Archive for January, 2010

Dismantlement of Fair Play Rules

Posted in Atheism, culture, Government, history, politics, random, thoughts, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2010 by chouck017894

Time Frame 1913:  The Federal Reserve Act established the national banking system, and in 1914, when Democrat Woodrow Wilson was President, the Federal Trade Commission Act outlawed unfair or deceptive business practices.  In the closing months of 1929 when Republican Herbert Hoover was President, the stock marked crashed, leading to the 1933 Glass-Steagal Act that set apart the “commercial banks” dealing primarily with checking and savings from the “investment banks” that dabbled in speculative trading and mergers.

In the decade after World War II years, prosperity, optimism and jitters over the threat of Communism kept the national financial climate fairly free of gross extortion for a while.  By 1968, when Democrat Lydon Johnson was President, it became necessary to enact the Truth in Lending Act, which required banks to disclose their loan terms and fees.  Greed hates restrictions and so the money-worshipers engineered a means of weakening the Glass-Steagal Act and getting installed the Bank Holding Company Act in 1970.  The clever finagling allowed the “commercial banks,” limited to checking and savings, a means of sidestepping via holding companies so the commercial banks could accept not only deposits but could also make commercial loans.  The next step in loosening banking activities occurred in 1978 when the Supreme Court approved giving the right to banks to make loans in states other than where the banks wer headquartered.  Naturally, that set off a stampede to states such as South Dakota and Delaware where consumer protections were not strong. 

Interest rates climbed after 1978, and a measure was pushed through Congress by Republican Jake Garn of  Utah that pulled off usury caps for mortgages.  By the next year Senator Garn was the chair of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.  His fellow deregulation advocate, M. Danny Wall, of the Office of Thrift Supervision, was made the majority staff director, and the lobbyists were ecstatic.  Thus set in power, Senator Garn then coauthored the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act, which deregulated the savings and loan businesses.  By 1984, when Republican Ronald Reagan acted as President, the S&Ls began to crash in Texas, and throughout the next decade over 1000 trifts failed nationwide, which cause the loss of $124 billion of taxpayer money.

Time Frame 1988:  Republican George H. W. Bush was president.  The collapse of the Silverado S&L, whose board members included Neil Bush, left a taxpayers’ liability of around $1.3 billion.  The federal Office of Thrift Supervision determined that Neil Bush’s engineering of loans constituted “multiple conflicts of interest.”  Interestingly, early in the next year President G. H. W. Bush move quickly to bail out S&L industries. And curiously the government then took over most of a $5 million second mortgage on the President’s son Jeb’s Miami office building.

Some six years later, 1995, when Democrat William J. Clinton was  President, the Republican dominated Congress jockeyed the Truth in Lending Act into law, a reform that greatly eased the regulations on creditors.  In late December of ’95, the jockeying continued; this time by Republican Newt Gingrich’s involvement and a measure that made it more difficult to sue companies for securities fraud was enacted!  This was followed eight months later with the Office of Thrift Supervision issuing a rule that preëmpted nearly all state laws that had regulated S&L dealings.

 Through 1997-1998 heavy lobbying or the Republican Congress, financed by $200 million from FIRE sector (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) and $150 million from political donations, pushed agenda items that included the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act to facilitate mergers.   This opened the means for Citicorp and Travelers to merge into a $70 billion corporation—which had been technically illegal under the Glass-Steagall Act. And Conseco was then free to purchase powerhouse Green Tree in a $5 billion deal.  In 1999 the Gramm-Leach-Biley Act was the coup de grâce for the Glass-Steagall Act, and it was not a mercy killing; its passage flung open the door for a wave of megamergers among banks, insurance and securities companies.  The driving force behind this insult to fairness ws Republican Senator Phil Gramm from Texas aided by Republican Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Thomas J. Biley of Virginia. 

