Haiti -- A Metaphor & More
Messages & Lessons
The January 12 earthquake that ravaged Haiti can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
Global warming This is a strictly symbolic metaphor for Gaia (mother earth) giving humanity a reminder that we've despoiled the globe. The message is respect.
Fortunate guests This catastrophe can be viewed as a warning that humanity truly has no influence over the greater energies on the globe and beyond -- to the solar system, Milky Way Galaxy and the greater universe. We're truly merely fortunate guests in this brief moment. The welcome mat can rolled up at any time and any place, without warning, nor reason. The message here is humility and gratitude.
U.S. Haiti Rescue The U.S. government is leading a major rescue and rebuilding effort to save Haiti. Yet, there are already worries the money will again go to this stratified culture's ultra rich. Haiti's elite spared from much of the devastation states,
It wasn't that long ago the U.S. government rescued the banking elite in America, an irony made greater by the fact that Haiti's elite were not responsible for the destruction of their country -- but the U.S. bankers were. Too, we're now seeing the banking elite's absolutely callous disregard for their fellow Americans by taking the bailout money, not lending it to needy persons and small businesses and treating themselves to record bonuses, Banks Prepare for Big Bonuses, and Public Wrath. And to grind salt into the wound, they refuse to take responsibility for causing the crisis, Barons of Wall St concede failures; no apology.
So, yes, of course, the Haiti effort should be equitable and promote ethical government that will result in lifting all of Haiti from chaos. However, this is a message to America as well -- to restore economic fairness and shared democratic values at home.
Nation Building -- Third Try As the U.S. descends upon Haiti with the best of intentions, the question inevitably arises of nation building -- going beyond a rescue to transform and reform to end Haiti's seemingly endless cycle of suffering. Is this another case of idealism, the national zeal to remake Haiti into an image of the wealthy democratic model? Too, can the U.S. not resist, and should it stop at just rescue? The U.S., after all, is immersed in attempts at nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan, and results are mixed at best -- cultural gaps, tremendous costs, lengthening time lines and progress that is too often three steps forward and two backward. But Haiti is our close neighbor; we have a long history with Haiti and bear some responsibility for its turmoil; so many Haitians and their descendants livie in the U.S.
Haiti could be a pivot point in how the U.S. relates to the world, and indeed, how the nation relates to itself. There's no answer, or even a suggestion here, excepting the importance whatever is done, is for good and ethical reasons. Material gain, especially if it's short term and ignores the needs of the masses of poor, will surely fail.
Whatever course is taken, the near term outcome will be problematical -- for the U.S. chart and President Obama's chart are afflicted and badly disposed. Both are running destructive Dasas (planetary cycles), and the vicious eight month Mars transit through Cancer hits the U.S. eighth house of turmoil and fears and Obama's seventh house of relationships. Certainly, economic woes, the health care reform and yesterday's Republican upset in the Massachusetts Senate election evidence these planetary karmas. We can also witness this energy in Fox News' Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck becoming stars by preaching trust no one to play into the national paranoia. Further, as transit Mars in Cancer until May 26 is global weather karma, international efforts to help Haiti will be discordant, France accuses U.S. of occupying Haiti. Continuing earthquake aftershocks is a metaphorical reminder from Gaia.
The U.S. chart planetary cycles change to Mars/Jupiter on May 17, stimulating wise humanitarian philanthropy, and Mars shift out a Cancer a week later will end tragedies and discord. By June, these affirmative karmas will stimulate advocacy -- an integrated reformist policy to truly rescue Haiti from the earthquake, and from itself. Yet, keep in mind that Obama's chart will remain harmed, truly through his presidency, which must cause further reversals. Perhaps the Clinton's active interests and actions will pitch hit for this leadership shortfall. This lesson is learn from ones mistakes.
Private Charity To Haiti Along with the U.S. government program, a strong private effort is underway. Individuals and groups are responding with characteristic American generosity to help those less fortunate. Shouldn't we also be doing the same in America for Americans -- and redress suffering and unfairnesses here as well? No, most expect the government to take that responsibility, which evidence shows hasn't worked -- and actually rewarded the rich and ignored those impoverished by the rich. Further, Americans of every kind should be rising up to object -- but popular protests have yet began. The notable and single exception is the Tea Party group on the right, and its leaders are already exploiting these ultra conservatives for gain -- tearing apart their loosely organized libertarian union, BREAKING: Tea Party Nation’s Judson Phillips: “I Want To Make A Million From This Movement
This fifth lesson is responsibility to our fellow man.
