Category Archives: education

The History of the American Financial Holocaust.

This is the coolest documentary you will ever watch.

Charles Ferguson is arguably an American hero. He produced, wrote, and directed this incredible documentary about the fraud and corruption that led to the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 and extends to the one we are about to experience in 2012 and 2013.

Then, upon winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2011, he began his acceptance speech by stating, “Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.”

Ferguson recently published his book, Predator Nation, and has continued his crusade to expose fraud, criminality and corruption in the private sector, in government, and in academia. In ways I can only dream about.

If you have not seen this movie, you have to watch it. If you know anyone who has not seen this movie, get them to watch it. Every American should be aware of what is transpiring at the highest levels of our financial governing infrastructure. Both here, in the U.S. and across the globe, particularly now in Europe. As you watch this film, think about all of the posts you have read here throughout the first half of this year. Well, at least the non-self-serving ones anyway.

Inside job image

Another one of my heroes.

Somehow, we need to get people to stop watching the evening news on TV. Somehow, we have to get people excited about being actually smart and knowledgeable and understanding about the financial issues that are affecting their everyday lives and driving their entire existence. Somehow, we need to stop paying attention to the Kardashians and start paying attention to Angela Merkel, the Fed and the Treasury, the bills that actually make it through Congress (someone should actually read them), and what people like Jamie Dimon are doing every day. Since all of that affects employment. All of that affects housing. All of that affects taxes. All of that affects our lives.

Charles Ferguson Sony Classics Tom Bernard, producer Audrey Marrs, Gillian Tett, and director Charles Ferguson attend the "Inside Job" Premiere during the 35th Toronto International Film Festival at Ryerson Theatre on September 9, 2010 in Toronto, Canada.

It is incredible to me that everyone who turns 18 is just given the right to vote. I suppose voting competency tests are right up there with parenting tests for would-be parents, and I know both are wrong and could never happen, but God, I can dream, right?  

Of course, this goes well beyond America’s borders; everyone in this world should make themselves aware of the injustice, criminality, and corruption that sways policy and creates a needlessly precarious and dangerous world for us all. 

Before you watch it, please be advised that a mind-mindbogglingly complex subject has been Kardashian-ed down to fit into a two hour window, and there is a certain amount of suspended disbelief, and a little dose of blind trust necessary to digest this film, but I know these guys ain’t lying. The best test of this is to note who did NOT agree to be interviewed for this film.

View it here:

http://vimeo.com/25491676#

If you have trouble viewing this, just hit reload until it plays. Thanks.


Congress Chooses Political Expediency Over Student Welfare. Again.

Knowing that allowing the 3.4% interest rate on student loans to double as of July 1st would be political suicide, Congress pushes the decision out one year and keeps the lower interest rate in place.

Victory for students? Nope. Victory for Congress. You betcha.

While saving the average borrower around $1,000 a year, it is likely to cost students a lot more than that over the long term. The agreement that lawmakers passed Friday will keep interest rates at 3.4 percent for another year.

Anthony DeLaRosa, a 23-year-old University of Colorado graduate, says it’s a big victory. “I think the reason that students should support this, first and foremost is the fact that the 3.4 percent interest rate is being extended,” he says, “something that students pushed for very, very hard over the last several months.”

By passing this agreement, Congress sent a message to the Republican attack dogs that said, “We’re keeping the agreement in place for a year, but we’re really going to make them pay.”

DeLaRosa works for the U.S. Student Association, a lobbying group. He says 7.4 million students who rely on subsidized Stafford loans can now breathe easier. But, this is no victory, given the rest of the deal. “In the last year, Congress has actually trimmed tens of billions of dollars in student aid,” says Joel Packer, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.

Packer says lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — have actually made it more costly for students to borrow, and those costs dwarf whatever savings students can expect from lower interest rates.

For example, graduate students will now have to pay the interest on their loans while they’re still in school. All students will have to start paying back the money they borrowed immediately after graduation — the six-month grace period during which the government paid the interest is gone.

“That’s disappointing because Congress shouldn’t pay for one education program by cutting another — in this case it’s actually cutting the same one,” Packer says. That’s not all, he says. Lawmakers have limited the number of semesters needy students can receive a Pell Grant and made it harder to qualify for the maximum award. “So they’ve made a whole variety of changes.

Overall, about $4.6 billion came out of students’ pockets to pay off the federal deficit,” Packer says. The total cost to students, according to some estimates, $18-20 billion extra over the next 10 years.