Gramm was not through though.  Just when Congress was anxious to close up shop for the Christmas recess, Senator Gramm cunningly attached a 262 page amendment to an omnibus appropriations bill, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.  The attachment served to deregulate derivatives trading, which allowed an eruption in new unregulated securities as well as the Enron disaster.  Among the flock of vultures wer the lobbyists for the National Association of Realtors, fat with $13 million, that persuaded Congress to approve the American Homeownership and Economic Opportunity Act, which really made it harder for consumers to get our of lender-required insurance.

Needless to say, abuses in subprime activities exploded.  For example, in 2001 the Federal Trade Commission then had to sue the nation’s second largest subprime originator, Citigroup and its subsidiary Associates, for abusive lending practices that had involve over two million borrowers.  For Citigroup the suit was but a mosquito bite which was brushed off with a trifling $250 million settlement.

 Time Frame, entry into the 21st century:  The Republican machine was in full control, and Congress was urged to roll back subprime regulation by Stephen W. Prough, chairman of Ameriquest.  In self-defense the state of Georgia enacted an anti-predatory law designed to protect its citizens from subprime abuses and Ameriquest campaign against it, getting Standard and Poor, a division of McGraw-Hill to refuse to rate Georgia’s mortgage securities.  That effectively choked off credit supply to the state’s homebuyers, and the protective law was soon gutted.

Meanwhile, good old Phil Gramm was still wheeling and dealing.  This good buddy of Republican John McCain joined up with the Swiss investment bank UBS to “advise clients on corporation finance issues and strategy.”  He would also lobby Congress, the Treasury and the Fed on mortgage and banking issues.  Of course there was a great industry push to eliminate predatory lending rules.  By 2003 HSBC could buy pu Household finance, the nation’s fourth largest subprime lender.  Ameriquest succeeded in having New Jersey’s anti-predatory law gutted through intimidation tactics.  Happy with their lucrative activities Ameriquest then shelled out $200 million to the Bush campaign. 

In 2004, with Bush still saddled-up in the Oval Office, the Federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a final ruling which preëmpted states from applying most of their credit laws to national banks and their subsidiaries.  In 2005, what some called the Loan Shark Protection Act (officially known as the Responsible Lending Act) was deceptively billed by its promoter as an anti-predatory lending measure, but which actually preëmpted stronger state laws.  Its sponsor was Republican Representative Robert Ney of Ohio–who would later go to prison for his involvement in the Abramoff scandal.

The Bush-Cheney years would afford the nation such things as the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention Act (2005), sponsored by Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, which actually made it still harder for consumers to discharge debts: businesses, of course, were not affected.  By March of 2007 Republican Senator John McCain announced that Senator Phil Gramm (yes, that Gramm) would join his presidential campaign as its co-chair and economic policy adviser.  But the nation’s financial crisis was already underway, thanks in part to Gramm.  There would follow the virtual meltdown of such outfits as the subprime giant New Century Financial, Dillon Read Capital Management, General Motors finance unit, American Home Mortgage, Countrywide Mortgage lender, and even Wall Street.  Ameriquest simply blew away.

But former bosses of such outfits as Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Countrywide were being questioned by Congress about the $40 million they had received throughout the five-year primetime boom.  Monopoly practices, once outlawed, continued with Bear Stearns taking over J. P. Morgan Chase in a Fed-engineered bailout—an action passed without the number of votes that are required by law.  Senator McCain knew how to ease the nation’s problems: just remove regulatory, accounting, and tax impediments to raising capital, he said!  And G. W. Bush said that he would veto legislation that sought to provide $300 billion for struggling homeowners, declaring it would be a “burdensome bailout” and the lenders would have to renegotiate some mortgages.  He would leave office with these words, “In terms of the economy, look, I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession.”  Records show that there was a surplus in reserve when he swore to serve the people.  Maybe it would look better on his record if he hadn’t immediately given that away to the already-rich.

