Monday, 31 October 2011


So, let’s say you have bad credit and you want to repair it with a group that promises it will give anyone credit… for a price.  Now let’s say that that group gives you $300 in credit, but instantly charges a $29 finance charge, a $6.50 account maintenance fee and a $150 annual fee against the $300 credit limit.  Further, the agreement includes a clause that compels you to arbitrate any dispute you have with the credit card company.  Will a court allow you to sue the credit card company anyway, despite that provision?  That’s the issue in CompuCredit Corp. v. Greenwood which is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

I write about court cases in the Northern District of California for my blog. One case that has been moving through the federal courts, and was recently argued at the U.S. Supreme Court involved the issue of which statute governs in a case like the one above.  As Judge Claudia Wilken explained at the trial court:
The CROA [Credit Repair Organizations Act] contains a non-waiver provision, which states:
Any waiver by any consumer of any protection provided by or any right [to sue] of the consumer under this subchapter— (1) shall be treated as void; and (2) may not be enforced by any Federal or State court or any other person.
15 U.S.C. § 1679f(a) (emphasis added).

This apparent clarity is muddled by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) which states that federal courts will stay cases where a party has a valid arbitration clause governing the situation until arbitration is complete. So, courts are split as to which statute governs.  Courts in Texas and Alabama found that Congress used CROA to counter the effect of the FAA, but courts in Michigan and Pennsylvania found that Congress intended FAA to apply.

At trial, Judge Wilken sided with Mr. Greenwood and denied CompuCredit’s motion to compel arbitration.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed and CompuCredit affirmed.  At oral argument it seemed like the Court seemed in favor of reversing the trial court.  Justice Kagan asked about the significance of Congress leaving out explicit language of enforcing the FAA, when courts have repeatedly decided that such language is mandatory. Michael McConnell, the attorney for CompuCredit, only used a fraction of his time, a general indication that there was not much disagreement with his position and the Court.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

I'm Still Around

When Rumi finally completes the long-delayed Vol. 3 of Masnavi, his explanation in the opening verse of the book is the most compelling: It takes time for blood to turn into milk! His excuse/reason is doubly profound if you know the background story which had to do with his son's prolonged illness from which he happily recovered.

I have no such exquisite reason but reasons good enough. I had several commitments, some quite time-consuming, that came due one after another in September and October. Then I began a long-planned month-long trip to areas with spotty, slow and blocked internet access which made writing very difficult and posting impossible. Let us say that all was a Black Swan. That should explain everything.

My apologies and thanks for the kind inquiries. I am not back to my base yet but getting there. Will return shortly.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Saturday Morning Housecleaning

I went back and cleaned up a bunch of comment spam. Comment spam, I'm finding out, grows geometrically once it takes root. For instance, my most-popular post ever:

Debunking Gary Gorton's Fire Sale Thesis

Was completely lousy with comment spam, with more than 50 comments, and all but six just crap. The spam had overrun the comment section like some kind of kudzu-inspired mold life form.

In cleaning up the spam, I found myself in the ironic position of deleting comments that offered high (but phony, non-specific) praise of my intellectual insights, while leaving a few comments that basically suggested I was a blowhard (but that were real).

Vive l'open society.

So anyway, be forewarned if you're hawking UK dissertation papers, low auto insurance quotes, shutters for sale in Clearwater, Florida -- I'm onto you. Go foul someone else's watering hole.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Well, I Got This One Right at Least

Every so often, as a blogger, you look back on previous posts to answer the question, "Was I just being shrill and pessimistic or was I onto something?"

A year ago, I wrote "The Foreclosure Mess: 7 Reasons Why It's Much Worse Than You Think."

And I'd say, though the post wasn't wholly original content, that I got this one right as the MERS mess drags on (random observation: MERS and MESS are practically the same word, as the "r" in MERS is only one letter space -- i.e., p-q-r-s -- away from being MESS. Keep those ironies coming, mortgage industry!)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Leonardo Dicaprio: Travel and Scuba diving

                                                                  Leonardo Dicaprio

Question 1:  What’s the best place you’ve visited?
Leonardo Dicaprio Answer 1: Wow… There are quite a few. Thailand is one of the most amazing places that I’ve ever been. I’m a big scuba-diver, too, so I just went to the Galapagos Islands.

