Archive | July, 2006

Brilliant

29 Jul

I’ve never been a huge fan of country music, but I recognize and respect the icons, like Johnny Cash. Since his death a couple of years ago, I wonder at times what music would be like if he was more mainstream. I don’t have an answer to that question.
But I must recommend his posthumous release, American V. If I could recommend one song to you, it’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” the haunting Gordon Lightfoot ballad. The vocals here are so pained, it’s a rare recording–one that bests the original.

American IV is also required listening.

We miss you, Johnny. I’m sorry I didn’t get to know your music better while you were still alive.

Holy crap!

28 Jul

Sometimes here in Indiana we can be blissfully ignorant of stuff going on in other states. I live a few miles from the Indiana-Michigan state line, and so we get some of the Michigan political advertising. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Democrat, is in a tight battle with Dick De Vos, the Republican candidate.

When I saw the De Vos ads, I thought to myself “This sounds like the same crap that Mitch Daniels put out in his campaign. The guy even kind of looks like Daniels–short and receding hairline.” I hoped that Michigan’s voters would be smart enough to see what we Hoosiers had done and avoid repeating our mistake.

Today I learned even more about Dick De Vos. He’s a damn billionaire. Yes, a billionaire. Ever heard of Amway? That’s the guy. And this dude and his family, along with his business partner’s family, have spent megabucks to repeal the federal estate tax.

De Vos is listed as being worth $3.4 billion by Forbes Magazine–he’s one of the 400 richest people in America. If his lobbying paid off, he’d save about $1.3 billion in estate taxes.

No wonder the guy wants to get into politics. He’s not interested in being governor. He wants to be President. And he wants to get rid of that estate tax bill he has hanging over himself.

Come on, Michigan voters, defeat this guy soundly!

When will we hit the tipping point?

28 Jul

Being in the legal field, I get to pick up a lot of anecdotal information. One of the things bothering me lately involves consumer credit. I was in court this morning, and of four lawyers who had matters scheduled on this one judge’s calendar, three of us were there on foreclosures and other collection cases. And one guy had probably 20 collection files set for hearing that morning.

In conversations with local judges, I’ve learned that a huge percentage of their cases are collections and mortgage foreclosures. And they are issuing more and more and more default judgments–people are not even disputing the debts, trying to avoid the entry of a judgment against them. Many of the homes in foreclosure are low-income homes, but a surprising number are worth a few hundred thousand dollars.

One judge worries that if the trend continues, the whole thing is going to tip over and fall on us. And that image got me thinking.

In the 1990s, as interest rates dropped to ridiculously low rates, refinancing mortgages became a huge business. People refinanced their mortgages a couple times a year as rates fell. And adjustable rate mortgages were pushed hard by the lenders, and people figured that interest rates would never rise again the way they did in the late 1970s and in the 1980s.

Wrong.

Interest rates are creeping back up. ARMs are going higher, too, with no limit in sight. Loan payments are thus increasing as well, and people’s budgets are getting squeezed. They were barely scraping by before, and now they are in the hole each month.

How long until the mortgage payment is the one bill that has to “wait” to get paid? And then the death spiral begins.

We see it all the time–late charges, interest, etc. gets tacked on. A $1,000 mortgage payment becomes a $1,090 payment (at least). Of course, the next month the payment is $2,090, and if it’s late, it’s $2,180. Next month, $3,270. At this point there are usually noises of a foreclosure, where additional attorney’s fees, court costs, and title search fees get tacked on. There’s a few thousand bucks more to get the mortgage brought current.

This is happening more and more these days. More homes are going into foreclosure, and people are moving out. Where are they going? They’re living off of credit cards, most likely. And then those bills aren’t being paid.  And collection suits get filed.

I fear we may be headed for some disaster here. What are the banks going to do when people can’t afford to borrow money any longer, when they are still saddled with debts that are no longer dischargeable in bankruptcy?

I suppose this is something for the economists to worry about. But when even people like me, who don’t understand much about economics, can see that trouble is coming, then the problem could be much larger than we want to even think about.

Why the “news” isn’t worth anything

28 Jul

Watch this video and you’ll understand why the morning “news” programs are worthless.

I don’t care if some stupid snake was dumb enough to ingest a small Volvo. I don’t care if Paris Hilton bought a new dog. I don’t care if dogs can do silly tricks. Those things are not going to affect whether my country is going to go to war, might be in trouble, or whether the economy is headed downhill (a topic for another post).

It’s really, really sad that it takes a comedy show to point out the stupidity that runs rampant in Washington DC among our so-called “leaders.” But it’s frightening that the comedy shows are the only way to find out about the power-grabbing actions of people in DC.

Where’s the so-called Liberal Media in all of this?  Why aren’t they telling me what’s going on? Would Walter Cronkite tell us about snakes swallowing electric blankets, or would he tell us that the situation in Iraq is worse than we think it is?

Still here…

27 Jul

…just too busy to even think of anything worth writing about. Yeah, there’s lots going on, but not a lot of time right now. 😦

If you’re looking for moody music…

22 Jul

Is anyone better than Tori Amos? Songs like Winter, Pretty Good Year, and Tear in Your Hand certainly seem to be the work of genius. And I really like that she writes her own stuff and plays her own piano. I don’t know who puts together the arrangements, but the use of orchestral instruments is very refreshing in this age of overproduced electronic instruments.

You can check out her stuff at the iTunes Music Store.

Why the Ten Commandments?

22 Jul

David Brancaccio of PBS’s NOW asked a good question of Kurt Vonnegut recently: Why do Christians seem to want to post the Ten Commandments everywhere instead of the Beatitudes?