They Said It Better Than I Ever Could...

These words that I write, they keep me from total insanity. -Charles Bukowski

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Nov 29, 2009

Lets Talk About Loans...

So in my continuing effort to be topical in what I write I've been reading a lot of the news lately. Which is depressing. But I ignored most, if not all of it for so long while I was overseas I think its something that I need to do.

Here is what I read today GROWING FORECLOSURE CRISIS

Okay, so let's take stock of this whole thing. Basically, it comes down to what I would call shoddy loan officers giving money to people who had no business borrowing it in the first place.

Now, I'm not an economist and I don't claim to know a whole helluva lot about mortgages and loans and the monetary system. I know very little. Really, the only thing I know is that you work, you earn, you save, you buy. That's all I've got.

But the shit that these loan companies came up with seem to have removed those middle two steps. I mean there were actually loans out there that didn't require verification of your income! Who the fuck actually thought that was okay? And who the fuck thinks that something like that should be legal?

Taking out a loan without having to cough up your last two pay stubs would be a bit of a red flag to me. I don't know why people thought this was acceptable.

But it does increase the pool of potential buyers, which increases competition for housing, which given that housing and land (God isn't making any more of it) is a fairly stable (supply wise) commodity, prices are driven up. Well, its an artificial driving up of prices because a good percentage of these assholes can't afford the properties they are bidding on anyway.

I am by nature a simple person. Not intellectually, but my way of thinking says that the more complicated something is, the less likely it is to work. Mortgages and loans are no exception. You find out how much money a person makes. You find out how much they owe to other people. You subtract that from their income. You come up with a number. From that number you subtract the normal monthly living expenses for a family of their size. You come up with the amount of money they are making per month after all expenses. You decide, based on that number if they can afford the loan you are thinking of giving them.

But thinking like that would not have kept the pool of potential buyers large enough for the monolith mortgage banks that were operating at the time. Can't let that happen, if those banks fail who will make all those huge political campaign contributions?

Its very simple to figure out. When I was in college I worked as a bartender in an American Legion. Great job, being a combat vet in that place pretty much put me on par with a buxom, 22-year old blond as far as tips go. So while I was working there and this whole housing crash was going on, we got to talking about it. I asked a few of these guys who are for the most part older gentlemen. Most of whom bought their first homes around the late 1960's and early 1970's.

So I asked a few of them how much their houses cost at the time. The standard or average answer was somewhere around $35,000. At the time that was the going price for a starter home around here. I mean some guys bought places that cost around $50,000 some guys went as low as $19,000. But the average was around $35,000. So then the next question I asked was how much money did they make at the time. The usual answer was about $17-20K per year.

Or then there's the case of my mother and father who bought the house I grew up in for $47,500. And between the two of them at the time they were making $45,000 per year and put $20,000 down.

Why am I throwing all these numbers at you? To show you that everyone, lenders and borrowers alike were more responsible at the time. Its a simple matter of ratios. On average in the very scientific study of real estate at the time. You had to make around 50% of what your house was worth back then in order to qualify for a loan. Maybe that's not true, but from those people that I was able to talk to they made roughly 50% of what their houses were worth in a year. Which, if you did the math would make for a very manageable mortgage payment. It would make for a family that would have little to no trouble living comfortably in a home for 40-50 years. Having a paid off home and 20 or so years of continuous saving so that when mommy and daddy kicked off they were able to leave a little something behind so that junior could get a jump on his life, or he could get a nice shot in the arm on the life he was already in.

Lenders must have made sure that people could afford the loans they were taking out. And borrowers must have made sure that they were on good financial footing in order to take out the loans. Honesty, from both ends. Recipe for success if you ask me, for the lenders and the borrowers. The lenders make money with the borrowers paying their mortgages on time every month. Then the borrowers make money as their homes GRADUALLY rise in value and the principal on the loans is slowly paid off over the course of 30 years.

It was a perfect example of what a particularly gruff E-7 once called the "grind it out" system. He told me that anything, anything at all that comes quickly isn't going to last and probably isn't worth shit. If you lose weight fast, you'll gain it back faster. If your money comes fast and easy, you'll spend it faster and easier. Any woman that comes fast and easy, isn't worth the time or the expense. Everything, marriage, work, money, fitness it all has to be grinded out. It takes time. In the case of what we're talking about 30 years.

