Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bizarro Santa - a touching Right-Wing belief in Fairy Tales

A commenter on the last post strikes a condescending and self-congratulatory note, and scolds me for "whining about the success others have achieved" while castigating those who bought homes they could not afford. Ah, yes - the 'Moral Hazard' argument, which applies only to the less-fortunate, but not at all to the too-big-to-fail banks and investment companies, who are now making more money than ever, courtesy of us, the American taxpayers - who, of course, get no such treatment from the recipients of our largesse, but, incredibly, refuse to help those who saved their bacon on the grounds that 'it would reward bad behavior!' Is that the "success" of which I'm supposed to be envious, and to which I am to aspire?

As usual, the Bizarro logic of conservatism rears its head, which leads me to the subject of this post. The most dearly-held beliefs of the conservative philosophy so often include belief in mythical creatures such as "The Invisible Hand of the Free Market", which they revere as if it were a scientific fact like gravity, or inscribed in red in the KJV Bible, instead of a misinterpreted and unsubstantiated economic theory, the implementation of which has brought us to our economic knees. Most of us, anyway. It's like they believe in a Bizarro Santa - one who does travel through a chimney and does have a bag of goodies, but instead of coming down the chimney and distributing the goodies, goes up the chimney with his bag crammed full of our stuff, and flies off to the North Pole with it.

My answer to lightnindan is as follows:

Wow - well done! You have managed to take every plutocratic talking point and tie them up together into a nice neat bow! You missed a couple, to be sure; don't forget about the Welfare Queens® and Lazy People Who Don't Want to Work but Want Other Hard-Working People to Support Them Instead™.

First of all, you start off with a fallacy that you take for a law of nature, like gravity: "You lower taxes to encourage people to engage in certain behavior."

Your smug and condescending attitude aside, this is not a fact. This is a theory. And, I may add, a theory that has not held up especially well. We HAD the 'lower taxes'. It's not like it hasn't been tried. Since 2000, this theory has had all the room it could use. And this is where we have ended up.

The word "taxes", BTW, is - in the context of which it has been used in our public discourse - merely a buzzword for 'taking money from me that I've earned and giving it to lazy people or the Gubmint'. What if your 'taxes' were eliminated, but you had to pay for roads, schools, infrastructure, public safety (police, firefighters), snail-mail (at what it actually costs to mail an object as opposed to what government subsidy of the post office allows us to pay), the legal and justice system (which affords you contract protection, among a host of other things) etc. - all the things that we take for granted that the government manages in our behalf?

You act like every penny you 'earn' came directly out of your ass, instead of the fact that it costs a LOT of money to put together a societal infrastructure where people can do business in the secure knowledge that there is a system of laws to protect you contractually, and a physical and communication infrastructure to support your ability to conduct business with other entities. Also, a public education system insures that you will have educated people to employ, and improve the country. Whether or not you have children has nothing to do with whether as a nation we should support public education and whether you as an individual should pay your fair share of it. Public education, and the GI Bill which allowed returning soldiers to go college, is what allowed us to be intellectual and scientific leaders in the world in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Now, we are falling sadly behind other nations who DO invest in their citizen's education.

But instead, your attitude is like that of a four-year-old who wants to sell lemonade on the sidewalk, so his mama spends money to make the lemonade, gives him a table and a chair to sit in, gives him the pitcher and the cups, and helps him draw a sign that says "Lemonade 5¢", and then proudly claims that "I did it all myself!" It is a childish, simplistic and ultimately unrealistic view of economics.

Also, nothing in what you wrote addressed anything I actually wrote about; you merely trotted out the same tired talking points and sad little 'I got mine' boasting and finger-pointing. Same with the 'Big Bad Government' stuff. Child, please.

Yes, there are individuals who overspent, and overbought, just like there are welfare queens and lazy freeloaders, but they are not anywhere near in the majority, nor are they the reason that the economy collapsed. They are the tokens that the banksters, nultinational corporations and Wall Street would like you to believe are the real problem - like a sleazy magician, misdirecting and pointing in any direction as long as it's away from themselves.

Let's break this down in real terms.

When the cost of living rises, and wages do not, what happens?

One has two choices - work more, and spend less.

This is what most of America has done since 1980.

But, eventually you get to where there are simply no more hours that one can work. And you get to where there are no more corners that you can cut, and the belt will not tighten any more.

Every year, we have been told through our wages that our work is worth less than it was the year before. Yet, productivity has increased - without wages following suit.

This is not conjecture; this is fact. Wages have been stagnant since 1980. And corporations and businesses WILL NOT raise wages unless they are compelled to. This, by the way, is not a criticism of corporations. Why should they? Their one and only directive is profit, and if they reduce their profit by paying more out in wages than they are compelled to, they are breaking their contract with their shareholders. They have to do what they were made expressly to do. They are legally and contractually bound to maximize their profit. This does not make them inherently bad; this is why they need to be regulated more firmly so as not to injure people.

This, by the way, is why they should not be considered legal people. Their aims, interests and needs are different than the aims, interests and needs of human beings.

So how are wages kept commensurate with prices? Through the pressure of collective bargaining. This is the only way to insure that there is enough power on the opposite side of the table to keep things equitable and balance. It is not to be expected that a corporation which depends on quarterly profits is going to voluntarily reduce those profits for something that will not directly and immediately benefit it. There has to be a standard held on what labor costs, because these are human beings who need to eat, breathe, and live, not inanimate objects.

But it is the people running these corporations, banks and investment firms who are profiting in the most grotesque way imaginable. As much as conservatives like to howl about 'redistributing wealth' - it's the most nefarious Communism if that redistribution goes from the top to the bottom (which it never does - the merest mention of the idea is enough to send them into a tizzy) they have no problem with 'redistributing' wealth from the bottom to the top, and that is what has happened.

So, go on and live in your self-congratulatory kindergarten fantasy world. It's too bad you can't see that the Santa you believe in is Bizarro Santa - going UP the chimney - with all your stuff in his bag.

Or, as the Big Red Man says - Ho. Ho. Ho.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In Plain Language - What the Hell Happened.

Look, folks - it's really simple what happened here. And everything else is bullshit.

For the last 30 years, ever since Reagan came into office and busted the unions, wages have stayed the same or even declined, while prices have risen. This has resulted in every year as a whole workers have made less and less, but it's been so incremental, like the 'boiling frog', that we haven't noticed it, except to think that perhaps we weren't workng hard enough or were spending too much.

The 'investment class' on the other hand (those who don't get wages for working, but make money from investments and stock options - the 'top 1%' who makes money from money and not work), has had its income RISE over 400%.

BUT - since we are no longer a producing society (with most manufacturing jobs outsourced overseas - thanks, Chamber of Commerce!), but a consumer society, the ONLY way our economy stays afloat is for people to BUY things. Remember when Bush said "Go shopping!" after 9/11? This is the reason for the great credit push - they know we aren't paid enough in wages to buy a lot of stuff. So how to get Americans to keep the economy going without raising wages? Make them go into debt! So we get this unlimited credit (and all the costs included in that - the hidden fees, the late charges, the ability to change terms without notice). But that's STILL not enough.

So - enter the real estate/housing bubble, where homeowners are encouraged to buy what they need from the imaginary 'equity' in their homes. Since it doesn't really exist, it's more debt which will be handed down to our children and their children. And since we are NOT paid fair wages (wages that increase somewhat close to what the cost-of-living increase is) because the unions have been demolished, that's the only way we can stay afloat.

But, now even that is exhausted. We have come to the end of the line. The investment class has stolen every penny that we have. There's nothing left to steal from us, the working people. We finally had to stop spending, and that is when everything went down in flames.

