July 15th, 2009


Economic News

These articles relate to various aspects of the economic meltdown...

Band of House Dems Revisits Cramdown
Mike Lillis, The Washington Independent: "The Obama administration has all but abandoned it, and the Senate has already voted it down. But a proposal to allow struggling homeowners to escape foreclosure through bankruptcy got a boost Thursday from a small band of House Democrats convinced that voluntary mortgage modifications aren't alone solving the housing crisis. They have a point. Despite White House efforts to entice mortgage lenders and servicers to alter the terms of mortgage loans at their own discretion, participation in the program has been meager."

I'm glad to see some continuing effort in this direction. Since the finance and political sectors contributed a great deal to the economic collapse, they should fix it. Certainly they have more resources to do so than homeowners do. Furthermore, foreclosure often leads to homelessness, which creates multiple problems that are expensive and hard to solve; so preventing that is very good at conserving resources and preventing human wreckage.

Only Forceful Action Can Turn Foreclosure Crisis Tide
Mary Kane, The Washington Independent: "The time may be ripe for a shift in strategy as the foreclosure machine grinds on, and new foreclosure notices reach the troubling milestone of 10,000 per day. A weak economy has added job losses and falling home values to the mix of toxic loans that prompted the crisis two years ago, making an already difficult situation even more severe. Government measures from foreclosure freezes to loan modifications have only served, so far, to stall the inevitable - and to create an ominous backlog of millions of pending foreclosures."

This is a savvy analysis of the situation. I am particularly alarmed at the "backlog" of future foreclosures.

Robert Reich | The Health Care Clock, and Why Obama Has to Act Quickly
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog: "Universal health insurance won't happen unless Obama can light a fire under the Senate Finance Committee this week."

It would be nice to fix this system so that its expenses no longer cripples individuals, businesses, and America in general; and so that it actually provides health care for everyone. You may not care whether other people live or die if they don't have money, but you will certainly care if their miseries spill over onto you, which is already happening whether you notice it or not.

Symbol History

haikujaguar linked to this fascinating article about the design of the Biohazard symbol. I am intrigued because the earlier triangular versions do not suggest anything to do with life. The current version is 1) legible from any direction, 2) uses curves to suggest life (think of cells or flowers), and 3) uses sharp points to symbolize danger (the claw/thorn shape goes right to the hindbrain's threat-sensor). Very well done.

Symbol design is related to heraldry. You have a limited space to convey a message, and it has to be extremely concise, because simple bold designs are more memorable than complicated designs. And ideally, it should suggest its topic through its shape and color. When everyone is making symbols all over the cultural landscape, it gets very difficult to make something that really stands out.

Hard Things

Life is full of things which are hard or tedious or otherwise unpleasant that need doing anyhow. They help make the world go 'round, they improve skills, and they boost your sense of self-respect. But doing them still kinda sucks. It's all the more difficult to do those things when nobody appreciates it. Happily, blogging allows us to share our accomplishments and pat each other on the back.

What are some of the hard things you've done recently?

A Descriptive Tour of the House at Fieldhaven

I live in an old Victorian farmhouse. We call the house/yard "Fieldhaven."

We use the back door as the main entrance. So from there: On the right is the "new part." On the left is the "old part." The back door opens into the utility room/foyer, also called "the airlock" because it has inner doors on right and left. Washer/dryer and a small closet are in this area. Right is the new part, first the library/music room and then the bedroom with bathroom and walk-in closet. (The new part was added about 33 years ago; the rest of the house is about 100 years old.)

Left is the old part, opening into the kitchen. The kitchen has wraparound counters, lots of cabinets, and a big bar for extra workspace. This area has lots of cabinets and some wall paneling in real wood, and a bit of the old decorative scrollwork survives. The dining room is one room with the kitchen. Off the right of the dining room, there is a utility closet and the door to the (enclosed) north porch. Off the left of the dining room, there is the public bathroom and the tiny room that used to be the pantry and is now Doug's glass room (which used to be a porch with an outside door).

Forward is the big arch to the living room. The living room is paneled on the lower walls, painted white on upper walls. There's a big south-facing window niche, "the faery window," filled with a broomcorn-slat planter (made by my father) and hung with many crystal prisms, stained glass ornaments, wind-spinners, and other decorations. Doors off the living room are knotty pine, with carved frames and glass doorknobs. First on the right is the door to the upstairs, next is the door to the storage room (which has a small understair closet), then the door to my office (which also has a closet). On the back wall of the living room is the door to the enclosed front porch and outside door facing west toward the road.

To go upstairs, you climb facing north, but then have to double back because the upstairs foyer runs north/south. The north wall of it is floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and the safety wall is a built-in bookcase, made by my father. The west bedroom (over my office) was my father's old office and is now Doug's office; its north and south walls are floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The south bedroom (over the living room) is also called "the tapestry room" because of a huge Persian rug covering the south wall; this room has a closet. Near the south bedroom's door is the door to the attic, which extends over the kitchen; and there's an attic-attic above the upstairs bedrooms; all the attic space is unfinished.

Racism and Bigotry

This popped up in my inbox today:

"She doesn't have any intellectual depth. She's got a -- she's an angry woman, she's a bigot. She's a racist."

That's Rush Limbaugh talking about President Obama's nominee to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Watch the video, then take action.

Conservative leaders in Congress need to renounce these hateful lies from Limbaugh and others. Our friends at Presente.org have created Spanish-language radio ads to help educate voters about the racist smears against Judge Sotomayor and to urge conservative politicians to denounce Rush Limbaugh. Click here to watch the video now.

We hope you'll consider donating to get this ad heard by as many people as possible. You can make your contribution at Presente Action.

In the meantime, the Republicans of the Senate Judiciary Committee need to renounce the garbage that Limbaugh is spouting. Are they with Rush when he calls Judge Sotomayor a racist? If not they need to say so publicly, and say it now.

Click here to tell the Republicans of the Senate Judiciary Committee to renounce Rush Limbaugh's outrageous claims that Judge Sotomayor is an unintelligent racist.

Thank you for working to build a better world.

Kate Stayman-London, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action

Since Rush has elected to use schoolyard rules for discussing the credentials of a judge, there's really only one thing to say to this: It takes one to know one.

I am, however, really pleased to see President Obama behaving as an icebreaker rather than a token. He's using his position of power to ensure that members of minorities get representation at high levels, allowing them to enjoy more of the privileges that majority members do -- and in the process, making Washington's seat of power better matched to America's diversity, and improving the decision-making capacity by widening the parallax of different backgrounds.

I'm not surprised that the mostly straight, white, Christian, male, and rich power base is screaming bloody murder about this. They've enjoyed privileges for a long time, and they don't want any of that taken away, and a more diverse political body will be less likely to keep favoring them so heavily at everyone else's expense. But that's not racism or bigotry; lowering excessive privileges is not the same as granting them or denying people basic rights.

Finally, I admire Judge Sotomayor for putting up with all this hogwash in the name of serving her country. We deserve more like this.