Well, that's not good enough for the American lending system anymore. They want it fast. They want a large pool of potential buyers. They want money to flow like a river. They want housing prices to soar. They want it all, and they want it now. (Ode de Queen)

And now we see where that got us.

Second half of this. My critique of the government bailout of the mortgage industry.

Here is the first point. READ THIS

Government bailouts already total enough money to pay off 90% of mortgages in the United States. So you knock out the mortgages of the top 10% of the wealthiest people in the US and you've got who you should pay.

Now, admittedly, I haven't thought this completely through. But wouldn't it be better for the government to pay off all the loans of the bottom 90% of wage earners in the US.

Okay, so the bailouts secured jobs and kept companies afloat so they could keep paying their employees and all that. But wouldn't 90% of the American public being free of mortgage payments stimulate the living shit out of the economy?

I always hear on the news that consumer spending is the engine that drives the economy. When people have money, they spend it, which creates jobs. Okay, so the government pays off all those mortgages. Next thing you know the US economy is flush with cash because no one has to pay a mortgage anymore. Now they can buy new cars, put up a fence, put in a pool, buy some new toys, put in new carpet, finish the basement, and la di da di da.

Its a thought. One that will never come true because it is just too damn simple. Pay off the nations mortgages and the people will have money to spend...and they will. Spending by consumers generates new jobs. New jobs generate more employed workers spending money. Which equals more tax revenue for the government. It all works out in the big circle of life I think.

Why wouldn't they do something like that? Its too simple, too transparent, and if something is simple and transparent the government's corporate masters can't steal all of it as its filtering through the mountain of government bureaucracy that it will inevitably have to go through.

They would never do something like that because a plan like that would be good for all. Not only good for them.



I love you Mom...

Nov 27, 2009

Where Do We Go From Here...

I think that's a valid question. Its certainly been on my mind more than a little bit lately.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson once wrote an essay called "Security" in 1955. Way before any of the world's present bullshit was even a thought in most minds. He ended that essay by saying, "Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?"

I think this applies to a few other things that are going on in the world today. Most specifically, Obama's current waffling about whether or not he is going to send more troops to Afghanistan.

In the immortal words of the Door's, "The time to hesitate is through." Send them already, will ya?

We have a military situation in Afghanistan that in my well trained military eyes has reached what could only be described as a stalemate. Nobody's moving. One way or the other. Which is ridiculous. Get in there and win the fucking thing, or bring the boys back home! Simple.

However, I don't want that. I don't want any of them home until this thing is won. I can say that because I don't have any children over there right now, but make no mistake, I'll be headed back soon enough. (Wanderlust is a mother fucker.)

I spent entirely too much time of my life doing what my government sent me to do in that country to accept anything less than a victory in that God forsaken country. One drop of blood was too much to shed, but once it was shed, victory is the only thing that will vindicate that bloodshed.

So instead of being vague about victory like so many of our politicians, I came up with some standards for victory.

1. Secure border with Pakistan.

We have to do this before all else anyway. And if I were the general in charge of this shit that's where I would dedicate the majority of those new forces (if I got them). The bad guys filter in over the Pak border and set up their little exploding presents and conduct their operations with Pakistan as their base. So close the border and all of a sudden things will get a lot easier. Easily said, but not so easily done. But 40,000 US troops would have a pretty good shot of securing the border.

2. Freestanding, effective, respected government. That won't fold the first time the Taliban come and blow something up.

This is simple, and notice I didn't say corruption free. People who think they are going to get a corruption free government are to naive to live. Corruption is part of government whether anyone likes it or not. I think its laughable that people would want a corruption free government in Afghanistan when we don't have one here.

Freestanding, meaning they can stand on their own. Enforce their laws without US assistance, fight their own battles, their own wars, collect their own taxes, conduct their own elections, fix their own roads, do everything for themselves.

Effective, meaning they can do all the above mentioned things with a minimum of bloodshed.

