Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
One offer at a "meet the lenders community meeting" was to take my retirement money out of my pension fund and make it into a downpayment on a house. I said to the lender, "but what if something bad happens and I lose the house. Then I wouldn't have any retirement money..."
And the man reached out his arms as if to hug from a distance and said, "that could never happen! How could that happen? You're going to keep working to pay rent! Buy a house!"
"But what if there's something like another great depression?" The room fell quiet.
"This is Southern California. It won't happen. Home values are only going up." The buzz returned.
This didn't seem right. Friends with friends in real estate swore I could reduce income tax withholding from my paycheck by claiming to have a bunch of kids (I don't...) and then I would have a few hundred extra bucks a month to make payments on a loan for a little condo with a potted tree and cinderblock hardscaping. When the tax came due at the end of the year I could just, "write it off because you own a house!"
I would likely have fallen for it, but I earned just a little too little to convince myself I could pull this off. I couldn't afford to stretch beyond my rent and I didn't want the IRS knocking on my door and asking to meet my many children. So I waited.
Math isn't my strongest subject. But it just makes sense to me that you don't spend money you don't (and the key is: won't!) have, at least not on something as significant as a home. You can nickel and dime yourself up some credit card debt, but a HOUSE!? How can two bedroom house within 200 yards of two major freeways in Los Angeles be worth nearly a million dollars? Oh, wait: it's not.
I saw the crash coming. I'd started telling people in '05 I was going to wait a few years for house prices to come down - when all those people taking interest only loans started having their balloon payments come due, I'd swoop in!
What I hadn't figured on was the stories behind the doors of those houses. Driving through the valley I see at least two untended houses on every block conjuring images of Flint Michigan in the Michael Moore movie, but LA's not as green. I don't know where these people have gone - there are a lot of apartments for rent around town, too. I have felt a frequent sense over the past eight years as we've leveraged ourselves out further and further over the brink, of my parents' and grandparents' stories about the depression.
I hear my childhood lessons and when I leave a redundant light on, I hear the voice of my dad bellowing to us kids to turn off the lights when we'd leave a room, "What, do you think I own the electric company?!"
In other news:
Today we have a guest again, and a new addition to my links in the right column. Here is Jay Smooth's blog, Ill Doctrine. What HE said. See Economics and Annoying Smart Guys.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I have been writing a lot about politics lately, for obvious reasons, and specifically railing against the rightward careen. Recently I told a lot of my friends to read "The Outstupiding of America" (below) and haven't gotten much response. John from Wales had a really good response and it's posted. I like the perspective John provides from outside the US, and the fact that he stopped by and spent enough time to say something. He provides a healthy reminder that other countries are hoping we step up to our responsibilities as world leaders, too.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Keep this in mind: if the republicans can't outsmart the democrats, remember: they can outstupid us.
Outstupiding is the threat. Stealing the theme of "change" from the Obama campaign, was cagey - technically clever, but *there is a fine line between clever and stupid. The republicans crossed the line into outright stupidity by bringing in the ridiculous Palin.
But this reducto ad absurdum is why their little ploy just could work: it is so stupid it is unfathomably stupid. Suddenly we're spending tremendous time and energy trying to make sense of it.
I do believe we're in some form of shock. And we'd better snap out of it.
In the short run, it is easier for humans not to think. Blithely pretending things will magically get better on their own seems to require less effort. But it's similar to taking out a loan to buy an unaffordable house with the hope of paying it off with future riches. The short run isn't long enough to reach that future, and you lose the house. Look down the timeline over the past eight years. We have allowed this state of affairs.
Now, I didn’t do it. And you certainly didn’t do it. But we did it. It's like the Man in Black said, "a person is smart. People are stupid," and the republicans know it!
We know adhering to the principles of the conservative platform is a grandiose mistake (as in: McCain has supported Bush in over 90% of his decisions and only disassociated from him in recent months). But what about the people who are buying into the stupidity?
The way to keep the republicans from outstupiding us isn't to put our energies into discovering a way to do something more stupid than they (an irony beyond humor - to do so would require brilliance and waste time). We need to take the game back.