This all began a year ago, during the pitched political debate over the federal budget, the deficit and what federal government programs to cut. The student loan program was clearly not exempt, says Getachew Kassa, legislative director for the U.S. Student Association. “This was disheartening. When we started this campaign as a coalition of student advocates, we said that ‘No way in hell are you going take money from education,’ “he says.

But that’s what lawmakers did, says Kassa, a University of Oregon graduate. So even with interest rates remaining low, Kassa says the bigger story here is that students appear to have lost more than they gained. “In the past year, we’ve had deals where students have basically been robbed. I think the real question to ask is, where does this stop?” he says, “because sooner or later, you take a little bit here, a little bit there — you have nothing else to take away from.”

So, unfortunately the headlines will read, “Congress comes together to keep student loan interest rates low.”, and both Republicans and Democrats will take credit for keeping interest rates from doubling, while the real headline should read, “Congress stays in office by screwing students with increased education costs.”

But he says students will be back in nine months, yet again fighting to keep interest rates at 3.4 percent for another year — and fighting to keep Congress from cutting student aid even more.


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.


Collaborative Consumption!

And, now for something completely different.

Collaborative Consumption is a phenomenon that describes a lifestyle generally associated with the Gen-Y population and has grown out of an ethos of sharing, a sense of community, and a sensibility around reuse, recycling and conservation.

The resulting economic model (and you all know how I love economic models) is based on buying, selling, sharing, swapping, bartering, trading or renting access to previously owned products. Technology and peer communities are enabling these old market behaviors to be reinvented in ways and on a scale never possible before.

From enormous marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist, to peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Tradepal, Fiverr, emerging sectors such as social lending (Zopa), peer-to-peer travel (CouchSurfing, Airbnb and Onefinestay), peer-to-peer experiences (GuideHop), event ticket sharing (unseat.me) and car sharing (Zipcar or peer-to-peer RelayRides), Collaborative Consumption is disrupting outdated modes of business and reinventing not just what people consume but how they consume it. Collaborative Consumption is sort-of the opposite of Conspicuous Consumption, where instead of choosing to drive a new BMW, the status achievement is more associated with driving a used 1970s Volvo.

Collaborative Consumption sites are proliferating on the web, with new platforms announcing their launches on almost a daily basis. These platforms are pioneering new spaces, and while they are all tapping into the Gen-Y zeitgeist, they press human behaviors to such an extent that they are all experiencing a certain amount of initial resistance due largely to inertia.

Getting people to try an idea that might be perceived as ‘risky’, like sharing your home with a stranger, is difficult to actually accomplish over the web.

This foray into the world of Collaborative Consumption raises interesting behavioral and technical questions.  How do we use technologies to enable trust between strangers? Is it even possible? What’s the best approach for building critical mass?  How do we know when and how to scale? How do we design a user experience that gets to the essence of what people want? How do we build a trusted brand in the community?

Almost all Collaborative Consumption marketplaces depend on matching what people want with what other people have. Obviously, this raises the issue of building a critical mass of inventory (users, products or services) on both the supply and demand sides of the equation, but which side should one focus on first?

Many of these sites seem to lean on the supply-side in order to create a sufficient number of choices to both entice and retain users who are shopping for stuff. Easy to talk about, but hard to do.

One of the not so obvious pitfalls is to try and be everything to everybody, which will usually result in chaos. It is far better to limit the number of choice variables while you build up a controlled market of supply and demand. If you were offering ridesharing services, you may initially limit your offering to certain streets and routes and only during certain hours of the day. Known commute corridors during peak commute times for instance.

If you were offering to match up weekend accommodations, you might limit the locations to areas within walking distance of common tourist attractions in a given city. Or, near main subway or bus stops that serve the entire city.

This is why these marketplaces happen mostly on a local or neighborhood level, as people share working spaces (for example, on Citizen Space or Hub Culture), gardens (Landshare),experiences (GuideHop) or parking spots (on ParkatmyHouse). However, Collaborative lifestyle sharing is beginning to happen on a global scale, too, through activities such as peer-to-peer lending (on platforms like Zopa and Lending Club) and the rapidly growing peer-to-peer travel (on Airbnb and Roomorama).

In order to build a community of trust that will engender sharing and overcome the barriers associated questions like “do I really want to share my apartment with a stranger?”, successful sites will have reached out to their target community during launch and asked what the community wants the site to do and what they would like to see when they engaged. This is the first step in building a brand within the community that will support growth and expansion, based on complete transparency and honest communication.