Now, the top 10% whines that they pay 40% of all taxes, which they deem unfair. But what they don't say is that they control 90% of the wealth of the country! So, is it fair to pay 40% of the taxes on 90% of the wealth? Is it fair that we pay 30% for taxes on payroll (from WORK), but only 15% on investment income (money made from money)? And when the majority of the wealth of the country is held by investors, THEY DO NOT SPEND IT. It does NOT go back into the economy, it does not create jobs. It goes OFFSHORE to make more money for itself, and is not taxed.

When working people make more money, on the other hand, it DOES go back into the economy in the form of purchasing, which creates a market for things, which creates jobs to serve that market. Investment income does not help the economy. Working people buy things. Working people save money. Non-working people or people teetering on the edge of poverty do not spend, and they do not save.

Don't believe the hype, people. We are being stolen from, and until we see it for what it is, these suited thugs will continue to do so.

Sorry for the rant, but - when I hear this Republican piffle about Big Government and Tax Cuts, I just can't help but holler. If the investment class would pay its fair share, we woldn't be in the mess we're in. We've done it their way for 30 years, and we have become serfs. Guess what? The Trickle Down Theory just means we're being p***ed on.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Debt Serfdom

I just read a very informative article by Charles Hugh Smith of Of Two Minds. So many of us like to imagine that we are middle-class (myself included) but when it comes down to meeting the definition of 'middle class', most of us fall short (again, myself included.) He says:

Imagining A Middle Class Does Not Create One   (October 12, 2010)

Surveys show that Americans wildly underestimate the concentration of wealth in America. This disconnect between perception and reality shows the power of propaganda
Americans have been trained to believe that membership in the "middle class" is their birthright if they "work hard" in the status quo.
What income defines "middle class" is a function of locale and prevailing wages/costs ($100,000 in Manhattan or San Francisco isn't much because costs are so high), but in terms of purchasing power we can probably agree that middle class membership includes:
1. reliable private transport
2. a home with meaningful equity
3. healthcare insurance/coverage
4. a retirement fund of some sort
5. a college education/higher education or training
How many people "own" all of the above minimum standards has been drastically reduced by various factors.
Another measure of "middle class" is even simpler: a middle class household owns some wealth. It could be a retirement fund, a free-and-clear home, a business, income property or gold/cash/investments.
By that measure, the middle class comprises at best 20% of the populace.

Check out his charts to see how the numbers really add up.

The basic truth is that working folk have been gradually underpaid for thirty years, and now the chickens have come home to roost. Corporations have built their wealth on the backs of their employees by using money that should have gone to their workers for profits for themselves. And the end result is that there are no consumers left who can afford to consume - in a consumer (not a producer or manufacturing) society. The demise and disrespect of unions has kept the playing field vastly unequal, which is against the classic definition of a 'free market' (mythical though it may be.) In this classic definition, there is supposed to be a balance of powers to make it work, between the company, the employee/worker, and the consumer - much like the 'separation of powers' in the American system of government, designed to keep any one component from dominating the others.

This is not the case today, and the myth of the 'trickle-down' theory, which has been given a 30-year shot, has proven devastatingly wrong. Read Smith's article to see how things have really panned out due to 30 years of conservative economic theory.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

What Would I Give To Hear A President Say These Words...

My friend Batocchio of Vagabond Scholar is celebrating his 5-year blogiversary, and in stopping by to add my congrats, I read one of his fine posts, "We Cheat the Other Guy and Pass the Savings To You". In it, he links to one of the greatest speeches I have ever heard, one that breaks my heart every time I hear or read it. It is by the President who got us out of the Great Depression, and gave America a middle class that lasted for a large part of the 20th century - perhaps the greatest and most prosperous middle class we have ever known, or ever will know. In 1936, at Madison Square Garden, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave this speech to an America which was still struggling to climb out of the Depression, but was beginning to make progress. I quote a part of it below - the text of the speech in its entirety is here, as well as the audio of Roosevelt speaking it.
Tonight I call the roll - the roll of honor of those who stood with us in 1932 and still stand with us today.

Written on it are the names of millions who never had a chance‹men at starvation wages, women in sweatshops, children at looms.

Written on it are the names of those who despaired, young men and young women for whom opportunity had become a will-o'-the-wisp.

Written on it are the names of farmers whose acres yielded only bitterness, business men whose books were portents of disaster, home owners who were faced with eviction, frugal citizens whose savings were insecure.

Written there in large letters are the names of countless other Americans of all parties and all faiths, Americans who had eyes to see and hearts to understand, whose consciences were burdened because too many of their fellows were burdened, who looked on these things four years ago and said, "This can be changed. We will change it."

We still lead that army in 1936. They stood with us then because in 1932 they believed. They stand with us today because in 1936 they know. And with them stand millions of new recruits who have come to know.

Their hopes have become our record.

We have not come this far without a struggle and I assure you we cannot go further without a struggle.

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace‹business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me - and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

What would I give to hear those words come from a President today?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Father, 'Mac' McCracken

(reposted from last year)

To look at his artwork, go here:

I lost my Dad, Willard Eastman McCracken, Jr., on Saturday, August 15. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at the end of 2005, the same kind of cancer that took Ann Richards and Molly Ivins, and generally progresses like wildfire - once it's big enough to be noticed, you usually have between 3-6 months to live. However, miraculously, he was treated successfully enough to have several years of remission - years in which my kids and husband and I were able to spend precious time with him, and time that I could share the most important ideals of my life - my progressive activism - with him, and he was able to see my book published and read my dedication to him. I'm so very grateful for that extra time that many people never get. My father was my inspiration and my biggest cheerleader, and he valued the qualities in me that I value in myself (and that not everyone else appreciates!) His expectations for me were not for money, status, or fame, but to follow my dreams and be true to them and to myself, and I'm so glad I was able to make him proud of me.

What follows is what I have written for his memorial - if you're interested, click on 'read the rest' (and, yes - that is who you think it is in the second photo!)


Willard Eastman “Mac” McCracken, Jr.

Willard Eastman “Mac” McCracken, Jr. was a true Renaissance man in an age of compartmentalization and specialization. A painter, inventor, philosopher, humanitarian, writer, humorist, curator, actor, mathematician, raconteur and educator, he entered this world with an enthusiasm for art, for learning, for teaching and for people that stayed with him his entire life and inspired everyone who came across his path.

Born on October 24, 1929 in Stafford, Connecticut to Willard, Sr. and Florence McCracken, he grew up in the small town of Charlton, Massachusetts, in an area where freedom-loving Scots-Irish McCrackens had lived for a century and a half. His great-grandfather George Washington McCracken's wife Mary Edgerly Thornton was the great-great-granddaughter of William Thornton, brother of Matthew Thornton, the last signer of the Declaration of Independence. His father owned a garage in Charlton and was a town selectman, while his mother owned a motel, and the rugged New England determination and independent spirit of his forebears played no small part in the formation of Mac’s indomitable personality.

Mac graduated from high school at sixteen, and was admitted to the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, where he earned his B.S. in Art and Education. He received his M.A. in Art and Education from Columbia University, Teachers College, after which he joined the Army, where he was a radio operator in Alaska - the one place in the United States that could conceivably be colder than Massachusetts. While stationed in Alaska, Mac submitted an entry in a competition to design a monument to honor the patron of Eielson AFB, and his entry was selected as the winning design, along with that of a USAF lieutenant, to be used for the monument.

