Rensselaer’s Farmer’s Market

(This is the second of three posts from my 60th high school reunion this June)

Most Rensselaer residents do not live there to seek fame and fortune.  They value  the intimacy of  community, relationships going back generations and the shared experience of earning a living through one’s own skills.

The Saturday morning local Framer’s Market illustrates these common motivations.

It opens every Saturday from 7:30-11:30.  Each participant pays $10 for a parking space size stand on the County Courthouse square.  Or one can pay $40 for the entire season.

The Market is self-managed (a coop model) with  a two-page Policy and Vendor contract.  The purpose reads:  The Framer’s market is to provide a retail business outlet (not wholesale) for local growers/producers of goods or to market their products. Established retail businesses are ineligible under Market policies.

There is an annual Call Out meeting in early spring to approve the policy and  contract which each vendor signs.  All must be full time residents of Japer County or an adjacent county, be 18 years of age or accompanied by an adult.

The Market Master is Brandy Luttrell who monitors the operations each Saturday, collects the $10 fee and insures the rules regarding signage, cleanliness, sales tax and booth locations are followed.   Prior to becoming the Master, Brandy was herself  a vendor.

The Local Vendors

Stephanie Davisson’s booth was the first in line the Saturday we visited.   She grows and sells flowers,  Lavender Lane cachets both dried and fresh.  But this is just one of her many local endeavors.

She is the choral instructor at Rensselaer High School.   Another responsibility is the Youth Leader and church organist on Sundays at the First Presbyterian Church.

Her Rensselaer roots go back generations.  Her uncle is Terry Davisson who was my sister’s classmate in 1961. He was accepted at West Point but left after his father died.  He played football at St. Joe’s and tried out for the Dallas Cowboys.   I was next to him at left end when he was on offense as left tackle. On defense the coaches positioned him opposite the other team’s toughest player whether that was as a lineman or linebacker.

Terry died in an auto accident  in 1977 at the age of 34. RHS established an annual football memorial scholarship award which reads: In honor of Terry Davisson former Rensselaer athlete, teacher and coach for his desire to instill in young people the dedication to live up to their potential, now matter what their potential was. 

Local  Offerings

The Adam’s family booth is two sisters.  They sell seasonal produce from their 5 ½ acre farm to earn money in the summer.   They also raise rabbits, ducks and chickens for eggs, goats for milk and other occasional  small livestock.  The girls do the farming as the parents both have full time jobs.

One booth sells  frozen meat.  The price list shows  the marks  of inflation!

Working while waiting for sales.

A local wood carver.

Baked goods and jellies are numerous.  I bought a bread loaf, biscotti and dandelion jelly.

Homes for birds including one in denim.

The morning’s end.

This brief Saturday commerce event is a microcosm of the larger town. We bought our share of local goods, but what we remember most was the conversations.   People are enthusiastic about this opportunity to show and sell their handiwork, and talk.

Tomorrow: Transforming Rensselaer with public art murals.

Learning from  My High School Experiences  or, Back Home Again In Indiana

(Note:  the next three blogs were inspired by attending my 60th high school reunion in June.  For most Americans, these years are the most widely shared common participations  of our lives. These posts are a perspective on their influence  later in life.)

The teenage high school years are times of ever-expanding new life experiences.  However it may take decades before one understands the significance of these happenings as an adult.

Would attending my 60th high school reunion in Rensselaer, Indiana be worth the time and effort?  I was in RHS only 2 ½ years there before  transferring to Springfield, Il in the middle of my junior year when my Dad took a new job in the town in which he grew up.

I’d probably not recognize anyone.  Had kept in touch with just two classmates. The only planned group event was a Saturday evening meal, with many whom I would be meeting for the “first time.”  Would this just be a nostalgia trip?

After the weekend, one classmate shared a note which characterized her feelings.  Even though my time in Rensselaer was much shorter at five years, her words also captured my experience:

The 60th anniversary milestone caused me to reflect on the blessings of the first 18 years of my life.  My family, friends, schools, church and community provided a sense of security and belonging that I never questioned or doubted. The emphasis on self-discipline, hard work, integrity, wise choices and faith provided a solid foundation on which my whole life has been built.  I am so  grateful that I was–and always will be–an Indiana farm girl.  

Rensselaer in Perspective

The reunion  reminded me that who we are today is deeply influenced by where we came from.  It also called attention to why the cooperative model’s roots were first planted in farming communities across America.