Question 2:  Where else do you recommend diving?
Leonardo Dicaprio Answer 2: You can’t beat the Great Barrier Reef for coral reefs.

Travel is a common topic of conversation amongst friends and people you don’t know so well.  This topic is neutral and anyone can participate by asking questions or explaining their travel experience.  Also, people tend to talk about travel because it is exciting!

Conversation Flow

Leo (Leonardo) starts by showing his enthusiasm for the topic with the word ‘Wow’ following with the idea that there are many great places in the world.  However, to keep the conversation interesting, he naturally says a location ‘Thailand’ and one of his favorite activities ‘scuba diving’.  Leo finishes his thought with the last place he went to ‘the Galapagos Islands’.

The person asking questions can easily continue the conversation by asking about the place(s) or activity.  However, the listener selects scuba diving because Leo mentions scuba diving in two locations: Thailand and the Galapagos Islands.

Casual Slang Expressions 

(1)I’m a ‘big’ scuba diver. =

I really like scuba diving/I love scuba diving.

(2)You ‘can’t beat’ the Great Barrier Reef for coral reefs =

The Great Barrier Reef for coral reefs is the best.

This common conversation topic is easy to adapt to your own travels internationally or nationally.  Our favorite activity often is connected to our vacations.  This style is comfortable but exciting for the speaker and listener! Try it out! 

Speaking Pattern Practice

Question 1:  What’s the best place you’ve visited?
Answer 1: Wow… There are quite a few. Thailand is one of the most amazing places that I’ve ever been. I’m a big scuba-diver, too, so I just went to the Galapagos Islands.

Question 2:  Where else do you recommend diving?
Answer 2: You can’t beat the Great Barrier Reef for coral reefs.


Question 1:  What’s the best place you’ve visited?
Answer 1: Wow… There are quite a few. Costa Rica is one of the most amazing places that I’ve ever been. I’m a big surfer, too, so I just went to Hawaii.

Question 2:  Where else do you recommend surfing?
Answer 2: You can’t beat the Gold Cost of Australia.

Question 1:  What’s the best place you’ve visited?
Answer 1: Wow… There are quite a few. New Zealand is one of the most amazing places that I’ve ever been. I’m a big golfer, too, so I just went to Scotland.

Question 2:  Where else do you recommend golfing?
Answer 2: You can’t beat Pebble Beach in the United States.

Leo's - Titanic-Theme Song
'My Heart Will Go On ' by Celine Dion

Enjoy! See you next week!
Celebrity English

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Global Tax Proposals On The Way

Along with loads of responses towards global economic crisis and climate changing implications, bulks of proposals for global taxes have also ushered in. Global taxes on banks as well as all financial institutions; tax on specific international monetary transactions as well as on carbon for energy usage are some of the major proposals. Owing to the unpleasant consequences of the Asian Financial Crisis, the G20 instructed the International Monetary Fund to give suggestions whether tax should be levied on financial institutions as well as financial transactions.

After discussions, it was inferred that the primary objectives of taxes on financial institutions as well as transactions will be to recuperate the monetary expenses in order to bring out banks from financial crisis and also create a fund to handle such critical situations in future. Another purpose was to restrict speculative activities witnessed in financial transactions.

On the other hand, the sole purpose of carbon taxes was to bring into consideration environmental destruction using various energy sources with huge carbon content as well as to finance energy sources that are renewable.

Now, there are certain aspects depending on which the global tax would require an agreement:
  • Purpose of the tax – Whether taxes will be levied on banks only or all on other financial institutions, and whether global taxes would be applicable solely on fossil fuels or on all energy sources?
  • Tax base to be defined – Should bank assets or liabilities be taxed? Now, if any one of the options is chosen, what should be excluded?
  • Tax collection format – What are the bodies to be provided statutory in order to obtain the global taxes?
If you wish, you can also attend online global tax seminars to have a better understanding of various tax implications.

I-9 Compliance Help – Avoiding the Liabilities with Law

The federal law in recent times has come up with stricter enforcement to The Immigration Reform and Control Act. This strict enforcement ensures that every United States based employer needs to carry out stricter employment eligibility check for each new employee to the organization. The employment eligibility check was always carried through a document referred to as I-9 Form, which now comes with changed policies. Since, mishandling not pertaining to the changed rules can affect your organization poorly, it is essential on your part to seek effective I-9 compliance help for being sure with the employment eligibility check at your organization.

