Feel the love, Embrace our Families Blog Action Day

November 4th was both a great day and a sad day when Americans voted for hope, but left the rights of GLBT people everywhere in danger. With the passage of Prop 8 and other state initiatives we are depriving millions of our fellow Americans of their right to be a family.

I for one will not stay silent.

Please join me in the first “Feel the love, embrace our families”  blog action day on Sunday, December 21st.  Why December 21st  – it is the wedding anniversary of Elton John and  David Furnish. I know it is a civil partnership, but by whatever name you call it, they are family and no one can take that away from them.

I witnessed first hand the hard reality of not being family when AIDS started its relentless death march in the 70’s and 80’s. Men who had been together and built homes and lives and families were torn apart by family members who didn’t condone their relationships. They were throw out of hospital rooms, thrown out of their homes and left to deal with the loss of their beloved partners alone and homeless.

It is easy to forget these things happened. GLBT people adapt, accommodate and move on – they have to. But these recent events are too chilling to stay silent. None of us can afford to stay silent.

Please email me at fivehusbands@gmail the you will participate and I will link all blog posts to a special page on Five Husbands.

Thank you.

Also if anyone is willing to make a badge I would be most grateful.

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Love letter to Cleveland Ohio

Cleveland, I love you.

I love you from the gritty parking lots of the flats to the boarded up houses standing like bookends in neighborhoods struggling to survive. I love you because even though you are hurting and depressed you pulled yourself up and got to the polls. I love you because given the opportunity you voted early downtown at the Board of Elections after work, day after day after day through the month of October. I love you because on November 4, 2008, you got up at the break of dawn to stand in line in the cold and dark for hours so you could mark that circle and make history. I love you because you got there even though you were sick, or just had a baby, or were so bent from age and years of hard work it took you 15 minutes to walk the 100 yards from your car to the polling place.

I love you because, even before November 4th, you knocked on doors, made phone calls and kept faith, even when you were attacked. I love you because you shared your heart with me over these past 6 weeks when you committed to making sure Ohio went to Obama.

And what a heart you have.

You embraced with kindness the hundreds of volunteers who came to our city.

You stood in line hours and hours to vote, without complaint.

Your children stood with you, hours and hours, without complaint.

You drove you grandmother to the polls, and walked her ever so patiently to the booth so she could vote.

You hadn’t voted in 30 years, and even though you suspected your one vote would not matter, you couldn’t stay home.

You stood outside the polling places cheering and celebrating your friends and neighbors who came to vote.

You were a brand new grandmother driving your daughter and her newborn home from the hospital, and because the hospital discharged her before she could vote, you stopped at the polls and made arrangements for her to vote so that her baby could have a brighter future.

You came even when you couldn’t vote because you wanted to part of history.

And you were – all of you.

This post is dedicated to the 15 year old boy who stood outside the polls on Kinsman, dancing with joy, and who said “I want to vote for Obama – he needs me, but I can’t I’m only 15.”

You stood there in the cold with the Obama volunteers until the polls closed; you inspired them. You inspired me too even though I couldn’t say anything then, you were adorable! Your mother should be very proud.

Remember, everyone told you to keep believing, that you would be able to vote (and work) for Obama’s re-election.

They were right , yes you can, because Cleveland and Ohio did what needed to be done.

Be proud.

* I worked the polls as a neutral volunteer on election day, so I couldn’t say or do anything to show my support for Obama. It was tough, but I honored the directive; I even removed my Obama bumper sticker.  The day went smoothly in all the districts I attended. By the end of the day I regretted my decision to work the non-partisan end, I would have had much more fun as a lawyer for Obama’s campaign.

And they were extraordinary. From the hundreds of people standing in line outside cramped polling places, patiently waiting for the doors to open, to the two young guys who made it in two vote for Obama with barely two minutes left to go.

Any partisan conversations I shared were conducted after the polls closed and my duties as a neutral volunteer were complete.

You Have the Right to Vote

Election Protection - call to report problems

Election Protection - call to report problems

Don’t Vote!

Did you know that 537 people decided the 2000 election.

Listen to Harrison Ford and friends.

Pass it on.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty: An outcast in my own country

The greatest gift of poverty is compassion – this is something I know and carry in my heart. No one had to teach me. I have always known that “not having” does not mean “not worthy.”