Rensselaer is a farming town, the county seat of Jasper County.   On google maps, It is 84 miles from Chicago. It was sufficiently remote and lacking  big city attractions that Chicago Bear’s owner George Halas held the team’s summer training camp at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer from 1944-1974.  The athletes ate in a basement cafeteria under the campus’ large chapel building.  There were strict curfews.  Nothing to distract.

The College was founded in 1889 but due to financial deficits was closed in 2017.  The campus is intact today waiting for its next evolution.

St. Joe’s chapel  bell  still rings each quarter hour. Cornfields bind the college on three sides while the sports grounds on the campus’ south side snuggled up next to the parking lot for the town’s bowling  alley.

The Town’s Foundation

Rensselaer’s economic base is agriculture.  Farming requires patience; nature can’t be hurried.  Results accrue from persistence and hard labor.  Time is measured daily from sunup to sun down. The  changing seasons mark the longer passages of time.

Rensselaer is the country seat for Jasper County which had a negative .2% population growth over the last decade.  In contrast the US population increased 6.5% and Indiana’s 4.1%.

The town’s  population is just over 6,000. In the 2020 census, the county’s population is 91.2% white (non-Hispanic) and the demographic group increasing the most  is Hispanic/Latino which comprise 6% of the population.

That probably explains why there are now four Mexican restaurants in town versus none when I visited ten years earlier for the 50th reunion.

One even featured a mural of Mexican artist Frida Kahol on the inside of a newly opened restaurant.

Farming is the Priority

Several new businesses have opened in the town in the last decade, but farming is still the economic foundation.

The largest non-farm related businesses/employers opened after 2000 and include:

  1. Franciscan Healthcare
  2. Sealy Mattress Corp
  3. Talbert Manufacturing Inc
  4. Donaldson Co
  5. Conagra Foods
  6. Rensselaer Care Center
  7. Walmart

Businesses are hiring.  Conagra’s Orville Redenbacher popcorn facility is looking for people by offering $20-$34 per hour, a 9% 401 K match, paid maternity leave, gym membership and a $1,500 perfect attendance bonus.

McDonalds is aggressively seeking help with the slogan We Need YOU and starting pay of $12 per hour.

Five banks have branch offices in Rensselaer.  First Trust Credit Union had a branch but closed it ten years ago.  Their former office now houses the town’s bakery.   The five banks’  total deposits  as of June 2021 were  $363 million, a 16% increase over the prior twelve months.

The High School Experience

My 1962 high school class graduated 106.  Six decades later the high school’s 2022 senior class was just one more.  Becoming bigger is not a primary goal of the community.

High school is the most widely followed experience in town.

The old high school building  is gone, replaced by a new single level sprawling campus surrounded by  multiple sports fields and courts on the edge of  town.

Sports are a major high school commitment with ten boy’s and girl’s teams. In my one varsity junior year there were just three boy’s sports (track, basketball, and football) and  no girl’s teams.

Today there is a full-time athletic director but most of the coaches are part time, with jobs outside the school system. In the last three years two RHS girls placed first in the state’s track meet in shot put. The boy’s football team won the state championship for division 2 (the next smallest out of 6 divisions) in 2014.

The school produced two plays this past year, the musical Aida and a Shakespeare production.  The seniors in the art class are able to paint and attach their work to the ceiling tiles around the school.  They can paint their own spaces in the car parking lot.  But no painted senior cords, the tradition in my era.

Instead of Latin, Spanish is now the  foreign  language option. Classes are offered for future farmers and  technical trades including welding .  The welding course was over subscribed so the school installed  two more stations for the class. These students can walk right into local jobs one teacher said.  Between 80-90% of seniors go on to further education.

.

Religion and Politics

Religious options continue to expand in the community, both longstanding and new denominations.  Twenty three churches are listed for Rensselaer in the Worship Guide of the local advertising  handout.

My dad was minister at the First Presbyterian Church which is celebrating its 175 anniversary this year but is trying to find a full time pastor.  The church yard contains the family grave for the person after whom the town is named:  James Van Rensselaer.

Rensselaer had two local newspapers in my era.  The six-day afternoon local paper was called the Rensselaer Republican.   The weekly was the Jasper County Democrat.  The Republican is now a once-a-week publication covering multiple towns and counties across northern Indiana.  The Democrat no longer exists.