In future blog posts, I will address the growth of the Collaborative Consumption online markets and the specific issues of critical mass, scale, user experience, trust and branding in detail. If you are interested in this topic and learning more, please drop a line to steve@ipeoplefinance.com. I am really interested in hearing about your experiences with peer-to-peer sites. Thanks.


Victoria Grant Has It Right.

Victoria Grant of Cambridge, Ont. is earning a reputation as a financial pundit after her tirade against her homeland's borrowing practices went viral on YouTube.

If you feel like you are drowning in debt and there is no way out, you aren’t alone. As of April, one out of every five U.S, households owed more on their credit cards, medical bills, student loans and other un-collateralized debts than they had in assets. This, according to a University of Michigan report just released Monday.

“Some families have not been able to make substantial headway,” said Frank Stafford, an economist at the U-M Institute for Social Research and co-author of the report.

Since 2008, the only families whose savings levels have increased are those with $50,000 in savings.

Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, said the U-M results are consistent with other data showing that a large number of lower-middle income households have negative net worth.

“That is, they owe more than they own,” he said. “They are having trouble managing their debt.”

Among economic co-indicators, the U-M report revealed that many families fear more mortgage troubles ahead. About 1.7% of families surveyed in 2011 said it is “very likely or somewhat likely” that they will fall behind on their mortgage payments in the near future. Stafford said “the bad job market is definitely a factor.” The primary concern of the families surveyed was the impact of the primary income earner or their spouse losing their job or having to take a pay cut.

It’s possible, Stafford said, there will be continuing troubles for mortgages in 2013 and 2014.

Another troubling trend the report noted was that nest eggs weren’t quickly being rebuilt after families dug into savings to pay bills. Families with no savings or other liquid assets rose to 23% in 2011, up from 18.5% in 2009.

Surveyed families revealed credit card debt has increased 18%. About 10% of families in 2011 had $30,000 or more in credit card debt and other non-collateralized debts. That compares with 8.5% in 2009. The average interest rate being paid on that debt is 32%. If one were to pay $700/month on $30,000 in credit card debt and never use the card(s) again, it would take 15 years and around $110,000 to pay the debt off. Unless these families can find debt consolidation loans at 13-14%, or win the lottery, the future doesn’t look very bright.

But it is worse for the U.S. government. AKA, you and I and our tax dollars, because you know the banks will not be left holding the bag. Again.

If the survey reflects average families, then that level of credit card debt is representative of about 8 million households or $240 Billion, not quite as frightening as the $1.2 Trillion in student loans outstanding, but still a really big number. The average home value in 2011 was $164,000. The total number of foreclosures projected by the end of 2013 will be 7 million homes, or a loss in real estate mortgage loans of $918.4 Billion. It needs to be offset, by something.

It will be really interesting to see how our Congress sorts this entire mess out. If we took all three losses together, we would be looking to offset $2.3 Trillion in money squandered on loans never to be re-paid. I assume Congress will pass an extension on the carry cost of the student loans, extending the 3.2% and pushing out the increase to 6.4% until … when?

So, we all now know a little bit about how Spain and Ireland and Greece feels, to be helpless in the wake of government mishandling of their leadership responsibilities, and to be unable to assign accountability for policy outcomes. This little 12 year old Canadian girl has it right. Watch her explain here: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20120515/12-year-old-financial-pundit-becomes-You-Tube-star-120515/


Greece, Followed Closely By Spain.

It appears finally that Greece is about to abandon the euro and drop the charade.

The divide between the supporters of the 130 euro ($168 Billion) EU/IMF bailout and the opponents has resulted in an election that has failed to produce a central government, and a new election is planned. This of course means that the anti-austerity measure supporters won BIG.

Greece is about to run out of money (in June) and there will be no government in place to negotiate the next tranche. Investors are betting that Greece will default and withdraw from the European Union in the next few months. Spanish and Italian bond yields rose as investors fretted the political deadlock meant Greece was on track to become the first country to abandon the euro. Followed closely by Spain and Italy. Germany better start pulling its horns back in.

“We wish Greece will remain in the euro and we hope Greece will remain in the euro … but it must respect its commitments,” European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told a regular news briefing.

The prospect of national bankruptcy and a return to the drachma appeared to be slowly sinking in among Greeks, who must now choose between the pain of spending cuts demanded in return for aid and the prospect of even more hardship without the euro.

“We have to stay in the euro. I’ve lived the poverty of the drachma and don’t want to go back. Never! God help us,” said Maria Kampitsi, 70-year old pensioner, who was forced to shut her pharmacy two years ago due to the economic crisis.

