Monthly Archives: August 2012

Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then, oh wait… we don’t

You can find anything to support your position on the internet – Abraham Lincoln

No, really.  I read it on Facebook.  He must really have said it, right?

Obviously he didn’t.  I did, however, read it there.  I’m sure many of us have.  We can read many things on the internet.  I try very hard not to be taken in by what I see on the internet. I try to verify the facts prior to sharing them with people.  I despise gossip and innuendo.  I do that before posting here, I do it in my private online life, and I do it in my private offline life.  And, still, I got taken this week in my personal online life.

I shared a link from Project.Nsearch which reported that Mitt Romney had said (my emphasis added):

That’s a good question, young man, and I would be happy to answer it. The Vietnam War came at a time in my life when I had other plans. I knew in my heart of hearts that I would one day serve my nation. That I would one day hold an office that would help not only our nation, but also the world. So I did what I could to make sure that I would be around to serve my nation, as well as serving God by teaching very important religious principles to a broader audience overseas. My father did not want me serving, and he convinced me that yes, I was too important to go to Vietnam. I had a greater purpose in life. I wasn’t neglecting my nation, but rather preparing myself for a future of service.

I was outraged!  I should have checked further and it was brought to my attention that this story actually originated on the Freewood Post.  Project.Nsearch should have checked better, and so should I have!  Sadly, it really does sound much like a typical Romney quote.

We have to be better than that!  We have to not spread false information.  It is one thing to enjoy humor and satire, and it is fantastic to share these, but we should never share them as purported factual stories.  We have to be as close to 100% accurate with information as possible.  And, when we make a mistake, then we have to own up to it, and quickly.  As soon as this was made known to me, I posted to my friends in an attempt to undo the damage.  Why?  I am not a large news organization.  I did it, because my word is important, and because the people I talk to, talk to others, and they talk to others, and so on.  We all have an impact.  It was important to let them know that what I had said turned out to be wrong.

Facts matter!  We have to be willing to get past the hyperbole and the rhetoric and deal with actual, real information.  This, too, is an old topic, but it is one that really needs to be driven home repeatedly.  We have to get past any desire or hardheadedness to see our own positions as unassailable or unchangeable.  That is one of the primary differences between a Liberal and a conservative.

And, while that is important and it is something that we need to be aware of, it is not precisely what I actually wanted to talk to you all about today.  Today, I wanted to talk about responsibility.  In a way that is a part of it, because it is the responsibility we each carry for the words we say and the information that we share.  We are responsible for the information that we accept as true.  As adults, we are responsible for making sure that the information that we receive is valid.  Sadly, we cannot trust we are being given accurate information from media sources, from our friends, online, etc.  We must validate and cross-check it.  It is a lot of work to be actually informed.  I have written on this before.  As parents, it is even more important that we do this work for our children!
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Take No Prisoners

March 10, 2003 – Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks while performing a concert at the Sherperd’s Bush Empire theatre in England said, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas. “ which led to a massive backlash from the right and country music fans across America.   For years now, the Dixie Chicks have been blacklisted from many radio stations because of those 12 words – “we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

She received death threatsPlural.  Their song which had been at number 10 on the charts dropped to number 42 the next week and off the chart the following week.  Their CDs were gathered and destroyed in a modern equivalent of a book burning.  One mother was so hateful that she taught her small child to say “screw ‘em”

“BILL O’REILLY: They don’t know what they’re talking about. Callow foolish women, who deserve to be slapped around.”

Did you catch that?  “Respected” right-wing “journalist” advocating slapping them around for their exercise of their free speech.   Because she said, “we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas” and according to some right wing pundits, specifically because she said it on foreign soil.  Ashamed.  Oh, the horror.

Now, contrast this, if you would, with the words spoken in Singapore by one Dave Mustaine of Megadeth on August 7, 2012.  “Back in my country, my president is trying to pass a gun ban.  So he’s staging all of these murders, like the Fast and Furious thing down at the border and Aurora, Colorado, all the people that were killed there. And now the beautiful people at the Sikh temple.”

So, he’s a birther, which is whacko enough but whatever.   We recognize peoples’ right to free speech.  We recognize peoples’ rights to develop conspiracy theories.  At what point does that cross into slander?  At what point, does accusing someone, and in this case the POTUS of murder cross the line?  And, regardless, it is a slap in the face to the victims and their families in these horrible crimes.

