Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Financial Crisis Suicide

While companies that have benefited from the bailout plan are using our tax dollars to party (AIG, who received an additional $30+ billion in tax dollars) and coming down on consumers (home foreclosures, credit freezes, rising interest, no compassion for high debt/late payments), the American public is in a frenzy with no where else to turn but death.

It's a shame that when the people need their government the government is instead using our hard-earned income they acquired illegally through the unconstitutional federal income tax to reward those who are responsible for the mess we are in leaving only death for relief of those in distress.

If any of the tax payers dollars were going to be spent in assistance of our ailing economy it should've gone from the ground up, addressing the issue from it's point of origin: bad mortgages. The government should've bought up these bad home loans to allow families to remain intact without being uprooted to the streets. This would've benefited countless homeowners, families, and restore the gaps in our financial institutions.... A move denounced by Obama but supported by McCain.

John McCain's HOME Plan Will Keep 200,000 To 400,000 Families From Losing Their Homes. "But at the same time, McCain is calling for aggressive federal action to help keep 200,000 to 400,000 families from losing their homes. That plan has many of the elements of a proposal by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., requiring participating lenders to forgive part of the loan principal and then write a new loan that would be backed by the federal government through the Federal Housing Administration." (Tom Raum, "Everyone's Invited: McCain Economic Plan Draws From Both Parties," Tucson Citizen, 4/17/08)

AP Report

An out-of-work money manager in California loses a fortune and wipes out his family in a murder-suicide. A 90-year-old Ohio widow shoots herself in the chest as authorities arrive to evict her from the modest house she called home for 38 years.

In Massachusetts, a housewife who had hidden her family's mounting financial crisis from her husband sends a note to the mortgage company warning: "By the time you foreclose on my house, I'll be dead."

Then Carlene Balderrama shot herself to death, leaving an insurance policy and a suicide note on a table.

Across the country, authorities are becoming concerned that the nation's financial woes could turn increasingly violent, and they are urging people to get help. In some places, mental-health hot lines are jammed, counseling services are in high demand and domestic-violence shelters are full.

"I've had a number of people say that this is the thing most reminiscent of 9/11 that's happened here since then," said the Rev. Canon Ann Malonee, vicar at Trinity Church in the heart of New York's financial district. "It's that sense of having the rug pulled out from under them."

With nowhere else to turn, many people are calling suicide-prevention hot lines. The Samaritans of New York have seen calls rise more than 16 percent in the past year, many of them money-related. The Switchboard of Miami has recorded more than 500 foreclosure-related calls this year.

"A lot of people are telling us they are losing everything. They're losing their homes, they're going into foreclosure, they've lost their jobs," said Virginia Cervasio, executive director of a suicide resource enter in southwest Florida's Lee County.

But tragedies keep mounting:

• In Los Angeles last week, a former money manager fatally shot his wife, three sons and his mother-in-law before killing himself.

Karthik Rajaram, 45, left a suicide note saying he was in financial trouble and contemplated killing just himself. But he said he decided to kill his entire family because that was more honorable, police said.

Rajaram once worked for a major accounting firm and for Sony Pictures, and he had been part-owner of a financial holding company. But he had been out of work for several months, police said.

After the murder-suicide, police and mental-health officials in Los Angeles took the unusual step of urging people to seek help for themselves or loved ones if they feel overwhelmed by grim financial news. They said they were specifically afraid of the "copycat phenomenon."

"This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed, apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair," Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore said. "It is critical to step up and recognize we are in some pretty troubled times."

• In Tennessee, a woman fatally shot herself last week as sheriff's deputies went to evict her from her foreclosed home.

Pamela Ross, 57, and her husband were fighting foreclosure on their home when sheriff's deputies in Sevierville came to serve an eviction notice. They were across the street when they heard a gunshot and found Ross dead from a wound to the chest. The case was even more tragic because the couple had recently been granted an extra 10 days to appeal.

• In Akron, Ohio, the 90-year-old widow who shot herself on Oct. 1 is recovering. A congressman told Addie Polk's story on the House floor before lawmakers voted to approve a $700 billion financial rescue package. Mortgage finance company Fannie Mae dropped the foreclosure, forgave her mortgage and said she could remain in the home.

• In Ocala, Fla., Roland Gore shot his wife and dog in March and then set fire to the couple's home, which had been in foreclosure, before killing himself. His case was one of several in which people killed spouses or pets, destroyed property or attacked police before taking their own lives.

"The financial stress builds up to the point the person feels they can't go on, and the person believes their family is better off dead than left without a financial support," said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Washington D.C.-based Violence Policy Center.

Dr. Edward Charlesworth, a clinical psychologist in Houston, said the current crisis is breeding a sense of chronic anxiety among people who feel helpless and panic-stricken, as well as angry that their government has let them down.

"They feel like in this great society that we live in we should have more protection for the individuals rather than just the corporation," he said.

