Monday, September 21, 2009

Fun With Dick And Jane

First a shout out to birthday people, Maurice Barrymore (patriarch of the Barrymore family, that includes Drew), H.G. Wells, H.L. Mencken, Thomas Alexandrovich de Hartmann (Thom's dad), Chuck Jones, Jay Ward, Mario Bunge, Larry Hagman, Bill Murray, Ethan Coen, and the lovely Nancy Travis. Happy birthday, one and all. Even those of you who are dead.
I did this due to Google's logo today, depicting H.G. Wells famous tripods from "The War of the Worlds," terrorizing some poor rural community. There's burning and screaming... it's just horrible.
I have to admit something a tad embarrassing. Last Saturday evening I left my box all in a hurry to attend an outdoor screening of Steven Spielberg's iconic, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," in Pasadena, got all of the way there only to discover the event is to be next Saturday. Returned home and checked my calendar, indeed I had it for next Saturday everywhere except my brain. Oh well, now I have something to look forward too.
Last night I was working diligently when I happened to notice the 2005 film, "Fun with Dick and Jane," (a remake of a 1977 film starring George Segal and Hanoi Jane Fonda) was on my television, staring James Eugene Carrey and Tea Leoni. I thought nothing about it at the time, as there are often movies on my television, especially over the weekends. I vaguely remembered having seen it once before, on this very television, as chance would have it. This time though the plot began to intrigue me.
The movie is about a young yuppie couple, Dick and Jane, with one child and one house keeper, both working at well paying jobs and living the so-called American Dream. Nice house, nice snooty friends, nice investments in corporate stock, equity in their home, etc.
Well Dick is promised a huge promotion at the Enronish type company he has been working for for many years. He brings back the happy news to Jane, and tells her she can quit her job, which she does ( she also begins making a lot of expensive home improvements, hot tub, new lawn, etc.) Dick's new job entails appearing on national television to promote the companies soundness, right as the stock price drops like a lead zeppelin, and everyone who worked for the firm, or held investments in it, are instantly ruined (except the CEO, who seems to have made out just fine, sympathizing with those who lost their life's savings, stating he has had to make concessions too, having to sell one of his homes).
Dick and Jane are pretty much left penniless, the job market is glutted, they face imminent foreclosure of their home.
The hook to this movie is that Dick and Jane resort to crime in order to make ends meet. "We followed the rules and we got screwed," Dick observes. They commit a series of small time robberies, gaining experience and expertise, graduating to banks, and more high yield heists until they regain their previous living standard, and then some. Eventually they get revenge on the evil CEO, regaining their pensions, being able to leave their life of crime.
It didn't take long to see parallels between the circumstances related in this movie, and what is happening to a large amount of Americans currently in this economic downturn. Most don't turn to a life of crime, but some do. Families are losing their homes at an alarming rate. Banks that received bail out money from taxpayers rewarded them by foreclosing their homes and increasing the interest rates on their credit cards 60%.
Banks are looking more and more like the villains of the new millennium.
Ann Minch, of Red Bluff, Calif., a 46 year old step-mother of two decided she had enough, after Bank of America increased the interest on her credit card from 12.99% to 30% in July. She has never missed a payment, making at least the minimum monthly, keeping a balance of several thousand dollars on her account.
Now B of A received $25 billion in taxpayer bail out funds, with a government promise to cover $118 billion in case of large losses. Ann got pretty tired of being ripped off and decided to stage a one woman debtor's revolt.
"Minch announced [via a You Tube video] that she'd be dumping Bank of America, refusing to pay off her credit card debt unless she was offered a lower rate. She explained that she'd been a reliable customer even though she'd lost her job as a mental health case manager. She said bank reps refused to negotiate her interest rate when she called them to complain a few weeks ago."
"You are evil, thieving bastards, she said, "Stick that in your bail out pipe and smoke it!"
She's absolutely right... they are evil, thieving bastards. Michael Moore pretty much proves this point in his upcoming documentary, "Capitalism, A Love Story," which chronicles the financial crisis that these banks caused, the bail out footed by the average tax payer to get them out of their own mess, and everything in between.
Just recently President Obama used the one year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the only large financial institution that was allowed to fail, to warn the remaining financial powerhouses, those deemed to large to fail, that new financial regulations were coming that would ensure the excesses of the last eight years and the economic disaster they caused would not repeat themselves. You could almost hear his audience, the employees and CEO's of those institutions snickering, knowing full well that significant oversight, and new regulations would not be coming anytime soon due to the stranglehold they had on Congress from political donations (that we... tax payers, are paying for!), allowing them to continue the same type of behavior that started the whole mess to begin with, paying themselves huge bonuses (that payers, are paying for!). Why shouldn't they? They're not breaking the law because Congress isn't making any laws curbing their abuses, and they're making such a huge bundle that they'll be more than well be insulated from the effects of their own behavior at the expense of all the rest of us Americans, and the rest of the world as well.
I was talking to my lovely building manager, Tianna, the other day, and she told me she liked the short piece I wrote for the SHRT newsletter, because it detailed the plight of many working Americans who are one paycheck away from becoming homeless themselves, like Dick and Jane were about to become. We won't even go into the large predatory lending industry that takes advantage of those facing dire circumstances. "These things are really happening," she told me.
My lovely case manager, Erin, had three of the tires on her car slashed last Friday night for no apparent reason. Sweet, little, innocent Erin, with not an enemy in the world (alright, alright, maybe she's not that innocent. We've all heard the stories, but we can pretend). Although not a violent man anymore, I'd beat the Be-Jesus out of who ever did that to her if I had the chance. Of course she had to pay to have her car towed and the tires replaced. About $400 bucks in all (I don't know where she's getting her tires at. I could have gotten three for about $100 easy). I know she doesn't make all that much money because she works here. What if this happened again. Or how about if she had a sudden illness and her health insurance didn't cover it, as is one of the major causes of bankruptcy in this country. My point being that it would not take much to have her going broke and moving in next door to my box, which happens to be vacant at the moment, and I wouldn't want that because she'd probably be borrowing all of my stuff sooner or later.
But the people are getting fed up (I hope). Michael Moore related this incident to Arianna Huffington recently while snacking on lasagna. It occurred while filming, "Capitalism, A Love Story:"
"While unfurling the (crime scene) tape in front of a "too big to fail" bank, he became aware of a group of New York's finest approaching him. Moore has a long history of dealing with policemen and security guards trying to shut him down, but in this case he knew he was, however temporarily, defacing private property. And his shooting schedule didn't leave room for a detour to the local jail. So, as the lead officer came closer, Moore tried to deflect him, saying: "Just doing a little comedy here, officer. I'll be gone in a minute, and will clean up before I go."
The officer looked at him for a moment, then leaned in: "Take all the time you need." He nodded to the bank and said, "These guys wiped out a lot of our Police Pension Funds." The officer turned and slowly headed back to his squad car. Moore wanted to put the moment in his film, but realized it could cost the cop his job, and decided to leave it out. "When they've lost the police," he told Arianna, "you know they're in trouble."

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