 

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Supreme Court NOT for the Citizens

Posted in Atheist, culture, faith, Government, history, life, politics, random, religion with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by chouck017894

Why in the name of justice does the U. S. Supreme Court seem to be conspiring to screw the U.S. citizens?  This president-nominated and sentate-appointed group of judges today, largely from Republican nomination, has moved in an alarming direction ever since it interfered with citizen voting rights and overruled the popular vote to install G. W. Bush as the god-sent president.  That certainly worked out well.

So here we are in the closing days of January 2010 (the 20th), still reeling and trying to recover from the financial and moral disasters that the Bible-based Bush administration oversaw, and the supposedly unbiased Supreme Court has actually eased corporate political campaign spending!  The floodgates were flung wide-open by this august body so all the obscenely wealthy special interest gangsters can organize and coördinate their underhanded and deceiving ad campaigns (remember the disgraceful swiftboat lies?) with millions of corporate dollars now freed for use in crushing true democracy.

Things do not add up as true justice in any demonstrations of across-the-board representation of, by or for the people.  No religion, for example, is supposed to be shown partiality by the government, but today the diversity of citizen’s faiths are subjected to the decisions of a Supreme Court where six of the nine Justices are CATHOLIC—a two-thirds imbalance.  That certainly does not jibe percentage-wise with the nation’s diverse choices of faith systems.

This imbalance in religious representation is a legitimate reason for citizen concern, especially since the Supreme Court asserts “unreviewable power” (stated by Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice, 1969 to 1986).  Burger also noted that the court is likely to “self-indulge itself,” and that it was unlikely to “engage in dispassionate analysis.”

It has been noted among other critics that the Supreme Court, as it stands now, pretty much promotes a culture in which its interpretation of the nation’s laws is easily wielded as a weapon of intimidation and not a protective means that covers of, by and for the people.  A sense of true or equal justice for the citizens does not equate with lifetime tenure that the Justices enjoy; it does not relate with the majority of citizen conditions.   No judge has to relent his/her seat due to medical incapacity; there have been those who remained on the bench despite age-related deterioration and still passed judgments from an older cultural understanding.

In the political times of Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father of the United States and the first U. S. Secretary of the Treasury, he could assess life tenure thus: “Nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence as permanency in office.”  He would probably see some flaws in that assessment if he dropped back in for a visit today.

Taking the Fun Out of Fundamentalism

Posted in Atheist, Bible, culture, faith, history, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2010 by chouck017894

Fundamentalism is the belief in some old “sacred” literature—usually composed by authority-hungry authors—as being literal truth and factual historical record which commonly includes elements regarded as uncontroversial prophecy.  In Christian fundamentalism, stories from the Jewish Torah are used as a springboard for the doctrine of Creationism, blended with such “miraculous” accounts as virgin birth, the physical resurrection of a world savior, and his anticipated physical “second coming.”

With such unnatural and improvable assertions accepted as fact, there was set in place the basis for unswerving and unalterable principles of religious-philosophical belief.  Unfortunately, unswerving belief and rigidity of a doctrine does not insure its value as truth.

The Christian fundamentalism that we see today in the early 21st century America took root in the early 20th century as a movement to counter the Darwinian evolution theory and the threat of liberal (nonjudgmental) theology.  It was around 1909 that a group of protesters began circulating a publication called The Fundamentals that avowed five key points regarded as holy and fundamental.  1) The infalliblity of Scriptures, 2) the Virgin birth of the Son of God, 3) the physical resurrection of Jesus, 4) Jesus as replacement in atonement for mankind’s sins, 5) and the return of Jesus in a judgmental rendezvous.

By 1925 the frenzy of fundamentalism was so infectious that a teacher in the state of Tennessee—J. T. Scopes—was brought to trial for teaching the science-based theory of evolution.  In the so-called “monkey trial” the teacher was convicted for exposing his pupils to truth.  The fundamentalists took strength from the verdict and throughout the rest of the 1920s attempted to rid churches and schools of any scientific inquiry of what they regarded as the perverse modernism of evolution. 