Remember, that the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor, and/or the Office of Special Counsel for Unfair Immigration-Related Employment Practice of the Department of Justice can ask any U.S.A based organization to provide the I-9 forms of all employees at any time. Therefore, it is necessary that you run a scrutinized check frequently ensuring that all employees have duly filled and submitted i-9 forms. To carry out the service better, you can consult an attorney for I-9 compliance help to manage the check better. It must be ensured that the forms are error free attached with proper verification certificates.

The 1-9 form that comes categorized in three sections require the employee to attest work eligibility in U.S.A and a review of the employees document verifying his eligibility and identity in its first two sections. The third section is for employees with temporary eligibility. Employers must make it a point to maintain all the duly filed I-9 forms in proper condition for minimum three years since the employment or termination date. Any misgivings in the form or its maintenance can leads to legal proceedings with monetary fines against the employer. Therefore, prevention always stands to be an alternative to cure when it comes to I-9 compliance help.

Employers are always open to liabilities in association with form I-9 and little mistake on the side can lead to great concern. It is better to be late than never.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Elizabeth Hurley photos

Alanis Morissette: Staying Fit

                                                                                Alanis Morissette

Staying fit has become a common topic in North America.  Let’s look at singer-songwriter and multiple Grammy winner Alanis Morissette’s fitness strategy.

Question: How do you keep fit?
Alanis Morissette Answer:  I'm a cross trainer. One day I'll go bicycling, and the next I'll do some kickboxing or go out for a long walk. Basketball and Volleyball are my favorite sports. I dance, too. Doing the same thing every day is not right for my temperament.

This week a simple speaking tip that can help improve conversation and language skills.  The strategy is to use more than one sentence for an answer.  Expanding your language answers will help to make your language more complex and interesting.  Also, it gives the listener more topics to ask you about. 

In her answer, she starts with a general fitness idea and then gives more details. In her last sentence, Alanis tells the listener the reason she is a cross trainer. 
Alanis: I'm a cross trainer.   (General fitness idea)

One day I'll go bicycling    (detail 1)
the next I'll do some kickboxing    (detail 2)
or go out for a long walk    (detail 3)
Basketball and Volleyball are my favorite sports.    (detail 4)
I dance, too    (detail 5)

Doing the same thing every day is not right for my temperament. (Reason-she cross trains)

Although the grammar patterns are not complicated, Alanis achieves a lot of information in 4 sentences.  She introduces the topic idea and then gives details. Finally, Alanis explains ‘why’ she uses the cross training fitness style.  Her style is casual but detailed.  The information in her answer is well connected and has a smooth flow.  She makes the listener feel comfortable and gives the listener lots of topics to ask her about.  For example: Did you play volley ball in high school?   How often do play basket ball? Where do you like to go for walks? Etc.

Speaking Pattern

I'm a cross trainer. One day I'll go bicycling, and the next I'll do some kickboxing or go out for a long walk. Basketball and Volleyball are my favorite sports. I dance, too. Doing the same thing every day is not right for my temperament.

1.  I'm a cross trainer. One day I'll go jogging, and the next I'll do some yoga or go out for a hike. Baseball and Tennis are my favorite sports. I dance, too. Doing the same thing every day is not right for my temperament. 
2.  I'm a cross trainer. One day I'll go rollerblading, and the next I'll do some biking or go out for a round of golf. Softball and Hockey are my favorite sports. I dance, too. Doing the same thing every day is not right for my temperament.

I hope you enjoy talking fitness to your friends or making new friends at the local fitness center!

Alanis Morissette Links


Music Hit!  “Ironic”


Celebrity English
Communicating with the World

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

DVA: Accounting Gimmickry That Makes No Sense

Once again, the banks are booking big profits based on DVA -- debt valuation adjustment -- because their creditworthiness has deteriorated. Once again, this accounting gimmickry makes absolutely no sense.

The rationale for booking DVA gains: the debt you have issued becomes cheaper as your credit risk rises, so theoretically you can buy it back at a lower price, saving money.

This is ridiculous because it ignores the fact, as I explain in this post from two and a half years ago, that it costs more to raise the money to buy back the debt.