Respected. In my blog when I was in Afghanistan I told you about the tribalism. Some people didn't even know that a central government existed, others knew about it but couldn't have cared less what it did or wanted. This is something that has to change there. A central government is integral to the success of that country and will be needed to make a viable nation. But until the people of that country accept and submit to a central government, progress will be either be slow or inert.

So are those the only things that need to be done to win in Afghanistan? Nope, definitely not. But I think those are the most important. You secure the border and next thing you know there isn't so much fighting to be done. Or maybe they just flip the switch and start coming in from Iran in greater numbers. But we can deal with that some other time.

Build a government is a huge undertaking. There's a million things that go in with that. Economic, diplomatic, educational, infrastructure and a ton of other concerns are all involved in building a government. But once there is one in place that can handle its own business then we can declare victory and roll out.

So if you ask me, they are going to have to send everyone that was in Iraq to Afghanistan. I couldn't imagine what would happen in that country if there were 200,000 US troops in that country, and they were deployed correctly. I can see it now...

-Afghanistan's borders with Iran and Pakistan have been secured by American troops standing guard every 10 meters.

-All roads have been cleared and secured by the newly instituted Afghani highway patrol.

-Searches are commencing of every residence and structure in Afghanistan. Under current troop levels this will be complete by Christmas next year.

-Afghani police and military academies and training centers are operating at optimum capacity. Churning out fully trained police officers and soldiers and their leaders in staggering amounts. The police will be fully staffed within six months and the military will be at 100% of its authorized strength by the end of next year.

-Afghani civilians are turning in Taliban operatives by the hundreds because they say, "There's no need to be afraid of them anymore, there are American and Afghani soldiers everywhere."

Ah, what a great thing that would be. But that's all pie in the sky bullshit.

However, it doesn't change the fact that an undertaking of this magnitude is not something that we can just walk away from. Stopping terrorism became nation building and we cannot leave under any circumstances until that nation is built. Whether anyone likes it or not.

There is still a mountain of work to be done. Work that will need to be done, one way or another. Give us the troops we need. Give us the resources we need. I've done my part, but don't worry, I just checked the deployments coming up and there's a few slots left for trainers for Afghani police in September 2010.

Fortune favors the bold, so let's get moving, let's quit waffling. The time to hesitate is through...thanks Jim.


I love you Mom...

Nov 26, 2009

Happily Ever After Afghanistan...

So today is happy Thanksgiving!

I was supposed to write this a long time ago. But I've been exceptionally lazy with all my writing lately. Between work and well work, I just haven't been able to find the time. Excuses, excuses. If I really wanted to, I would've made it happen but I didn't. So take that for what its worth.

So how has life been for me since I came home?

Different to say the least.

I've said it a thousand times already and this is one of the few good things. Is that, all the volume on so many things is turned down. I don't really get as riled up over things as I used to. Don't really take things as seriously anymore.

Like this, I burnt through $5,000 the other day furnishing my new apartment. I even bought a gigantic television along with the stereo surround sound. Before this deployment that would've bugged the shit out of me. Spending all that money and since they are running those specials, "24 or 36 months no interest, same as cash" I put it all on credit. Which, previously would've made me absolutely batty.

This time I looked at it all, looked at the bills and said, "Hey, its just money. I'll make more."

Relationships are another thing. I've been trying to figure out what of this deployment I should tell everyone about. I mean the shrink told me that I needed to find someone to talk to about all of it and share with them as much as I could. I wanted to tell him that I told the world about most of it. 505 pages of psychotherapy courtesy of the internet.

But it doesn't change the fact that you tell people things about what went on over there and you can't help but see that somewhat blank look in their eyes. And you wonder to yourself, "Am I not explaining this well enough, or are they just dumber than a box of shit?"

It strains things a bit, because I want to tell them. God knows, I've always had a lot to say. But I haven't figured out whether or not to tell them the shitty things. Will they look at me differently, will they just think of me as damaged goods now? I mean the funny stuff is easy to tell them, everybody likes a funny story. But how far do I go? Haven't figured that one out yet, that's a work currently in progress.

