Sunday, January 9, 2011

Debtor's Prison, American-Style -OR- Looking Upon the World on a Bright, Cold Winter's Day

A snow-blanketed park on a bright winter's day with low-angled sunlight filtering through the bare trees, Stockholm, Sweden.

This is an internet picture I found that isn't particularly related to the rambling entry below.


So I really need to update this blog. Truth to tell, I'm beginning to get annoyed and even resentful that I "must" update two frickin' blogs -- I say "must" because I'm the one who chooses to keep both.

Actually, it's more of a compulsion, and even a bit of a quandary -- since the Arcturus blog is intended for one person in particular and this blog is for everyone else.

Except for the three regular readers here who read that one regularly as well. Maybe I should just keep the Arcturus blog to them. I wouldn't keep the other one if that unmentioned person NEVER looked at it, but I'm fairly sure that's not the case.

Whatever the case, I'm tired of keeping both blogs.

The last part of this entry mimics a portion of my current Arcturus blog one.


Anyway, it's almost quarter after 11 on a Sunday on a cold (28F), gusty winter morning here in Washington, D.C (seemingly forever living in the Seat of Late Stage Imperial America, a.k.a. the Empire, to use an Isaac Asimov-ian turn of phrase), and I'm still tired and just want to sleep.

However, if I go back to sleep, I will quite quickly lose the day. But I always lose the weekend days anyway -- weekends just flash by with the only activities being at night.

The Seat of the Empire on a bright, cold early winter's late morning -OR- the view from my apartment window, Washington, D.C., 11:43AM, Jan. 9, 2011.


I also don't have a crumb of food in this dingy, miserable apartment and need to go grocery shopping.

I've loosely put together an Excel spreadsheet of my budget through March 10th -- assuming I don't lose my job. I'm trying to see how I can afford $2,000 -- in four monthly installments of $500 (yes, I realize that would take me out to May, not March) -- in order to "budget" for a bankruptcy proceeding.

My friend ChrisT took this picture in Leesburg, Va., yesterday at dusk. Not sure why he was out there -- WAY outside the D.C. Bubble.

I'm trying to decide if I should do a bankruptcy -- and I'm unsure if I can do a chapter 7 or if due to income amount I must do chapter 13.

If I am able to file a chapter 7, I will do it outright and discharge about $11,300 in defaulted credit card debt.

Alas, the $210,000 in student loan debt I have is forever non-dischargeable and I've started repaying it, but only in small amounts at present. However, it is all consolidated into two giant loans with the Direct Loan program of the U.S. Department of Education.

At issue are five defaulted credit card from the 2007 period. Now I settled with one for just under $637 and I'm down to one remaining $112 payment. The remaining four are at issue.

Two of the debts are "out there" in some American collection agency purgatory. These two total about $7,100 -- almost evenly divided. One is precariously close to the $5,000 cut off between small claims and regular civil status.

At this point, I'm not even fully sure who owns them the debts have been sold and resold multiple times from the original credit card companies. These defaults occurred 2007 - '08 during very bad times for me.

Credit card companies in America of the 2000s are the Ebola virus of the economy -- so virulent and deadly that they actually kill the host before spreading, and thus in a perverse sense, self-negating.

Now I know many libertarian Teabaggers start shrieking at this point about how this is the dream Free Market state of affairs, and will defend to death with that bullshit "don't tread me on / water the tree of liberty with tyrant's blood" gibberish their "right" to be destroyed by credit card companies and the larger corporate capitalist complex.

Then their are the fundamentalists (to the extent they are distinct from the Teabaggers) who see this as God's Shining City on a Hill and the Corporate America -- with its wholly "financialized" economy and resulting out-of-control, surge-crash asset bubble machine (designed for creating multi-trillion dollar Ponzi schemes every few years) -- by its very definition is Good while any attempt to have a civil society that limits inequities and bad actions is Satanic Socialist and French fag.

Outfits like the Koch Brothers / Dick Armey's FreedomWorks depend on this situation of having such folks serve in the Marxist role of "bribed tools of reactionary intrigue" to amass more power and wealth.

Dumb ass country.

One thing I'm hoping that comes out of the tragedy of the horrific assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D - Ariz.) that resulted in the deaths of six others, including a 9 year old little girl and a Federal judge by a 22-year old crazy man, Jared Lee Loughner (why do these crazies always have "Lee" or "Wayne" in their names??) who may have some kind of political motivation or instead is just outright insane (hard to tell at this point) is a change in the "meta-narrative" of our corporate whore media.

For the past two years -- starting just weeks after Obama was sworn in and began immediately showing himself to be less F.D.R./L.B.J. and more wussy Clintonian / Robert Rubin / Larry Summers corporate Democrat -- ironically far more "Clinton" than Hillary herself likely would have been -- that meta-narrative has been one of the Teabaggers on the rise and rage in the country over the "Socialist Kenyan Muslim" president.