After teaching at SUNY Buffalo, he moved with his family to Tampa, FL and the University of South Florida, where he helped transition the department of Fine Arts from the umbrella of the College of Liberal Arts to its own college and develop the first charter and organization of the college. He was an associate professor of Arts and Education, and became the assistant dean of the College of Fine Arts. Later on he was an associate with the critically-acclaimed Graphicstudio, and helped organize Graphicstudio archives at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. He participated in Robert Rauschenberg’s Overseas Culture Interchange, traveling to Russia with Rauschenberg, and worked extensively with him over the years. He was an authority on Cézanne, and dove deep into the meaning of the artist’s work and what he was trying to accomplish. Mac’s own paintings were filled with vibrancy and strength, surprise, passion and often humor. A McCracken painting was one that stayed in your mind’s eye and resonated in your soul long after you walked away from it. But his true mission and passion was art education – finding a way to bring an understanding and appreciation of the transformative qualities of art to all people, and helping them find the art in their own lives.

Mac’s art and scholarship, prodigious as it was, was merely part of an expression of who he was as a human being. He was a man who loved people, and people loved him. He was comfortable in all walks of life, and found something in common with every person he met. He had a big, open heart and a rich, deep vein of humor that delighted and charmed those around him. He loved children and understood them in a way that drew kids of all ages to him like a magnet. He dressed up in ridiculous costumes, sang silly self-penned songs, and generally set everyone to laughing – himself as much as anyone else. He was a joyous and loving father to his own children, a beloved Baha to his grandchildren, and any child he encountered became his own – he always had room in his heart for a child. In later life, with his white beard and rotund waistline, he delighted in playing Santa Claus, and he had the jovial personality to go along with the appearance.

One of his great inspirations and influences was Albert Einstein, and, like his hero Einstein, Mac was a humanitarian as well as an intellectual – indeed, the one was the expression of the other. His brilliant mind was only matched by his tremendous heart. Mathematics was one of his hobbies, and he spent fifty-five years looking for a solution to the Four-Color problem, which, to his great delight, he finally discovered in his last years.

Mac was a rabid sports enthusiast, but especially a golf fanatic, and near the end of his life was able to fulfill his dream of going to the Master’s in Augusta – and was cheering in the stands along with his daughter Leigh, his son-in-law Jay, and his granddaughter Jena when the Florida Gators won the NCAA basketball championship on the same day, and the four of them also experienced the thrill of being at Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs when the Tampa Bay Lightning prevailed. Another life goal was reached when the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004. (His mother Florence had the distinction of being alive for both Red Sox World Series victories!) In 1994 he and his son Willard III made a journey to Massachusetts to go to a Red Sox game together at Fenway Park – yet another long-held ambition realized. When they went to Charlton to visit old haunts, they stopped by his former school, which was shaded by a huge old oak tree. “I remember planting that tree on Arbor Day,” Mac remarked. He dove head-first into every kind of creative endeavor. He was a prolific writer; he was an actor in many USF plays; he played a mean blues guitar and was a jazz aficionado, having spent much of the ‘50s in New York City, where he hung out with the great jazz musicians of the day, as well as the Beat writers and artists who, with him, were pushing the boundaries and exploring and expanding the definition of art, music and literature in our culture.

Family was the center of Mac’s life, and laughter and love was the woof and warp that held us all together. He was immensely proud of all his children and grandchildren, and they all adored their Baha in return. He took care of his parents in their last years, putting all else aside. When he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2005, not long after his mother passed, the family were prepared for the worst, as this particular kind of cancer is often terminal by the time it is discovered. Thanks to his flinty Yankee stubbornness, his brilliant oncology team and his wonderful physician and friend Dr. Jai Cho, with a combination of radiation, chemotherapy and some surgical procedures he was able to be treated and have several years of remission. The treatments were grueling, and he was often in great pain and unable to eat, yet he never complained, instead insisting on living life the way he always had. The silver lining inside the dark cloud of cancer is that the family were given extra, precious time to spend with Mac, especially his grandchildren in California, who developed a strong bond with their grandfather who had been three thousand miles away. They will always remember the card games, the pool games, the pancakes and chocolate-chip waffles that their Baha made for them, the goofy photos - Baha, down on his knees, with a pair of shoes in front of them, and a top hat and cane, calling himself ‘Toulouse-Lautrec’ - and the stack of jazz CDs that he gave his saxophone-playing grandson Sam – CDs of the many jazz artists he knew as friends in New York. These last few years, though heartbreakingly difficult, enabled his family to come together to share with him how much they loved him, and to revel in the warmth and love and humor that was so much a part of him. He also lived to give away his youngest daughter Breeze at her wedding last year, and his newest grandson Kingston James came home two days before Mac’s passing. He joined his son Will at church, and attended Mass every day for the last six months of his life, which afforded him much peace and solace.

Mac McCracken was truly one-of-a-kind – brilliantly unique, incredibly gifted, unusual and wonderful. Anyone who met him never forgot him, and anyone who knew him loved him. His lifelong friend, mentor and colleague, artist Dr. Don Saff, described him as the ‘philosopher-in-residence’ of the USF Fine Arts department – a ‘cerebral humanitarian’. A visionary, a perpetual scholar besotted with learning, yet earthy and real, to Mac art and life were interwoven – indeed, intrinsically inseparable. He demonstrated that art is not only for the elite and sophisticated, but is the expression of the very core of who we are as humans, and is as necessary as air to human existence. Mac was a soulful man, in every meaning of the word. He thought big, lived big, loved big. He dreamed impossible dreams, and believed wholeheartedly in the power of possibilities. Failure may have come to him at times, as it must to all of us, but never a failure of heart or soul. Without our artists, our dreamers, our idealists, those who risk everything to dare to look beyond and tell us what they see there, life would be bleak indeed – even pointless. He reached for his dreams with the bright-eyed optimism of a child, and if he failed to reach them, they were no less real and valuable. Mac McCracken possessed the magical power of being able to show us those possibilities, to weave those dreams that bring beauty and light and joy to life, and to inspire us to reach for them, too.

Alicia McCracken Morgan
August 20, 2009

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Bowed but Unbroken

I just got back from Las Vegas and the Netroots Nation conference. It was amazing, inspiring; I met so many old and new friends, and so many fierce progressive activists - even some Congress members! I was able to meet (and give my book to) wonderful folks like Laura Flanders, Amanda Marcotte, Lizz Winstead, Alan Grayson, Amy Goodman, Pam Spaulding, Elizabeth Warren, D. Aristophanes (from Sadly, No!), Markos and Digby - even if they dropped it into the trashcan at the first chance they got, I was able to put it into their hands. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to connect with other progressives and get busy doing what needs to be done.

Back to life; back to reality.

I am still finding it an uphill battle just to get up every day and do the minimum that has to be done to keep my world and family functioning. Today I got an email from my blog friend ddjango at P! and his post really touched me. He writes:
From the heart ...

Three times in the past I have abandoned the blogoswamp because I was too sick to write. I have nearly done it again. I can't really blame "illness" again, although I have been fighting my seemingly intractable clinical depression again over the last six months. But it's been more than that. I have been constitutionally incapable of continuing to catalog in these pages our descent into hell.
That spoke right to me. I wrote him back:
I am in the same boat as you are, my friend. I am fighting depression that is not only chemical but situational. I am a chronic depressive and have been able to manage it quite well with medication, as (oddly) I am by nature a happy, optimistic person. But this last year has kicked my ass. The banksters are playing cat and mouse with our house - they want to take it from us badly and they are using trick after trick to try and trip us up so they can swoop in and take it. We are in the process of trying to get a loan mod and they put a sale date on it every month because of something bogus like 'losing' our paperwork four or five times; the last one, last week, claimed that we didn't sign our 50-page document correctly. We did; I have the proof; we know it and they know it. But their tactic is just to keep fucking with us until we slip up. Plus, my new department head is trying to kick me to the curb at work, cutting my hours to almost nothing.