The gains don't exist. They're completely illusionary.

The DVA accounting convention is a sham. It shouldn't be allowed. Isn't there an accountant out there bright enough to see the inherent absurdity in it?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Essential Questions to ask before hiring a financial planner


Being buried deep in debt can be a most unpleasant situation for anyone. It may even come to a point when you will need professional help to get your finances back in order. However, making this decision is not as easy as it sounds. Hiring a financial planner means stretching your limited financial resources to the breaking point.
You have to make sure that the financial planner you hire will provide you with 100% honest services and excellent money management tips. Getting a financial advisor is no joke because it means investing lots of trust and confidence in someone who will help you run your financial affairs more smoothly.
Besides, financial advisors are called in not only to help people manage their debts, but also to prepare for the future, such as retirement. That means that you open up more than just your financial portfolio to your advisor—you also let him in on your family history, plans for the future and personal priorities.

One big decision

You can interview as many people as you want, but this process alone will not guarantee that you will get the best possible financial planner. The job is a highly technical and specialized one, which may mean that you are at a disadvantage even as you try to inquire whether or not this person is the right one for the job. Very few of us have the level of expertise that financial planners have, and asking them questions can be more than a little intimidating at first. If we had their knowledge and skills, we wouldn't need their heolp in the first place.
We don't want to look like we don't know anything about money, so we may have the tendency to limit our questions to mundane matters. Inquiring about prior work history, references and affiliations are all right, but we must certainly go further than that. Asking the right kind of questions will allow us to determine if a particular candidate is the best financial planner for us.
Include the following questions in your checklist when you interview your first batch of potential financial advisors:
  1. Who is your ideal client? Finding an effective financial advisor means getting someone who understands your current age, work, stage in life and asset level. Perhaps you are already planning to retire in a couple years' time, which means that you need someone with sufficient experience in working with people who are about to retire.

  2. How are you compensated? Ascertaining how your advisor is paid will help you find out if he will be loyal to you in the long run. A fees only arrangement means that you pay him directly for his services and advice, while a commission-based advisor might consider his monetary interest first before he gives you any advice. Payment for your financial advisor's services should also be clearly stated in your final contract.

  3. Are you married? Having a family means that your financial advisor is keenly aware of the realities of juggling various different expenses all at the same time. You want someone who can empathize with you and really help you work through financial problems one by one. Another way to look at it is that your planner is exposed to different aspects of your life, so you should at least know basic details about his life as well. On the other hand, a planner with rocky family life may be too distracted to provide you with quality advice all the time.

  4. Will you be the only person working with me? Some financial advisors work personally with their clients while others have an entire staff to attend to small details that don't require too much discretion and confidentiality. Ask the candidate if he plans to bring in outside help such as lawyers, tax accountants or insurance agents so you can check on their individual backgrounds as well.

  5. How many clients do you have? Just like in any other industry, some financial planners are in it for the money. Thus they may have the tendency to bite off more than they can chew—taking in too many clients and accepting too many accounts at any given time. This can significantly reduce the level of quality of the services your advisor can give you, especially if he is working solo. It is better to work with someone who has just a few clients under his wing because he is the one who has the most time and attention to give every account.
This article was written by Will from Life Insurance Finder. Visit Life Insurance Finder to compare life insurance quotes.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Fran Capo: Fastest Talking Female on the Planet

                                                                           Fran Capo
Fran Capo is a keynote motivational speaker, 15 time author, comedienne, TV show host, spokesperson, adventurer and five time world record holder, most known as the Guinness Book of World Records fastest talking female. She has appeared on over 350 television and 4500 radio shows worldwide including; Entertainment Tonight, Fox & Friends, The Late Show, Martha Stewart, Larry King Live and the Discovery Channel. Her "Cuppa Capo's" which are humorous motivational Vlog tips are sent out daily if you subscribe to Cuppacapo and she has a monthly newsletter called, Capo update. She is high energy, down to earth and has spoken to Fortune 500 companies on every continent. To learn more about her, check out Follow her on and


Alex Question: Are there other people in your family who are considered fast talkers?
Fran Capo Answer: No. I always joke though that my sister, who taught herself how to speak 3 languages speaks them slow, so to make up for it, I speak one, really fast.

