Sunday, September 30, 2012


On August 18 this summer I got together with some of my fellow members of Grass Roots Organizers-- Missouri (GRO--MO), to staff a booth for a couple of hours at the Soybean Festival here in Mexico, Missouri. I already knew something about the payday loan issue which was being sent to the Secretary of State for approval to be on the ballot as an initiative petition in November. GRO had worked hard to gather signatures too, and was gathering them still at the booth. Some people are really astonished to think that Missouri has virtually no limit on loan interest rates, since it is effectively left at 1090%. Still, some States are worse, with no limit. Look around and notice how many of their storefronts are in your own neighborhood or in places you drive past. The homes for the industry are outside of our state so the profits do not do us any good in taxation. There are more of them than there are McDonalds. And their business plan is usury. Their methods of collecting the debt are not always pretty, including taking their clients to court.

On Friday, September 28 my friends in GRO and I traveled from Mexico to St. Louis in two vans. We landed downtown at the Randall Gallery. Not only did I have the opportunity to hear the appointments and swearing-in of the new board members of the newly formed Federal agency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), by its newly appointed Director,Richard Cordray, but I learned a few things during their first meeting. They talked about the economy and the slow recovery and how it has affected personal finance in the USA.
Afterwards witnesses who had signed up were called on for testimony; and others attending also participated. Besides members of GRO, a Catholic Priest from a low income neighborhood, others who had studied the issue, and attorneys for clients of the payday industry spoke up. The list of supporters for this ballot issue is impressive.

At one point I turned around in my chair to hear the testimony in the back of the room from a woman who was noting that legislators in Missouri have received campaign funds from the payday lenders. Another woman in the middle of the room was nodding, and saying “uh huh,” and I chimed in with an echo for added emphasis a few times. When I turned back around to the front Director Cordray was leaning on his hands in rapt attention and he made a comment himself to the Board members regarding establishing federal regulation.

Briefly, here are the main points to be understood by the voters in this State. Efforts have been made in Jefferson City by nonprofit organizations to eliminate the presence of this highly visible con game that is “legal” here because legislators have failed to limit interest rates. These shops have sprung up like common weeds around us, but they are far more toxic than most individuals realize. This has been enabled as an entrapment of people who are financially needy. The clients are usually required to sign a class arbitration waiver, which convinces them they can never sue the lender. It's a scam.
Members of the Missouri General Assembly have been willing to leave the maximum interest rate at virtually no limit. The usual interest rates on these loans is over 400%. In other words, borrowing one hundred dollars could cost you four times that much, or four hundred dollars, within a year. Many borrowers are re-borrowing the principal money month after month while just managing to pay the fees.

On top of that most loans also contain a class arbitration waver, which is an agreement that suing the lender so that a judge can set up arbitration of the outcome is not allowed. This is only a scam, since it is illegal in the eyes of the State and Federal Supreme Courts, and deemed “unconscionable.”

Why would our own State Legislators not have protected us under State Law from these risks? Simply because the payday loan industry is providing “donations” to their campaign funds. Nearly all of the companies thriving as loan sharks are actually based outside our State, so the money being scammed out of our vulnerable citizens is not even useful to us as taxable income. The petition initiative on our ballot will cap interest rates at 36%, which makes loans still profitable enough without being usurious.

We may also need here in Missouri a law established which determines the will of the voters to be above and beyond the will of the legislators, since the General Assembly has more than once overturned ballot issues or amendments passed by the citizenry. We should not have to be spending state monies on court challenges so often because of politics of fund raising. How can we create more transparency and accountability in our State government? As citizens we do it at the ballot box, but that should not vacate our will when some committee meeting in Jefferson City determines that we are not worthy of an opinion.

The opponents of the petition circulated in Missouri to place this issue on the ballot in November challenged the signatures on it, in an “as usual” maneuver. But they were overruled by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Sing out for justice for borrowers in Missouri, and VOTE YES on this ballot issue!  ;->


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

LASTING EFFECT of drought in Mexico MO <"_?

Oak leaves back of my driveway here are covered with these warty thingamajigs . . . .

 This fruit tree appears to have some sort of berry produce, or small cherry like things, smaller than crabapples on this side of the tree, seen on my walk toward the park.
 This photo is fuzzy, but  the fruit on the left side gives a comparison as to what this tree normally produces, altho' all the apple trees I have seen here have much smaller size fruits than average on any previous year, I am sure.

 Now entering the park I am looking toward a grove of trees that continues on the other side of the road. They are like dead men standing. 

Used to be a gorgeous view from here I would guess.

On the other side of the road, here's a closer view looking up the trunk of one tree. Those little grey thingies are pine cones. I doubt they have much life force left in them at all.


 The total number of these ordinarily "evergreen" trees was about a dozen. Most wood that is harvested ordinarily ought to be seasoned for a year before using as fuel. These trees are a fire danger as they stand here.

Past the back of the nearby high school I am now circling back toward "civilization" again. This is one of my favorite spots in some way because these trees represent the history of the indigenous forest, with a mix of oak and hickory trees. The shagbark hickory in the foreground seems to be healthy; the oaks behind them on this small hillside are not.

Hoping to bring you more information on this sort of devastation in the the near future.

To see the photos in close-ups click on them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Drought over? for now, at least!

Hurricane Isaac definitely brought us a few days of rain, and one day it poured for a few hours. But mostly it was a steady rain that helped the grass to recover in our yards, altho', of course, the crabbiest crabgrass survives the best. It is a little late, though, for the crops that suffered, especially, in Missouri, corn and soy. Some cattle were in danger as well because the usual amount of hay was less, and was harvested early. So the farmers have been selling their cows ahead of the regularly expected calendar.

Meanwhile, States to the west of us are still in a heavy drought pattern. We gained, they lost.

Overall the weather pattern still fits global warming in our time. The question for our future is how readily we can change our habits to use less energy, especially carbon-based fuel driven power. Until utilities and government begin to work hand in hand with the citizens to change entirely to sustainable sources, our future is at high risk. And we may never be able to go back to our previous denial, as more extremes will likely occur from the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere in Asia. 

In other words, we are up against a wall that can only be scaled with a huge wake-up cry from governments pushed by citizen voices everywhere on the Earth.