Hooray for the Sheriff of Cook County

October 23, 2008

In Time Magazine’s October 27 issue, “Verbatim” (its regular page of quick quotations) includes this statement from Sheriff Thomas J. Dart of Cook County, Illinois:

We’re just not going to evict innocent tenants. It stops today.

According to Time, Dart said this upon “suspending foreclosure evictions in the Chicago area because renters were not being properly notified about their landlords’ financial problems.”

Without knowing much else about Dart, his stand struck me as so profoundly and simply human. Yes, let’s just stop kicking people out of their homes. It could be as simple as that. We’ve got to start somewhere.

My Google search led to a CNN article about the sheriff. Apparently, he made the statement on October 8 to protect innocent tenants who are “victimized by an uncaring, reckless system.” On October 16, he announced he would resume evictions but these would be based on specific conditions (see CNN report). Also, that he would hire a social worker to help evictees find alternative housing.

That’s heroic. Yes, one person saying “no more” CAN make a difference.

Of course, CNN also reports that the Illinois Bankers Association is critical of Dart’s actions, saying he was “elected to uphold the law and to fulfill the legal duties of his office, which include serving eviction notices.” Now THAT’s a crime.

blixity to the Illinois Bankers Association: Shut The Fuck Up.

Dart is one public official who seems to be looking out for his public. A blixity tip of the hat to a GOOD MAN in deed.

Photo of Sheriff Dart from http://www.easthazelcrest.com
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Disappointing Sale of Freud Painting Signals Deepening Crisis

October 19, 2008

Lucian Freud’s unfinished portrait (1956-7) of his friend Francis Bacon had many in the global art market holding their breaths. Up for auction tonight at Christie’s in London, the painting was expected to fetch £7 million. Bloomberg reports that it sold for much less: £5.4 million.

After lower-than-expected contemporary art sales at Sotheby’s, Frieze, and now Christie’s, dealers consider the Freud sale to be a sign of a stalling global market and a deepening financial crisis.

The Independent on Sunday reports great apprehension:

The global art market is all but dead already, except for buyers of ‘trophy art’ whose fortunes have previously seemed unassailable. If they stop bidding, prices will plummet.

Freud’s portrait was considered a harbinger for super-rich spending. The fact that it sold for less than expected (although still above the presale low estimate of £5 million) indicates that even trophy buyers are cutting back.

Fasten your seatbelts. Turbulence ahead.


Panic in America

October 6, 2008

Last week’s bailout, aka America-rescues-Main-Street-package, seems to have ignited some bad-ass bad-energy—contrary to expectations. The house WAS on fire. Now it seems the entire street, neighborhood, zip code IS on fire.

OOOPS! America’s surge against the recession is NOT working! Oh-kay.

I can only count the days till this vacationing-in-TX-president—with the help of big media and two glaringly unqualified presidential hopefuls—announces the next rescue plan for the current didn’t-quite-rescue-the-economy plan.

Sort of like the next surge in Iraq to fix the last surge, which I think was intended to help the last last surge, and the last last last one, and so on and so on, ummm, five years ago. Same (strategy or tactic). Whichever. Whatever. Same old, same old: we’re screwed. Good thing we’ve got tax breaks for wooden arrows for children. Nothing like training them young.

We fell for this after the attacks on the World Trade Center. Bush declared an endless war and a state of exception that has now become the rule of (non)law. Last week, we seem to have fallen for it again. We’ve now got a multi-billion dollar bailout/rescue plan that’s resulted in a market nose-dive. This sucks—globally.

Bush sure knows how to hit that panic button. And America jumps, with increasingly grave consequences. Fight or flight. That’s all we seem to know. We seem to have forgotten how to take the time to consider our options, to debate strategies and formulate comprehensive tactics, to work towards a short-, mid-, and long-term. It’s all about the here and now, isn’t it?

We’ve got to get a grip, collectively. Time to hit the pause button. Hell can wait.

Photo: Niffty/Neal on flickr


America’s Collective Anxiety Attack: We Need Group Therapy

July 2, 2008

A wise man at NYT’s Op-Eds, Thomas Friedman, wrote last Sunday about the urgent need to build/rebuild this nation from within. Titled “Anxious in America“, his column stresses:

It’s the state of America now that is the most gripping source of anxiety for Americans, not Al Qaeda or Iraq.