“They must cooperate or we’ll be destroyed. It will be chaos. For once, they must care about us and not their own position.”

Polls suggest SYRIZA would come first if elections were held again, netting it a bonus of 50 extra seats in the 300-seat parliament and raising the odds for an anti-bailout coalition taking control of government.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Greece was in a “dreadfully difficult situation” but would pay a high price if it left the euro.

It looks grim.

While this is happening in Greece, Spanish students are protesting on Barcelona‘s elegant boulevards, public-sector wages are being cut for the second time in three years and resentment is growing against the central government and beneficiaries of bank bailouts.

Such is the daily fallout from the euro zone‘s debt crisis. Like the rest of Spain, Barcelona is looking at several years of hard grind as the country adjusts to living within its means after the collapse of a debt-financed housing bubble that has brought much of the banking sector to its knees.

Spain is more representative of the generally insidious, demoralizing nature of the crisis: austerity is sapping trust in politicians across the euro zone and fraying the social fabric as the bills for years of economic mismanagement are shared out.

“The problem is social. What are we going to do when we have 25 percent unemployment? It’s dramatic,” said Joan Ramon Rovira, head of economic studies at the Barcelona chamber of commerce.

Even though every fourth Spaniard is unemployed, job protection is being eroded. In Barcelona, capital of the northeastern region of Catalonia, hospital wards are being closed, class sizes are growing and university fees are rising.

The result is a hardening of attitudes as various groups campaign to preserve their entitlements. The crisis has also ratcheted up political tensions with Madrid as supporters of Catalan independence increasingly begrudge helping to bankroll the central government, which they feel treats them with disdain.

“Spain is a backpack that is too heavy for us to keep carrying. It’s costing us our development,” said the spokesman for Catalan President Artur Mas, Joan Maria Pique.

Spanish banks have more than 180 billion euros of sour property assets on their books, and analysts fear there is worse to come as recession triggers more corporate and mortgage defaults. Spanish banks have ignored mortgage defaults and slumping housing prices on their balance sheets, so a reading of their books is highly misleading.

House prices have fallen about 25 percent since 2007 and a Reuters poll published on Friday pointed to a further decline of more than 15 percent in 2012-2013.

Roubini Global Economics sees losses ranging from 130 billion euros to 300 billion euros and attaches a 60 percent probability to the need for a sovereign bailout followed, in 2015, by a restructuring of Spain’s debt.

Conversations in Barcelona suggest that people do understand the need for belt-tightening. Importantly, strong family ties constitute a safety net of sorts for the unemployed. But there is a sense that the sacrifices are not being fairly shared.

Felipe Aranguren, 59, who works when he can as a sociologist, rails against Spain’s “rotten” banks and wants higher taxes on the rich to pay for a “New Deal” public-works program.

Psychology student Celia Nisare Bleda, 19, fears that students from poorer families will bear the brunt of the education cuts. With every second young Spaniard out of work, she suspects that not even a degree will be enough to secure a job in Spain that pays decently.

Lots of students were going abroad in search of a better future. So would she if necessary. “With the salaries we’re likely to get, there’s no possibility of having a good life. We’ll be living all our lives like students.” Nisare Bleda said.


Happy Mother’s Day.

While you are busily ordering those roses through 1-800-FLOWERS, have you ever thought about where this holiday came from and why we make a big deal out of this day?
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It began as a Greek festival to honor Rhea, the wife of Cronus and the mother of many deities of Greek mythology, as an annual spring festival and an excuse to drink a lot. Ancient Romans, too, celebrated a spring festival, called Hilaria dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess. It may be noted that ceremonies in honour of Cybele began some 250 years before Christ was born. The celebration made on the Ides of March by making offerings in the temple of Cybele lasted for three days and included parades, games, and masquerades. The celebrations were notorious enough that followers of Cybele were banished from Rome. Which is all we can hope for as the ultimate destiny of Reality TV.
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The more recent history of Mothers Day dates back to 1600s in England. Here a Mothering Sunday was celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter) to honor mothers. After a prayer service in church to honor Virgin Mary (oddly), children brought gifts and flowers to pay tribute to their own mothers. On that occasion, servants, apprentices and other employees staying away from their homes were encouraged by their employers to visit their mothers and honor them. Traditionally children brought with them gifts and a special fruit cake or fruit-filled pastry, which might have been the origin of holiday fruitcake, (later to be re-gifted come Christmas).
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But, in this country, Julia Ward Howe was the first person to promote a day to celebrate Motherhood and to pave the road for an official Mother’s Day holiday in the U.S., when, in 1870, she wrote a now mostly forgotten proclamation. The first Mother’s Day was celebrated in Boston in 1872 on the second Sunday in June as the Mother’s Peace Day Observance.
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Julia Ward Howe is also famous as the writer of the Civil War song, ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic“.
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We would do well to think about her proclamation on this Mother’s Day:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm! Disarm!” The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe
Boston 1870 

High-Yellow Trash.

