Century Marks

Century Marks

Wheel of misfortune

Buy Here Pay Here companies sell used cars to people with poor credit at higher-than-book values and at interest rates much higher than conventional auto loans. The average profit per sale—38 percent—has attracted the attention of Wall Street. Some financial firms are bundling loans from these dealerships they way they bundled subprime mortgages before the 2008 financial crash.  In the past two years, investors have bought more than $15 billion in subprime auto securities. "We think that investing in such companies is a ticking time bomb," says Joe Keefe from the socially responsible Pax World Management fund company. "It has ethical as well as systemic risk implications" (Los Angeles Times, October 30).

Looking back

Columnist David Brooks stumbled onto a collection of autobiographies written by the Yale class of 1942 for its 50th class reunion. He says that the most common lament in the stories comes from those who worked for the same company all their lives and they now realize that their lives were boring.  Another lament came from those who wish they had been willing to take more risks. None of those who did make life-changing choices regretted the decisions, even if the choices ended in failure. The essays of those who sensed a particular calling in life are filled with passion and conviction. Said one, "I have been put on earth to be a painter" (New York Times, October 27).

Political style

Not much distinguished two candidates running for the Arizona state senate in Mesa. Both were Mormons and both believed in small government and low taxes. What separated them was style and tone. Russell Pearce is the tough-talking senator who wrote Arizona's anti-immigration law and subsequently lost a recall vote. His opponent, Jerry Lewis, an accountant who runs a chain of charter schools, embodies civility, listening and compromise. The image of the missionary-minded Church of the Latter Day Saints was tarnished in Latin America by Pearce's anti-immigration rhetoric, says one Mormon. With two Mormon candidates also in the presidential race for the Republican party, the LDS Church is trying to prove that it stays out of politics (Economist, November 5).


At least six Buddhist monks have died by self-immolation this year in protests against China's political crackdown in the Tibetan regions of China. In Tibet, monks are not even allowed to celebrate the Dalai Lama's birthday. The Dalai Lama himself has taken a moderate path in opposing  Chinese rule, urging China to give Tibetans autonomy but not complete independence. Despite their devotion to the Dalai Lama, Tibetans debate whether his approach has been effective. Some predict that Tibet will explode in protests after he dies (Time, November 14).

Lost victims

Sexual abusers tend to be narcissistic and grandiose, says Father James Martin SJ, reflecting on the similarities between sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church and those alleged to have taken place in the Penn State University football program. The narcissist thinks only of his own needs and personal gratification. Once a sexual abuser is called to account, he often focuses on his own suffering, thinking that a grave injustice has been done to him, and asks for sympathy. What's lost is concern for the victims (Guest Voices, Washington Post, November 13).