Alex:  You are the official - Guinness World Records acknowledged  - fastest-talking female, having broken the record twice. Is your current record speaking 603.32 words in 54.2 seconds?
Fran Capo:  Yes. I broke the first record, 585 worlds per minute on The Larry King Live Show (CNN) on March 4, 1986. I broke the second record, 603.32wpm on June 5th, 1990 at the Guinness Museum in Las Vegas.

Alex:  To become the world's fastest talking female, how did you train/practice for it?
Fran Capo:  I had a teacher in the sixth grade that would always ask you questions on the spot and get you nervous. So I used fast-talking as a way to answer this. Like if he said, “Who was the 14th President??
I'd rattle off, Lincoln, Washington, Pierce…you figure it out?” The class laughed and I figured 1 out of 3 was a good shot.

The thing is, becoming a fast talker was never really a conscious decision on my part. I was working at a radio station, WBLS in NYC doing comedy bits. Joking around I said, “I could do a really cool Mae West Impression, but that I called the character, June East, (Mae's long lost sister.) The DJ, flung the weather and traffic copy at me and I went on air for 30 seconds. A reporter from the Daily News happened to be listening and was doing a story on weather and traffic people. She called and asked me how long I had been doing it. I wasn't going to say, “30 seconds”, so I said, “Oh a while.”
Then she asked what I was planning on doing next. I didn't have a next but I had on the line from the Newspaper so I said, “Oh I'm thinking of breaking a world record.” She asked, “For what?” But I couldn't tell her, because at that moment I didn't know. I told her I'd call her back. I ran out, bought a Guinness Book looked at all the world records and saw fast-talking. Since people always told me I talked fast I figured, what the heck, I'll go for that. I called her back and told her.  She asked, “Well what's the present record at?” I said, “552 words per minute.” She said, “And what are you at?” I said, “550, those last two words are a killer.” She printed it in the paper and the very next day the Larry King Live people called me and asked me to go on their show and break the record. At first I didn't even know who Larry King was. I heard cable, and I thought, “Is this some kind of porn?” She said, 'No honey this is a national show.”
So I figured what the heck, what's the worst that can happen? The worst is that I look like a fool on national TV and the best, I break a world record. I gave it a shot. I called Guinness they said to break the record I had to read something from Shakespeare or the bible. Me and Shakespeare never got along, so I chose a psalm from the bible. The Larry King live people told me they'd have a limo at my house in 5 hours. So for 5 hours I practiced and practiced, making sure I enunciated every single word, having my dad time me to the 100th of a second. I broke the record then on his show doing 585wpm on March 5th, 1986.

Alex:  Do you have a daily routine to keep your voice and vocal chords in shape?
Fran Capo:  Not really, every aspect of my career except writing, deals with speaking, my stand up comedy, my keynote motivational speaking, commercials, spokesperson work and of course my fast talking. I think my voice is just naturally trained for it. Of course if I notice my throat getting sore I drink hot water and lemon.

Alex:  How is a 'speed talking' contest judged? Can you give us an idea of the difference between correct form and incorrect form?
Fran Capo:  It's a very technical record. You have to now do a Shakespeare piece, they have a machine called a lexicon compressor that makes sure you say every single syllable, and an Olympic timer, time you to the 100th of a second. You miss one syllable you are out.

Alex:  What type of language materials do you use in a competition?
Fran Capo:  There is really no official competition, world records don't work that way. You compete against yourself. But at one point when myself and two other fast talkers were close they did have a talk off, in which they gave us all a 17th century British text to read and we had 24 hours to look it over. We did it in front of the press at the Guinness Museum.

Alex:  What are the benefits to being a fast talking person? Moreover, what are the benefits to being the fastest talking female in the world?
Fran Capo:  If I get into a fight with my boyfriend, he doesn't even know he's in a fight! I say, “You were in it, its over, I won.”

But seriously, I get hired by corporations and companies that are doing re-branding of products that have to do with speed, accuracy etc. I've been hired by, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Chock full of Nuts, Papa John's pizza, a whole bunch of places. But the truth is, it helps that I'm a stand up comic. Because if I was just some fast talking person who could not emcee and event or sustain on stage, then that would not be good for the client. So it's a combination of years of stand up with fast-talking that makes the winning ticket.

