Daily Archives: October 17, 2009

NJ Biz Article: "State feels railroaded over transit leases"

A friend sent me the following article last week and I have been meaning to share it. The article is from NJBIZ.com and details how leaseback agreements are effecting NJ Transit and other public transit systems that entered into them with various lending institutions.

The details of leaseback agreements are both fascinating and scary at the same time in the sense that many public agencies enter into them in their attempt to stay liquid and keep commuter costs stable, scary because these leases between public agencies and financial institutions can be “called-in” by the banks that issue them without notice and whether or not the agencies have missed a payments:

Providing financing to a cash-strapped agency usually wins praise, until the bill comes due — and for NJ Transit, that bill could be about $150 million.

Long-term leaseback agreements signed as far back as the 1990s by NJ Transit and other public transit systems gave these agencies much-needed liquidity, but a technicality allows banks funding the agreements to immediately demand compensation even if the transit agencies have not missed a payment.

When AIG and other guarantors lost their top ratings in the wake of the economy’s fallout, the door opened for banks to collect, which prompted federal legislation to keep banks from bleeding the transit agencies dry.

“The American people were asked to bail out some of the nation’s banking titans,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-Paterson). “If transportation agencies like NJ Transit are forced to pay banks the dollars they lost due to a change in the tax law, who knows how that could affect the quality of our bridges, tunnels and other parts of our transit system?”

In a typical leaseback agreement, property is sold to a buyer, who then immediately leases it back to the seller. These leasebacks put ownership of buses, trains and rail lines in the hands of banks, but the agreements technically lapse into default if the guarantors lose their AAA rating, with the transit agencies left holding the bag. NJ Transit said it faces some $150 million in exposure under its agreements.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken) introduced a bill in June that seeks to levy a 100 percent excise tax on certain proceeds collected by banks through such contracts. Pascrell is a co-sponsor of the House version, which is under committee review.

Virginia Miller, senior manager of media relations with the American Public Transportation Association, said up until 2003, the Federal Transit Administration promoted and approved of agencies entering into leasing agreements such as Sale-In/Lease-Out, and Lease-In/Lease-Out. APTA, in Washington, D.C., is an advocate for the public transportation industry.

“It was an arrangement seen by the Federal Transit Administration as a win for the company that got the tax write-off and for the public transit system who received the revenue,” Miller said. At the end of the lease, the transit systems would reclaim ownership of the buses, rails and trains.

In order to get FTA approval, the transit systems were required to establish accounts with highly rated insurers to guarantee the lease payments. “Most of these accounts were on deposit with AIG,” Miller said. Other insurers backing transit systems include Financial Security Assurance and Ambac Financial Group Inc.

Though the agreements provided agencies with money for capital projects, Congress later deemed them tax-avoidance schemes that benefited banks. The deals were stopped in 2003 and, last year, the Internal Revenue Service proposed a settlement of the leases to eliminate future tax benefits while keeping existing deals in place.

In 2008 and 2009, some of the guarantors of SILO/LILO agreements saw their ratings lowered from AAA, triggering the default clauses. Transit agencies fear if lenders exploit this technicality, money needed for transit upgrades would be siphoned away.

Menendez said in a letter to House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) that he believes legislation is needed to stop banks from gaining “a windfall from the current economic climate” that would put the agencies at risk.

In addition to NJ Transit, Miller said the leaseback agreements affect 30 of the nation’s largest transit systems, which collectively face more than $2 billion of exposure — money those agencies do not have on hand.

“The systems were paying on time what they owed,” she said. “For something that had been spread out through the years, they were supposed to come up with the money right away.”

See article >>> Here

1 Comment

Filed under NJBIZ.com

Interview with a Pagan Witch

Here is another neat treat to get everyone ready for Halloween two weeks from now.

An “Interview with a pagan witch” is from one of my new favorite reads, Phantoms & Monsters blog. If you enjoy reading about the Paranormal, Extraterrestrials and related conspiracies this blog is for you!

I had the interesting experience of meeting, talking to and learning a great deal from a very nice woman named Amy. Amy is a articulate bright soft-spoken woman. She lives in the southern part of the United States and her religious or spiritual life is Pagan

I know little or next to nothing about Paganism. I know it was the spiritual thinking of many in Europe before Christianity. Besides that I know Halloween is a celebrated time for the Pagans. I decided it was time to find out what I could about this life style. By chance I heard Amy talking to a group of people on line. I was impressed on how she handled the subject and set up a time to spend talking to her one on one.

Amy explained many things to me I never before understood. The first area of my confusion was that Pagans, like Amy, are not always Wicca. Pagans can join in covens, which are groups of 13 (13 being a magical number). Amy however does not belong to a group and practices her beliefs as her life style.

