Thursday, July 24, 2008

Take this to the FED

Remember when I told y'all about how Congress is cooking up some credit card reform...and I didn't point y'all in the right direction? I've made it better. Thanks to some bird named Liz Pulliam Weston, we've now got some direction. She says that y'all got until August 4th, to make yourselves heard at the Fed, which will possibly recommend (and kind of impose not so sharp-toothed) regulation on the banks. I plagiarized the shit out of her specific suggestions, though not her thoughts/analysis, and (anonymously) fired off some lame-ass shit. I've so graciously posted it here. It says that over 19,000 submissions have been sent. Get on it.

Having made so many unwise loans and even more unwise investment portfolio decisions, the banks are in a position where they need cash. It is fully understandible that banks must be well-capitalized, for, quite simplified, if banks don't have money, nobody has money.

But, their unwise decisions (any savvy participant in securities market would know to never chase yield), should not be borne by the backs of the people, who, as it is, will surely have to fund a taxpayer bailout/subsidy. Banks with credit card divisions should not be given carte blanche to scalp credit card accountholders just because, as we are the lowest on the credit food chain, we are an easy mark.

Capitalism- where banks can take advantage of inefficiencies and people's own ignorance- is one thing; a corporate bordello- where banks are allowed to make all the rules, tilting the playing field to their advantage- is another.

Corporations (and related entities) already have more rights than people. The MBNA-supported (since swallowed up by Bank of America) bankrupcy law is one example, where corporations have a greater legal right to declare bankrupcy than citizens.

Another example is that banks can "export" interest rates across states more easily than people can (legally) transport guns across state lines.

Finally, the credit card companies have the right to alter your credit card agreement at any time and for any reason. Nominally, we have no negotiating rights; any attempt to alter those terms, it typically states, would result in cancellation of the account agreement (read: they will close your account faster than they can wipe their asses with the paper on which you wrote your "amendments.").

In practice, of course, we do have negotiating powers (not rights), subject to our leverage and credit scores. Unless one has a credit score- which has dubious underlying logic and serious underlying reporting issues- of 760 or above, one is fighting uphill.

Among the practices that should be banned is retroactive re-pricing, or jacking up the rate on an existing credit card balance, for any reason other than the customer paying late. This would be on a par with welching.

On the subject of late payments, we must eliminate arbitrary due times, which make a payment late if it arrives on the due date but does so after, say, 1 p.m. Central time. How can this effectively be proven or dis-proven? The mail comes post-marked, but not time-stamped.

Eliminate double-cycle billing, which essentially charges two months' interest on a balance carried only one month.

Unfair payment allocation, in which the issuer applies your monthly payment only to your lowest-rate balance (typically a balance transfer), so that your higher-rate balances- typically purchases and cash advances- continue to accrue interest. No one of sound mind would agree to such an allocation, so banks should not have the right to impose such terms.

Bait-and-switch offers, in which one interest rate is heavily advertised but applicants wind up with another, much higher one. Banks know- through "soft" inquiries"- the approximate credit rating of each person to whom they make an offer. So, especially given all the impositions they make upon the cardholders, if a cardholder is going to be subjected to a "hard" credit inquiry, the banks should have to make a firm offer beforehand.

Ban the charging overdraft fees based on holds. Certain merchants (gas stations, hotels, car rental outfits) are notorious for placing big holds on your checking account when you use a debit card. These holds are typically for far more than you actually spend and may not be released for hours or even days after the transactions, yet some banks count these holds as actual transactions and charge fees as if you'd actually overdrawn your account. The consumer (though the parent company of the bank may own such merchants) certainly has no control over the amount of a hold and these holds are not subject to any binding regulation, industry standard or even custom and usage. The only person at risk here, through no action of our own, is the consumer.

Along those lines, ban mandatory bounce protection, or "courtesy overdraft" coverage, that can't be turned off, which means overdraft transactions automatically get approved and rack up big fees, hardly a courtesy. It's one thing for consumers to knowingly exceed their limits and it's not the government's responsibility- though it will do so for the banks- to save one from one's own unwise spending habits. But, such an option- and, indeed, notice- should be presented to the consumer before the actual transaction and resulting imposition of fees. Unbeknownst to the consumer, there may be an exorbitant hold, as explained above, placed on the account by a merchant. More generally, the consumer should be instantly armed with any information about the account that the issuer already knows.