My mom immigrated here. She has never been one prone to excess, except in the area of hard work. My father was ill, a lot, and with mental illness, which in the 50’s and 60’s (not so much unlike today) was not something openly discussed. My birth coincided with one such collapse which resulted in his hospitalization at a state hospital where he received electroshock therapy (without anesthesia) while she tried to keep body and soul together with a 6 year old, a 9 month old and an infant (me). I must have absorbed her sadness and desperation through my pores, because I cannot remember a time when I didn’t understand with every fiber of my being what it meant to be poor. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t feel the drive to make a difference.

Over the past months I have been seeking employment that combines a passion for advocacy born out of my childhood experience with my unique educational background. One of the things they tell you before you go to law school is that if you don’t want to practice law, you can do anything; a law degree opens doors. I believed this. During the first six months of unemployment I was optimistic, however as the months wore on and I descended from merely poor to destitute, my optimism evaporated. Unfortunately so did my compassion for myself and my belief in my own worthiness.

I have $40 to my name. I have sold most of what I own of any value; I am a heartbeat from homelessness. I am a heartbeat away from losing what little I have left. I experience every day the isolation described by Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman in his New York Times op ed “Poverty is Poison.

Living in or near poverty has always been a form of exile, of being cut off from the larger society. But the distance between the poor and the rest of us is much greater than it was 40 years ago, because most American incomes have risen in real terms while the official poverty line has not. To be poor in America today, even more than in the past, is to be an outcast in your own country.

The shame and isolation I feel as an educated woman unable to earn a living is soul killing. My age and education make it all the harder to start over. For professionals like me there is no unemployment insurance. For a single woman with no family, there is little support. Without a family or partner to lean on through this experience I am painfully alone and vulnerable. I know what it feels like to choose between food and utilities. I know the fear that comes from not having proper medical care. I know the pain of not wanting to quash the dreams and hopes of my child who sees opportunity everywhere except in his own home.

The answer to my, or anyone’s poverty is not charity; the answer is opportunity. A job does more than pay the bills, it restores purpose and meaning belief to a life.  Our elected officials must work first and foremost on job creation and reform of banking, bankruptcy and credit reporting practices. Those fortunate enough to have good jobs or own businesses, must step up to the plate and mentor those changing jobs or fields. History has shown that without effective government action and true community support we will create a new level of intractable poverty.

From the myth of the 1960’s “welfare queen” to the scapegoat subprime borrowers of today’s Wall Street crisis, there is a nearly universal belief that somehow being poor is a choice.  Overcoming the belief that the poor “cause” their condition, and that a lifetime of poverty is acceptable, is a daunting task. In “Strategic storytelling and social innovation” Michael J. Margolis points out that reason alone cannot overcome entrenched cultural beliefs and move people to action.

A well-crafted story becomes the platform that allows people to See, Feel, and Believe in what you are doing. By starting with the right story frame, you accelerate the pace at which people will be able to locate themselves and feel drawn into your story.

To argue change, don’t rely on statistics; tell a story.  That is what Blog Action Day 2008 is about – telling stories to move people to action.

It isn’t easy or comfortable to tell my story, but I am telling it because I know that within my small neighborhood there are many stories just like mine.  Families barely getting by, who, just like me, are not looking for a handout. What we are looking for is hope and support.

American Jews for Obama

I believe Barack Obama has a Jewish soul.

The ABC’s of the Bailout

America, the Bailout and the Cost

Before the Senate votes on the bailout potentially saddling your children and their children with 700 billion in debt I urge you to read Diamond and Kashyap on the Recent Financial Upheavals.

Here is my simpleminded understanding of the crisis. Freddie, Fannie, Lehman and AIG couldn’t get financing so we scuttle Lehman and bail out the others to avoid worldwide financial collapse.

The Players

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac- the ones we could not afford to fail

The Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, known Freddie Mac, are government sponsored enterprises or GSE’sGSE’s are government created, but privately owned financial service entities* created to ease the flow of credit (read make cheaper credit available) to agricultural and home finance sectors.  In the words of Diamond and Kashyap Fannie and Freddie were

set up to support the housing market. They helped guarantee mortgages (provided they met certain standards), and were able to fund these guarantees by issuing their own debt, which was in turn tacitly backed by the government. The government guarantees allowed Fannie and Freddie to take on far more debt than a normal company. In principle, they were also supposed to use the government guarantee to reduce the mortgage cost to the homeowners …

Pretty much everyone agrees they failed; instead of honoring their mission they used their position to cash out huge profits. As the crisis deepened and Fannie and Freddie couldn’t get financing, they were nationalized (September 8th) but the Treasury could have done so any time after they got authority from Congress in July.