In the 2020 Presidential election Trump received 74%  and Biden 25% of the vote in Jasper County.  Statewide the totals were closer: 57% to 41%

The town’s most famous politician was Charlie Halleck who served  in Congress from 1935-1969 and was House Minority leader from  1959 to 1964.  He gave a speech nominating Wendell Willkie, a fellow Hoosier,  as the Republican candidate in 1940.  In 1948 he was thought to be a vice presidential option for Thomas Dewey who instead chose governor Earl Warren of California as his running mate.

As House Minority leader Halleck would partner with Senate Minority leader Everitt Dirksen to become the Washington face of the Republican party in their news  conferences called the Ev and Charlie Show.   Halleck opposed the social liberal programs of the democrats.  But supported the Vietnam War and the several Civil and Voting rights Acts of the 50’s and 60’s.

Conservative  Shared Values

Even as wind turbines now add a new source for farm income and new businesses open in town, change occurs slowly.  Making a living from the land  is for most farmers a lifelong commitment to a place.

Tradition matters. Summer events include tractor pull contests, vacation bible school (VBS), family picnics in the covered park shelters, summer plays (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), baseball and a full schedule of public library events.

Following Its Own Time Line

Indiana is divided into two time zones.  Rensselaer is part of the northwestern counties that follow central time.  The rest of the state and most big cities are on EDT.

Farming shapes the pace of change.  Work flows with the seasons. Planting crops is a partnership with nature.  It is not a manufacturing process to produce  a product.

Nature’s output is at a different rhythm than the speed of the modern Internet economy.  Growth must be nurtured and is always subject to forces outside one’s control.

This timeless human endeavor creates respect for the land and those who depend on it. Values of endurance and resilience are essential.  Results come from consistency, not scaling up or being first to market.

Farming creates community through a shared destiny.  For many farmers it is a multi-generational ambition. Their fondest  hope is that their children will take over the family business.  The You-Only-Live-Once (YOLO) mindset is contrary to the deepest instincts of farmers.

This conservative temperament is not limited to farming.  It can be a foundation for a well-served life  in any occupation or place. That I believe is what my classmate meant when writing she was glad to have been an Indiana farm girl.

In following articles, I will share an unusual public mural art effort in Rensselaer and visit the Saturday Farmer’s market.  Both capture the town’s enduring spirit.  And why it survives.

A 60th RHS reunion after dinner photo

My best high school friend was Dale Garriotte.  We shared sports together, delivered  newspapers on our bikes and both ended up in the Navy.

Chip and Dale in 1961 during Easter weekend finishing up our junior year.

Chip and Dale at the 60th RHS reunion:

The Supreme Court’s  Roe Reversal and a Lesson from Credit Union history

Back to the Future

Noah Regan’s cartoon below portrays the logic of the Supreme Court’s overturning the Roe v. Wade precedent.

Supporters of the decision openly assert this puts the US back to what the situation was 50 years ago.  The “freedom to choose” right will now be a state by state determination.   The legal circumstances will vary widely in every jurisdiction.   Even within a single state, the decision could be modified anytime there is new political leadership elected.

Women and their partners will find themselves in an ever changing legal and/or criminal status.   This was an overt political decision.  The courts and lawyers demonstrated their profession’s singular ability to present arguments about woman’s rights that are completely contradictory to each other.  Therefore the solution will be political, not legal.

A Credit Union Perspective

How does a Supreme Court decision that goes against both precedent and common sense get changed?

Two of the current justices were involved in the NCUA vs. First National Bank and Trust case decided in February 1998 in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas.  The lawyer presenting the NCUA-credit union position was John Roberts, now Chief Justice of the Court.

The court ruled that the NCUA’s interpretation of       § 109 of the Federal Credit Union Act (FCUA) that: “federal credit union membership shall be limited to groups having a common bond of occupation or association, or to groups within a well-defined neighborhood, community, or rural district” -permitted federal credit unions to be composed of multiple, unrelated employer groups, each having its own distinct common bond of occupation” was incorrect.

NCUA General Counsel Bucky Sebastian in 1983 had interpreted, and the Board agreed,  that in section 109 the word “groups” was plural, and therefore authorized multiple group charters.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Bank position that the NCUA’s decision was contrary to law because § 109 unambiguously requires that the same common bond of occupation unite each member of an occupationally defined federal credit union.

Justice Thomas wrote: “the NCUA’s interpretation makes the statutory phrase “common bond” surplusage when applied to a federal credit union made up of multiple unrelated employer groups, because each such “group” already has its own “common bond,” employment with a particular employer. If the phrase “common bond” is to be given any meaning when the employees in such groups are joined together, a different “common bond”-one extending to each and every employee considered together-must be found to unite them.”

