The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I used to be a huge fan of HGTV - the house and garden channel. I loved the decorating shows and the shows about unusual homes. I loved the house hunting shows, especially those about first-time home buyers. Maybe I watched too closely to these programs, but I became increasingly uncomfortable with the supposed realtor. When the property virgin person - or couple- was asked what they could afford, the couple would reply with an amount figured by his banker or loan officer. The realtor asked what the person -or couple - planned to use as a down payment on the property they were shopping for, and often there was no funding - or very low funding set aside for that. The realtor began to show houses to this person - or couple - at the very top of their price range. I've even seen a realtor add the down payment amount to the approved loan amount and then increase the price range accordingly.

Now I believe everyone should make a living. Realtors earn theirs as a percentage of the price of the properties they sell. Selling the most expensive homes, regardless of the financing required by the buyer, best serves the realtor, not the consumer. What does the realtor care if in real life the person - or couple - cannot afford to make the payments? And what payments!
The buyer has a mortgage payment and a second mortgage on the property for the down payment they didn't make! That's a heavy burden. I shudder to think how many of the home buyers shown on these programs lost their homes in the economic environment we've had lately. I stopped watching.

I used to enjoy the programs on HGTV that showed stagers preparing a house for sale. I learned a lot that is nice to know if company's coming and you want to make a good impression. But I saw perfectly good appliances being replaced with appliances with the current finish - these days it's stainless steel. Nice if you can afford to do it - but not necessary to sell a house. People who are looking at houses they really can afford won't be concerned about such things. On the programs showing buyers looking at houses, cheap flooring is disdainful, but on the staging programs, the floors are made up with peel-and-stick tiles.

I suppose it all depends on whether you are a seller or buyer. I'm just not comfortable with the ethics of the realtors who inevitably put people in homes they can't afford and those who cover up less than ideal features of a home with cheap fixes. Better to leave a bad floor exposed honestly than to put a pretty face on it that will have to be removed anyway to correct the problem.

I don't know. Perhaps I am looking too deeply into programs created to entertain, but I just can't watch anymore. And if these programs are what is going on in the real life housing world, I understand how the problem got so out of hand and foreclosures became to common. Jewel Case House and Yard (SH8)

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This week it seems the whole world tuned in to watch the inauguration of a new president of the United States of America, the 44th, the man for whom we have been waiting for years, especially the last eight. Something historical happened here. The media keeps saying what is historic is that Barak Obama is the first African American to become president of this country. Well, yeah – there is that – but there’s more.

One of the most telling things about this inauguration was the mood of the people – there were nearly two million people who showed up in Washington for this event, ordinary people from everywhere, black people and white people and yellow and red people and mixed people all converged on Washington with one purpose – to see Mr. Barak Obama become President Barak Obama, or at least be in the same city when he took his Oath of Office.

For the life of me, I have never seen anything like it. With all the usual crowd noise a gathering that size contains, I’ve heard that as soon as President Obama spoke, the crowd hushed themselves and listened. Nearly two million people gathered, and at the end of the day, even with an overload of security and police, not one arrest had been made. Now think about that. Nearly two million people gathered tightly in one area. Somewhere someone got knocked into or shoved aside, somewhere someone stepped on someone else’s toes, literally or figuratively. Certainly someone offended someone, yet not a bit of violence took place.

The vast majority of the US population is behind President Obama. Not just the Black folks, although they certainly have reason to rejoice in his presidency - but all sorts of folks. And that's because all sorts of folks have wanted to see change in this country and were in need of a leader who would lead the country as a whole, not forgetting the regular ordinary people. We've needed someone who knows. My friend Jackie puts it simply, "Obama GETS it!" He hasn't said, as President Kennedy did those decades ago, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." He said nothing about 'you.' He said 'we' and 'us.' Together we can accomplish much. And now we have a leader who can not only tell us how, but show us.

I asked around - I thought I had been mistaken - but no one else that I asked had ever heard of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday being a day of service. President Obama said it was, and found a place to put his skills to use on that day. While it is nice to have parades and picnics on Dr. King's birthday, maybe in the future it will be more a day to help others - paint and repair, build and restore in our own neighborhoods, rather than just a day to celebrate.

President Obama has the attention of the majority of the population of the US. They wait, as they did on Inauguration Day, to follow where he leads. The next four years will be hands-on for his followers. They can see the vision he sees - the vision for this country many of us have dared to dream before now, but couldn't believe would happen the way things were going in Washington. President Obama is not afraid to roll up his shirtsleeves and get to work. He leads by example. It is that which will have the most effect on the country as a whole: the population is ready to follow. But we also know nothing happens overnight, and there will be times of sacrifice ahead. But the plan is solid, the results will come.

The population has had enough of someone telling them what is best for them, telling them nothing is wrong with the economy, telling them we should continue as we have, that things will get better. We want something more than that.

In Barak Obama we have one of our own. People who have never been involved in politics in their lives gathered in Washington, or around big screens and small screens all over this country to see Mr. Obama become President Obama, their chosen leader for the next four years. We see a man that we can follow, a man who beckons us to follow, and we will be a part of the rebuilding of this country’s economic system, its position in the eyes of nations all over the world, the greening of transportation and other industries.

There are those who don't believe. They won't be joining in with the new growth and the helping attitude so prevalent among the rest of us. At least, not at first - and some, perhaps not at all, ever. But you know, even they have got to admit that the effect that President Obama has on the working folk and the other folk who are behind him is astounding. We are just beginning. Nothing is going to change overnight except out attitudes and our intentions.

Geez - nearly two million people for his inauguration, and not one arrest. Something very good is going to come from this.