Work? Is a snap now. Between the hours we worked in Afghanistan and the difficulty of some of that work over there makes a job (any job) seem pretty inconsequential. Most days I work an 8 hour shift, some days I get stuck with or volunteer for overtime and that takes me up to 16 hours. Well all things considered, in Afghanistan some of my shifts lasted around a week, 16 hours is nothing. Not to mention here no one is trying to kill me.

I went public with the blog again. So we'll see how long that lasts. I don't really think there is anything in there that could get me into any real trouble so we'll just see what happens. But I'm sure that some of you would like to see what happened after I went private. So its all there, minus a few. But don't worry I've got the whole thing saved.

Lately, I've been commenting on the differences between life over there and life here. I couldn't help it, its the lens through which I look at the world now. So I think there's some good stuff in there. But I troll the newspapers and find something I want to write about and then throw it out there.

I've rekindled some old friendships since I've been back. I started regularly speaking to my buddy "J". He's the guy if you can remember this, that I wrote the "copenhagen jerk" story about. He's been keeping my mind as focused as possible. He's just one of those guys that I can always talk to because he knows what it means to be a soldier and he knows me about as well as anyone.

I'm even heading back to school. Either in the spring, but I may have to put it off until the fall so that my GI Bill has time to go through. I found out that since I deployed and I used up all my previous GI Bill entitlement that I get 12 more months of benefits. Sweet.

But here let me tell you how retarded the military and government can be sometimes. The old GI Bill had 36 months of entitlements. And I think that the new one has 48. So if you used the old one then you can switch over to the new one, but here's the catch. If you used say, 30 months of the old GI Bill, you can only use 6 months of the new one for a total of 36 months. However, if, like me, you used all 36 months of the old one, you can use 12 months of the new one. For a total of 48. Well you can always count on Uncle Sam to make perfect sense.

Oh, another good one. I applied for my retroactive stop loss pay. $500 a month for the 7 months I was stop lossed. But of course, something went wrong. I applied, sent all the paperwork in. Filled out all the forms online. Then a couple days later I received an email that said that my paperwork and the months that I said I was stop lossed were not in agreement. Of course not, why would they be. I was only there, I wouldn't know what months I was stop lossed or anything. So stay tuned we'll have to see how that goes.

So I think that's about it. Life has successfully returned to something resembling normalcy. But its always there. A little bit of Afghanistan sneaks into my life at the weirdest or most inappropriate times. I was standing outside a bar one night. Some kid set off a firecracker and I just about jumped out of my pants. I was walking through the mall and I saw a little girl with a hoodie on and my mind saw that little Afghani girl with the burned face. Just the other day I flushed the toilet, and then I flushed it again. Just cuz I can...

So anyway, that's pretty much it.

I'm going out to my cousin's for dinner. Should be a blast, I even found a pair of jeans that are way too big so that I've got room to expand. I could go into the whole remember to be thankful thing, but I figure that when you see the copious amounts of food on the table today. You aren't going to need to be told that.


I love you Mom...

Nov 24, 2009

Smoking is healthier than fascism...

What has become of this great land of ours?

This land where freedom is "supposed" to be so cherished.

John Locke, who was so influential of our founding fathers that much of his writing was quoted almost verbatim in the Declaration of Independence, said that every person has an inherent right to life, liberty and property. (Or some variance thereof.)

So anyway, what the hell am I talking about? Just read an article about a bar in Chicago that is flouting the smoking ban and has put up rooms where smokers can congregate and smoke. The price of admission is putting a little something into the pot so that the business can pay the smoking fines that are generated by them allowing you to smoke.

Not a bad deal if you ask me. And yes, I am a smoker. And yes, I know I shouldn't be. There is no doubt whatsoever that smoking is about the stupidest thing that I do. But I'm still troubled by all of this.

Seems like a new smoking ban is going into effect somewhere, every day. Another place where ole' Uncle Sam is going to tell you what you have to do with your own property.

Do I think that people have a right to live smoke free lives? Sure I do. So stay the hell away from me. LOL. Its not that. I don't mind people wanting to stay away from smoke. I understand the health concerns. I understand all of it. What I can't understand is why they think that smoking's unhealthiness makes it okay for them to intrude into other people's lives.