This Supreme Court also overruled a district court’s decision that NCUA had correctly interpreted § 109 following the Chevron precedent of deferring to Agency discretion when implementing a Congressional statute.  Note:  this week the Supreme Court is expected to announce a decision which may modify the Chevron precedent.

The Credit Union Response

This FOM ruling would have put federal credit unions back into the legal and practical world of 1934 when the Federal Act was passed.   The court decision ignored the entire history of credit unions and the evolution of financial services under deregulation.   Common sense and real world events made the court’s finding both impractical and a potential end to the federal chartering option.

For decades almost all state systems had much more flexible common bond regulations than NCUA’s.   If the ruling stood, there would have been a wholesale conversion to  state charters.

Credit unions mounted a coordinated and united campaign to change the federal law to continue NCUA’s common bond interpretation that had been followed for almost 20 years.  The result was the passage of the Credit Union Membership Access Act (HR 1151) by congress and signed by President Clinton on August 7, 1998.  This action preserved the NCUA’s FOM regulations albeit with a new set of regulatory requirements under the label of Prompt Corrective Action.

In this situation the state system was  where consumer’s freedom to select a coop financial option was preserved.

Women’s Rights

In the Roe decision, the return to the states to determine what rights a women has, will have the opposite effect of the credit union example.

The Court’s decision echoes an earlier time in our history:  “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln warned Americans. “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”

The credit union case is very different in scope and political significance.  However both decisions show the Court’s willingness to turn back the clock, to ignore real world consequences, and throw issues back to the political process.

The common thread in these retro interpretations is the role of Justice Thomas.  He wrote the credit union opinion and assigned the Roe one.

The Roe reversal will, as in the credit union circumstance, require political action.   The court’s abortion  decision resolves nothing.  Like the credit union case, it will eventually come back to congress.

Looking at Gas Prices: Facts and Interpretations

The St. Louis Federal Reserve’s economic research unit (FRED) has published two brief articles this past week analyzing trends in gas prices, both recent and long term.

Both provide evidence for those who would seek to turn the debate political about the increases.

The first article is the Long Term Trend in gas prices.  The analysis has two conclusions:

  1. Average annual CPI inflation from 1990 to 2021 was 2.4%, while average annual gasoline price inflation was 3.9%.
  2. Increased demand for gasoline is not likely the primary reason for gasoline price increases over the past decade, however. It increased from 62.9 million gallons in 1990 to 80.4 million gallons in 2006 but began to decrease in 2006. In 2019, U.S. motor gasoline consumption was 80.9 million gallons—only 0.5 million gallons more than motor gasoline consumption in 2006.

The macroeconomic result is that expenditures on motor gasoline made up a smaller percentage of GDP in 2019 (1.7%) than they did in 1990 (2.1%).

Feathers and Rockets: The Consumer’s Disadvantage

The second analysis tracks the relation between the price of oil and gasoline at the pump.

The article’s conclusion:   When oil prices shoot upward, gas prices rise with them. And when oil prices fall, gasoline prices also fall; but they can fall at a slower rate. Economists refer to this market dynamic as “asymmetric pass-through.” A more colorful description of the phenomenon is “rockets and feathers.”

The chart in the article is dynamic allowing the user to focus on recent changes.  This phenomenon doesn’t occur every time oil prices fall, but can be seen in recent months: at the beginning of December 2021 and at the end of March 2022.

Why Members Are Angry

How one interprets the charts and data in these articles will probably influence which political interpretation  for higher prices a person is inclined to believe now.

Both articles highlight the reality of retailer market power and consumer search costs as reasons why many members (consumers) feel so frustrated by the seeming monopolistic pricing patterns when paying for gas at the pump.

Their anger is more than high prices.  It is the absence of  “consumer sovereignty” (choice) the supposed  hallmark of a market economy.

 

Thursday Thoughts

The Goal of Enough

“Enough looks inward at need, rather than outward at want, like consumerism does. Enough pumps the brakes when we are no longer hungry, or cold, or alone.

“Consumerism floors the accelerator, because there is always someone, somewhere to chase, fueled by consumerist envy.