Lehman – lost cause

Lehman operated on borrowed money – lots of it ( $100 billion a month). Their continued well being was contingent upon being able to borrow enormous sums to finance their portfolio of real estate, bonds, stocks and other financial investments.  Because it is easy for investment institutions like Lehman’s to change/mask their risk they could manipulate their data to look like a good risk for awhile.  As the mortgage crisis deepened, lenders were less than confident in Lehman’s ability to service the debt.  The cost of borrowing went up and they could not keep up with the debt. Bankruptcy was the solution.

AIG – insuring mortgages and in turn being insured

Some parts of AIG, the mega insurance company, are healthy, some are not. AIG got a huge bridge loan from the government to cover insurance contracts guaranteeing losses on mortgages.  It is pretty easy to see why they are in trouble with the number of mortgages failing.  They had to prove they could cover these contracts, if they couldn’t, their bonds which were insured by other financial entity’s contracts would cause a domino effect worldwide.  That is why AIG got the loan.

The Tentative Deal – “No one is smiling” (Barney Frank)**

The New York Times reports a breakthrough in bailout negotiations and that congressional staff will work through the night on the agreement and draft of the bill for vote on Monday.  The compromise bill apparently

includes pay limits for some executives whose firms seek help, aides said. And it requires the government to use its new role as owner of distressed mortgage-backed securities to make more aggressive efforts to prevent home foreclosures.

In some cases, the government would receive an equity stake in companies that seek aid, allowing taxpayers to profit should the rescue plan work and the private firms flourish in the months and years ahead.

The White House also agreed to strict oversight of the program by a Congressional panel and conflict-of-interest rules for firms hired by the Treasury to help run the program.

The centerpiece of the rescue effort remains the plan for the government to buy up to $700 billion in troubled assets from financial firms as a way to free their balance sheets of bad debts and to help restore a healthy flow of credit through the economy.

The money will disbursed in parts, with an initial $250 billion to get the rescue effort under way, followed by another $100 billion upon a report by Mr. Bush to Congress.

The president could then request the balance of $350 billion at any time. If Congress disapproved, it would have to act within 15 days to deny the Treasury the money.

via New York Times

Why the bailout makes it more important than ever to elect Obama

The money will disbursed in parts, with an initial $250 billion to get the rescue effort under way, followed by another $100 billion upon a report by Mr. Bush to Congress.

The president could then request the balance of $350 billion at any time. If Congress disapproved, it would have to act within 15 days to deny the Treasury the money.

via New York Times

The President, Bush or his successor, will have the ability to request further disbursement. Obama is not surrounded by old boy lobbyists tied to the abuses of the past.  McCain is.

Read on.

Who is responsible for this mess – or why I am glad Fussypants opened a dialog***

Fussypants posted two YouTube Videos – the first placing blame for the current crises on democratic shoulders, the second of a 2004 hearing on Freddie and Fannie wrongdoing, again, placing blame, this time for lack of regulation on, guess who, the democrats.

I am not sure that blame is placed correctly.  A close look would most likely demonstrate that there is plenty to go around, both democrat and republican, but this point must be made: the Republicans were in power in 2004 – the democrats did not take a majority until 2006.  So one must ask – why did the republicans fail to enact/provide more stringent oversight of Freddie/Fannie.

In a word – lobbyists.  And the troubling thing is that the same lobbyist’s who undermined more stringent regulation of the financial industry are now John McCain’s advisors.  These are the poeple who made money blocking regulation.  Now, in a McCain presidency, those same lobbyists stand to profit from a taxpayer bailout of Wall Street.

McCain’s lobbyists/advisers

Rick Davis, McCain campaign manager, is an owner currently on leave from his lobbying firm Davis, Manafort & Freedman.  According the New York Times Davis received payments from Freddie Mac from the end of 2005 through last month although he had lobbied on on behalf Fannie and Freddie, specifically for LESS regulation, for years.