This has resulted in my inability to write with any kind of consistency, or do anything proactive at all; I can't focus, I can hardly move. What I want more than anything is to be writing about what's going on, but it's not possible in my state. At a time when it's nore important than ever to act, it's all I can do to get through the basics of my day. I spend the whole day telling myself "Get up; get moving; don't go back to sleep."

But I believe in my bones that though we have been let down so badly, that means that we have to keep fighting. Even more. And hope is a luxury we really can't afford. Sure, I would love to have hope, but every important social change - civil rights, women's rights, labor rights - has come about in the face of no hope. And if we believe that something is right, we have no option but to press on.

I am hoping I can find a way to keep moving forward. I really, really feel you, ddjango. This hurts. It sucks. But I'm going to keep trying every single day to try to move forward. I am not saying I will succeed. But I will try. I'm sending you my best thoughts and care.
I wouldn't have even been able to write this without feeling the need to connect with ddjango, because I know just how he feels. And the mental and emotional wherewithal to write is almost more than I can dredge up.

When I spoke very briefly to Elizabeth Warren after her panel on mortgages and foreclosures, I told her about our situation and who our bankers were. I told her that OneWest was desperately trying to take the house that we have owned since 1983, because they had bought out IndyMac and had therefore bought our mortgage for pennies on the dollar, and had no interest in letting us keep our house. When I mentioned IndyMac and OneWest, her eyes opened wide and she shook her head. "Then you know exactly what I've been talking about," she said.

Do I ever.

But with all this, I just have to say, "I'm not quitting today." 24 hours at a time is all I can manage. And if I can stay connected somehow, I may be able to get mad enough to keep fighting. I may not fight today. But I won't quit, and that has to be good enough for today.

It beats the alternative.

Monday, August 02, 2010

OneWest v. Me - Cat and Mouse

Back to life, back to reality...

The Netroots Nation conference was beyond awesome. I heard so many inspirational speakers, met so many old friends for the first time in person, and so many new friends as well - all amazing progressives. I got to meet (and give my book to!)

Laura Flanders
Amanda Marcotte
Lizz Winstead
Alan Grayson
Amy Goodman
Pam Spaulding
Elizabeth Warren
D. Aristophanes

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pinch Me.

Is this really me, signing my book - right next to Amy Goodman?

This trip has exceeded any expectations I could have possibly had.

I have met so many incredible people - activists, bloggers, progressives of all kinds - both high-profile and regular-profile (like me!) I feel like I'm dreaming.

Ahem. Ahem.


Need I say more?

And - I gave him my book!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Netroots Nation, Las Vegas - Day 2

Right now: listening to the inspirational Van Jones. Last night: heard Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

I've been enjoying hanging out with great online friends who I have known for a long time through blogging and Second Life, and finally met in person. It is an amazing feeling to tap into the real progressive energy and passion that is here at Netroots.

Plus, they are going to let me sell my book at the bookstore booth here!

Van Jones: "If wind power goes wrong, we won't have a 'wind slick'"

Van Jones: "When it gets harder to harder."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Netroots Nation!

I'm heading to Vegas for Netroots Nation! Looking forward to meeting progressive friends in person. Maybe I'll see you there!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Thank You, Marcy!

The election is over, and according to the vote count, Jane Harman is still Congresswoman from the 36th. But, to me, the real winner is Marcy Winograd.

Marcy is a winner because

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

MarcyWatch 2010 - Winograd for Congress June 8 - A Candidate of Conscience

Last Sunday, I was honored and thrilled that Marcy invited me to sing a song at the concert that her campaign held for her volunteers, the People's Concert for Winograd. Honestly, the celebrity level of the performers was way above mine - the lineup included Vonda Shepard, Chris Schifflet, the unbelievably amazing Lili Haydn, and others who are way more high-profile than I am, but Marcy was generous enough to include me. I sang the song that I sang at the launch of her campaign, Sam Cooke's "Change Gonna Come", because that is what I fervently hope, pray and work for; and getting Marcy Winograd into Congress will be a strong move in that direction.

The concert was incredibly inspiring, uplifting, and upbeat, but before it was over, Marcy interrupted the festivities to tell us about the Israeli military attack on the ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, and to immediately denounce the attack.

Love her or hate her, Marcy Winograd is a candidate of conscience.

From Marcy's press release:
"Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. Enough, we must stop this, and adhere to the laws that have been established by the international community. Working for peace and human rights for all is the only way forward. As a Jewish woman of conscience, I invite my opponent, Jane Harman, another Jewish woman, and all of Congress to join me in denouncing this kind of barbaric violence, demanding an end to the blockade, and seeking an international investigation into these murders. I recommit myself to working towards a true, just, and lasting peace."
Those of you who read me may notice I don't write much about the Israel/Palestine conflict. I try to write about matters on which I have some authority to speak, and while I certainly have my views on the subject, I do not feel qualified to pontificate on them. I have Jews in my family who have lost uncounted relatives to the Holocaust, and I have close Jewish friends, some of whom see Marcy's views as a betrayal of the Jewish people. As Marcy herself states, she has been vilified by many in the Jewish community for these views, and taken a lot of political heat for them. And, in a congressional race where she faces a wealthy, long-time Democratic incumbent, it could possibly mean the difference between winning and losing that race.

Marcy is a peace activist, first and foremost. She is a founder of L.A. Jews for Peace, and she believes down to her very bones that all people are entitled to live in peace - including Palestinians. This view does not always endear her to what, as a Jewish woman, would be considered her 'base'. It is not a politically convenient view to hold or support. But Marcy Winograd is a woman of principle, and these core principles are not negotiable, nor are they for sale or barter.

And in this morass of bought-and-paid-for politicians which is our current Congress, a candidate of convictions, a candidate of conscience, is a candidate who we desperately need in office. We have too many Democratic members of Congress who 'talk left, and move right', if they talk left at all. We need a Congressperson who can make some dents in the armor of corporate-cash-controlled policy. We need someone to represent for the people, not the profit margin. We need someone who knows that if you truly believe in freedom, you cannot ask for freedom for yourself and deny it to others.

We need Marcy Winograd, a candidate of conscience, in Congress.

To learn more about the Winograd For Congress campaign, visit Winograd for Congress website: - or - Facebook:

This week is crucial! You can support Marcy by donations, phone-banking, precinct-walking, or - just tell a friend. Pass the word along.

Vote for Marcy this coming Tuesday, June 8

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Remembering and honoring the men and women who have given their lives in service to their country.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

MarcyWatch 2010 - Winograd for Congress June 8 - Why I Support Marcy Winograd, and Why You Should, Too - Even If You Don't Live In California

Today is the day of Marcy Winograd's fundraising goal - the campaign is aiming for $50,000 towards a final media effort to get Marcy on TV, radio and the Internet in these closing weeks before the election.

We have less than two weeks until June 8.

I contributed today to Marcy's campaign, even though we are squeezed financially. Some things are worth biting the bullet for, and right now I can't think of a cause that's more important than getting a true progressive leader - Marcy - into Congress.

Right now, our country is being hobbled by Democrats who are not acting like Democrats. We cannot begin to slow down, much less repair, the damage that has been done to America by eight years of George W. Bush and the complete implementation of conservative and neoconservative political and social values unless we change course. The election of Barack Obama, while definitely preferable to a McCain presidency (and the possibility of a tragic snowmobiling accident), has not been the waving of a magic wand.

What we have seen so far with a Democratic majority and a Democratic president has been Republican-lite - corporatist Democrats who are bought and paid for by the same interests that own Republicans, and are afraid (or not permitted) to put forth any ideas that might meet with disfavor from the very industries that have brought America to its knees - the banking industry, the credit-card industry, the oil industry, the coal industry, the defense industry, the health industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry. These Democrats are afraid to take a stand with Democratic values, and instead are seeking to appease those industries, hoping for their approval so they won't have to fight.