It's not yet clear there is a statistical link between suicides and the financial downturn since there is generally a two-year lag in national suicide figures. But historically, suicides increase in times of economic hardship. And the current financial crisis is already being called the worst since the Great Depression.

Rising mortgage defaults and falling home values are at the heart of it. More than 4 million Americans were at least one month behind on their mortgages at the end of June, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

A record 500,000 had entered the foreclosure process. And that trend is expected to continue through next year, despite the current programs from the government and the lending industry to refinance delinquent homeowners into more affordable loans.

Counselors at Catholic Charities USA report seeing a "significant increase" in the need for housing counseling.

One counselor said half of her clients were on some form of antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. The agency has seen a decrease in overall funding, but it has expanded foreclosure counseling and received nearly $2 million for such services in late 2007.

Adding to financially tense households is an air of secrecy. Experts said it's common for one spouse to blame the other for their financial mess or to hide it entirely, as Balderrama did.

After falling 3 1/2 years behind in payments, the Taunton, Mass., housewife had been intercepting letters from the mortgage company and shredding them before her husband saw them. She tried to refinance but was declined.

In July, on the day the house was to be auctioned, she faxed the note to the mortgage company. Then the 52-year-old walked outside, shot her three beloved cats and then herself with her husband's rifle.

Notes left on the table revealed months of planning. She'd picked out her funeral home, laid out the insurance policy and left a note saying, "pay off the house with the insurance money."

"She put in her suicide note that it got overwhelming for her," said her husband, John Balderrama. "Apparently she didn't have anyone to talk to. She didn't come to me. I don't know why. There's gotta be some help out there for people that are hurting, (something better) than to see somebody lose a life over a stupid house."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cell Phones the New Cigarette?

As Congress rushes to pass legislation banning cell-phone use on airlines before Europe allows it to strain American airlines from doing the same, we've already been denied our right to dial in the car.

California, as well as many other states, have banned the use of cell phones while driving. Of course you can get around this by using a hands-free contraption (Bluetooth or wired) but it still isn't hands free. You must still dial or browse through the address book and then... Most people hold their phone. Despite the use of these devices the phone is still in hand which defeats the entire purpose of "hands-free." The use of the speaker phone constitutes hands-free as well, though, even more so than bluetooth, you're more than likely to be holding the phone the entire duration of your conversation... Does holding the phone while using the speaker or bluetooth constitutes hands-free? I don't think so.

The bigger concern is our increased exposure to brain tumers. Not for the speaker phone but the bluetooth device... Cell phones emit electromagnetic enegy which can cause clusters to form brain tumors. Bluetooth devices, that are shoved into the ear, and usually left there for the entire day, emit the same radiation and may be of a greater threat due to the increased time of being there and the closeness of it.

This ban against cell phone use while driving is a solution looking for a problem as less than 7% of automobile accidents are attributed to cell-phone use. Moreover, studies have shown it isn't the use of a cell-phone that distracts the driver but rather the conversation itself which uses the same side of the brain as driving. Instead of banning cell phones, which has several loop-holes and most people won't bother to follow anyway, we should instead focus on encouraging light, quick calls in the car or none if unneeded.

Same as with smoking, instead of banning it. Instead of demonizing the smoker. Instead of the junk science that plagues society... We should be honest about it. We're honest about drinking. Drink, but don't over do it. Drink responsibly. The same should be said for smoking. The same should be said for driving and cell phone use.

Now we also have a texting while driving ban here in California that'll go into affect next year that was signed by Arnold (the faux Republican like McCain). What does this mean exactly? It means that instead of holding your phone up to send that quick text where you can see the road and the phone at the same time you will be compelled to hold the phone down and look down and hope for the best. It also means, just as with cell phone use, just as with "speeding," you will be looking out for cops too. Instead of driving and watching the traffic you'll be wasting some amount of focus looking out for cops that when you see, you panic which in and of itself can cause an accident.

Just as how we can no longer smoke in restaurants, in bars, in parks, in theme parks, in our own homes at times... You can no longer use your cell phone on the bus either. Congress is acting to ban cell phone use on airlines which they label as fighting "noise," which is absurd as the flight itself generates so much noise from the wind that you sometimes cannot even hear your own Ipod or just barely so... I don't think a private conversation will yield much distraction from looking at the chair in front of you that is way too damn close.

And now we can no longer use our cell phones on buses. Publicly funded modes of transportation. A woman boarding the Golden Gate Transit bus in the bay area was told over the loudspeaker to get off her cell phone leaving her bewildered as there was no signs. A similar incident occurred on a New Jersey bus line as well.

So... Just as what happened to cigarettes and smokers in the 90s to only grow into a full-blown witch-hunt of oppression is happening now to fast-food, foods deemed unideal by the government, those who don't share the waistline of whoever is on the cover of People... Now we got cellphones.

What's next? Table conversation at the restaurant? Don't want to bother the table next to you or nothing. And conversation in the elevator with a co-worker? Cell phone use is no different than talking to someone right next to you, either can be annoying or distracting depending upon one's perspective.

Our voice is now under attack.