There are no words…

I have struggled to articulate what races through my head (and has since November 4th) as we approach the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

I cannot find the right words to say how I feel, what this means to me, what I hope for.

As I watched today’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial with tears streaming down my face, all I could think of was: Yes We Did.

We ARE the new American Majority. All of us. With voices, and tools and communities and a will for change.

Yes we did. Yes we can.

May God bless Barack Obama and his beautiful family and keep them safe.

May we begin the arduous process of rebuilding this country one citizen, one family, one small spark of hope at a time.

Hope is a powerful and amazing motivator. We can, we will, and we did.

This is Our Moment

On January 16, 2008 I chose to support Barack Obama for President. Today, my reasons ring as true as they did back then, but this one particularly stood out for me:

But Barack Obama has something more. He has the ability to transform the attitudes in this country from mistrust and fear to community and participation. He has the ability, more than any other candidate, to inspire the best in us, to call the GOOD in people out for the bettering of our country.

Now we are here. Tomorrow is Election Day. This is our moment. This is the time where we can stand up, stand in line if we have to, be vigilant and be patriots. Barack Obama has organized and run a transformative campaign. I have seen the transformation with my own eyes. I watched my oldest son, a veteran, change from a cynical and disenfranchised voter to one who is engaged and enthused. He was checking the poll opening times last night so he could be sure to be there first thing in the morning to vote.

This was a young man who swore he’d never vote again after 2000 (his first national election) and 2004.


I wrote this in February:

The foundation of this movement is NOT a cult of personality. It is the cry of people who have been disenfranchised and disconnected from the governance of this country. We are governed, but not represented. We are spied on and not defended. Our sons and daughters are sent to die or be maimed in Iraq but not cared for and abandoned by the very Administration that sent them there when they return.

We’re tired of what the politicians say “they” will do and are ready to show this country what WE can do as a collective group of energized voices ready to put our wallets, our voices and our feet on the line.

We are the new American majority. We have a voice. We walk streets, we make phone calls, we give what we can, even if it’s just $3.01 at a time. We are speaking for ourselves rather than waiting for someone to speak for us. We want our country back, and we want our standing back in the world. We’re tired of the naysayers who leave our fates in the hands of Wall Street and the Halliburtons, Diebolds and Blackwaters of the world. We are no longer going to stand idly by and have our lives and quality of our lives dictated to us by lobbyists and corporations.

This is not hate. It is democracy..

This is our time. This is our moment. We hold our democracy in our hands. Please, vote. Take tomorrow off, and make sure others vote. There are organized GOTV efforts in every neighborhood. Help where you can, but vote, foremost.

Democracy is coming…

And believe. Yes. We. Can.

Our Choice: A More Perfect Union or A Stalemate?

Today Colin Powell stepped across party lines and endorsed Barack Obama for President. As part of his endorsement, he strongly criticized the tactics of the McCain/Palin campaign, particularly with regard to their current effort to paint Barack Obama as a terrorist.

One of the tactics that Powell strongly objected to was the current spate of robocalls being used by the McCain campaign to stir up fear and hate among the base. Here’s the text. I won’t post the audio here because it is visceral and hateful:

Hello. I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202-863-8500.

Josh Marshall summed the McCain campaign up this way:

Stripped down to its components McCain’s message to voters is this: “Don’t forget. He’s definitely black. And he may be a terrorist.” That’s the message.

In light of these hateful tactics, I found it useful to go back to Barack Obama’s historic speech on race, delivered 3/18/2008 to see what he predicted. As usual, he was remarkably prescient:

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

After acknowledging the anger of blacks and whites, he calls us to move beyond the old racial wounds:

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

He even has ideas for how to do it:

It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

The McCain campaign wants us to believe that Barack Obama is a scary black guy who will wreck the country. They need to leave this impression because they hope beyond all logic to erase the truth: The last 8 years have wrecked this country more than any of us could have imagined, and John McCain stood right next to George Bush and the Republicans while the wrecking ball slammed into the walls of our banks, insurance companies, Wall Street, social institutions, FEMA, New Orleans, Iraq and the national budget (not to mention the national debt).

We have a choice. Obama knew we had a choice back in March, when he said this:

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.”