Fundamentalists found their cause a bit more challenging than they liked and through the 1930s, with the broader public snickering at them as extremists and anti-intellectuals, they began to pull apart, settling into various independent churches or becoming splinter denominations.  In the next decade, however, the fundamentalists attempted a new tact to attract wider following: they would present their belief in a pseudo-scholarly way, and the movement became referred to as neoevangelicalism.  It was a tact that picked up steam to develop into the political steamroller that now flattens a broad swathe across rationality in 21st century United States.

If nothing else, the fundamentalists do know how to kick up a fuss and present a facade of righteousness—just as the “prophets” of the Old Testament intentionally disturbed the things as they existed and sought to change them for their own ends.  All this was obsessively indulged in and fertilized by persons with inflated egos (Billy Graham comes to mind), and in the 1950s they discovered television and the wealth it could siphon in.  By the 1970s the fundamentalists were worming their way into electoral and legislative politics, and waxing profusely against secular humanism and happily passing judgment on such things as communism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, and the constitutional safeguard of separation of church and states affairs. 

The exercise of control is the fundamentalists’ aim, theocracy their goal.  In that pursuit they have found it convenient to discard many teachings of the teacher as presented in the earliest New Testament books.  They claim to be devoted to a government based on Biblical examples—Old Testament blood and guts style—being careful to stifle its many glorifications of inhumane conduct, wars, deceits, enslavement and injustices that allegedly met with God’s approval.

Heaven’s Insensitive Ambassador

Posted in Atheist, belief, Christianity, culture, history, humanity, politics, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2010 by chouck017894

January 2010:   As the horrendous devastation of the Haitian earthquake flashed upon a shocked world, Pat Robertson seized upon the phenomenon of indifferent nature to display the true depth of his Christian compassion for human tragedy.  As usual it was all about what his ego chose to twist  into what he considered relative.  This self-proclaimed ambassador of God thus used his Christian Broadcasting Network to spread the news that the reason for the horrendous suffering of the Haitians was due to the abused slaves having revolted against the French slaveholders there over two centuries ago!  Robertson’s claim is that they had “made a pact with the devil” back then to gain their basic human rights!  Well, of course he is backed by the fact that the Bible nowhere ever condemned slavery.

We should remember that this is the same self-proclaimed representative of Christ who once claimed that he could stop a hurricane through prayer.  He apparently never felt obliged to offer any prayer for New Orléans when Katrina roared out of the southeast—or afterward for that matter.  Instead he said nature’s fury was all because the Master of Ceremonies for the Oscar presentation was by a lesbian who happened to have been born there.  Sure; it made perfect sense to a mind that would also advocate assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Like all religious pretenders, Robertson has no hesitation about fracturing the truth to serve his purpose.  In his presidential bid in 1988, for example, Robertson’s campaign literature stated that he had been a combat Marine in the Korean War.  Genuine Korean War Marine veterans objected to his implied “combat” status, saying that Robertson’s real service record was the responsibility to serve alcoholic beverages to his officers. 

There are so many “divine” Robertson quotes to inspire the irrational that it would take too much space for this blog.  A half-dozen must suffice.  1) On why Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke on the fourth of January 2006, Robertson said that Sharon was felled because he  “…was dividing God’s land.”  After all, the (priest-written) Old Testament stated that God had claimed Israel as his own.  2) About equal rights for women, Robertson actually said that the “…feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women.  It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.  3) Robertson’s low regard for women was again revealed in his statement, “…if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household, and the husband is the head of the wife, and that’s the way it is, period.”  4) Robertson advocated nuking the State Department, saying, “Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up.”  5) On America being too liberal and his propaganda that evangelical Christians were being persecuted, he avowed that it was no different from what Nazi Germany had done to the Jews.  He elaborated and embellished, of course.  “It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians.  Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America todayMore terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history.”  (Italics added by this author.)  6) Robertson’s dream of a theocracy replacing democracy was revealed in this humble prayer: “Lord, give us righteous judges who will not try to legislate and dominate this society.  Take control, Lord!  We ask for additional vacancies on the court.”  (In other words, Kill ’em off, Lord, so we Christians can dominate society.)

