Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Around this time last month I wrote a post about the explosion of sub-prime credit for people seeking automobile loans they couldn’t afford. Here’s a link if you missed it – click here. 

They say that if you don’t learn from what happened in the past you are doomed to repeat it. And it is clear the banksters have learned nothing, mainly because the government was not man enough to teach them a lesson when they almost brought the country to its knees. Their greed was excused and rewarded, not punished in any meaningful and lasting way.

So now we have the auto loans credit explosion, which is another mini sub-prime disaster in the making. And again it is being egged on by the stupidity and greed of Wall Street who just can’t pass on the chance to reap big profits from those people silly enough to take their high interest loans.

greedy banksters

This time, however, it turns out some of the people in positions of power are beginning to recognize that this is becoming a big problem.

The regulators and prosecutors are starting to worry about the level of lending abuses. Not only that but they are also recognizing the similarities with the home loans fiasco that eventually resulted in the financial crisis.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has recently fined subprime auto lender First Investors Financial Services Group Inc. $2.75 million for knowingly providing inaccurate information to credit reporting agencies for at least three years. It was a “computer error” don’t you know, and, of course, they paid the fine but without admitting any liability – perish the thought!

It should come as no surprise that First Investors Financial Services Group is owned by a prominent New York private equity firm.

And like the mortgage sub-prime fraud, the banksters and other money men are not only screwing the people who take out the loans, but once again they are re-packaging them up as “good investments” for their richer clients too.

A United States attorney in Manhattan, has already begun an investigation into whether lenders have sold questionable auto-loan investments to investors, and has sent subpoenas to General Motors Financial and Santander Consumer USA, to try to find out whether the lenders fully disclosed to investors the creditworthiness of borrowers whose loans made up the complicated securities.

sub prime loans

Last time they got away with it. Will this time be any different? You have a lot more faith in the system than me if you think it will. All that is happening so far is tokenism. They need a lot more than a slap on the wrist.

In China or Vietnam and some other locations banksters committing fraud are stood up against a wall a shot. That’s maybe a little harsh, but at the very least some serious jail time is in order.

The fact is the banksters are doing it again because they think that they can get away with it again. And if they get away with it this time, then they’ll do it yet again in the future. All the time racking up fortunes for themselves and leaving the other poor sods, who didn’t know any better than to take out their loans or buy their toxic investments, a lot poorer.

the expendables

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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We had it with the real estate market. Billions of dollars being lent to people who obviously couldn’t afford it.

We saw the trouble, hardship, misery and financial woes that were caused as credit dried up, real estate prices began to tumble, and bankruptcies and foreclosures increased.

And we know the damage it did to the economy when irresponsible banks and other lenders went bust and almost brought down the entire financial system. 

Smart people would learn from such a situation.

Smart people would never contemplate doing such a thing again.

But despite what they would like to have you believe, bankers are not smart people. They’re dumb and they are greedy, a deadly combination.

bad credit 100 percent financing

As a result of the financial crisis millions of Americans (and people in other countries too) have been left with poor credit scores. Yet remarkably they are now able to easily obtain auto loans from used-car dealers, including some who fabricate or ignore borrowers’ abilities to repay. Even if you are bankrupt or living only on social security, banks like Wells Fargo will lend you thousands of dollars to buy a used car.

It’s called the new sub-prime boom, because the lack of caution resembles the frenzied sub-prime mortgage market before its collapse. And it is already bringing misery to many people who have been suckered into taking out loans that they clearly could not afford.

Worse than that, these sub-prime auto loans often come with terms that take advantage of the most desperate, least financially sophisticated customers, with interest rates that can exceed 20 percent. And many of the loans can be at least twice the value of the second hand cars they are being used to purchase!

wall street car crash

This creates a vicious circle for some borrowers, who still owe money on a car that they are trading in when they purchase another one, meaning that the former debt is rolled over into the new loan and they end up, not just paying too much for their current car, but also continue to pay off the loan on their previous car that they don’t even have!

This is the way loan sharks operate. Eventually you end up borrowing your own money and paying them interest for the privilege!

This surge in sub-prime auto lending is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in sub-prime mortgages. There is a veritable deluge of money pouring into sub-prime autos, as the high rates and steady profits of the loans attract investors.