Alex:  You are a corporate trainer, what are some of the key elements you emphasize with people and why?  What do companies do 'wrong' or tend to 'over look' when it comes to their employees?  How about the employees themselves?
Fran Capo:  The main reason I get hired by companies is to inspire their employees by letting them tap into their unlimited potential. I show them through my stories and real life experiences that if I can do it, so can they. I teach them how to have a “world record mindset”, how to be persistent and have a never give up attitude, how to overcome odds, how to be creative thinkers. Especially in this economy, people tend to say, “It's so hard, it can't be done.” Wrong…some of the best inventions and biggest millionaires came out of depression times. You just have to take your talents and apply them in a different way. Sometimes it's the smallest tweak that makes all the difference in the world. I also show them how to approach things through humor, which helps with boosting morale, and communication and a better work environment without turning it into a circus. Happy and appreciated workers are more productive. I do team building exercises…but more importantly I just teach people through real life examples of how I did it, how to bring out the best of who they are. So many people write to me years later telling me how I've changed their lives. That's what I love to do, motivate, captivate and educate people to live happier more productive lives though my humor and examples. I absolutely love what I do, from teaching people ways to improve their relationships with workers, bosses, mates and their children.

Alex:  I know from reading your bio that you've done consulting with major companies and now you are doing private one-on one personal coaching. Can you tell us a little about this and how can people contact you if they are interested in this or any of the other things that you do.
Fran Capo:  Yes. I'm so excited…. My newest thing I'm now doing is more consulting and private coaching. I find that I love doing my “Dare to do it” and “Creativity in Marketing” talks, and people really get into it.  But they often ask if I will also do one-on one coaching -they want that personal time. So I am now taking on a few clients a week for a limited time, specifically in two areas: Finding their passion and showing them how to get themselves or their product in the media.

If I can help people take their passion, turn it into a dream and turn that dream into a hard core money making plan faster by brainstorming with them, showing them how to move it forward, helping them work out a game plan to accomplish their goals, teaching them how to turn negatives into positives, how to bring more cash and happiness into their lives on any level (Personal, spiritual, financial, in the relationship department) then that is very rewarding for me.) I have a ton proven strategies on how to make it all work and I love watching people benefit from that. If anyone is interested they can email me contact me via my website and I would be happy to have a 15 minute chat with them to see if our energies are right for us to work together. I actually have a video upon you tube that explains all this.

Alex:  What is coming next for Fran Capo? What can we look forward to seeing at your website?
Fran Capo:  More crazy adventures through my videos and of course.  I will continue producing and performing on comedy shows. I have another book coming out this year, “Hopeville the City of Light” and I am starting an online teaching course on my “Creativity in Marketing”. I also am teaching “How to write a book” seminars as well.

But my biggest project, and I will love every single one of you reading this if you do it, is I have these daily humorous motivational Vlogs called, “Cuppa Capo”. My goal is to get 100,000 subscribers in 6 months…so I need you all to spread the word. Simply go to and hit the subscribe button and watch my videos. Then you will get these daily Vlog tips to brighten your day for free in your mailbox. I just want to spread the joy. A lot of parents are writing to me saying that they enjoy the Cuppa Capo's because they are funny, have a message and something they can watch with their kids.

Alex:  If people want to book you for an event, or just learn more about you where can they go? 

Fran Capo:  The best way is through my website, or they can email me direct at

Alex:  What is your philosophy on life?
Fran Capo:  I have 3.
Nothing is Impossible.
Fear Nothing but if you do, do it anyway.
and Live everyday as if it's your last, and one day you'll be right… and on that last day you don't want to be doing the laundry!

Alex:  Well I had a fantastic time! Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed at Celebrity English!
Fran Capo:  Thanks for the interview, Love deep, live large and be thankful. 

Fran Capo, Bruce Springfield, John Basedow Red Carpet

To learn more about her, check out:

Follow Fran at:
Face Book


Excellent Book by Fran Capo
"Hopeville, the City of Light"
"Hopeville, the City of Light" by Fran Capo
by Fran Capo

Have a great week living large! See you next week with another celebrity!
Take care,


Celebrity English
Communicating with the World

Is Occupy Wall Street the Beginning of the Revolution?

When I returned to my homeland a few years ago, after the financial crisis and a brief period abroad, I was quite dismayed.