Imagine, for a hot minute, that The People had the right to tell the card company that sending unnecessary materials (like when they send offers to buy pens with your statement), literature or other items (and The People have the right to determine that qualifies as unnecessary and an item) gives a cardholder the right to impose up to a $50 handling fee (for each item) on the banks, payable by a reduction in the account balance (at the cardholder's option, of course). Though this is not nearly as unfair as the terms imposed by the card companies, this would have the executives at the credit card companies (and their lobbyists) up in arms.

For once, they would know how the consumer feels.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Time to pick on GenY, at work, a VP came fuckin' with me and this other cat because, about 8 months back, we had given him rather cogent, yet different, takes on how shit (stock market, economy) was going to go down. It was time for an update. So, we dropped some science on him. I eased off some consumer credit analysis because, as I stated, I didn't want to go off on some tangent about GenY and it's unwillingness to experience/deal with inconvenience and discomfort. After the VP was sated, I went off on that tangent. We had a sidebar about the went like this- I address my colleague's question- only without the salty language, bad grammar and attempts at humor.

--Does Gen X, as well as the boomers, know how to dial back on perceived entitlement to our current ‘quality of life?’ Or did that humility skip 2-3 generations?

Back about 10 - 15 years ago, the issue the world had with GenXers* is that we- I say "we" because I consider myself a charter member- weren't about anything and that, as a group, we were sullen, cynical and rather nihilistic...what's wrong with that?

Of course, the older generations- boomers and, to a lesser extent, the "greatest"- couldn't "get" us because they did not understand any world view but their own, which we rejected early on because it is too willing to go along ("...that was good enough for me") with the bullshit they were fed (by gov't, media, etc.) and/or doesn't acknowledge that it's bullshit, bullshit.

Rather than engage or enlighten them, we were waiting for them to get out of the way, biding our time (some of us popping E like sweettarts or going into K holes^...hey, the old farts were flaming us for being sullen) until we would get our hands on the controls. In our day-to-day lives, we have more balls, are more willing to tear down and start over and we are less willing to take anything as given. I think that leaves us well equipped to handle our business, get down for the crown, etc.

To bastardize Carl Jung, the foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience pain or legitimate suffering or discomfort. GenYers typically have far less capacity for discomfort. They complain about everything and wear their emotions on their collective sleeve. Having grown up in the age of convenience- a time when MTV didn't show music videos- they have far less in the way operational capacities; things are supposed to just happen for them...probably from mouse clicks.

I'd like to take the more enlightened view that this is just another case of the older generation bemoaning that the younger one is comprised of a bunch of pansies. But, from being around enough of them, they don't seem to be about anything...but their own comfort, which they think is their birthright.

As an example, consider the opposition to the war...or, as it's known around here, Haliburton And Related Contractors Security Guard Operation (HARCSGO). If someone is against the war because of conscience, or because they don't wish for their tax $$ to be spend on improving some firm's ROI (return on investment), I get it. I can even understand if someone is thinks the war is unjust (like that's ever a consideration). But the overwhelming impression I'm getting is that the Obama-lovin' GenYers don't want war is because they don't want to upset their own apple cart existence...based on all this, it appears that they are scared to engage.

Aside - The blood-for-oil argument doesn't fly with me because, if we weren't in there holdin' it down, China and/or Russia and/or another Arab bully would be in there. So, while it's fucked up, that's what it is...and what it is is what it is. I'd be saying the same shit if I were over there. As Biggie explained, real niggas do real things.

What's left of the "greatest" can cut back because they lived the Depression. The boomers had those experiences drilled into them and never had the luxury of a rapidly appreciating real estate / investment portfolio. Even though we (GenX) have our share of space cadets, I have a reasonable amount of faith in my generation not to fuck shit up. The GenYers...there are so many hot chics and the girls are tougher than the guys. Let's see if these little muthafuckas ever grow up.

* - I speak from big city experiences with GenYers. I couldn't tell you what Davenport, IA is thinking. These kids have crystal meth, I hear that shit'll do some work on you. Don't nobody smoke no weed no more?!
^ - Bokolis categorically denies any illicit drug use

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tony Snowed Under

I didn't give this too much thought until I went on Lozo and saw WTF is going on.