Let me also point out that the right wing hysteria that Obama wants to take away their guns is just more evidence that they are insane.  Even the Brady Center, which is an openly avowed gun control advocacy group, gives Obama an F on Gun Control.  Funny that he would consider moving to Singapore, too, what with having some of the most restrictive gun control laws on the planet.

This crosses significant lines, and where is the outrage.  Where is the backlash?  Where is the right wing outrage that he did this on foreign soil?  I am told by a conservative friend that the conservative radio hosts were denouncing it, but we are certainly not seeing the same outrage that we saw over the Dixie Chicks.  Are we to argue that the country music fans are more skewed to the right than the metal fans?  That may have some validity.  However, I know many more metal fans personally than I do country fans, and while that does not make a statistically valid sampling, I know a surprising number of them who are conservative.  I am not seeing the outrage amongst them either.  I did a quick Google search and I am not finding any Conservative condemnation of it, much less any outrage.

In fact, it is much like when Ted Nugent made his comments which could have been taken as a threat against Obama’s life recently.  It should be noted that he was interviewed by the Secret Service and it was probably quickly recorded in his permanent record that he peed himself and showed that he is all talk and show, as he tucked his tail between his legs and cowered in a corner, but regardless, they did clear him of making any actual threat against the POTUS.  The words which got him in that position though were spoken on April 14, 2012, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.“  And, the right did not get offended.  They did not step up with the hackneyed, “My president right or wrong” that they scream at anyone who dared to criticize Bush the younger.  No.  In fact, they simply brushed it off as hyperbole.


How many bankers does it take to rob a nation of millions?

Did you hear the one about the group of bankers that manipulated the bank interest rates in order to make millions?  No?  No, not Lehman Brothers.  They failed because of a lack of regulation and over extending themselves in a subprime bubble.  Nooo, not Bear Stearns.  They failed because they failed to keep enough capital to back up their investments.  Nor, any number of other banks that most of us have heard of.  Sadly, it’s not a joke, and it is being almost completely ignored in the main stream media.

In fact, other than a passing reference in most places, it really isn’t getting much coverage anywhere outside of dedicated financial news, and yet, this is one that is hugely important.

So, what the heck is it?  The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and its manipulation by Barclays Bank staff.  Oh?  You haven’t heard about it?  That wouldn’t surprise me.  And, yet, it has the possibility to impact as much as $800 trillion in various financial products!  Granted, that’s the extreme end, and it is likely only $3 trillion.  Did you read that correctly?  $3 trillion.  With a T.  Three times the annual US budget deficit for each of the last three years that the American politicians and media make such a brouhaha about, and yet, there is almost no coverage of it.

How can this rate be so important?  Because more than half of every contract, loan, credit card, and mortgage rate is tied to the LIBOR.  It is specified in the contract.  So, when a small handful of people are sending e-mails back and forth with one literally asking the  other to either raise or lower this rate so that they can make a few million dollars, this is a big problem for the rest of us.  It affects the interest rates that we are being charged for the instruments that are attached to it.

The worst part is that this is not new.  The Wall Street Journal first released a study revealing this might be possible in 2008.  The New York Federal Reserve released documents in 2012 showing that they have known banks were falsely setting the LIBOR as far back as 2007, and yet, chose to do nothing about this.

So, what is the real impact here?   Well, the lawsuits have already started.  In fact, Barclays paid a $450 million fine to settle charges that they lied about their rate.  But, that’s just the beginning.

Who has a claim? “Anyone with a floating rate. The suits are building with some class actions forming already,” says bank analyst Glenn Schorr of Nomura. Earlier this year three plaintiff groups including Charles Schwab and the City of Baltimore filed suits against the 16 banks that submit Libor rates accusing them of collusion, or price fixing, under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Think about that.  Anyone with a floating rate.  Any of the ARM mortgages.  Any credit cards.  etc.

So, how long will it be before this is the new line of defense against foreclosure?  Where are the smart lawyers to use it in Bankruptcy proceedings?  They’re coming.  And, they will have a strong case.  Barclays was smart.  They plead out.  It will give them some legal standing and leniency when the time comes.  The rest will have fought it, and will therefore face a harder road when they’re caught out.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  What you haven’t heard is going to be huge.  What should really scare you is why they’re keeping this so under wraps.  If it is only being peripherally covered, then you know that you need to know!!