“My father — a top-tier über-consumer — used to read stories about billionaires and critique out loud what he called “abstract levels of wealth”. “How many pairs of pants can they wear at once?! How many cars can they drive?!” In the next breath, he would chuckle about the six bagfuls of suits he just gave away, because his enormous closets were overstuffed, and “it got a bit crazy”.  (quote from a column by Richard Rohr)

The response to consumerism by Sister José Hobday (1929–2009), a modern Franciscan:

“Simple living is not about elegant frugality. It is not really about deprivation of whatever is useful and helpful for our life. It is not about harsh rules and stringent regulations. To live simply, one has to consider all of these and they may be included to some degree, but simple living is about freedom. It’s about a freedom to choose space rather than clutter, to choose open and generous living rather than a secure and sheltered way.

“Freedom is about choices: Freedom to choose less rather than more. It’s about choosing time for people and ideas and self-growth rather than for maintenance and guarding and possessing and cleaning. Simple living is about moving through life rather lightly, delighting in the plain and the subtle. It is about poetry and dance, song and art, music and grace. It is about optimism and humor, gratitude and appreciation. It is about embracing life with wide-open arms. It’s about living and giving with no strings attached. . . .

“Simple living is as close as the land on which we stand. It is as far-reaching as the universe that makes us gasp. Simple living is a relaxed grasp on money, things, and even friends. Simplicity cherishes ideas and relationships. They are treasured more because simplicity doesn’t cling nor try to possess things or people or relationships. Simplicity frees us within, but it frees others, too. . . . Simple living is a statement of presence. The real me. This simplicity makes us welcome among the wealthy and the poor alike. . . .”

On Ukraine

At the entrance to the memorial park in Kyiv, there is a sculpture of an extremely thin girl with a very sad look holding a handful of wheat ears in her hands. Behind her back is the Candle of Remembrance, a monument with details reminiscent of authentic embroidery that can be found on traditional Ukrainian costumes. This is a monument that commemorates a historical event known as the Holodomor.

What is the Holodomor?

After the end of the First World War, Ukraine was an independent state, but in 1919 the Soviet Union “sucked” it into the community of Soviet states. The Ukrainians, who even then considered themselves a Central European people like the Poles and not an Eastern European like the Russians, tried to restore Ukraine’s independence.

In 1932, not wanting to lose control of Europe’s main granary, Stalin resorted to one of the most heinous forms of terror against one nation. In the process of nationalization, he took away the grain-producing land from the Ukrainian peasants, but also all its offerings, thus creating an artificial famine.

The goal was to “teach Ukrainians to be smart” so that they would no longer oppose official Moscow. Thus the people who produced the most grain in Europe were left without a crumb of bread. The peak of the Holodomor was in the spring of 1933. In Ukraine at that time, 17 people died of hunger every minute, more than 1,000 every hour, and almost 24,500 every day! People were literally starving to death in the streets.

Stalin settled the Russian population in the emptied Ukrainian villages. During the next census, there was a large shortage of population. Therefore, the Soviet government annulled the census, destroyed the census documents, and the enumerators were shot or sent to the gulag, in order to completely hide the truth.

World War. Their poison gas was hunger. Their Hitler was Stalin. Their Holocaust was the Holodomor. For them, fascist Berlin was Soviet Moscow, and their concentration camp was the Soviet Union.

Today, 28 countries around the world present the Holodomor as genocide against Ukrainians, which you could not learn about in school, because almost all evidence was destroyed and victims were covered up for decades, survivors were forcibly silenced by not having the right to vote until recently.

The Holodomor at that time broke the Ukrainian resistance, but it made the desire for Ukraine’s independence from Russia eternal.  (I was sent this summary and do not know the source.)

From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Holodomor, man-made famine that convulsed the Soviet republic of Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, peaking in the late spring of 1933. It was part of a broader Soviet famine (1931–34) that also caused mass starvation in the grain-growing regions of Soviet Russia and Kazakhstan. The Ukrainian famine, however, was made deadlier by a series of political decrees and decisions that were aimed mostly or only at Ukraine. In acknowledgement of its scale, the famine of 1932–33 is often called the Holodomor, a term derived from the Ukrainian words for hunger (holod) and extermination (mor).

Postscript:

From Brooke  C. Stoddard, author who was at Holodomor Wreath Presentation at the Holodomor Memorial near the U. S. Capitol. He was asked by the Illinois State Society to participate on behalf of the Cleveland Club of Washington, D. C.

The Holodomor Memorial to Victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932–1933 was opened in Washington, D.C., United States, on November 7, 2015. Congress approved creation of the Holodomor Memorial in 2006.

A VyStar’s Member’s Voice: Loyalty or Naïve?

A reader found my post on VyStar while searching the Internet for information.  Greg gave me permission to publish his experience.