And just as Wall Street stoked the boom in mortgages, some of the nation’s biggest banks and private equity firms are now feeding the growth in sub-prime auto loans by investing in lenders and making money available for loans.

To quote some of the figures, auto loans to people with bad credit have risen more than 130 percent in the five years since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, with roughly one in four new auto loans last year going to borrowers considered sub-prime, that is, people with credit scores at or below 640. Wells Fargo, mentioned earlier, made $7.8 billion in auto loans in the second quarter of this year, up 9 percent from a year earlier, and has at least $50 billion in auto loans on its books.

greedy bankers

Even worse, as was the case with sub-prime mortgages before the financial crisis, many sub-prime auto loans are being bundled up into complex bonds and sold as securities by banks to insurance companies, mutual funds and public pension funds. They are all scrambling for these, which in turn creates ever-greater demand for loans, and leads to the banks issuing more and more sub-prime credit.

Unbelievably it’s the same crooks doing exactly the same thing, including using incorrect information about borrowers’ income and employment, so that people who had lost their jobs, or were bankrupt, or living on Social Security, could qualify for loans that they could never afford.

carbuying credit report

Admittedly, the size of the sub-prime auto loan market is only a tiny fraction of the sub-prime mortgage market at its peak, and its implosion would not have the same far-reaching consequences.

For the banks the investors silly enough to buy their bonds, that is.

But the misery is just as great for the people who are suckered into accepting credit they cannot afford.

Illegal it may not be, but immoral it certainly is.

Political leaders who sit astride high horses and purport to be working on behalf of the ordinary people should be doing something about it.

But, as I’ve said before, don’t hold your breath!

obama used car salesman

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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I was sounding off a bit in last week’s Sunday Sermon about the state of things in Iraq, a mess created by blundering American and British intervention in a situation they did not, and still do not understand.

Last week I concentrated on the fact that ISIS, the al Qaeda splinter group – big name, ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ – has now seized large parts of northern Iraq, with consequent freeing of prisoners, fleeing of frightened former residents of that area and even unconfirmed reports of ‘mass beheadings’. Other reports of mass executions of official Iraqi army personnel seem to have been confirmed.

Presumably there will be worse to come.

Slaughter in IRAQ

All in the name of an Islamic State?

Well, hold on, maybe not just that.

It turns out that as Iraq descends into what will probably be a bloody civil war, the ISIS-al Qaeda forces have taken time to raid Mosul’s central bank and relieve it of some 500 billion Iraqi dinars, worth approximately $425 million.

Mosul is not only the largest city in northern Iraq, it is an oil hub at the vital intersection of Syria, Iraq and Turkey, thus providing rich pickings for the terrorists.

They also reportedly stole additional $ millions from a number of other banks across Mosul and what has only been quantified as a “large quantity of gold bullion.”

Others towns and cities, like Saddam Hussein’s old home town Tikrit, have suffered a similar fate.

As a result of all this George Bush / Tony Bliar created disaster, the ISIS/al Qaeda chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a previously relatively unknown figure, is now the leader of perhaps the ‘world’s richest terror force’.

obama-funding-syrian-rebels-al-qaeda-benghazi

(Quick side note to President Obama – I’m sure he reads this blog :)

- Hi Barrack, you can stop using American taxpayers’ money

to fund these ISIS terrorists in Syria, they have enough money now.)

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In fact, to put the latest cash haul in perspective, at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US, Al-Qaeda had been working with an operating budget of around $30 million (source ‘Council on Foreign Relations’), so even allowing for inflation they are substantially richer today, and by definition have it in their power to do much more damage not just in the Middle East region, but worldwide.

As regional analyst Brown Moses succinctly put it on Twitter, this recent haul of ill gotten gains will “buy a whole lot of Jihad……For example, with $425 million, ISIS could pay 60,000 fighters around $600 a month for a year.”

It might even do a lot more. ISIS has already attracted 12,000 militants from abroad, 3,000 of whom are from the West. With bought mercenaries on board things can only get worse.