Sorry, Dems - that's not going to happen.

I understand the rationale to a certain extent, even though I don't condone it. It's like this: the reality of politics is that getting into office and staying in office, as our system is set up now, depends upon corporate money and corporate influence. Even well-intentioned Democrats find that it's not so easy to stick to your guns when you're asked to look at an issue from the perspective of the businesses and industries who offer the huge amounts of money necessary not only to get elected, but to stay in your office. And not only that, if you choose not to support the corporate view, but the view of those who can't afford that sort of largess - regular American people - not only will you not receive the money for your campaign chest - but these corporations will look for and support your opponent! It becomes easier, you say to yourself, to go along with those who control the purse-strings and try to do what you can within those parameters - after all, your opponent might not be as progressive as you are. If you brand yourself as hard to do business with, you won't be chosen for any important committees, and left out of the sphere of influence.

And, with the revolving door between political office and corporate lobbying, you will be cutting yourself out of any chance at money and influence when you leave office if you don't have good relationships with these corporations. This is more than just running for office; this is a lifetime lucrative career in Washington - in and out of office. Your connections as a Congressperson are coin of the realm on K Street.

This is the harsh reality of politics and government. And until we can fundamentally change the process of running for office and running for re-election, this is how most politicians end up doing business - Democrats and Republicans alike.

There are only a handful (with fingers left over) of Congresspeople who have the independence and the courage to stick to their progressive values in the face of this kind of pressure - Dennis Kucinich, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson, Donna Edwards, Barbara Lee (and my namesake sister, Georgia State Representative Alisha Morgan, an up-and-coming young progressive leader - watch for her!). Love them or loathe them (and I love them - but, then, I'm a liberal), they stand up for their values regardless of convenience and so-called 'bi-partisanship'. It is time to add one more name to that list:

Marcy Winograd.

I first became aware of Marcy when she challenged Jane Harman in the last 3 months of the 2006 Congressional race. A complete unknown, a high-school teacher and peace activist, she garnered close to 40% of the vote against the extremely wealthy and entrenched long-time incumbent, the hawkish Jane Harman, who has called herself the 'best Republican in the Democratic Party.' As I had begun blogging in 2004, I found myself needing to become active on a local level as well as on the Internet, and I started by joining Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, of which Marcy was the co-founder and president at the time. I phone-banked for Marcy, and the more I found out about her, the more certain that I was that here was a real progressive worth getting excited about. Marcy's mother Teddi Winograd was a longtime progressive activist, and Marcy proudly followed in her footsteps and forged her own path in public service - real public service, not government glad-handing. Teaching, caring for the environment, supporting labor, working for peaceful solutions to conflict - this has been Marcy's way her entire life. From a young age she was active in progressive causes, and has always 'walked the talk' - not with an eye on public office, but a dedication to making working people's lives better, working for peace, social justice and a healthy planet - all of those 'old-school' liberal values that seem to have fallen out of fashion in the national discourse and derided as 'socialism' even by those who are most damaged by their absence.

But Marcy is so much more than progressive ideas - Marcy is a fighter. Her life demonstrates that her values are not for sale to the highest bidder; she is not looking to enrich herself, but to fight for what she knows to be right. Marcy knows that we need jobs, not wars; healthcare, not wealthcare. She knows that we must rebuild our nation from the bottom up - the poor, the working class, the middle class - not shower money on those at the top and hope that it will trickle down. We have seen what happens when we do that - they take care of themselves and give the rest of America the middle finger. And if you don't believe that, try getting a loan modification.

As I have gotten to know Marcy over the last four years, I am more and more impressed with her integrity, her determination, her willingness to take a politically uncomfortable or unpopular position and stand up for it. I am also impressed with her compassion, her ability as a community leader to work with people in all walks of life to get things accomplished, and her formidable leadership skills. She fights hard for the things I care about. Her honesty, integrity, and passion for justice make her a force to be reckoned with - a force that we so desperately need in the Democratic Party, and in Congress.

You do not have to live in California or Los Angeles to support Marcy! As a Democratic member of Congress, Marcy will be able to be a progressive voice for all Americans - and she is one of the very few people that I know I can count on to be who she says she is, to fight for us - for jobs, for the environment, for health, for peace, for justice - even in the face of the pressure of the go-along-to-get-along Washington status quo.

Wherever you are, if you are a progressive (or even if you aren't - you'll benefit too!) please consider supporting Marcy Winograd for Congress with a contribution to her campaign. Or, you can volunteer - you can phone-bank from your cell phone; if you're local, you can canvass the district - contact the campaign for more information. There are so many ways you can give Marcy support! Marcy does not take corporate contributions, so we need your help to get the word out to the people of California's District 36!

This is the time to take out Blue Dogs, and replace them with real Democrats - a fighting Dem like Marcy Winograd.

I was honored to be asked by Marcy to sing at her campaign kickoff, and I can't wait to see this campaign culminate in victory - not just for Marcy, but, more importantly, a victory for America.

Marcy's Website

About Marcy

Marcy's Stand on the Issues

Meet Marcy; Volunteer!

Donate to Marcy's Campaign at ActBlue

Marcy on Facebook

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MarcyWatch 2010 - Winograd for Congress June 8 - Help Us Get to $50,000 by Tomorrow

Marcy is on the home stretch! 

We have two weeks left before the election; two weeks to defeat Jane Harman in California's 36th congressional district.

In these final days before the June 8th election, my campaign must make key decisions, which you can put into action. We're making one final push to have the best fundraising month yet and we're so close.

Please help us raise $50,000 by donating to my campaign before midnight tomorrow, May 26th. It's time to get rid of Blue Dog Jane Harman!

Jane Harman has had her chance, and in the past 15 years hasn't had much to show for it. Being best buds with Wall Street, Big Pharma, and weapons manufacturers may help with someone's re-election, but it doesn't do much for the American people.

I have kept my promise to run a people-powered campaign and have refused to accept one cent from corporations. It's time to inform the rest of our great district about what is really at stake in this election. It's time for me to get on TV, radio, and all over the internet to get the word out!

Help me spread my message to the people of District 36 by contributing by tomorrow. With your help, we will end Harman's reign and elect the People's candidate - Marcy Winograd - to join the ranks of Sestak and Halter.

June 8th is just around the corner and we have plenty left to do. With a little effort and your support, we can do this.

Onward to victory!

Marcy Winograd

Monday, May 24, 2010

MarcyWatch 2010 - Winograd for Congress June 8 - Marcy Challenges Harman on War Vote Profit

May 24, 2010

Congressional Candidate Demands Opponent Divest War Portfolio & Return Campaign Contributions

(Marina del Rey) Before Congress votes on another $33 billion supplemental war appropriation, Congressional Candidate Marcy Winograd (CA-36) challenges her opponent Jane Harman to immediately divest of up to $8.3 million worth of investments in military contracting firms and return over $60,000 in campaign contributions from military contractors.

Says Winograd regarding Harman's investments, "Clearly, Harman's votes to take us to war in Iraq and escalate in Afghanistan are making her richer by the hour. No wonder she voted for the Iraq invasion, despite pleas from constituents not to attack Iraq. With a portfolio heavily invested in weapons production, Harman should have recused herself from each war supplemental vote or divested her stock in military contractors."

According to Harman's 2008 financial disclosure statement filed with the House of Representatives, Harman has the following investments in weapons manufacturers: Boeing $130,000 to $350,000, Lockheed Martin $80,000 to $200,000, Caterpillar Inc. $195,000 to $500,000, and General Dynamics $80,000 to $200,000. (Click here for full list.)

