as clear-cut for other Republican leaders.
Cantor’s office declined to entertain a question about whether the No. 2 GOP House member would join the Tea Party Caucus. A spokesman said he was on a plane nearly all day and could not be reached.
The uncertainty in the House GOP leadership underscores the risk — and reward — of identifying with a movement that electrifies the conservative base, yet may turn off moderate Republicans and political independents with controversial slogans and billboards perceived by many to be racist or insensitive to religious minorities.
Republican leaders certainly have been capitalizing on tea party anger at a Democratic-controlled establishment, watching with glee as Democratic health care town halls were disrupted by tea party demonstrators last fall. In fact, Boehner led the charge of Republican lawmakers down the Capitol steps late last year, addressing the crowd before Bachmann did. He also spoke at rallies in Orlando, Fla., and Ohio and attended one in Bakersfield, Calif., with McCarthy.
But when it comes to joining the caucus, the Ohio Republican fell back on a long-standing promise not to join such groups.
“As a personal policy, Boehner is not a member of any caucus other than the House Republican Conference,” spokesman Michael Steele said in a statement to POLITICO.
There’s an advantage to watching the fire from a safe distance, Carroll said.
“It’s brilliant politically to take advantage of this anti-Democratic, to a large extent, movement without being seen as orchestrating it,” she said.
But Bachmann’s formation of the new caucus has made her a force to be reckoned with inside the Republican Conference; indeed, at last fall’s tea party march on Capitol Hill, demonstrators yelled out, “Palin/Bachmann 2012.” Partially as a result of Bachmann’s — and Sarah Palin’s — star power, nearly a quarter of Americans believe the tea party “will become a viable third party in American politics,” according to a POLITICO poll released Monday.
Bachmann’s office said it hasn’t worked out many of the details of how the caucus will operate and interact with the tea party movement outside Congress. The group’s first step will be to find members to put tea party “principles into practice,” Dziok said. Its first meeting will be Wednesday.
Lawmakers and aides said there’s room for both the Tea Party Caucus and the conservative Republican Study Committee, whose members quite likely would provide a pool for Bachmann’s group.
Pence, a former chairman of the RSC, said he hasn’t spoken to Bachmann about what the group will do, but he welcomes the voice.
“I think iron sharpens iron,” he said.
Oh my. Inés V. just let us know about a contest on WTVN, a conservative talk radio station in Ohio (reader Scapino clarifies that the conservative tone is mostly due to syndication of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, not really the local DJs). Just…see for yourself:
This campaign is a response to Columbus mayor Michael Coleman who boycotted AZ by banning all city-funded travel after SB1070, and the mayor is depicted as a holder of a green card [that’s him shown on the ID card].
It’s an astounding example of dehumanizing undocumented immigrants — being a proud American is linked to “illegals” (a term that somehow seems more stigmatizing than terms like “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens,” even — a linguistic erasure of personhood altogether) being scared, presumably of all the proud Americans they encounter, and the lucky winner gets to go “spend a weekend chasing aliens”. It’s like you’re getting to go on a safari.
Groups in Columbus have organized a response and will be delivering letters to the station this afternoon, before the contest ends, in protest.
I’d add more commentary, but what can you really say?
I keep seeing headlines like these:
Arizona now has toughest immigration law state
Bill McCollum (R) Defends Change In Stance On AZ Law
and now I see this:
Arizona gov. signs bill targeting ethnic studies in an AP News story.
Well, I can’t just not say anything can I? You know me better than that.
Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a bill that Tom Horne (Az State School Head) has been pushing for for years. Horne has said, well… let me quote the AP article:
Horne, a Republican running for attorney general, said the program promotes “ethnic chauvinism” and racial resentment toward whites while segregating students by race.
Tom Horne is sacred that ethnic studies classes will educate minorities and make life harder for whites? Holy Shit! Where is his clan robe? Look, I live in Mississippi, I know a racist when I see or hear one. Tom Horne…you qualify! Can this man really advocate for the removal of the classes that teach the TRUE history of 56% of the Tuscon SD students’ ancestry? By the way, that’s 31,000 students in the Tuscon School Dist alone. Staggering.
Now I will give you something I found that will blow your mind:
|As a Golden Rule state, I am pleased to present a program that positively recognizes those who “treat others the way you would like to be treated” and who make a difference in Arizona. By using the form below, you can nominate an Arizona resident as an Arizona Golden Rule Citizen! Please nominate people who practice the Golden Rule and my office will mail you an Arizona Golden Rule Citizen Certificate that you can present to the person whom you nominated.
Feel free to contact my office for more information.
JANICE K. BREWER
I found this hypocrisy on the Governor’s own website! I can safely assume ole Jan and Tom will not be getting a nomination anytime soon! If this theory of the golden rule is carried out they way it should be and she is treating people the way she wants to be treated then European History should be shut down. They both look vaguely European. Maybe they need to show some papers. WAIT WAIT WAIT…they are white. OBVIOUSLY AMERICAN!
That sounds ludicrous dosen’t it. Well, you gonna play hard ball…then play hard ball. I can’t believe I live in this country sometimes. I am ashamed of it on, what seems like, a growing number of fronts.
I never thought Mississippi would be more tolerant than another state esp. a western state. UNREAL!