Bush Blair whose Words of Mass Deception created needless death and destruction in Iraq

When Bush and Blair used Words of Mass Deception about Saddam Hussein having Weapons of Mass destruction as a bogus excuse to attack Iraq there were no terrorists and no terrorist threat from that country. Thanks to their lies, deceit and incompetence, there are now.

If this is an ‘improvement’ I can’t see it  –  can you?

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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We all know that one of Steve Jobs favorite things was selling people well designed goods at vastly over inflated prices. People who were obsessed by having the latest gimmicks, bought his stuff in droves at whatever price Jobs put on them and in the process made Apple one of the richest companies in the world.

That’s what you call business, not quite ethical perhaps, but if you can get away with it and you can find people who are silly enough to pay far too much for your goods then why not?

What the creation of this ‘new’ market also did was spawn clones or look-a-likes from companies wanting to cash in on the windfall initially created by Apple.

Many of these are quite legitimate, like the Samsung Galaxy models which have become just as popular as the iPhones and are just as good, if not better, IMHO.

But what has also happened is that the same success has spawned a series of non-legitimate clones – from China – which look the same and provide many of the same functions, although the build quality as with much of the junk emanating from China is very poor.

smart phones

Apple Iphone, Samsung Galaxy S5, Star N9500

So, getting back to the question posed in the title of this post, if you are thinking of buying yourself a smart phone – and you are also thinking of saving a bit of money and buying one of those iPhone or Samsung Galaxy look-a-likes from China – think again.

This week a German firm called ‘G Data’ (which has a US subsidiary) released information that a popular brand of Chinese-made smart phone, the ‘Star N9500’, which is sold internationally by several major retailers, including Amazon.com, has been found to contain pre-installed monitoring software – that’s spy software to you and me.

G Data said it discovered the spy software hidden deep inside the proprietary software found on the Star N9500, which is a cheap smart phone based on the popular Samsung Galaxy S4.

malware

The hidden software contained within the phone’s operating system includes applications that could allow a third party to access and steal the telephone user’s personal information.

There are also secret applications that could permit a hacker to place calls from the telephone, or utilize the device’s microphone and camera without the consent of its owner.

And malware like this can not only allow hackers to access the telephone, but also any computers connected to it.

spy software

It was also discovered that the stolen data was being sent to a server based in, where else, China.

Adding to the intrigue, G Data’s team of experts and several journalists tried for “over a week” to track down the manufacturer of the Star N9500 by contacting several companies located in China’s southern province of Shenzhen, known as the center of the country’s telecommunications industry, but were unable to do so.

This isn’t the first time hidden spyware has been discovered in the operating software of telecommunications hardware made in China, and it probably won’t be the last.

But don’t get completely paranoid just because you read this post or other articles like it.

Just realize that the convenience that this latest technology provides, also provides criminals (which includes spying governments, you listening ennn esss ey?) easier access to your personal information.

And act accordingly.

Phone Spy Software

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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It’s Sunday so time for another Sunday Sermon.

There’s a famous quote from US President Abraham Lincoln that goes something like, “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time”.

On the face of it Lincoln’s words seem rather clever and profound – and true. And so they are.

Up to a point.

But what Lincoln didn’t say (and he was a politician after all) is that you don’t have to fool ALL of the people ALL of the time.

What you have to do is fool them long enough to do what you need to do – for example, in the case of a politician, to get yourself elected.  

 

graph Miss Universe

Which brings me to statistics.

Because the best people in the world at playing with statistics are politicians and governments.

Some people believe everything they are told. Others call the figures governments produce ‘disingenuous’ which is being very kind. And some don’t believe a word or a number that they produce. (Take a wild guess at which camp I am in.)

Government statistical results are in effect lies. You can’t call them that – although I just did – because they can find figures to back up what they say, it’s just that they choose the figures that tell the story they want to promote and ignore all the rest that tell a different story.

For example, to get on to one of my favorite rant subjects, there is a thing which I am sure most of you have never heard of called the ‘Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program’ or ‘SIGTARP’ for short.

When the government is challenged about what is has been doing to bring to justice the banksters, who stole and recklessly gambled away our money, they can quote you a statistic or two saying that over the last few years, SIGTARP has put over 100 senior bank executives in jail, each of whom was convicted of stealing from taxpayers.