Tom Brokaw's Explanation
Brokaw is among the most respected journalists in America and continues his work after retirement from anchoring NBC's Nightly News from 1982 to 2004. On The Daily Show January 14, Brokaw discusses his just completed road trip across America. Here's the cogent dialogue,
Tom Brokow continues to explain that people acknowledge their personal excesses and are focusing upon hanging on to the house, the car, taking an extra job....
Stewart & Brokaw Only Got It Half Right
Well, that's fine in the sense of acting locally for ones family and community. And popular protest does mean grass roots efforts. In the depression era dust bowl Midwest, farmers hunkered down to save their farms and help their neighbors too at the local Grange. But those efforts didn't solve the problem. They treated the effects not the cause. It was only after much suffering, many abandoning their farms (Ref: Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath) that the Federal and states governments developed and implemented programs to stop erosion and preserve the land. Recall the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was a key element, with the middle word conservation.
However, grass roots means beginning at the community level to then use widespread pressure on government to solve regional and national problems. From the roots grows the tree. These challenges must be addressed within their larger context, which only government can do. Baker Joe, even with the entire town of Hope, cannot fix the economic malaise which has gripped the country. The titans at Goldman Sachs won't take his calls.
Yet, Brokaw is right in stating that's very heartening. It is, after all, starting at the beginning with individuals, families and towns -- but that's not sufficient. Although The Celestial Wheel takes no pleasure in predicting doom, this seesaw 2010 must bring increasing pressure on us all to mobilize on greater scale. The planetary karmas for advocacy that builds in late May will stimulate the now long-delayed grass roots popular protests. The Second Progressive Age is at hand.
In the absence of micro efforts not yet evolving into a popular nationwide tide for progressive policies, there are intelligent things you can do about your personal finances and thereby the financial industry, which is at the very heart of the Millennium Contraction. The following sections offer some practical actions actions to defend yourself and not feed the beasts of Wall Street.
Protest With Your Pocketbook
The question naturally arises, how to do this without having to join an organization or participate in elections, which are infrequent anyway? Well, we also vote with our pocketbooks, and one easy and protective way to do that is to switch banks from a big ones to a smaller local or regional bank.
Banktracker can guide you to a community bank in your area. The big banks are literally criminal enterprises, having created the mortgage debacle -- so letting them keep your money only feeds the beast. Too, the big banks aren't lending, but the small community banks are. Bank Of America's ad campaign, that they loaned out $12 billion to small business in 2009, is laughable when it received $45 billion in TARP money! And now Bank Of America is paying it back, but those moneys come from issuing more stock, which harms existing stockholders. And, being free of the government yoke, they can again pay themselves grandly. Putting your money with a small local or state bank thereby supports your community. (A credit union is a good alternative.) Too, if you need a loan, being a customer of a small bank puts you in a preferential position with a bank that does what banks are supposed to do -- lend money. Finally the big banks continue to prosper in part on the backs of their customers through high fees on accounts and credit cards and poor service. Smaller banks have much lower fees. Why in the world would you feed the beast when you can starve him?
With all these factors, why would anyone keep their money with a big bank? If you believe you need the services their extensive branches have, well, you can use your Mastercard/Visa debit card to charge for goods and services anywhere. And if you feel you need ATM access to cash (without paying fees) when traveling, just leave a few dollars in your big bank account.
Switching to a small bank is also protective. If that bank goes bust, the FDIC comes in on a Friday and arranges another bank to take over it's operations on Monday. The procedure is seamless. However, what if a risk-taking Bank of America, Chase or Wells Fargo fails? There's no bank big enough to take them over, and while the FDIC insures your money, it could take weeks, even months, before they send you a check.
Ignore the following article, and ones like it, Ordinary Americans lack the power to hurt the big banks. First, it's not true, for the big banks have only prospered since the TARP bailout from investment bank activities -- trading currencies, investing on their own accounts, mergers and acquisitions fees... Those do not last forever, and losses on the consumer side -- your bank accounts, credit cards, car loans.... -- will really impact when investment banking profits decline. Second, it still makes no sense to support these criminal enterprises when there are alternative banks.
