Tags: news


No Political Solution

I'm a generally apolitical (if not anti-political) person, and certainly keep that my policy online, but i'm making an exception here.

My latest attempt to capture my thoughts on the election is below for those who want to read it, but the most important point is this:

If you're reading this — whoever you are, however you voted, whatever your feelings about the election — i care about you, and you have my love, good will, and sincere consideration of your views.

Last week, i found myself commenting on a lot of folks’ posts about the election. I sought to comfort those who were distraught, but also to raise my concerns to everyone about the real problems with this election. From my perspective, these have nothing to do with its result, and inevitably affect all of us in the long term. Because i found myself hitting a few main themes over and over, i decided to write up a piece to capture and share my thoughts about the election and people's reactions to it. As i fleshed out the ideas, the piece started getting very in depth, and started taking more time to complete. As i spoke with people in the interim, i found so many who seemed to have already decided how they felt about things, and seemed reticent to let go of those feelings. I consequently decided to abandon my piece, as i figured it would just end up an overwrought ineffective obscurity that's unlikely to be of much aid to anyone. I suppose i will continue to try to share my thoughts with folks as appropriate via “regular" channels.

On Sunday, i had an opportunity to try to convey a portion of my thoughts at a group function. I again declined, thinking better of it. However, in the process of considering it, i found myself starting to boil down my thoughts to more basic points.

As i continue to survey the inescapable noise surrounding the build-up and aftermath of this election, i still find myself restless to speak my peace and hopefully add something constructive. In lieu of resurrecting my full-up piece to address this, i thought i'd try to share a more developed version of those boiled-down points. I welcome any who wish to delve deeper to invite follow-on discussion.

Rather than try to convince anyone of anything or attempt to directly address folks’ overwhelming feelings, i'm simply going to state Collapse )

I believe that i am willing to take the first steps to work to unite us as a people and to prevent the alternative.

... so i believe i’m just looking to see who’s with me.


Strategic Defaults

Thanks to netmouse for the link to a recent NYT article on the simple justification for homeowner foreclosure.

This issue is of course very timely because of the recent real estate collapse which has left huge numbers of people burdened by hopelessly undervalued mortgages. It is made much more poignant, however, by the fact that the collapse was largely triggered by the same lenders who knowingly sold those mortgages, and who not only reaped the gains of underhandedly dumping the risks off on other parties, but dodged much of the fallout entirely by successfully lobbying to stick future generations of Americans with the bill.

The article makes some very good points about the simple fact that -- just as when big companies lay off recently-hired workers -- lenders treat their own defaults as a simple business decision. On the contrary -- just as many people feel guilty for ditching out on a job after six or twelve months -- individual borrowers feel a personal responsibility to make good on their promises.

A few highlights:

"Businesses — in particular Wall Street banks — make such calculations routinely. Morgan Stanley recently decided to stop making payments on five San Francisco office buildings. ... Nobody has said Morgan Stanley is immoral ... But the average American, as if sprung from some Franklinesque mythology, is supposed to honor his debts, or so says the mortgage industry ..."

"Once, perhaps, when bankers held onto mortgages for 30 years, they occupied a moral high ground. These days, lenders typically unload mortgages within days (or minutes). ... [and in] our transaction-obsessed society, the message is that enduring relationships count for less than the value put on assets for sale."

"[Borrowers' strategic defaults] would correct a prevailing imbalance: homeowners operate under a “powerful moral constraint” while lenders are busily trying to maximize profits. More important, it might get the system unstuck. If lenders feared an avalanche of strategic defaults, [it] could produce a wave of loan modifications — the very goal the Treasury has been pursuing to end the crisis."

I have many mixed reactions to the article which i'll spare you, but for me it reinforces two trends i observe:
  1. Our contemporary political-economic system has been increasingly protecting the organizations with superior resources and position, and decreasingly prioritizing the welfare of its people, who often have little recourse.

  2. Most people are inherently superior entities than the organizations that they comprise.
Some would call these observations self-evident, but we noneless allow the perpetuation of the first despite the second.


A Snapshot In America

I thought i'd take a unique opportunity to report to you live and direct from the warfront. No, i don't mean the war in Iraq -- or Iran -- or whichever oil-rich country the powers-that-be are trying to subtly re-industrialize this week. I mean the real war, the one we're fighting here at home, the war against the socio-economic demons we unwittingly loosed long ago, now come back to claim us. I'm in a strip-mall coffee shop in Livonia, Michigan.

I arrived at the Problem Resolution Office (PRO) of the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) about ten minutes before opening this morning. The Livonia PRO is one of six such offices in the state -- normally, that is -- the UIA opened a temporary seventh location in Detroit last week to address Michigan's terrifying unemployment levels. The PROs provide walk-in face-to-face support for people who are having some kind of problem with unemployment benefits that cannot be resolved via the usual channels. And, when this branch opened this morning and started handing out numbers to the line of folks stretching nearly all the way down one leg of the mall in the Michigan January morning, there were about 150 of us.

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For me, i suppose i can job search from here as well as anywhere, so i'm just settling in for the wait. I have a computer, network, power and a few bucks for lunch, and am grateful to be able to say that much. It's certainly not how i'd prefer to spend the day, but despite my own frustration and uncertainty, i, too, find myself thinking more about the other folks on that line, and then of those who don't even have the fortune of having a line to go to, or prospective jobs to search for, or any resource at all. In the end, i really do have faith that things will ultimately work out for me, and i can't help but want to pray for those who don't have the fortune of feeling so sure.


North News

I'm happy to report that we're finally zeroing in on pressing the record, and starting the main PR push for the release.

Please feel more than welcome to snag the ad to share, post, email to friends, and otherwise distribute. (PNG version also available below -- thanks, technolope!)

The North website has also been given an overhaul. It's very focussed and tight right now, but there's definitely more to come down the road.

Thanks and let us know what you think!


Ann Arbor's "Drinking Problem": A Possible Diagnosis

I'm writing a rare public post in the hopes that it might get some attention from the larger audience of folks interested in analyzing and shaping the downtown and campus areas of Ann Arbor. At the very least, it might kick off some discussions about the nature of the issues at hand.

My post is inspired by a recent article pertaining to the controversy surrounding The Arena (a local sports bar) and the recently-formed grant-supported organization, "Ann Arbor Campus-Community Conversations" (A2C3). The article outlines some of the concerns that the University and City have about "excessive drinking" on and around campus, and about some of the initiatives -- both reasonable and questionable -- that may be afoot to address them. The article also quoted some related material from the popular website Ann Arbor Is Overrated (but failed to provide a link or URL), which seeks to humorously dispel oft-prevailing hype about the town, and light-heartedly raise awareness about some of its less-publicized shortcomings.

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Until then, everyone. Please link, discuss, and spread the word. I do, on my good days, still believe we can make a difference.