Colin Powell understands this. He spoke out so forcefully about what President Palin, the RNC and John McCain are doing with their robocalls, their mailers and their ads as his way of saying NOT THIS TIME.

When Gen. Powell spoke of Barack Obama as a transcendent and transformational leader, who represented generational change, he made a choice to put his country first, to move us toward a more perfect union.

That’s the same choice we all have on November 4th. We can get stuck in all of the distractions that make absolutely no difference to our wallets, or our kids, or our health, or we can stand up and say “not this time”. This time we’re choosing to push past the fears and the wedges, the division and the hate, and say:

Not this time.
Say it with me. Stand up. Make your voice heard; say that it’s time to reconcile, to put our country first, ahead of our fears, ahead of ourselves.

Not. this. time.

VOTE. Fight for change.

MP3 of “A More Perfect Union”

Stepping back to basics: Hope

Obama ’08 – Vote For Hope from MC Yogi on Vimeo.

Really well done video, released at a great time. Through all the negativity, my primary reason for supporting Barack Obama has been the hope that he will bring integrity back to the office of President, raise our standing in the world back to one of respect rather than distrust, and apply the same pragmatic, organized skills to his Presidency that he has to his campaign.

Over the past year, I’ve been truly amazed at the creativity his campaign has sparked. This video is one more example of that.

Slaying the Subprime Vampires – Reprise

The Backstory

Once upon a time, people who wanted to buy a home saved their money, shopped for a house, and then asked a bank to loan them money. If the bank viewed them as a worthy risk, it loaned them the money, the house was bought, a mortgage secured, and payments made. In that time, the mortgages were generally negotiated with a fixed rate of interest over a period not longer than 30 years.

Most people paid their mortgage payments faithfully and over time built equity in their home. But as home prices increased, more and more people were priced out of the home ownership dream in many areas. Here in our little bedroom community home demand soared right alongside prices.

In those olden days, there was a law on the books known as the Glass-Steagall Act, which forced a firewall between investment banking (i.e., stocks, bonds, IPO funding, etc) and commercial banking (your corner bank which probably was chewed up by Wells Fargo or Bank of America about 10 years ago). This law was intended to protect consumers from bank failure by keeping stock and equity investments out of the reach of the keepers of depositors’ money, and therefore prevent another run on the banks such as the one in 1929.

The Spoiler

Glass-Steagall worked quite effectively until it was repealed during the Clinton administration (1999) as part of a larger initiative set forth in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (Financial Services Modernization Act), which broadened the reach of banking institutions and allowed them to offer a smorgasbord of services to customers, including investment services, affiliations with securities firms, creation of bank “holding companies” which created the appearance of separation between their various ventures despite the umbrella protection it provided, allowed for less regulation of foreign investment, and repealed regulations governing bank behavior.

Simply put, Gramm-Leach-Bliley removed many consumer protections and opened the door for many consumer traps.

The Candidate

Let me stop at this point and point out that one of John McCain’s top advisors and campaign co-chairmen is Phil Gramm, co-author of this bill. What has former Senator Gramm been doing since he left the Senate? Well, after Paine Webber was acquired by UBS (a Swiss bank with a long history of secrecy), Phil Gramm went to work for them as a lobbyist.

2005 and 2006 proved to be boom times for UBS and others like them, as lobbying pressure led to the rollback of rules that had protected consumers from predatory lending practices. As the rules relaxed, the predatory lending practices became the way of the day.

Not content to sit idly by and watch investment institutions turn to predatory lending, these mortgages were then wrapped up in packages and sold as ‘investment funds’ to brokerage houses and individual investors.

Thanks to Phil Gramm and colleagues, that simple home purchase has turned into a national nightmare where there are no real ‘owners’ of that mortgage with which to deal. The money just keeps flowing from one hand to the next in a circular motion and with a vampire-like need to feed on the life-blood of the small borrower into the veins of the international moneymen.

This is the man that John McCain relies on for his economic advice, since by his own admission, he’s not up to speed on economics. The man that rejects lobbyists has one as the co-chair of his campaign, and not just any vampire, but the one who is the blood brother of the primary predator by virtue of incestuous and dark lobbying activities.