Mr. Filson,

I just thought I’s share a few things with you concerning VyStar Credit Union (VSCU). As you are aware, they have been having trouble getting their “new improved” online banking system and mobile app back up and running. There are four things in this process that are very frustrating:

1. The CEO stated that this system was two years in the making and when they brought it up, the system was overwhelmed. What!? Two years of work have brought VSCU to it knees in a weekend. Didn’t they learn anything from the “new system” they employed in 2016? Did they not think that people would ‘Log On’ in the new system, even if they had no immediate banking need just to ‘see’ what the new features would be?

2. The mobile app (prior to the current debacle) was actually two apps. You had your normal banking app and a card control app. The card control app was a great feature. You could limit the amount to be charged or withdrawn but the greatest feature was you could turn your card on and off. With the card off, no transaction could occur at all. Well, my debit card is turned off. I can’t get cash withdrawals.

3. Transfers and linked accounts. For a while, after the new system was running, I thought it quite strange that you transfer funds to financial institutions outside of VSCU. Internal transfers were not possible (such as from savings to checking). They have since got that restored but there are still no linked accounts. In other words, I can no longer transfer funds to my wife’s checking account, and she can no longer transfer funds to our money market account.

4. Bill pay. I have had two utility bills scheduled to be paid this week. Neither have been paid when I check their websites. When I got a hold of VSCU via chat, I was told that yes, they went out and to not worry about it. Since it is recorded and I have a confirmation number, all is okay. Well, tell that to the utility companies who have not been paid. I paid both with a credit card to avoid late fees and disconnects.

Thank you.

In response to my question of how long he had been a member and when he found the post, he replied:

I have been a member for 35 years.  I joined when I was stationed in Florida.  VSCU has been vitally important in my family’s lives.  We have lived in several states and kept them as our financial institution. From, checking, savings, money market accounts, loans, and credit cards, they have been “ours”.  We now live in Alabama and are retired.  I have now seriously considered leaving VSCU but have been hesitant.  Call it loyalty or naive!

IRT some members have voiced concerns about the BOD in Facebook and voiced opinions about cleaning house.

I have posted on FB about one of the utility bills I mentioned.

As for where I heard about your blog, I stumbled across it.  I did a search on my browser “VyStar Credit Union in the news”.  In the browser search results was “When the music stopped for VyStar…”.  I’m glad I saw it and read it.  That is why I subscribed.

An update on the utility bill:

I have an update on one of my bills.  It was finally paid on the 17th, albeit four days late.  

For credit unions, trust is re-earned every day, even for a member of 40 years.  This goodwill is the foundation of every cooperative’s sustainability.

Two Experiences of Being Black in America

These two poems by African Americans were written over 100 years ago.  Their messages of hope endure.   Even today, their words are timely and timeless.

Emancipation

Paul Laurence Dunbar

September  1890

Fling out your banners, your honors be bringing,
Raise to the ether your paeans of praise.
Strike every chord and let music be ringing!
Celebrate freely this day of all days.

Few are the years since that notable blessing,
Raised you from slaves to the powers of men.
Each year has seen you my brothers progressing,
Never to sink to that level again.

Perched on your shoulders sits Liberty smiling,
Perched where the eyes of the nations can see.
Keep from her pinions all contact defiling;
Show by your deeds what you’re destined to be.

Press boldly forward nor waver, nor falter.
Blood has been freely poured out in your cause,
Lives sacrificed upon Liberty’s alter.
Press to the front, it were craven to pause.

Look to the heights that are worth your attaining
Keep your feet firm in the path to the goal.
Toward noble deeds every effort be straining.
Worthy ambition is food for the soul!

Up! Men and brothers, be noble, be earnest!
Ripe is the time and success is assured;
Know that your fate was the hardest and sternest
When through those lash-ringing days you endured.

Never again shall the manacles gall you
Never again shall the whip stroke defame!
Nobles and Freemen, your destinies call you
Onward to honor, to glory and fame.

******************************

We Are Marching

Carrie Law Morgan Figgs

1922

  1. We are marching, truly marching
    Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
    We are fearing no impediment
    We have never known defeat.
  2. Like Job of old we have had patience,
    Like Joshua, dangerous roads we’ve trod
    Like Solomon we have built out temples.
    Like Abraham we’ve had faith in God.
  3. Up the streets of wealth and commerce,
    We are marching one by one
    We are marching, making history,
    For ourselves and those to come.
  4. We have planted schools and churches,
    We have answered duty’s call.
    We have marched from slavery’s cabin
    To the legislative hall.
  5. Brethren can’t you catch the spirit?
    You who are out just get in line
    Because we are marching, yes we are marching
    To the music of the time.
  6. We are marching, steady marching
    Bridging chasms, crossing streams
    Marching up the hill of progress
    Realizing our fondest dreams.
  7. We are marching, truly marching
    Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
    We are fearing no impediment
    We shall never know defeat.