Now that Obama has come right out and said he supports Gay marriage, the Republican Party must be beside itself. The issues that they want to keep front and center,i.e., “Economy and Jobs under Obama’s Presidency.” have taken a back seat for at least the last couple of days and now seem destined to remain there, in the wake of related equality stories emerging everywhere.

It seems we need to discuss whether marriage has ever meant anything other than between one man and one woman. We have religious leaders reminding us that the bible has stated clearly that the definition of marriage is one man and one woman, but fail to account for the Old Testament, where it states clearly its preference for many hundreds of wives and concubines for a man and often many husbands for a woman.

It also spells out very specifically that if the man refuses to care for his wives, they are free to leave, but of course, without any compensation. Clearly, this “law” wasn’t written in California. But, to be fair, the same law applies to women who refuse to care for their men. I actually think it is a Nevada law; do not get divorced in Nevada.

I guess all of these men of the cloth have chosen their own version of the bible when it comes to specific issues. And, Romney’s church? I think his own Grandfather had a few wives and Mitt, denounced this practice as barbaric, in a separate interview, forgetting apparently that his own family … oh well.

In January, a coalition of some 40 religious leaders, encompassing several faiths, released an open letter warning of the peril of legalizing same-sex unions. And this week, as we have seen, conservatives celebrated a victory in North Carolina, where voters banned same-sex unions by a 3-1 vote. Many of these voters were African-American, who generally share strong views against same-sex marriage. Bishop Harry Jackson, the African-American founder of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, says gay marriage is not a civil rights issue, but fundamentally about redefining the institution of marriage. He thinks the president has miscalculated his clout with the black faith community, which tends to skew conservative on social issues like gay marriage.

“We are concerned that this is a bridge too far. I think it will backlash on the president,” he said.

But not all black religious leaders agree. Bishop Leonard Goin, who heads a Pentecostal congregation in Philadelphia, said in published reports that although he doesn’t support the president’s views on same-sex marriage, he doesn’t think it will give black voters cause to vote against Obama in November.

The bottom line, says Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Church in Dallas, is that the fight over gay marriage goes much deeper than equal rights or political maneuvering. It’s about the fundamental building blocks of the country.

I wonder whether he, like so many of his Southern brethren are referring to the similar fundamental building blocks illustrated so vividly in the history of his region’s racial past. Maybe this passage from James Lee Burke’s Half of Paradise would be a good reminder of some fundamental building blocks that his ancestors used to build the South as we know it today. The same South that just overwhelmingly passed a constitutional ban on Gay Marriage.

                 “Who are you running against?” J.P. Said.

                “Jacob Arceneaux from New Orleans,” Lathrop said. “He’s French and he’s Catholic, and he’ll take most of the parishes in the southern part of the state unless we swing them              over.”

                “How are you going to do that?”

               “Nigger politics,” Virdo Hunnicut said. “Arceneaux has a reputation as a nigger lover. He hasn’t tried to stop the nigger kids from getting in the white schools, and it’s going to hurt him.”

                “We’re running on the segregation ticket,” Lathrop said. “We’re going to show these people in southern Louisiana what will happen when Arceneaux gets in office. Their children will be mixing with the colored children, and pretty soon they won’t be able to tell one from another. The future generations will be one race of high-yellow trash.”

 

There are some of those fundamental building blocks for you. High-yellow trash. This is the actual genesis of the anti-gay-marriage vote, for those of you having trouble understanding how this can happen in a country where 50% of those polled support gay marriage. Fear and ignorance are just as frightening today as they were back in 1957. It’s the same board, just different players. But, we make progress. Sort-of.


Get Over IT!

NC votes on constitutional ban on gay marriage today.

Why in God’s name (good place to start) are we having a National Debate over Gay Marriage?

Today, the great state of North Carolina may become the next state to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman. Right. DEFINING marriage as some state that can only exist between a man and a woman. No man and dog, no woman and woman, no dog and dog (although that would really piss off my Basenjis who think they are already married), but yes, only between a man and a woman.