But this isn’t just about mortgages. Think about those credit card invitations, especially the ones extended to your college-age kid, the ones that have the introductory rate of zero but can possibly go up to as high as 30% in some cases. That’s all part of the game, too.

Subprime mortgages and predatory credit cards are the bread-and-butter of our banking-stock market-mutual-fund business. They’re building the economic backbone of our country on the backs of the hard-working low-wage earners and then claiming that we have to ‘let the market shake everything out’. Nice guys, huh?

Suggestions for Individual Solutions

All but the first suggestion come from my husband, the investment adviser and financial planner. I believe he agrees with the first one, but hasn’t endorsed it, so I will own that one.

  1. Don’t vote for McCain. Seriously, I mean this. You’ve already seen him toe the party line, and there are many interests aligning behind him to protect their financial investment in individuals’ ruin. Do not put another Bush in office, especially one as clueless as McCain.
  2. Don’t accept credit terms you can’t afford in the worst case scenario. Just don’t. Remember that the Bankruptcy Act completed the foundation of the pyramid. Lenders are permitted to prey on lower-to-middle income borrowers. The Feds will bail out institutions like Bear Stearns but you will have nothing similar to rely upon. You will have to pay that debt no matter what. Even if your kids get sick or you lose your job, because consumer debt may no longer be discharged in a bankruptcy.
  3. Try a ‘credit fast’. No credit, no matter what. Pay it off, and live on a cash basis. You’ll be amazed at how much simpler life can be. Remind yourself often that by doing so, you’re depriving the vampires of your blood. It works, I’ve been doing it for 10 years and don’t regret it for a moment.
  4. If you’re a subprime victim, help may be on the way. Try to refinance your home at a better, fixed interest rate. The one thing I do not think you can do is hope to have a reduction in the principal to account for the drop in your home’s market value. Actually, I don’t think you should. Property values swing wildly all the time, what goes down will go back up. If a borrower could make the payments before the interest rate ballooned, it’s reasonable to expect them to make payments on a higher principal balance with a lower, more reasonable, FIXED interest rate. Whether relief will come in that form, I don’t know. But it seems reasonable to allow for renegotiation of interest rates without writing down principal balances.

Pay attention, please, to all of the proposals on the table by the candidates with regard to this mortgage crisis. It’s also worth paying attention to the players in the campaigns, who I view as far greater threats than individual campaign contributors who may work for an interested party.

Phil Gramm is a power player for McCain. I’ve already told you about Phil Gramm, but here’s another tidbit: Phil Gramm was embroiled in the Enron controversy via his wife, who exempted Enron from Federal oversight while serving on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and then became a director of Enron while he was busy delivering legislation for financiers and money guys.

I haven’t even gotten to the oil relationships yet, but I will in a different, later post. The bottom line is that we cannot allow John McCain to be elected on the strength of his war record. He must be evaluated on the basis of his entire record, and that includes the people he surrounds himself with and relies upon.

Here are some other posts to read. Please spend time and read them before voting in November. This election will pivot on whether voters understand the economy and the war, because both are inextricably tied together in a bow made of oil and money.

Bonus Link: Why is McCain ignoring veterans?

Creative Commons’ Licensed Photo: Vampire Kitty by Domain Barnyard
Creative Commons’ Licensed Photo: John McCain Seattle by soggydan

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Sarah Palin: Even Pretty Speeches Need Truth Under Them

First reactions, beyond my rants:

She indicated her support for the continued undermining of the Constitution by criticizing Barack Obama for supporting Miranda vs. Arizona

She ignored the fact that she cut funding for teen pregnancy support in Alaska while claiming family values.

She skipped over the fact that she cut funding for special needs children while using hers to call women to her side.

Her snark didn’t play well with this woman.

They continue to claim some pathway to victory without ever defining victory.

The power of her speech was all in the appearance. The family on the stage at the end was intended to send the message that Mom, Apple Pie, America was there with a true hero thrown in too. It played like a 50’s tearjerker. Of course, the hope is that everyone reacted emotionally, and they did.

A pretty speech, pretty loose on facts, heavy on snark. She made an election about big issues an election about small things.

We really can’t let that happen.