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PHILIP MARTIN: Not even sinister



There is an ol’ boy I follow on Facebook. He’s a man of faith.

He believes the Restoration of the Once and Future President is coming, and that in a year all those who were suckered into being vaccinated will realize their mistake and that it will be too late for them. He believes that the audit in Arizona is going to rock the world.

He believes he is being shadow-banned and censored, that Facebook–his nemesis and his lifeblood–has singled him out. His content is being obviously suppressed, otherwise he’d have more comments and likes. He believes most Americans think like he does, and that there are powerful and malevolent forces that operate beyond the ordinary bounds of nations and laws that seek to subjugate the individual. He believes he has special insight into the way things really are.

For all I know, he might be right.

All of us ought to keep in mind the possibility that we might be wrong. What we believe is not always congruent with reality. But, as a recent letter writer to this newspaper pointed out, when you believe something you believe it: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

People who pay attention to Facebook get the news they deserve. The problem is that everybody pays attention to Facebook. And to cable news blather. And they can’t imagine that anyone doesn’t attend to the spectacles that occupy their days. All the wonder and beauty in the world and focus goes to opportunistic cranks too dull to ever consider the consequences of their fake certainties. Some people poison the world with lies to make their nut.

I don’t blame them. A TV show is not a serious tool for moral investigation; it’s meant to draw attention to itself. A TV show’s purpose is to attract eyeballs that will suffer the commercials embedded by advertisers willing to pay for access to the show’s audience.

What the advertisers want is a target-rich environment, a sea of credulous consumers willing to believe their pitches. Some demographics are worth more than others, depending on the product you’re trying to sell.

If you want to know what the powerful think of you, look at what they’re trying to sell you. If you’re seeing a lot of ads for gold bullion, timeshare cancellation, male performance enhancers and credit repair services, maybe you should rethink your life choices. Or at least understand that, based on your viewing habits, certain people have identified you as susceptible to these pitches.

Maybe somebody thinks you’ll believe anything.

That’s not a knock on faith, a gift not granted everyone. There are lots of things I wish we all had more faith in, like the basic decency of most human beings when confronted by genuine crisis. Most of us would behave better in a critical situation than we might expect; we aren’t the snarling, selfish, solipsistic creatures we often present as. Most of us are capable of selfless sacrifice and casual kindness, even though there might not be anything other than anecdotal evidence of this.

And recent years have eroded my faith in any sort of American exceptionalism–to paraphrase Goethe, I cannot conceive of any crime which we could not commit.

Hannah Arendt’s 60-year-old assessment of the Nazi SS officer who oversaw the logistics of Hitler’s Final Solution, Adolf Eichmann, as the embodiment of the “banality of evil” is usually viewed skeptically these days; many have pushed back against the idea that Eichmann was pedestrian and ordinary. (Arendt’s critics often misread her; let’s leave that discussion for another time.)

But the more important observation that Arendt made, and the one that’s more germane to our 21st-century world, is that the Nazis promulgated a culture of what she called Gedankenlosigkeit, usually translated as “thoughtlessness” but more accurately rendered as “the inability to consider.”

Eichmann and other Nazi bureaucrats were so consumed by petty careerist concerns that they were blind to what their actions meant in the wider world. It wasn’t just a lack of empathy with the victims of the Holocaust, it was an inability to imagine himself beholding to any law higher than the affirming edicts of his Fuehrer.

When Arendt wrote that Eichmann was nicht einmal unheimlich–not even sinister–she was talking about the nature of evil, which some people (like my Facebook friend, perhaps), would grant it parity with good. But Arendt took a view of evil that was similar to that of St. Augustine, who saw it as a shadowy absence, a lack of goodness, a defect rather than an opposing force. Eichmann wasn’t filled up with something vital and darkly grand. He was inhibited by a lack of imagination–a lack of humanity.

He could honestly state that he didn’t believe he had committed any crimes because he was simply performing a role ascribed to him. (Judas could have made a similar argument.) Eichmann could not see around the propaganda of the Nazis; he could not imagine a story in which he was the villain. He was a good man doing a good job, and he knew this was so because he could neither conceive or countenance a world where his actions and those of his countrymen might be seen as monstrous.

It is human to want to feel that we are at the center of the story, that our words and actions are meaningful. Some of us ache to be more than we are, to live lives of derring-do, to win friends and influence people, to think and grow rich.

But there is no glory sitting behind a keyboard, especially not in an age when everyone has a keyboard and a platform and every thought revealed in ways cruder and more blatant than the next monkey with a persecution complex might express it.

A few years ago, a college professor got into trouble for using the phrase “little Eichmanns,” and I don’t disagree with his censure. But most evil is done piecemeal, indifferent to any grand design, and many of those who aspire to leadership, both intellectually and politically, are as careerist as any Nazi.

Be careful who you put your faith in.

Philip Martin is a columnist and critic for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at and read his blog at

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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