Saturday, March 29, 2008

No Bail Out for Prudent Home Buyers: Open Letter to Senator Chris Dodd

Chair, U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Dear Sen. Dodd: As I listen to you and other national leaders about plans for action about the housing, mortgage, banking and foreclosure crisis, I hear plans (some already underway) to bail out two groups:

  • Big spenders, such as the fat cats at Bear Stearns, who took big risks to make big profits as housing prices rose.
  • Buyers who overspent, bought homes they could not afford, and now are in or face foreclosure as their mortgage payments rise.

What I do not hear about is help for those of us who bought prudently, can afford our mortgages, do not need to sell our homes, but have seen our savings in the form of equity eroded, so that we are now in price inversions. If we were to sell, we would lose everything – and more, such as any investment we put into the home for renovation.

Senator Dodd, I did not choose the appraiser for the mortgage loan. Countrywide did. Yet, only I am responsible for paying in full the mortgage – whether or not my little apartment condominium is now worth that. In fact, I bought in 2005 near the top of the market. The apartment is worth 20% less than that value. In addition, this complex was hit hard by hurricane Wilma; our leadership did not ask for government aid in a timely fashion, so my special assessments total about $9,000 – additional debts, which, like the mortgage are mine and mine alone to pay. My total loss, should I sell at this time, would be about $25,000. That may seem small compared with the loss of the Bear Stearns bigwigs and the $200,000 homes to be lost by people who took out no-money-down mortgages – but it is everything to me. And it was real money that I worked for and saved.

I am 60 years old, and my opportunities for starting life over and rebuilding my small savings are limited. These are compounded by ageism in a labor market that is constricting.

If you are going to bail out big investors who live in mansions and imprudent buyers who purchased homes they could not afford, why is there no help for those of us stuck in the middle, stuck in price inversions who have watched our savings be whittled away? Why does the mortgage holder – who chose the appraiser – not have to share in this loss?

I ask the Senate Banking and Finance Committee to find some way to compensate those of us who are paying the real cost of the gambles taken by those at the top of the money pyramid and those who bought homes they could not afford. We are the ones who behaved prudently, and we are the ones who pay taxes who bail out the others, while we suffer and sacrifice.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Clinton Must Concede for Democratic Party Unity

I started writing about the competition for the Democratic Party campaign nomination when Ted and Caroline Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama. That sealed the fate of Hillary Clinton, I was sure.

Now, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson – former appointee of President Bill Clinton who putatively owes them political fealty – has endorsed Obama. Pundits now wonder what effect this may have on the Hispanic vote, a stronghold of Clinton support.

Neither candidate can win enough delegates in primary contents to earn the Democratic Party nomination, according to news reporters. Clinton, trailing Obama in the popular vote, cannot catch up and can only get the nomination if the super-delegates – party office-holders and appointees who represent influential voting blocs – back Hillary. Overturning the popular vote would, however, create party dissent that would undermine chances of victory against Republican Party putative nominee, John McCain.

Even though I prefer Hillary Clinton because she is the more experienced candidate and, as usual, I see a highly competent female overlooked in favor of a male, I concede:

Hillary Dillary Dock

Time’s run out the clock.

It’s time to go,

To leave the show,

Concede Obama is a lock.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Democratic Presidential Candidates Sound like Kids Squabbling in the Backseat of the Car

“Mom, he hit me.”
“She called me a name first.”
“He’s lying. I didn’t say that.”
“I didn’t do nothing. Leave me alone.”

First, there was Hillary Clinton accusing the press of ganging up on her in the Ohio debate. Her reference to a Saturday Night Live skit fell flat.

Then, a member of Barack Obama’s campaign was fired for calling Clinton a “monster.”

Next, feminist party venerable Geraldine Ferrara, the first woman to run for vice president of the United States as a major party candidate on the Mondale ticket in 1984, claims that Obama has only received recognition because he’s black, not in spite of it.

In the wake of this media tempest, Ferrara resigns from Clinton’s fundraising committee, amidst charges that she was racist. Meanwhile, black males accuse Clinton’s “Is your family safe at 3 a.m.?” ad of playing on ancient racist fears of black men threatening the safety and security of sleeping white women and their children, shades of the Ku Klux Klan.

As the cherry on top, the media unearth videotapes of Obama’s pastor and, in the senator’s own words spiritual mentor, giving a black separatist sermon accusing the U.S. of having provoked the 911 attack by its foreign policies. This is interpreted as blaming the victims by the press. The minister’s words damning America are as unseemly for a potential future president, so a new cycle of renunciation-denunciation is in effect.