Apparently the Lord heard his prayer, and America was blessed with Bush-Cheney who attained office not by democratic vote, but by the “none-interferring” action of righteous judges.

The Art of History Making

Posted in Atheist, culture, history, humanity, life, politics, random, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , on January 14, 2010 by chouck017894

History, it has been wisely observed, is what has been bestowed upon us by the victors of some ideology.  Broadly speaking, that which is so generously and glowingly offered does not prove the victors were necessarily smarter, stronger or blessed by god, but too often serves to disguise their devotion to deceit and savagery as some example of their righteousness.

The history of humanity is largely about the repeated crises caused by power-lust and opposition to it, with the victor always claiming—or at least inferring—rule attained by divine favoritism.  That might be said true only to the degree that the human species is the most cunning and vicious species of the animal kingdom.  History books and scriptural works seem to confirm that such a means of determining fitness to rule is approved by Heaven.

Among the mountainous piles of histories few lines about the silent (victimized) majority ever get included.  (Which is why this author, not a historian in the accepted toe-the-line academic sense, searched out the information that became Time Frames and Taboo Data.)  The victors then strut across the supply lines of the real producers of a unified social life while pretending elitism as they clutch the throats of journalists, chroniclers and compilers of archives, and thereby extort wealth from the real producers in society to build monuments to themselves.

 Trying to hear some objecting sounds from the voiceless majority by any chronicler seeking honesty is a practice in self-inflicted frustration.  The result, too often, is the slow draining away of one’s faith in Truth.  History is then accepted more as an instrument of exclusion, exaggeration and pretense.  Accuracy in presenting the victor’s rise to power then gets assessed with indifference, and thus the academic books contain many errors and contrived “reporting.”  And time tends to dilute the lies, which aids and abets the deceivers, allowing them to escape the responsibility for proving the legitimacy of their claims. 

This art of making history is seen in accelerated form in today’s high-tech world of television, internet and cell phones.  Tyrants still claim divine right or blessing to tyrannize the masses, still churn out in-your-face lies, and still destroy as much genuine justice and rights of individuality as possible.  Examples:  Iran and its so-called Supreme Leader and theocratic constitution; Afghanistan and its Taliban twist on the Quran and opium trade; Mexico and its Catholicism and murderous drug tsars; the United States and its delusional religionists and the demented tea-baggers; etc., etc.

There is another unfortunate thing about any history book: that is the fact that no language can represent the reality as experienced by all persons.  That catch-22 should not cause us to give up the pursuit of truth, however, for it is in that pursuit that man’s diverse societies open themselves to broader acceptance and tolerance—the keys to enlightenment. 

So we must face the reality that only the actors change, the script repeated in only slightly modified form, and little, if anything, of spiritual value ever seriously touched upon.

Miracle Men of Scriptures

Posted in Atheist, belief, culture, faith, humanity, life, logic, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , on January 8, 2010 by chouck017894

Obsessive readers of scriptural tales often find themselves pondering upon the alleged wonder-workings recorded in their sacred books and bemoan the loss of  the “age of miracles.”  But it remains nothing short of miraculous in itself that so many of those people in our technological age could seriously think that “laws” of universal functioning would be set aside for nothing more than some special-effects show that was whipped up simply to awe some select band of ragtag nomads.

Readers are inundated with improvable characters such as Elijah, Elisha, and even Jesus who are portrayed as having fed multitudes of followers, for example, but they did nothing whatsoever to aid starving people anywhere in the world.  They did nothing to thwart corruption anywhere, although the did rail against perceived injustice to their concerns.  They did nothing that would reduce ignorance from which prejudice and hatreds breed.  They did nothing to stop man’s inhumane treatment of  “lesser” life forms (animal cruelty).  In fact, by all scriptural accounts the “miracle men” of yore did nothing of genuine benefit to actually advance or enlighten humankind in any substantial way.