The US presidential election in 2008 marks a monumental opportunity for the growth and development for our culture. We're entrenched in an unjustified war in Iraq and have been throwing bombs on Pakistan. At the heart of our troubles is the fact that we're being still very much driven by the same motivations that justified slavery and the genocide against Native Americans, not to mention our covert hostilities in Central America in the 80's.
Greed kills. Now that our economy is in full tailspin, we’ve got to pull upwards with as much drive as we can muster. The motivation has to come from within us, and from each other.
This election is about what is possible if we rise to the best and smartest within ourselves - each one of us: what if we paced ourselves for the long run? What if we banked on our intelligence instead of our willingness to let someone else do the thinking for us? What if we admitted that a society is not a business?
Here's how we can twist the irony of outstupidity back into the realm of the sensible: education. Help people think. We have to appeal to what is best and smartest in us and bring hope into play again.
We own this one. Ask anybody if they would like to be smarter. It's a rhetorical question. How would we behave globally, make decisions at home if we were even 5% smarter. We can be just a little smarter today than yesterday - tomorrow, even smarter – and smarter still beyond.
They can only outstupid us if we play stupid.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
How dare John McCain declare on Black Monday - albeit with a telling stammer - that the fundamentals of the US economy are strong?
Even as the most conservative of financial institutions are closing up shop, McCain makes this claim like he means it. Maybe he doesn’t realize those are actual people walking out the doors, with lives and responsibilities, and roles in the economy (like buying groceries, for example). Yes, Senator McCain, those are Americans walking out the door of Merill Lynch. They’re carrying boxes with stuff like pictures of their families and friends - the people they live for and who live for them. Those are people who have probably felt pretty secure being employed at the most stable financial institutions this country has ever known.
This isn't the corner bicycle shop getting eaten up by Walmart (though the start of the trouble traces back to this "big business first" practice), this is Lehman Brothers being bought out by a British bank, this is us getting financing from China so we can throw more money into an unjustified war - and still McCain has the audacity to claim that the fundamentals of the economy are strong?
The man's in some serious denial. Because of his position in history, he is even more dangerous than George W. Bush, as the damage has been done and we cannot afford further commitment to this degradation.
We need to elect Barack Obama as president of the US in 2008. We had become comfortably numb, but we're not so comfortable now, are we? We've got to wake up now! We owe it to the very concept of democracy and all we have worked for to face the fact that we are losing, through ruptures in the structure of our economy, not only all our "stuff" but all our hope! Wake up everybody: Throw the bums OUT!
Barack has a plan and shares it each time he speaks. McCain says he has a plan and then just echoes slogans and distracts us with the screeching sensationalism of the ridiculous Sarah Palin. Barack has solutions that will help rebuild the middle class which is the heart of us (as in "We" the people). Barack will start by passing a middle class tax cut while enforcing a crackdown on predatory lenders. He'll get us out of Iraq and help us start helping ourselves again - not at the cost of greater debt, but by creating jobs and appealing to our sense of community strength – he speaks to us at the level of our humanitarianism, rather than the republican choice: a rigorous gluttony that - it turns out - has simply been cannibalism.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
But tonight, cutting through her ceiling,
my floor, and carpet with padding
shrill and whiny, insistent and hounding
the shriek is slicing, shattering, pounding, demanding.
Is she having a nervous breakdown?
Words muffled, it seers
faster than the speed of sound
down each ear canal
shattering cilia with a coldness
that makes the tiny hairs
fall dead and gone
like so many icebergs of late from the polar ice caps.
It is not her. It is her television. But what?
Striving to hold their own:
my eardrums, defended only with weensy hammer,
and cochlea coiled as if to spring.
Plugging ears with fingers
does nothing against the tide of it;
the waves course through my very bones!
The timbre, the resonance, the clip
the sound - vaguely familiar...
...yes new... just in the past week.
This is not the kind sweet girl
who greets me in the carport
or by the garbage bin.
Nay, this is the night of the RNC
and this shrill shill
is that odd little governor called Palin.
(Who also enjoys the gratuitous killing of animals).
Monday, September 01, 2008
From the republican convention, and in reference to Hurricane Gustav and his possible effect on New Orleans: "This is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats," said Cindy McCain.
There it is. Just as I suspected. It's not about their heads, it's about their hats.