Tag Archives: NPR

Its Easy To Drop Out, But Don’t Cave To Bogus Arguments.

Today’s post is by Michael Broady, our Special Issue Editorial Contributor. The topic is, well, topical, as millions of young people just graduated from college and are preparing to figure out how to enter the work force in the next few weeks. And, maybe asking themselves whether all of that was worth it.

This week, I listened to another sound bite for an upcoming dialogue on NPR about college; the interviewee intended to argue that college shouldn’t be the go to choice for high school grads.  The idea that college may be a counterproductive life choice is nothing new. I’ve listened to the reasons why it’s a waste for probably the past 5 years – four of which I spent earning my B.A., and I’m unimpressed.

First off, I recognize the financial burden of college. Last year college loan debt averaged $25,000 per student. No doubt, that number will be higher this year.  In no way am I supporting the steady increase in tuition at both private and public universities.  That higher education is unaffordable for the majority of us is absurd, not because it’s worthless, but because it is so valuable.

From a purely financial perspective, David Leonhardt’s article in the NY Times last year shows that college graduates make close to 40% more money than high school graduates – even in job fields that don’t require high school degrees.  Another study shows that investing in a college degree is equivalent to making an investment with returns of 15.2% per year.  That number is far higher than average earnings in stock market investments or investments in corporate or government bonds.

Arguments against a college education aren’t purely financial though. There’s been a tonal shift in the discussions and I don’t like what I’m hearing. It seems that the college degree itself is being undervalued, that it has come to generally represent things stuffy and outdated. When I told a friend I’d be writing on the topic, she pointed me to an article about start-ups building sites where you can go to college for…free-ninety-nine!

The creator of Udemy lays it out for us, in case we’re confused: “It’s cool to be a drop out these days,” Bali says. “It’s the dying companies that value college degrees. You have to think beyond that piece of paper.” The same article also points to another site, Udacity, with the same goal – to give people access to courses and the power to take their education into their own hands.

This post isn’t a thorough review of the above-mentioned sites, but I did check them out.  The latter’s classes are actually free to a certain point and the classes look like they could be really useful, if you’re interested in building a website or cryptology.  The former is a bit more of a free-for-all with some classes costing more than $130 and others free.  One course discusses energy and the environment; another course tells you how to promote your own Udemy class to grow a student base – to increase sales. Even if these sites are geared more towards photoshop and wordpress tutorials, I’m a fan. I’ll probably even take a class.

Interesting as these courses are, ultimately, they strike me as supplementary to a college education, not because the info isn’t all there – I’m sure “Fundamentals of Physics” taught by Yale University’s Ramamurti Shankar covers everything a 200 level class should.  For that matter a library should have all of the physics you could want too.  The courses are supplementary because neither the textbook nor the free online class provide office hours with your teacher/T.A., or help you to build study groups, or encourage you to study loosely related topics based on a personal assessment of your likes/dislikes and natural aptitudes.

Mainly (and this is a constant but valuable response to the old do it yourself education) college is about learning to think, to process the world through selective filters, to draw connections and value the steps toward discovery more than it is about any specific equation or class.

 

Sure, plenty of people find success without college and some grads become bums.  Negative reactions to big corporations and institutions are absolutely called for and necessary; that doesn’t make dropping out of college a practical option, and I’m not a fan of loose language that devalues the kind of education college provides alongside the broken system that allows for such hyper-inflated costs to that education.

Propagating that message seems like a solid step towards lots of very well made wordpress sites with very little worthwhile content.


Shame on All of Us.


I heard an interview on NPR this morning that reminded me why race relations in this country haven’t changed in the last 400 years. That’s right, NPR, my favorite radio station, so all the rest of you can stop reading now. The interview was with an African-American Mother aged 50 and her two sons, ages 24 and 26, called “The Talk.” They live in Los Angeles and have lots of white friends that they hang with in Beverly Hills. The 2 boys were articulate and “clean” as Joe Biden would say, and their Mother was explaining the necessity of having “The Talk when each of the boys turned 12.

The purpose of “The Talk” was to explain the necessity to behave in public in a certain way beginning in their pre-teens, so that White people will not interpret her boys’ behavior as a threat and not confuse them with aggressive “Black” males who may be “armed and dangerous.” “The Talk” was conceived after their Mother had lost her favorite brother to a bullet in the chest by a white shooter who thought he was threatening to him, because he was sauntering down the street, at night, wearing baggy, over-sized jeans, Nike’s and a dark Hoodie. He was holding his prison jeans up with one hand and drinking a can of coke with the other. It was dark. He walked right toward the shooter. The shooter pulled a 9mm Beretta out of his jacket pocket and shot him in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The shooter told the police that he felt threatened and saw him reaching for a weapon. There was no weapon found on Darrel’s body. The Mother worshiped Darrell. She named her oldest son after him.

