Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Now what?

With John Edwards out, I see absolutely no candidate worth voting for in the Democratic Primary next Tuesday. I will, of course, vote for the Democratic Party nominee in November, but the choice of Obama v. Clinton leaves me cold in either direction. Demagoguery on the one hand, and machine politics on the other. Flimsy policies against actual support of conservative ideals. Neither care too much about the economy--both were dragged into co-opting Edwards's message in order to keep him marginalized--which I see as The Issue over the next 2-3 decades (which, realistically speaking, might be the rest of my life). Neither has made much of health care--heck, Obama still doesn't support universal health care!--without Edwards's prompting, either. On virtually every plank of the probable Democratic platform this summer, Edwards (or Al Gore) led and the two remaining candidates followed.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

House hunting, pt 1 of a million

First off, lemme tellya, TBO and I wouldn't even be thinking about buying a house if it weren't for my loving mother, who has graciously been giving us some overly generous "presents", so if we do end up finding a "place of our own" to live in, it is all due to her. So, thanks, mom!
As many of you probably know, the real estate market is tanking. While that is horrible for a lot of people out there, for whom I do indeed feel bad, I have to admit that it is great news for those of us in the lucky position of being able to afford to buy a house for the first time. In southern California, and more specifically Los Angeles County, though, "tanking" takes on a special meaning. That meaning is, prices are falling, but nowhere near catastrophic amounts. I've been tracking the real estate classifieds in the LA Times since last July, and it looks like houses are dropping in price about 20%, to where a house that would have sold for $500K last summer might be going for $400K at this point, and that could be overstating the drop.
Trust me on this, at $400K in the SF Valley, TBO and I are really at the bottom of the market, too. We looked at a place last weekend that had just been reduced to $350K from $400K, and it showed. It was a stone's throw from the 405 freeway (not a good place to be--it was loud!), and the floor plan was almost perversely created to make its 1581 square feet look as small as possible. It wasn't quite the definition of a "fixer-upper", but it was close--the yard was in terrible shape, and there didn't even seem to be the hookups necessary to put a washer/dryer in!
This was the cheapest house given our search parameters by far; most everything else is going for $400K and up to $450K, which is just about out of our mortgage comfort zone. Everyone says to be patient, that things are just starting to fall, but I have my doubts. The most likely scenario, imho, is that the number of our choices at this price range are going to increase, but the quality won't improve that much. The real collapse in SoCal is happening at the fringes, where people making a lot less than we are moved in the 1990s. I can see houses in San Bernardino and Riverside dropping 50% or more in value, because there are so many drawbacks to living in those areas, at least for people who work in this area. That commute would be horrendous and the smog and oppressive heat would pall. Most families only moved out that way because the price of houses in LA County is so far out of bounds that those were the only affordable places to find. What middle class family, of any size, can afford the payments on $600K, let alone the $700K that was the median cost of a house last year in Glendale, for chrissakes?! That's crazy.
TBO and I realize that whatever we find, we are going to be spending a whole lot of time, energy, and money over the next bunch o' years fixing it up. And probably not to improve its value, necessarily, but simply to make it livable for us. I foresee tearing walls down, landscaping, and installing fixtures and appliances in my future, which actually sounds kinda fun, since we can create our own living space instead of merely inheriting someone else's version of what is "nice". That part will be exciting despite the hard work.
Now if I could just find someone to do it for me for free.
; )

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why I'm for Edwards

Anyone reading the blogs on the liberal/Democratic side of things is awash in posts and "diaries" about why their candidate is the only one to save us and about why everyone else's candidate is a total loser who will destroy the country if s/he wins the primaries. (To be more accurate, they usually portray the voters as total losers or fools; the nominee gets the blame for ruining our future lives.) I'd like to avoid that hyperventilated rhetoric, for one simple reason: every single one of the Democratic Party candidates--even (or especially, in some cases) the ones who've dropped out--would make a saner, safer, and more palatable President than any of the Republicans who are running. That hasn't been the case for a long time, if ever, imho. So let's not tear each other apart over who gets the chance to keep our country from destroying itself.
That being said, I do have a strong affinity for John Edwards, and since Al Gore stubbornly refused to answer my pleas, I'm going to vote for him in our primary. I think Edwards is the only liberal left in the field, and he's the only one with concrete plans in place that speak to the issues I care about most--the role of government, tax policy, national trade and our growing division of wealth, and the costs of health care. He's definitely the only one interested in fighting the corporate powers that have taken over the nation (and its politicians, which makes this a vital stance to take), he's the only candidate talking specifically about the tanking economy, and he's the only one that seems to care about the base of the Democratic Party. He has apologized--I think quite sincerely--for his foolish and highly misguided vote to authorize Smirky's wars, he has experience in speaking truth to power based on his legal background suing corporations on behalf of injured customers or citizens, and he has demonstrated the most consistently positive national appeal in head-head polling against the Republican candidates. (In fact, he's the only one of the top 3 Dems that can be shown to potentially defeat all of the Repubs in any state you might choose to pick--even those in which he polls behind the Repub he still outdistances the other Dems.)
He's got two major problems, though, which will most likely cost him the nomination. 1) Because he is the scariest (from a Republican point of view) Democrat running, the right-wing media has chosen the most effective method of killing his chances--they are completely ignoring him. How many stories did you see that omitted any mention of the fact that Edwards came in second in Iowa? How many stories in the traditional media have you seen detailing his campaign or his appeal? I bet nowhere near as many as you saw telling us about Clinton's tears, or Obama's roller coaster ride from Iowa to New Hampshire, or even Richardson's "will he/won't he" retirement from the race.
2) He's a white man. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I imagine a lot of Democrats/liberals are genuinely excited (and for good reason) to vote for a credible African-American or woman in a Presidential race. The problem with that is that these are not the most liberal of A-As or women. Obama is actually boasting that he will work with Republicans--completely ignoring the demonstrably vituperative and caustic policies of that entire Party that have wrenched our country so far off the rails of democracy. Clinton's "centrism" is well-known; she is following in her husband's footsteps of trying to position herself squarely in the middle of the political spectrum--without realizing that by doing so, she allows the nutjobs on the right to continually shift without resistance even further rightward on most issues. She still proudly refers to herself as a "Goldwater Girl", after all; it's an extremely sad commentary on what has happened to our political landscape that a Goldwaterite can now be appropriately considered a Democrat!
To repeat: I will fairly happily vote for any of these three in November, because all of them recognize that we have taken almost too many steps down a perilous path and we are in danger of permanently "breaking" our country--at least in comparison to what any of the Republicans are saying. I just happen to think that of these three, only John Edwards "gets" the severity of our crisis and is angered by it. Just like me.

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