Winograd notes Harman not only invests in military contractors but also relies on them, sometimes the exact same companies, for campaign contributions. According to her filing with the Federal Election Commission, Harman has received the following 2009/2010 campaign contributions from military contractors: Boeing ($10,000 maximum), Raytheon ($10,000 maximum), Northrop Grumman ($10,000 maximum), Honeywell International ($7,500), General Dynamics ($4,500), and Lockheed Martin ($2,000).

Says Winograd, "If we follow the money from Harman to war contractors and back again we see a symbiotic you-scratch-my-back and I'll-scratch-yours relationship. Unfortunately this political pandering comes at a great price to our veterans, our district, and our nation. Our district deserves a lawmaker who will not send our youth to war simply to benefit her own financial portfolio or guarantee her campaign coffers are filled for the next election."

Adds Winograd,"In Congress I will work hard to expand the reach of aerospace into the new green economy, so that our engineering talent and skilled work force can build mass transit, develop solar and wind power, and fix our aging bridges and water treatment plants. We need to bring manufacturing back to the United States and the 36th congressional district could be the anchor for the new economy."

To learn more about the Winograd For Congress campaign, visit Winograd for Congress website: - or - Facebook:

Contact: Caitlin Frazier, Press Secretary
Tel. (405) 818 4077


Sunday, May 23, 2010

MarcyWatch 2010 - Winograd for Congress June 8 - Weekend Edition

All work and no play?

Not here, folks!

To thank all of Marcy's awesome volunteers, her campaign is throwing a big bash - 

Free Concert and Rally for Volunteers, May 30!

We are all limited to a single vote on election day, but there is no limit to your voice in a democracy, and your efforts will win this election. Our polling indicates we're within four percentage points of Jane Harman. Help us close the gap!

We’re mounting our biggest event yet, to rally our volunteers prior to Get Out The Vote week and thank you in advance for your help with the final efforts of the campaign.

The Winograd for Congress Campaign will be throwing a party at Venice hot spot The Stronghold in the heart of the Abbot Kinney area on May 30 —and the Winograd for Congress campaign volunteers will be the guests of honor - our VIP's! Come hear Vonda Shepard, Chris Shiflett (of the Foo Fighters), Matt Keating, Lili Haydn, Wendy Starland, Tom Freund—and of course our own Marcy Winograd, Congressional Candidate for CA-36 in the June 8th Primary - plus other very special guests.

This is Marcy's way of saying "thank you" to all of her fantastic grassroots volunteers whom have made her Congressional Campaign in the CA-36 June 8th primary race a smashing success.

Tickets are free for the Winograd for Congress Volunteers. All we ask is that you::
  • Show up at the campaign headquarters (11:00am to 9:00pm; see address below) before May 30 and put in at least a two-hour shift phone banking or precinct walking;
  • Commit to just one more shift on GOTV week or Election Day.

Tickets can only be obtained at the HQ, and there are only 125 available. It's first come first served--so hurry!

May 30th, 8:00pm – 11:00pm
The Stronghold: 1625 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice 90291

Saturday, May 22, 2010

MarcyWatch 2010 - Winograd for Congress June 8 - Weekend Edition

What's up with Marcy this weekend?

Would you like to meet her for yourself and find out?

You can meet her in Torrance if you hustle :-) at 11am at the Torrance Farmers Market

11:00 am at the Winograd Table
2400 Jefferson Street
Torrance, CA


Marcy Winograd and Bill Rosendahl at Bikeside Speaks!

Marcy and Bill Rosendahl will cap off a full night of talks at Bikeside Speaks.
7:00 pm
Bikerowave, 12255 Venice Blvd., Venice

Contribute to Marcy's campaign at ActBlue!

Friday, May 21, 2010

MarcyWatch 2010 - Winograd for Congress June 8 - Who Let the (Blue) Dogs Out?

Progressives, that's who!

Joe Sestak just routed Arlen Specter, and Blanche Lincoln is on the run.

It's time to get rid of the Wall Street enablers and war supporters on the Democratic side of the aisle.

As the Republican Party is heading over the right-wing-crazy cliff, held hostage by the increasingly radical liber-terribles and teabaggers, where even a moderate Republican is considered anathema to the cause, we must define who we are as a party and represent.

And we must elect progressives - there is no other way to stop this free-fall. Conserva-Dems and Blue Dogs are moving to the right - we need to claim our position, as the Republicans have.

Otherwise, we will continue down the same disastrous path we've been on - and it's only getting worse.

Help Marcy Winograd win on June 8! Marcy is a people-powered Democrat, representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, and needs your help to face the corporate-funded, corporate-friendly Jane Harman, one of the wealthiest members of Congress.

Marcy has what it takes to stay focused, principled and progressive in the lobby-licious environment of Congress. If you want a Congressperson who will stand up for working people and not Wall Street, who will not cave in to big money, you want Marcy Winograd in Congress.

Marcy's principles are not for sale to the highest bidder.

Winograd For Congress - June 8

Thursday, May 20, 2010

MarcyWatch 2010 - Winograd for Congress June 8 - Foreclosures Break Records!

Marcy Winograd for Congress Countdown - Vote on Tuesday, June 8!

Donate to Marcy via ActBlue here!

One huge reason to kick Jane Harman to the curb is that she signed the vile, loathsome Bankruptcy Bill of 2005, the disgusting bill that closed off a last attempt to protect ourselves from the rapaciousness of the credit card companies - an industry-written bill that the credit card industry had been attempting to purchase from Congress for the previous 20 years. One of the components of the bill rescinded the ability of bankruptcy judges to order banks to modify home loans. And, as we have found, if asked instead of ordered, banks will refuse to do so.

Here's Marcy's take on the foreclosure crisis:

In light of record foreclosures, more than 7,000 in our district last year, Marcy supports a "First Right to Rent" rule for homeowners losing their homes. "If banks were required to rent to those facing foreclosure, we would have far fewer foreclosures," says Marcy, "because banks find it harder to sell a home with tenants in the house."

Foreclosures not only impact those losing their homes, but also neighborhoods that suffer vandalism and lower property values, as well as counties that lose their tax base, thus forcing cuts in social services that hurt the newly homeless. Marcy's opponent, Jane Harman, voted for the 2005 bankruptcy bill which makes it easier for banks to foreclose by prohibiting bankruptcy judges from ordering banks to modify home loans.

For more on the foreclosure crisis, read the Associated Press report below:

Mortgage Delinquencies, Foreclosures Break Records
by Alan Zibel

WASHINGTON - The number of homeowners who missed at least one mortgage payment surged to a record in the first quarter of the year, a sign that the foreclosure crisis is far from over.

More than 10 percent of homeowners had missed at least one mortgage payment in the January-March period, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday. That number was up from 9.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year and 9.1 percent a year earlier.

Those figures are adjusted for seasonal factors. For example, heating bills and holiday expenses tend to push up mortgage delinquencies near the end of the year. Many of those borrowers become current on their loans again by spring.

Without adjusting for seasonal factors, the delinquency numbers dropped, as they normally do from the winter to spring.

More than 4.6 percent of homeowners were in foreclosure, also a record. But that number, which is not adjusted for seasonal factors, was up only slightly from the end of last year.

Stocks slid Wednesday as investors looked past a rising euro and focused on the U.S. economy, including the rising number of foreclosures. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 100 points in early trading.

Jay Brinkmann, the trade group's chief economist, said the foreclosure crisis appears to have stabilized. Seasonal adjustments may be exaggerating the change from the previous quarter, he added.

"I don't see signs now that it's getting worse, but it's going to take a while," he said. "A bad situation that's not getting worse is still bad."