…My fellow Americans: We are a country in debt and in decline — not terminal, not irreversible, but in decline… We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.

I remember Bush’s challenge to the world shortly after the maniacal attacks on the WTC towers 7 years ago: “you are with us or you are with the terrorists”. Somehow, these past 7 years have focused so much on “you” or “them”, that our government seems to have lost track of “us”. If there’s no us, then what are we fighting for?

Friedman urges us to dig ourselves out of this hole (aka gigantic crater) by voting for the candidate who will place nation-building as his top priority.

This year, America needs to make a critical political choice, examine its own problems, and buckle down with some hard-working, long-term solutions to rebuild and rebalance. We don’t need any more “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent” or dancing ex-stars. We need an American President! And we definitely need group therapy! Are we ready to snap out of this collective depression?


LA Times Poll: Bush To Blame for Bad Economy

June 26, 2008

An LA Times/Bloomberg poll reports that a whopping 75% of Americans blame Bush for the economic downturn:

Three out of four Americans, including large numbers of Republicans, blame President Bush’s economic policies for making the country worse off during the last eight years… reflecting a sharp increase in public pessimism during the last year.

The poll shows a significant disconnect: 75% of respondents overall say economic conditions have worsened. Among Republican respondents, that figure is at a much lower 42%. On the other hands, 9% of respondents overall say economic conditions have improved. Among Republicans, 22% of respondents say conditions are better. (They may also be living in caves without any link to reality.)

The LA Times also reports that Bush’s approval ratings are currently at “just 23%” — an all-time low. We find it shocking actually that nearly 1 out of 4 Americans STILL approve. Shouldn’t this rating be a low single digit after 8 years of shockingly awesome mechanisms of fear and greed?

Just 5 more months of this dynasty.

Photo: I-1326 on flickr

California: Same-Sex Weddings Could Boost Economy (no kidding)

June 11, 2008

Yesterday: forced marriages in Iran. Today: same sex marriages in California. It’s June after all.

Businessweek reports on a new study released by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. It reads in part:

Same-sex weddings could create hundreds of new jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into California’s economy…

Gay couples are projected to spend $684 million on flowers, cakes, hotels, photographers and other wedding services over the next three years… The nuptial rush is expected to create some 2,200 jobs.

…Over the next three years, gay weddings will generate $64 million in additional tax revenue for the state, and another $9 million in marriage license fees for counties.

gaymarriageProjections were based on the economic impact of gay marriage in Massachusetts and in states such as Vermont, which currently allow civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

While it’s great to have the Williams Institute officially articulate how same-sex weddings could produce significant economic benefits, I’m not exactly sure whether the study tells us anything new.

Weddings ARE big business! It’s common knowledge: each coupling gets a nice chunk of capital flowing regardless of how large or small the affair. Why should same sex weddings be any different? Weddings generate wealth — regardless.

(Of course, the boost from same sex weddings is still theoretical. California may not see the extra revenue if voters approve a ballot initiative to overturn the court’s ruling allowing the weddings. See previous post.)

Photo: cpj97 on flickr

Bush Responds to Housing Crisis with “National Homeownership Month”

June 7, 2008

Home foreclosures are at a record high. And nothing bulldozes the American Dream faster than an eviction notice.

Have no fear: the Bush White House has declared June “National Homeownership Month”! From the official press release (i.e., not a joke):

For many Americans, owning a home represents freedom, independence, and the American dream. During National Homeownership Month, we highlight the benefits of owning a home and encourage our fellow citizens to be responsible homeowners

…I encourage all Americans to take advantage of financial education opportunities to explore homeownership. My Advisory Council on Financial Literacy is finding ways to help educate people from all walks of life about matters pertaining to their finances and their futures. By practicing fiscal responsibility, Americans can contribute to the strength of our neighborhoods and our country.

screamThis is not a matter of education. It’s the economy, stupid.

America’s existential crisis continues.

Get the Bushites and McCainites out of Our House now.

Image: Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, 1893, oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard. 91 x 73.5 cm. National Gallery, Oslo.