So, starting with the God thing, a constitutional amendment that essentially defines who may love another is really not in keeping with Christian or Buddhist or Muslim (even) values. Biblical? YES! Of course. Same book that is big on an eye for an eye, and incest and sodomy. No surprise there, but Christian? Not so much. I just don’t see God showing up at the voting booths in North Carolina today and pulling the lever for a constitutional amendment that keeps people from loving each other. I don’t see God showing up at the voting booths in North Carolina at all today, but that’s another story.

North Carolina was one of a few southern states to adopt and prosecute the “feeble-minded” under the science umbrella of eugenics which was finally outlawed in 1979 (along with the invention of cell phones, the Walkman and roller-blades), and as recently as 2011 we’re still debating recompense for the remaining families of those put to death under the aegis of eugenics. Otherwise, a really nice state with some gorgeous golf courses and the home of a former Senator and candidate for the Presidency, presently on trial for fraud, who had lots in common with Jay McInerney, and it wasn’t good wine.

So, I believe in God and I believe in Bill Maher and Barak Obama. Of the three, only Barak is a) willing to visit the state, and b) unwilling to say out loud that he supports Gay Marriage.

But, to paraphrase a Greg Allman line, North Carolina don’t need ya’ around anyhow, ‘cause they have lots of supporters of the amendment, who have responded with marches, television ads and speeches, including one by Jay Bakker, son of late televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and the Rev. Billy Graham, who though dead,  was featured in full-page newspaper ads backing the amendment.

Yeah! That’s right, by God! And, people like this Italian-Jew bitch from New York ain’t helping matters by pushing it in your face. This Lady-Gaga, or whatever … making every homo think that this world belongs to them. Or, wait. Was that Madonna? Or, no … David Bowie, I think. Or, that faggot Bob Dylan … or, maybe it was Elvis?

Obama has said for the past year and a half that his personal views on the matter are “evolving.” His election-year vagueness on gay marriage is now coming under fresh scrutiny of course.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan broke ranks with the White House on Monday (there he is, letting Obama go for the rebound … faggot!), stating his unequivocal support for same-sex marriage one day after Vice President Joe Biden said he is “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex married couples getting the same rights at heterosexual married couples, which is not quite the same as supporting gay marriage, but you know Joe. Obama will also be the only person at tonight’s George Clooney dinner who hasn’t said openly that he supports gay marriage, but everyone who will vote for him knows he does, so it is OK.

Well, if that is OK, then don’t all the people who aren’t going to vote for him also know that he is a gay-lover? I mean, you can’t not vote for the guy twice can you?

This whole debate is much ado about nothing, isn’t it? Unless you happen to be gay, I suppose. I mean don’t all reasonable people agree that the government has no business making laws governing the marital or relationship choices people make, or how many babies they choose to have, or how many French fries or pizzas they consume, or what sort of sex they practice in their bedrooms, or which God they fear or worship, or which movies they see, or baseball teams they root for? Huh?

We have no problem invading other countries and blowing people up, combatants and innocent woman and children alike, destroying their homes and animals in the defense of our access to their oil, but when it comes to allowing two members of the same sex to join in matrimony, we amend the constitution to prevent it? We pass laws to limit the purchase of handguns to one per month per family, but a woman can’t marry another woman? The same country that allows the sale and unlimited consumption of 100 proof alcohol, but punishes the sale and consumption of a gram of Marijuana with long jail sentences, debates the passage of a law allowing men to marry other men? Notice anything out of place here?

The media tells us that one fault line that could determine the result is generational. Older voters, who tend to be more reliable voters, are expected to back the amendment. State House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican from a Charlotte suburb, said even if the amendment is passed, it will be reversed as today’s young adults’ age. “It’s a generational issue,” Tillis told a student group at North Carolina State University in March about the amendment he supports. “If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years.” So, hell, what is everyone worried about? We all know it will be repealed. Its ONLY 20 years!

Those who oppose changing the traditional definition of marriage to include gays and lesbians said the amendment is the only chance average people have to weigh in.

“In other states, judges have redefined marriage, without a vote of the people. That’s happened in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts,” said Tami Fitzgerald, who heads the pro-amendment group Vote FOR Marriage NC. “The origin of marriage is from God, and I think most people in our state know that.” I’m sure they do Tami, I’m sure they do.


Happy Graduation!

No college asked me to give a commencement speech this year, but if they did, I am sure I would defer to some really great, inspiring and incredible people who have already said all there is to say to college graduates on this great day.

Dear Class of 2012,

That’s All Folks!