Banks Are The Credit Criminals
How Visa, Using Card Fees, Dominates a Market explains how the credit card payment networks -- Visa in particular, but also Mastercard -- have rigged the system in their favor to extract larger fees from the banks.
This, however, is another case of banker greed, for Visa and Mastercard were originally set up by the banks only to provide the service of processing card payments. They were owned by the banks and essentially were not profit centers, consequently charging merchants low and fair fees. When the banks decided to offer Visa and Mastercard as public companies, they made a bundle of money as investors bought and bid up those stocks -- because investors knew these constituted a monopoly that could thereby raise fees and earn big profits.
In this case, the banks don't appear to have a downside risk, for it's the merchants who suffer from higher fees, and the banks don't risk any default. Ultimately, however, the costs are passed on to the consumer, excepting during this economic retrenchment, merchants can't raise prices and must absorb the higher fees. Yet, the word ultimately means what is says, for the consumer public suffers from the stress merchants experience, which results in fewer product choices, less service.... Too, aren't merchants also part of the public.? This astrologer is a merchant via Vedic Predictive Astrology, and the fee rate for card transitions creeps up -- from 2.1% just a few years ago to 2.6% now, and even as high as 3.2% and over 4.5% for international transactions. This last is particularly irksome, for there simply isn't a greater risk or cost to process a Visa payment from Canada, or France, or even India or Peru.
The solution here is to use cash whenever possible, and also return to using person checks more often. This is another technique to starve the beast.
Floating Your Debit Card Charges
Next month new Federal regulations go into effect giving some protection against the big bank trick of charging a $35 or more fee if you overdraw your checking account by using your debit card. There's some confusion about how this will work, and it's important to follow news articles, as well as read information about it coming from your bank.
Beyond that, the article in the above section about Visa talks about signature debit. It explains that Visa and your bank charge the merchant more if you sign your debit charge than if you use you pin. Signature debit puts the charge through the credit card system at a higher fee to the merchant. Using your pin number routes the charge directly to your bank - taking out that middleman.
Now, while it's best to use cash and/or checks to starve the beast, if your checking account is getting low, you can float a debit card charge for two business days, to reduce the risk of a $35 overdraft fee. Remember that signature debit sends the charge through the credit card payment system (Visa or Mastercard) before it is submitted to your bank to charge your checking account. This takes two days. If you use your pin, your checking account is charged either immediately or within a few hours. Note, you can't float a check with safety any longer, especially with big companies. They now submit your check electronically the same day. You can only float a charge reliably, and for two business days, by using signature debit. So, although you give the beast a bite by using signature debit, you starve him of the much larger meal opportunity of a $35 overdraft fee.
Walk Away From Your Mortgage
Last Sunday's New York Times published this provocative article, Walk Away From Your Mortgage. It most appropriately raises the basic philosophical issue of why shouldn't a person turn his home back to the bank. Businesses, including banks, routinely do the same with real estate assets they have financed with loans. The point is that a mortgage is secured by the property, and when the mortgagor fails to pay, then the the mortgagee repossesses it -- the business deal is that mortgagee loses is property. A deal is a deal, and that is the sole basis for a homeowner to decide whether to keep paying his home mortgage or not.
Yes, it's a hard and cold way to view your home. But why should individuals be held to a higher standard than a business? Too, since it's the banks (lenders) who have changed home mortgages from safe long term, low yield community building loans they hold -- to risky short term, high cost loans they sell to investors, they have no right to argue against home owners defaulting. Since the banks unilaterally changed the rules, they deserve the consequences, for good or ill, from that. They have destroyed any moral imperative to pay your mortgage and should experience the consequences of foreclosures and short sales.
As The Celestial Wheel has used Sedona as a case study in Gilded Age greed, this article is telling, Foreclosures at 39% in Sedona. (Note this article only measures foreclosures and does not include short sales. If the latter were included, then forced sales due to unaffordable loans would be over 50%, and which means that at least half the mortgages banks sold were bad investments for which the banks are solely responsible.)
Here's a current example of , Money problems for the biggest real estate deal in U.S. history.
And aren't credit cards the same? -- loans banks make at high return and thereby high risk. They expect a certain amount of losses on credit card accounts, and you thereby have not obligation to pay when you can't.
Integral to the Millennium Contraction is a washing out of debts made without honor or goodwill. When that process is completed, the entire country can return to those values which are necessary to restore an ethical and sustainable economy where we, we, we has replaced Gilded Age me, me, me.