Although that fact is ‘technically’ or ‘statistically’ true, what they don’t tell you is that the people they have gone after and convicted are all small time crooks, guilty of small time frauds that are seldom above $1m or $1.5 million in value.

All the super crooks who embezzled hundreds of $ billions and almost brought down the entire financial system aren’t even being seriously pursued. More than six years into the SIGTARP investigations there are literally still hundreds of billions of outstanding ‘loans’, from banks including Citi, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.

They can quote figures all day long to try to mislead the people and make themselves look good, but a few small time crooks thrown in jail for stealing a million or two dollars here and there isn’t ever going to make much of a dent in the $ billions that were stolen. The politicians know that as well as anyone.

Perhaps Mark Twain’s “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” might have been a better quote!

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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I know it’s June but you will see later why the title says April. The fools bit is appropriate all year round for these guys as will also become clear.

Now for the story.

A cunning master criminal and his accomplice were caught after a burglary attempt at a place of business in Maplewood, Minnesota, thanks to an alert police dispatcher and a real dumb-ass criminal.

As a result Todd J. Weiss 32, from Minnetonka and his sidekick Justin G. Evans, 38, from Savage, were arrested at the scene. Both face third-degree felony burglary charges.

The incident took place around 4:45 a.m. April 1 (Fools Day appropriately enough, hence the title).

Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell said a 911 dispatcher first got a call and hang-up, then another call from the same number.

The second time, the call stayed open. The dispatcher overheard pieces of a conversation about where police were and the dangers of getting caught.

“If it goes off, they are right across the street,” one of the men said, according to the charges.

Police Chief Schnell said it was “pretty clear based on some of that conversation that this was a burglary”.

The phone had been in Weiss’s pocket and whatever he was doing at the time, he had inadvertently pressed the phone’s emergency-call feature, twice!!

As with all 911 calls, the dispatcher could see the location of the caller, in this case a car-repair shop at White Bear Avenue and County Road D.

Officers arrived to see the two men leaving the building wearing dark clothing, the charges said. One was carrying a television, the other a box.

Upon seeing the officers, the men dropped their booty and ran for it. Officers ordered them to stop, then sent police dogs to nab them.

Weiss refused to speak to police after he was read his Miranda rights. Evans said he had taken more than a dozen Xanax and the police report confirmed that he “appeared to be under the influence of the substance”.

He denied being inside the business, saying he was outside behind nearby apartments having relations with his girlfriend.

Both men’s criminal histories include burglary and theft, according to Minnesota court records.

Police Chief Schnell rightly praised the 911 operator, but it has to be said that morons like these who phone 911 while burglarizing a property make it a bit too easy for the cops to catch them.

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Todd Joseph Weiss

Todd Joseph Weiss

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Have you ever Googled yourself to see if there is anything on the internet about you, or even if there are any other people with the same name as you?

I bet you have. I think everyone does at some stage. Some people call it ‘ego-surfing’.

I actually hadn’t, but I did just now. Apparently there’s a British Member of Parliament and a Realtor in Kentucky using my name. I’ll have to put a stop to that!

But getting back to today’s post. There’s nothing wrong with Googling yourself, unless of course you are a moron, in which case the consequences can be both unseen (for you) and quite traumatic.

That’s what happened to a guy called Christopher Viatafa.

He’s a moron.

And a criminal.

In fact Christopher was being sought in connection with a shooting during a private party at the San Leandro Senior Center in California. Police said he got into an argument, pulled out a handgun and fired several rounds into the ground.

He was forced out of the area, but not before he fired more rounds. No one was hit, but police investigators were looking for him for allegedly discharging a firearm toward an inhabited dwelling.

That was okay, as far as he was concerned.

But then the astute Christopher Googled his name, found a picture of himself on a “Most Wanted” website….

and….

wait for it….

you know what’s coming….

promptly surrendered to San Leandro police in connection with a shooting.

Viatafa told police he had looked himself up online and found his mug on the “Northern California Most Wanted” website, maintained by the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, a group of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

“That is why he turned himself in,” police said.

By the following Friday, Viatafa was listed on the website as a “captured fugitive”.

The website didn’t say that he had captured himself.

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dumb criminal Christopher Viatafa

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