Economic woes, such as unemployment or reduced income, are the main catalysts for foreclosures this year. Initially, lax lending standards were the culprit. But homeowners with good credit who took out conventional, fixed-rate loans are now the fastest growing group of foreclosures.

Those borrowers made up nearly 37 percent of new foreclosures in the first quarter of the year, up from 29 percent a year earlier.

The risky subprime adjustable-rate loans that kicked off the foreclosure crisis are making up a smaller share of new foreclosures. They made up 14 percent of new foreclosures in the January-March period, down from 27 percent a year earlier.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

MarcyWatch 2010 - Winograd For Congress June 8 - Interview Today at 3pm PST

It's the countdown to the election we've been working towards for the last four years. I will be posting daily updates on Marcy Winograd's Congressional race for CA-36.

The election is June 8!

Marcy is a true progressive, and we have never needed progressives in Congress like we do now. The results of conservative policies - predatory, unregulated crony capitalism - are visible each and every day; and with each new disaster - the BP oil leak, the spate of fatal mining accidents, the foreclosure crisis - we see how imperative it is that we find a way to stem the tide of corporate greed which is superseding the interests of the American people and our right to protect ourselves, our families, our jobs, our health, our environment. When corporations are allowed to call the shots, and their interests run counter to the public interest, people die. "We can regulate ourselves! We know our own industry best, after all!"

Really, BP? Really, Massey Energy? Really, Wall Street?

A Democratic President, obviously, isn't enough. And if there is to be any kind of pushback on behalf of the American people, it has to come through Congress. This is why we need real progressives - dare I say, liberals - in Congress instead of corporate-beholden 'moderates', and this is why we need Marcy Winograd - not just for California, but for the nation.

Today's Marcy update:

Marcy will be interviewed today at 3pm PST (6pm EST) on Nicole Sandler's radio show "Radio Or Not" - you are invited to call in at


Find out more about Marcy at Winograd For

Friday, May 07, 2010

Illegals, Watch Out - We're Taking Back Our Jobs!

(reposted from Sept. 09)

There's a new movement afoot in the American Right. Inspired by the rabidly anti-immigration, tirelessly pro-American-worker Lou Dobbs, it's springing up all across America. From the meatpacking plants of Iowa to the dairy farms of Arizona, from the kitchens of New York's finest restaurants to the Salad Bowl of California's Salinas Valley, in hotels, motels, and Holiday Inns all across this great nation of ours, the patriotic men and women who for years have stood by and watched illegal immigrants swarming across the border to brazenly steal their jobs have had enough.

Formerly known as the Minute-Man Movement (or 'Beer Guts Across America'), whose aim was to merely monitor the flow of illegal immigration across the border between the U.S. and Mexico, the troubled group disbanded amid infighting and accusations of internal corruption and financial misconduct in 2007. Yet, the dissatisfaction and frustration felt by these hard-working American patriots has only grown more intense, as they watch job after job after job go to those with no legal right to that job, while they themselves, deserving natural-born citizens, sit at home on their couches, with an ice-cold Coors, a family-sized bag of Chee-tos and a remote in their hands as they wait around for the job that never seems to materialize.

Well, the time for waiting is over.

The time for action has arrived.

Illegal criminals, take notice - Conservative Americans are taking back their jobs!

Yes, from the ashes of the failed Minute-Man Movement, the Gimme Back My Job, Dammit Coalition (GBMJ,DC) has risen, and it has spread like wildfire among conservatives sick and tired of illegals taking the jobs from deserving American citizens. No longer content to wait for the government to do it for them, these patriots have taken matters into their own hands. Now they're doing more than just protesting or watching from the sidelines - they're taking back their Constitutional, God-given right to a job. Suddenly, you see them everywhere - on the sidewalk with a leaf-blower strapped to their back, in the parking lot of your favorite restaurant with the keys to your car or inside, balancing a heavy-laden bus tray full of dirty dishes as they adroitly refill your iced tea glass on their way back to the kitchen. You may find them bent over in a lettuce field under a blistering sun with a rake in their hand, or endangering their limbs with casually-maintained but lethally sharp meat-cutting machinery for fourteen hours or more a day while earning somewhere around three dollars an hour, with no benefits, medical insurance, workman's compensation, or even bathroom breaks.

Most of them say they've never been happier.

"For the first time in my life, I feel needed," says Coalition member Chuck B. Liggett, 70, a former accountant who now works in a chicken-packing plant in Amarillo, Texas. "When the floor boss screams at me for slowing down, I feel a surge of pride because what I do actually matters. Now, I do an honest day's work for my pay, and by the time I collapse on my filthy mattress on the floor of my stinking room at the end of my fifteen-hour shift, I know I really earned that forty dollars!"

And it's not only men who are flocking to this bold new movement. Conservative women are finding satisfaction, fulfillment and a sense of what it feels like to be a real American as they embrace this exciting, energetic new way of life. Darlene Simmons, 47, works in a factory in downtown Los Angeles, sewing elastic bands into men's underwear seven days a week.

"It works out great, because working seven days means that I can save the expense of a car and an apartment - not that I could afford them on my salary," she explains. "I just fall asleep sitting at my sewing machine, and when I wake up, I'm right there ready for another day of rewarding, eye-straining, repetitive-stress-injury-inducing work!"

The jobs bonanza has been beneficial for Darlene's whole family as well.

"We're going back to the good old-fashioned American work ethic that made this country great!" says Darlene. "My kids used to be spoiled, lazy, smart-mouthed and never satisfied. No matter how much stuff we bought them, it was never enough. Now my kids work in the factory right along with me! Even my seven-year-old daughter can sew a button on a fly with those itty-bitty hands of hers - she's pretty handy, considering how she was always so busy texting her little friends! And you'd better believe there's no more complaining - you should see them cry with happiness for a little half-cup of water!"

Not even Darlene's aged, infirm 94-years-young grandmother has to miss out on the fun - when she was fired from the factory for sewing her hand to a pair of extra-large briefs, she soon found work again as a housemaid to the factory owner's wife. With tears in her eyes, choked up and unable to speak for gratitude, Grammaw merely trembled with joy, as Darlene quickly interjected, "They're so good to us here!"

Conservatives are done with talking - now they're stepping up to the plate and claiming what's theirs. All those cushy jobs that the illegal immigrants have been stealing are now back in the rightful hands of natural citizens like Chuck and Darlene. Unemployment? These stalwarts don't know the meaning of the word.

As a wise American patriot once said, "How uniquely American."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Richard Zombeck of - Kicking Ass, Taking Names!


Richard Zombeck, HuffPo mortgage blogger and the founder of, where I have been blogging about our mortgage hell, is kicking some serious ass.

He is getting ready to go to Washington today armed with thousands of personal stories from people like us who are being kicked out of our homes by the very entities who caused this economic debacle in the first place - the banking/financial sector.

Richard has just been profiled by Bob Sullivan of the Red Tape Chronicles at MSNBC,  and ShameTheBanks is bringing to light the fact that these foreclosures are not anomalies or the result of consumer irresponsibility, but a business model for the banks which will not change until or unless they are forced to.

I want to give a big shout-out and thank you to Richard, for helping me and helping others get their stories out there, and showing that each one of us can find a way to bring about change. It's daunting, given the enormity of the forces (and finances) arrayed against us, but it is not hopeless.

Roll on, Richard!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Update: Reprieve (for now!)

Well, friends - it ain't over till it's over. That's all I'm saying.

Last week, we were sure we were toast. We talked to St. June on Friday morning, and she said that she didn't think that we were going to be able to pull this off; that they wanted our house and that was it. She said to my husband, "Why don't you give them a call yourself and see what they have to say." When he called, to our surprise we found out that not only was there no new sale date (we had been told that the new sale date was the 26th of April) but we had been taken off the foreclosure list.