 

Friday Updates

The following are updates from posts this past week.

VyStar’s Challenges: Continuing to Expand in Georgia

Both CU Today and Credit Union Times report that VyStar has called off its $195.7  million purchase of Heritage Southeast Banking Corporation, a holding company for three local banks located outside Atlanta.

The local TV station NEWS4JAX covering the story included the following quote from CEO Brian Wolfburg :  “Following a thorough evaluation of the transaction between VyStar and HSBI, we have mutually agreed that moving forward separately is the prudent decision. VyStar will continue to expand our services in Georgia.”

This Georgia expansion seems tone deaf to the concerns of members in the credit union’s legacy Jacksonville market.  This recovery challenge appears greater than a botched conversion.

There are dozens of comments posted after every NEWS4Jax story:

Mark 2 HRS AGO

It seems that Vystar management made a poor decision with NYMBUS and are having to force it down members (co-owners) throats, regardless of the inconvenience and future inadequacies of software capabilities. The NYMBUS salesperson probably made bundle of commission off of this sales job to Vystar.

BigSwifty500 21 HRS AGO

This story is worthless and full of non-truths. The login page still says it is “temporarily unavailable”. Time to move my accounts elsewhere.

B coffey 2 DAYS AGO

N Y M B U S….this is the name of the company vystar is sharing “relations” with. They performed, designed this mess. Both companies share Board members. Nymbus  is even located in their (Vystars) building in Jax. Vystar is listed as a Nymbus investor. Starting to see a forming problem here?????

john marshall 2 DAYS AGO

This “upgrade” (that isn’t one) ought to be called Wolfburg’s Folly!

Racemedic

Translation: “We know a dumpster fire when we see one and we know to run the other way. Sincerely, HSBI”

Jthall76

Glad I switched to Community First CU

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Crypto Crash: The Selloff in Crypto Assets Resumes (CNBD Disrupter article, June 16)

Bitcoin fell again today as a sell-off in global risk assets resumed, with crypto investors reeling from a dramatic plunge over the last few days that saw the world’s largest cryptocurrency almost drop below $20,000. . .  

Bitcoin is sitting at levels not seen since late 2020. The digital currency is down more than 20% in the last week and has dropped more than 60% from its all-time high in November. . 

The current bear market is often dubbed a new “crypto winter”.  . .

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“Good Angel-Bad Angel”-The House Hearings on January 6th Insurrection

Should Credit Unions Be Offering Bitcoin and Crypto Currency?

Crypto currencies were supposed to be a store of value that would protect owners from traditional market risks as well as inflation.  Based on  block chain technology, they were intended to avoid the historical problems of fiat currencies backed by governments.

Both roles have now been shown to be faulty.  Here are some recent assessments.

Bitcoin tumbled Wednesday to a new 18-month low, spurring a sharp fall in crypto markets sparked by crypto lender Celsius freezing customer withdrawals. The world’s largest cryptocurrency fell to under $21,000. Bitcoin has lost around 28% since Friday and around 70% from its all-time high in November. (Reuters) 6-15-22

Bill Gates is a  crypto and NFT sceptic.  His latest observation is that the whole enterprise is based on the greater fool theory:

On Tuesday, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder described the phenomenon as something that’s “100% based on greater fool theory,” referring to the idea that overvalued assets will go up in price when there are enough investors willing to pay more for them.

A former crypto believer has written an appraisal of his experience with the title Crypto is Dead-Get out Now.

On May 18, 2022 Washington Post financial writer Michelle Singletary posted an article Six Signs Crypto is a Classic Ponzi Scheme.

CU Today reported that consumers lost more than $1 billion in crypto fraud in 2021 according to the FTC in a June 7 article.

Celebrity Hype and a Trillion in Losses

A critique from Jared Brock identifies the issue for why credit unions should be concerned about their involvement with crypto purchases.  He starts with a question in his June 6 article: Should Matt Damon and Reese Witherspoon Go to Jail for Promoting a Ponzi Scheme?

A trillion dollars in losses requires accountability.

But until two weeks ago, all sorts of celebrities were shilling for their favorite coin — or rather, whichever coin company paid them the most endorsement money.