Of course, the Koch Brothers and FreedomWorks, not to mention the entire infrastructure and machinery of the GOP -- where, as Paul Krugman once noted, the Ministry of Propaganda (Fox News and rightwing Hate Radio) long ago took over the Politburo (the GOP political elites) -- have ruthlessly and effectively exploited a particularly virulent and ignorant Know-Nothing strain of early 21st Century-style 1820s Jacksonian populism to bring the Republican Party (which should have been exiled politically for a generation) roaring back into power.

But to reiterate the point, Obama's wussiness didn't help. We needed FDR 1932 and instead we got Bill Clinton late 1990s in a way that was frightfully unsuited to the desperate needs of America 2009 - 2011.

"What will he found out there, doctor?" "His destiny ..."


What I was saying, though, is that this horrific event in Arizona has the possibility to shift the mainstream whore-media meta-narrative by making the hateful and violent rhetoric of the GOP propagandists, the Teabaggers, and their ilk broadly unacceptable to that passive and Zen-like clueless American "independent voter" that swings this way and that and that apparently ALWAYS decides elections in the U.S. of A.

Ms. Giffords had been subjected to a lot of such violent rhetoric as this account of yesterday's events describes.



Hopefully, this event will change the media-whore narrative -- and right as the insane GOP had taken control of the House of Representatives and Obama was preparing to cave in on a broad front (often even before even being asked).


Maybe, just maybe, we don't have to endure the spectacle of ignorant GOP yahoo representatives reading the Constitution the House floor (well, almost all of it) whenever there is a piece of legislation that fails to rob from the poor to give to corporate interests, and engaging -- Antonin Scalia style -- in that weird "strict constructionist" worship of the document itself and the Founding Fathers, as Michael Lind has written.

This is the American legal theory version of a cartoonish Protestant fundamentalism, though it impresses many.

It's why Tony "Three Fingers" Scalia -- he of the Scalia 5 Supreme Court 2000 Bush Coup -- can seriously argue "fecal matter in drinking water is not expressly forbidden by the Constitution, so therefore, any attempt to remove it from the water supply is a gross overreach by the Government" and even bright legal minds are impressed.

At least the event shamed that shameless mediawhore Sarah Palin -- who is a kind of Frankensteinian hybrid combo of P.T. Barnum and William Jennings Bryan (minus any pretense of intellect) in a mass media entertainment age -- into taking down her notorious "cross hairs" image.

As for Rep. Giffords, may she recover fully and go on to represent her district and state for many years to come, but her wounds are so grave that this may not happen.


OK, that was a big digression ...

Anyway, of the remaining two credit card debts -- originally a $2,500 debt and a $1,544 debt -- both are owned by an entity called Arrow Financial Services.

I ALREADY have been to D.C. small claims court for BOTH of these -- once in Sept. 2009 and again in Oct. 2009. The first case was filed by Mann Bracken and the second by Weinstock Friedman & Friedman, a Baltimore, Md. - based law firm and collection agency.

I settled before any judgments were taken out -- the first for $45/month and the second for $25/month. The WF&F lawyer was actually a very nice young man.

What an appropriate image.

What happened in the intervening 15 months is that I have been making my $25/mo payment (with a few variations) to WF&F. But Mann Bracken declared bankruptcy, essentially nullifying the settlement.

The entity representing this debt (still owned by Arrow Financial Services) went to some outfit called Creditors Interchange for a period of time. I had to endure the usual three calls a day for about four or five months, all of which I ignored. But now all of sudden the debt is being represented by -- YES! -- Weinstock Friedman & Friedman.

I called WF&F on Friday to suggest a $50/month combined payment. It was then I discovered that WF&F has been charging me 6% interest (try not to be too happy, any libertarian Teabagger types who may someday read this). And my balance -- instead of being near $2200 was actually $2381.

I made some phone calls from work (well, outside in the hall) to WF&F and the D.C. small claims court -- none of which, of course, were returned because calls aren't returned in the American business world because EVERYONE is ALWAYS in a frickin' never ending "meeting." When I got home on Friday, I reviewed the court documents carefully and have concluded that WF&F cannot charge me interest.

The settlement states the following [with the light green highlighted AND CROSSED OUT parts done by WF&F attorney]:

"It is hereby agreed on this 21 day of Oct, 2009 between the above named parties that defendant hereby agrees to pay plaintiff the sum of $2500 plus all interest, costs and attorneys fees as prayed in the Statement of Claims at the rate of $25 per month beginning November 15, 2009 and on the 15th day of each successive month thereafter until paid."

Now he did not mean to cross out the "at the rate of" but he certainly meant to cross out the preceding part.

Long story short, WF&F cannot charge me any interest (UNLESS I'M REALLY misunderstanding this -- maybe I should ask some of my moving and shaking corporate lawyer acquaintances.

On Friday, I also called up a bankruptcy attorney here in D.C. and I managed to talk to him. (I had spoken to him twice before in the past roughly 2 year. During those times, I was still waiting for the 8 years to pass to be able to declare a chapter 7 bankruptcy since I did this before in late July 2002). He is pricey -- $2,000 for either a chapter 7 or 13.