Meanwhile, John McCain is busy solidifying his image with the Republican Party and abroad.

The Democratic Party, famous for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, is well on its way. Chris Matthews, on last night’s Crossfire, said the back-and-forth over whose surrogate campaign spokesperson said what was starting to sound like the Inquisition. “Do you recant fully and completely?” sounds too much like a page out of old playbooks that required public denunciation for crimes real and imagined.

If Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama don’t stop that fighting, the country is liable to turn this car around and let your father – John McCain – give you a good licking. I’ve already got the inside word from a scion of a famous political family telling me that John McCain “will be hard to beat.”

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Age of Miracles by Marianne Williamson: book review

Williamson, M. (2008). The age of miracles: embracing the new midlife. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.

This book easy to read but less than filling, like potato chips. Willliamson uses the Course in Miracles, a putative channeling of the Christ voice, as the basis for her spiritual teaching. She is an effective story-teller who laces the work with tales of both the rich and famous and ordinary folk. Yet, in the end, the lessons can be reduced to simple homilies:

  • Never give up, never give up,never give up (Winston Churchill)
  • Seek and practice only love
  • Be forgiving
  • Find new interests
  • Be grateful
  • Pray, meditate
  • Take care of your body and mind

Williamson, like many teachers of spiritual wisdom, believes that a quantum shift in human consciousness is possible when enough people practice love and forgiveness. A tipping point will be reached such that people who are out-of-alignment with principles of peace, love, and harmony will now adopt and adapt to these practices. Human consciousness will evolve into a new reality that provides peace on earth -- a kind of return to the Garden of Eden.

Williamson does not present any ideas that she has not thoroughly gone over in previous books such as A Return to Love. In the early pages, I was attracted to her claim that midlife and old age can be a time when we again experience the sense of magic that many of us enjoy in childhood and youth, before the cares of everyday life overwhelms our innocence.

She argues that by practicing gratitude for our extended life spans, by implementing wisdom learned from our life journey, and by spiritually connecting with love and joy, we can return to that sense of the miraculous. It is a seductive message but one which, by the last pages of the book, contends with the realities of old age -- reduced income and physical limitations that can reduce the possibilities we have.

In sum, this book will be more attractive to someone who has felt enriched by reading Williamson's past works. A slight volume larded with prayers and anecdotes, it is upbeat in tone and a light confection of positive reflections with which to greet aging.

For more information about the book and Marianne Williamson, please visit her website.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Godddesses for Our Times: Jean Shindo Bolen Tells Archetypal Stories to Inspire Aging Women

Bolen, Jean Shinoda. (2001). Goddesses in older women: archetypes in women over 50: becoming a juice crone. New York: HarperCollins.

Bolen casts a cross-cultural net to find goddess stories to inspire and provide templates for aging women in the United States and other Western cultures. She also provides a mature perspective on the stories of Greek goddesses covered in her earlier book, Goddesses in Every Woman.

The parts of the book are about goddesses or icons of wisdom; goddeses of anger, laughter and compassion; the update on familiar Greek goddesses Artemis, Athena, Hestia (who also appears in the wisdom section), Hera, Demeter, Persephone and Aphrodite; and a final section of forming circles of wisewomen. Bolen argues for a cultural renovations of the word crone. The word has long been associated with the Halloween witch with a wart on her nose, a pointed chin, and yellowed baggy skin, like the hags in Shakespeare’s MacBeth.

As a communication scholar, I do not see this term rising like Lazarus from the grave to connote juiciness. Combatting ageism in our youth-worshipping culture is a challenging enough without saddling these efforts with a timeworn word of such negative connotations.

Bolen is an effective story-teller who relates the stories of each archetype through the lens of psychology. She creates mental pictures into which each woman can project images of herself in the broadly-defined roles and qualities of each goddess icon. I found it especially interesting to read her interpretations of the biblical Sophia as a goddess of mystical and spiritual women; of Hindu Kali as a goddess of angry destruction and regeneration (the cycle of life and creation); Baudo as a goddess of bawdy mirth; and Chinese Kuan Yin and the Roman Catholic Virgin Mary as goddesses of compassion. Today’s aging woman needs stories about admirable women whose qualities offer templates for maturity that do not depend on cosmetic surgery and desperate efforts to avoid aging.

In conclusion, I recommend this book to any woman who is looking for models for aging with grace and maturity. These iconic stories tap into timeless energy patterns that Carl Jung called archetypes. Through these mysterious psychological resonances, we may discover blueprints for our future.