This crime happened in New Augusta, Perry County, Mississippi. The investigating police officers were white. No arrest was ever made.

The now dead Darrell was an A student, had never been arrested or committed a crime and was one of the most popular guys in his high school. His friends all said he was the funniest, gentlest and kindest kid they knew.

Some of the rules are: Don’t wear Hoodies … ever. Don’t wear any clothing that is associated with Gangsta dress. Wear your ball cap with the bill facing forward. Never wear prison jeans. Always walk in a straight line and have a big smile on your face, but don’t make eye contact with white people. Dress conservatively. Never swagger. Always be polite, deferential and obedient with the police.

Now, imagine for a minute that you have to have “The Talk” with your children. Imagine being 12 and hearing that. And, imagine that Travon Martin would probably be alive today, if his Mother had known to have had “The Talk.” with Travon.

The 26 year-old Darrell says in the interview this morning that, “There has been so much change and so much of it for the better, yet nothing has really changed at all.” No, Darrell. Nothing has changed:

When Darrell is riding around Beverly Hills with his white friend, and they are pulled over by the police, his friend is openly aggressive with the officer while Darrell sits in the passenger seat and cringes, thinking, “Dude, don’t press this – yes sir, no sir, leave it alone”. “If I spoke to a white cop the way he did, my ass would be in jail right now,” says Darrell.

If you haven’t read any History of race relations in this country and/or don’t want to because you find history books boring, you might check out James Lee Burke or Greg Isles. Most of their fiction is set in Mississippi and Louisiana, and they tell really great stories, but mingled in with the story are historical and philosophical musings about race and culture. While the civil rights movement took about 30 years to really get consciousness lifted about the equality of races, it really only pushed the deep seated racism in the U.S. down behind the trap door of political correctness, and even today, most liberals have a “not in my back yard” view of racial equality, similar to their insistence that they have friends who are black, but when pushed about how they would feel if their daughter wanted to marry a (fill in the blank), well, not so much, thank you.

And, while I am not happy about the natural anger and aggressiveness of this video, I cannot blame the hopelessness and emasculation that this African-American male feels.

http://www.thenasforum.com/showthread.php?6957-Travon-Martin-911-Call-(Unarmed-Teen-Killed-in-Florida) It’s 6 minutes. Watch the whole thing.

I don’t have much hope. Because, while we will continue to push social consciousness through education and stupid social programs that maybe cause more resentment and bitterness than they help, we actually broke down and elected a black man to the highest office in the land, yet we were also pissed-off that his wife, in a moment of excruciating authenticity at Obama’s election, said, “This is the first time in my adult life, I’m really proud of my country.” Why would she not feel that way? And, more importantly, why would we find that so insulting? Can we be so ignorant and so unable to empathize with the feelings of a black woman, whose environment was created by our own hands, that we get pissed off when she tells the truth? Is this the old, “Give the n-words an inch and they take a mile.”?

The African-American is one of two races/cultures that did not make a conscious decision or choice to either come to this country or surrender their land to marauding white guys. The Irish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Germans, Koreans, East Indians, etc., all chose to come here and try to compete for the American dream. In so doing, they brought their culture, families and history with them and they defined themselves by those things. It was part of the energy that contributed to their self-esteem. They fought with each other over old tribal prejudices, like I am sure the African immigrants might have done, had they been allowed to come to the promised land in the same way that, say Bulgarians were.

But they weren’t. They were hunted in the jungles of Africa, chained, separated from their families, forced to learn a new language and then were sold into slavery, where they saw a future only as flat as the fields in which they labored to pick cotton and soy beans. When they rebelled, they were beaten, tortured, burned alive, shot, chain dragged behind mules and hanged. The American Indians had a reverse experience. Their land was stolen from them and they were forced into concentration camps known as Indian Reservations where they could continue to honor their cultural history and try to assimilate into a growing American culture that they couldn’t understand and had no basis to relate to. Not integrate. Assimilate. Their were lots of slaves. Not so many Indians. To square our national shame, we gave them gambling licenses and let them (encouraged them to) drink whiskey. The more they drank, the better they felt about themselves, and the easier they were to control.

