Archive for August 2012

I am watching television.  A commercial appears, and I dutifully watch it.

The commercial is for Western Sky Financial.  Note the official name, because it will bite you in the ass on the way back.  The Name says some things, followed by some numbers.  The Name is offering money to desperate people.  The Name is going to solve your monetary woes with a loan.

This particular company is in the business of lending money at 116.73% APR.

I’m not even sure what that APR looks like on paper.  It is probably going to bankrupt you for the rest of your life.  But helpfully, Western Sky Financial provides a single figure with which you can calculate your indebtedness.  If you ask for a $5,000.00 loan, you will have to make eighty-four (84) payments of $486.58, which equals $40,872.72 over the life of the loan.

I watch a lot of television these days, so I am a skeptic by nature.  I went over that advertisement several times, and read the fine print on the pixelated bottom of the screen, before I decided that anyone who applied for a loan through Western Sky Financial was supremely screwed.  The loan repayment would be over eight times the principal amount.  How badly do you need money?

It’s sad that this type of predatory lending exists.  Desperate people are going to call Western Sky Financial and receive loans that they will never be able to pay off.  It’s sad that this type of contractual binding is legal.  Desperate people will accept the loan terms without reading or listening to them, and will end up in financial slavery to a company that carelessly charges 116.73% APR.  If this company had any regard for the sanctity of human life, the APR would be slightly lower – 50% maybe – which would make it easier for those entering financial serfdom to eventually exit.

There is money to be made in America.  If you have no moral conscience, this is the way to do it.

Facebook is either very good at connecting human beings and their opinions or very bad at convincing me that I should remain in contact with them.  To wit, I saw this parked on my newsfeed this morning:

Commenting or otherwise arguing in favor of space exploration in this situation is as useful as convincing rabid wolves to become vegetarians.  I’m more concerned about the argument that “$100 billion” can be better spent helping ‘us’ poor people.  Let’s run with that for a minute: the CATO Institute, a liberal think tank full of people that get paid to analyze things from too many angles, estimates that the US spends nearly a trillion dollars a year to fight poverty (includes all spending on both the federal and state levels).  That’s a one with twelve zeroes after it.  Is that number right?  It’s probably close to the truth, but to be safe, let’s give it a generous margin of error of +/- 10%.

The Curiosity program came in at a whopping $2.5 billion (go ahead, ask), which falls insignificantly within our established margin of error, but exactly 97.5% off from the cost suggested in the horribly pixelated JPEG above.

I can Google a bunch of things to come up with numbers that can say whatever I want them to say – the US is sinking under its own debt, poor people are starving, toilet paper consumption is through the roof – but the takeaway is that I took the time (<= 2 min) to Google both the cost of social spending and the cost of the Curiosity program, and whomever created that thumbs-up uninfographic couldn’t be bothered.  I might be less annoyed if the graphic said the same thing, but the number was right and the source was in size 4 font in the bottom left.  That would establish it as an opinion based on fact, but 100 is too nice of a round number to pass up and searching for correct information is too hard.  I’d be willing to bet that the person who created that picture, and the people who pass it on, aren’t aware that there are folks in other countries who cannot find information that they are looking for.

That brings me back to ‘us’ poor people, who repost things using the computer they bought with the internet they paid for under the roof they rent or own.  It’s a tough life to sit around all day and identify with poor resolution JPEGs that attempt to broadly define all that ails you.