Monthly Archives: April 2011
This week’s FourStory article is about subjects I care about very passionately. I’ll cut to the chase:
The United States’s poorest residents grow up with easy access to drugs, little upward mobility, and practically no chance to get help for addiction. If a poor black man is caught with heroin, he will go to prison … so there is no incentive to reveal his crippling addiction to the authorities. If he’s truly addicted, he will do whatever it takes to pay for his fix. Then he’ll get caught doing something illegal and go to jail. In jail, he will continue to do whatever he must to pay for his addiction, involving much more violent crime in many cases. Once he is finally released, he will be more willing to negotiate his morality, and repeat this cycle endlessly. At taxpayers’ very large expense, no less.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, a 12-year-old will be paid $1,000 to smuggle heroin into the United States, and $3,000 more if he kills a Mexican military officer on the way back. In order to put the heroin into his hands, a woman in Honduras will be raped by cartel members into subservience, along with all the other women in her community. She will grow, pack, distribute and manufacture everything before it gets shipped north. Her government will not be able to lift a finger to help her, and she will likely die there. Her daughter will probably take her place once she is gone. This is not fiction. It is happening right now.
Read the rest here. I hope you find it informative.
The world is filled with good people afraid of making bad choices. So we’ve come to rely on those we trust to make decisions for us because taking responsibility for bad decisions paralyzes us with fear.
But today we should not be afraid. Take comfort knowing that everyone around you is a good person, and none mean you any harm. They simply have a very different perspective on what it means to do the right thing. It’s a part of them as it is a part of you. Ultimately, we are lucky we as a species can differentiate “right” from “wrong” at all. This innate morality has always helped us to persevere.
That said, when people are hurt is our planet is hurt. One day, we will all have to make peace with our bad decisions in hopes that we can be forgiven; but today, please go out of your way to make a few, small, good ones down here on Earth. And please, do it because it’s simply the right thing to do.
Over the past 14 weeks, I’ve been running a series on FourStory.org on the process of purchasing a home and how much it’s changed in 5 years. The last three articles are an interview and retrospect with a former real estate broker, turned toy company owner, Vince. The first article discusses his personal story, why he got into brokering and what happened once the economy collapsed. Here’s a taste:
After ten years as a safety director for a Fortune 50 Company, and several years in the auto industry, the time felt right for Vince to begin looking for new ventures. Although the job paid incredibly well, the hours were terrible. Some workdays would last for 16 hours, and when you have two young kids, somewhere deep inside you have to know that’s no way to be a father. In Vince’s words, “Not all money’s good money.”
So he gave his two weeks and decided to try his hand at being a mortgage broker. He had worked in the past putting deals together for the auto industry; the way he saw it, it would be largely the same with larger sums of money. Working out of his home, Vince structured his company, got set up with a loan processor in Arizona, and eventually employed a group of 34 loan officers to broker deals in 45 states. The loan officers would bring Vince deals and make 80% of the commission, the processing company would make $750 per deal, and Vince would take the remainder. The checks were cut when the buyer closed, and the team would move on to the next deal. And since it was 2006, deals were constantly closing all over the country.
The second article discussed how, exactly, his business worked, decisions he made that affected his current situation and what happened once everything fell apart for everyone in his industry:
Then one morning he received an email from New Century Financial Corporation. Vince was in the process of closing three deals with them, and each had passed its Right of Rescission, the three day window a buyer has to pull out of a deal. The email said that if Vince had any current or recently processed New Century deals, he should consider them null and void. This came as a huge shock since, in January 2007, New Century was the second largest subprime mortgage lender in the United States.
But by March 2007, they couldn’t sell their bad mortgages to the U.S. government. Their market capitalization went from $1.75 billion to $417 million practically overnight. They announced that they had overstated their earnings in previous years. Their executives had their personal profits disgorged—taken away because they were obtained illegally. (In 2010 their executive board members and cofounders were indicted and barred from serving on the board of publicly-run companies for five years.)
The third and final article of my 14-article series jam-packs his and my advice for potential first-time home-buyers:
After conducting all the interviews, I discovered that there are two distinctive kinds of homebuyers: investors and people-who-just-want-to-buy-a-house-to-live-in. Investors generally prefer the Wild West: they get better opportunities for deals, money can come out of anywhere, price ranges are wider, there’s more to gain, and there’s a lot more hustle involved. People-who-just-want-to-buy-a-house-to-live-in prefer the formal process. They build up their credit, want a place where they can have a family, and plan to live there until they grow old, or at least older. There’s little risk, less hassle, less back-and-forth, and more straightforward rules.
But let’s say you want to buy a house. And let’s say that you read none of my articles and have learned none of the life lessons imparted by any of my brave interviewees. What do you do to make that house happen and not get screwed?
Clearly that depends on what your goal is.
I hope you read them, enjoy them, and find something useful in them.
War had left nothing behind but us.
There was one last place on earth to go.
And only I could remember the way.
The journey took months, and many died from starvation and exposure to the elements along the way.
But it was no warmer or safer here than any other place in the world. By the end, only two of us remained.
I had not seen that gateway since I was young…
…and never planned to see it again, nor the land beyond it.
I feared what I could not remember, and we stepped forward into its mouth together.
The streets were silent during the day, and all semblance of the horrific nights vanished into the wasted cityscape.
I had to stop and regroup some place safe. I hadn’t slept well in months, hadn’t eaten in days and would run out of water in only a few hours.
But hey… at least I still had a shitload of ammunition.
As we just finished up Wondercon in San Francisco, it was an interesting experience to be on the other side of the table pitching your products and merchandise to passersby. Interesting enough, in fact, to make a little pencast comic. You can just read them as is (once you click the video), or press “play” and then click the top to hear the ambient sounds of the convention floor.