Today’s column is a lot lighter on detail than many that I present.  I am aware.  The problem is that no one really knows the depths of the problem that we face.  Or, rather, the people who do know, are not talking.  We know that Barclays has admitted their part.  It is likely that most, if not all, of the other 17 banks involved in calculating the LIBOR are also guilty of the same type of fixing.  In fact, it is most likely that these banks were coordinating together.  That is, admittedly, speculation.  It is, however, speculation based on well founded suspicion and it is shared by those who are actually investigating this, as you will have seen if you followed the links above.

So, then, for a column that tries very hard to focus on known facts to have veered into this grey area, as a reader, you would have every reason to ask, “Why?”.  The answer is two fold.  One, because even though we do not have the facts yet, this is important and has the potential to have massive waves when it does hit.  Two, because we need to be seeking out the information on this.  We need to be making noise and asking questions.  We need to be talking amongst ourselves, calling our representatives, senators, etc and demanding of them that they are looking into it.  It needs to be a proactive concern.  That, is why.

Money for nothing, and your speech is free

This space is not about Chick-fil-A today.

Chick-fil-A is simply a convenient example.  In fact, the first time that this space mentioned Chick-fil-A, it wasn’t devoted to Chick-fil-A either.  It was listed among several others that should be avoided if one is a socially conscious, even politically moderate person in the USA; much less if one is an actual Liberal.

I have seen a number of people saying essentially, “Enough already!  I don’t want to hear any more!” regarding Chick-fil-A.  I think that’s excellent.  Really, I do.  It means that the point is getting across in this short attention-span theater society that we live in.  Even more than that though, it means that a larger number of people than I expected are carrying it on longer than hoped.  The difficulty with any socially conscious movement is that it takes time and commitment.  Whereas those who came out in response to Mike Huckabee’s call to support Dan Cathy’s position by a day of support at Chick-fil-A only needed to show up one day and spend their money, and then they can get on with their lives as normal.  Those who are committed to a boycott must sustain it for a much longer term.  In fact, they must essentially be willing to commit to it forever, if that’s what it takes, and with Chick-fil-A, that is very likely, exactly what it will take.

Free Speech? – No matter how many times those on the right try to redefine this issue as a free speech issue, it is not.  I personally, find it a detestable stance, however it is Dan Cathy’s right to hold whatever beliefs he has and to state those beliefs.  The issue is the actions that WinShape have supported using the funds from Chick-fil-A sales and our unwillingness to allow our dollars to support that.  Mike Huckabee in the article linked above continues to show that he is, in fact, either a liar, stupid, or believes that his audience is stupid.

Huckabee said when he’s doing business with any company, “I’m not buying their politics. I’m buying their product. “

If that were true, then we would never, for example, hear anyone suggest using sanctions against North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, China, etc.  Of course, you are supporting a company’s politics when you buy their products.  To tell your audience that you are not is simply disingenuous or worse yet, showing that you are, in fact, lacking in intelligence yourself.  So, which is it, Mr. Huckabee?  Are you a liar that is counting on the ignorance of your audience or are you an idiot?

See, here is the real crux of the problem for those on the right, and one that they don’t want to face.  This is precisely what they claim they want to see happening in the market place.  This is the “free market” at work.  The people see a business, and they’re not happy with it.  The reason they are not happy with it is irrelevant, isn’t it?  That is what the free market is theoretically about.  So, the people choose not to shop there.  The free marketers should be cheering this movement as an example of the triumph of their beliefs!

Ah, but wait.  This is like the free elections that we say we want around the world, isn’t it?  We want free elections in Palestine, for example, but if the results are not to our liking, then we support embargoes and other actions, further impoverishing the people and exacerbating the conditions out of which so-called terrorists are created.  The right does not like the reason, so they throw a fit and cry, “FOWL!”

A few weeks ago, the same people who are now screaming about how Chick-fil-A is being picked on, were throwing a temper tantrum because of this image:

Oreo Pride Cookie

The response from some on the right was to call for a boycott.  There were many that were all a twit and angry about this.  And, that was free speech!  That was just an image.  That was not action.  That was not spending money to support the suppression of equal rights for others.  hmmmmm, I sense a bit more hypocrisy here.

Here is another free speech issue.  A bakery in Lakewood, CO refusing to make a cake for a gay couple.  Actually, for any LGBT couples.  That is his right.  Again, I think it’s disgusting, but that is his right.  It is also the right of people to refuse to do business there and to protest it. That is their free speech.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?  Free speech means that you get to say what you believe, but it doesn’t mean that you are the only one who gets to, or that you are protected from the consequences of what you said or did.  The rest of us have that same right.

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