The issue for me is if I can only do a chapter 13 and the debt reduction so small that I lose whatever benefit I had because of the $2,000 cost? And what if the repayment plan is $200 or more a month? This is esp. the case because the two other debts totaling $7,100 are dormant right now. I would actually be worse off. Right now, nothing is clear.

If I proceed with this, I won't be able to give this attorney the first $500 installment (in cash or postal money order) until late January, at which point he becomes my lawyer, on a contingency basis (i.e., I pay him the remaining $1,500).

But in the meantime, I am going to write a letter to WF&F. I am going to say (1) they cannot charge me interest and I only owe them $2200 at this point, and (2) I will offer $800 or so on the second account (roughly half). And I will pay this $3,000 overall on an expedited time table (by the end of the year).

If this is not acceptable to them, then the bankruptcy probably becomes a better option for me.

(Surely it won't be acceptable to them because their reflective reaction is to sue for full amount and go for everything even when it would make more financial sense for them to settle, a view that's partly driven by a sense of total brutal power in any given situation versus some hapless schlep.)

At minimum, I'm not paying any interest and I'm willing to go back to small claims court before the judge on this matter.

OK, that's all on this topic -- except to say I will never have a credit card again on this side of frickin' eternity.


Changing topics, I found online this image yesterday ...

Marithé François Girbaud's "Last Supper" ad campaign from early 2005, possibly inspired by Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. This ad was actually banned in France and Italy. In France, it ran afoul of French blasphemy laws, the existence of which genuinely surprises me.


Finally, lastly, because it was stuck in my head the other day (and was the basis of an entry I started to write but didn't post):

Here is a YouTube clip of the late crooner Kyu Sakamoto singing his hit song "Ue o muite arukō" ("Let's Walk Looking Up").

Here is the initial release album cover.

It was released in Japan in 1961 under this title, but in 1963 it was released in England under the Japanese-sounding (but otherwise irrelevant) name "Sukiyaki" -- and this is the title that Capitol Records used when it released it in the United States the same year. It has since been remade / reworked by other artists, including the late Selena in 1990.

This is Kyu on a half-hour special program called Ushichi jini aimasho/Shall we meet at seven? that aired on June 8, 1963 on the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) in Japan featuring him sing a repertoire of his songs including Sukiyaki.

It's most certainly not the nicest looking video --set in a particularly grimy factory setting, but I guess that reflected a certain early 1960s view of Japan as it was rapidly industrializing.

The song zoomed to #1 on Billboard's Top 100 from June 15, 1963 - July 5, 1963.

(Billboard's site archives the daily top 10 of the Top 100 singles back to 1955.)

JFK was president and the country celebrated its 187th birthday during that time. A very different time indeed.

As for the Billboard site, I discovered that Wedding Bell Blues by The 5th Dimension was No. 1 on the day I was born.

As for Kyu Sakamoto, he died in the Japan Airlines Flight 123 crash of August 12, 1985 in the rugged mountainous region 100 miles WNW of Tokyo enroute to Osaka. He was one of 520 killed -- with 4 survivors.

That crash (due to mechanical problems) ranks 3rd among the top airline crash mass casualties of all time, behind only the 9/11/2001 attacks and the legendary Tenerife disaster on March 27, 1977 when two 747s collided in the fog on Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Creepy but transfixing: CGI recreation of the moment KLM Flight 4805 ("Rijn") collided with Pan Am Flight 1736 ("Clipper Victor") on March 27, 1977 as the former had just taken off and the latter was taxiing on the runway at Los Rodeos (now Tenerife North) Airport in a dense fog. All 248 people on the KLM flight were killed and 335 of the 396 on board the Pan Am flight perished -- 583 people in all.


Acantilados de Los Gigantes ("Cliffs of the Giants") are vertical cliffs along the western coast of Tenerife. At one time these 500 meter high cliffs were said to be called "the Wall of Hell."


And on that note, I think that's all for now.

It's about 230PM. I may actually go with LP to the Corcoran to see an art exhibit. As for the possible snow on Monday night / Tuesday, I'm not evening going to write about that. My next planned update -- barring something really good or bad -- won't be until at least midweek.



krzysztof said...

You may want to see images in this blog entry on variations on the last supper theme. This blog is by a Polish modern art critic and, yes, it is in Polish.

I will love to read your letter to that WTF&F entity.

Regulus said...

OK, I'll check out the blog entry.

The WF&F thing worked itself out -- I'm not being charged interest (though it is being calculated for their own purposes) AND I got an $800 settlement on the $1544 debt that I'm going to make in a lump sum.

Carl Gopal said...

What a shame you stopped blogging, (but I understand the exhaustion) since you have a great writers voice:) One Sunday I will trawl thru your old blogs. Good luck with your loan, sounds steep. They say miracles happen every day. Hold the faith!