Apparently the bankruptcy filing had put the house on hold. The bank asked my husband to take the house off of the bankruptcy hold so that they could 'offer him a loan mod'. St. June said to do no such thing; what they wanted was to lift the restriction so that they could take the house. Remember, OneWest bought IndyMac at a fire-sale price; this means that they bought our loan for pennies on the dollar, which means that the profit margin on our house is enormous. They have no interest in letting us stay in our house unless we make it more difficult to foreclose than to work with us.

This does not mean that they won't ultimately take the house, but it does mean that they're not taking it right now, which is a vast improvement.

I'll take limbo. Limbo beats 'game over'.

Friday, April 16, 2010

On Greed

(cross-posted at

Hello, my friends.

Today, I would like to talk to you about greed.

In the course of trying to save our house, it has become necessary to publish our personal business - something I was not excited about doing.

I realize that in reaching out for help in public, there are going to be people who are supportive, and also people who are critical. When you put your business in the street, that is part and parcel of the deal. It would be ridiculous to expect any different. If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. As a blogger, I know and accept those terms.

I have laid myself open to the finger-pointers, and I would like to respond.

My friend JP, who posted about my situation, wrote me today, saying,“People are already speculating that you guys are greedy and I had to tell them, No, they’re not.”

That is, if I may be so bold, high-larious.

If only.

This is how it always comes down for the individual.

In my post Entrepreneurship, Greed, 'Moral Hazard' and Music I tried to lay out some ideas that would explain what I’m talking about, but perhaps I can make it more clear here.

This is a microcosm of the kind of thinking that has brought our economy to its knees, and kicked the legs out from under the middle class.

Let me start by asking a question.

Is it ‘greed’ when a small business owner secures financing to pay for the first year’s operating expenses while the business gets going?

Would any sane person expect a business to start up with no capital, just saying, “Hey, if you can’t make enough profit to pay your bills as soon as you start, then you shouldn’t be in business”?

I would hope not.

But that seems to be what people expect of us.

As I wrote in the aforementioned earlier post, my husband and I are entrepreneurs. We are a small business - a two-person business. My husband is a session singer and songwriter. He has been in that house since 1983, including having to refinance to divide up the worth of the house during his divorce. He does not work for a company that pays his salary. His capital is his talent and experience. And that talent and experience have made it possible to live in a house in Los Angeles for over 25 years. We do whatever we can to get through the lean times so that we are able to produce our product. During one of those ‘lean times’ my husband wrote a TV theme song that paid our bills for five years. But if we had thrown in the towel instead of sticking with what we do as well as anyone in the world, that never would have come about, because we would not have been in the professional music environment where that kind of work opportunity exists.

Up until three years ago, we were able to weather the ups and downs of our unpredictable business, cutting back as our particular field got more and more difficult to make a living in. With careful management, we have been able to keep a home that our kids could grow up in. But when you have a business that is feast or famine, one thing that will not happen is that every bill will be paid on time. However, every bill does get paid. And we have had to understand that our credit score is going to reflect this, even though we live up to our obligations. 

Guess what? Not having a perfect credit score does not make one ‘irresponsible’. It means that the way our income comes in is different than people who are salaried or guaranteed a certain amount of money per week, month or year. And when we’re out of work, there is no unemployment insurance to cover us till we can find more work.

I am sick to death of being accused of being ‘greedy’ for doing what we need to do to stay in a modest home. I am tired of being constantly pressed to defend my choice of profession - especially when one of the main reasons people give for deregulation is that regulation ‘penalizes risk-taking and stifles entrepreneurship’. Yes, it’s really important not to have any limits on how much money people can make by whatever means they can - but only if it’s a certain kind of entrepreneur, I guess. It's vital to the American Way of Life™ to encourage risk-taking in pursuit of riches. You want to talk about ‘greed’ - let’s talk about the idea that allowing credit card companies to charge arbitrary and usurious interest rates is ‘competitive’ instead of predatory.

When people say “You shouldn’t own a home if you can’t afford it,” that is really not what they mean. They are making a knee-jerk moral judgment about you. Let me clue you - it would not be cheaper to live in an apartment or rent a house. And, guess what? You have to have some kind of decent credit score to rent the crappiest house or dinkiest apartment. They throw around this word ‘greedy’ without having the least idea of what that entails. I am not going to dignify these attacks with specific numbers - you don’t get to judge how my family lives our lives or spends our money because we have made public our situation with a predatory lender.

My issue is not with being broke - my issue is with being lied to, cheated and stolen from.

The reason that we took a predatory loan is that no other ones were open to us, and that we were told that taking a high-interest loan for a year would improve our credit score, and that at the end of that year we could get a better loan. When you do not have the luxury of knowing in advance how much or little money you will be making, you have to do the best you can with what is at your disposal.

We kept up our end of the bargain.

We made those outrageous payments on time for a year.

Had IndyMac kept up their end of the bargain, we would not be having this issue. But it took two more years of those usurious payments to break us.

Dear friends, our ‘greed’ is not the issue. We willingly forgo things that most of you would not consider doing without. Our priorities are not material things - new cars, clothes, vacations, furniture, restaurants; everything we have is second-hand, thrift-shop, broken, or old. We do not use credit cards, and have no credit card debt. Our only debt is our home. Our priorities are our kids, our time together, our music. But one thing we will fight for is a home that our children can feel secure in. 

We will not stand by and allow ourselves to be cheated and stolen from by a company whose greed was a major contributing factor to the collapse of our economy, simply because we don’t work for someone who pays us every two weeks and should be ashamed of ourselves because of it.

If we were in the same situation, and had a ‘regular’ job with steady pay, and were laid off, people would not be accusing us of being ‘greedy’ and irresponsible. But it's happening to those people too. The real ‘greedsters’ have raped the rest of the country - and been bailed out for doing it! No one is taking any money away from them; they’re simply given more - out of our pockets! 

I have had it up to here with living in Opposite World, where the biggest and greediest are admired for risk-taking, lying, and outright fraud in search of the biggest profits, and those of us who are trying to make our way in the world without starving or living under an overpass are condemned as ‘greedy’.

It is Big Greed, in fact, that has brought this country to the economic disaster we are now experiencing. It has taken somewhere around thirty years for it to happen but the policies of union-busting and deregulation have resulted in such an unequal balance of power between corporations and individuals that real wages have gone down steadily for thirty years for all but the one-tenth-of-one-percent, who have seen their income skyrocket 400%. Wages - money made from actual work - are taxed at 30%, and investment income - dividends from speculation (not used as a pejorative term; merely descriptive) - are taxed at 15%.

So let’s think about that. Since 1980, it has happened at an incremental level - not a giant crash, but in a imperceptible, ‘boiling frog’ kind of way, where it just gets a little harder each year to stay where you are, lifestyle-wise. So, people don’t realize that as a group the middle class - the American triumph of the twentieth century - has fallen farther and farther behind, until the inevitable happened - they could not spend any more.

Rather than wagging a disapproving finger at people who use more and more credit, we should be asking, “Why are people being put in a position where they need credit just to stay in the same place?” Why should you have to go into debt just to sustain a normal, middle-class lifestyle? Why should you have to owe the cost of a small house just to go to college? It was not that way when our parents went to school. We are simultaneously required to spend money to keep the economy afloat, and blamed for it at the same time.

We have been systematically stolen from for 30 years and the bill has finally come due. There is nothing left to steal.

So, please, keep your sanctimonious remarks about ‘greed’ to yourself.  Go insult someone else. You have no idea what you are talking about.