Matt Damon.

Reese Witherspoon.

LeBron James.

Kim Kardashian.

Charli D’Amelio.

Jamie Foxx.

Paris Hilton.

Ashton Kutcher.

Gwyneth Paltrow.

Tom Brady.

Steph Curry.

Elon Musk.

Mark Cuban.

Tiger Woods.

Larry David.

And dozens more.

They made untold millions by convincing the ignorant public to late-join a Ponzi scheme.

Now they’ve all gone silent.

Because now that the industry is crashing back to reality, real people are losing their shirts.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think someone needs to be held accountable.

Should celebrity crypto boosters go to prison for promoting Ponzi schemes?

Two Credit Union’s Announce Bitcoin Purchase Partnerships

Even with this litany of false hype, fraud, documented  losses and ongoing uncertainties around crypto, several credit unions have moved ahead to facilitate the purchase of these “currencies.”

CU Today on June 13 reported Achieva Credit Union’s involvement with a bitcoin exchange:

Dunedin-based Achieva Credit Union is adding a bitcoin exchange to its mobile app through a partnership with New York-based NYDIG, a fintech platform that partners with mainstream institutions from banks to insurance companies. 

According to the credit union’s website, it is charging a 2% fee for any crypto currency purchased or sold.

Tracy Ingram, chief digital and infrastructure officer, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that Achieva had noticed more of its members were becoming “crypto-curious.”  

The article also listed other CUs offering crypto services to members:  UNIFY Financial CUIdaho Central CUStanford FCU, and Visions FCU.

The Credit Union Times report on Achieva’s new service described how the employees were asked to try out the new functionality resulting in over $2,500 in Bitcoin purchases. The purpose was to make them “trusted consultants” about the process.

Prior to launching, Achieva employees were invited to test out the new Bitcoin function. The employees who signed up were given $10 to purchase Bitcoin and learn the process. NYDIG also kicked in another $5 for the experiment. During the three-week employee pilot, those Achieva team members purchased more than $2,500 of Bitcoin.

According to Achieva’s Chief Digital and Infrastructure Officer Tracy Ingram,  the employee trial achieved two things: Employees learned how to use the new app and how Bitcoin works in order to help explain everything to members.

“Achieva employees are trusted consultants for members and it was vital that our team learn how this new Bitcoin functionality works so that they can answer questions for members,” Ingram said. “We always want to note that there is risk involved in investing in any cryptocurrency, and we want our members to feel comfortable accessing the trading services.”

Stanford FCU: a “Trusted Institution”

The Stanford FCU press release contained another important issue in its description of its partnership with NYDIG:

NYDIG is proud to partner with Stanford FCU to power its Bitcoin services in a secure and compliant way,” NYDIG Head of Banking Solutions Rahm McDaniel said. “A trusted institution like Stanford FCU wants to ensure the Bitcoin services offered to its clients meet the industry’s highest regulatory, audit and governance standards, and that is exactly what NYDIG provides. We are excited to partner with them to ensure their members have access to the opportunities associated with this emerging technology.”

According to Stanford FCU, the credit union saw nearly 25,000 buy and sell transactions by its members to and from crypto exchanges in 2021.

The Central Issue for Credit Unions

NCUA’s May 2022 letter in essence approved these types of partnerships but did not address one of their most frequent functions-purchasing crypto currencies.

Instead NCUA obfuscated the issue by talking about Distributed Ledger Technology.  For example:  As with the development of any new product or service, when deploying a platform, product, or service using DLT as part of the underlying technology, credit unions should find an appropriate balance between the opportunities and the risks.

DLT is not the same as crypto currencies which are based on this technology.  NCUA approved a practice of questionable purpose and uncertain value because of the underlying technology.  From many perspectives, purchasing crypto currencies is nothing more than gambling.

If NCUA did not understand the import of its letter, than how can credit unions avoid the marketing hype and celebrity marketing of this form of financial entertainment?  Not to mention the “crypto-curious” members?

In both credit union press announcements. NYDIG, the exchange and fintech partner, is relying on the trusted relationships and reputation of these two credit unions and their employees to not only offer, but also promote Bitcoin transactions.

I would just repeat the observations of Jared Brock above:

Call me old-fashioned, but I think someone needs to be held accountable.

Should celebrity crypto boosters (insert credit unions) go to prison for promoting Ponzi schemes?

In a future blog I will describe block chain, or distributed ledger technology, and how it might be useful for other purposes, not NFT’s and crypto currencies.