Paganism goes back to the route of first religions before Christianity to the time of the first Celts. Pagans, like Amy, have a spiritual connection to the earth and universe and try to keep a clear focus at all times. Amy uses this belief system to try to keep in balance with all nature, earth and the universe.

I asked Amy about how this works into her daily life. She explained to me that she meditates often as well as using visualization to bring her to the balance and focus she needs to live a balanced life. She explained to me that pagan witches, like her, use spells differently than the general public thinks they do. Amy told me that as other religious people pray to God for help or an answer, Pagans use spells and rituals. They use these things as a focus or a way to pray to the ultimate power and universe as their way to ask for help or answers. She also explained that using meditation and visualization along with spells and rituals is a way for the Pagan to focus. This is how they work on the balance d and confidence needed to stay centered as well as a way to rid them selves of the negativity we all pick up in daily living.

I asked Amy about the idea of white and black or good or bad witches. Amy told me most of that is myth and that magic has no real color. Amy told me that there are those who do use magic for bad or evil purposes, which in her mind is very dangerous for that witch. “Those who use magic for those reasons need to remember the laws of nature. Whatever you send out does in fact come right back to you. If you send out bad energy you get back bad energy. It is a fact that needs to be considered by those who do these things. Get ready as what ever you send out – WILL come back at you!” Amy told me magic is all intent and you do receive back the intent you send out. I think that is a good piece of advice for everyone to consider in today’s world. We all need to understand the way we treat, act and the deeds we do to others, will show up again at our front door. It best you consider this upon your next intention towards another. I guess it all agrees with the old ‘do unto others’ ideology, or truth.

Pagans believe in mother earth or Gaia, as well as the moon goddess, sun god along with others. They celebrate the seasons, their sabbats and festivals yearly. Amy has an alter in her home that she keeps decorated with the seasons festivities. Presently fall is represented with pumpkins and things October and the Halloween or Samhain sabbat brings to mind.

October 31st is the Pagan time of Samhain. It is celebrated with barn fires and rituals like the burning of the year’s negativity. This is when the Pagan lists all the negative things that filled their year and take the list to the barn fire and burns it with the intent to burn away and rid them of those negative things.

Amy listed the Pagan times of what we call our holiday times. They are very similar to all the times of year Christians celebrate holidays. Amy explained that Paganism was here far longer than Christianity. When the church developed they needed to win over the people who were basically all Pagans at the time and did so by copying the Pagan times of celebration as a way to make them feel comfortable in the new founded Christianity. You will find other similar believe systems and base of the Christian faith taken from the first spiritual Pagan groups.

Pagan Sabbats and Festivals

Yule – Dec 21st

Samhain- Oct 31st Halloween

Imbolc-Jan 21st- Feb 2nd

Ostaro vernal equinox- March 21st

Beltane-May 1st

Litha-June 21st

Lughuassadh August 1st

Mabon Sept 21st

Amy told me she comes from a Celtic background, which is where her Pagan belief system stems from. She also told me that although practiced and in the United States this type of spiritual life style is more known and accepted in both England and Canada.

Amy talked to me about the rituals used in Pagan worship as a private time which she does not discuss. It is like praying. It is personal to the individual as to what they are focusing on or needing help dealing with.

I found Amy to be a very nice person who explains her spiritual life and customs clearly and with out any form of harm or misuse to others.

After interviewing Amy I spoke to a friend who just finished interviewing a witch who describes her life style as Wicca and far from the kind connected to earth views of my Pagan friend.

I can only report what Amy, who is Pagan by choice, told me about her views and life style. I found nothing at all to fear from this woman. I will tell you my friends experience with the Wicca witch were opposite to that of what Amy explained to me.

Amy did tell me there are those who use the power of the earth and universe and its magic for dark and ugly purposes. I guess the answer to all of this is that humans have choices to make be it in every day decisions, work, family or friend matters. The choices of each human are to lean towards the good of all things, like Amy does in her Pagan beliefs, or to use their abilities for dark more sinister actions.

The entire key to all of this is for us all to know and remember with all our intents- once you send them out you must be prepared as the universe will make sure they come right back at you! I think that is something we all need to reflect upon.

Thanks to Chris Holly at Chris Holly’s Paranormal World

Leave a comment

Filed under Halloween

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Popeye’s Halloween


Leave a comment

Filed under Halloween, Popeye, Saturday morning cartoons

President Obama’s Weekly Address: 10/17/09 Taking the Insurance Companies on Down the Stretch

As the health insurance reform debate enters into its final stages in Congress, the President denounces the desperate and deceptive last-ditch efforts of the health insurance companies to derail it.

Leave a comment

Filed under health care reform, Health Insurance Reform. Deficits, insurance industry, President Obama