It's not that America suddenly had changed. We had been changing for a while. Money had been growing into a monster force in politics. Our Washington politicians were far too quiet on social issues, like poverty and the distribution of wealth, where armies of lobbyists didn't represent entrenched interests.

Our politics were getting uglier in other ways. There was less ability to work together for the common good. It was as if, in an age of drama-seeking reality TV shows, politicians thought they had to vie for airspace by pumping out increasingly ludicrous and confrontational soundbites.

But what angered me the most was how we blew the opportunity to have a soul-searching moment about our financial system and effect real change after the 2008 crisis.

Steve Waldman has a brilliant paragraph over at his interfluidity blog about the unfairness of TARP:
Once you understand that the problem is a fairness issue rather than a dollars-and-cents issue, the policy space grows wider. Holding constant the level of expenditure, one can make bail-outs more or less fair by the degree to which you demand sacrifice from the people you are bailing out. TARP was deeply stupid not because it meant socializing risks and costs created by bankers. TARP was terrible public policy because it socialized risks and costs while demanding almost no sacrifice at all from the people most responsible for those risks. The alternative to TARP was never “let the banks fail, and see how the bankruptcy system deals with it.” The alternative would have been to inject public capital (socialize risks and costs!) while also haircutting creditors, writing-off equityholders, firing management, and aggressively investigating past behavior. It was not the money that made TARP unpopular. It was the unfairness. And the unfairness was not at all necessary to resolve the financial problem.
Make no mistake: Something like TARP was necessary after credit markets seized up. Letting giant, highly interconnected banks collapse right and left was not an option. But, out of the ashes of the crisis, who was the leader of power and conviction who emerged and swore, Never again!, and who acted boldly and with courage to reform a financial sector that had metastasized out of control?


Everyone pretended what we had gone through was just a bad dream. What we got instead was watered-down legislation that the banks are already skillfully plotting how to evade.

I would say to friends at work, "It's amazing to me that there isn't someone agitating for a revolution. This is awful, with so many people unemployed, and the rich getting richer, and Wall Street's most powerful getting bailed out without punishment or consequence -- why isn't there a populist uprising?"

Finally, along came Occupy Wall Street. The movement has spread. Winter will probably kill the mass protests, or at least put them on hiatus until spring.

But at least the disenfranchised and angry are speaking, maybe not with enough coherence for the media, who are fussing over their nut graphs and story structure, but their frustration is 100 percent genuine and runs wide and deep.

They're speaking, and I find that quite heartening.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Manage Your Finances in Recession: Tips to Survive

Often the focus of your finances is on what you can be doing to make them grow, make them stronger and make them work harder for you. However, in a recession, you also need to be aware of the external forces which can affect your financial stability and which are out of your control. Knowing that interest rates will be fluctuating, job security will be fragile and credit will be hard to get can help you manage your finances and make changes which are within your control, to survive. 

To manage your finances in a recession you need these tips: 

    * Clear high interest debts. In a recession your high interest debts should be your highest priority and you should focus on paying them off as soon as you can. Your high interest debts are taking a big chunk of your budget each and every month and if money became tighter or if you lost your job, you would struggle to meet those high interest payments.

    * Over pay your mortgage. The last thing you want to have to do in a recession is sell your house, firstly because you want to maintain some stability for your family, and secondly because house prices plummet in a recession and you won’t get anywhere near the true value of your home. Therefore, protect your most important asset by making over payments into your mortgage. You can set up a direct debit of a higher amount each month, or you can simply deposit extra amounts into your account as they come in from cash birthday gifts or a tax refund for example. Getting ahead on your mortgage also gives you room in case you can’t meet your repayments for a few months.

    * Consolidate credit card debt. When you have a number of credit cards they will all be at different interest rates and as time get tougher during a recession you risk these providers increasing their interest rates. By consolidating your credit cards into a personal loan or taking advantage of a low interest balance transfer offer you can lock in a lower interest rate, and make just one monthly repayment.

    * Don’t take on more debt. With interest rates so low it can be tempting to take out new debts, but this doesn't make financial sense during a recession. Even spending on your existing credit cards is decreasing your financial stability in an already unstable time, and adding to your monthly outgoing costs.