Now the ban has gone into effect here and has been for a while. Bars were hit with it. Restaurants and many other places. The only ones of those that I want to talk about are private businesses. Those businesses owned by private citizens.

Who the fuck does the government think it is telling them what they can and cannot do with their own property?

You own something, it is your right to do with it as you please. Or so you would think. How would you like the government telling you what you can do in your car, or in your backyard, or in your shed, or in your garage, or in your house? I personally, don't see the difference between that property and a business property.

But maybe I'm stupid.

Okay, so businesses are open to the public. And the public is supposed to be free of smoke. Okay, well don't most businesses have a policy that (usually is up on the wall) that says we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. Or some such shit. I say you've got every right to decide who comes into your home, you should have every right to decide who comes into your business.

I'd have to put it at this. A bar or restaurant or private business of any kind is inherently different than a public service. Any government entity or building, I get them being smoke free. Hospitals, I don't think anyone is going to argue that hospitals should be smoking. And if they did, I don't think the hospitals would go for it. Private or otherwise. Government or hospitals, these are places that EVERYONE HAS to go. I'd say that would be a good standard for smoking bans.


So gas stations, grocery stores, government buildings, schools, and all of that...smoke free.

Anywhere that you choose for yourself whether or not you go in there...can smoke.

The United States, during my lifetime has become a nation of "bans". Ban this, ban that. Its bad for you...ban it. Somebody got hurt...ban it. Some group doesn't like it...ban it. Someone was offended...ban it. Ban, ban, ban. FUCK YOU.

I like my America free. I love the freedoms that I used to have.

I joined the military under the assumption that I was going to be fighting all enemies, foreign and domestic. Well, I'd have to say that the nanny state is a domestic enemy. So, this begins my fight.

What you do with your own property is your business. Regardless if yous serve alcohol for money. Its yours and if you want to smoke in that building, so be it.

If you don't like smoking, don't go in there.
If you don't like smoking, don't work there.
Keep your preferences out of everyone elses business.

Next we'll talk about drugs, and watch the phone lines light up.


What A Wonderful World...

So tonight I got on the internet and started reading the news. I was reading the Chicago Tribune. You know, keeping it local.

I only read two articles before I stopped and started thinking. (Everyone remember what a bad thing it can be when I get to thinking?)

Chicago Cop Steals $1 Million

22 Year Old Kid killed in Afghanistan.

Two more opposite headlines I couldn't really think of. I mean I guess there are some similarities. Both involve really shitty things happening.

But I guess they show the dichotomy of the world. I think that might be the right word. Dichotomy...a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different. At least that's what the dictionary on my computer says.

On the one hand you have a greedy asshole, who is entrusted with protecting and serving the public. Then on top of that he is given the added responsibility of handling money for his fellow officers and what does he do? He steals it. Oh, how very Chicago of you.

Then on the other hand you have this kid. 22 years old, who just does what he has to do to support his wife and child. I didn't know the kid, but that is all I need to know about him. He joined the military to support his young wife and child. Enough said. Unfortunately, in his case, that little bit of loyalty, diligence, and responsibility got him killed.

I could go on and on with all the things that ran through my head reading these two articles but suffice it to say that I damn near started questioning whether or not there is any justice in the world. Now for those of you who aren't familiar with Chicago let me lay it out for you.

Corruption capital of the world. Bar none. No one can even hold a candle. Chicago has been family owned and operated for well at least 20 years (and that's just the kid.) So if you follow this story one of two things will happen. The cop will make a big deal out of it, he'll got to trial and he'll get off. Or this will drop off the face of the earth, he'll be quietly allowed to retire and move to Florida to live next to John Burge. The other asshole cop that beat confessions out of people and now lives high off the hog with his $80,000 a year pension.

They get to do that, and this kid goes down for a dirt nap, and his wife is widowed at 22 and the child is fatherless at 15 months.

I've got an idea, take both of those shitty cops pensions and give them to this young man's wife and daughter. Then set these two pricks in a car and drive it down a road straight into an IED.

But that won't happen.

Loyalty, honesty, responsibility and service-0
Dishonesty, theft, violence and corruption-2

And the winner is...


I love you Mom.