 In short, those “miracle men” given to us as examples in scriptural myths were not the producers of or for society—i.e. they did not create anything by mental or physical effort that would be of serviceable or utilitarian benefit for others.  Indeed, these characters are actually held up as praiseworthy for often having to flee from established community rules, and that their existence most often depended upon what they could extract or beg from others—their alleged miraculous feeding of multitudes not withstanding.  How is this means of self-preservation any different from that of parasites?

Most often we read that these non-producing “miracle men” did much preaching, orating and sermonizing, during which they arrogantly assailed their gullible listeners for being sinful and unworthy beings.  These characters are presented as habitually praising an external and separate being who is declared to be the all-wise, omnipotent, all-powerful creator of the universe but who, for some never explained reason, needed their nonstop theatrics and harangues to accomplish the all-wise one’s wishes.  The reward that these “miracle men” offered society for supporting them with handouts was the hope of someday being accepted into a country-club-like paradise which the “miracle men” could not prove.

 The respect that is lavished upon those alleged miracle men of yore who shamelessly claimed personal access to “revealed wisdom” but who were non-producers can be indulged in only at the expense of every one of us setting aside the survivor mechanism that is a built-in feature of each life form’s natural defense system.  Once that necessary ability for rational thought is blunted down by orating, preaching, and sermonizing by non-producers in today’s society, the absurdities of their performances become transfigured into moral instruction!  The spiritually abused victims of  such divine manipulating are our society’s real, genuine producers who get conned into supporting the endless talkers in an easy non-productive life style.

Truth in Chains

Posted in Atheist, belief, culture, Government, history, humanity, life, politics, random, thoughts with tags , , , , , , on January 4, 2010 by chouck017894

Radical politics and organized hard-line (fundamental) religions seem to be pretty much constructed on scaffolds of lies.  This has, of course, contributed heavily to the great puzzles of the modern world.  That hallowed tradition of crucifying truth has insured the growth of indifference to truth, the very principle which was once understood to be the cement that bound differing elements of society in a shared edifice of moral strength.

Once truth is crucified it loses its salvation powers, and attempts to use relics from its corpse to fire-up the devotion of would-be devotees only mocks the living.  The consequence of building on a scaffold of lies, even those little white lies, is that those miniscule cracks in truth allows the sewage of prejudice and intolerance to seep in.  Indications of wobbly scaffolding and cracked truth then show up in social situations where citizens are made hesitant to demand the truth and denounce what is detectably false.  Concessions to those using fabrication in their approach to social problems only makes it impossible to defend the moral  distinction between right and wrong. 

In the United States today, citizens have witnessed that quandary being increasingly played out over the last few decades in the pursuit of temporal advantages in both the control exercises of politics and religion.  Of course each contender claims exclusive access to truth.  Unfortunately, people who are led to wonder over who, what or which to believe generally do not stop believing—they simply will themselves to believe anything.  That, in turn, weakens social order.  There can be no practicable and durable social order without trust, and trust is anchored only in respect for truth—or at least in an agreement on some truth-finding procedures.

The religious-political tyranny practiced in an exercise of half-truths serves only as the expressway into doubt—not only doubt of the subject or issues inspiring the half-truths, but it also motivates reasonable doubts of the ones who persistently mangle the truth.  Such is the case today in the United States with what is left of the Republican Party—the radical fringe—that is now lost in an orgy of  fabrications and a stubborn refusal to reach beyond their self-serving “party” policies of citizen repression, war mongering and profit gouging.

History has shown—more than a few times—that when fundamentalism (political or religious) attains power, that power is used to persecute everyone not of their narrow mindset—i.e., their conviction which openly rejects the truth of the Creator’s partiality to a wide diversity of life expressions.

Any moral and  just governing of the masses can function only where there is practiced mutual respect, compliance to just laws, fidelity to contracts made, compassion in judgment, and the tolerance of non-threatening life styles.  All these are really characteristics of a devotion to truth.