So, when The Civil Rights act was signed in 1964, it took only 4 more years to kill their leader, then that “N-word Lover”, Bobby Kennedy and with those assassinations, snuff out any sense of national hope for the African-American. The Blacks who could, found a way to migrate to the Northern cities and try to establish some semblance of normalcy, raising a family where one child might have a shot at getting to where a guy named Barack got. But for every Harold Ford, Jr., there are a hundred thousand angry black men who have no voice and probably never will. And, we can thank ourselves for it. If you have any doubts about this, spend a weekend in Natchez, Mississippi or Lafayette, Louisiana or almost anywhere in east Texas. And, try to feel what it must be like for Travon Martin’s mother. Or, the guy in that video.


The Poster Boy for Greed, Avarice and Immorality in Capitalism.

Freddie Mac‘s Regulator “Completely Puzzled” by Accusations of Immorality.

Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco during testimony before Congress in December.
I am a capitalist, but I am guided by a moral compass. Mr. DeMarco doesn’t seem to own one. I know my GOP friends will not like this, as DeMarco was only doing his job. But, in my mind this is reminiscent of prison guards at Dachau only doing their jobs.

Saying he is “completely puzzled by the notion that there was something immoral that went on here,” the man at the top of the agency that regulates Freddie Mac has explained why he believes the taxpayer-owned mortgage company did nothing wrong when one of its arms, as NPR and ProPublica have reported, “placed multibillion-dollar bets against American homeowners being able to refinance to cheaper mortgages.”

Edward DeMarco told Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep in an interview broadcast on today’s show that Freddie Mac’s actions were “in the class of ordinary business transactions.” The “reverse floaters” in Freddie Mac’s investment portfolio, which as NPR has reported “brought in more money for Freddie Mac when homeowners in higher interest-rate loans were unable to qualify for a refinancing,” did not affect the agency’s efforts to stabilize the mortgage market, DeMarco said. So, all of you homeowners waiting for your bank to give you a loan modification, don’t hold your breath.

Instead, DeMarco characterized the investments as part of Freddie Mac’s effort to make sure it doesn’t lose money. And he said one of his major responsibilities, is to “make sure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac undertake activities that don’t cause further losses to the American taxpayer.”

I know someone who submitted paperwork to Chase Bank (his mortgage servicer) every month from the period beginning in January 2011 and ending in October 2011. Chase kept sending form letters requesting the same documents that this guy had already submitted. He then would write a letter explaining that he had already submitted those documents and attached same, month after month. In all, nine separate letters, some requesting the documents he had submitted in the first month. This was clearly a game, manufactured to appear that Chase was in compliance with the Obama Administration’s Loan Modification Program. When the robo-signing investigation concluded in September of 2011, Chase (along with the other 26 banks that had been held up),  denied the request and moved to foreclose.

That began in November 2011. He has until the end of this month to vacate and then the home becomes REO’ed and will come onto the market at a fire sale price. And, we are not talking about Las Vegas pricing here or a Floridian market. This home is in Pebble Beach, CA and was real-estate appraised at $2.4m twelve months ago. The most recent real estate appraisal was in September, and it came in at $1.2m. This is the beginning of the high-end inventory that will be coming to market over the next few months, and is why I keep saying that the housing market is only going to get worse.

DeMarco is acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) — the agency that regulates Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Two key senators “who have taken the lead on legislation aimed to help homeowners refinance at historically low interest rates,” are critical of FHFA’s oversight of Freddie Mac. One of them, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, laid much of the blame on DeMarco and accused him of not looking out for American homeowners who want to refinance at today’s historically low interest rates.

DeMarco said though, that “not only I, but my staff think of the average homeowner on a daily basis” and believe that their efforts to stabilize the mortgage market and prevent losses at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are good for all Americans in the long run. Of course you do.

And by the way, the comment about  ” preventing further losses to the American taxpayer’ is the height of dis-ingenuity. If anyone thinks that for one second, Freddie Mac’s or Fannie’s profits are coming back to it’s shareholders (aka, the American People) they need to see a talking doctor, cause it ain’t ever gonna happen!


Marine Fights Freddie Mac to Save His Home.

Arturo de los Santos, a 46-year-old Marine who lives in Riverside, California, doesn’t usually listen to National Public Radio, but a friend told him to pay attention to a disturbing report broadcast Monday on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” The report disclosed that Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage company, whose mission is “to expand opportunities for homeownership,” invested billions in mortgage securities that profited when homeowners were unable to refinance.

De los Santos is one of those homeowners that Freddie Mac bet against. Sunday night he got a court summons at his door from Freddie Mac stating that the mortgage giant was going to evict him.