    * The benefits of a variable rate mortgage. During a recession interest rates will drop in an attempt to stimulate spending. However, if you are on a fixed rate mortgage you can’t take advantage of this. Therefore, look at how much it will cost to break your fixed rate term and start paying less interest.

    * De-clutter your life. When money is tight it is time to look at what’s really important, and get rid of everything that’s not. Plus, clearing out your home of all the things you don’t need to want anymore is a great way to make some extra money. Put your unwanted items on eBay or set up a garage sale, as a recession is a perfect time to be selling off your unwanted items, as many families are looking to buy, but can’t afford to buy new, so will come to you.

    * Find ways to save. Now is the time to look at the difference between what you need and what you want and consider where you really need to be spending your money. Look for ways you can cut back on your mobile plans, cancel your gym membership, take your coffee and lunch from home and stop eating out or ordering take away so much.

    * Stop eating junk food. Buying junk foods, snack foods and soft drinks is expensive, especially when they are being consumed by the whole family. Therefore, during a recession, take the relatively small step and swap out your junk food for fruit, muesli bars, water and juice. You’ll not only save money but you’ll also feel better for the change. Junk foods are high in sugar, salt and fat, and in financially unstable times you can’t afford to get sick. If you look after your health you’ll be able to perform better at work, you’ll be able to cut back on doctor’s bills and medications, and living a healthier lifestyle will also make your life insurance and health insurance premiums more affordable, so that you can afford to protect your family from the worst, even in the worst of times.

    * Save what you can. After you have your debts under control and you have created a buffer on your mortgage repayments, look at putting any extra you have into a savings plan. Savings are of course important, but in a recession if you have high interest debts, you’re going to be paying more in interest than you are earning in interest on your savings, and having fewer bills is an important way to survive.

    * Look after your job. Many companies will look at cutting back on staff during a recession but there are ways you can try to survive the cut backs. Firstly make sure you continue to work hard and you are adding real value to the company. At the same time, be prepared in case you are laid off, with an up to date résumé, a list of contacts and a strong network. You may even want to start a business on the side as any extra cash coming in can help you survive. 

As a personal finance writer, Alban likes to share his advice online. When he is not contributing, Alban is a personal laon reviewer at Personal Loan Finder.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Johnny Depp: Questions

Johnny Depp Q and A
                                                               Johnny Depp

Questions and Answers are the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a conversation.  Asking a good question is more difficult than it appears.  Let’s look at a Johnny Depp Interview. Focus on the questions after you have read and enjoyed Johnny’s answers.

Question 1: What attracts you to odd hats?

Johnny Depp Answer 1: I don't know, maybe I read too many Dr. Seuss books when I was a kid. I hadn't thought about that, actually, the hat thing.

Question 2: Are you fond, in films, of wearing long hair? Is it something that makes you comfortable, to have your hair long, or does it matter?

Johnny Depp Answer 2: No, I'd always thought, probably very stupidly, I thought that, you know, if your hair is down…you're hiding. So you're invisible, you know? People can't see you.  Now I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter who won't let me cut my hair.

Question Usage Analysis
Analysis 1:
This question is simple and straightforward.  However, the interviewer uses a “What” question.  Most people will use a “Why” question.

Ex: Why do you wear odd hats?

The “what” style question is a bit softer and more original. 

Analysis 2:
The interviewer uses an “Are you… ?” and a choice question: Is it “A” or “B”? (A=long hair is comfortable, B=long hair doesn’t matter to you)

“Are you…?” is a closed question not good for conversation because the answer is “YES/NO”.  However, in this case it is a rhetorical question.  The Interviewer uses the question to emphasize the idea of ‘long hair’. The interviewer doesn’t expect an answer and moves to the next question quickly.  The interviewer’s use of the A or B question format is because he or she wants a short style answer focused in a specific way.  The feeling is: lets find out about Johnny Depp’s beautiful, long hair but not focus too much time on the topic. An A or B question style signals to the answering person what the listener wants to know specifically and in a short answer style.  This style is also a soft way of finding out information from another person.


There are many question style strategies.  These are two simple ones you can use in your next conversation.  Try to make your question ‘soft’ but ‘unique’ like with Question 1.  Also, try to use a ‘rhetorical question’ plus an “A or B question’ to find out specific information without sounding too demanding as in Question 2.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4


Fastest Talking Female on the Planet


Celebrity English Language and Culture