For those of you incapable of critical thought, all war is based on deception. Aside- If you believe that our leadership got duped into all this shit (in other words, everybody, as it was portrayed, totally fell for it) over shaky intelligence...(shrugging shoulders and making bemused facial expression) I don't know what to tell you, homie. Maybe you can answer why we'd still be there, once we found our intelligence to be faulty. Give or take a few minutes, the deception, where it concerns the military operation in question, started about 11AM EDT on 9/11/01. You can infer some shit about what was going on before that, but that's not the mission here.

I'm pissed because we fund this war…or, more aptly put, operation where our soldiers function as security guards for Haliburton and related contractors. If you factor in the ripple effects on the economy and on the funding states and local municipalities receive from the federal government, easily, half my money goes towards this shit, with no return on investment. That's worse than the YTD return on my 401k, but only because my employer kicks in half of what I dump in. With all that money we have to kick in, surely, we could have gotten some cats to dig a hole from Queens to New Jersey. Even if they dug this hole, it would probably help get some traffic out the way. I digress and a dead man is waiting.

Since Tony Snow took his turn as pitchman to America, he is a piece of shit on the level- and infinitely larger in scale- of an used car salesman. He sold out himself and, in the process, a whole nation. Every bit the POS are the corporate media, conservatives, liberals, whatever, who knew he was pitching bullshit (if I could tell from the cheap seats, they knew) and didn’t call him on it. I feel slightly less disgust for people like myself, who knew we were getting bull-shitted, yet didn’t make a (material) difference.

I fly under the radar, so I have to live with that shit. See above, my purgatory is that I fund this. Hey, I told who I could. It didn’t register when I told muthafuckas that we were never going to catch bin Laden (my office- prior gig- started a pool when we went back to work...lest you think I'm any better than those scumbags, I didn't partake only because "never" was not an available option) because he's our excuse to be there...or that Saddam was incapable- hold on, Tony- of building or obtaining a fart bomb because any Iraqi with half a brain is either dead or in exile…pretty much the same reason that Saddam was even in power.

Snow apparently acquired a taste for bull-shitting, as he took an on-air gig at FOX. At least Colin Powell- trumping Snow in the ESPN/USA Today POS Pitchman rankings- had an attack of conscience and disappeared into private life after pitching the bullshit.

I feel bad for Tony Snow’s family, who liklely didn’t view him as a POS and have to trudge on without him. I don't want to make it seem as if he's solely to blame for the "war." But, with his passing, the quality of life on planet Earth upticked, if ever so Ice Cube observed in Higher Learning, they still won, it's just one ass whuppin'. Suavè, homes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Kings of Europe

GER 0 - 1 ESP - After giving it over a week to marinate and getting friends' feedback (yes, Bokolis has real-life friends, though, like the top speed on your basic Chevy Monte Carlo, that number is electronically limited), for all the quality football, we saw a rather drab final.

We were shortchanged in that we should have seen a 3 - nil Spain victory. But, Spain were not able to finish chances. If we were going to settle for 1 - nil, some drama, like Spain clearing off the back line or some rattling of the woodwork, was necessary. Instead, Germany could not get anything going on offense.

Further, the goal wasn't typical Spanish brilliance. Simply, it was Torres outpacing and out muscling a de-puckered Lahm and beating Lehmann with a flick. Perhaps it is fitting that making something out of very little is what separated Spain in this tournament, with David Villa's late magic against Sweden being the first instance. Football may be 90% running, but knockout tournament football is about fight and character. Unlike 2004 (and numerous other disappointments), Spain had both.

After all that, I heard gripes about Torres only scoring two goals for the entire tournament, none of them especially pretty (like Villa's goals). The simple retort is that his goals- and how he scored them- was what they needed out of him. In the past, if Spain's pretty style didn't net them goals, they would get frustrated and shut down. This added dimension to Spain's game- and resulting production- eliminated the thought (and resulting pressure/neurosis/paranoia) of losing and, ultimately, is what separated them from the rest.

Unless video surfaces of Poof-naldo taking a strap-on from some broad, this closes the discussion about football and footballers for the time being. I suppose boozin' and poon-tang- blogging about it, anyway- will have to suffice.