But he’s fighting back, pledging to get arrested rather than leave voluntarily if Riverside County sheriff’s deputies try to remove him, his wife and four children from the home they’ve lived in for almost a decade. He is part of a growing movement of Americans inspired by Occupy Wall Street to stop banks and other lenders from foreclosing on their homes. On Thursday at noon, de los Santos, his friends and neighbors, and activists from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) will protest at Freddie Mac’s west coast headquarters (444 South Flower St.) in downtown Los Angeles. They will call on Freddie Mac CEO Charles Haldeman to get the mortgage giant to renegotiate a fair modification of de los Santos’ loan, including reducing the mortgage principal.

The NPR investigation of Freddie Mac, done in cooperation with ProPublica (an independent, nonprofit newsroom), uncovered another aspect of the unfolding scandal of Wall Street abuse of struggling homeowners that has led to a nationwide epidemic of foreclosures.

De los Santos and his family moved into their modest three-bedroom house on a cul de sac in Riverside’s La Sierra neighborhood in 2003. It was their first home and represented the American dream they had worked their whole lives for. He has worked for over 21 years as a supervisor at a Santa Ana metal finishing company that makes parts for the aerospace industry.

In 2009, the economic crisis led the factory to reduce his work hours, reducing his income and making it harder to make his monthly payments. He applied for a loan modification with JP Morgan Chase, the giant Wall Street bank that services many of Freddie Mac ‘s loans. Chase told de los Santos that in order to negotiate a loan modification he had to be in default on his loan. Chase notified de los Santos that it was rejecting him for a permanent modification, that they would refuse to accept further payments, and that they intended to foreclose on his home, even after he provided the bank with evidence showing that his income had recovered to its previous level. De los Santos was caught in a Catch-22, but it turns out that — according to the NPR/Pro-Publica investigation — this was not an anomaly but part of Freddie Mac’s strategy.

Last June, the family was evicted from their home and moved to an apartment in Orange County. The bank put the house up for sale, but in Riverside County’s devastated housing market, found no buyers. Seeing his home sit empty infuriated de los Santos. He continued contacting Chase, hoping to persuade the bank to renegotiate the mortgage. After the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to California, de los Santos heard about other homeowners who faced similar abuses and contacted ACCE, a community organizing group that has been helping homeowners throughout California and is part of a national effort to get Congress and the Obama administration to force banks to modify “underwater” mortgages, especially for homeowners victimized by lender manipulation, such as predatory loans.

On December 6, de los Santos took the courageous step of re-occupying his Riverside home, where he has been living since then. He was one of many homeowners around the country who took similar actions that day as part of a nationwide “Occupy Our Homes” campaign. On December 24, de los Santos moved his wife and children back into the house. That day he was joined at a media event by local clergy, members of ACCE and the Service Employees International Union, and other supporters.

“We’re glad to be back in the house,” de los Santos told the Valley News, a local paper. “My kids are happy. They have a place to ride their bikes and play. Their school is just around the corner. They don’t understand what’s going on.”

“The foreclosure crisis has been devastating to the Inland Empire,” said Reverend Matthew Crary of Inland Congregations United for Change, referring to the Riverside and San Bernardino County area that has one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates. “As faith leaders it is our responsibility to stand with the residents of our community to force Wall Street to take action to help people stay in their homes.”

Rosanna Cambron, a national executive board member of Military Families Speak Out, also spoke at the Christmas Eve protest:

Art de los Santos served this country as a marine and he is again serving this country by standing up to Wall Street greed. My son just returned from his third tour of duty in Iraq fighting to protect the principles of justice and democracy. But I think that the greed of Wall Street bankers like (Chase CEO) Jamie Dimon is more of a threat to our country in many ways than any foreign power. We will stand up to them as long as it takes to create a fair society for all Americans.

“We have celebrated Christmas in our home since 2003 when we bought it,” de los Santos said at the same event. “I wasn’t going to let this holiday season be any different. I owed it to my kids. If JPMorgan Chase and Freddie Mac had dealt with us fairly at the beginning of the loan modification process, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”After de los Santos heard the NPR/Pro-Publica report on Monday, he understood why he was in this quagmire not of his own making. It strengthened his resolve to fight to keep his home.

“Nobody likes to get arrested,” said de los Santos. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m doing this for my family and for the millions of other families in similar situations. We can’t let the Wall Street banks and Freddie Mac get away with these kinds of practices.”

Last month in California alone, there were over 52,000 foreclosures. A recent report sponsored by bank reform groups reveals that if banks lowered the principal balance on all underwater mortgages to their current market value, it would pump over $70 billion per year back into the economy, allow millions of families to stay in their homes, and create over one million jobs. They want Congress and the Obama administration to pass legislation requiring banks to reduce the principal for homeowners facing foreclosure. So do I.


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