For years McCain campaign manager Rick Davis was head of a lobbying association that included Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, real estate agents, homebuilders, and non-profits. According to Politico, the organization opposed congressional attempts at regulation of Fannie and Freddie, along the lines of what John McCain is currently proposing. In his capacity of president of the group, Davis went on record in 2003 and insisted that no further reform of the lenders was necessary, in contradiction to his current boss’s sentiments. “[Fannie and Freddie] are subject to an innovative and stringent risk-based capital stress test,” Davis wrote. “The toughest in the financial services industry.” via MotherJones

Wayne Berman, McCain campaign’s vice-chair, and congressional liaison John Green reportedly made over 1.4 million from Fannie Mae while working for Ogilvy Government Relations; Green made an additional 180K from Freddie Mac.

Arther B. Culvahouse Jr., an attorney who helped McCain pick Sarah Palin, earned 80K from Fannie Mae in 2003-2004.

Aquiles Suarez, the head of Fannie Mae’s lobbying from 2003 through 2006, “oversaw the lending giant’s $47,510,000 lobbying campaign from 2003 to 2006” was identified as an economic adviser to McCain in a 2007 press release.

Politico reports that at least 20 McCain fundraisers have lobbied for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, pocketing at least $12.3 million over the last nine years. via MotherJones

Kurt Pfotenhauer, husband of McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer,was formerly employed as a lobbyist by the Mortgage Bankers Association, who have been lobbying front and center during the current crisis on a particularly important point.

MBA, has been at the center of lobbying efforts — successful it appears — to oppose a provision, sought by Democrats, that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages on primary residents. The lending industry has long fought such measures, arguing that it would force lenders to increase mortgage rates. In a statement issued yesterday, the MBA asserted that the provision “would throw into question the value of the collateral that backs every mortgage made in this country — the home.” According to one Democratic lobbyist, MBA’s current top lobbyist, Francis Creighton, has lately been “living in the halls” of Congress in an effort to influence lawmakers on the bill. via TPM, McCain Aide’s Husband Headed Trade Group Lobbying on Bailout

In short if you want change vote Obama.

UPDATED:

The 3 A.M. Call, Paul Krugman, New York Times

* If you find the relationship between the government and Fannie/Freddie hard to understand you are not alone, the Federal Reserve agrees the relationship is ambiguous.

** Particularly contentious passages were dropped: “both sides appeared to have given up a number of contentious proposals, including a change in the bankruptcy laws sought by some Democrats to give judges the authority to modify the terms of first mortgages.” The failure of Dems to achieve this is particularly bitter to me.

*** My full comment on Fussypants on the post “Fussy gets political & loses half her subscribers

The video is catchy and the screen clips play into easy finger pointing but it is a disservice to the extreme crisis we find ourselves to think that a 1980’s rock song can summarize what went wrong. The sub-prime crisis is only part of the picture.

The failure of federal oversight, the failure of Freddie/Fannie to stick to the core mission (which has always been, since their beginnings generations before Jimmy Carter) to provide lower cost financing to the agricultural and home finance sector. No one is talking about it but there is a huge portion of foreclosures that have nothing to do with sub-prime financing. They have to do with otherwise long term good credit risks losing jobs, losing income and going into foreclosure.

Any serious discussion about the current financial situation must include the impact of globalization. The job market, people’s earnings and their ability to pay the bills have been affected by significant and unforeseen forces over the past 20 years. When the Berlin Wall fell and the eastern bloc opened up to the west the job market was affected. When the internet and broadband capabilities opened up off shoring tech, customer service, medical and legal jobs the job market was affected. When the lure of cheap labor and non-existent environmental standards took Wal-mart and other manufacturing jobs to China the job market was affected.

People who have jobs pay their bills – even the ones with outrageous interest charges. One huge impact of globalization has been the loss of the middle working class, black, white and brown.

This is a different world we live in; for me Obama’s intellect, age and education is important in determining his fitness to lead. We cannot make the world into an us and them anymore, it just won’t work. All our children are going to pay for this bailout. All our children will be affected if McCain/Palin lead us into a war in Iran or Russia. The world has changed and we owe it to our children to take it more seriously than sound bites and You Tube videos.

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